Posted: Aug 17 2005
Rating: N-17 eventually
Content: C/A with slight mentions of B/A & C/S
Summary: A challenge by AngelsDark Avenger.
Disclaimer: The characters in the Angelverse were created by Joss Whedon & David Greenwalt. No infringement is intended, no profit is made.
Distribution: AO and Cal’s place. Anywhere else, just ask.
Thanks/Dedication:A big giant Thank You to Califi who helped me more than I can say. I loves you babes, thank you. Hugs, S xxx
The assassin was silent and predatory eyes, expressionless and cold, tracked the woman as she paced back and forth across the room floor, checking her watch every now and then. “Damn him,” she hissed, venom spat from her lips as she looked at the time again.
“Problem?” The Ronin asked, her voice almost unheard.
The smile sent to the assassin’s direction was sugary sweet and completely false. “I’m sure Mr. McDonald will be here any second now.” Adding quietly, “Any second now”
“For your sake, I hope so.” Ronin’s lips flickered once. “I don’t like my time being wasted”
“You and me both,” Lilah mumbled as she straightened her skirt. “More tea?”
“Tell ya what Ms Morgan, how about we discuss payment.”
“Right.” The agreement came through tightly gritted teeth. “Payment. Half now, half when the job is done.”
Sitting forward so suddenly the movement startled the lawyer. “No,” Ronin spoke harshly “All of it up front.”
If she gave the money in full before the job was done, Lilah knew her life would not be worth living. However, if the money wasn’t handed over then she would end up as the mark and one look at the deceptively harmless face of the warrior, the lawyer was met with a charming grin that confirmed that suspicion.
“Quite the situation you’re in, kudos.” The mercenary sat back and lazily drew a finger across her lips, eyes now shone with faint amusement.
Fiddling with her necklace for a second, Lilah pondered over a threat of her own when the doors slid open to allow her Special Projects partner, Lindsay McDonald, to enter. Not wasting more of anyone’s time, the red head purposely marched up to him and halted his movements with a sharp fingernail.
“What time do you call this?” Determined to put on a good show of power and domination, Lilah injected as much gusto into her voice and posture as possible. “We strictly agreed on ten”
A burst of applause sounded out and drew their attention towards the assassin. “If we’d met under different circumstances, this mighta been hello instead of goodbye”
Lilah smiled professionally as Lindsay merely smirked. “Sorry I’m late”
“Better late than never,” was the reply. Her eyes roamed over the well-proportioned figure of the man and the hazel irises gleamed with mild appreciation. She really should show Ms Morgan how to handle a man. “Please, call me Ronin.” Rising with all the grace of a cat and holding out a gloved hand, she waited patiently as he eyed her in deep suspicion before returning the handshake.
The greeting was brief but effective, and Lindsay was unable to do anything but respond to the seemingly genuine smile across the mercenary’s very pretty features. A brief but hot flush crawled up his collar, but as this was business and not pleasure, he waved it off with a quick shake of his head. After all, it wouldn’t do to have his reputation blemished. “Shall we?” His briefcase was held up and slightly shook, the contents heard inside.
“Indeed we shall.” Ronin reclaimed her seat. “All I need is a name, place and face, and of course money”
A click occurred and the case opened, a full colour photograph was handed out. Ronin’s gaze swept over the target, taking in the built form and spiky dark hair. Nice. A smile flickered, shame he was in her line of fire. What a waste.
“The name is Angel,” Lilah stepped in and hid her daggered eyes from the bitch in her office. “The place is Sunnydale and your payment…”
“Is now” Ronin finished.
“It’s right here.” Lindsay offered a brown envelope, thick with bills, to the client. “That’s all you asked for, and once the job’s completed with satisfactory results, you get a bonus”
“Ooh!” Eyes beamed and lips parted to reveal a row of straight teeth. “Nice word”
“Isn’t it?” Lilah’s own orbs twinkled at the thought. If only she would get a bonus.
Not hearing the lawyer’s yearning voice, Ronin became distracted by a pretty blonde standing next to her mark. “Who is she?” Perhaps she could use the blonde to her advantage.
