Vampire Stories, story 3
BtVS / Buffy/Willow/Xander
Summery: There are some who know what happened. There are some who have also been betrayed. Enter Giles, Jenny and Cordelia.
Intervention, part 3.
Disclaimers and warnings are listed in part 1 and still apply.
Willow smiled to herself as she imagined Buffy's reaction to her parting comment. The empty side street quickly lost the classy retail shops and transitioned into a warehouse district. Continuing down the hill, Willow noted the name: North State Street. Just as she guessed, the warehouses gave way in the end to massive commercial docks and Bellingham Bay. Wharf Street skirted the docks and Willow stood still and watched a large man trudge his way up towards her and the city. He was easily twice her size and strong, hard work on the docks evident in the breadth of his shoulders and the calluses on his hands. Willow breathed his warm, heavy scent, letting the demon hunger and offer the man a gentle smile as he glanced curiously at her in passing. She imagined the only thing he feared and considered stronger than himself was the sea. She didn't let him pass far. A few quick steps and she was behind him, pulling and twisting his arm painfully behind his back and pushing him to his knees. Her fangs slipped into his neck from behind as her other hand tilted and held his head still. He frantically, uselessly tried to pry her arm away and free himself, gradually growing weaker until he collapsed into her embrace. Willow pulled the last of his life into her and licked the wound clean. She dragged him to the shadows beside the street and whispered "thank you" in his ear as she laid him down.
It was something Willow remembered the members of the Devon Coven always doing: acknowledging with gratitude the life that was sacrificed for their meal. At the time it made Willow wholly uncomfortable and many times resulted in a loss of appetite. Now, she understood; or maybe, she acknowledged, it was merely the trick of a lack of conscience. Either way, it was a good habit to begin.
Willow walked to the end of the street and away from the body. To the right, Wharf Street led around the massive docks. On the left, she noticed a park sign indicating a walking trail. Willow turned to the left and started down the dimly lit paved path. It followed the edge of the bay, tucked between some railroad tracks leading to the docks on the left and the low bank to the shore on the right. Willow could hear cars passing by on the road above the tracks. A wooded hill beyond that, the lights of houses breaking and spotting the black monotony. Softer and more constant than the cars passing was the rhythm of waves lapping the rocks below. There was little wind tonight and the bay was protected by the many islands dotted just off the shore. Still, Willow promised herself next storm, she would return here. Willow congratulated herself on finding this city as she slowly walked down the even and well maintained path. It was a kind, enlightened community that would designate and design a stretch of its shoreline for public use. Path lights were sparse and distanced, clearly a cursory attempt at discouraging the criminal element more than an intent for night use. Willow easily imagined days with the path full of people: the swell at lunch hour, the thunder of early evening joggers, the weekend bedlam of children. It didn't matter. She had fed, her hunger abated, and there was no need to find anyone on the path tonight.
Things were going well, she reasoned. They would have something that they had always deserved soon, especially after not only saving the world again, but changing it for the better, the good of mankind. They would have a life of their own. Okay, yeah, so a couple things had happened that really twisted that up and it wasn't the reconstruction of their relationship that she had imagined. She had always been able to adjust and adapt circumstances. And it looked like they had everything they needed to finally have a future.
A couple things had happened... there really wasn't any oversight to the universe. One thing leading to another, sure, but that was only an infinite amount of decisions clashing into each other. Willow sat on one of the benches that lined the path and watched the water expend its energy onto the land. She noticed even the subtlest wave would rock and turn a pebble on the beach, toss a bit of shell further down the shore. There was a rule in Wicca, the first rule it was even called, and it was meant to be the guide for a moral life filled with fewer consequences: "And it harm none, do what you will." Tara spoke of it often, the Devon Coven offered her a more complex interpretation. Still, Willow thought it inevitably impossible. For every action there was a cascading unpredictable reaction. And that reaction is itself an action and it continues till butterflies flap their wings and storms rage on the other side of the world. The Chaos Theory. Willow remembered reading about it in college. Even if the universe was chaos and repercussions essentially random, there was an order that emerged apparent: the mathematical symmetry of a snowflake, a flower, the outcome of a series of coin tosses. If any action could harm, maybe it was the motive that defined the moral. Try to help another, you're in the light. Try to help yourself, all sorts of shades of gray. Try to end the world cause you just can't deal with it, you've pegged into the black. Willow laughed to herself out loud and tossed a rock into the water, watching as ripples broke waves and wondering if now the surf's up in Hawaii. It was simplistic and useless and there was no-one keeping score.
