“I’m gonna take a nap,” Cat sprung off Beck’s lap and slapped shut the large book she’d only twenty minutes before claimed held the answer to their current… rodent problem on campus. Beck rolled his eyes over at Jade, but said nothing, just continued to gaze into that damn ball of energy that he never put down anymore these days.
Some girls complain about their boyfriends being attached to their phones, Jade had to fall for a wiccan idiot who liked to play David Bowie with a ball of energy that she was pretty sure could kill people.
Damn he was perfect.
Cat shifted one direction and then turned back around, momentarily trapped between Beck’s legs and the table. She looked towards Jade pleadingly, “Nap?”
“She’s probably hungry,” Rex grumbled from his crumbled position on top of a bookshelf where presumably he’d only supposed to be momentarily and then was forgotten. Since Robbie was nowhere to be seen - and Robbie was the only one brave enough to deal with touching Rex for the most part - but Rex hadn’t thrown a temper tantrum, the boy was probably just buried in one of the stacks further back into the bigger on the inside library.
Jade went back to flipping through the musty book on her lap where she was curled up on the library counter. They were all hungry, but since she couldn’t remember whose turn it was to pick up pizza and that probably meant they’d all say it was hers, she didn’t say anything. Let the chips fall where they may. Anyway, this chapter on Rodents of Unusual Size seemed promising. Once she dealt with whatever was terrorizing the girl’s junior field hockey team, the sooner she could kill it and then get back to studying for tomorrow’s Physics exam.
Out of the corner of her eye, she watched Beck pinch the fleshy backs of Cat’s thighs just above her knees and then look at her in that expression that could somehow express both what the fuck, yo? and also a strangely exasperated it’s rude how much I think you’re cute. Cat pouted a little and then shook her head.
Beck heaved a sigh, he was so utterly long-suffering, Jade bit back a smile. She’d lost all desire to pretend to study, but damn if they’d catch her watching them with anything resembling a besotted expression.
“When’s the last time you ate, Cat?” Beck asked in a low voice that Jade had to strain to hear over the music that always emanated from the librarian’s office tucked behind the counter.
Cat, a grand total of maybe ninety-five pounds clinging to her five-foot-nothing frame, tried to wiggle out of the trap Beck had made with his legs. Jade set her book beside her on the counter and tried to ignore the way her muscles tensed, ready for a fight.
“I’m not hungry, I’m not,” Cat whispered fiercely, eyes smarting with tears.
With a flick of his wrist, the glowing orb broke apart - flashing red for a brief moment before disappearing into the nexus of energy that surrounded Beck at all times - and he placed his hands gently on Cat’s waist, thumbs stroking the bare skin that peeked out from between her vintage sweater and plaid skirt. “Cat I swear to fucking god.”
Beck didn’t get angry.
Or maybe he was always angry and didn’t let many outside of Cat and Jade see just how much he was actually holding back. The Universe was going to regret making him so powerful and so ready to tear everything apart in the same breath. Jade didn’t like thinking about that - about the fact that she was in love, desperately ridiculously in love, with the one thing in the world that could kill her with just a snap of his long fingers. They were on the same side now but… she watched him bite back something dark looking up at Cat.
They were all on the same side now, but the trouble is that every single cell running through their bodies should have been telling them to destroy each other.
Sometime between one shaky breath and the next, Andre popped his head out of the back office and mock-whispered, “So since it’s Wednesday, do you think Cat wants spicy Wheeties or sweet?”
“Sweet,” Beck called over Cat’s head, springing up and wrapping his arms around her as he did. The look on his face so frightening in it’s relief.
Andre whistled a tune of his own creation - completely at odds with the grinding, cheerless noise he’d been favoring the past few days - as he poured blood and sweet-and-sour-sauce over a large bowl of Wheeties in his office. He knew the exact temperature Cat took her blood, knew that she hated it microwaved and had it timed down to a specific science, knew the ratio of blood to sauce to flaky bits of wheat-cereal that would keep her sustained for another forty-eight hours. He knew exactly what time to ask, when to offer her a small thermos as a snack in the middle of a long day, knew which iron supplements helped her keep up her strength when a fight was coming - and which iron supplements kept up Jade and Beck’s strength when there wasn’t.
What would we do without him? Beck’s voice pounded into Jade’s mind. Still a little too loud, it still felt like he was always screaming at her.
Maybe that was just how it had to be since he was so quiet if the words had to pass out from between his lips instead.
Jade frowned and went back to her book on Rodents, I hate it when you do this.
Cat curled up in Beck’s lap, eyes golden and a large ridge over her eyes showing her for what she
really was could be if she ever succeeded in starving herself past the point of sanity.
So does she, Jade added pointedly.
Cat could always tell when Beck was leaving her out. The first time she’d gone a little… feral was the best word for it.
She wants a nap right before her blood levels dip too low and then the next thing you know, she’s not our Cat anymore, Beck stroked Cat’s hair in that way he had of making every motion seem lazy and uncalculated.
Everything with Beck was so intentional and painstaking it made Jade’s teeth hurt.