“Buffy Summers, I believe.” Lindsay replied after he took a good look. “This generation’s slayer. Your hit has been known to work with her on occasion. Won’t be a problem?”
“Oh no,” Ronin purred in delight. “Forget that bonus honey, this one’s on me”
Watching from a rooftop as her mark stood in front of the slayer, from her vantage point Ronin could see how the blonde looked at the vampire. “A slayer and a vampire. Strangely, a perfect match.” If anyone had heard her, they would have been cut by the sharp sarcasm that fell from her tongue.
Though she couldn’t hear what they were saying, it was obvious by their expressions that there was some serious crap between them. Serious crap that would probably make this more fun for her. Bringing up her crossbow and aiming the laser sights, Ronin took steadying breaths before firing, concentrating on doing what she was trained for.
The arrow was sharp and fatal as it sliced through air, homing in on the target; the vampire’s heart as another one headed directly for the slayer.
Ronin watched through eager eyes as one hit a shoulder, whose she didn’t care, and the other pierced a tree trunk. “Can’t win em all.” Shortly, another arrow was loaded and fired, this time the aim a little more to the left.
A heavy stab of pain rocked through his body as the arrow punctured his shoulder and he reacted on instinct, and threw Buffy to the ground. Angel’s body, considerably larger than hers, kept her helplessly pinned to ground and her strength rendered useless. What the hell was he playing at? She wondered, stunned by the abrupt and rough treatment.
“Stay down,” he snarled, as his head whipped up to scan the area with molten orbs that blazed with the need for revenge. A rush of air had his face pressing directly down into her neck and Buffy, also on instinct, screamed.
Vampire at throat was not good, even if it was Angel.
“Attack.” The vampire growled quietly, the rumble pushed through his chest until it silenced the slayer’s horrified squeals. “Get up and go right,” almost instantly, he was off her and away, his figure nothing but a blur to her enhanced eyesight.
“The chase is on, I see.” Ronin carelessly dropped the crossbow and easily vaulted the eight feet drop to the concrete, her boots landing with a light snap. If the vampire went left, then so would she. With a sharpened stake pulled from her belt, she walked slowly to the left in the hopes of getting this over and done with.
Lord, how she hated it when jobs went on longer than a couple of days.
Angel’s footfalls were interrupted with shots of pain jolting through his shoulder, but he ignored them in order concentrate on catching the bastard who’d tried to kill Buffy. His anger was at an all-time high and it was evident in every way. Face fully vamped and all predatory senses on red alert, his ears listening out for heartbeats and footsteps, his glittering eyes scouting around for any signs of movement or people.
Rounding a corner and feeling his back suddenly collide with a wall, the unneeded air pushed out of him as a fist with sharp knuckles made direct contact with his solar plexus. Edges of hands then cut into either side of his windpipe, a move he knew strictly belonged to demon hunters, he thought grimly before the heel of a palm smashed into his nose. A cool trickle down his face and a coppery scent, all to familiar, filled the air and signalled he was bleeding.
“Ok, now I’m pissed”
Muscular arms went up between them and he spread hers away from him, following through with a solid punch to his attacker’s stomach, something that sent the person to the ground with a groan of agony. Not finished, Angel grabbed the black collar and yanked the person up, only to slam his fist straight into the face.
He was about to repeat the motion, but the very feminine moan had him instantly freezing.
He backed away in pure shock as he watched the attacker fall, in a crumbled heap at his feet, hitting the concrete with a hand clutching the side of a balaclava- covered face. Angel shook off his temporary stupor, abruptly leaning down, and getting no resistance, tugged the soft covering off the head.
It really was a girl, and a very pretty one at that. Rapt brown eyes took in her appearance with reluctant appreciation.
Long gleaming hair, dark chestnut brown and soft-looking, was held away from her lovely face in a tight ponytail while her lips, full and pouting, bled.
Confused didn’t begin to explain his feelings.
“But you-you’re a girl.” Angel spoke dumbly as he wiped traces of blood off his mouth. For someone used to Slayers being girls, he’d probably kick himself later for saying such a stupid thing.