Willow knew these thoughts were only circles. She hoped to find a tangent she could steer by. Her mind was spinning, her gut was silent, and the vampire was only a simple beast that craved. Or maybe that was herself as well. She still chose not to be evil, the memory of the experience still chilling her spine. It was empty and meaningless and so consumed you that no amount of sated desires could fill it. She never wanted to feel that way again. She didn't feel that way now. But aside from the obvious, she had no idea what that meant. Don't kill people for fun, check. Kill one to feed and survive, deal with it. What about when it was more hunger than need? Both Buffy and Xander hunted as they called it, allowed pleasure and desire to play a part in their actions. Willow found herself unable to trust those reasons anymore. Maybe she should just flip a coin, and let chaos and its underlying order decide.
Willow heard the faint fall of footsteps and turned to peer through the dark and down the path. Her motion halted the slow stalk of a man approaching in the distance, his eyes glaring and filled with intent. She decided this was what passed for providence and turned back to the water, allowing the man to believe he was not seen. She fished a quarter out of her pocket and flipped it into the air while assigning sides: heads he lives, tails he dies. Willow caught the quarter, flipped it to the back of her other hand then revealed the answer. She waited for the man to approach.
She could smell him even before she could clearly see him. He was dirty and greasy, his hair unkempt and his clothes a ragged mess. He was just the sort the meek lights along the path were meant to keep away. A switchblade was flicked to life in his hand as he drew near and jumped in front of her, grabbing her arm and pulling her to her feet. Holding the weapon up between them, he sneered, "Well look at what my big pole caught tonight."
Willow couldn't stand to let this continue any further. She knocked the knife from his hand and sent her fist across his jaw, knocking the man out cold on the ground. Willow stared at him, grateful she didn't have to bite him and regretting that she would let him live. But a scientist wasn't supposed to judge the outcome of the experiment, so she shook her head and leaving him there, continued down the path.
The moon's arch was beginning its decent into the west over the water. A full moon tonight. It cast the opposite of a shadow, a path of shimmering glow that stretched out over the black sea, inviting. The invitation between the moon and Willow seemed to follow her as she walked slowly down the path beside the water. She smiled and blew a grateful kiss to what was now her sun. It hurt still, though, the knowledge that she would never see the sun again, that the moments of its strength were now her weakness. She had taken that side of Wicca for granted before, her powers always better expressed attuned to the moon and practiced at night. Now, after learning a balance, it was lost to her before she could even reach for it. Even the earth itself would burn her now. That was a grief and loss she couldn't share with anyone. They wouldn't understand. 'Well, maybe Buffy,' Willow corrected herself. She could still do cursory magics, the slight adjustments of elements and energies that didn't require an outside reservoir of power and could be done without grounding. Willow acknowledged that if in dire need, blood magics were certainly now an available and powerful option. She was also pretty sure that the use of blood magics pegged you into the black as well, so it was only an option if the need was extreme.
She needed to figure this out, she had to know: why it was so different now, how she was still so connected at all, what it was about draining a slayer that made it feel so close again. With research, investigation, inquiry into where vampires come from and everything about them, maybe Willow could find the answers she needed.
Willow's musings were broken by the sound of footsteps and she turned from the water to notice a young woman nearing on the path. Only a girl really, maybe just starting high school. Already, Willow couldn't remember looking or feeling so young. The girl had a bounce to her step and a smile and seemed so spirited in this experience, that even the chill in the night went unnoticed and she left her small jacket open. Willow closed her eyes from the low neckline of the girl's shirt visible past the jacket; hunger and desire suddenly begging her to take this girl and taste her life. Willow shook the impulses away and instead pulled the quarter from her pocket and flipped the coin.
Willow called out a passing comment as the girl drew closer. "Beautiful night, isn't it?"
"Yeah." The girl stopped, smiled, and drawing a big breath, spun in a slow circle, arms out. "I love a full moon night. The only thing better is a stormy night."
"A bit late for you to be out." Willow kept a light tease to her voice, not wanting to appear as a disapproving adult. She wondered if this girl is what Buffy would have been like, without the calling.
"Eh," the girl shrugged and smiled. She walked up to Willow and stood beside her, gazing out into the water. "I snuck out for a walk. Had some thinking to do."
"It could be dangerous out here," Willow pointed out.
The girl turned to Willow, a smug smile complimenting another shoulder shrug. "Part of the fun." She turned the tables and nodded towards Willow. "And what are you doing out here, then?"
