Author’s note: see end of story
Disclaimer: see end of story
* * *
The marker-scrawled sign read, “ATM out of service. Please use the teller line inside.”
“Crap,” mumbled Sue. “I so don’t have time for this.” With a sigh she (carefully) pushed open the door into the bank lobby.
The security guard looked at her, measuring Sue’s appearance against some mental list of dangerous people. Apparently he found her distinctly nonthreatening and he went back to staring at the reflections of the female tellers in the bank’s tinted windows.
Sue glanced at her own reflection as she got in the back of the line. Her baggy cargo shorts, one of her boyfriend’s grubby t-shirts, and distinct lack of makeup was nothing like some of the bank tellers behind the counter. *Hello, just going to the ATM for a deposit so the rent check wouldn’t bounce.*
“Next Please.” The line shuffled one step forward.
*Heck, in the guard’s place, I’d pay more attention to the scruffy-looking guy with the eyepatch*...who now looked over at her. Sue’s stomach knotted, and she knew she’d flinched. Great, now the guy looked concerned.
“Next customer, please.”
Sue looked away from the man in the eyepatch. She’d had a dream about him, without an eyepatch, and some women fighting. Nightmares, really, although she hadn’t felt scared.
“Next customer—oh, shit.” Three people clad in head-to-toe riding leathers, gloves and helmets with tinted visors burst through the door of the bank, pistols in hand. The security guard was clawing for his gun when the first robber *moved* almost in a blur, crossing the distance between them. The guard’s neck snapped audibly and he flopped to the ground.
Someone screamed. Sue felt like things were moving in slow motion. *Why didn’t he just shoot the guard?* The three robbers passed her, two leaping the counter like it was nothing, while the third stopped just beyond her, standing to keep an eye and gun on the customers in line.
After a few second, the sounds of the two robbers ransacking the drawers behind the counter caused the third to turn and watch his fellows. The man in the eyepatch discretely unhooked a pipe bollard next to him, then looked at her. She looked back, blankly.
“Keep your fucking eyes on the doors,” one of the robbers in back shouted. The one standing near Sue flinched and turned to look at the front doors.
Sue couldn’t believe it when the guy in the eyepatch threw a stick at her. *To me* she realized as her hand caught it effortlessly. Sue turned and plunged it into the biker’s chest in one smooth motion, then stumbled as the man disintegrated with a dusty sound. “The fuck,” Sue blurted, loud in the silence of the room.
“Slayer bitch!” One of the remaining bikers shouted as he stared at Sue over the counter, having seen what happened to his accomplice.
“Uh-oh.” Sue tightened her grip on the stick as the two remaining robbers came back over the counter. The charged her, guns apparently forgotten in their fury to get to her. When they were almost upon her, Sue raised he stake as though it was an enormous knife instead of some small pointy piece of wood.
The two slid to a stop, in front of her. *Really? They have guns,* Sue thought.
Finally the two robbers realized the same thing. “Alright, Slayer, drop the stake or I’ll shoot.”
She hesitated enough that the second robber said, “Screw that, I’m gonna drain her. I’m going to suck-” but the tirade was interrupted as a brass bollard hit him in the back of the helmet and he bounced off the window, then collapsed on the floor.
“Yeah, you suck,” the man with the eyepatch said as he turned towards the last standing bank robber.
“Who the fuck are you,” Sue and the robber yelled at the same time. They stopped, shocked, and looked at each other.
“Don’t mind me, just a glorified bricklayer from the Hellmouth.”
“Harris,” the robber whispered.
Sue knew what was going to happen next. As the robber raised his gun towards Harris, Sue stepped in and stabbed him in the chest. She didn’t lose her balance when this one disintegrated, though.
Sue flinched as the ‘glorified bricklayer’ swung the bollard again at the head of the last, presumably unconscious, robber on the ground. He dropped his improvised club and reached a hand towards her. “Can I have that back?”
Sue numbly handed him the stake and was only mildly surprised when he stabbed the last robber into a cloud of dust.
“Let’s get out of here,” Harris said.
Sue’s jaw dropped. “What?” People were beginning to come out of their shock, and a commotion was building.
Harris sighed. “Look, the police will be here soon, and it’s easier to have my people explain this.”
“No. Yes, sort of. It’s complicated. We’ll be sitting in jail until my people and the Feds get this sorted out, though. Want to spend a night in jail?”
“No.” Sue turned and walked towards the door.
