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Roadtrip to the Hellmouth

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JJ had never been to California before, even with all the travels he had done, and so when Otabek and Yuri invited him on a West Coast roadtrip, he jumped at the chance. They rented a convertible and cruised down the highway, laughing at each others’ taste in music, cheating on their diets because fuck it, they were in the off season and they were on vacation. JJ piled his plate high at a diner, ordering every possible dish he could think of off of the menu.

“How the hell are you going to eat all of that, asshole?” Yuri asked him, kicking JJ under the table. “I’ll tell your parents you’re eating a million calories a day. You’re going to eat yourself into a coma.”

JJ just laughed and nudged Yuri’s foot away from his leg. “Hey, I’m hungry. Besides, my metabolism is wicked crazy. I’ll be fine.” With that said, JJ took a giant, decisive bite out of the stack of pancakes in front of him, making Yuri roll his eyes… and then promptly shovel his five-egg omelette filled with veggies and ham and cheese into his mouth. Otabek snorted at his two companions and sipped his coffee.

An hour later, when they finally left the diner with bellies so full they thought they were going to have to roll themselves out of the building - except for Otabek, because he knew how to portion - they got back on the road south. After passing San Francisco, the trio had decided to take the 101 rather than the interstate. They weren’t in any rush, and the views of the ocean and little towns they visited along the way were fun to see and explore. They found a number of out-of-the-way antique shops, and Otabek and JJ had needed to physically pull Yuri away from a giant carved wooden statue of a tiger fighting a lion.

“For one thing,” Otabek said to the grumpy Yuri, who was lying stretched out in the back seat of the car, “that thing cost over $5000. For another, how on earth did you think it was going to fit in this convertible, even with the top down? We would have had to clear out all our luggage and a person to get it to fit.”

Yuri crossed his arms, huffing. “I thought we could make JJ walk the rest of the way to Los Angeles.”

JJ barked out a laugh and reached over his seat to pat Yuri’s shoulder. “You can’t get rid of me that easily, kitten.”

Yuri shrugged him off. “I wasn’t planning on telling you about my plan, asshole.”

JJ and Otabek exchanged a look, biting back laughter. For all that Yuri complained about JJ, they both knew that he liked hanging out with him - Yuri was the one who told Otabek they should invite the Canadian skater along on their trip, after all.

“Well anyway, where should we stop next?” Otabek asked. “We probably shouldn’t push ourselves too hard to get to Los Angeles. We still have another three days until we need to be in Los Angeles for our flights home.”

Yuri stretched out his legs, letting one dangle off the seat to the floor. “Let’s just stop somewhere cool. Anywhere big enough to have some nightlife?”

JJ perused the map, looking at all the different town names. “We just passed Santa Maria, so it looks like the next biggest town will be…” - he tilted his head to read the name on the map - “Sunnydale. I think I’ve heard of that place; it’s a part of the University of California school system.”

 

“Well if it has a university, it has to have a club or a bar,” Yuri said, perking up to look over JJ’s shoulder at the map. “Sounds as good as any place to stop.”

“How many miles until we get there?” Otabek asked his copilot.

JJ hummed. “Looks like about 30 or so miles.”

“Okay,” Otabek said, tightening his grip on the steering wheel. “Let’s go to Sunnydale.”

---

The three skaters arrived in Sunnydale two hours later.

“Really, JJ? 30 miles? Try more like 70,” Otabek growled, pulling into a gas station to fill up. He had been doing the brunt of the driving and just wanted to get out of the car. He put the convertible into park and unbuckled his seatbelt. Otabek didn’t even bother to open the door, and just hopped out over it to stretch his tense muscles.

“Well that’s what it looked like to me!” JJ whined.

“You’re paying to fill the tank,” Otabek responded pointedly. “I’m going to ask what hotels they have here.” He cracked his back and made his way into the gas station to ask for directions.

JJ rolled his eyes and folded their map of California back up neatly, returning it to the glove compartment before he also hopped out over the door of the convertible to do as Otabek told him. He may complain, but he knew that it was only fair.

Otabek came back out just as JJ was finishing up at the pump. Yuri, slumped over in the back seat still, let out a giant snore, making his friends crack up.

“Okay, there aren’t many options for hotels, but I got directions to the better one,” Otabek told JJ as they hopped back into the car, “and the attendant gave me the name of their club for Yuri. It’s called The Bronze, and the hotel isn’t too far away from it, so we should be able to walk over no problem tonight.”

“Sounds good to me!” JJ said, sliding his sunglasses down from their perch on top of his head. “Let’s go!”

After waking a groggy Yuri and going on a coffee run, the trio wandered around Sunnydale’s historic downtown. It was cute and eclectic, but definitely erred on the side of weird. There was a magic shop they’d gone into as a joke, and there was a stuffy British guy arguing with what they could only guess was his wife, since she was fighting right back at him without worrying about getting fired.

“Anya, that’s enough,” the British guy said tersely. “I know how to categorise these herbs, and you would do well to remember that you are not in charge of the Magic Box. I am.”

