DISCLAIMER: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dexter and Law & Order SVU do not belong to me, nor do the other characters contained herein, 'cept for the original ones, like Jimmy, he's all mine and no one else can have him. Title of story belongs to Rancid – 'cause they're my boys and I love 'em dearly. This is for fun, not money…suing is bad and provokes the wheel of Karma in a negative fashion…
AUTHOR'S NOTE:A while back, I was asked for a prequel to the first story in this massive A.U., One Last Shot, and the stories that followed, Dark Passenger & Animal. This A.U. took a turn for the wacky in Dark Passenger, crossing over with Dexter and then more so when I wanted to see what damage I could do to the gang from the One-Six. Let the Dominoes Fall isn't a true prequel, but it answers questions that a lot of the readership wants to know…at least I hope it does. For that reason, this can actually be a stand-alone if you accept the fact that Buffy and Willow & Alex and Olivia are in established relationships. I hope you read and enjoy…like the rest of the series…they have been experiments to test the boundaries of my writing ability…for this I'm sorry. I hope I succeeded with this endeavor.
FEEDBACK: To whedonistic.tendencies[at]gmail.com
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Let the Dominoes Fall
By Whedonist


Ch. 1 – This Place

"I swear to God, Liv…" assistant district attorney Alex Cabot grumbles into her pillow. It isn't that Alex is unfamiliar with ringing cell phones at five o'clock in the morning. It's the simple fact that she and Olivia went to bed not more than three hours ago and if there's one thing Alex needs it is a minimum of four hours sleep to function properly. Needing to confirm, Alex raises her head to glance, bleary eyed, at the red digital display of the alarm clock across the room. Grunting, she flops back down and buries her head under the pillow.

Grumbling, Olivia extracts herself from the blonde and rolls over. Snatching her cell phone off the bedside table, she growls, "Benson."

"Detective Olivia Benson?" the man on the other end of the line asks.

Swinging her legs off the mattress, Olivia shivers as her feet hit the cold hardwood floors. Her right hand fumbles with the lamp for a second before finding the switch. A quick flick between thumb and index and her half of the bedroom softly lights up. Olivia winces as her eyes adjust and she answers, "Yeah. Can I help you?"

"This is Detective Rick Book outta the ten. We met a while back," the other detective answers.

Olivia pulls the phone away from her ear and glances back, appraising the naked back of her lover. Deciding on a course of action, she stands and weaves her way around the bed, heading towards the bathroom. "Hi, Rick," Olivia says, vaguely remembering the detective on the phone.

Not a bad guy. Good cop. They had met at a scene which she and Odafin Tutola, one of the other detectives who work in the Special Victims Unit, were mistakenly called to a few months prior. Turns out the rape call wasn't a rape just a game of "spank the wife" carried too far as one of the neighbors had called it in. Olivia shakes her head at the memory. The wife so completely mortified that she hyperventilated and nearly passed out.

"Hey, I was wondering if you could come down and meet me at the corner of 13th and Avenue B. I got a body that I think you'll want to take a look at," Book asks. Knowing what she knows about the other detective Olivia knows it's not a call he's thrilled to make.

Padding into the bathroom, Olivia flicks the light on and closes the door softly behind her. "Yes, give me thirty minutes and I'll see you there." She hears his grunt of agreement and ends the call. Taking a moment to appraise herself in the mirror, she shakes out her shaggy, shoulder length brown hair and opts for a pony tail. She also grabs the pants, bra and shirt she had on earlier.

She had only worn them out to dinner with Alex and then to a movie. They were good enough then and she decides they're good enough now to slip on. Once dressed, she brushes her teeth and slips out of the large master bathroom to find her gun, badge, shoes and car keys. The bathroom door quietly closes behind her as she looks up and sees Alex perched on the edge of the bed, wrapped in their bed sheet. Her lover has laid out the items Olivia was going to look for. Unable to hide the smile, the detective leans down and meets the lips of her girlfriend.

Alex playfully shoves her away and says, "You should get going before I call that partner of yours back and tell him that you can't make it."

Olivia grins and winks, "Wasn't El. It was Rick Book a detective out of the ten. Seems there's a scene he wants me to look at."

Olivia watches her blue eyed beauty scowl. Alex's lips purse and she says, "So does that mean you'll be home before I have to leave for work?"

The hopeful tone was a farce and both ladies knew it. Alex is still powerless in her refusal to not try and con the detective back to their home before their day truly began. Of course, the shake of the brunette's head is confirmation enough for the lawyer. Sighing as Olivia pulls on her shoes, Alex manages a good natured, "Fine. Go catch bad guys."

Placing one last, lingering kiss on Alex's pouting lips; Olivia snatches the keys to her Mustang off the end table by the front door and heads out into the frozen, predawn morning. The sun wasn't even thinking about coming up as Olivia exits the parking garage and heads south on Eighth. The only positive thing is that the salt trucks had been out. In January, the detective wasn't even contemplating the return of spring, let alone summer, but at least they had been through what she hoped was the worst of the winter weather at the beginning of the month.

As she rambles down one of Manhattan's busiest streets, Liv takes in the evidence of the blizzard that nearly put a stop to all activity on the island, still piled high against the buildings. Two and a half feet of snow in a forty-eight hour window was no joke, even in a place that is used to brutal winters.

As she passes the last light before Avenue B, Olivia can't see any signs of a crime scene. No sirens, no cruisers with their lights on and no tape. She does spot the detective on the corner after the light. He is as she remembers, tall, six-four, six-five, reddish brown hair, pale freckled skin, muscular build and as he approaches her as she steps from her car, warm green eyes that find hers as he smiles.

"Olivia," he says stretching a hand out in greeting, "thanks for coming out."

She takes the hand, noticing how her own is lost in his massive paw. "It's good to see you too Rick."

They turn left down the street and duck into a side alley where two police cruisers, a Crime Scene Unit Van and a Coroner's van wait on them. Pulling her coat tighter around her as the wind picks up, sneaking through the cracks and seams of her jacket, Olivia really regrets not stopping for some coffee before getting here. She looks up at a bland brick industrial type building and her face sours. "So, Rick, what have we got?" she asks, as they both snap on a pair of gloves.

He leads her through an open doorway, stepping over the power chords to the flood lights that the techs set up. "An anonymous call came in at four-twenty-six to dispatch. The responding officers, Lisa Hople and Jackson Werner, came in saw the body and immediately secured the scene."

Olivia takes in what she can see. High ceiling, exposed rafters on the first floor, a steel grated stair case to her right leads up to the second floor of the building. A long wall separates the other half of the building. She follows the other detective around its corner and gasps. The full view of the body and its surroundings lay bare before her.

To steel herself from the shock of the body, Olivia's eyes track a familiar pattern of study. She starts with the body. A girl is face up, naked, blonde matted hair, blue eyes stare lifelessly up at the rafters. Her eyes travel down the body, noting the full figure, past the breasts to the stomach, taking in the cut on the left side of her abdomen, to the parted thighs, the left leg bent out at the knee away from the body while the right hangs off the platform the body is on. She doesn't see it but she imagines there are abrasions and blood on the right shin to match the left one.

She briefly locks eyes with the pretty African American medical examiner hunched down next to the victim. "Hey Melinda," Olivia offers.

Melinda Warner gives her colleague a tight smile and nod in greeting.

Olivia's eyes track back to the body and scan outwards. The three foot high platform the body is on is plywood constructed, spray painted a matte black, five feet wide by five feet long. The most disturbing thing about the image, besides the presence of the victim, are the symbols chalked on, for lack of a better term, the altar.

Olivia looks up and around, nothing else in the place screaming ritual. Dried pools of wax pock mark the perimeter of the altar, but no candles are present. The rest of the warehouse looks like it hasn't seen anyone inside of it for at least a few years. Her hands rest on her hips as she spins around taking in the outlaying parts of the building.

Knowing that S.C.U. is going to be spending the better part of the day going over the primary scene and the building, Olivia pulls her phone from the left pocket of her coat and dials a familiar number.

The wind happens to pick up, whipping her coat and hair around her as Buffy steps from the cab and pulls her beige, fitted pea coat tighter as her breath plumes in front of her. The petite blonde grumbles silently as the sun barely starts to peak over the city skyline. Six in the morning, in January, is way too early and way too cold for her to be out. Olivia owes her big for this.

Following the foot traffic of the forensic unit, she digs in her pocket and finds a pair of latex gloves and her badge. The badge drops from the chain it's attached to as she pulls it over her head, letting it rest on the outside of her coat. Passing the uniformed officer guarding the mouth of the alley, she nods and takes in the neighborhood. Buffy notices only one or two on lookers and is thankful that it is so early and so cold. The winter does have its perks with staving off the lookey-loos that flashing red and blues tended to draw.

Buffy moves quickly down the alley, side stepping one patch of black ice and another half frozen puddle of winter city sludge. Ducking under a set of wires in the doorway she calls out, "Liv?"

She waits before moving left towards the sound of Olivia's voice, "Over here Buffy."

Buffy comes around a concrete pillar and stops cold, locking eyes with Olivia immediately. The brunette detective hunches over the body pointing at a few things Doctor Warner points out on the victim. The blondes blood running cold as she sees the markings on the raised pieces of wood. She recognizes a few of them, but cocks her head to the side as no residual mojo pings her slayer senses.

Shaking it off, Buffy immediately pulls her cell phone out and begins snapping a few pictures of the chalked out symbols. At least the blonde now knows why she was called out by her friend. The camera on her phone clicks for the third time and she selects the other pictures she wants to send. Typing a quick message to her wife she sends the message with attached pictures and turns her attention to Olivia and the M.E.

"Hi Melinda," Buffy chirps waving a gloved hand at the doctor.

"Hi Buffy," Melinda says smiling. "How are you this morning?"

Buffy shrugs. "Was good until this one," she playfully whines, pointing to Olivia, "called. Willow said to say that if she gets to the labs before you that she'll handle the night's intake."

Melinda's shoulders drop and she laughs, "Thank God for your wife!" A grin spreads over the doctors face as she clarifies, "I swear I haven't had to do a single intake and stock form since she came on board."

Olivia smiles at the two, but agrees that Doctor Rosenberg does rock.

"She's taken Melinda. Tread lightly," Olivia teases.

"Pshh," the doctor scoffs, "Willow's got eyes for blondes, which leads me to believe those lunches Alex spends with us on occasion…"

"Hey now," Buffy cuts in stepping up next to Olivia on the left, "Will would totally let us watch if anything were happening."

Melinda and Buffy laugh as the blonde ducks the smack Olivia tries to give her.

"I swear you two are horrible. Leave Alex out of this and can we please get back to the victim," Olivia directs.

"Benson," Rick calls out stuffing his notebook in to his coat pocket, "I was gonna…" He trails off as he looks over the new detective standing next to Olivia. "Detective Book." He holds out his hand in greeting, wincing slightly as Buffy's hand closes around his.

"Detective Buffy Summers," the woman chirps, letting go of the hand Rick offered.

"Nice to meet you. I take it you work with S.V.U.?" he asks.

Shaking her head, Buffy answers, "The Two-Four actually, but I occasionally dip my toes in when Olivia or one of the other detectives from the unit calls for help."

