Well. It's then end of May and I promised scribesdsI would rise to the challenge and write a fic for Writers' Toybox Twenty Four Hour challenge. I made it just in time.
Tell me what you think. Thanks.
Word count: 2780
Written for Writers’ Toybox May 24 Hour challenge.
A big thank you, Jo, for the beta.
Summary: Twenty four hours in the life of Buffy and Angel.
Angel realised he had been had. It wasn’t the first time, nor would it be the last. Vampires make terrific lie detectors. They could hear a heartbeat racing, smell the sweat a nervous man may have, and deduce that a man may be trying to pull the wool over their eyes. Or, as Angel had assumed, a man could be nervous when speaking to a vampire and be telling the truth. That man had been a fool. Or had, like Angel, trusted someone he shouldn’t have. The man’s lies had gotten him dead, on the floor, his throat ripped out: blood congealing on his shirt. Eyes gone dull in death stared at Angel as if accusing him of his murder.
What was that saying? Assume makes an ass out of you and me. Angel was the biggest ass there was. At his age, he should know better. Right! Now here he was, led up the garden path, and trapped, another corpse for company. All his own doing. What, he thought, was the point? He looked up at the opening above him. It was barred. Metal. Difficult to break through. He had tried. He had scrabbled up the wall, finding purchase on rough stone and leapt the last distance, swung by his hands, trying to dislodge the iron that held him captive. A futile attempt. Angel had dropped to the floor of his cell, satisfied there was no escape above his head. He paced, puzzled. Of his captors there was no sign. He was more than worried.
The slayer patted the bed beside her and found it empty. She opened her eyes. The space behind the curtains glowed bright with morning light. Angel hadn’t come home, and it was day. With a worried frown, she reached for the phone and hit speed dial. Her call went unanswered and then it was directed to Angel’s message bank. Her frown deepened. She slipped out of bed and reached for her clothes. Angel had been restless and had gone out on patrol. He had kissed her goodnight as he went out the door. Buffy cursed. She had let herself be talked into a night in. She had looked tired, he had told her. And she had been tired. They had had a full week, tracking and slaying monsters. Buffy had been exhausted. She had been tracking through the days, as well as nights. She knew that Angel felt constrained, not being able to assist, out in the daylight, and so she had relented, giving him his freedom. Not that he required her permission or anything. Angel could do as he pleased. A small smile twitched at her lips. Angel liked to please Buffy, she had no complaints there. Her smile vanished. But here she was, worrying about him, again, because he hadn’t come home last night. Like a lost puppy, Angel had failed to come home. Unlike a lost puppy, Angel was able to take care of himself. Still, Buffy chewed at her bottom lip, Angel would’ve called her, wouldn’t he, if he was okay?
Pulling her jeans up, she buttoned them, found her socks and boots and put her footwear on. Glancing in the mirror as she left the bedroom, she grimaced at her bed hair. In the bathroom she scrubbed at her face with water and ran a brush through her unruly locks. Snatching up a couple of wooden stakes, a knife that slid inside her boot, holy water that fitted into the pockets of her jacket, she was out the door. Angel had muttered something about patrolling the north side of the city. It was a place to start. She headed off in that direction.
The slayer wished she had the sense of smell and tracking skills a vampire had. Even so, her senses were more attuned than an ordinary mortal’s. Hours later, just as she was beginning to despair of ever finding a clue to Angel’s whereabouts, her keen eyes picked up scuff marks in an alley, and blood. The blood could belong to anyone, she knew. Fights, muggings, and murder, weren’t uncommon in the neighbourhood she was in. There had been blood in other alleys, before this one. But when she saw the pile of ash, Buffy’s heart thumped hard in her chest. Vampire dust.
Please let it not be Angel!
Hands shaking, she pulled out her phone and pressed speed dial again, hoping against hope that he would pick up this time. His cell phone rang. Buffy could hear it ringing. She blinked. She could hear Angel’s phone. Her call went to his voice mail. Buffy dialled again and listened for the sound of her boyfriend’s phone. There! It was coming from under the stairs of the building at the end of the alley. Buffy ran to the phone and snatched it up. She could see her number and name on the screen. Beside her name, Angel had inserted a stake. He wasn’t the techno-clueless vampire he let on he was. She clutched his phone to her chest.
“Where are you?” she muttered, looking about. Her gaze fell on the pile of ash again and flicked away. She refused to believe he was gone. Buffy looked up at the stairs climbing the building. They were the building’s fire escape.