“Amazing observation, really. Should be proud of yourself.” She spat and watched red liquid decorate the pavement. “Now if you don’t mind…” Her leg swept out and caught his feet, hazel eyes shone with victory as his body hit the floor next to her.
Hopping to her feet and casting one final glance at him, “Shame this is business.” Weird, she’d been saying that a lot lately, and this time actually meant it. Then she shrugged it off. Emotions had no place in her world.
“Not so fast…” Angel violently snapped his hand out and snared her ankle, a quick flick and she was face first on the ground and unmoving. “Possibly dead… Oh well”
“Sorry to disappoint babe,” came the muffled voice. “Not dead, just injured”
She was injured? What did she think he was? Having a ball? As if it wasn’t bad enough to discover he’d hit a woman, he was probably suffering broken ribs, and definitely a bruised ego. “Enough,” Angel shook bloodied fingers free of liquid. For an ordinary girl, she really packed a punch. “You’re good. Work out?”
“Twenty minutes a day.” Ronin replied as she rolled over onto her back, a wash of bright crimson stained her forehead and nose. “Gonna have a bitchin headache in the morning. Thanks for that, by the way”
Slowly sitting up and hearing Buffy’s arrival, he glanced over to see her appear at a run out of some nearby trees. “Anytime.” The vampire grunted and coughed. Damn, she’d done a number on his throat. “Next time, go for someplace else”
Ronin pulled herself into a sitting position before replying, “Can think of a few places. I’m thinking Hawaii, or Cayman’s.” She didn’t have time to contemplate that wasn’t exactly what her target meant as a blur of colour flashed in her peripheral vision and another, smaller fist to her face was all she saw fully before blackness hit.
Studying the prisoner locked in the cage with a wary glance, Rupert Giles adjusted his glasses and looked at Angel through the corner of his eye. “Caught you off guard?”
The dark haired vampire nodded, barely holding back a scowl. It was rare, if ever, he got caught off guard.
“Why is she still alive?” Buffy snapped, her nerves still full of fiery adrenalin. It wasn’t often she was caught unawares either, never mind her sort-of boyfriend. She shuddered, imagining what could have happened if one of those arrows had been dead-on. Emphasis on dead.
“And fought like an experienced demon hunter?”
Buffy shrugged, “I never fought her so I can’t say. She tried to kill me and Angel, Giles. We should be waking her up and dealing with her,” her tone dripped intent to do more than harm, making Angel wonder if she was forgetting for a moment that the girl in the cage was human
Stopping the sometimes impulsive slayer, Angel interjected his body between her and the cage. “She’s human, Buffy, and in my experience, humans don’t usually know about the existence of vampires, much less purposely seek them out to kill them. She must have had a reason” he added.
Buffy shrugged angrily. “So? She was going to kill us!”
He bit back the frustrated growl. That answered his silent question. Right now it looked like Buffy didn’t care one way or another whether the girl wasn’t a demon. It added yet one more nail in the coffin to their doomed relationship in his eyes. “I, for one, want to hear her reason” he replied rather coldly.
Her brows rose at the tone. “Why? So you two can talk over techniques?” she retorted nastily. As soon as the words left her mouth, the blonde knew she’d said something that would probably mean an apology later. The vampire’s expression went even colder, then blank, his features schooled into that of complete indifference.
“It’d be a start.” With that, Angel turned his back on the slayer to look at the girl still lying unconscious in the cage, with dried blood marring her honeyed skin. “Wake up”
Almost as if she’d been trained to wake on demand, Ronin’s orbs snapped wide open and she was immediately to her feet, the dazed stagger evident but under admirable control. “What?”
“You want tissues?” Angel offered with a circling finger towards his forehead. “Clean up?”
“No, I want out.” She almost growled. If they didn’t let her out willingly, she’d blow the Goddamn place up with herself in it if need be. Fingers going to and around her belt, and noticing it was empty caused her to turn a vengeful glare at the people outside the bars. “You took my stuff”
“Pardon our invasion, but it was for our own safety.” Giles spoke patronisingly for a moment before adding, “We would like to ask some questions.” He’d purposely ignored his slayer’s seeming lack of ethics, putting it down to the shock of her near-death experience at the hands of the girl.