"Major Cases?" Rick asks as his eyebrows knit together.

Buffy looks the detective over and appraises the cheap suit and worn loafers, the black leather of his holster worn in some spots to a ragged brown. When she catches the short reddish brown hair and kind green eyes that remind her of Jimmy she grins, instantly taking a liking to the cop. "Nah, Major Case squad runs out of One-P-P. I'm the standard gumshoe." Buffy offers him a smile and small head tilt, trying to set him at ease.

"Oh, that's right." He cuffs the side of his head with his palm and looks over at Olivia. "Well in that case, I'm going to leave it in your capable hands. Olivia, you okay with that?"

Olivia runs a gloved hand over her face and nods. "Yeah. You want me to keep you in the loop?"

Rick looks around and then down at the body, shaking his head. "I've got an eighteen year old daughter. The less I see of young dead girls the better off my heart. Thanks though."

Melinda, Buffy and Olivia all nod and watch the tall detective amble out of the scene. Turning to Buffy, Olivia asks, "Thoughts?"

Buffy bites her lip and shakes her head. She tips her chin towards Melinda Warner and frowns. Nodding, Olivia turns her attention back to the body, motioning Buffy forward. Undoing the buttons on her coat, Buffy kneels down and looks over the victim.

"I.D.?" the slayer asks.

"None yet. I'm hoping once we get out of here and back to the station, we can find something in missing persons or if Melinda can do an I.D. back at the lab…"

"Alright. So, tell me what you and Melinda have found out so far." Buffy looks closer at the slash across the girl's abdomen. It isn't as jagged as she expects. The wound looks like it was carved into her body. What concerns her most though is the dried residue on the inside of the girl's thighs.

Buffy's jaw clenches in realization. She hates rape cases. Despite the lack of energy coming from the platform and the warehouse, the slayer-turned-cop is under no illusions that whatever happened here wasn't of the good. Whether it is related to her previous occupation will remain to be seen. Hopefully the pictures she sent her wife will yield something.

A smile, inappropriate as she half-listens to Olivia go over the victim's wounds, takes her over. Buffy and Willow have been married for five months and eighteen days, not that the slayer is keeping track or anything. Nor is the calendar that she has on her phone marked with a particular number to help her keep track. She is still over the moon happy that after all they have been through since getting together; she can officially call Willow her wife.

At least in the states where it is legal. In New York, they are still "Domestic Partners" but the state could kiss Buffy's ass as far as the slayer is concerned, Willow Rosenberg is her wife and no demon, hell god or government bureaucrat that she would encounter could change either of the women's mind.

"Buffy," Olivia hisses waving a hand in front of the detective's face, "were you listening?"

Blushing Buffy ducks her head and mumbles, "Uh, Melinda's taking the body and we need head back to the One-Six…?" Her response comes out more questiony sounding than she prefers.

Olivia rolls her eyes. "Do I even want to know what you were thinking?"

Buffy's lips press together as she shakes her head. "I'm going to call Pat and Jimmy to loop them in. Let Jimmy know where to find me and Patrick that I'm working this case with you."

Olivia nods and says, "Yeah, I'm gonna call Cragen and fill him in. Was Deb headed in?"

Buffy shrugs buttoning up her coat. "I don't know it was just Will and me at the apartment. The note on the fridge said Jimmy was spending the night at her place."

A grin spreads over the other detectives face, "They gonna get a place?"

Buffy shakes her head and says, "No, I think she may actually end up moving in with us. Jimmy doesn't want to leave so…"

Olivia raises her eyebrow and says, "Whatever floats your crazy boat."

Cocking her head to the side, Buffy looks at Olivia and asks, "Besides the obvious, why did you call me in for this?"

"It pinged on my 'weird shit' meter. You're the first person I think of when weird shit happens." Olivia stuffs her hands in her pockets and rocks back on her heels, wiggling her eyebrows playfully. The move eerily similar to Elliot when he's joking around.

Buffy good naturedly flips the other detective off before ducking under the tape and heading outside to call her partner and captain.

Doctor Willow Rosenberg pushes through the double doors that lead to the autopsy suite in the Manhattan Medical Examiners office. The suite isn't actually a suite, but a thirty-by-fourty foot green tiled basement that holds the ability to be hosed out and down if the need arose. The need arose at least once a day. The rest of the place is outfitted with some of the best autopsy equipment a strained government budget can handle.

Willow shuffles over to the receiving doors, looks through the peephole to verify that it is Fritz standing outside with her latest patient, before pressing the button to raise the receiving doors, whipping up a very cold, bitter draft of winter wind.

"Hey doc," the man grins. Only slightly older than Willow, he lumbers his five-foot-eight frame through the door and hands her a clipboard. "I got one body, female. Doctor Warner signed over everything. I just need your signature and do you want her on the table or do you want her in the cooler?"

Taking hold of the clipboard, Willow scans the information and notices the names of the detectives assigned to the case. A small smile creeps up the corners of her mouth as she answers absently, "The table please. I've a clear schedule for the next few hours."

"You're the boss," he grins at her. Willow noticing that it's a little goofy.

Her eyes drop back down to the information on the paper and she scribbles her name across the bottom, offically taking responsibility of the remains. This job is vastly different than what she was doing at the hospital and clinic she worked at before. No more thirty-six hour shifts, no more getting smashed in the face with a bed pan by some strung out addict just wanting to get a hold of their next fix and most importantly, no feeling like she's putting her work before her wife.

She watches as Fritz takes care in placing the body bag on the steel slab that's closest to her. He makes sure the bag and it's contents are secure before pushing the gurney away and turning to take the clipboard from her. She gently hands it back and he says, "If there's nothing else, I'd like to head out for break. You want anything?"

Willow shakes her head and says, "Nah, I'm good. Brought leftovers."

He nods again and steps outside into the fridgid morning. Waiting for him to clear the receiving bay, Willow presses the button and waits while the doors shudder downward. She turns back to the body on the table behind her. Alone, she grabs an apron, gloves and mask. Usually there's someone, an assistant medical examiner with her, but once she received the call from Melinda this morning, she called off the two volunteer examiners and sent Melinda home after she had finished up at the scene.

When she got in, she finished signing off on the paperwork to release two of the bodies that were housed in the refrigeration unit off to her left and placed orders with two supply companies for the necessary things to run this place. If you would have told the little Jewish Wiccan eleven years ago, when she was in her senior year at Sunndale high, that she would be a doctor and working for the New York City Medical Examiners office, she would have laughed. She may have patted you on the head like a good little crazy person before high tailing it towards the library to find her slayer.

Of course if you would have told that same teenager that she would be married to said slayer and that said slayer would be wearing a badge, she would have begun checking Rupert Giles' tomes about an upcoming apcolypse, barring the mayor's "I just wanna be a big snake" campaign to cap off her graduation.

Willow sighs as she once again is struck with the wacky turns her life has taken. So much has happened in eleven years that she herself needed some way to keep track of it. Unfortunately all she has are her memories, a few scars, emotional and physical and Buffy to keep it all straight. But for Willow, as long as she has Buffy, everything that happened from her trying to end the world to making her hometown a landfill, none of it matters anymore. For the most part, barring a few dicey situations that the Coucil needed help with, the fight against the demon population wasn't hers anymore. It wasn't her wife's either and she was grateful for that.

Turning her attention to the body bag, Willow slides the zipper down and spreads the opening wide, taking stock of the first impressions of the victim. Coupled with the photos sent to her phone, Willow starts to put together a potential scenario for her wife and Olivia. Slipping her hand into the right hip pocket of her scrubs, she fastens the Bluetooth to her ear and pressing the 'on' button for the devise, speaks, "Call Buffy."

The mechanical voice chirps in her hear, confirming her selection and dials the number. It takes only three rings for her wife to pick up, "Summers."

"Hey Baby," Willow replies smiling despite herself.

"Will did you get the pics I sent out this morning?" her wife asks, causing Willow to wonder what she's up to on the other end of the line.

"Yes and seriously, no 'how's you're day going, dear?' or…or how about 'sorry I ran out on morning snugglies 'cause Olivia called'?" Willow teases and can hear the exasperation as her wife's breath rushes through the earpiece.

"Sorry, we've been trolling the missing persons and haven't come up with anything. I'm cranky." Willow listens as she begins fingerprinting the victim, using the Tablet-PC that's kept in the suite for these purposes. "Nothing has come through so far and Olivia abandoned to go hunt down a couple decent cups of coffee." Willow hears her wife pause before she snarks, "I'm thinkin' all the times in the library with Giles, the man was on to something. Do you ever think about switching to tea?"

Laughing lightly, Willow moves to the other side of the table to more easily fingerprint the other hand. "I did when I was with the Coven the first time. And you know what I learned?"

"Besides the obvious?" Buffy answers. A grin of her own forming on her lips as she takes a folder Debra passes to her.

"Tea's good for really cold, sleepless nights. Other than that, I'll take a mocha with extra whipcream any day of the week." Gently she set the victim's hand down and sets the tablet on a side stainless steel tabletop after loading the prints and starting a search program. "As to your pictures, I looked at the symbols," she looks up checking to make sure that she's still alone and continues, "The symbols are a mish-mash of gobbledygook. It looks like some frat boys found a new age Wiccan book and doodled with some chalk."

"So then not, uhm, related to my previous career?" Buffy asks trying to keep it as quiet as possible as she's surrounded by two detectives that know nothing of her being a slayer and one detective that does know, but wisely keeps her mouth shut.

"None. Did you get a feel of anything?" Willow grabs a clean tray and nail scraper before picking up the left hand of her victim and meticulously scrapping underneath her each fingernail meticulously. The scrapings for each nail go in their own separate dish that she marks and labels for forensic analysis later today. Marking the container with the requisite information, she sets it next to the tablet and preforms the same task on the right hand.

"Nada, it was a big fat nuthin'," The detective pouts slightly.

"Well that's good. It just makes my thoughts of this being un-magicky and more stupid-peopley that much stronger. Honestly, there aren't any magick rites that would call for a mix of those symbols which, by the way, I think more than one are just made up, and the sacrafice." Willow huffs, pausing for a second before launching back into her now formed rant, "Sacrifice, so totally not what most think it is. I mean sure there are some that call for the blood of an innocent, but those are heavy, dark, dark magicks. Gah! Why are people so dumb!"

Buffy waits a few beats before asking, "You done?"

"Yes," the redhead pouts. "It's just…"

"Frustrating and obnoxious?" Buffy supplies grinning as Jimmy steps through the bullpen doors. She offers her partner a wave and says, "We still on for dinner?"

Willow tilts her head trying to figure out who her wife's talking to. "Yeah, Deb's comin' over too," Jimmy answers in the background. Nodding, Willow's gaze travels over to the tabletop that's holding the tablet. She wanders over and looks down to see the search that she had started earlier complete.

"Will," Buffy says, "You, me, Jimmy and Deb for dinner. Eat in or should we go out?"

"In," Willow answers distractedly. "Hey, I'm sending over the I.D. on your victim. Sarah Holland, nineteen from Woodburne. Date of birth is October Second, Nineteen-Ninety-One. I'll email you the particulars along with Social and last known residence. Maybe you can find her parents."