Buffy was beginning to despair of ever finding a clue to her boyfriend’s whereabouts when one old man, behind the very last door she knocked on, told her about the fight in the alley in the early hours of the morning. His eyes not being so good, all he could tell her was that there had been three men fighting, and then there had been two. He thought two of the men had run off, with the third fellow giving chase. But he wasn’t too sure. He told her it was if one of the men had just disappeared. He mumbled something about getting old and that his eyes were playing tricks on him before he shut the door.
A very relieved Buffy left the building and set off in the direction the old man had given her. She scoured the streets in the surrounding area and was rewarded for her efforts. Angel’s coat had been tossed in a dumpster, a sleeve dangling past the lid catching her eye. His precious coat. Buffy hauled it out of the trash and shook it out. She rifled through his pockets and came up empty. Darn it!
The dumpster sat in an alley, at the back door of a restaurant. An Italian restaurant, Portobello, a small sign said, tacked on the wall, above the door. Buffy decided to investigate. Perhaps one of the staff may have noticed someone lurking, or throwing something into the dumpster. The lights were on in the kitchen when she pushed the door open. The kitchen was deserted, which was odd. It was getting on toward evening and staff should have been cooking up a storm, getting ready for the night’s business. She peered through the connecting door into the dining area. It was dark and gloomy in there. Tables stood ready, cleared, with no cloths or cutlery adorning their wooden tops. With slayer stealth, Buffy stole into the dining room, stake at the ready. There wasn’t anyone about. She frowned. Something was not right. She needed to check out the rest of the place. Buffy headed for the door on the right. Perhaps there were stairs leading to a basement, or up to the floor above. As her hand found the door knob, she felt a stinging bite on the back of her neck. Buffy blacked out before she could figure out what had bitten her.
When she came to, she was laid stretched out and chained across the top of an altar. She sighed. Not the sacrificial lamb bit, she thought.
“Ah. Good. You’re awake. It’s better when they’re awake.”
Buffy turned her head towards the voice. A man stood near the altar. A very ordinary-looking man. Nondescript. A face one could easily forget. And he was short. Buffy sighed again.
“Don’t tell me,” she said. “I’m the blonde on the altar and you’re going to sacrifice me to some demon or god or some entity you worship and you will be rewarded for your devotion to said entity. Been there, done that.”
He laughed at her. “How absurd. We’re not going to sacrifice you to some entity.”
Buffy rattled her chains. She took stock of the situation. A man stood beside a table, his back to the door, his eyes on Buffy and the man with her. Sharp things glinted on the table. She turned her attention back to her captor.
“You could have fooled me. So what gives?”
“We’re going to slit your throat, catch every drop of slayer blood that flows from your body, and throw your corpse into the sewers.”
Buffy made a moue. “I’m touched.”
The man circled the altar and her on it. “You have spirit.” He paused, a finger on his mouth. “Or perhaps you think your vampire lover is going to come to your rescue. I have bad news for you.” He leaned forward, staring into her eyes. “He won’t. He can’t.”
Her blood ran cold at his words. “What have you done with him?”
“He’s none of your concern now. He’s someone else’s.”
Relieved to hear that Angel wasn’t dust and at the same time fearing for his well being, Buffy strained against her bonds. “Who are you, anyway? And why all the elaborate bullshit?”
Moving away from her, the man laughed at her efforts.
“My name doesn’t really matter but I suppose it is reasonable that you know who it is that is going to kill you…my name is Jackson. Jackson Reid.”
Buffy continued to test her restraints. “What do you need my blood for? A vampire feast?”
“Do you know how rare slayer blood is? It’s quite the aphrodisiac, you know. I have clients that will pay quite a sum for just a small sip.”
It was Buffy’s turn to laugh. “Vampires like their blood warm, straight from the source. What makes you think that they’re gonna let you kill the golden goose?” The thought of a multitude of vampires keeping her alive and feeding off her made her feel ill. Great, Buffy, give the creep the idea.
Jackson moved back into her view. “Because we made a deal. I give them the vampire, and in exchange, I get to do what I want with the slayer. You and he have been quite the thorn in their side since you hit town. They want you gone. And they know that you’re less trouble dead than alive. Your vampire is in for a world of hurt.”
Showing her teeth, she said, “You think you and your henchmen are going to get away with selling my blood? The vamps will take what they want. They don’t play well with others.”
“Really. I guess that’s a risk I’ll have to take.” He turned his head. “Brian? Get the equipment ready. Brian?”
