She left because of the dreams. Slayer dreams were expected, and even if watching vamps chowing down on people like giant slurpees on a nightly basis was enough to turn the strongest girl’s stomach, it was the other dream that really terrified Buffy. Because in that dream, she wasn’t just the Slayer. She had friends she laughed with, she had her own room and not a couch in her Watcher’s crappy apartment, and there was a guy, a gorgeous guy with liquid eyes who looked at her and made her believe she could save the entire world.
That was the dream she wanted to stop. Because Buffy knew it wasn’t true. After all, if she couldn’t save her mom, what hope did the rest of the world have?
Hitching from Cleveland to Sunnydale was cake. It would’ve been nice to get there with the sun still shining, but hey, Slayers can’t be choosers.
She found a motel room easily enough, but when the clerk saw her heading for a quick patrol, he actually came around the counter to try and block her from leaving.
“You don’t want to go out after dark here,” he said. “There’s things out there that’ll give you nightmares. Or worse.”
Her mouth was a thin, grim line. “Don’t worry. They’re already there.”
Buffy staked three vamps before she got two blocks away from the motel. When she saw the fourth and fifth heading her way, strolling along the sidewalk like they owned the town, she melted into the shadows, trying to ignore the sense of déjà vu the female vamp’s red hair summoned. She knew Hellmouths drew demons like flies, but this whole place was infested, far worse than Cleveland. No wonder the Slayer dreams had dragged her here.
Time to root out the source of the infestation. Stop the dreams, once and for all.
She followed the pair as they wound their way through town, ending at a place with “The Bronze” emblazoned over the door. The club was crawling with vamps, making entry for Buffy impossible, but there were too many for this to be a coincidence. She scouted the building until she found a small window leading to the basement, and slithered inside, the heel of her boot nearly skidding out from beneath her as she landed in a pool of blood.
It was dark and rank, and the walls vibrated from the music blaring above her head. Buffy took a few precious seconds for her eyes to adjust, then wished she hadn’t when she saw the makeshift cells dotted throughout the interior. Bodies lay naked and pale in most of them, skin gleaming where the stolen moonlight filtered through the tiny windows, and she walked along, steeling herself against sympathy for them. Feelings were weak. Feelings would get her killed. It was the best lesson her Watcher had ever forced upon her.
Then she saw him. And the barriers she’d erected around her emotions crumbled.
She knew that curve of shoulder, knew how the muscles would twitch with pleasure if she touched them. She knew that strong jaw, could see with her mind’s how his rare smiles lit up his whole face.
And when he looked up, she knew those eyes. Hope simmered there, even before recognition.
“You,” she said.
He didn’t utter a sound.
“You can’t be real,” Buffy breathed. Because if he was, then the rest of it could be, too. The friends. The life. Her mom. She couldn’t hope for that. Hope would tear her heart out and leave her bleeding yet again.
His mouth opened to speak, but something she didn’t hear jerked his head to the side, those liquid eyes narrowing as he peered into the darkness. “Hide,” he said in a low voice.
Buffy sank back into the shadows, just as singsong filled the air.
“Puppy…time to play…”
When she saw the redheaded vamp stop in front of his cell, Buffy reacted without thought. She leapt forward, driving the stake through the vampire’s back before she had the chance to unlock the door. Through the crumbling dust, his face came slowly into focus. Filled with awe, filled with shock, filled with the one thing she didn’t need right now.
“Stop looking at me like that,” she growled as she snapped the lock off in her hand.
She squeezed her eyes shut as the silken timbre of his voice resonated in more than her memories. “I’m getting you out of here,” Buffy said, changing the subject. “And then you’re going to tell me what the hell is going on.”
Undoing his chains only took a moment. The last thing she expected was for him to fly past her, though.
Buffy whirled in time to see him slam the other vampire she’d followed into the opposite wall, staking him as swiftly and efficiently as she had the redhead. Her jaw still hung lax by the time he glanced back.
“Sorry. Xander always comes to watch Willow when she…” He swallowed. “I should’ve warned you.”
Buffy shook her head. “You did the next best thing. Now let’s get out of here.”
Though she wanted to get the others out, too, she knew time was not on her side, following him as he disappeared back in the direction from which she’d come. It wasn’t until they were outside, blocks away from the club, that she grabbed his arm and yanked him to a halt.
“I don’t know your name. I’m Buffy.”
His mouth slanted into a soft smile as if she’d said something completely obvious. “Angel. Come on. We have to keep moving.”
As they broke into a fresh run, she stole a glance at his determined profile. She had no idea what his deal was, or how he could fight so well, but she did know one thing for sure.
The dreams weren’t going to stop.
Because she had a reason now to make the rest of them come true.