"Crap. Thanks, Will. So no mojo and what about cause of death? I was hedging my bets on the cut our perp carved out of her." Willor frowns at the tone in her wife's voice, knowing that the age of the victim is just as upsetting as everything else.

"Can't confirm yet, I've barely opened the bag. I'll have a preliminary report done by the time you come pick me up to go home," Willow teases hoping to lighten the mood a tad.

"Fine," Buffy huffs. "We'll get started on things from our end and call if you find anything else."

"'Kay, love you, Buff. Give a hug to Jimmy for me. Be safe." Willow waits for her wife to say her goodbyes before pulling out her phone and switching the application to a voice recorder.

Turning her attention back to Ms. Sarah Holland, Willow begins the process of discovering the young woman's last few hours alive.

Olivia looks up at Weinstein Hall and shudders, memories of her days in college as a freshman coming back to her. Not all of it was bad, but her roommate left much, so much, to be desired that she requested a new roommate after winter break. Idly, she wonders what type of roommate Sarah Holland made. As she makes her way to the entrance, waiting on Buffy to get off the phone, Olivia shoots off a quick text message to Alex about dinner. With any luck she can be home by seven and they can relax and maybe get some actual sleep tonight.

"Right, 'kay, we'll see you at home. Bye, old man," Buffy chirps and ends the call, slipping her phone into her coat pocket. "You ready?" she asks a patiently waiting Olivia.

For her humor Buffy receives an eye roll from her partner for the day. Slipping past the brunette detective holding the door open, shuddering, Buffy looks around at the interior as her own college experience and U.C. Sunnydale comes back to her. Olivia picks up on Buffy's agitation and asks, "What?"

"Just remembering my first college roommate. Kathy," Buffy answers, her face pinching in memory of the demon masquerading as a college student, "she was a demon. Literally, she sucked my soul from me when I slept."

Olivia's eyebrow arcs in her friends direction, shaking her head as she says, "Summers, if it were anyone else, I'd take that as a figure of speech, but with you…I'll be damned if I can't tell."

Buffy snorts as they make their way to the elevators and up to floor Ten where Sarah's room is. "I'm being very literal. I found out after I flipped out on her and accidently ripped her fleshy skin mask off. Bitch cost me three-hundred dollars to get the carpet replaced after her father opened an inter-dimensional portal and took her home."

The elevator doors slid open and three college girls fall out of the cab laughing and brushing past the two officers. Buffy and Olivia turn and watch their retreating forms. They step into the cab step for step, Buffy spins and hits the button for the proper floor and is thankful that no one decides to get in the elevator with them.

"Uh-huh," Olivia finally says. "I'm not sure how to respond to that. So I'm gonna not. Did you ever get a new roommate?"

"Yep, Will." Buffy's hands clasp in front of her as she stares ahead.

"And you two didn't ever…?" Olivia lets the question trail off implying the rest.

As the cab stops and the doors slide open, the women take a moment to figure out where room ten-oh-seven is by reading a small map in front of the bank of elevators. Turning left, Buffy answers as Olivia follows behind her, "Nope. I was….well…things were…," she stops herself, unsure how to actually convey what her freshman college experience was like. Does she talk about Riley, the Initiative, the freak out over Will actually coming out and one her favorites, the attack of the Chumash ghost tribe during her first attempt at holding a traditional Thanksgiving with her friends.

"It was really, really complicated so no, a world of no," she finally settles on an answer, but amends quietly, "Doesn't mean I didn't have a dream or a thought about it though."

They stop in front of Sarah's door and Olivia produces the key she obtained from university. "Only a thought or a dream?"

"One or two…maybe more," Buffy concedes and grins.

"Right," Olivia drawls, deciding to knock before using the key she holds in her hand.

To their surprise a short, brunette answers the door, blinking up them. "Yeah?"

Olivia and Buffy flash the badges on their hips and Olivia handles the introductions, "I'm Detective Benson and this is my partner, Detective Summers, we're looking for Sarah Holland? Are you Shay Courtney?"

Buffy prevents the smile from forming as the brunette's eyes grow large and she nods mutely. Olivia gently pushes Shay back into the dorm room and Buffy follows, closing the door softly behind her. It takes the slayer-turned-detective only a minute or two to glance around the room to know which side is whose. It takes her only a moment more to spot a picture encased in a cloth leopard print frame of their smiling victim and a family of a mother, father and little brother. Sarah Holland grins back at her in her cap and gown.

Swallowing, Buffy says, "It's her."

Olivia's neck cranes to get a curt nod from Buffy before turning back to Shay. "Shay, have you seen or heard from Sarah today?"

"Nuh…no. She, uh, she went out last night to a party. I haven't seen her since she left," Shay stammers a little, the pitch of her voice rising. "Is everything okay?"

Olivia gently steers the girl to what she assumes is her bed and kneels in front her, placing a hand on her knee. "Sarah's body was found early this morning. I'm sorry."

A hand quickly covers Shay's mouth as her eyes, a pale blue, well up with tears. Olivia gives her time to process the information, knowing from years of experience, that it's best to let them talk next. She also sends out a silent prayer to any deity that may be listening that the two hour drive up to Woodburne Jimmy and Debra are making will go as smoothly as possible.

The four of them had decided that calling the parents of the girl was a bad way to deliver the news. Deb saying that if it was someone calling her to tell her about her brother she'd take the news a lot worse over the phone than in person, she volunteered herself and Buffy's partner, James McAllister, to make the drive. Since she lost her own brother nearly a year prior, Debra's ability to sympathize with the victims has taken a turn for the better.

As Shay gathers herself, Olivia remembers first meeting the Miami native, broken and thought dead in a hospital as a monster tortured and killed her brother, Dexter. Those two months spent working with Buffy and Jimmy for the first time are some of the most horrific in her career as a police officer, but she also recognizes that they are some of her happiest as well. It's when her and Alex got together. When her life took a turn for the better as the blonde A.D.A. waltzed back into her life and took a firm claim over Olivia's heart.

Buffy watches the scene with Olivia and Shay play out. The college roommate telling Olivia how nice a girl Sarah was. Shay even slips into the present tense when discussing her friend only to stop herself midsentence to correct herself, to drive home the fact that her roommate is no longer living and her life will forever be told in the past tense. For her part, Buffy offers the girl a sad smile and goes back to looking at Sarah Holland's side of the room.

A twin bed, a single desk and chair, laptop open, but shut off on the desk. A lamp, some books and the single photo in the frame are the only things visible on Sarah's side of the room, this side a stark contrast to Shay's. The pixiesque brunette has a few photos in frames, but half of the wall with the other girl's bed lying against it has one poster and a collage of fliers and Polaroid's of friends and family. The desk that Shay occupies is cluttered, clearly disorganized, but very lived in.

Buffy stops nosing about as Olivia walks the girl to the door and gently asks they be allowed to search Sarah's side of the room while Shay works on a list of contacts of the people that she knew Sarah went to the party with.

As the door clicks shut again, Olivia turns and asks, "Anything?"

"Yeah, not good. We can take the computer and I see a cell phone charger, but no phone. My guess is that her purse and phone are somewhere that's else," Buffy says as she begins to stuff the laptop into a messenger bag and scoops up the few papers that lay on the desk.

"Alright, we'll get a unit down here and they can do their thing. I'd like to get started on the list her roommate's putting together for us." Olivia dials in to dispatch and requests a crime scene van to process the room. "They'll be here in a half hour," she informs Buffy.

"'Kay," she answers absently sticking her head in the closet to have a look around. Pulling her head back out, she gently shuts the door and flops down on the bed, gnawing on her lower lip. "Ya know…this half of the room…it," she pauses gathering her thoughts and words as her brow knits together, "this half of the room reminds me a lot my first place when I got to the city."

Olivia's head tilts to the side trying to figure out why exactly that should matter; moreover it's been one thing that she's always wondered. Why did Buffy, slayer supreme and from everything that's been told to her by Buffy's family, repeated savior of humanity, come to New York of all places. Olivia's hands move to her hips, pushing back her jacket as she asks, "You know that's one thing I always wondered."

"What?" Buffy blinks up at her friend trying to figure out what's on her mind.

"Well, I mean out of all the places that you could have gone. After sinking you're hometown and saving the world, why come to New York? Why be a cop? And why does a barely lived in half of a college dorm room remind you of your first place here?"


Ch. 2 – Lock, Step & Gone (late Summer 2003)

She wasn't sure when she broke the third time. The first time was after Merrick died and her parents sent her away for a little while. The second was when she shoved a sword through the heart of her honey and sent him to hell. But when exactly she broke the third time, she couldn't really pinpoint.

Was it between that weird thing with her and Faith or having Angel rip out her heart and tap dance across it, in the nonliteral way of course, her senior year of high school? Maybe it was freshman year of college when she lost her friends for the first time and went to work for the U.S. Government under the insane notion that she was in love with Riley Finn, but in reality when her then best friend came out to her, she couldn't help but freak out because there'd always been that idea of them in a not so-friendly-but-intimate position? Maybe it was the year after that when Dracula came and showed her the killer in her or was it her mom getting sick and dying or was it Glory Hell Bitch Extraordinaire or maybe just maybe it was when she really cracked and Willow went fishing in her mind soup or maybe it was when she died?

Of course, the most logical place to think that her break really happened was after she clawed her way out of her own grave and then everything after that'd been just a day on the bunny slopes for the mentally decimated.

The point was that she couldn't remember.

As Buffy looked out the plane window, she did however, clearly remember every slight, every twist of the knife from each and every one of the people that she loved, that she died to save, from Giles to Xander, and the most painful Dawn and Willow. OF course she couldn't really blame Dawn. If the positions were reversed…maybe Dawn had the right. Willow though…

Buffy's eyes clenched shut as she willed the tears to come. Wanted them so much that her eyes burned and her face hurt, but as she sat there in her seat, in first class, on a plane whisking her away to New York City, no tears came. They stopped somewhere between the crater that used to be her hometown and the makeshift base of operations they had pieced together in Rio Del Mar.

"How long has she been like this?" Riley asked. Buffy wanted to snicker, but she held it in. Did he really need to ask? Was he not the one that came in on her and Spike screwing? That should have clued him in.

"Riley, back off, she's fine," Willow cut in; her voice was strained and tired. She had been up for several days at least, helping Giles and Wood in trying to get things organized. They had changed everything and the three of them had taken point on resurrecting the Council. On trying to make sure the girls that she handed over to death a lot sooner than they probably would have been had at least some resources for their new found powers.

"She's not fine, Willow. She's changed," Riley persisted.

Willow's voice is dangerously low and for a second Buffy thought she'd have to step in, "Look, she's Buffy okay. Things have been tense or did you miss us destroying Sunnydale. We're all a bit on edge, tired and more than emotionally exhausted. Back off."

That was the first of several hushed conversations about her mental health that people had. It was also the start of a three day sting of hiding out in her hotel room because she couldn't handle seeing anyone. She couldn't deal with the fact that every single one of her family members had kicked her out of her own house and the one person she had to hold her up was the guy that tried to rape her.