"Me?" Willow smiled and let her eyes travel over the girl's body, setting her on edge for the first time. "I'm hunting."
Before the girl could run, Willow grabbed her and held her close as her face morphed and fangs slipped into her neck. Willow opened her eyes and her mind to the experience of it: the warm copper tang and the burn of the girl's spirit and life as it slid down her throat. She closed her eyes and slowed her pace, lapping and gently pulling as the girl weakly struggled, feeling every nerve ending spark, buzz and tingle. It still seemed to end too soon and Willow dropped the girl and stepped back, dizzy and searching for balance. Willow was elated and terrified, understanding now what Buffy had meant, what Xander craved; and haunted by the memory of Rack. It might have been better if she had just kept this locked behind a wall in her mind, be easier if she never let herself know. A poor and cynical excuse for a conscience- a coin toss, and she let it grant her permission. Could it really be the only line now between wanting and taking? Willow remembered again Coven lessons on power and temptation. They were only words in her mind, choices maybe, distracted by the sensations flowing and filling every part of her body. She smiled and stretched and also remembered what the Coven members said when she would pick at her food, "The sacrifice is all the more meaningful for the enjoyment."
Willow bent down and scooped the girl into her arms, standing and holding her close. She whispered, "thank you," in her ear and carefully started down the bank to the water's edge. She laid the girl's body where the moon's path seemed to reach the shore, stroking her hair from the girl's face and arranging her as if she were sleeping. She imagined the girl's soul traveling the moon path out over the water and dipped her fingers lightly into the waves. She was so young. If she was to be continuing this for an eternity, she would at least have to draw a line, however arbitrary, on what was to be too young.
Willow splashed the cold and gritty water on her face and looked down the moon's path to the expanse of sea. It was beautiful here, even only in the night. She reached her sight to what she imagined was the horizon, a varying dark shade between sky and sea. It was believed you could fall off the edge once. Simpler times. It's known now, as you approach, the line is pushed forward until you've come full circle, never really crossing it. Willow had come full circle a different person than she began. She had pushed, always reassured the line she shouldn't cross was well in the distance. Just because there wasn't an edge to fall from didn't mean you didn't change.
She danced colorful magic sparks through the water with her fingers, remembering that first flush of excitement when she finally, successfully floated a pencil. The water sparked her back. Willow pulled her hand up in reaction, anticipating the burn she got now when the earth reverberated back its power. The pain never came. Only a cool tingle vibrated along her hand like a soothing balm. Tentatively, she placed her hand back in the water and slowly opened herself to the sea's energies. A force much greater than the waves lapped rhythmically into her psyche. Gaining confidence, she reached out, deeper, extended her consciousness into the sea and felt herself overlap and intertwine with a powerful and primal force. It was dark, deep and cold; but it was not empty: a vast reservoir teeming and stirring with the very stuff of life.
Willow spent the night, forgotten. Only when she felt the dawn approaching did she withdraw from her explorations and discovery. Regret at parting, excitement at the flood of possibilities and meanings, anticipation of sharing this with Buffy and Xander: they tumbled her thoughts and the journey up the hill and across the dark campus towards the motel went mostly unnoticed. Only when a pre-dawn jogger could be seen crossing the campus did Willow rouse herself to her surroundings. A young woman, the dedicated type Willow imagined, whatever was playing through the headphones keeping her sole focus. Absently, Willow pulled the coin from her pocket and flipped it. She nodded to the woman as she jogged by and they continued in separate directions. A sudden, excited joy filled Willow and she sprinted back to the motel, back to Buffy and Xander.
* * * * * * * * *
Giles supported and steadied his body with his hand on the door jamb as he consecutively attempted to insert the key into his apartment door's lock. Smiling with eventual success, he stumbled into his apartment and shutting the door, leaned against it while his eyes adjusted to the unexpected light. Giles saw her then; Dawn stretched out asleep on his couch. His hand rubbed his forehead and straightened his hair as he prepared himself for this unexpected visit. With great concentration, he carefully and quietly made his way across the room and into the armchair opposite the couch, worried that any noise might startle her awake. He wished he could let her sleep. He ached himself for rest. But if she was here it was because she needed him.
Giles leaned heavily on his elbows and gently encouraged Dawn awake. "Dawn, Dawn, wake up. Dawn..."
"Giles?" Dawn opened her eyes and covered them with the back of her hand as she sat up on the couch. Waiting until her eyes adjusted to the light, she lowered her hand and smiled at him. "You made it home. I was worried. And then I guess I was a little sleepy. Sorry."
