Through the Looking Glass, Part Fifteen

Jack was less than pleased with himself as he descended the fire escape. Glaring, freaking obvious and he hadn’t even thought about it until tonight. He’d call Ethan first thing in the morning. There was a small chance he was wrong, of course, so he’d held off telling Crystal. But if he was right, he finally had a lead he could use.

Jack closed the window behind himself. He and his siblings had used the building’s two fire escapes as a source of amusement ever since he himself had learned to crawl, much to their parent’s dismay. Amazingly, none had ever been seriously injured despite the occasional fall. The net result being that Jack was quite used to using his bedroom window as a door. It occurred to him in passing as he went to his desk that his mother’s fond hope of him eventually outgrowing that habit was now thoroughly dead.

Jack spent the rest of the evening outlining everything. There was a pattern, there had to be. He just had to find it.

Crystal finished her studies for the night. She grabbed Grace from the closet and headed for the family room. Her parents were engrossed in some TV show so Crystal hopped on her favorite ottoman and began honing Grace.

As she worked, she mulled over Jack’s odd behavior. She didn’t really know why but it bothered her that Jack had refused to answer her question, even if he did say he’d tell her tomorrow. There was something in the way he had looked at her for just a split second. Anger, mistrust, maybe?

Crystal dabbed oil on a cloth. Grace was already humming in anticipation – she loved to be rubbed down. Crystal began wiping mechanically. Maybe she was reading too much into it but she was beginning to have her doubts. She loved being around Jack – he was kind, witty, urbane and strong but he was also really, really smart. Much smarter than Crystal herself and that was the problem, wasn’t it? It wouldn’t be long and her experience as a slayer wouldn’t matter – he was already catching up to her in knowledge at a phenomenal rate. Eventually he’d notice, if he hadn’t already, how dumb she was.

Maybe he likes dumb girls? That thought was summarily dismissed. He was too smart for that. He caught on to things Crystal barely understood – how could someone that smart stay interested in someone with whom they couldn’t have intelligent conversations? Crystal didn’t like the answer.

Finishing up, Crystal decided that bed was the best place for her to be. Kissing her mother’s cheek, she took Grace back to her bedroom and turned in. She’d had enough thinking for now.

Crystal was instantly awake. She tossed the covers and grabbed Gwen. Two vampires and way too close. This was crazy – creatures shouldn’t be getting this close to slayers on a regular basis. This time they were on her side of the street. What the heck? Whatever it was, Crystal wasn’t in the mood to be nice about it – two vampires were about to go down very hard. Crystal gritted her teeth as she hit the back door running.

Jack woke still slumped over his desk where he’d fallen asleep. Two somethings were across the street. He grabbed his ball bat and ran for the door.

Jack left the bat in the hallway and went as quietly as he could while still running into his parent’s apartment. He went into his old bedroom without knocking and shook Tim awake. A couple of terse whispers passed between the brothers and Jack turned to leave. Tim tossed Jack one of their walkie talkies. Jack caught it and left fast.

Jack hit the outside door at full tilt, ball bat in hand. Tim would protect the family – at least long enough for Jack to get back if need be. Tresmayne wouldn’t need to be called assuming he was close enough. He should be more than smart enough to see through such a ridiculously obvious rouse. But Crystal might not. Tactics weren’t her thing and she obviously wasn’t used to playing this game as a chess game. Jack cursed himself as he made it to the fire escape on Crystal’s home; this was something he should have warned her about.

Then again, maybe not, Jack thought as he reached the roof. He couldn’t yet see them but one of the creatures had just died. That he didn’t need to see to know. Likewise, he sensed the other creature getting further away. He ran as quickly as he could on the unfamiliar rooftop. He cursed himself again – he was definitely getting a cell phone. Having to catch up like this was stupid.

Crystal had found them easily enough and the first had been no trouble to take out. Actually, it had been too easy – it was obviously newly undead. Crystal didn’t need to be a genius tactician when the other one turned and fled. Even she knew it was a set up. But that didn’t mean she had to let it get away, Crystal told herself grimly as she gave chase.

In the early morning chill, both slayers ran after their prey. Crystal had no intention of repeating her earlier defeat. Jack had no intention of letting her go it alone. But with every step, Jack realized they were fast becoming the hunted instead of the hunters.

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