Many thanks to my two betas, my dear friend braxen, who encouraged me to sign up in the first place after reading the raw draft and gave me some very good advice, and my wonderful, spontaneous, reliable and most sensitive beta seapealsh who cares for you not being taken out of the story by my second-language mistakes.
After all the fantastic posts until now I'm even more proud to participate!
Contains canon typical violence and sex.
Title: A New Life
Setting: Tabula Rasa (btvs s6)
Length: 4.365 words
A New Life
After a while, neither of them could’ve told why they’d even left town, the town whose name they only learned upon passing its border is Sunnydale.
She recalls herself thinking how good a name this is for a town, and if staying wouldn’t be the better option. But the thought had been gone as quickly as the town sign as they’d kept driving.
It had felt right to leave. They hadn’t felt like they belonged there, and if they did, they didn’t remember.
They’d tried to find the others that had shared their fate, though. They’d been at the hospital, just as they had planned, after they’d gotten rid of the vampires and the weird shark-with-legs thingy, dusted off their clothes and beamed at each other in exhilaration from the fight. They had asked about the others, had even talked to a doctor about the amnesia, albeit leaving out that Randy had been affected, too, to avoid the severe lack of heartbeat being noticed. The doctor had led them to an examination room, had looked into her eyes with his little flashlight, had taken her temperature and her pulse, and when she’d asked for his opinion about how long this amnesia could last, he’d looked at her funny and said something meaningful along the lines of we’ll see. When he’d left the small room to go organize a bed for her and provide registration papers to fill out, she’d looked at Randy, and he’d looked back, and then they’d left.
She’d briefly thought about the girl that maybe was her sister, had felt a longing that made no sense to her. She’d shrugged it off, told herself that the girl probably would quickly find her home anyway. A girl that age would be reported missing by her parents, and once she would show up at the hospital as planned she’d be registered and it would be easy for the authorities to reunite her with her family.
She’d had no reason to feel responsible for the girl named Dawn, and the slight sense of longing for her hadn’t been strong enough to keep her in this town. There’d been something deep inside her a lot stronger than that, just out of her reach so that she couldn’t quite grasp it. But it had left her with the feeling that this, the loss of knowledge, was her chance to leave everything behind and truly start anew, and even if she’d had no idea what it was she’d been running from, it had felt oddly right.
Still does, she thinks. She casts a sideways glance at her companion. That’s the weirdest part – she’d known from the beginning that she’d been running with a vampire. And yet, even that had felt right for some reason.
They just drove for days, without destination. They didn’t even bother to look at a map when they made a pit stop for refueling and buying some snacks. They just went on driving until dawn was looming at the horizon and then took a motel room for the day.
The first days they lived off the money from the wallet they found in the car. Joan had a fit of guilty conscience for stealing it, ironically more so than stealing the car in the first place, but Randy convinced her that they had no choice. They swore to themselves that they’d send the money back to the owner once they found jobs, even if they had no idea what kind of a work that could be for either of them, and then they began to spend it, starting with renting a room.
When they entered a motel room together for the first time and realized that there was only one queen size bed in it, Randy just shrugged, seized one of the pillows and tossed it to the floor. Joan watched him, already opening her mouth to object, but then she thought back at the moment she’d recognized he was a vampire and remained silent. She wasn’t even sure she’d sleep at all with a blood sucker right beside her bed all of a sudden. Wasn’t she making it too easy for him?
But after taking a shower she still lay down, only wearing panties and top, thanks to Randy turning around with a grin. She snuggled into the sheets, and it took mere seconds for her to be fast asleep.
For a few days that was their life – driving by night, sleeping by day in a random motel room. They never spoke about the sleeping arrangements. Sometimes there were two beds, which meant one for either of them; but when there weren’t, it was Joan who got the bed, and Randy took the floor.
They didn’t speak much in those first days. In the beginning they sometimes tried to figure something out about their past and what happened to them, or about the fact that Joan was wicked strong, and that Randy was a vampire, but still not wanting to kill her or other humans. They even once broke into a public library to use the computer to research the only thing they knew about their former lives – the town named Sunnydale. But apart from a remarkably high death rate, they didn’t find out anything about either of them. The names they remembered, Alexander Harris and Willow Rosenberg, also led to nothing except that they both had been students at Sunnydale High years ago.
