Chapter 1: Such a Lovely Place
Disclaimer: All characters are the property of CBS, UPN, Fox, Dark Horse Comics and IDW Comics. No profit is being made from this work of fanfiction.
There was another diner once, before Penny met Sheldon and Leonard, before meeting Kurt even, in downtown LA. Everyone wore cute checkered uniforms surrounded by not-so-cute runaways, prostitutes and pimps. No one had told her it was a bad part of town to be in, but then again, it wasn’t as if she even knew anyone yet, who could have warned her.
Eleven months of serving reheated pie and stale coffee later, a new girl named Anne joined their little team. From the deadened look in her eyes, Penny wondered what she was running from, but never asked, because it was always the same: rapist father, drug addicted boyfriend, bruises that couldn’t be explained away, both seen and unseen…she was sick of hearing about it, when there was nothing she could do for them.
No, Penny was simply going to focus on getting into a better life she knew was waiting for her.
The club was loud, and the people were beautiful. This was LA as she had pictured it on her bus ride down from Omaha; it was everything she had imagined and more. Flipping her hair back, she toyed with the stem of her wine glass, grateful that she was spending a night away from her shitty apartment and her crappy street, together with some girls she had met at an audition two days ago. One by one, they had all disappeared on the arms of the assorted boys who plied them with alcohol before leading them to into the almost secluded booths for groping sessions. Not Penny. She was better than that, better than the boys in their khaki pants and cotton shirts, pawing clumsily at women they had no chance with when said women were sober.
As she expected (with all the confidence of a nineteen year old blonde girl who fit in size four jeans), the man she was waiting for showed up. Or at least, the kind
of man she had been waiting for was approaching her, pushing through the crowd to get to her side. As if she was the only one in the crowd worth his time and attention. The clothes he wore looked expensive and well cut even to her inexperienced eyes. When he smiled, his teeth looked perfect and his cheekbones looked like chiseled marble.
“Buy you a drink?” he asked. Not waiting for her response, he signaled to the bartender to bring her another glass of wine.
“Of course.” She nodded belatedly, imagining that she looked and sounded sophisticated all at once. Secretly, she wondered if he would offer her a starring role in some project he was working on by the end of their evening. He certainly looked like the type who had that kind of power, and she told herself she had no illusions as to what she ought to be doing with men like that, if fame was what she wanted.
“My name’s Sam.” He told her, bending close enough to brush his lips against her ear.
“Penelope,” she replied, thinking it sounded like such a mature, womanly name. Nothing like Penny, from Omaha.
When he asked if they could go back to her place much later, she didn’t hesitate and instead, planted a kiss on his cool lips.
Penny sobbed on the floor of her own apartment, pinned in place by a cold, solid body. She didn’t want to die in the cheap polyester dress she wore. Until two hours ago, she had convinced herself she looked elegant and sexy, rather than cheap and whorish, but she’d always known the truth.
Point is, she didn’t want to die, period, but feeling the ridges of his face (Oh God, what was wrong with his face?), the sharp stab of his teeth as they pierced the skin of her neck, informed her that she didn’t quite have a choice in the matter. She was going to die, far from home, from anyone who gave a shit, in an outfit that made her look like a slut.
Closing her eyes, she whimpered piteously. Until she realized that the weight that had been holding her down was being abruptly yanked off her.
“I always thought necking was a second date thing.” a girl’s voice said.
Blinking, Penny struggled to sit up, and watched as her co-worker Anne kicked her date out her front door. By the ass. Their eyes met.
“Hey, aren’t you…” Anne asked, frowning slightly.
“Yeah. Do you live next door?” Penny asked in a daze.
“Wish I could say ‘no’ but…”
They were interrupted by Sam launching himself back through the doorway, where her front door was hanging by its hinges.
“One second,” Anne held up a finger, drawing out a small, slim object from her back pocket.
Penny caught Sam’s horrified expression as he realized he couldn’t stop his forward momentum, right before he crashed into the pointy end of what looked like a wooden stake. Looking up at Anne, he mouthed the word ‘why’, and exploded in a cloud of dust.
“Because I’m the Slayer. That’s what I do,” Anne murmured to herself.
There was a moment of silence as Penny stared at the space where Sam had been, her mouth agape.
“Umm…so. Nice dress.” Anne reached out a hand to Penny. After another beat, the latter took her proffered arm uncertainly.
“I look like a slut.” Penny sniffed as she stood up, straightening her outfit.
Anne opened and shut her mouth. Finally, she looked away uncomfortably.
“What the hell was that?”
“That was uh…would you buy it if I said it was a trick of the light?” Anne asked, tucking her wooden stick back into her pocket, looking decidedly uncomfortable.
“Right.” Penny nodded, placing her hand against the wound on her neck. “I suppose him trying to bite me and suck my blood, that was a trick of light too?”
“If you want it to be, sure.” Anne replied, looking ready to bolt out the door she had obviously destroyed trying to rescue her neighbour.
“Please,” Penny was surprised how steady her voice was. “Just tell me what the hell happened, because it sure looked like you murdered a guy, except he wasn’t really a guy at all.”
“Vampires exist and the things that go bump in the night are trying to kill you.” The other girl blurted out.
“Oh.” Penny considered. “Ok. Why didn’t you just say so?”