The irony, the sick, twisted, bitter irony that had become her final year in Sunnydale wasn't lost on the blonde; she just wasn't sure what the she could have done with it. Hence the brood fest.

In those three days, she came to a few conclusions. The first was that she was broken and she didn't know when that had happened. The second was that her place in the world was unsure. She wasn't The Slayer anymore; she was in an army she had forced Willow to create to help save the world. She didn't need to fight anymore. The third was that she needed to get away. Giles and Wood had the Council aspects in hand and Faith had stepped in on more than one occasion to assist with the new slayers. Hell, Kennedy had a better rapport with most of the girls than Buffy. They just tended to keep clear of her and usually referred to her in the annoying way of "yes, ma'am" and "Ms. Buffy".

Things needed to change and Buffy, well, she needed a way out.

She sat out on the back porch of the main house, her knees drawn to her chest, jacket wrapped firmly around her as the argument from inside became audible to her sensitive ears. The ocean crashed against the shoreline a little less than fifty yards away. Giles had secured them a place to set up camp for the foreseeable future in a coastal town, two and a half hours northwest of where Sunnydale used to be.

The argument from inside started between Giles and Xander, both blaming the other for Buffy's decision to leave, then the blonde cringed as Willow jumped in to make an attempt at defending her decision. Dawn actually told her she thought it was a good thing and Faith – the blonde shook her head at the emotions that passed through Faith when she made her announcement. The argument carried on for a few more minutes with Willow and Xander going at each other like only two people that had known each other since elementary school could possibly go at each other.

She felt Faith way before she heard or even saw her. She felt the brunette walk out on the expansive back porch, plop down next to her before Faith said, "Where you gonna go?"

Buffy shook her head. She should have expected no less. So the senior slayer shrugged. Her left eye squinting as she looked sideways at her…she swallowed the word 'friend' and decided that coworker would have to do 'cause she and Faith, weren't friends. They barely spoke, but on the upside Buffy no longer felt the need to punch her in the face repeatedly. She figured somewhere in some dimension that that was considered growth.

Faith eyed Buffy and ran her hands through her mop of curls. "Look, B…I know we ain't gonna be chummy or that we'll ever be B.F.F.'s, but I just wanted to let you know…" she paused and wiped her palms on her dark blue jeans, "Well, I get it."

An eyebrow rose, the left one, on Buffy's face.

"I was thinkin' that if you really wanted to get away, N.Y.C.'s a good place. Big enough if you want, you can disappear for a while." Faith grinned at her then. Not the cocky know-it-all grin that Buffy was used to seeing, but one that made her flash back to a brief few days of her senior year when she and the brunette were actual friends, before Faith went all Green Goblin.

Buffy's hands went to her hips as she looked around the efficiency that she just rented, thinking about that lone conversation with Faith. The slayer sighed, puffed out her cheeks and shook her head, knowing that her head needed to be checked more now than ever before…she let Faith choose her destination. Something had to be wrong with her.

"Well, I guess it's just me," Buffy spoke to herself.

The room wasn't…who was she kidding. It was so damn similar to the place she had the summer she ran away to L.A. it was scary weird. The only difference was that the place she had found herself in New York was tinier and there was no kitchen.

The area wasn't great, but it wasn't the worst she had ever been in and she was happy that the place was clean. The other tenants seemed to be quiet and the only noises that could be heard were a few muffled TV's and the sounds of the city outside of her tiny window.

Buffy could work with that until she found a place that she really liked. Money wasn't an issue for once in her adult life and for that alone she thanked Willow's ability with computers for the thousandth time since meeting her and Giles' offer to at least give her access to the Council's near inexhaustible funds.

She lightly kicked her duffle bag, looking down on it with just a hint of sadness. The black canvas bag held everything that she had left in the world. The slayer knew that the situation she had found herself in was laughable at best. A cliché of such proportions that she was sure a few country-western and horrible power ballads had been written about people in her situation.

She stared at her bag, then at the room, trying to decide what she should do first. She shuffled over to the full sized bed and sunk into the mattress. Buffy flopped back and closed her eyes, willing for the tears that she stopped being able to shed to form. Between arriving at John F. Kennedy Airport at an ungodly hour this morning to taking the better part of her first day in the city trying to find a place to rent for the short term, the woman was tired, physically and emotionally.

She couldn't cry over the things that she had lost anymore. Buffy tried, thinking that grieving was the natural thing to do, but the slayer had been grieving for three months. Three months and the five stages of grief for the people and things she had lost, for the girls that she had killed. Her knees drew to her chest as she turned on her side, falling into a fitful sleep.

The park by her efficiency was nice, mostly quiet with some really good vendors selling food in the spots that she liked to visit. In the two weeks Buffy had been in New York, she had developed a routine. Nothing strenuous, a light patrol here and there while she began mapping out and got to know the island of Manhattan. The one thing that she had learned her second day in the city is that Faith was right. People could get lost on this island and most wouldn't be the wiser.

Her first week she rested. She caught up on sleep and then spent the nights looking for spots, places she could go, her habits of the past eight years of walking the night hard to break, but that was the first week. At the tail end of her second week her schedule had been slowly shifting, she still went to bed rather late, two a.m. or three a.m., but she had also been getting up earlier and earlier.

The time away from it all, at least away from the California hell mouth, habitants included, had given her some perspective and a rest that she knew was sorely needed. She had also become very very content with hanging out at the park, sitting on her bench, drinking coffee and watching the people go by. It's where she had found herself one day in the late afternoon, no sun to speak of but hot and muggy regardless. The only thing was that she hadn't yet been able to answer the question that Willow had asked before she left

They sat in the parking lot of the airport at San Jose. It was not even five in the morning; the fog had rolled in and covered pretty much everything. Xander, Giles and Dawn had opted not to see her off. Buffy was thankful for that, but it also meant that Willow was the default and had to make the forty-five minute drive back alone.

"I, uh, you sure?" the witch asked quietly. "What are you going to do now? No more slayer. No more patrol or hell mouth."

Buffy stared out her window a minute longer than necessary, unsure of how to answer that question. Was she sure she wanted to go away, no not entirely. Was she sure that it was the right thing to do? Absolutely. "No clue, Will and would you hate me if I said yes and no about being sure?" she asked instead.

Willow snorted and gave a little laugh. "Can't hate you Buffy." Buffy felt Willow's hand slip into her own as the redhead laces their fingers together. "I know it may not seem like it, but I do get why you're doing this. Just doesn't mean I have to like"

Buffy's eyes fluttered closed as Willow's thumb began caressing her palm.

"I love you; out of every one of our friends I love you the most. I always have. I just wish I could have done some things different," Willow admitted softly.

A tear slipped down Buffy's cheek and dropped down her chin. She shook her head and pulled away from Willow. Quickly she leaned over, pecked her friend on the cheek and whispered, "Bye, Will."

Willow watched the girl that had taken up special residence in her heart scramble from the car, duffle bag in tow. Willow watched the woman who kept them all alive and mostly together slip from her fingers again as Buffy disappeared down the escalator to the arrivals terminal.

Buffy shook her head as she automatically swiveled around to single out the source of the disturbance that pulled her from her memory. There were a few people walking around, some kids playing on a jungle gym not more than twenty yards in front of her, when her ears tuned into the furious pace of the three people running. Coming up from the hill that led down to the street entrance, a man in basketball shorts, jersey and carrying something in his hand was being chased by two cops.

She watched the shady looking white guy gain some ground on the already struggling cops and felt a small pang of empathy for the two officers trying to do their job. Sighing, the blonde stood up and dusted her hands off on her green cotton shorts. She slung her purse across her shoulder to let it rest at her hip, tugged her beige tank top down to cover a strip of exposed hip and took off, running full tilt at the guy.

Buffy was only twenty feet from him, but he was moving quickly. She pumped her arms a little harder and picked up her pace. A few seconds and she had closed the gap, a few more feet and she launched herself forward aiming for the man's hips to knock him off his feet.

She locked her arms around his waist, pulled down, sending both of them to the ground, rolling down a small hill and coming to a stop as they both rammed into the base of a tree. Buffy was on her feet in a matter of a second as the man sputtered and tried to get up.

Not needing to fight him, Buffy dropped to her knees, planting one knee between the man's shoulder blades while using her other leg to steady herself as she held his hands behind his back.

"Hey!" a voice breathless and wheezing yelled from above her.

Unable to stop the grin she watched the medium height cop barrel down the hill to come to a stop a few feet from Buffy. His hands held him up at his knees as hunched and fought for breath. The second cop crested the hill and came to rest next to his partner, stance very similar, but this guy, Buffy noted, was a little less in shape and blonde.

"I, uh…" the brown haired cop sputtered.

"Get the fuck off me," the guy underneath Buffy struggled, trying to dislodge the little blonde from his back. He winced as the hands clamping his wrists together tightened and he felt the bones grinned together. "Mother fucker, lay off bitch!"

Buffy's knee dug in deeper, driving the breath from the man. He stopped yelling then and the two cops actually took over. Buffy watched on and waited knowing that they would want to talk to her. As they waited on a patrol car to show up to escort the man, whose name was unknown, but whose crime had been aggravated assault against his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend, Buffy chatted with the brown haired cop, Logan. The conversation light until they had hauled no name dirt bag to processing.

"Uh, again, ma'am thanks for the help," Logan stammered, "I just, well, I haven't seen nothin' like that before."

Buffy rolled her eyes and thought of the first thing that came to her head, "I used to do it all the time back home."

He cocked his head to the side and queried, "Where's home?"

"Uh, was a little town in California. I just moved to the city," she answered as vague as possible.

He nodded, actually taking the vague answer for what it was and instead, surprised the blonde by handing her a card. "Look, if there's anything I can do or if you need help, give me a call." With that Buffy watched as he tipped his hat and trotted up the small hill side to catch up with his partner.

She looked at the card and tapped it against her knuckles before slipping it into her purse thinking it couldn't hurt to hang on to.

A week had passed since that incident in the park. She hadn't bothered looking for another place, she hadn't thought about a job and she really hadn't given Logan, with the bright blue eyes and school boy smile, much thought. No, after the incident in the park, Buffy had been falling back on old habits. She went out at night, usually to a dive bar or some random club, flirted, danced and got tipsy before she went out and patrolled.

She had started walking north for Greenwich Village, meandering down small side streets and alleys coming up empty handed each night. No vamp attacks, no demons that she could find. She did however stop more than a her fair share of muggings, attempted rapes and robberies. That little fact didn't go unnoticed by her.

Here in this city, the demons kept a low profile and were generally harmless or as harmless as they could be. She'd yet to run into one that didn't want to be left alone. The three vamps that she had dusted she chatted up before staking them. They, like her, were new to the city. They didn't stay long. Usually they floated into the drainage system as Buffy dusted her hands off and watched as the would be victim scurried off into the night.

As Buffy walked that evening away from the thumping bass of the music wafting out of the club, a thin film of sweat coated her body, her clothes clung to her in all the right places and the few drinks she'd had caused the walls she usually kept up, to crumble.