"There's no need to apologize." Giles returned her smile briefly before evidence of worry clouded his face. "What's wrong?"
Dawn shook her head a little and yawned. She waved off his concern. "Nothing's wrong. I just..." She looked intently into his eyes and watched as he quickly broke the contact and retreated back further into the chair, resting his head on the high back. "I can see you're beat. But not beat up, so no worries. I should just let you go to bed." Dawn sighed, relief and exasperation leaving her feeling all the more exhausted. "It's late. Can I just crash here tonight on the couch?"
"No." Giles amended the reply with a smile as he shook his head. "No, you take the bed. I'll stay on the couch."
"I can't ask you to do that," Dawn protested.
"And you didn't," Giles reminded her. "Now go on."
Dawn nodded in defeat, far too tired to protest any further. She rose from the couch and stumbled to the bedroom. Turning and leaning on the door jam, she watched as he fell onto the couch, making no apparent effort to arrange it comfortably or even to turn off the light. She shook her head and gathered a blanket and pillow from the bedroom. Dawn slid the pillow under his head and though she couldn't understand his slurred mumblings, chose to assume there was gratitude in them. She removed his shoes, pulled the blanket over him and stroking his hair, willed him into a peaceful sleep. She couldn't do this for him every night, though she knew with the smell of liquor on his breath again, he was doing this every night to himself. She worried about him and wondered when she went off to college, if he would be able to take care of himself.
Dawn wiped an escaped tear from her eye and turned off the light. She made her way to the bedroom and removed only a few of her clothes before slipping into bed. She lay curled up, wrapped the covers around herself and carefully wished without wishing by the full moon setting past the window that she could just find her sister and friends. If she could find them, she could answer all his questions. She would be moving off to college soon. If she could find them, she could make it all right.
* * * * * * * * *
After a quick kiss to his two girls, Xander sprinted down East Holly St. and into the night. Willow wanted him to explore the city. He wanted to tear into it and let it fill him. Close enough he reasoned. At the bottom of the hill he pulled himself to a stop, the flush of people making him dizzy with hunger and choices. He breathed deep their varied scents, his eye scanned and prowled the groups of people along the wide and busy street, searching for the ones standing alone. He smiled when he noticed a young woman gazing through the window of a tattoo parlor. Xander crossed the street quickly then slowed to a casual approach. He could smell the fresh spice of fear tang the mix of humanity that radiated off her as she hesitated at the door. Willow would know the science behind that, he just barely contained a growl at the experience. Soon, there would be overwhelming fear to taste.
Xander reached for her. Containing a scream with his hand, he pulled her with him into the narrow space between the buildings and buried his fangs into her neck. As he let the body drop, he watched a group noisily pass by the slim opening. He smiled, slipped quickly into the open and casually rejoined the community.
The wide cross street, parking lots: this area was busy, open and on. He knew even without knowing the city, he was in the cool part of town. Xander craved the edges though. He wanted to find the parts the happy people never ventured into at night. He continued down Holly. He noticed an all night diner not far from the populated center. Good find; he realized it would be handy for a bite to eat late at night. Next to the diner, the roll of deep music could be heard ebbing from behind a simple door. Xander paused enough to investigate. The Wild Buffalo, a silly name, but the flyers lining the windows showed it to be a blues club. He leaned against the window and allowed the pulsing bass and dancing guitar to lull him into a rhythm for the night. Smiling, he continued down the road and into the deepening shadows, a light easy dance to his step and pace.
By the time he reached a small park meeting the main harbor, the night crowd, the open and in part of the city had faded away. Here were only the sounds of waves, the subtle work of night crews and anchor lines clanking and keeping time. Suddenly the city was stretched out above him on a hill, shadowed between street lamps, the full moon providing enough light to give his heightened senses a glimpse into its depths. His city now. He would spend his nights finding what hides in every shadow.
Xander took off past the park and impulsively turned onto Broadway and started quickly up the hill. Every city had a Broadway he reasoned, and every Broadway was the heart of the city. Except this one, he realized as he stopped at the top of the hill to catch his bearings. Office buildings, closed business, nothing. Growling low, he crossed the empty street and turned onto Meridian. A wide street, significant name, there had to be a rest of the city somewhere.
Car lots and parts stores: the businesses were still closed, but he started to sense people around again. They were tucked in the houses that remained stubbornly un-demolished between business lots. Their music overrode their car's engines as they passed. Fast food places, good food places, both started to dot the blue collar strip.