Anne cracked a small smile, which looked out of place on her usually solemn, sad face. “Listen, we can talk more tomorrow. Right now, I have a…um…I have to be somewhere.”
“More people to save?” Penny wondered if she had stumbled into some strange superhero…well, super-heroine comic book where lines like that actually meant something.
“I hope so.” Anne’s smile faded as quickly as it appeared. As she fled down the dim hallway, she yelled out, “Sorry about your door!”
They didn’t become best friends. Actually, the fact was that Penny never did see her again.
And she never even got to thank the strange blonde girl with the sad eyes for saving her life.
Two years later, Penny found herself stumbling home from the bar, tipsy and not quite drunk after her latest fight with Kurt. Already, she was regretting not hailing for a taxi just because she was trying to save a few dollars. She tried to focus, tried to remember the way home from the unfamiliar neighbourhood, only to find herself stumbling into a district filled with warehouses and dark corners. The pavement narrowed itself into an alleyway, but she could see that she was close to a main street just on the other end. Looking back, someone shifted in the shadows, and began to trace her steps.
Instinctively, she began to fumble in her purse for that object she always carried with her now, since the night with that thing that called itself Sam.
“I love LA,” a voice jeered behind her. “You can get a bite at any time of the day, just outside your door,”
Penny forced herself not to shake, not to show fear as her fingers closed around the rough stake she had fashioned with an old hunting knife (“Happy Birthday Slugger! Love, Dad”) and a discarded chair leg. Rather than turn around however, she continued to walk forwards purposefully. The alcohol in her blood stream was translating into adrenaline, or at least, that’s what she kept telling herself with every step.
“Hey, I’m talking to you.” the voice sounded a lot closer now.
“Fuck off,” Penny said, and immediately wished she didn’t. City Living 101 – you never responded to shit like that.
“You little cunt,” the voice was right behind her. Spinning around on her flat running shoes, Penny lifted the stake in her right hand, only to come face to face with the ugliest motherfucker she ever had the misfortune of laying her eyes on. The ridges on his face were far more pronounced than Sam’s had been; the fangs protruding from his mouth were a rancid yellow, his breath fetid and stale.
Reacting rather than thinking, she stabbed forwards and hit home, her stake plunging deep into his chest. Before he had a chance to even realize he was doomed, he burst into a massive cloud of dust. More footsteps encircled her even as she lowered her arm.
“Small and blonde…do we have the slayer boys? Whaddya think?” another vampire asked, stepping from the shadows. Gasping, Penny allowed herself at last to show her terror – she was completely surrounded.
“Nah, the Slayer’s about to become worm food on the Hellmouth,” an answer that was met by vicious cheers. No one seemed to care that she had just reduced their friend into a cloud of drifting particles.
“Hear that boys?” one of them stepped closer. Penny lifted her staking arm, forcing herself to focus. Barking a laugh, the vampire knocked the weapon right out of her hand, causing her to cry out in pain and horror. He had dislocated her arm in one simple gesture.
“I’m thinking now’s a good time to celebrate. And I know just the gal to liven things up around here…” cold fingers gripped her jaw like a vise, forcing her to look up into yet another pair of bestial yellow eyes.
There was a sound of screeching tires, and bright lights glared, causing her captor to release his hold and stumble backwards. Penny turned towards the newcomers, cradling her useless arm in the other, and found herself looking at an old pick-up armed to the teeth with giant wooden stakes. The vehicle was filled with young men and women, vengeance lighting their eyes like holy fire.
“You boys having a party and we weren’t invited?” a young black man asked, jumping down from the back of the truck. In his hands, he held what looked unbelievably like crossbow. Penny found that she was having trouble trusting what she saw, even when she was surrounded by creatures of the night that were only supposed to exist in badly written novels.
“They’re vampires,” she offered inanely, although she supposed they already knew, what with the giant stakes and the crosses some of her rescuers were brandishing.
“Thanks Barbie.” the man said, not taking his eyes or his aim off the vamps who were growling furiously, apparently attempting to form some kind of attack formation. He called over his shoulder, “Rondell, can’t you see the lady’s hurt? Get her outta here.”
“We’ll find her after we’re done with you,” one of the vampires called out. “And we’re gonna make her scream. If we do it right, she’ll be screamin’ for days.”
“But Gunn c’mon, if I go, you’ll be one man short,” the one called Rondell said approaching slowly, not even looking at Penny.
“We can take care of a few punk-ass demons.” Gunn said. “This ain’t my first rodeo. Now get the fuck out of here!”
“Thank you.” Penny said, even as she could feel a warm hand dragging her away, towards sanity and towards life.
As the whole group of humans launched themselves into battle, she could only pray that he heard her sincere offering of gratitude, for what little they were worth. By the time Rondell deposited her on the corner of a busy intersection, her entire body was wracked with pain.
“Thank you.” She gritted out nonetheless. “Are they going to be ok?”
“We’ll be fine. Next time, take a fucking cab you understand? Fucking A, I hate stupid people.” the man sounded angry. Without waiting for an answer, or to see if she was fine, he took off, back in the direction he came.
By the time she got home, it was in the afternoon, and her arm was in a sling, Kurt was already in bed, drool soaking the pillow under him.