Shannon (shannon730) wrote in joss_las,

Final challenge voting

Sorry, I'm late on this, but I've been sick since Sunday. Just realized today that I hadn't posted it yet.

Usual rules.
don't tell anyone which is yours
vote for your LEAST favorite
And don't vote for yourself (although I can't imagine why you would do that)

And for those that don't know, didn't remember, this challenge was for the authors to write a character or pairing they would not normally write.

She left because of the dreams. Slayer dreams were expected, and even if watching vamps chowing down on people like giant slurpees on a nightly basis was enough to turn the strongest girl’s stomach, it was the other dream that really terrified Buffy. Because in that dream, she wasn’t just the Slayer. She had friends she laughed with, she had her own room and not a couch in her Watcher’s crappy apartment, and there was a guy, a gorgeous guy with liquid eyes who looked at her and made her believe she could save the entire world.

That was the dream she wanted to stop. Because Buffy knew it wasn’t true. After all, if she couldn’t save her mom, what hope did the rest of the world have?

Hitching from Cleveland to Sunnydale was cake. It would’ve been nice to get there with the sun still shining, but hey, Slayers can’t be choosers.

She found a motel room easily enough, but when the clerk saw her heading for a quick patrol, he actually came around the counter to try and block her from leaving.

“You don’t want to go out after dark here,” he said. “There’s things out there that’ll give you nightmares. Or worse.”

Her mouth was a thin, grim line. “Don’t worry. They’re already there.”

Buffy staked three vamps before she got two blocks away from the motel. When she saw the fourth and fifth heading her way, strolling along the sidewalk like they owned the town, she melted into the shadows, trying to ignore the sense of déjà vu the female vamp’s red hair summoned. She knew Hellmouths drew demons like flies, but this whole place was infested, far worse than Cleveland. No wonder the Slayer dreams had dragged her here.

Time to root out the source of the infestation. Stop the dreams, once and for all.

She followed the pair as they wound their way through town, ending at a place with “The Bronze” emblazoned over the door. The club was crawling with vamps, making entry for Buffy impossible, but there were too many for this to be a coincidence. She scouted the building until she found a small window leading to the basement, and slithered inside, the heel of her boot nearly skidding out from beneath her as she landed in a pool of blood.

It was dark and rank, and the walls vibrated from the music blaring above her head. Buffy took a few precious seconds for her eyes to adjust, then wished she hadn’t when she saw the makeshift cells dotted throughout the interior. Bodies lay naked and pale in most of them, skin gleaming where the stolen moonlight filtered through the tiny windows, and she walked along, steeling herself against sympathy for them. Feelings were weak. Feelings would get her killed. It was the best lesson her Watcher had ever forced upon her.

Then she saw him. And the barriers she’d erected around her emotions crumbled.

She knew that curve of shoulder, knew how the muscles would twitch with pleasure if she touched them. She knew that strong jaw, could see with her mind’s how his rare smiles lit up his whole face.

And when he looked up, she knew those eyes. Hope simmered there, even before recognition.

“You,” she said.

He didn’t utter a sound.

“You can’t be real,” Buffy breathed. Because if he was, then the rest of it could be, too. The friends. The life. Her mom. She couldn’t hope for that. Hope would tear her heart out and leave her bleeding yet again.

His mouth opened to speak, but something she didn’t hear jerked his head to the side, those liquid eyes narrowing as he peered into the darkness. “Hide,” he said in a low voice.

Buffy sank back into the shadows, just as singsong filled the air.

“Puppy…time to play…”

When she saw the redheaded vamp stop in front of his cell, Buffy reacted without thought. She leapt forward, driving the stake through the vampire’s back before she had the chance to unlock the door. Through the crumbling dust, his face came slowly into focus. Filled with awe, filled with shock, filled with the one thing she didn’t need right now.

“Stop looking at me like that,” she growled as she snapped the lock off in her hand.

“Like what?”

She squeezed her eyes shut as the silken timbre of his voice resonated in more than her memories. “I’m getting you out of here,” Buffy said, changing the subject. “And then you’re going to tell me what the hell is going on.”

Undoing his chains only took a moment. The last thing she expected was for him to fly past her, though.

“What the---?”

Buffy whirled in time to see him slam the other vampire she’d followed into the opposite wall, staking him as swiftly and efficiently as she had the redhead. Her jaw still hung lax by the time he glanced back.

“Sorry. Xander always comes to watch Willow when she…” He swallowed. “I should’ve warned you.”

Buffy shook her head. “You did the next best thing. Now let’s get out of here.”

Though she wanted to get the others out, too, she knew time was not on her side, following him as he disappeared back in the direction from which she’d come. It wasn’t until they were outside, blocks away from the club, that she grabbed his arm and yanked him to a halt.

“I don’t know your name. I’m Buffy.”