Suddenly, a hand wrapped itself around Jackson’s neck. Fingers squeezed. The man kicked and flailed in terror. The fingers held him easily. His lungs began to scream from lack of air. A voice full of the promise of pain whispered in his ear. “Brian is taking a nap.” Jackson toppled into oblivion.
Buffy grinned up at her bloody and battered boyfriend. “I told him vampires don’t play well with others.”
“I’m sorry,” he said, as he rifled through the man’s pockets, looking for the key to her chains. Angel sprung the locks in each shackle, and began to massage her arms and legs. His fingers were gentle, loving, as they moved to and fro. Buffy grabbed his fingers and had a really good look at his bloody and broken hands.
“Don’t be. Tell me what happened.”
He ducked his head, avoiding her gaze. “I was a fool. I was tricked into helping someone last night. It was a trap. I woke up here, in a cell underground.”
“I was drugged too. It happens,” she said to assure him.
“It happened because you were looking for me. If I hadn’t been able to get out, I…”
She placed a hand on his chin and pulled his head up so that she could see his eyes.
“You managed. You always do.” She smiled. “How did you get free?”
“The walls were packed with stone, in a circle, like a well. There was no escape.”
Buffy saw in her mind’s eye Angel kicking and pounding at the stone, trying to win free.
“If it wasn’t for the fact that four vampires arrived to take me away to their master, I would still be there.”
“Four?” Buffy’s voice rose with incredulity. “Only four? More fool them.”
She kissed his already healing hands.
“You’ll be pleased to know I found your coat. Let’s get out of here.”
When she was on her feet, she was reminded of the unconscious men on the floor.
“Oh. What shall we do about…?”
Angel turned his head towards the doors. “There’s two more outside. And there are more vampires on their way.” He handed her a stake. Buffy tucked it into a pocket in her jeans.
“I suppose they’re coming to find out why their friends haven’t made it back with you in tow, huh?”
Buffy jogged on the spot for a couple of seconds, loosening up stiff muscles. An arm went above her head in a stretch, preparing to do what a slayer does best.
“Life is so unfair. We have to save the lives of these creeps? Remind me why we can’t just leave them here?”
Recalling a time when he had let Darla and Drusilla eat a cellar full of lawyers, Angel shook his head.
“You’re not like that, Buffy. It’s not in you to let that happen. It’ll eat you alive with guilt if you decide to walk away now.”
“Not feeling guilt right at this moment.”
Buffy stared at the man at her feet. She lifted a foot and kicked him in the head.
“Feel better?” her boyfriend asked.
“Much,” she said with an evil smile. “That should keep him under. I say we do the same with the other three. We don’t want them coming to in the middle of a fight.”
Angel kissed her. “That’s my girl. I’ll drag the other two in here.”
The slayer grinned. “Don’t be too gentle about it, either.”
Buffy muttered to herself. “Drain my blood, would they? We’ll see about that.”
From across the room, Angel said, “I almost feel sorry for the vamps.”
She snorted. “Let’s put these men somewhere that’s else. I’m feeling a bit faint. I think I need to lie down again. On the altar. With chains.”
Angel raised an eyebrow. “You’re evil, you know that right?”
“Coming from you, I take it as a compliment.”
Buffy helped manhandle the men into the corner of the room. Angel tipped the table over and placed it on its side in front of the men, hiding them from view.
Buffy started picking up the knives and implements that had scattered on the floor.
“Look, honey, they brought gifts.” She threw a knife his way. Angel caught it on the fly.
“You do your vamp thing and get up onto the ceiling. You’ll be the cracker jack surprise.”
When all was tidied up, Angel did as Buffy had asked. He leapt for the roof and hung there, defying gravity. He watched as his girl laid herself back onto the altar. She rearranged the chains to look as if she was still confined.
She stared up at him. He met her gaze.
“I love you,” he said.
“I love you, too, Angel.”
They were quiet for a few minutes, then, “How long do you think they’ll be?” she asked.
More minutes passed.
“What’s the time?” she asked.
Buffy had been thinking. “Why is it that the bad guys always have to blab about their evil plans? Why not kill me when I was out to the world? Why is it, you think?”
“They like to brag, sure, and it’s also to instil fear into their victims. They savour the terror they bring to them. It makes them feel powerful, sometimes when they’re not.”
“Well it’s dumb.”
“Yes it is.”
A brief pause. She said, “Angelus did enjoy toying with me.”
Angel remembered every moment of it.
“Yes he did.”
The doors burst open.
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