Chapter 1: Woe
According to the dictionary, the word meant deep distress or misery. Grief. Wretchedness. Buffy didn’t think any of those words adequately summed up how she felt and had been feeling for weeks now.
Kicked out of school. Thrown out of home. An allegiance made with her sworn enemy and death plans made for her lover. The world had gone all ‘turvy topsy’ and nothing made sense. Nothing mattered anymore. How does someone describe that feeling?
Buffy wrapped her arms around herself in an attempt to keep warm, mentally kicking herself for not having brought a jacket with her to work this evening.
Work, what a joke… she snorted.
The weekly wage she earned at the diner was barely enough to cover rent and bills, which left absolutely no room for fun. Again, she snorted. Fun was a word that no longer had place in her vocabulary. No friends, no family, no Angel. After what she put them all through she didn’t believe she deserved fun in her life anymore.
And that was a whole… oh, thirty minutes since I last thought of him.
A screech sounded from the shadows of an alleyway to her left. The noise startled Buffy from her thoughts and she jumped in surprise, just as a stray cat ran out from the darkness and into the street. Her eyes flicked to the poorly lit lane and for a moment she contemplated walking away. But somewhere buried deep down inside of her, a sense of duty—or something, compelled her to make a detour. It’s not like she had a lot to go ‘home’ for anyway, if you could call the shoebox she currently lived in a home.
All it took was two feet. A few steps in and her senses went into overload. The hairs on the back of her neck stood on end. Her ‘spidey sense’ activated. Vampires. Her stomach rolled. She didn’t want this, not now. Not ever again. Slaying was no longer apart of her life plan. It was over. Dead and buried, just like her past. Apparently the demon’s responsible for reminding her of her old life had yet to get the memo about her retirement.
Wasn’t the first time since she’d been here in LA that she’d come across the un-dead. Wouldn’t even be the first time she’d slipped a stake out of her small backpack and prepared to fight. However, unlike her previous life in Sunnydale where she actively sought out vampires, patrolled and hunted their kind, each encounter was unplanned and unwanted.
Buffy was done with slaying. She’d silently vowed never to patrol again after her calling was responsible for tearing her heart into teeny tiny little shreds. The vow had not been broken. Patrolled she had not. By some twisted turn of fate it seemed they—the creatures of the night—were now seeking her.
As she did every other time when presented with a situation involving members of the fang gang, Buffy considered walking away. Closing her eyes, blocking her ears and humming ‘la la la, not listening’ until the tingles went away. Any comfort the childish action may bring would be fleeting, only to be replaced by an overwhelming sense of guilt. Without a slayer patrolling the streets, the night was a veritable playground for vampires and demons alike. How could she turn her back on a helpless person? So the decision to travel through darkened alleys with the reputation for numerous unexplainable ‘muggings’ wasn’t exactly wise. People made mistakes, big and little everyday. Sometimes you didn’t even know an action was a mistake until unsuspected consequences came to pass. It didn’t mean they deserved to be punished by having to run the love of their life through the chest with a big honking sword, right?
By the sounds of the terrified yet muffled shouts from up ahead, a young woman was about to have her throat ripped out. Self-pity would have to wait until after the damsel in distress had been rescued and the wicked villain had was done and dusted.
Apron was removed and placed on top of her backpack, both items quickly yet safely stowed against a stack of crates. Uniform replacements came out of her pay and Buffy couldn’t afford another new one.
With the grace of a panther, Buffy stalked forward, silent and deadly. Whereas in the past she’d taunted her targets, cutting them with her wit before driving the stake home, now it was all business.
The first vampire didn’t have any warning of her approach until the sharpened point of her wooden stake pierced through his chest. A downward glance at the protruding object as his lips curled in the shape of a curse word and the vampire was gone.
Vamp number two turned his feral yellow eyes upon the one responsible for his friend’s demise and a malicious smile stretched across his face at what he saw. A small young girl, all alone with no one to come to her aid. Dusting his partner had to have been luck—pure and simple.
“LA has delivery now, how thoughtful.” A laugh shook his shoulders as he backhanded the prey already in his clutches, the force of the blow strong enough to knock the girl to the ground, out cold before she hit the pavement.