Four blocks into her walk and three side streets, Buffy twirled the stake in her hand, the passer-bys not even glancing at the oddity. Passing Eleventh Street, the slayer paused. Her head cocked to the right towards a small alcove a few feet ahead.

Her stomach muscles tensed and the familiar tingle rolled in the pit of her stomach. She strode towards the dimly lit area and was unfortunately unprepared for the site that greeted her. She blinked, once, twice and then a third time as the body's full visage sunk in.

The boy, no more than fifteen or sixteen years old, was laying on his stomach, his head turned at an unnatural angle to the side, one arm bent just as awkwardly as the leg on his opposite side. Her nose scrunched at the smell of blood and urine that pooled below the body.

Her eyes clamped shut and she cursed. She snapped open her purse and pulled out her cell phone and the card Logan had left with her. She dialed the number, explained the situation and waited. The night was warm, but a chill had seeped into the slayer. One she wasn't too comfortable trying to figure out.

As Logan and his partner, Sam, came on the scene they called the rest of it in and before Buffy could blink, crime scene people and the coroner's van were flashing their lights and roping the area off while she was left with a woman leading her to the back of an ambulance to be questioned. Buffy let herself be led away by female detective, Detective Gonzalez.

"So, Ms. Summers, do you want to tell me what you were doing out here in this area at two in the morning?" the detective asked as they sat almost casually on the back of an ambulance.

Swallowing, Buffy answered, "I, uh, was coming back from a club a few blocks south…"

"Which club?" the detective interrupted.

"Uh, Shooters," Buffy answered then continued, "So I was walking home and uh, he was just lying there."

"You live where?" Detective Gonzalez asked, looking Buffy over.

"Greene, just south of Broome," Buffy sighed, knowing her answer was going to get her into trouble.

"Uh-huh, alright, so you live more than thirteen blocks south of the direction you were headed in?"

"Look, where I was going and what I was doing are none of your damn business. I was trying to do my civic duty," Buffy snapped. "If we're done, I'd like get home. It's been a long night."

She stood not waiting on a reply from the older woman. Buffy started to walk away when a voice stopped her, "Hey, I…sorry about that. Look," the other woman tried again in a less accusatory tone, "I just talked to Officer Scott, he told me that you had helped with a collar a week or so ago."

Buffy nodded as she folded her arms across her chest waiting on the detective to get to the point.

The detective's lips pursed and she ran a hand through her hair, clearly trying to piece together what she wanted to say. "I've seen people like you, hell I was one. You look like you need something to do. Normally I tell people to stay away from police work, but you…" her eyes narrowed giving Buffy a once over, "I don't really know, it just seems like this is something you could do. Better than drinking away the night and lying to a detective."

Buffy's mouth dropped open a little as the detective handed her her card. The blonde looked down and read the paper, Detective Meagan Gonzalez, Detective, 17th Precinct, N.Y.P.D., recruiter.

"If you want, give me a call. I think the city might just be a better place if you wanted to join." Meagan offered Buffy one last wary smile before turning away and ducking under some crime scene tape.

For her part, Buffy rolled her eyes and stalked off in the direction of her apartment. It didn't take long for the slayer to cover the distance and as she got in she looked around the place she'd been living. No part of this place seemed like a home. She had been hiding. There was one lone picture of her and the Scoobies taken right before she made the announcement and her plans to leave became public knowledge. Other than that. The place was barren. Her clothes were still in her duffle bag. Her toiletries were few but lined up neatly.

Wearily, she plopped down on the bed and dumped the contents of her purse out, surprised that Detective Gonzalez's card hadn't been thrown away. Buffy was even more shocked when she placed it next to her cell phone on the nightstand. It was a crazy idea. In fact, out of everything, it was probably the one that should have caused her to be committed indefinitely, but there was something there that spoke to the slayer in her. More importantly it spoke to the woman the slayer had become. It was time for her to do something besides exist in New York.


Ch. 3 – Let the Bombs Blow

Olivia checks her phone for any missed calls or texts as she and Buffy emerge from the residence hall. She squints against the glare the high, winter sun is causing on her BlackBerry screen and shoots off a few text messages to Alex, Deb and Jimmy. She looks over at Buffy doing the exact same thing. After gathering up the meager amount of evidence Sarah Holland's room held, Buffy and Olivia made their way to a set of dorms one floor up that had hosted a floor party that Sarah had attended.

After coming out of the hall and the interviews with the few students that knew the young college student, Olivia voices her opinion, "Were you buying any of that?"

Glancing up from the screen of her phone, Buffy smiles and shakes her head. "I've known soulless demons with more credibility."

They jog together across the street and slip into the unmarked Interceptor. As soon as Olivia has the door slammed shut, she slips the key in the ignition, turns the car over and cranks the heater. "Okay," she stutters slightly, her teeth chattering, "This has got to be the coldest day of the year."

Buffy shivers in her seat and bobs her head. "I'd be happy to say that at least it's not snowing, but I feel that'd jinx things so…"

Sending the blonde a playful glare, Olivia fastens the safety belt and puts the car in drive. "I was thinking we swing by the morgue, check in with Melinda and that woman who puts up with you then back to the one-six?"

"Sounds good, Jimmy says they're on their way back. The Holland's are going to be coming down tomorrow to start taking care of everything." The blonde stares out the window, the city passing by in slow motion as they make their way towards downtown.

Thinking about her first few months here in New York and how vastly different things are from where they began to how they are today, threw the resident slayer for a little bit of a loop. Buffy had been floating through life, even after having joined the N.Y.P.D., but when Willow came to visit - as soon as the red head hit J.F.K., she had upended the slayer-turned-cop's world.

Nearly four years later, the witch and the slayer share an apartment with Buffy's work partner and best friend, Jimmy while the slayer agrees that her life has surpassed even the best-case scenario she put together years ago.

Of course, the same could be said for Detective Olivia Benson's life just as well. Alexandra's Cabot's return as her departments A.D.A. had set into motion a life style change nearly a decade in the making and it was better than even Olivia had thought possible. Work for the veteran detective has its moments of horror, but it's no longer her and an empty apartment waiting on her. Now she mostly falls asleep next to a blonde that's come back from the dead twice and has been kicking some serious ass in Major Crimes unit as their active Bureau Chief.

"Summers, you comin' in?" Olivia barks, effectively snapping Buffy out of her daydreaming.

"Oh," Buffy blinks and looks around. "We're here."

Olivia nods and asks as they both step from the car, "Where'd you go?"

"Mental vaca," Buffy retorts and winks at her friend.

They take the steps into the building two at a time, sign in and take the stairs up three floors. The two detectives follow a familiar path to Willow's office, stepping into the space without even a knock.

"Will," Buffy calls out before looking up to see the office empty. Her hands go to her hips, tapping her fingers against her body, before stepping over to the side door to the left of her wife's office. Cracking it open, she pokes her head through and asks, "Will?"

The admin who is responsible for Melinda, Willow and a few other doctors and technicians looks up from her computer screen and smiles at the familiar face. "Detective, it's good to see you and that woman you seem to be so fond of is in the morgue. She and Melinda have been down there the better part of today."

"Thanks, Gilda," Buffy chirps and goes back into Will's office.

"Why'd we bother coming up here in the first place," Olivia snarks and Buffy shrugs.

"Habit?" the blonde detective offers as the two head back the way they came, but bypassing the exit to the lobby they go down another flight of steps and move through the door labeled 'Basement Access'.

They follow the puke green painted walls and linoleum tiled hallway to the set of autopsy suites towards the back of the building. Ignoring the clatter and clink behind the forensics department's doors as they pass, they push through the double swinging doors and stop as the two detectives watch the two doctors, backs to them, read a computer monitor next to a steel slab and open body.

Will doesn't turn around as she stops the conversation with her colleague and says, "Hey baby. Hi Olivia."

Olivia just smirks used to how in tune the two are with each. As much as Olivia loves Alex, she still hasn't mastered that type of awareness.

"Buff, if you don't quit making that face and get over here, I'm going to make you cook dinner tonight," Willow deadpans as Olivia looks over at her friend to confirm that indeed, Buffy's face is scrunched as she looks at the body on the table.

"You do know," Melinda says, doing a horrible job at masking the amusement in her voice, "that that's just kind of creepy?"

Willow turns to her friend and winks. "It's why I do it."

Finally the two doctors turn to the detectives and motion them closer.

"We finished up the post on your vic," Melinda starts, "Do you two want a walk through?"

Buffy and Olivia nod simultaneously and Willow's face sours, moving next to her wife to lace their fingers together. Buffy reaches up and pecks her wife on the cheek in greeting before turning her attention back to the other M.E.

"We're still waiting on the blood panel to come back to get an exact quantity, but your victim had a few drinks, enough to impair ability and advanced motor functions. No other markers on the body indicated any drug use so that should make things a bit clearer for prosecution." Melinda beckons the three closer as she points out a few markings on the body. "Restraints were used; the fibers that were pulled indicate a thin nylon rope, standard purchase at any hardware store. The attack was planned. There were a few splinters in her stomach and breasts, indicating that she was face down when the rapes occurred."

"Rapes? As in plural," Buffy grits out.

"Yeah," Willow answers, offering a hand squeeze in support. She, just as much as Buffy, hates cases like this. To Willow, this type of assault was the worst and she knows her wife feels the same way. The witch suspects that is one of the reasons Buffy and Jimmy never made the full transition into Special Victims; Buffy took rape cases the hardest. "Again, prelim reports indicate three unique semen samples from the swabs."

"No condoms?" Buffy asks.

Both doctors shake their head, but Willow answers, "I've looked at the crime scene and given the attempt at a ritual, there may be something in the rite that would call for the lack of protection."

Buffy scowls as Olivia swallows the lump in her throat and clips, "Walk me through it."

Melinda eyes the two detectives before nodding. "From what we've been able to determine, Sarah was led, either willingly or she was coerced, to that warehouse. No defensive wounds exist except for the bruising on her wrists. She was more than likely placed on the edge of the platform in a prone position so that her buttocks and legs were left hanging off the edge."

Willow lets go of Buffy's hand and moves to stand by Melinda pointing out a set of horizontal bruises marring the upper thighs and groin region of their victim. "Bruising here and here," Willow says, "indicates that she was pushed against the side of the platform. The pictures Melinda brought back will be able to give a definite match."

"So they," Buffy swallows the bile rising in the back of her throat along with the knot of anger and rasps, "they took her from behind, three of them and then what?"

"After they finished with her, we can only guess at how, but a hairline fracture on her left wrist and a small abrasion on her palm could mean that she was pushed up and used her left hand to lessen the impact between her and the platform," Willow responds and lights up the x-ray box to her right. "This line here is the fracture and consistent with a fall. From there, we think they cut in to her. There were a few hesitation marks surrounding the top of the cut."

"Also, your killer, at least the one that made the cut, was left handed," Melinda nods in Willow's direction.

Buffy and Olivia exchange glances both thinking of one of the young men they interviewed that was not only left handed, but also 'pinged' for the two women.

"This will make things easier for you two. Because Melinda's a genius, we were able to pull a set of prints off the body," Willow says with a bit of pride.