Xander noticed her immediately, just like everyone else, as she ducked into a bar far down the road. He picked up his pace to follow. 'Latin music and Spanish lyrics? This far north?' he wondered. He entered quickly but remained to the back, sliding away from the entrance. A restaurant, bar, dance club; he wasn't sure what to name the surprisingly large space. Well dressed men and women; laughing, drinking, dancing in front of the band on a stage in the corner. The music stirred his mind even as the lyrics passed through his ears without translation. He was obvious, disoriented and mostly ignored.
Xander felt the patrons' curious focus though when instead of leaving, he crossed the entire room to the bar. She was there. The beautiful woman he had followed into the unexpected. He nursed a beer at the other end of the bar as he openly watched her laughing with her friends. He glared with envy as an older gentleman led her through an intricate and intimate dance, just one song, and it was enough. She noticed him of course, but grew more alarmed when after the dance he started to approach. She quickly pulled her girlfriends across the room and outside.
He followed. Leaving some distance, he smiled as they strode quickly up the street, resolutely not turning around to notice him, and entered another bar. Xander picked up his pace when they were inside and also entered, scanning the room for her. Louder, younger, far more crowded; a simple bar with a dance floor. The DJ kept up a mix of hip hop and Latin pop; the space was so filled with movement, he almost missed it as she kissed one of her girlfriends on the cheek and slipped out the back door. He turned, left the bar, and chose to hide in the shadows of the parking lot beside the building. He took a deep breath hoping to find her scent and growled as he was assaulted with everyone's and realized he didn't know which might be hers. He would have to work on that. He was growing impatient and frustrated that he might have lost her when the click of high heels on pavement got his attention. Turning, he found her crossing the street.
Xander smiled and followed more cautiously now. Keeping silent, to the shadows, and more distant, they moved further up Meridian. They left the open restaurants and bars behind and passed vacant lots. He could take her now. He knew with a burst of speed, he could close the distance before she could scream. She jumped as a car raced passed, music vibrating into the night and comments directed at her in the passing. She turned and searched behind her. Xander slid to an easy stop into the shadows. He drew her scent to himself; fear, yes, and more. She smelled of the sun: sand, lotions, hot peppers and alcohol. It reminded Xander of his last time at the beach: a stolen vacation with Buffy and Dawn. Even at the time it felt like something he would never feel again.
She knew he was there, he realized with a smile, certain she could not see him. Her eyes swept the surface of the dark shadowed spaces behind her. She was beautiful and Xander simply watched the light wind stroke dark hair away from her face and ripple her deep red dress across rich brown skin. Then she turned and quickly continued down the road. A low, narrow, long building became the apparent destination, and Xander let her slip inside.
As Xander approached the building, he paid more attention to his surroundings and what he might be walking into. It was obvious the woman expected to find safety here. He noticed the cars and trucks that filled the parking lot were tricked out, customed and there were as many motorcycles as anything else. Smiling, anxious and ready, he entered the building.
The front room was small, nothing but pool tables, chairs, a bar and a jukebox in the back playing a Spanish Rap music Xander had never heard in his life. He scanned the room searching for her. He heard the conversations stop and watched everyone stand ready. A grin subtly hardened across his face as his gaze continued to sweep the room. There were about ten guys, maybe more in the back rooms and one woman, his woman, standing at the back near the jukebox. A couple men entered from the back then, one clasping the woman's hand as she whispered something in his ear. The man turned to look at Xander.
Xander openly smiled at him and moved further into the room, finding a more open space where he could move around. He watched as the man started forward, grabbing one of the pool cues as he came. Xander had to remind himself that the pool cue was now an actual lethal weapon but other than that, they didn't have a chance. He didn't even give the man time to give the prerequisite threat and quickly slammed his fist into his face when he was close enough. The fight was on.
A couple others immediately jumped in, one simply being knocked out but the other... Xander felt a rush as he heard the satisfying snap of ribs being shoved into a lung. The man fell to his knees on the floor, his scream choked and gurgled by the blood leaking from his mouth. Xander breathed deep the scent of it and licked his lips. He didn't have time to enjoy the moment long. It seemed everyone left in the room suddenly rushed to attack him.
Xander let his reflexes take him and marveled at how much easier this all seemed now. He fell into a grace and rhythm, blocking blows and cutting down each of the attackers in turn. The occasional strike of a pool cue snapping across his back got through on his blind side but Xander barely took notice of it. The smell of blood and the cries of pain dulled all his other sensations and the lust to kill blocked any other thoughts. When one of the few remaining left standing screamed his attack, the broken remains of a pool cue descending in a strike, Xander growled from deep inside, his fangs challenging the man's roar. Xander knocked the weapon from the man's hand and grabbed his head in both hands, looking him in the eye as he gave his head a twist, snapping his neck.