Andre came bustling back into the main room of the library, interrupting the silent conversation that was primarily about him, setting a bowl in Cat’s hands and a stack of study guides on the library table, extricated Rex from his perch on the bookshelf, and began shelving books in the teeny Literature section that for the most part only himself, Cat, and a few straggling weirdos at this school that dared to enter the library went. All the while he kept up a steady monologue about Battle of the Bands at the Bronze later that month, the boy’s water polo feud with the drama kids, and the current rumor that the Yearbook advisor might be a witch or at least sleeping with the principal. At some point, Trina entered with a couple of pizzas in cardboard boxes complaining about how creepy the junior girl’s field hockey team was, “and why can’t we just let them figure out their war with the local rodent population on their own again?” and more gossip about the principal and the Yearbook Advisor that Andre hadn’t heard. In between bites of pizza, Trina pulled Robbie out of a dark corner of the library, where he’d found the exact right passage in the exact right obscure essay on the Occult of Sewage-Dwelling Demons (whispered to Rex by one of the ghosts that frequented the library even more often than they did) and hey, all Jade needed was an industrial-sized amount of baking soda and a really clever mousetrap.
They were alternatively wiping their hands on greasy paper towels and gathering up equipment to take down in with them into the sewers when a petite blonde woman with a pert nose and grey-green eyes strode into the library, trailed by a grinning brunette with what appeared to be a thin human tossed over her shoulder, wrapped in a stained sheet.
“Hey boss, wasn’t expecting you, not a good time - good seeing you,” Jade said drolly, as her heart struggled to remain calm.
The brunette chuckled, low and intimately like she knew more about Jade than she’d like anyone to know, and dropped her wriggling parcel on the ground with a loud clomp.
Trina winced visibly. The Sunnydale High School flooring was made of sturdy clay tile and she’d fallen on it more than once - had the bruises to prove it.
“Told ‘ya I had a feeling about this one, B,” the brunette said, her grin not really changing in shape or size so much as intention. She’d come in laughing at the world, and now she was laughing at them.
Robbie bristled and Andre pushed him with one arm slightly behind him.
“You don’t call, you don’t write, the least you could do is send out a tweet letting us know you’re going to be in the area,” Jade quipped, refusing to let the Royal Two have the upper hand in her fucking town.
She’d been doing pretty fucking well since Buffy Summers - the General herself - came riding in on a white horse, handing Jade a mission and then disappearing without so much as a thank you or good luck.
“Yeah, we would have rolled out the red carpet,” Beck put in, his hand grazing Jade’s lower back in a sign of I know you don’t need it babe, but I’m here for back up if shit goes to the wolves. She fought the urge to lean back into his warmth.
“It’s been a long day and as you can see,” Jade gestured towards the door with the hand holding a 10lb container of baking soda, “I got shit to kill and homework to do and a boyfriend to make out with before my carriage turns back into a pumpkin so…?”
Buffy looked around with an expression like she’d swallowed a particularly wriggly bug on accident, “It looks just the sa--- Where is Antoine?”
Andre started coughing violently and when Cat came into view from behind the natural barrier Beck and Jade had made around her to politely - but probably too harshly - pat the boy on the back to keep him from choking the laugh in too violent a manner, the brunette whistled low and rocked back on her heels with satisfaction.
“Hot damn, been a while, Valentine,” she winked at Cat and Jade saw red.
“Hey Faith,” Cat giggled in her high-pitched, pleased-as-punch giggle.
Buffy pinched the bridge of her nose and then released just as quickly, looking down at her hand as if it had betrayed her in some way.
Andre’s coughing had long subsided by that point, leaving them in near-silence aside from the monstrosity of music from the office and the faint sounds of struggling coming from the still-rolled-up sheet on the floor at Faith’s feet.
“Hey Cat,” Faith said in a wheedling tone. “Where’s my good pal Antoine?”
“You hate Antoine,” Buffy hissed in the same moment that Jade closed her eyes and finally gave in, collapsing her back fully against Beck’s broad chest.
“Right there,” Cat pointed at the terrarium set up in the middle of the table in the center of the library, as if it were the simplest answer in the world and she couldn’t understand why someone would ask something so silly.
She was like that about most things. Even questions she didn’t know the answer to. Something about being a creature that had once spent a significant time in a Temple to a Goddess that no one remembered the name of in a land that no longer existed, sort of put things into a simple perspective in Cat’s life. If she knew it, so should you. If she didn’t, it didn’t matter to begin with.
Faith walked down the three steps into the inset studying area and studied the chameleon laid out happily on a rock under a heating lamp, “Hey Antoine, I think I might like you better this way.”
“Me too,” Jade and Beck muttered in unison, while Andre tried to think of something to say that would make them look less like deviants and more like the Mystery, Inc. gang but just came out as high-pitched mumbling.
And then three things happened at once, in a way that made Jade feel even at the time as though she had just stepped into a very poorly written romcom.
The wriggling sack of sheets suddenly made way to being a rather pissed off (and hot, Jade took the time to notice) girl with crazy amounts of brown hair and long, thin limbs, who looked ready to kill everyone and anyone with just her eyes.
Buffy whispered, “You turned your Watcher into a LIZARD?!!?”
And Trina cried out, “Holy shit, Tori?!”