"Come again?" Buffy asks, sticking her finger in her ear wondering if she heard her wife right. A set of prints would make this nightmare of a case almost bearable.

"One of the attackers, while they were," Willow fidgets and waves her right hand around blushing, "Uhm, that is, while the assailant was behind her, he placed a hand on her back to steady himself. He sweated through the latex gloves he had on. There was enough residue and oil remaining that we were able to pull three full prints from the right hand and one partial."

Debra Morgan looks out of the car window, the winter country landscape passing by in increasingly slow increments while her partner for the day and boyfriend meanders along another country highway heading back towards the city. Scowling, she shoots off a text message to her friend.

"How come we got stuck with the shit assignment?"

Her phone vibrates shortly after with a reply, Buffy's name appearing on the screen above the message:

"Wanted to give u time to molest my partner, which we know u will"

Unable to suppress the smirk, Deb replies, "Fuck off, we're on our way back. Nearly to the highway."

"You get an update from Cupcake?" Jimmy asks, his eyes skirting to Debra.

The brunette snorts and shakes her head. "You know it's scary that you know when I'm talking to her right?"

Jimmy chuckles as he turns down the horrible country music. "Meh, it's a thing. Any word?"

"Didn't ask. I was just bitching about us having to make the drive out here," Debra teases and leans back in her seat.

"Better than interviewing college students that were probably too wasted to remember what happened last night." Jimmy checks the rearview mirror and signals his move into the fast lane as the car in front of him hits the breaks. "And really, how come every damn time these assholes see an unmarked they hit their breaks?"

Debra laughs and amends, "Like we give a damn if they're speeding. Do we even have a radar gun in here?"

Jimmy turns to her and wiggles his eyebrows. "True, but they don't know that."

Shaking her head at her boyfriend's antics, she unbuckles her seatbelt and decides to take a few liberties by sliding over to the center of the bench seat to snuggle into Jimmy's side. For his part, Jimmy grins to himself and wraps the arm that was draped on the back of the seat across the woman's shoulders.

"What'd you think of the family?" Debra asks, playing with a loose button on Jimmy's light blue button down.

"Not a lot. They were upset. Don't think they had a lot of contact with their daughter though." He gnaws on his lower lip as he pieces together the impressions he gleaned from their interview with Sarah Holland's family.

"Just seemed…" Debra tries to put words to her thoughts. "Like, I dunno, they didn't care too much about her. Sad she had died but…"

"Like it was a third removed cousin they just found out that died?" Jimmy offers, enjoying the fact that Debra and him are on the same page when reading people. It is just one of the things that make them work. He knew when he first laid eyes on his girlfriend that she was different and it wasn't just the fact that she had survived weeks of torture at the hands of a sadistic vampire that killed her entire family, nor was it that he saw past the cuts, bruises and stitches that marred her beautiful face. It was an instantaneous connection, which Debra confirmed she felt too, the first time their eyes met.

"That's fuckin' it," she sighs into his chest.

And then there was the other thing that just confirmed Jimmy's feelings towards the young detective, she cussed like a sailor on shore leave and damn him to hell, but every time an expletive fell from her lips he got a little turned on. Needless to say on the rare occasion that they did work on the same case, it was a tad distracting.

They let the conversation die out, enjoying the silence except for the whir of the tires and the sounds of passing cars. A short while later as the mile markers for New York City became less and the city loomed in the distance, Debra decides to broach a touchy subject of conversation with the man that she has been sharing a bed with for nearly a year. "You think about our conversation?" she asks tentatively, in a way that she really is unaccustomed to.

Debra Morgan doesn't do the shy thing, especially around boyfriends, but Jimmy is different for her. From the get go, he is the one person she felt comfortable showing the slightest bit of vulnerability to. He doesn't abuse or acknowledge when she freaks out or when she cries, he just lets her be and holds her when the time calls for it.

"Yeah, Sweetcheeks, I may have given it a thought or two," he teases lightly.

"And?" she asks, sitting up to look at his face to gauge his reaction.

"And…you know the girls factor into this for me," he explains softly.

Deb smiles at him then, knowing that this was going to be a factor in their talks about living together. She also knows that he worries about her feelings towards Buffy and Willow. She just doesn't know how to reassure him enough that his loyalty to his partner and her wife are pretty much a non-issue for her. She had spent some time after being released from the hospital and closing out the case that took her brother away from her, living with the three of them and she feels confident that it is something she could do again.

Buffy and Willow are good people, dedicated to not only their job but each other and Jimmy as well. They love him and she couldn't fault either woman for their loyalty to her boyfriend. Truthfully, she appreciates that loyalty more than anything else.

"You know I'm okay with you three right?" She looks at him, locking hazel eyes with his soft green ones.

"I, think, yeah, but I just…I'm not sure how they feel about it ya know?" Removing his arm from around Debra he uses his now free hand to rub the back of his neck. "I don't wanna cause any waves."

Unable to suppress the snicker and snort she manages, "Babe, you make waves every fucking time you open your mouth." She sticks her tongue out at him and he rolls his eyes.

"It's not just with Buffy and Willow. Fact, I think Cupcake and Red would be copacetic with you crashin' our little three-way…it's just, Susie…she…"

"She fuckin' hates me," Debra offers and runs her left hand through her hair.

"Yeah," Jimmy doesn't deny it. His daughter's a thorn in his side. He loves his daughter, that isn't the issue, he just isn't sure if he likes the person she has become. He also isn't too sure what he can do about that. His son, God love the fairy, is everything Jimmy could want in a son. He's smart, kind, cares about his family and even the extended ones that Jimmy has adopted namely Buffy and Willow. Also, it doesn't hurt that Jimmy and his son's partner, Tim, get along. Jimmy has even gone to a couple football games with his pseudo son-in-law and had a great time.

Susie just can't get passed his relationship with Buffy and Willow and now with Debra, citing that Deb's age is Susie's issue.

Shaking his head, he comes to a decision, one that's been brewing for four years, "Ya know, what, as much as it hurts to say this, Susie's gonna hafta get over herself. We'll talk to Cupcake and Red tonight at dinner, see what they think about bunking with your crazy ass." He turns twinkling green eyes and a beaming smile to his girl to sees the joy reflected back at him in her's.

"Wait," he sobers slightly, "What's gonna happen when you get pissed at me and I can't sleep in our bed?"

Deb playfully socks his chest and snuggles into his side once again saying, "I'll just send your ass in to sleep with your other women."

Jimmy's chest rumbles with laughter and he leans down, places a kiss on top of brunette hair and merges on to the George Washington Bridge sighing as the car's tires roll onto Manhattan soil.

Stephen MacNamara raises the bottom of edge his glasses that were resting on the bridge of his nose and rubs the abused skin. When he became the lead Assistant District Attorney for the Manhattan Special Victims Unit a year ago he was grossly unprepared for the job. With a little bit of help from Bureau Chief of Major Crimes, Alexandra Cabot, Captain Donald Cragen and the detectives of the squad, he feels only a little more prepared, but a lot more passionate about his assignment, so much so that he has passed up a promotion to continue his work here.

Now, at three in the afternoon, after he'd spent the better part of his day listening to a defense attorney, despite the physical evidence and victims statements on three counts of rape, try to get the case against his client dismissed, Detectives Olivia Benson and Buffy Summers stand in front of his desk asking for warrants on one Hugh Taylor.

"We've got a positive match on the prints and the perp was seen with the victim last," Olivia finishes.

Steve can't help the smile that pulls the corner of his mouth up. The passion Olivia has is evident. The two while on the same side have butted heads about how to go about getting justice for the victims who come their way, but they work alright together. "Why are you laying out the case for me?" Steve teases the woman, "You had me at positive match with the pulled prints three minutes ago."

Buffy snickers while Olivia gripes, "Seemed like the thing to do. You get twitchy when I want to make a quick bust."

Steve shrugs and picks up the phone, dialing Judge Donnelly's personal line. "Donnelly," the woman picks up on the second ring.

"Judge, MacNamara here. I need an arrest and search warrant signed off," Steve chirps into the phone looking at the detectives in amusement.

"I trust you'll have all the documentation needed?" the judge and former prosecutor asks.

"Of course, I'll see you in five minutes. Thanks, Liz," the attorney says before hanging up. Turning his attention to the two detectives, he says, "I'll meet you at the hall. Go prep a unit for the arrest."

"Thanks Steve," Buffy says.

Olivia nods her agreement and the two make their way out of the A.D.A.'s office.

"You want to stop by to see if Alex is available?" Buffy asks as they head in the direction of her friends office.

"Yeah, may as well." Olivia smiles and strides towards the closed door of her girlfriend's office. Knocking lightly, Olivia pokes her head through and peers inside. Alex's bright blue eyes blink behind her black frame glasses before a smile spreads over her face. Taking that as her cue, Olivia pushes the door open and steps inside.

Buffy follows her partner, shuts and quietly locks the door behind her.

"Liv, Buffy, what brings you two by?" Alex asks standing up and coming around her desk to give Buffy a hug first. She then turns to her lover and places a soft kiss on waiting lips.

"Getting a warrant from MacNamara. Thought we'd stop in and see how your day was going," Buffy answers taking a seat in one of the two chairs across from the attorney's desk.

Alex's eyebrow quirks and Olivia fills her in on the case, "That call from this morning, nineteen year old college girl was gang raped and then sliced open."

Alex visibly cringes as she asks, "You two already have someone in mind?"

Olivia knowing Buffy secured the door behind her pulls Alex down into her lap and wraps her arms around her lover's waist. The long day finally catching up to her as the heat from Alex's body settles over her.

"We do. Will and Melinda pulled a nice set of prints off the vic. We've got a match via the DMV and we just popped in for the warrant." Buffy's pride in the work they've done today obvious in her voice.

"Wow, nice work," Alex praises and squeezes Olivia's arms. "Why aren't all your cases like that, Liv?"

"Shut up, Cabot. It's a good break on a disgusting crime. Nailing these pricks is gonna be the icing on the cake of my pre-dawn wakeup call this morning," Olivia moans into Alex's shoulder. Pushing Alex up, Olivia stands and motions for Buffy to follow suit. "We need to go get a few uni's together for the bust. I may make it home in time for dinner."

"Well then, text me and let me know for sure and I'll cut out when you head home. I'm up to my ass in motions. Idiotic defense attorneys and incompetent junior A.D.A.'s do not make me happy." Walking her friend and lover to her door, she clicks the lock off and opens it up. Buffy offers the lawyer a warm smile before leaving the two alone to say their goodbyes.

Olivia joins her in the hall a few moments later, lip gloss a little smudged, something that Buffy more than happily points out and they make a few phone calls to get two cruisers to meet them at the hall. A half hour later and a round of Olivia and Buffy singing along to Janet Jackson's "That's the Way Love Goes", that neither would admit to under threat of death, they pull up behind the waiting Uni's and meet MacNamara in the lobby.

He grins holding up two folded blue pamphlets. "Per your request, but I'd like to be there for the arrest. Listening to this kid grovel will make my day just a little better. In fact, seeing him snivel may just give me…Buffy what's that word you use…happy?"

Buffy's eyebrow quirks in his direction and she shakes her head. "Yeah, that's it."

