I. Ana-Lucia Cortez (Lost)
Goodwin is not a vampire.
Ana-Lucia isn't stupid, he's in the sun and he's not bursting into flames, hence he's not a vampire. It doesn't matter, a giant stake – in this case, a wooden spear – can kill a human just as quick – if The Others are human. Some of the other castaways, her others, think they're monsters. Most of them don't think such things exist.
Ana-Lucia absolutely believes in monsters.
She just knows humans can be horrible and dangerous and murderers, too. It's worse when a person goes wrong, when there's nothing else beneath their skin but what's supposed to be there, except for that taint which makes them hurt people, which makes them kill.
Before the island, before she quit the force, before she was done with police academy, even, Ana-Lucia learned the world had secrets and kept them in shadows, defended with bright, shiny, pointed teeth.
She already knew the world was a nasty, dangerous place – sometimes, in some places. In others, it was wonderful, full of love and happiness. The trick was to find the line between the two, and protect it.
During martial arts, even though she'd sparred with the guy fifty times, Ana-Lucia forgot her own strength and broke Bobby's arm. Except it wasn't so much forgetting as suddenly she had all this extra power and she had no idea where it came from.
About a month later, this guy in his twenties, short, spiky red hair, kept a guitar close at hand and a stake in his belt, came to explain it to her.
Monsters were real, he told her over coffee. Vampires and demons and werewolves, all real. (Not all of them were monsters, he was quick to add, but a lot. Probably most.) There were apocalypses at least once a year, and, in order to save the world, some witch did a big spell – witches and magic were real, too, apparently – and changed a lot of girls. A lot of women.
She was way too old to be a Slayer. According to his story, most of them were young, teenage girls, or even younger, taken care of by a Watcher, usually old, usually male. Nothing sketchy about that at all, she cracked, and the guy, Oz, quirked his lips in a smile.
He asked her to join them, the Slayers were teaming up into a superhero squad and people who weren't old men were rebuilding the Watchers. (He tried to put a positive spin on that, but when she asked if he was going to be a Watcher, or maybe was one already, he just laughed, and put his hand on his guitar. He was too many things already, he said.)
It sounded like a good thing, a team of super strong women, but Ana-Lucia already had a dream, and didn't need a bunch of kids getting in her way. They were good kids, she smiled and nodded and agreed with Oz, but they weren't for her.
She was going to save the world her own way.
Back home, that meant putting on a badge and carrying a gun. Here on the island, that means putting potential threats in pits and making sure she doesn't lose another person, not one more goddamn – she crosses herself – person to the Others. ThemOthers. TheMothers.
At night, she dreams of vampires and witches and werewolves, oh my, and in her dreams, she can hear all the children she lost, reduced to babies, reduced to one slight cry and a flutter in the belly.
II. DJ Tanner (Full House)
D.J. Tanner ducked when someone – something—went flying over her head. She immediately tracked it, confident her partners would watch her back. That's what they did, the four of them, faced the four directions and trusted the others to take care of their quarters.
I'i'chor demon. Should have been called an Ichor demon, the way it dripped pus – she really hoped it was pus – all over everything. Dad would have a mop in one hand and a bottle of bleach in the other. She was surprised he didn't make her bathe in the stuff when she went home for a visit.
It wasn't easy, exactly, facing the demon, but she knew what to do and ran through her actions like she checked them off a list. Favors the overhand attack, weak in the side, stake to the forehead knocks it out, and finally cut off its head.
Something wet bumped into her ankle boots. Another I'i'chor head. That was another fact, they traveled in small packs, still no match for a bunch of Slayers. A pack of Slayers. A nest of Slayers. A slew of Slayers. What was the correct term for them, now that there was more than one?
"Gross." She grimaced and kicked it away. "I hope that comes out of suede."
"You okay, Deej?" Kennedy, their Head Slayer, wiped her hands on her pants.
"Five by five," she said, and Kennedy burst into laughter.
"It sounds so wrong when you say that."
"I'm fine, does that work better?"
"I'm also starving. Are we done here?"
"Sure, looks like we got the whole lot. Grab your team and let's go."