After that disappointment they stopped talking about their pasts. They listened to the radio a lot instead, discovered that they had vastly different tastes in music, but always found something they could agree on.
Their comfortable routine had its first crack when one night they stumbled over a radio show about poetry. Joan moved to switch away, but Randy caught her hand. She stared at him, a snarky comment already on her lips, but the look she caught from him, half embarrassed, half pleading, silenced her instantly.
And then she listened, and to her own surprise she enjoyed it.
When the show was done, they switched the radio off and sat in silence for a long while until Randy quietly began to speak. He recited a poem about a mother’s love; Joan knew she had heard it already before, even if she didn’t remember when or where, but she was sure it hadn’t been recited with so much emotion as she heard it now from her companion. She listened to his voice, averting her eyes, crossing her arms over her chest like for protection, but against what she didn’t know.
When he had ended, they didn’t speak for a long time, until they arrived at a motel to stay for the day.
It was this day that he heard her crying in her sleep for the first time.
Against better judgment he gently woke her up and asked her about her nightmare, but she didn’t remember. He’d thought she’d be embarrassed, would hate him seeing her cry, but instead she asked him if he could recite another poem for her, and when he agreed and moved to go back to his resting place on the floor, she grabbed his arm and quietly asked him if he could lie down beside her.
It became kind of a ritual for them. As if the poem had woken something buried deep inside her, she cried in her sleep every day now, so that he began to wait for it. He always woke her up and lay down beside her, reciting poem after poem, pouring his soft voice inside her, until she told him she could sleep again.
After a few days they stopped going to sleep separately, even when there were two beds.
She never remembered her dreams.
With buying food, toiletries and some clothing for both of them and blood for him, too, and paying for the motel rooms, they lasted almost a week.
When the money nearly was spent and they had but a few dollars left for their next meal, Randy found an announcement of a bar looking for a bus boy, and within an hour he had turned from a traveler to an employee in a small town. Joan smiled at his giddy joy about his first earned money when he came home that night, and the next day she went looking for a job, too.
They stayed there for a couple weeks, both working at night; Randy as a bus boy, Joan as waitress.
Walking back to their motel together after her first shift, they surprised two vampires in the middle of attacking some girls. They didn’t even need to exchange a look; they sprinted ahead to save the girls, sending the vamps to their dusty ends within minutes, both grinning widely when their eyes met again.
This was the start of something new in their lives – they began to regularly patrol the dark streets of the town for something evil being afoot. It gave them an unexpected sense of accomplishment; unexpected at least regarding Randy, and they once more wondered about the weirdness of a vampire fighting and killing his own kind, but not the human woman he sort of lived with.
They figured it must be the reason for them knowing each other in their previous lives – The Super Hero and The Good Vampire, destined to save the world together.
They liked that thought.
One night as they were about to dust another vampire that had just risen from his grave, Randy suddenly paused, his hand clenched around the vampire’s neck.
“What if I’m not the only one?” he asked, “What if he’d gonna be as noble a vampire as I am?”
Joan turned to him wide eyed and considered him for a long moment. Then she stepped up to them and faced the vamp struggling in Randy’s fierce grip.
“Whaddaya say, wanna go and drain some cute girls with him?” She nodded her head toward Randy, who shifted into game face.
The vamp watched them, confused, and then shrugged, or what he could manage as such, dangling from Randy’s hand a few inches above the ground. “Yeah, why not? I don’t get why we had to fight first, even if it was –” His next words died in the swoosh of his turning to dust.
From then on they took it as a habit to question the vamps before killing them, at least when they didn’t catch them red-handed. But they never heard anything but acceptance to killing humans.
Randy remained the only noble vampire they ever encountered.
When they had earned enough money to send the first installment of money back to their involuntary loaner, they hit the road again.
They drove on until they landed in a town that had an unnaturally high count of cemeteries, way too many churches and an uncanny death rate. When the first bar they saw turned out to be a demon bar which, to complete their luck, was in need of a bouncer, they began to look for an apartment to stay in.
They made it their home.
Joan worked as a waitress again, in a diner with a friendly boss this time that knew how to appreciate Joan’s work. And Randy turned out to be much happier working as a bouncer, since this job included having a nice brawl every now and then.