"Excellent, seeing this kid grovel will give me a happy," he says stuffing his hands in his pockets and laughing.

"Okay, Summers, seriously, you need to quit rubbing off on my people. Next thing I know I'm going to have El referencing obscure pop culture and trying to fit "-y" at the end of every word," Olivia snips.

The blonde sticks her tongue out at the other detective and says, "Alright, let's go get our Shaft on so I can call it a day. Some annoying detective from another unit dragged me out of bed before I could get my morning happy."

The A.D.A. and other detective exchange looks as Buffy takes off towards the bank of elevators.

The phone's cradled between Buffy's shoulder and ear as she waits for her wife to pick up. Three rings in and she hears, "Doctor Rosenberg."

"Will, you had to have known it was me," Buffy teases as Olivia pulls out into traffic following one of the two cruisers holding their suspects.

"Actually, I didn't. It's called a Bluetooth." The detective hears some clinking in the background as Willow talks over it, "But that's beside the point, what news do you have for your wonderful Wiccan wonder?"

The blonde laughs and says, "Perhaps, maybe those prints you and Doc Warner pulled netted us not one but three collars and barring anything serious happening with the interviews and bookings, we can actually have dinner at a decent hour. Also, if you can talk to your people at the labs, we could use a rush on any of the work that still needs to be done; it would make me all sortsa happy."

"I'll see what I can do. Dinner sounds nifty, but…" Willow trails off.

"But what Will?" Buffy whines.

"Nothin'. I just wanted to tease you."

"Will," Buffy whines, "It's been too long of a day. No fair."

"Alright, don't pout. I hate when you pout. How about I start dinner and have it ready by say six-ish?" Willow asks. While they did their best it wasn't as often as either she or Buffy would like that they can sit down and actually have a meal together. Most of their time was divided between eating a rushed dinner together at the morgue or the precinct or on occasion a restaurant close to their respective offices.

Today was a rarity and Willow was loath to miss the opportunity.

"'Kay," Buffy brightens, "You finish up and I'll meet you at home. Love you, Will."

"Love you too," Willow parrots back and ends the call.

Slipping her phone back into her pocket Buffy looks over at Olivia who is still on the phone.

"Lex, it looks like we'll be good for dinner. You want to eat in or out?" Olivia asks through her own headset.

"In, I can throw something together. If you want to stop on your way home and pick up a bottle of wine that would be nice," Alex answers as she shuffles another stack of files to the other side of her desk.

"Will do, babe. I'm gonna go, we're almost to the station and I've got reports and three interviews to do." Olivia merges onto 8th and ignores the cab that just cut her off to focus on her conversation with Alex.

"Aright, text me if anything changes. Love you, Liv," Alex says as she hears Olivia give her a similar response before hanging up the phone.

Turning to her partner, Olivia asks, "You ready to wrap this thing up?"

Nodding, Buffy agrees, "You may have an idea of how excited I am. I just can't believe this pulled together so easy."

"Don't jinx the case, Summers. We still have three interviews to go through and anyone of them can recant and lawyer up so fast it'll make even your reflexes seem slow."

Huffing, Buffy puts her phone to her ear and waits for Jimmy to pick up.

"McAllister," her friend's voice barks.

"Old Man, where are you and that woman of yours?"

"Just stepping into the one-six. Where're you?" he asks stepping into the elevator with Debra. He covers the mouth piece and says, "The girls are on their way in. We should be good."

"Nice. We'll see you soon then. If you want to meet us in booking we can split the paperwork and interviews," Buffy tries to bargain.

"Huh?" Jimmy asks confused as to why they would need to meet his partner in booking.

"We got three suspects coming in. The Uni's are dropping them off and Olivia and I are coming in to finish it up. Will and Warner worked their magic and we got a set of latents off the body. Our search of the dorm proved all sortsa fruity." Buffy grins unable to believe that the case still went the way it did today.

"Hot damn Cupcake. Good work," Jimmy says motioning Deb to change directions and follow him back down the way they came. "We'll meet you down there."

"'Kay, see you two in a bit. Maybe you can work one of the interviews and shave off some time. Also, MacNamara should be there before us. He can start the gears and paperwork."

"I'll let him know. Bye, blondie." Jimmy grins at her snippy fuck you before she hangs up.

"You do know that you and Jimmy are fuckin' weird right?" Olivia asks from the driver's seat.

Buffy shrugs and slips her phone back in the inside pocket of her coat. She knows it, but she really couldn't picture it any other way. Work without Jimmy would be unbearable and something she doesn't want to contemplate.

"Still can't believe Hugh gave up his buddies like that," Olivia whistles appreciatively.

"I know. Who knew he'd cave as soon as he saw the handcuffs," Buffy smirks.

"You telling him about "Chester" didn't have anything to do with it though." Olivia's eyebrow quirks in her friend's direction, still a little surprised that Buffy would use a fictional suspect to threaten the young student with.

Snickering, Buffy says, "They gang raped a girl and then cut her open because his stupid friends wanted to join the dark side." Buffy rolls her eyes and folds her arms across her chest. "It's fucking stupid and if they really want to see dark, leave them alone with me for three minutes. "

"Easy there, slayer. I've seen you kick demon ass and don't think I haven't forgot about that jacket you owe me. The guts from that thing you killed will not come out," Olivia reminds the slayer.

"Yeah, yeah, we'll go shopping on our next day off. I need some new shoes anyhow." Buffy slumps back in her seat and takes the knit cap from her head, shaking her hair from the bun she had it in.

"Not to beat a dead horse or anything, but going back to you in New York for the first time…that's seriously all it took for you to sign up?"

The blonde shrugs and says, "Well it seemed like a good fit. I spent my life saving people, that's not something you turn off. But coming to the city showed me that there's other ways to do that besides stopping vamps from making budget meals of innocent people."

"And the Academy? How did you make it through that without giving anything away, you aren't the wimpiest blonde in the city…?" Olivia cocks her eyebrow and the blonde gives her a sheepish look.


Ch. 4 – The Bravest Kids

Buffy pinched the bridge of her nose as she flopped back on the bed, Giles was sputtering in her ear and really she just wished he'd shut up. She understood, on some level, that he was concerned she was just as concerned, maybe even more so than the stammering Watcher, but her mind was made up. She liked to think that it was the logical parts of her brain telling her to do something beside just continue to exist. Buffy had spent the better part of her life, at least for as long as she cared to remember, fighting demons, her energy needed to go somewhere and as much as she was loathe agreeing with anything high school may have told her about her personality, she agreed that doing this would be a step in the right direction.

She tried every job that she could when Sunnydale was still around. The high school counselor job was okay; she felt like she was making a difference, and some days it had even showed. But if the slayer were honest, if it hadn't been for Wood's offer, she still would have been jobless.

What else was she going to do? Work at a fast food place to come back to her dingy apartment smelling like a fried stick of Buffy? The slayer didn't think either was in the same zip code as a viable option.

Being in the city had given the slayer a look beyond the demons and admittedly, it wasn't something she had seen a lot of. Vaguely she recalled a life before being called but it seemed so far away and different that it could have been someone else. At twenty-two, she had the means and inclination to start over. "Stop, Giles," she snapped, "Look, this is what I'm doing. I need those vast Council resources to do their longest running slayer a good turn. What's so hard about this?"

"Buffy," Giles' voice calmed, he knew he needed to get a hold on his emotions. "I just can't seem to wrap my head around why you could possibly want this?"

"What's there to understand Giles? I'm Peter Parker in New York City. I'd rather not do the vigilante shtick. I can just wear a uniform like everyone else. Admittedly, polyester should so not be made anymore, but I can change that. I've done the research," Buffy reasoned.

"You did what?" Giles interrupted.

Buffy didn't need to see him to know that he was probably standing where ever he was with is eyes closed, pinching the bridge of his nose, with his glasses dangling from between his fingers. It hit her then; she was pinching the bridge of her nose and immediately stopped. Rolling her eyes at his shock she pressed, "Yes, me and a bit of research. If I can get moved to plain clothes quickly, I'll be out of that ridiculous uniform. To do that, I need your help."

Buffy didn't think she was asking for a lot, some type of paper trail showing she had been on the Sunnydale Police Department books and had working knowledge of police work. She admitted that she really knew next to nothing, save those few police type dramas that she caught here and there. But given the incompetence and corruption of the S.D.P.D., even if she had actually been on the force, she would still be just as knowledgable as she was now. She also figured that the new and improved Council could fake some records. The slayer had been witness to the abundance of faked ecords to get access to the Council funds and resources along with identification and other legal paperwork. The least they could do is fake a few more with a service record to give Buffy a leg up at the Training Academy.

"I just don't think…" Giles tried again.

"Don't; don't you dare tell me that you don't think this is a good idea." Buffy pushed off the bed and began a tight pace from one end of the small efficiency to the other. "I'm done with everyone else telling me what's best for me. I don't need to hear it. I'm grateful you gave me the money to get away, but Giles, this isn't some vacation I'm on."

Steeling herself, Buffy spoke as calmly and clearly as she could, "I'm done with slaying. It's taken everything from me. I need to find a way to get some of that back. Do this, get me into the N.Y.P.D. and as far as I'm concerned Giles, we don't have talk to each other again."

"I, uh, Buffy, that's not…" she listened to him sputter and sigh. The same sigh she's heard for the last seven years. It's the one he gives once he's resigned to an idea of hers.

Buffy liked to think the decision was logical, but if the slayer were honest, she never was good with critical thought. She worked off instinct, signing up was the right choice, Buffy knew it and she wasn't going to explain her decision to anyone of them. If this did any harm to anyone, it was to herself. She was the only one of them she could kill with this decision.

"Alright, give me a few days to make some phone calls and have Willow draft something respectable," the Watcher relented.

"Thank you," Buffy said before hitting end on her cell. She tossed the phone on to her bed and looked around the small apartment. Now she just needed to wait it out. Grabbing her purse, she left the apartment intent on finding something to pummel.

Buffy straitened the stuffy jacket and blouse that she wore before squaring her shoulders and heading up the steps to the academy's training building. She'd gone out and purposefully bought something 'cop'-like to sell her story. Between Willow's assistance on the paperwork and then two commendations Riley had secured from the military, Buffy was contacted about a week after she submitted the fabricated resume and documentation.

She personally thought it was the commendation from a defense secretary that had clinched the acceptance for her. Now all she had to do was sell it to the training director, Inspector Michael Walsh, and she was in. She wasn't sure how well this was going to go. Buffy was notoriously bad at any type of undercover work, but she had to try. As she stepped into the lobby, the officer behind the desk, smiled and asked, "Can I help you?"

Smiling herself, she said, "I'm here to see Inspector Walsh."

The cop behind the desk balked for half a second then gave her a once over. The man asked, "Are you with the news?"

She suppressed the eye roll. "No," was all she offered. Remembering a lesson from Spike on less being more, she just offered the man a tight smile and waited.

The officer said nothing more as he picked up the phone and barked a couple of questions. Finally, he turned his attention back to her and asked, "Name?"

"Buffy Summers," she answered.