The four Slayers piled the bodies – still dripping goo – into a dumpster. The clean-up team would be along to set it on fire and make sure there was no trace of any supernatural activity. They cleaned well, but not as good as her dad.
D.J. sighed, and made a mental note to visit her family soon.
III. Eden (Blue Crush)
So there are vampires in paradise. Who freaking cares?
Eden's got bigger things to worry about, like getting Anne Marie ready for her next competition – it's in Australia. Australia! A year ago, they couldn't buy breakfast and now their plans include flights to Australia – and getting new boards ready to sell. Things like Penny still skipping school too often, and running around with the local boys. Eden really doesn't care if she never finishes and gets married tomorrow, except that Anne Marie worries about her sister, and when Anne Marie's upset, Eden fixes it.
That's how she gets her, the teenage girl, Dawn, who seems pretty aptly named, the way she stretches out and basks in the sun, like she's never seen it before. She probably hasn't, not like this.
Tourists, and Eden snorts when she thinks it.
"It rains too much in England," Dawn says and tips her head back. "I miss California."
California's a weak knock-off of Hawaii, but Eden doesn't say so. There are plenty of thoughts she never actually voices, more she doesn't say than does. Dawn doesn't seem to mind her silence.
"Look, I know you're busy, you have a whole life without monsters – that's what you think, at least, but you're wrong. They are everywhere, all over the world, even here. Especially here, where the hunting is so easy because of the large transient population."
"You mean," Eden says, her words drawn out slow, "that vampires like Hawaii because of the tourists?"
"Well, yes." Dawn grins at her, but Eden doesn't smile back, and slowly the expression drops from her face. "It's easier to hunt people who don't know the area and who won't be missed right away."
Tourists. This time, Eden snorts and rolls her eyes.
"Thanks for the warning, but I'm kinda busy. Unless you want to buy a board…."
"Eden." Dawn sighs. "We need a Slayer here."
"Guess you better put one on a plane then."
"We need you here. Someone local, someone who knows where to look, where to hunt."
"I told you, I'm not interested."
"This isn't about being interested! This is about being something special, about being a hero!"
"I don't need to be a hero." Eden's voice is flat. "I'm giving you a lot here, listening to your stories, believing in your monsters, but I don't need that. I don't want that."
Dawn closes her eyes and rubs her forehead.
"Look," she says at last, "I can't make you join us, I can't make you do anything. But if you're here anyway, it would really help if you took the time to slay a little. I don't just mean it would help us, it would help you, too, and your family. Sure, vampires like tourists best, but that's not going to keep your girls safe. Any one of them could get killed. Any one of them could be the person you could have saved."
Dawn's eyes are wide and bright, and there's something about her, some sort of energy or personality, which appeals to Eden. No wonder she's let her tell all these twisted fairy tales. No wonder she's still listening.
"Eden, you could lose your family. I did, my sister died. My sister died protecting me."
That's why Eden's in downtown Honolulu some nights, now, dressed in black pants and a tank top, stakes in her cargo pockets. That's why she starts a martial arts class, and meets Dawn at her new apartment three times a week to train.
Anne Marie crawls into her bed sometimes, slips under Eden's covers and puts her head on Eden's shoulder. When she whispers, her breath is warm and her body soft where they touch.
Still, Eden doesn't share her secrets. Anne Marie has enough to worry about without knowing the horror movies are real. Incredibly wrong, but real. There's surfing and taking care of Penny and how to invest her money if there's any extra.
Eden will worry about keeping Anne Marie alive. That's just what she does.
IV. Claudia Kishi (The Baby-Sitters Club)
Sometimes I really miss Kristy Thomas.
Yeah, she was bossy, and hated fashion, and wasn't boy crazy like my best friend, Stacey, but she was organized and driven. If she was around, this whole Slayer thing would be easier. Probably not safer, it would never be that, but it might not take so long and I'd have more time for my art.
Instead of painting (and sculpting and sketching and making my own jewelry), I hang out in cemeteries waiting for vampires to rise. How stale.
(That's a word my friends and I made up back when we were members of this baby-sitting club. It means uncool.)