After work they resumed patrolling the very first night, and it was even more satisfying since there was much more to do for them in this town. They joked and quipped and bantered and had a lot of fun together.
It was the day after this first night, the first time they slept in their new apartment, that she asked him to hold her when he woke her out of her daily nightmare. He did, and then he lay awake for the rest of the day, her head securely resting on his shoulder, and listened to her breathing and her steady heartbeat.
It was then that he knew with sudden clarity that he had fallen in love with her.
The next day it was Randy who woke up screaming. Joan sat startled, stared at him for a second, watched the tears rolling down his cheeks, and then wordlessly took him into her arms. He didn’t remember his nightmare either, but lying in her arms, feeling her blood pulsating beneath his skin, sensing her being alive, seemed to be the best help. He clung to her so forcefully that suddenly they both knew what his dream must have been about.
From the next day on they went to sleep holding each other.
One day and only that once, when they lay in bed thinking of the other vampires they killed on a nightly base, she asked him if he, too, felt the urge to bite someone, kill even.
He was silent for a moment, and then he explained her that yes, the urge to bite someone was sometimes there, but not strong, and that he suspected it to be that way because he always ate enough. And then he looked at her again, searching her gaze and boring his eyes into hers, and told her that killing wasn’t an option for him.
“It would leave someone behind who lost a person they loved,” he said.
She felt his arms around her tighten and let out a contented sigh.
For weeks they were happy.
They both had jobs they liked, earned enough money to repay their debt, and lived with someone they trusted and had fun with. They were best friends.
Only sometimes, just before falling asleep, Joan wondered what her life must have been like before. She didn’t really miss anything, but it still left a nagging feeling deep down that she never quite got rid of. Then she snuggled a bit deeper into Randy’s arms, savoring the feeling of warmth he gave her despite his low body temperature.
She knew she was about to fall in love with him, or maybe she had already fallen.
And then one night something happened that unhinged their little world.
After work Joan waited for him at their usual meeting point to go patrolling, but for the first time ever he didn’t show.
Usually he was the first to be there, and Joan was instantly worried. After waiting only a few minutes and feeling more and more uneasy she decided to go to meet him half-way.
She only had to go around the corner to find him, though. He lay on the dank pavement of the dark alley, a heap so small that she thought for a terrible second it were only his clothes over a pile of dust.
She flew over to him in a heartbeat, yelling his name, and cradled him in her arms.
He looked horrible. His face was one huge bruise, blood was smeared all over, his nose had an ugly bump that indicated that it was broken, and one eye was swollen shut.
She gave him some of the blood she sometimes got from the butcher who delivered the meat to her working place, glad she had it with her that night. When he had recovered enough, she brought him home.
She laid him on their bed, washed his wounds and set the nasal bone. She gave him more blood, and then she slipped into bed with him and took him into her arms. There, in her arms, he told her what had happened.
On his way to their meeting point he had run across an attack of several vampires, or so he thought, on two young girls, and jumped to their rescue. But the second he had punched one of the attackers against the head, a searing pain had shot through his brain, like a hot dagger being plunged in and twisted around and around. The men, no vampires but simple muggers, as it turned out, instantly shifted their attention to him and began to beat the crap out of him. He tried to fend them off, of course, but every time he aimed a fist at them, the same pain exploded in his head.
“What the bloody hell happened there?” he asked her, not really expecting her to answer, because what could she even say? But she did, whispering.
“I don’t know, but it scares the hell out of me.”
He looked up into her face, and he could see it written all over, the fear she’d had. Their eyes met, and a jolt went through both of them, and although later neither of them remembered how it started or who did, they found themselves kissing. Gently, tenderly, lovingly.
They stared at each other, well knowing that they had crossed a line. They saw the fear they felt mirrored in the eyes of the other, and for a moment they were both paralyzed. And then Randy let out a sigh, weaved his arms around Joan and kissed her again, and she kissed him back.
And the pain was forgotten.
They made love for the rest of that night and many hours of the next day. In-between they slept a little, tightly wound around each other, only to wake up with the absolute need to be closer still. They were tender and passionate, frantic and then gentle, and they both cried at one point, though neither of them could have told why. But however they moved, whatever they did, they were always, always close.