Buffy remained silent, no will to respond with one of her trademark quips. Her gaze flickered to the unconscious woman. At least now she was out of the way and would be safe until she could make number two join his partner in the wind.
“No comment? What are ya, mute or something?”
Turning her hand over to expose the sharp and pointy weapon in her clenched left hand was enough to wipe the over-confident smirk off the demon’s face.
“It’s gonna be like that, is it?”
Buffy balled her weaponless fist and swung it right into the creature’s nose before the opportunity to say another word presented itself.
The vampire shouted in pain. “You bitch!”
Slow and methodical Buffy circled her prey, eyes on the prize. When dust settled to the alleyway floor she could return to her life of pretend. She would deny it if asked out loud, but this small confrontation, this fight, was the most alive she’d felt in weeks. And that was a scary thought. Buffy didn’t want to be the slayer anymore, needed to know she was more than her calling. That’s why this fight had to be quick and to the point.
Circling stopped, she remained stalk still, her posture straight and her stance relaxed in a manner that belied the situation. The reaction of her opponent in regard to her shift of position was immediate.
Not only was number two furious the diminutive thing had managed to break his nose—a touch to his face confirmed it was indeed broken—but she displayed no fear at his presence or appearance, whatsoever. In fact, she almost looked bored.
“I’m going to tear you limb from limb, little girl,” Number Two snarled.
Buffy provoked him further by shrugging her shoulders.
A roar of fury echoed as he lifted his hands and curled his fingers into claws, intent on following through with his promise.
The vampire rushed.
The slayer dodged.
A stake slammed home with pinpoint accuracy.
Buffy sighed with relief, glad to be done with it all. Dusting off her shoulders, she turned to walk away. If it weren’t for the moan of returning consciousness, Buffy would have left the alleyway without a second thought for the intended victim of the attack she’d just prevented. Guilt washed over her.
Dropping to her knees beside the brunette, Buffy gently shook her shoulder, urging her to wake and continue on her way to wherever she had been headed before the vampires appeared.
“Hey, wake up.”
A frown scrunched the woman’s eyebrows for a moment before her eyes flickered open. Confusion swept her features. “Where am I?”
Buffy looked over her shoulder for a street sign, but was either too far away from it or there was none at all. “An alleyway, not far from –”
“An alley?” The girl pulled herself up from the ground and shakily lifted to her feet.
Buffy nodded as she too stood up.
“Oh my god! What happened?” Panic gripped her as memory returned to her. “I w-was attacked! That man, his face… it was –”
“You’re safe now.” The words lacked real warmth and surprised even Buffy herself by her absence of compassion. When had she stopped caring?
“I’m all right?” she snapped with disbelief. “I was just mugged, knocked unconscious and left for dead and you’re telling me I’m ‘safe now?”
Now it was Buffy’s turn to be surprised. “Look, I was just passing by and –”
“Did you call the cops?” Fear had disappeared and righteous indignation had taken residence in its place. “No, of course not. You probably would’ve just left me here, walked on by if I hadn’t woken up.”
Buffy’s jaw dropped.
“Thanks for nothing,” the woman snapped. Retrieving her bag from the ground, she turned away with a flounce, shooting a glare in Buffy’s direction as she disappeared around a corner.
Why did I even bother?
Shocked didn’t cover it. Allowing a moment for what had just happened to sink in, Buffy gathered her backpack and apron and continued on her way home. She mentally crossed her fingers that she wouldn’t stumble upon another ‘incident’ in her travels. For once she wanted to get a decent night’s sleep before a double shift at the diner beckoned her the next day.
High on a rooftop overlooking a new favourite hunting ground, he watched. The red spark of a cigarette glowed bright for a second as a drag on the cancer stick was inhaled, the smoke dispersing into long not working lungs.
LA was not a favourite place of Spike’s, not even close. The only reason he’d remained in town this long was to collect on some money owed to him. Nightlife in the large city left a lot to be desired; plastic surgery took the entertainment out of a hunt when a soon-to-be victim was left expressionless. The look of fear was half the fun.
Tonight was supposed to be his last in this wretched town. However the surprise appearance of a familiar face from his not-so-distant past, alive at that, made things all the more interesting.
With a deliciously evil grin, Spike watched the Slayer in action and prepared his first move.
Now he had a reason to stay.