“Make that we’re going to ask and you’re going to answer, truthfully.” Buffy stated threateningly and came to stand, with defensively folded arms, next to the cage. The brunette’s eyes narrowed dangerously, she knew exactly what she’d give this bitch.
“How about we make that you’re gonna ask and I’m gonna ignore.” Ronin flashed a deliberately seductive smile at her main target and took pleasure in the quick flash of jealousy as it washed over the blonde’s face. Miss Peroxide was so easy, it was criminal.
Angel, having an alter ego who excelled in playing people off against each other, cottoned onto exactly what the prisoner was doing. “You’ll just make it harder on yourself,” he warned in a deceptively soft voice and she grinned, easily reading between the lines. She was enjoying riling the slayer way too much to be bothered by the outcome.
“I hope so,” the assassin commented, her voice an octave lower and hazel irises dropping from his face to scan his muscled form. “I really can’t wait till I retire, this business crap is starting to cut into way too much of my down time,” she murmured with a touch of feigned annoyance.
The vampire’s gaze blackened even as his body unexpectedly reacted to the sensual sweep of her eyes. “You’re a professional?” His brain clicked into over-drive as he recalled where the first arrow had hit, his hand unconsciously came up to carefully touch the healing but tender injury. “You were hired,” not a question, just fact.
“No, I’m here for the good of my health.” Ronin casually remarked, “Which is pretty sweet, no thanks to you two”
His hand went to his sore throat. “Could say the same to you. Nice move, by the way” he couldn’t resist a slight smile of admiration and She beamed genuinely at his praise, while Buffy rolled her eyes in disbelief.
“Thanks. Took me a while to catch on ya know, but I think I got it now”
How Angel held back his chuckle, he didn’t know. To say she’d gotten it was an understatement. His windpipe still felt like it had been crushed by a vice. “You’re a professional mercenary, a hitman…”
Ronin looked positively outraged. “Hit person, if you please. The word hitman is very offensive, not to mention sexist”
“Alright!” Buffy’s irritated voice snapped through the conversation like a whip. What the hell was going on here? Had Angel forgotten what this bitch had tried to do? “Let’s get on with it! Are you here on a personal vendetta or has someone hired you?” She got no answer. “Which is it?” Her face and tone brooked no argument.
The brunette pretended to think, “I don’t know,” she drawled. “That whack you gave musta disturbed my memory. Try coin tossing”
“Tell you what, you keep this up and I’ll un-disturb your memory,” The slayer threatened. “How’s that?” This time, even Giles glanced reprovingly at his slayer.
Ronin’s posture tensed and Angel, seeing the dark look glazing the assassin’s eyes, stiffened in preparation to protect Buffy even as he thought his ex needed to work on her interrogation techniques.
“Tell you what Goldilocks, how’s about you open this cage and let me snap your neck instead?” She took a step forward, her eyes never leaving the blonde’s for a second.
Buffy was everything daring and challenging. “Try it.” She could do with a bit extra exercise; those earlier vampires hadn’t quite cut it when it came to taking away the sexual tension. Angel wasn’t ready to take what they had to the next level; at least that was what he told her. So why not burn the excess energy off by putting this bitch into the ground?
She inwardly shrugged off the pang of conscience that was screaming Slayers don’t kill humans. Pride shoved aside all thoughts of right and wrong at her nerves since they had the misfortune of coming across her.
“Anytime.” Ronin had a deliciously lethal combination move that had the slayer’s name all over it. Or maybe she would just put a bullet in the back of her head, execution style. Choices, choices.
“Giles, key, now.” The blonde held her hand out.
“I am sorry, Buffy, but I will not condone such violence from either of you.” Especially not from slayer-to-human, the man thought in all seriousness. Addressing the mercenary, “We have a few simple questions we’d like answered, that is all”
Sincerity, real or otherwise, shone in Ronin’s features as she shifted warily, “Just questions?” She looked to her target for confirmation. For a second, the girl seemed vulnerable, and the men’s hearts softened inexplicably.