Of course, if Kristy was here, she'd find some way to be in charge and would make me post fliers – Need a Slayer? Call 800-CAN-SAVE and Reach Ten Experienced Slayers – and carry a vamp-kit.
I shudder just thinking about Kristy as a Watcher. That would be like giving her an army.
Sure, an army mostly made up of teenage girls, but Kristy practically overran Stoneybrook with a bunch of thirteen-year-old baby-sitters. (Two were eleven, but they couldn't sit at night, and I think most of Kristy's power trips happened after dark. I wonder if Kristy was a vampire. No, too many sports in the sunlight. She'd be terrifying as one, though. Must make sure it never happens.) Who knows what she could do with a bunch of girls who have super strength.
Definitely take over the world.
I don't like to brag, but I'm the coolest dresser on my Slayer squad. Maybe of all the Slayers all around the world. I have long black hair and dark eyes. I'm Japanese-American and my friends back in Stoneybrook all say I look exotic.
With the other Slayers, I'm not so different. Two of them are black – I wish I could tell Jessi about them, I think she'd like black Slayers – one is from New Zealand and two are from China.
I used to wear all these really cool outfits, baggy men's clothes, pants I'd painted myself, purple high-tops, things like that. Now I have to pay more attention to function, but form is still important.
I like fashion a lot. So while most of the other Slayers run around in t-shirts and cargo pants, I've managed to add fun little twists. I'll wear cargo pants, because they're good for hiding stakes, but then I'll sew little lights into them. When we hunt vampires, I turn them off. But when we're just out and about, I really glow, all sorts of bright colors.
The two pairs of earrings which are my current favorites are ones I made. One set is a little crossbow for one ear and a bolt for the other. The other is a tiny little vampire – I think he looks like Dracula – on one side and a stake on the other.
Maybe I should go into business for myself, haute couture for the fashionable Slayer.
Kristy would be useful for that, too. At twelve, she started her own business, and we lasted for a few years. It felt like much longer, maybe a decade or two.
My old friends have been on my mind a lot lately. I miss them. My squad has been in France for the past month, including a week in Paris, and it made me think of Stacey. She would have loved seeing the city, and I would have had more fun with her. The other Slayers liked it, too, but they didn't appreciate it the way my best friend would have.
Don't get me wrong, I want to help save the world.
It's just, sometimes I wish they hadn't forced me into this.
V. Letty (The Fast and the Furious)
Letty brushes dust off her arms and shoves her stake down the back of her pants. There's a dent in her hood that's going to be a bitch to pop out. If she was back in L.A., with the Toretto garage stocked with all the shit a mechanic could want, it wouldn't be such a problem, but she's not.
Instead of being home, with ice cold Coronas, chicken fresh from the grill, and so much car talk she can barely stand it, how much she's learning, how much she already knows, she's in the middle of the goddamn country, the middle of nowhere, without a real city for probably two days. Maybe more.
To make things worse, she's stuck with a bunch of kids, whining, overly-enthusiastic teenage girls who're so strong they could probably throw her car over a house.
Course, she can now, too.
"Nice work." Letty didn't have to look up to know that voice, not after six months of training with her every day. Faith, Slayer extraordinaire, the last of those Slayers actually called the way it was supposed to happen, no magic – no extra magic – involved.
All the baby Slayers – Faith's term – thought she was just the hottest thing around. Letty didn't dispute the hot, though she meant it in ways those little girls wouldn't understand, but she wasn't gonna act like Faith was the fucking second coming.
Faith crossed her arms just under her chest. "I don't like this whole mentor thing any more than you, okay? But I'm stuck with you, so suck it up and accept the damn compliment."
Letty twisted her head to the side and raised her eyebrows as she looked at her. "Thanks." She could taste her own sarcasm, like the memory of engine grease on salty skin.
"I could eat." A horse and a fucking half. She was starving, but wasn't going to give Faith anything to use as a way to bond. Letty had heard her with the other girls, talking about how hungry she got after slaying, the way the pent up energy roiled in her body.
"Yeah." Faith dropped her arms to her side, and then walked over and slung one across Letty's shoulders. "Could fuck, too, slaying always makes me hungry and horny, you know."
Letty choked on something that was a cross between a laugh and a snort. "That ever work for you?"