Anya, the shop employee, rolled her eyes as the Brit made his way into the back room, making faces at his back. She then noticed the three men standing in the doorway and immediately flipped her personality...sort of. It was mainly her face that changed, a creepy “cheerful” smile slapped on that didn’t quite reach her eyes.

“Hello, welcome to the Magic Box. Don’t touch the totems and the crystal balls. Don’t pick up any books from the shelves by the table. They bite.”

“O...kay?” JJ said, taken aback.

“Did you need a spell?” Anya asked, pushing the three men. Yuri was rifling through a discount bin close to the door, ignoring the annoying woman.

Otabek turned to Yuri, murmuring in his ear, “Let’s get out of here.”

Yuri set down a jar of...something. It was slimy. His lip curled in disgust.

“Yeah, okay.”

They continued to meander until dinner time, and grabbed some sandwiches from a cafe in the downtown. It was starting to get dark when they finally went back to their hotel room and switched into clothes more suited to clubbing.

“So what did the gas station attendant tell you about this club, The Bronze?” Yuri asked as he pulled on a long-sleeved, tiger-striped sequin top over his head. He shook out his chin-length blonde hair, finger-combing it back into place.

“Just that it was, I quote, ‘THE place to be.’ I take it to mean that it’s the only club in town, but it should have some good music on,” Otabek said with a smile. “I’ve heard of the headliner, Dingoes Ate My Baby. Weird band name, but the bass player is great.”

Yuri rolled his eyes. So far Sunnydale had just been plain weird. Hopefully the music would live up to Otabek’s praise. JJ slung an arm over Yuri’s sequined shoulder.

“No worries, kitten. I’m sure the music will be great, and if it isn’t we can always just get so drunk it doesn’t even matter anymore!”

Yuri laughed and pushed JJ’s arm off of him. “Maybe you will, shithead, but some of us have to watch our caloric intake. Or are you planning to turn into Katsudon 2.0 and get fat in the off season?”

JJ gasped, clutching at his heart, mocking fainting with his other hand to his forehead. “You wound me, kitten! I’d never do something as horrible as get fat.” He turned to Otabek, who leaned against the wall next to the door, a look of amusement on his face. “Beka, did you hear what Yuri said? Moi? Fat? NEVER. Let us never speak those words again!”

Yuri grinned when JJ turned his back to him. “Okay, asshole, let’s get going to The Bronze. Let’s see if this band is as good as Otabek says it is.”

They made their way the few short blocks to the club. There was a queue out the door, and they heard music pounding inside The Bronze. The line was an interesting mix of high schoolers and college kids - definitely the only club in town. Otabek slung his arm over Yuri’s shoulder and the trio made their way to the back of the queue. It was quick work to get through the club; they showed their passports at the door and thankfully were all over 21, Yuri having just turned of American age that year, so they escaped the dreaded underage sharpied X’s being put on their hands.

“Let’s get a drink first,” Yuri shouted at the other men over the din of the opening band. They needed someone to check their amps; they were way too loud. JJ and Otabek nodded their assent to Yuri, and they grabbed some drinks from the bar. The trio managed to find an unoccupied bar table, and stood while sipping their drinks, surveying the locals.

Sunnydale residents were definitely an interesting mix. The college guys were all posturing and trying to flex and act cool for the high schoolers - which was creepy - and the high school girls ate it up while the high school boys were clearly sulking. There were also a couple of guys that clearly needed to update their wardrobe by a couple of decades. A pretty blonde girl sat on a couch with a redhead, chatting and ignoring the men that tried to get them to talk to them.

Finally, the bands switched, much to JJ’s relief. There was only so much his ears could take before his ear drums burst and started to bleed onto his nicely-pressed white shirt.

“Here they are,” Otabek said, perking up. “I’ve always wanted to hear Dingoes Ate My Baby live.”

The band started up, and JJ had to agree with Otabek - they were good. They knew their sound levels, for one, but they had a great beat and JJ found himself tapping his toes a bit. He chugged down the last of his beer, then gestured to the dance floor with one hand.

“Want to go dance, guys?” he asked Otabek and Yuri, a charming smile on his face. They downed the last dregs of their mixed drinks and made their way to the dance floor, dancing together and laughing.

A few hours later, they decided that it was time to head back to their hotel room to get some much-needed sleep. Drunk off alcohol and the exertion of dancing, the trio didn’t notice the men surrounding them until they almost ran into one of them.

JJ was the first to look up at the man he’d run into. He gripped the man’s leather-clad shoulders with both hands, patting them in apology. “Hey man, sorry about that.” His accent grew thicker the more he drank, and the ‘sorry’ came out more like soooorry.

“It’s not a problem at all,” the other man said with a toothy grin. He had bleached platinum-blonde hair and a thick Cockney accent. “After all, you won’t be around in the morning to feel sorry about anything at all.”

JJ blinked blearily at him. “Wh-what?” Otabek tugged on JJ’s shoulder, pulling him back closer to him and Yuri. He had had far less to drink than his two friends at the club, and heard the threat for what it was.