Angel held submissive hands up, “Nothing more” he assured her, pointedly taking a step back from the cage.
“Fine.” Buffy’s voice was tight, everything about her screamed she wanted to do it her way but after receiving warning glares from both watcher and vampire, she put a lid on her temper. For now. Couldn’t they see the prisoner was playing them? Geez, men were such suckers for a pretty face, she should know.
“Then I want out, I don’t much care for being a PoW.” Ronin curled her hands around the bars and gave then a tug. The sooner she was on the other side, the better, she thought darkly.
Ronin rubbed her wrists of the soreness caused by the binds used by her captors when they carted her here as her trained brain covered all possible escape plots. “Okay, you got questions. Spill.”
“Who are you?” Angel went first, not approaching for fear of getting too close to the woman who made him look like a fool. What kind of vampire gets his ass kicked by a human female? Okay fair enough, Buffy was human, but enhanced, and that made a big difference, Angel reminded himself.
“Who do you want me to be?” She winked and he growled, involuntarily thinking about it, then abruptly pulling his thoughts out of his pants. Giles took a calming breath while Buffy remained quiet, her expression fulminous. “Kidding. Call me Ronin”
“Fitting,” the vampire muttered. “Why?”
“Because I think your head, if it didn’t turn to dust, would look great on my wall”
The blonde threw her hands up, “This is a waste of time”
“Tell me about it,” Ronin rolled her eyes and popped a feline smirk at the very unimpressed girl.
Giles set about cleaning his glasses while never removing his gaze from the assassin. “Need I remind you of the people around you? It would be in your best interests to answer the questions” her warned, getting annoyed with the smart little madam.
The mercenary shivered in mock fear. “In that case, you should also be reminded of what it is you captured” the warning volleyed back effortlessly.
“A killer, that’s what.” Buffy snapped, taking a quick step forward- and found herself once again restrained by Angel. “What do you think you’re doing? She was going to murder us!” She reminded Angel, who continued to hold on grimly.
“Broken record.” Ronin murmured, “You don’t have to keep stating the obvious, babe. Everyone knows what I was, and am, gonna do” she responded causally.
Icy blue orbs turned deadly, “I don’t think so” Was this girl up herself or what? As if she could take on a Slayer. Hello? Who laid her out cold earlier? Maybe the bitch needed reminding of that fact, she thought angrily.
The brunette shrugged, “You think that if it gives you comfort, Slayer.” She was already dreaming of handing the blonde to hell in a hand basket. That was truly a nice thought, even if she had turned down the bonus.
Buffy tensed and was now literally ready to blow. “That’s it. I’m done talking…” She yanked at her arms and growled when the vampire’s grip refuse to loosen.
“Yeah well, I’m not.” Angel growled and spun a heavy, warning filled stare towards his would-be murderer. “You obviously came here with a purpose, which is to kill us, but what I wanna know is why?”
“Why do you think, Vampire?” Ronin sprang from her chair and everybody tensed for an attack. “I’m doing a job, just like she does”
“I’m not a killer.” The slayer ground out and finally managed to yank her wrist free of Angel’s vice-like grip. Since when did he get stronger than her all of a sudden, she wondered for a moment, before focussing on the other girl again.
The hazel eyes shone with unrivalled hatred, “So slayers aren’t killers?”
“No!” Buffy defended her calling with loyalty. The patent disbelief in Ronin’s voice had Angel frowning as he wondered what had made her think like that about Slayers. Then again, if Buffy kept on retaliating the way she was, even he’d start questioning her ethics.
“If I’d have stated I was a demon, or a half-breed, what would have been the first thing you’d do?” Ronin quizzed with a knowing smirk. “Thought so,” was the reply after the other girl remained silent. “I’ve answered your questions…”
“You smell human,” Angel’s voice startled the mercenary into jumping back away from him. He made a show of inhaling deeply, an arrogant gleam washed over his handsome face as he watched her expression darken.
“You look human, too”
This time, it was Ronin with an arrogant gleam. “And you don’t?”