As suddenly as the fight started, it ended. A quiet filled the room. Broken glass, broken chairs, broken bodies littered the floor. Xander looked down at himself. Bruises, cuts, his own pain sliding into awareness as he pulled a knife from his side and tossed it to the floor. He looked up across the room. She was still there by the jukebox. Frozen in fear, her hands clasped tightly around the arm of one last old man, guarding her, a gun pointed in Xander's direction, shaking. "What are you?" he heard from a voice just as stuttered as the hand holding the gun.
The question made Xander remember what he used to be, almost. Vague, muted memories of the boy who could barely hold his own in a fight staring down Jack O'Toole. Probably looking a little like this old guy right now. Xander smiled; the fangs, the ridged forehead, the one yellow eye glowing in humor, the eye patch where the other should be, the whole thing scarring the effect and still, it was his regular goofy grin.
"Good question. I'm what I've always hated with abilities I've always wanted," Xander admitted to the man. "Life's funny that way." He tired of the standoff. He was so close now to the prize. Xander suddenly leapt into an arc and rolled with the landing, easily dodging the belated shot at where he'd just been standing. Momentum took him up under the hand holding the gun and with fluid motion, he batted away the weapon and held the man's head in his hands. There was never a pause, a thought. Xander simply twisted the neck and let the body drop. He grabbed the woman then; finally, holding her in his hands. He smiled again. Watched the fear flooding her eyes, choking her attempt to scream.
"Death has its moments as well," Xander confided and slowly slipped his fangs into her neck. He held her close, content to let her pulse set the pace of his feeding. He drew in a breath, relishing her scent and relaxed into the moment as her own strength ebbed. It was eternity disappearing in a blink. There was small regret as he let her slip to the floor even as joy, warmth and excitement buzzed and bounced through him. He wondered how anyone could hate this kind of power.
Xander left the bar, the dance returning to his step as the music he'd heard all night played in his mind. He continued up Meridian, noticing at a sign that somewhere 'Guide' had been added to the name. 'Guide-Meridian', well, he would see where it would lead him next. The road had dimmed and quiet long stretches of tree lined space now stretched out. He watched curiously as his wounds started to heal. He passed a golf course, peeking into its depths to see if any naughty kids were about. He let his buzz simply propel him further into night.
The street suddenly dropped into retail sprawl. The freeway passed over and in the center of surrounding strip mall suburbs stood a large shopping mall. Xander crossed over to the expanse of parking lot. It wasn't really where he wanted to be, but he did want to see what movies were showing. It had been so long since he had a chance to go to the movies.
He was crossing through the lot, ignoring most of everything around him. A couple was approaching, holding hands. High school kids, Xander noted, the guy's letterman's jacket being the give-away. Neither were willing to yield the right of way and they almost collided in passing. Xander easily heard the snide remark. "Loser," the boy derisively whispered, relishing his girlfriend's responding giggle.
Xander stopped, turned and quickly jotted up in front of the couple, halting their progress. Smile in place, he looked at the boy, sizing him up, then openly stared him in the eyes. He wondered at the fact that this, this arrogant spoiled brat, was once the bane of his existence. And the girl, well he had once had the girl, the pretty popular bitch. He shook his head at the fact that he had ever wanted any of it.
"What are you looking at?" the boy challenged, snide smirk automatically in place. Years of practice putting people like this down, experience of having never lost, clouding his judgment, blocking his instinct to run.
"Nothing," Xander shook his head. "I'm looking at absolutely nothing." When the boy dropped his girlfriend's hand and took an aggressive step towards him, Xander snapped his fist into the boy's gut. While he was doubled over, he sent an uppercut to his jaw, jerking the boy upright and unconscious. Xander then grabbed the girl's hand and the boy's collar and pulled them both behind a nearby SUV. He let the boy drop to the pavement and covered the girl's scream with his hand, holding her against the vehicle.
"You wouldn't believe the personal demons I'm confronting tonight." Xander had the strange urge to confess. "It's like a soul cleansing. Or would be, if I had a soul." He bent down and ripped his fangs into her neck, pulling the blood from her, then letting her drop. He started to walk away then turned back to the boy laid out prone on the pavement. Raising his foot over the boy's chest, Xander brought it down with all his strength. He heard rib bones give and snap, piercing heart and lungs. The movies forgotten, he left the parking lot.