“I don’t think you want to mess with us,” Otabek said. “We’ll just be on our way and pretend that we didn’t hear that.”

The leather-clad blondie let out a bark of laughter. “Did you hear that, lads?” he said to the men around them. “Isn’t that funny? This little boy thinks to threaten us?” The man’s face suddenly changed, and it was distorted grotesquely, making Otabek, Yuri, and JJ shrink back from him. The blonde man leveled his gaze on the skaters. “Get them.”

Yuri shrieked, “What the fuck is that??” right as a blurred figure swung into view. It was the petite blonde girl from The Bronze, wearing a hideous fluffy tiger-striped hoodie that Yuri definitely was not salivating over on the brink of being killed. Absolutely not.

“Get out of here!” she yelled at the trio over her shoulder. When they didn’t budge, she made a discontented noise. “GO! They’ll kill you.”

Otabek cracked his neck and stepped forward. “No way I’m leaving you here to fight these guys on your own. Whatever they are.”

“Well, well, Slayer. Looks like you’ve got a fighter on your hands,” the leader of the group jeered.

“Leave him alone, Spike,” the - Slayer? - ordered. “Your fight is with me. Maybe this time, I’ll go easy on you. How does a stake through the heart sound?”

She was a bossy little thing, for someone so scrawny against five men - or whatever they were. They all had that weird distorted face now, and Otabek knew they didn’t look that ugly at the beginning.

“Boss, are you sure we should? I mean, it’s the Slayer-” The nervous man who spoke out was cut off by a chunk of wood piercing his chest, flung by the blonde chick. JJ let out a shout of shock that was choked off when the man combusted into dust and blew away.

“What the fuck was that?” JJ yelled, clinging to Yuri so hard he tore the sleeve off his tiger-sequin top.

“Hey, JJ, get off!” Yuri told the other man angrily, distracted from the scene in front of them.

“Stay out of my way,” the Slayer said to Otabek, who had walked over to stand next to her, his fists raised. “You don’t want to mess with vampires.”

“I’m sorry - with what?” JJ shrieked. Every time he spoke his voice rose in pitch.

“The way I see it, it’s two for each of us,” Otabek told her, cracking his knuckles.

The girl could only argue so much with him. “Don’t get in my way, and take this.” She handed him a sharpened stick. “Pierce the heart and they go to dust.”

“Got it.” Otabek nodded and took the stick, assuming a fighting stance. The vampires regrouped and came after them, two to the Slayer and one to Otabek while the leader, Spike, stayed back from the fight. Typical.

The fight was over before JJ and Yuri could blink. Otabek had stabbed his guy twice in the chest, but missed the heart both times; finally, he had a lucky strike and took him out. The Slayer, as she had been called, took both of her guys out quickly. They looked around for the leader, but he seemed to have disappeared when the fight turned south for his side.

“Typical Spike,” the Slayer scoffed and kicked an empty discarded can against the brick wall of the building. She turned to the trio and leveled her eyes at Otabek. “You’re not a bad fighter, but you should have left this to me. It’s my job.”

“Your job?” Yuri piped up. “Where do they recruit for a job like that?”

“Don’t ask,” she responded. “Just go back home and go to bed. You should leave Sunnydale tomorrow - I get the feeling that Spike will just try for you three just because he’s seen you now.”

“We were planning on it anyway. Thanks.” Otabek responded for the three of them and then helped Yuri to prop up JJ, who had started to list to the side in his drunken state. He probably wouldn’t even remember this in the morning.

“Hey, hang on,” the girl said, shrugging off her tiger print hoodie and handing it to Yuri, who looked wide-eyed at her. “Your shirt is torn, and I’m guessing you like tiger print just a little bit. Take this, it’s not really my style anyway.”

Yuri let out a high-pitched noise of what Otabek could only assume was excitement and grabbed for the tiger print hoodie, clutching it to his chest.

The Slayer left them in a jog, and the trio made their way back to their hotel room to sleep off the very strange night.

---

“I had the craziest dream last night, guys!” JJ exclaimed blearily. “There were guys with creepy faces and there was a fight and some little girl was fighting them with Otabek and they kept going ‘POOF’!

Otabek sipped his coffee he’d made in the hotel room. He smiled into the rim of the cup where his friends couldn’t see it. Neither JJ nor Yuri remembered what had happened the night before, seeing the hazy memories as dreams.

“Sounds crazy, JJ. How much did you have to drink again?” Yuri asked him, groaning at the pounding in his head. He was wearing his new acquisition - the tiger print hoodie the girl had given him. He didn’t remember where he’d gotten it, and just hoped he hadn’t stolen it off of a coat rack in the club the night before. His sequin top was torn, so it was at least a slightly fair trade-off.

“Too much,” Otabek said. “I know we said we were going to take it slow getting to Los Angeles, but let’s get out of this town. We can go do some sightseeing, and maybe go to Disneyland if we get into the city early enough.”

Despite their hangovers, JJ and Yuri both yelped at the word Disneyland and jumped up to pack away their bags and head out to the convertible.

Better that they didn’t know, Otabek thought.