"What?" Faith asked, and twitched her hips. She really failed at innocence.
"That really bad pick up line."
Faith squeezed her shoulders. "Who said it's a pick up line? Just stating the facts, B.S."
"Oh, uh huh," Letty shoved her. "I am not one of those kids. Baby Slayer my ass."
"It is a nice one." Faith made a big show of leaning back so she could check it out. "Nothing baby-like about it."
"Food? I thought we were going to eat."
"Sure we are." Faith stretched both arms overhead, showing off all the muscles, the curves, the tattoos. "And yes."
"Yes?" Letty shoved her hands into her pockets and headed toward her car.
"Yes that line works, especially with Slayers wound too tight." She bolted ahead of Letty, and smacked her ass as she ran past.
Letty grinned, followed her to the car, and slid behind the wheel. She'd show her wound too tight.
VI. Missy Pantone (Bring It On)
"Two, four, six, eight, who do we appreciate? The Slayer, the Slayer, yeah Slayers!"
In retrospect, Missy really, really should have seen this coming. At least she should have once Torrance accepted that yes, vampires existed, and yes, her girlfriend was some supernaturally gifted killing machine.
Tor wasn't one for taking things sitting down. She was more of the dive right in type, which could be really, really good (well, mostly good – instead of the "I realized I wasn't crushing on your brother, I was really crushing on you, total case of transference." "Have you been talking to Darcy?" "Yeah, and she thinks we're good for each other." "You and my brother?" "No, you and me, silly." conversation she just upped and kissed Missy one day after a week of private practice. The kiss was great, but the conversation which came later and breaking the news to Cliff was less than fun.) or really, really bad.
Like right then, when Tor decided a cemetery in the middle of the night was the best place to show Missy her support. A cemetery in the middle of the night where Missy was hunting vampires.
Maybe dropping the spirit stick brought delayed bad luck.
"Tor, duck!" Tor hit the floor and Missy vaulted off a tombstone (who knew gymnastics would be even handier in slaying than cheerleading?) and drove her feet into the vamp's chest.
It was quick to get back to its feet, but she was quicker; she put her hands down while in midair, turned a flail into a tumbling pass, and was waiting to slam the stake into its chest.
The first two – three, twenty, whatever – vampires she'd tried to stake, she missed the heart every single time. By then, though, she had it down, the angle, the right amount of pressure, even when to pull back so she didn't fall face first into the dust.
Vamp dust was hard on the lungs.
"You okay?" She shoved her stake into the back of her jeans and helped Torrance up off the ground. "Bad timing, sweetie."
"That was awesome!" Torrance didn't look ruffled, even though she had dirt and grass stains on her bare legs and her elbow was bleeding a little. She must have hit a rock. She didn't seem to notice, though it probably attracted all the vampires in a five mile radius. "You kicked butt!"
"Yeah, awesome." Missy's voice was flat.
It wasn't that she didn't like the gig, it was just – she never got what she wanted. Or, worse, she got it, but it was all twisted. Like, she wanted to be a gymnast at her new school, and that didn't work, so instead she was a cheerleader. Then, just when she got used to that idea, she started throwing girls halfway across the gym and she was a Slayer. Or, she got to date a bouncy, bubbly girl (her brother's ex, but she tried not to think about that too much, even though she knew she was a shitty sister), but then she has to go save the world.
It probably didn't sound too bad, but it really, really was.
"Awww." Torrance's laughter ruined her attempt at sympathy. "Is the poor little Slayer all tired? You'd better not wear yourself out, camp starts next week and we're totally going to beat the upperclassmen."
"Yeah, cause that's exactly what I'm worried about, winning some plastic trophy at an inner-squad college cheerleading competition. Way more important than saving the world."
Sometimes, Missy realized just how lucky she is, because probably anyone else would get pissed, especially someone to whom cheerleading was so important. Torrance just laughed again, and grinned, and she had the most gorgeous smile Missy had ever seen.
"Come on, world saver. We'll order a pizza and I'll rub your shoulders and remind you of all the great things you're going to do as a Slayer and a cheerleader. They say it can't be done, but I believe in you. You're gonna be the very best cheering vampire slayer in the world."