At the edge of the lot stood a small bus stop shelter. Xander noticed a bus approaching, the sign in the front letting everyone know it was headed for downtown. He decided to hitch a ride back. The bus rumbled back down Guide-Meridian and Xander smiled at the police cars surrounding the bar as they slipped past. He hopped off on Broadway, sure of his direction.
Xander wandered the side streets through the closed office buildings. He could feel the night winding down, the full moon beginning its decent, and fought the inevitability of having to let it go. He wanted to miss the girls and wondered what they had been up to all night. He couldn't feel the loss, though. This night had been what he'd been craving those nights when they hunted discreetly on campus. Sated, excited, he easily leapt to the first platform of a fire escape stairway and raced up to the roof. He smiled, stretched his arms wide and circled slowly. This was his city.
The view was amazing from the vantage of roof. Hills dotted with lights surrounded a small high-rise downtown core. The darker menacing peaks of mountains crowded beyond. The ocean yawned out from its edge. Tankers lit and littering the stretch of the bay. The darker shadows of islands protecting the city's fragile existence from most of the rage of storms. Nothing could protect it now from his rage, though.
Xander noticed a taller building just across a small alley. Eyeing the distance, the height difference, he bounced on the balls of his feet. A giddy confidence at all his new found strength and speed filled him and spurred him on. He took a running start at it and leapt from the edge of the roof. Xander grabbed onto the rim of the taller building's roof and easily pulled himself up. This was even better, though there was no real difference in the view. He laughed. Seeing another building, he judged its distance as well. This one was farther away, across one of the city's streets, but the roof was lower. He was sure he could make it. He could do anything; he felt it.
Xander stepped back a few paces then ran with all his speed to the edge and took off. He laughed at the sudden feeling of flying then looked up to see the next roof escaping him. His momentum slammed him into the side of the building and his mind registered the breaking of a window, then the feeling of falling and the solid impact of the sidewalk seven stories below.
Xander groaned as he regained consciousness. He opened his eye relieved that the sun would not yet find his prone broken body. Everything hurt. He was sure he broke more bones than he was aware of having. He knew that damn sun would be rising soon, and whatever damage had been done to his body, he better just make it get him back to the motel anyway.
Xander stumbled into the motel room and winced as Buffy ran up to him and wrapped her arms around him, holding up his twisted form and guiding it to the bed.
"Xander, what happened?!" Buffy tried to be gentle as she arranged him fully on the bed and started to remove his shoes.
Xander smiled despite the pain. "I tried to leap tall buildings in a single bound."
Buffy looked puzzled at him. "Okay, you know that only works in comic books, right?"
"I know it now." Xander tried to shrug and his smile faded. "Still, how cool is it that I can fall like that and still make it home?"
"Xander," Buffy whispered as she laid down and stretched out beside him. She started to run her fingers through his hair. She shook her head and smiled as he smiled back. "So, what other crazy things did you do tonight?"
Xander's smile faded a little. He closed his eye and let her touch comfort him, easing the pain. He remembered his night and yet with her touch, her naked body pressed so gently against his own, he also remembered his days. Their years together, experiences, softly tumbled and blended in his mind. Blindly, easily, his lips found hers in a gentle kiss. "I did some things you'll probably hate me for," he admitted, opening his gaze into hers.
Buffy kissed his forehead and continued to run her fingers through his hair. "I could never hate you, Xander."
"Then things Willow will definitely hate me for." Xander grimaced as he moved his arm to rest over his stomach. He had no guilt, was even incapable of it he realized, but here in Buffy's arms, he felt strangely conflicted.
Buffy smiled and shook her head. She reached over and gently let her arm rest on him, taking his hand in her own. "She could never hate you either. After all, you never hated her," she gently reminded him.
"Well, you'll see it on the news then, anyway." Xander squeezed her hand and groaned.
"Okay," Buffy nodded and let it go. "I'm a little more worried about you right now. I know you'll heal, but I remember how much it hurts in the mean time. I bet I can speed that up and lessen the pain."
"How?" Xander was losing his focus.
"You up for one last drink tonight?" Buffy whispered in his ear then moved a little up and forward, arching her neck within reach.
"Really?" Xander had half expected her to be disappointed in him.