His mouth slanted into a soft smile as if she’d said something completely obvious. “Angel. Come on. We have to keep moving.”

As they broke into a fresh run, she stole a glance at his determined profile. She had no idea what his deal was, or how he could fight so well, but she did know one thing for sure.

The dreams weren’t going to stop.

Because she had a reason now to make the rest of them come true.

There’s only trouble when their old demons cross paths.

Spike is a taboo subject. Not because Angel’s jealous, but because Buffy is. Whenever his name is mentioned, Angel broods and Buffy lashes out. It only took two accidental slips, and one pointed experiment, for the two of them to agree that Spike, and those memories, should be locked away. Neither lock him away, where he belongs, but they both refused to utter his name.

Likewise, they don’t discuss Cordelia. Buffy can only remember her as the spoiled brat from Sunnydale High. Angel understands, but he refuses to explain for the thousandth time that Cordelia had changed. That he had loved her, and damnit, he doesn’t need to be reminded that he’ll never really know the woman she would become. Buffy doesn’t need to be reminded that he had loved Cordelia Chase of all people. It’s a black mark against him, but one she can ignore, if she tries.

When Wesley’s name comes up, it’s usually dropped. Again, she doesn’t understand, and he won’t make her. Plus, thinking about Wesley makes him think about Fred, Gunn, and Connor. Then he locks himself in his bedroom, with the lights low, and she shouts at him that he isn’t a goddamned vampire anymore and can’t he just talk about his problems like a normal person?

But it is easier at night. He curls around her body, his arm draped over her hips, her head resting on his other shoulder. Still unaccustomed to the sound of his own heart, he listens to it into the wee hours of the morning. Listens to his heart, and watches her sleep, trying to trace the dreams as they cross her face. He attempts to reconcile the new lines and wrinkles, remembers her as that beautiful girl he saw bathed in the sun. Not that she isn’t beautiful now. She fought for and won each wrinkle, each spot of gray in her hair. She’s prematurely old, but she is still exquisite, and alive. He doesn’t dream because he doesn’t need to. His dreams have come true.

It’s easier for Buffy during the day. She enjoys watching him in the sun, watching the light in his hair and eyes. He seems smaller in the day, less foreboding, but just as handsome as she always remembered. She watches for his rare smiles, and listens for his laughter, and marvels at the truth of him. She doesn’t understand him, yet. Sometimes she suspects he’s lurking somewhere she still can’t reach, can’t follow. She knows he loves her, and she loves him, but sometimes, they aren’t together.

There’s only trouble when the ghosts slide into bed with them.

She’s so shocked when she realizes there are similarities between Angel and Spike that it is like a bucket of cold water over her head. She’s so dismayed when she realizes that a part of her absolutely prefers fucking a vampire that she grits her teeth and swears that it will be the best night Angel ever had. The ruse is his sake. And her own.

Angel regrets that he can’t compare her to Cordelia. He regrets even more when he closes his eyes and sees Darla. He never consciously brings her to mind, but when a memory flashes in the dark, he usually comes so hard he howls. Also, he always knows when she is thinking about Spike.

They still laugh about the first time she took his shopping. It was a whirlwind of sounds, a cacophony of colors, and so bright. He had never been inside a grocery store during the day, and even when he bought food for the hotel

for Wesley and Cordelia and oh god why weren’t they there?

he usually went shopping at a small Korean marketplace that was open 24 hours a day and never really busy. He put everything he could into Buffy’s cart, intent on trying all the ice cream, and everything else from canned menundo to hash browns. Buffy had happily catered to his desires, and even promised to cook everything for him.

He has a small list of favorites now. It’s easier that way, though Buffy always insists that she’s willing to buy anything he wants to try.

There’s only trouble when their old lives intersect.

They can’t exist at the point of the reality and the ideal. It makes his skin tight. It makes her scalp itch. He left once, but he couldn’t bear to do that to her twice, so he came back before she noticed. She is all he has in the world, and sometimes she’s still all he needs. She never quit fighting, never quit doing what was right. Because she could, because she was strong, because deep down, they both knew she didn’t have a choice.

She was always going to be a Slayer, but he stopped being a Champion. Nobody needed him. He went from being a nobody, to being feared, to being a nobody, to being a champion, and now he was a nobody again. Would there be another stop before he was dust for good?

“I need you,” she whispers. “I always have.”

He watches television at night and sketches. He works with Giles in the office during the day. Training the always-growing slayer population takes a huge amount of administration. He thinks it’s good that he ran his own agency and a law firm, and privately believes Wesley would be better at this sort of thing.

She watches television at night and reads. Training the Slayers takes a lot of energy. More than she has some days. They sit on the couch and they never fuss over the remote.

There’s only trouble when they forget this is their life now.

Poll #872747 Round 5: Final Challenge

Vote for your LEAST favorite


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