Well, Missy guessed life could be worse.
VII. Rain Ocampo (Resident Evil)
It was a goddamn dead man's party and they were the party crashers.
Of all the things Rain had killed, zombies were the weirdest, and that was saying a lot considering the Umbrella Corporation recruited her from slaying vampires. They, at least, exploded into dust when they were killed, and a simple bite didn't carry infection.
This was just a mess. This was just a fucking slaughter.
It was fucked up, Rain could feel the healing trying to kick in – it came part and parcel with vampire slaying – but it wasn't working. It made her hand hurt worse, made all her bruises throb and her blood burn like flash fire through her veins.
What it didn't do was fix her.
The virus, the whatever the hell the government had made, was stronger than her slayer blood.
Rain was fucking terrified. She had never had a wound that didn't heal. Fucking never.
Alice touched her forehead; the heat from her fingers should have marked Rain. The fire in her blood, that was different, that was fucking wrong, but Alice's touch was alive.
Alice was alive, and Rain could hear her pulse and – terrifying – the snaps as her synapses fired, could actually hear her goddamn brain.
She was gonna die, and turn into one of those things, and she was going to feed.
She'd be fucking damned.
"I don't want to be one of those things – " It was hard to talk. It was hard to even think about what she wanted to say. Part of her, the Slayer part, wanted to die, wanted death before becoming a monster.
Part of her – part of her didn't.
" – walking around without a soul."
Alice promised her things. Promised she will save Rain, promised she'll save them all, the only ones left. Promised more in her silence, in her pheromones – fear and more in the air – in her touch than in her words.
Rain's body was tearing apart
in her cells
She could smell the gun and the bullets and her own death; all around her she smelled death, burnt metal, tainted blood.
"I'm not dead yet. I think I'll have that back."
When she took the gun, it was as close as she'd ever get to prayer.
"I could kiss you, you bitch." That was a prayer, too, and Alice's relief was so thick Rain tasted it, in her breath; she dragged the air in, held it on her tongue, and then leaned forward and kissed Alice.
The second to last thing Rain thought is that she would really have liked to know Alice sooner.
The last thing is the Slayer thing – it was a good thing she's not the only fucking woman in all the fucking world.
VIII. Joey Potter (Dawson's Creek)
Pacey was one hot vampire.
It wasn't right, that she was still attracted to him, despite the fact he was now a monster wearing Pacey skin and stealing Pacey memories. Every Slayer received the same lecture now; just because their leader had once been involved with a vampire (multiple vampires, but the lecturers would change the subject if anyone brings up that fact) doesn't mean it is all right for them to follow in her footsteps.
Joey supposed she understood their reasoning. It was difficult enough for a Slayer to hunt vampires, who wore human faces, often the faces of people she had known once. How much worse would it be if the Slayers were allowed to acknowledge their attraction to what the vampires represented – danger, death – or, worse, act upon it.
In theory, Joey could see the logic of their laws. In practice, when Pacey walked toward her, his once awkward movements smoothed out into something sultry, sensuous – dare she say it, erotic – it was much more difficult to remember why she was not to engage with him, why she should leave him to some other Slayer, one who didn't remember the touch of his hands, the gentle brush of his lips.
One who didn't love him still, despite his changes.
"Hello, Jo." When Pacey smiled, there were no fangs. There was nothing obviously different about his face, he had the same crooked grin, the same eager tilt of his body. It was the eyes that were different, the expression in them. She had seen him twisted up with longing, seen him pushed to the very edge of desire, seen his lust, but this was something different, this was far over the edge into darkness.
She had seen the shadow of emotion before, and now, faced with the actual presentation, it stopped her steps, held her still, as entwined with him as if he slid his arms around her and drew her to his chest.
"I know you're not really Pacey." She said it, the words she was required to say, but if she didn't believe it, why would he? Maybe he was a monster, too, but he was still her Pacey, over-eager and interested and vivacious.
How could a dead creature be so full of life?
"You mourn me?" he asked, and gestured toward her outfit with both hands. "Or is all black the new Slayer dress code?"