Angel decided that the girl was obviously lying. If she’d been other than human, he’d know. He was sure of it. But why she would lie, he had no idea.
“Demons are different,” Buffy finally replied, her expression a knowing one. “They’re evil, and don’t deserve to live”
“Thinks a lot of you, doesn’t she?” Ronin purred and slyly eyed the vampire who flicked an irritated look at the slayer. “Now me, under different circumstances of course…” Hazel eyes melted suddenly, the shining irises told him more than what she realised, and he couldn’t stop the burst of heat at her implication.
The atmosphere between assassin and mark intensified, the tension simmered; the reactions seen by the slayer and watcher. Buffy stood, momentarily agape, staring from Ronin to Angel, and not liking the electricity that seemed to singe her.
Stepping in to diffuse it, Buffy caught the girl’s gaze with furious eyes. “Someone hired you to kill Angel. Who?” The question was ground out with more patience than she felt. She was dying to simply hit the girl and get it over with, maybe then her vampire would realise the bitch wasn’t half of what she made herself out to be.
The fact that she’d implied being a demon shook away any last vestiges of conscience where killing the bitch was concerned. After all, Buffy reasoned stubbornly, weren’t all demons evil? Belatedly, she threw an apologetic grimace Angel’s way, and was peeved to see his attention was still entirely focused on the assassin.
Ronin remained quiet, ignoring both the vampire’s intent gaze and the blonde’s questions, instead checking out her well-manicured nails nonchalantly.
Patience was not a virtue Buffy was known for and the minimal amount she’d just shown, snapped like a twig. “I asked you a question, now answer it.”
The brunette simply raised a finely arched eyebrow. “You can ask all the questions you want Slayer, but I retain the right to ignore them.” Her reply was almost smug and uncaring.
Buffy’s small and deceptively weak fist rose, the aim dead-on for the girl’s face, but again a strong hand was curled round her arm and forcefully lowered to her side. “What are you doing?” Buffy wanted to scream in fury at his interference and the unflinching bitch in front of her.
“Stopping you from proving her right,” Angel replied and let go, only to step back when he felt he could without the hotheaded slayer going for her again.
Ronin smirked, “Clever boy,” refusing to back away or drop the grin when he advanced silently.
“Start talking.” Unlike Buffy, Angel’s temper was subtle and a lot less predictable. Something which the assassin actually found a little intimidating. It was a strange sensation, as she couldn’t recall a time when she’d ever felt intimidated.
She liked it.
“I’m confused,” Ronin’s blinking eyes went from vampire to slayer to watcher. “Was that a request?”
Having had more than enough of the smart-assed remarks, Buffy moved past Angel before he had time to react and hit the other girl hard.
Her knuckles collided with Ronin’s cheekbone in a swift and painful backhander, which sent her to the floor. Unprepared for the lash back, the slayer stared arrogantly down at the fallen girl only to feel a boot connect with her stomach.
Ronin sprung to her feet lithely and couldn’t have cared less about the injured slayer as she repeated her kick viciously, this time to the spine. “Next time, that’ll be your face,” she promised in a low but soft voice.
Arms were flung around the suddenly upright slayer as Angel in turn trapped the mercenary, locking her arms to her side by banding powerful arms around her midriff, using all his considerable strength to hold her still as Giles struggled with Buffy. One girl was mutely daring, while the other spat and hissed like an annoyed cat, until she was swung away from the brunette.
“You alright?” Angel asked, when he felt an almost imperceptive flinch as his arms tightened around her, surprising himself by feeling genuinely concerned for the girl who was hired to assassinate him.
“Just been hit by a slayer, I’m fine and dandy. Might wanna check on her though.” The deadly seriousness in her voice had the vampire immediately letting go, his attention directed towards Buffy and his mistake was made.
Angel immediately clicked on to the fact he’d left a professional assassin unguarded and quickly spun back round, his eyes lighting up with pure shock and panic as he saw the unpinned grenade in Ronin’s place.
Once outside the library, Ronin dusted herself off and, on seeing the brilliant flash of light, made her way out with a satisfied grin.