"Yes, of course really." Buffy shifted her head so she could look into his eye. "We love you. I love you." When his goofy grin appeared on his face, she smiled back and brought her neck within reach again. She felt the sting as his fangs slipped in and groaned as the blood was pulled from her. Forgetting his injuries in the heat, bond, need; her leg slide back and forth over his own and her hand tightened over his. He couldn't hold her, so she melted into him, creating as much contact as possible. He groaned, sucked harder, didn't protest as she covered his body with her own. Then she felt his fangs slip away, watched his face morph back to human, his head turned to the side and his eye shut in deep sleep.
She was now feeling drained as well. She should worry that Willow wasn't back yet. She could feel the sun's approach, but sleep was claiming her as well, and she let herself believe in Willow's safety and abilities as she curled up beside Xander and her eyes closed in rest.
Not long after, Willow let herself into the room. She was grinning in excitement that faltered as she took in the scene on the bed. One naked Buffy curled against a clothed Xander, both asleep. A little disappointed that she would have to rouse her friends to tell them her news, Willow removed her clothes and stretched out beside Buffy. "Hey, sleepy-head, you in there?" Willow called into Buffy's ear, smiling at the answering moan.
Buffy rolled over onto her back and opened her eyes, smiling at the obvious proof that Willow was safe. "Willow, you're home."
"And here you are looking so worried," Willow gently chided her. Nodding her head towards Xander, she started her inquiries. "Why is he still in clothes?"
Buffy glanced back at Xander to see how he was doing. She turned back towards Willow. It still unnerved her how they just looked dead while they slept. "He fell down, went boom. From a tall building. I think he broke a bunch of bones, so I didn't want to move him too much."
"He got in a fight?" Willow was suddenly worried that maybe there was a slayer in town.
"Oh no," Buffy corrected, amusement in her tone, "silly boy jumped all on his own."
"Why'd he do that?" Willow glanced over to him, wondering now what the others had been up to all night.
Buffy shrugged. "Who knows."
Willow laughed and brought her gaze back to Buffy. "So, why do you look so tired? You look like you didn't feed at all."
"Hey!" Buffy protested with an arm slap. "You're only to say I look beautiful."
Willow rolled her eyes in response and waited without comment or altering her statement for the explanation.
Buffy smiled a little and turned her head so Willow could see the bite marks. "I thought he could use the boost."
"Ahhh." Willow kissed Buffy's lips. "That's so sweet." Willow scooted over closer to Buffy and draped her arm just under Buffy's breasts. "I had a great night. You know how I haven't been able to ground myself or tap into the earth? Well, tonight, I found out I can tap into the sea instead."
"That's great, Will." Buffy weakly smiled.
"It is!" Willow stressed, sensing a lack of excitement on Buffy's part.
"So you can do magic now again? Real magic, I mean." Buffy watched Willow's answering nod. "See, that's good news."
"You don't seem like someone who's just heard the best news ever," Willow mildly admonished.
"Sorry. Sleepy." Buffy emphasized her point by closing her eyes.
"I could help with that," Willow whispered in Buffy's ear.
"You don't need to. I don't need to." Buffy opened her eyes and smiled at her friend. "I'll be fine."
"I know." Willow brushed some of Buffy's hair away from her face. She brought up the arm that had been resting over Buffy to her lips and morphed her face, ready to cut her wrist with her fangs.
"Do you even have enough to share?" Buffy chided.
Willow simply smiled around her fangs in response, her eyes glowing in the darkened room. "Yes, I do." She bit her own wrist and brought the wound to Buffy's lips. She moaned, shocked heat flooding through her, when she felt Buffy's tongue swirl and tease, her lips gently brushing her wrist.
Buffy's face didn't morph and with human eyes she watched Willow as she gently sucked the blood offered, pausing to lick and suckle gently at the wound. She smiled and stroked Willow's arm, watching as Willow's eyes closed at the sensation. Buffy relaxed and relished the connection, the intimate bond. A moan escaped her lips as she felt Willow dip down and tease her ear with her tongue. Skin slid across skin and the blood was pulled slowly from one to the other. Feeling a little strength return, Buffy licked at the wound and allowed it to close.
Willow opened her eyes as she felt Buffy pull away slightly. Raising her head, she captured Buffy's lips with her own in a passionate kiss. "Feeling better?" Willow grinned knowingly.
Buffy smiled in return and started stroking Willow's back with her fingers. Her other hand reached beside her and clasped Xander's. "Oh yeah. Of course you know I'm even sleeper now."
"I know." Willow laid down and rested her head on Buffy's shoulder. "Sun's up anyway. We should sleep." She reached across Buffy and brought her hand to theirs. Connection hummed and lulled their minds into peaceful rest.
* * *