"Of course I'm mourning you." How could he think otherwise? She loved him, loved him beyond the telling of it. "Though, yes, black is the unofficial dress code. I didn't follow it until you –"
She could not, she would not say 'until you died'.
"I miss you." He ducked his head, and then cast his eyes up at her. It was a shy look, tentative, and completely fake. She knew it was false, a pretense by the vampire at being the human.
Unfortunately, she found she could not care less.
He reached out his hand, just held it there, palm up, waiting for her. Once she thought she could be in complete darkness, could be blind, and still be able to find him when she needed him, could stretch out and brush her fingertips against his.
She knew all the reasons she should not.
The one reason she should, though, outweighed them all.
"I miss you, too."
His hand was cold, but gentle when it closed around hers, and his kiss stole her breath.
It had a certain poetry, a Vampire Slayer in love with a vampire. She knew the stories, Joey had learned her lessons well; there was no happy ending for them if she remained alive and he remained her monster.
She could rewrite the story, she knew. She could make her own happy ending.
IX. Diana Guzman (Girlfight)
"You do know we're not here to box with them, right?"
Instead of speaking, Diana sucks on a tooth and spits out a mouthful of blood.
"Look – " Buffy trails off. She's forgotten her name. Again. There's no way in hell Diana's gonna help her, cut her a break. "You're here because you're good, because someone thinks you can be one of the best. You have to forget your old training, though."
She's heard it probably a hundred times. How fucking lucky she is to be working with Buffy goddamn Summers, the original Slayer. How great it is that she's good enough to join the elite team right away, because she was already in fighting shape, because she's fast, because she's not afraid to swing or take a hard hit and keep coming back for more.
Mostly she just feels tired. She misses Adrian. She misses Hector, who could teach this Buffy a thing or two about training and coaching and being strong. She even misses her father, once in awhile. She misses sleep a lot, even though she doesn't need as much now.
She really fucking misses boxing.
Life's such a bitch, just when she gets accepted – more or less, by most boxers and coaches, maybe not the general public – she gets this extra power she can't control, doesn't even feel coming until it hits her in the middle of a punch and she hits her opponent and he. goes. down. hard.
She doesn't know if he's alive or dead. Right after, this old British guy came for her, and the next thing she knew, she was believing in vampires and training with a bunch of women called Slayers who had all fought together before.
"Look," Diana says suddenly, matching Buffy's tone, mocking it, "I don't want to forget my training."
Buffy huffs out a quick breath, impatient. "I know you think you're doing fine. And you are, for one of the regular squads. But this isn't intro to slaying. We're in the big leagues here and you're going to get hurt. You're going to get one of the team hurt."
"You don't know anything." Again she matches Buffy's tone and the way her pauses are disjointed, as if she's biting back things she shouldn't say. "I don't care about the team. I don't care about slaying."
This time, it's eyes closed for a long minute and a deep sigh. "I get that, I do – "
"Actually, you don't." Diana wishes she had a jacket or a patch or even a hat, something which identified her as a Slayer, something she could tear off and throw down dramatically. "I'm done."
"You can't be done." Buffy gives a little laugh. "This is who you are. This is what you are."
"This is what you are. I don't want this, I didn't ask for this, and I'm done."
"No one asks for this! Do you think I wanted to be the Slayer, the only Slayer, let me remind you. I did this alone, no squads, no partner, no backup."
"Except your Watcher. Except your friends. Except the witches and werewolves and vampires who kept joining your side."
"Yeah." Buffy doesn't even have the good grace to look sheepish, or act like she knows she's said the wrong thing. "Except them. But I had no Slayer team, I had no training like this, I had no hope. I knew I was going to die young. I had my life torn away. I hated it."
"Okay. I'm real sympathetic, I am." Diana shaded her eyes with one hand. "Except there's that whole thing where you did the same thing to us. All of us. Thousands of women all over the world, you took what had been done to you and you forced it on us. So what makes you any different than those who did it to you?
"I don't want to work for that kind of person. I'm done."
She expects a fight, but Buffy doesn't do anything else, doesn't even say anything else, just watches as Diana walks away, into the sunlight, back toward whatever she can salvage of her life. It won't be much, maybe, but it's hers.
It's her choice, and that's better than all the power in all the world.