He gave the person on the other end of the line her name and he sputtered a second before cradling the receiver and handing her a clipboard. "Please sign-in here." He pointed to a line and then handed her a visitor's badge. "Inspector Walsh asked that you wait a minute. He'll be down to get you shortly."

Buffy nodded her head and spun away from him to look around. She shook her head silently at the last name of the training director. It was either a bad sign or a really bad sign in her opinion on the shared name of her college professor, turned Dr. Frankenstien. The blonde fidgeted resisting the urge to escape before meeting the man.

"Ms. Summers?" a deep baritone asked behind her. Buffy spun around and looked over the man standing in front of her. He came in a few inches taller than she was. With thick, brown hair and deep brown eyes, a barrel chest and broad shoulders, he looked like he belonged breaking kneecaps not running the training academy for the N.Y.P.D.

"That's me," she said brightly, extending her hand in greeting.

"Mike Walsh," he said. "Follow me and we'll see what we can do." He didn't wait for her to agree, instead spun on his heel and marched away. Buffy trailed after him towards the rear of the building and up a flight of stairs.

She moved briskly behind the man, down a long hallway that ended with a brass plate witih his name next to a door. A receptionist looked up as the door opened and smiled at the both of them before going back to her typing. Buffy took the invitation and followed Mike through another door to a cluttered, over stuffed office.

"Pardon the mess. We've got a filing problem," he said choosing to sit on the edge of his desk while Buffy took the one free chair that wasn't stacked with boxes or paperwork. "So, I got your application, had a chance to read over it. In fact," he said rubbing at the stubble on his chin, "I had your file hand delivered to me by a Colonel Norton." He chuckled a little and then amended, "The Colonel said that his General told him to hand deliver the file. I've been in this position for fifteen years, Ms. Summers. I ain't seen anything like that before."

Buffy shifted in her seat. Riley offered to help, not raise warning flags. Sighing, she ran a hand through her hair and shrugged.

"So, usually, if we have an officer from another department transfer, even if they come from another state, there's a process. You seemed to jump through all of those hoops and then some. Why?"

Buffy looked up at him and offered another shrug. She had put together a back-story; she just hoped it was going to work. "After Sunnydale, I moved here. I've just been hanging out. Ran into one of your recruiting detectives and thought it would be a good thing. Ya know, embrace the now and all that, uhm…" she trailed off at his look. "I, just, well, I was tired of sitting in the park during work days," she finished lamely.

Walsh clucked his tongue and shook his head. "I tried to get some more background info on you, but got stone walled 'cause your service record requires a security clearance that I don't have. " He sighed and stood then, moving back around to his side of the desk. He sat and rocked back in his chair, lacing his fingers over his stomach. "I did review and follow up on the information so it's golden there. If this is something you want, then we bring you in like a regular transfer. We knock your training down to six weeks. Three on tactical and such and the other three on a review and over view on New York State and County law, then we assign you to a precinct."

Buffy sat there slightly dazed. The only thoughts going through her head was that this was actually going to work. "That's all?" she managed to ask.

"That's all. Everything else is in line. We've got all the right documentation and the investigative work was kyboshed when the State Department not-so-politely informed me that beyond what I had was classified, I'd say we're good. This is a first for me, so…any questions?" Walsh tried for an easy smile, truthfully the little blonde made him a bit nervous and he wasn't a man that got nervous easy, but he wasn't lying about the delivery of her application nor the trouble he ran into trying to secure her military background. All they were able to tell him was that Buffy Summers had served as a consultant to several military operations and that anything beyond that was classified.

Not to mention the colonel that dropped the file off made it a point to get a signature his boss, a two star general, required.

"Uh, when can I get out of uniform and back to regular clothes?" Buffy asked, trying to lighten the mood.

Walsh smiled at that and shrugged. "You come in as a uni, you'll leave as a uni, but if you have an urge to move to plain clothes quickly, with your credentials, you should be able to earn the test scores and recs necessary to do so."

Buffy felt her face brake out into a smile.

Blowing her bangs from her eyes, Buffy stared straight ahead. The instructor was going over firing range protocol as he shot off bursts from some type of machine gun or the handgun at his hip. Internally she cringed as each shot fired echoed in her ears; despite the protective earwear, Buffy heard them a hundred times louder than the other cadets. The blonde wasn't sure how she was supposed to make the next two days at this rate. She'd be lucky to come out of training today with all of her hearing intact.

The day here was supposed to be a recap of gun safety, of things she was already expected to know. Guns wigged her out. For obvious reasons. She just needed to fake it well enough to not tip her hand to Sergeant "Wanna-be-Tackleberry" Castillo calling her out on her lack of skills with automatic weapons. She looked over at another cadet and saw a pair of ear plugs dangling from around his skinny neck.

Leaning over she whispered, "Can I borrow those?"

The cadet took a minute to respond, but he smiled down at her and handed them over. Grateful to the small act of kindness, Buffy removed her earmuffs and slipped the plugs into her ears.

"Summers!" the sergeant barked. Buffy's head snapped up as his hulking form stopped in front of her. "Do you think interrupting today's lesson is a good idea?"

"No," she replied.

"That's 'No, sir,' to you!" He shouted in her face. It took everything Buffy had not to wince at the volume of his voice. "Get up here. You're going to help demonstrate to the group the kickback on our weapons selection. "

Buffy secured her earmuffs and followed the sergeant to the front of the firing range to stand by the table that held a selection of handguns and larger weapons. She recognized a shot gun and an assault rifle, but her eyes lit up at the sight of the smaller grenade launcher on the table. It looked very similar to the rocket launcher that she used junior year and she actually liked the rocket launcher.

"Summers, pick a weapon!" Sergeant Castillo barked his orders as Buffy looked over the selection of weapons.

She could have gone a few ways with the choice, pick a wimpy gun and deal with his sneer, pick a medium sized gun and feel slightly better that her pride is intact or go for one of the really big guns and watch his jaw drop. The decision wasn't that hard.

Picking the largest assault rifle on the table, Buffy hoisted the gun up so that it was resting on her shoulder with the muzzle pointing up. She couldn't tell you what it was, what kind of bullets were in it or what the hell someone would use it for, but that was beside the point. It was monstrous and it suited her needs.

"Summers that's a long range sniper rifle. I think we should leave this for the professionals," he snipped and Buffy bristled.

"What am I shooting at?" she retorted.

He shook his head as he shrugged and pointed to a target roughly three hundred yards away. Buffy's eyebrow arched slightly and then she shrugged.

She figured if she could blow up a school or kill a vamp with a bow and arrow from an alleyway in the middle of the night that she could hit the target assigned to her. Not noticing the arms along the side of the barrell, she quickly recalled how to shoot a rifle. To her they were all pretty much the same and some of the countless hours with Giles studying weaponry had sunk in.

So Buffy did what she does every other time she faced with a new challenge, she faked it. The weapon was hoisted and brought flush against her shoulder; she lowered her eye until it was level with the scope. Shutting her left eye, she squinted through the scope and had a hard time adjusting her sight. She grunted in frustration and looked up, opening her left eye and focusing on the target. Flipping the safety off, she aimed and squeezed the trigger.

The sound of the shot was deafening, but at least the ringing in her ears was the only pain that she felt. As the ringing stopped and she looked at her target her face broke out into a grin. The center of the target was blown clean through. She spun around to her instructor who was still glaring at the target. Setting the gun down, Buffy took up her stance by the table waiting.

It took a second for the instructor to move but when he did he tried snatching up the rifle Buffy had picked up and stopped. He brought his other hand to the muzzle to help hoist it up. Taking a stance similar to the one that Buffy used, he took aim at a target next to the one that Buffy had blown through.

The sergeant also did not use the muzzle supports and struggled to keep the gun level as he took aim. Thinking that his shot was clear he fired and staggered back, nearly landing on his ass. He was saved from landing on his ass by a firm grip around his bicep that steadied him. Buffy grinned down at him as their eyes locked. She righted her instructor and took the gun, one handed, from his grip.

The grin remained through the rest of day as she practiced solo with a standard nine millimeter service weapon.

Stepping through the academy's trainee entrance, Buffy was glad that week three was almost done. After the first week of general conditioning and the running, Buffy soon found out that the instructors here were big fans of running, and then there was the gun training. All of it was okay. Although, Sergeant Castillo hasn't come within five feet of her since her first day on the firing range…she's torn on whether or not that's a bad thing.

Her first two weeks weren't half bad and sure there was the militaristic style of the place, but being older, Buffy got it. She had a hard time with it as a teenager and with Riley, she just didn't get the inability to question, but at least now, after Sunnydale she understood it to a degree.

So she breezed through her first two weeks and now at the end of her third, she was glad that she didn't have to take the full course of training. A lot of time would have been wasted. The crash course Walsh set her up with was proving to fill in the gaps she was missing. The next three weeks would give her the rest of the information she was missing to actually do the job.

"Summers," her name echoed in the entryway to the women's locker room. She spun around and smiled as Inspector Walsh strode towards her. His smile was tight and Buffy flinched mentally. She really hoped that this wasn't about what happened yesterday. "I need to have a word."

"Okay," Buffy moved to the side to let a few of the cadets through. She waited on the inspector but instead saw him motion for her to follow him. Hoisting her gym bag higher on her shoulder, she did as instructed. He strode down a hallway that was off to her left and stepped into an open office.

"What's up?" she asked as she closed the door and took a seat on one of the folding chairs in the office.

"Oh, just wanted to see how the first three weeks had shaped up. The sergeants' reports on you have been…colorful." He tried smiling at her, but it came out as a grimace.

Buffy visibly flinched this time around, coming to terms with her rose colored view of her training thus far. She thought that overall she did really well. She beat out everyone on the training course. Apparently the N.Y.P.D. had one of the toughest obstacle courses for police cadets; Buffy broke the record to finish it. The previous record holder had been the sergeant that was in charge of it.

It wasn't that hard. The course was mostly running, some walls to jump, a few rounds of monkey bars and hurdles. The first time took her a little under seven minutes. She thought that it should have taken her less time, but she lost her grip on one of the monkey bars and dropped the eight feet into a mud puddle. She took an extra minute to hose herself off. There was no way she was going to let the mud dry all over her clothes or, more importantly, in her hair.

After years of slaying she knew from experience to wash her hair as soon as humanly possible. It was her opinion that mud fell in the same category as demon intestines. When she reached the end of the course the sergeant pitched a fit and demanded that she run it again, so she did, shaving nearly two minutes off her time. He made her run laps until the rest of the cadets finished the course.

Then there was the initial incident on the shooting range, Buffy didn't think it was that big of an issue until she got into the locker room and the female cadets that were there started asking her a bunch of questions that she couldn't answer.

Then there was the hand to hand combat training from earlier this week. She tried to play it off. Really she did.

"Uh, is that a good thing or a bad thing?" she asked, slouching down in her seat.

"It's a first for us," Walsh answered honestly. "We've had ex-military come through and join before. None of them as deceptively well trained as you."

"Well, what can I say; I'm just full of surprises." She tried one of her better smiles out on the man and was pleased at his reaction.

Walsh laughed at that. "That you are, Summers, that you are."

To Be Continued

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