* * *
Sue wasn’t quite sure how she ended up in a little Mexican restaurant drinking Shiner Bock over dinner with a one-eyed killer. She took a long drink before she spoke. “Harris. So, you said you wanted to talk.”
“I usually go by Xander.” He tried to smile, but it stopped short of his eye. “This isn’t how we try to do it now, but here goes. Get a lot stronger? Last year, back in May?”
Sue paused, bottle part way to her lips. “Yeah, how’d you know?”
“It was part of a thing...we were busy saving the world. It was kind of a side effect.”
“Like my hair turning pink when I tried to bleach it?”
Xander fixed her with a one-eyed look. “This won’t grow out,” he said.
“Anything else? ‘Cause that’s a lotta nothin’.”
The man gestured at her rather large dinner. “You can eat about six times that much every day and not gain any weight-”
“Good metabolism,” Sue interrupted.
“And you have dreams. Guys with yellow eyes, sharp teeth. Maybe a tiny blonde jumping into a glowing hole in the sky; maybe me, before I started using eyepatches as a fashion accessory-”
“Stop! Fuck, stop, okay? Yes, I’ve had the dreams with the...eyes and teeth.” She just couldn’t bring herself to say “vampire” and could barely think about it without feeling like she was sliding on ice. “The guys at the bank, they were...”
“Vampires,” Xander finished for her.
“How did you know?”
“That they were vampires? No reflection in the tinted window, the way they dusted, the superhuman strength, the head-to-toe clothing in the middle of Texas in the middle of summer.”
“No. I meant, how did you know they’d be there?”
“Oh. Umm.” For the first time since she’d met Xander, he seemed at a loss. “I didn’t. I was in town kind of looking for you.”
Sue felt the bottle flex, dangerously close to shattering in her fingers. “You better explain this real soon, or I’ll go to the police even if they lock me up,” she growled.
“Look, we kind of feel responsible for the...changes, and we’re trying to find the women like you and give support if they want and need it.”
“Why would I need it?”
“Well, the way you knew how to do that with the stake?” Xander waited until Sue nodded. “You’ll be drawn to things like that. The more you know about what you’re getting into, the more likely you are to survive.”
“I think I did just fine today.”
“You did. But what if I hadn’t been there? Sometimes the creeps will be able to sense you. You might want to get more information, more training. Someone you can call anytime of the day or night.”
Sue looked down at the label she’d peeled out of nervous habit. “I can’t tell my boyfriend any of this...”
“You don’t understand.” Sue shook her head. “He’s a singer. In a band. He couldn’t deal with this.”
Xander shrugged. “You might be surprised.” When Sue shook her head again he replied, “Okay. It’s your decision.”
* * *
Sue and Xander stood in the apartment she shared with her boyfriend, two duffel bags and a few ratty cardboard boxes at their feet. Xander watched Sue key the memo on the answering machine.
“Hey Jay, it’s Sue. I, um...met this guy...Leland. It’s complicated, but there’s some stuff I’ve got to think over. In Cleveland. So, I guess we’re on a break. I’ll check you later.”
“You gave your boyfriend a breakup-and-moving message on your answering machine?”
“Yeah. And?” Sue stared at Xander in his one good eye.
“You don’t think it’s cold?”
“Dude, you do not want to go there.”
Xander looked at the floor. “I, um...”
“Xander, you do want me to go, right?”
“Yes. You don’t have to go right this second, though.”
“Yeah, I kind of do. If I go talk to Jay, he’ll be all sad, and pathetic, and cry. And then I’ll feel bad and won’t go to Cleveland.”
“It’s your call,” Xander said.
Sue kicked one of her bags. “So, was the message o.k.?”
“You are so going to get along with Faith.” Xander picked up one of the boxes while Sue grabbed the duffels.
Sue opened the door and looked back. “I can tell you meant that as an insult, I just haven’t figured it out yet.”
“Wait, am I the Leland on the message?”
* * *
Author’s note: Inspired by the Bowling for Soup! song “Ohio (Come Back to Texas)”
Believe it or not, I heard the song for the first time only two months ago, and realized the Hellmouth is in Ohio and that this song was begging to be ficced.
Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and all associated characters are property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy Productions, United Paramount Network, and Fox Television. “Ohio” is property of FFROE/Jive/Zomba, Jaret Reddick, Zac Maloy, Ted Bruner, Butch Walker, Russ-T Cobb. This work is not for profit, and no ownership of aforementioned copyrighted material implied, nor any infringement intended.