X. Faith (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Wishverse)
Faith jerks up her head and reaches for her stake, tucked against her hip, even though it's daytime and she's sitting in the sunlight and probably a vampire wouldn't have given her warning.
"The fuck are you?"
"What's an Oz?"
"Me." He's probably mocking her, but he doesn't really sound like it. He's watching her, very straightforward, and the fact he knows she's the Slayer – the fact he knows about Slayers at all – makes her want to get more out of him. "I'm from Sunnydale."
"Where's that? Geography's not really one of my areas of study. You probably know that, though, you being the expert on the Slayer and all."
"Not an expert. I just heard there was some vamp trouble around here, and that someone came in and started cleaning it up. Sounded like a Slayer to me."
"Yeah, well, that's the problem. How do you know what sounds like a Slayer? How do you know about Slayers?"
"Can we go get some coffee or something?" He sniffs the air, and rubs one hand over the top of his head. His hair is short and spiky; there's more than a hint of a shadow on his upper lip. "There's a storm coming."
Faith glances up – the sky looks clear.
"Yeah, sure, whatever."
They end up at a coffee shop, dim lights, full of students, and the storm blows up less than ten minutes later. Faith drinks her coffee – black, no sugar – and watches him. He gets tea, pours sugar in it, adds milk. It's ritualistic, the spin of his spoon, the way he turns the cup around before he drinks.
"How did you know about the storm? You some sort of witch?"
Oz's smile is small, secret, and it drives her crazy. She wants to know all the words it hides, but all he says is, "No. I'm not. I could smell the rain, that's all."
"Why are you here?"
He shrugged, sort of, a half lift of one shoulder. "Thought I'd look you up. See what the new Slayer was like."
"Because, let me guess, you were just bestest buds with the last one."
"No." He blew on his tea, and then sipped it. Steam curled around him, and he looked – old, maybe, or dangerous. He was neither, Faith knew she could take him, and she drank her coffee long and hard. "I was there when she died."
She choked; the coffee settled in her throat, flooded her lungs, and it felt, for the time she couldn't breathe, like a miniature death. The next Slayer better get ready to rumble. Maybe not. She could breathe again. Live to fight another day.
"You some sort of demon?"
"No." His one word answers were going to drive her crazy.
Strike that, she was already on the edge.
"Sunnydale was – vampire central. Overrun by the Master and his creations. I tried to fight them, a few of us did, but we lost. The Slayer lost in that last fight, too."
Faith nodded. She'd heard of the Master, but the Council said she was needed in Boston, so in Boston she stayed. For now. Maybe this Sunnydale was some place worth looking up, if it got that much action.
"Where're your friends?"
"Asleep at the hotel," Oz said, then curled his hand around his tea cup. "Dead, most of them."
The silence that follows isn't quite comfortable, but it's not bad, either. They finish their drinks, Faith stares at anyone who comes too close to their table, and Oz mostly watches Faith. There's something she likes about him, something predatory but not exactly dangerous.
"I want to help fight," he says, as if they're in the middle of a conversation, as if they've been talking for the past twenty minutes. "Do you mind?"
Faith thinks about it. Her Watcher's pretty great, a little fussy and old-fashioned – she definitely didn't like the leather pants – but Faith likes her. She's probably the first person Faith has ever liked.
Oz, it seems, is the second.
"Nah. Just don't expect me to save your ass. I've got enough work to do here."
"I'm not precisely a liability," Oz says, and she can almost hear what he isn't saying, like a whisper that's just out of range.
"Sure, whatever." She stands, adjusts herself, and winks at the barrister. She's been watching Faith since they walked in, and that's just fine with Faith.
"Can I give you a ride home?"
"I'm not supposed to talk to strangers," Faith says, and heads toward the door. He follows, like a well trained puppy. She really likes that.
Oz doesn't have much of his own, just a van full of old books and one guitar. It's really battered, and there are chips out of the neck, but he holds it like it's something precious, and later, after they've fought together a couple times, after he doesn't get himself killed, he plays for her.
When he touches it, when he runs his fingers over the strings, the music is pure and something almost beautiful.
Faith likes that he exists in her world.