When day turned into night again, just before falling asleep once more, Joan murmured, “I may be in love.” And Randy whispered back, “I know I am.”
He wasn’t sure she had heard him, except for the slight movement of her fingers on his chest that might have been a squeeze.
They found out that Randy only felt pain when hurting a human, but they could never figure out why. They questioned a few vampires before they dusted them, and Randy carefully asked around in his demon bar, but nobody seemed to know anything. So they let it slide after a while, chalked it up to him being a special vampire. But it set up a fear in Joan she had never felt before – the fear of losing him. Suddenly he was vulnerable in a way he hadn’t been before, or they hadn’t known he’d been.
But apart from that they were happy. They worked, they went patrolling and then home to watch a little TV together, read a book, or he recited poems to her which he apparently had an unlimited amount of in his head. Often they just talked. Almost every day they made love, and they both felt as if each time they were a tiny bit closer, loving each other a tiny bit more than before, even though they hadn’t thought it to be possible.
The nightmares hadn’t ceased, but facing them together had made them much less terrifying. And still they didn’t remember them when awake.
Until they suddenly did.
It happened in the middle of a bright sunny day when they both had fallen asleep, exhausted from their lovemaking. They woke with a start, both for the first time yelling words.
“I can’t breathe!”
They sat bolt upright and stared at each other for a long, long while. Tears filled her eyes and fell, running down her face, as she realized who she was, and remembered him.
“Buffy,” he whispered, breaking the long silence. His hand moved toward her, but she flinched and he let it sink again, his shoulders slumping. He watched her slowly moving now, drawing back from him, and then, all of a sudden, she fled, to the bathroom first, but only a minute later out of their home.
He let her.
She didn’t come home before work, and neither did she show up at their meeting point after. He skipped patrolling and went to the diner where she worked, but her boss informed him she hadn’t shown there either. He cursed and went along their usual patrolling routes, not for slaying vampires, but in the hope to find her. He didn’t.
After an hour he gave up and went back home, although reluctant to still call it that – home. It wasn’t without her.
When he opened the door, she sat at their table, a packed bag beside her. She looked up, focusing at a point right beside his head.
“Dawn?” he asked.
Her eyes clouded almost imperceptibly before she turned her glance to the window. “Safe with Xander and Anya.”
He nodded and began to pack his things, too. Neither of them said any more words until they went to their car.
And the whole time he choked back the tears burning in his eyes.
They drove in silence for most of the time, stopped at a motel when the sun was about to come up and entered the room in silence. When he grabbed a pillow to toss it on the floor like he’d done the first days, she stopped him.
“You can take the bed.”
He turned hopeful eyes on her, but she slightly shook her head. “I have to go run an errand.”
And she was out again.
He tried to sleep, but caught himself constantly listening for her steps announcing her arrival instead. She didn’t come back until nightfall.
He hadn’t slept at all.
After driving for about an hour that night, she told him to turn left.
“Sunny D is that way,” he objected, pointing his chin in the direction they’d been driving the whole time.
“We’re going to New Orleans first.”
“New Orleans?” He stared at her, anger beginning to creep through his veins. “I’m not going to drive you through the whole bloody country! I’m not your bleeding –“ He was silenced by her hand on his arm and her pleading eyes on him.
“New Orleans,” he muttered, but he turned left as she’d asked him to.
An hour before dawn they arrived in New Orleans. With the help of a map of New Orleans that she must have bought the day before, she led them to an address written on a piece of paper ripped out of a telephone book.
He looked at the large white building they had stopped in front of and then glanced at her.
“What now, Slayer?”
She remained silent for a long time, just looking at the building with furrowed brows, considering. His patience wore thin pretty fast, but something radiating off of her told him to keep his mouth shut. Contrary to his habit he did just that, fidgeting with his fingers instead.
And then, as if she had made up her mind, she inhaled deeply and turned to him. “Come on,” she said and got out of the car. He followed suit and was beside her with a few quick steps.
“Where are we going?”
She nodded toward the building that they approached. “You have an appointment.”
“I have an appointment?” His brows shot up. “With who? Who do you even know in New Orleans?”
She shrugged. “Oh, I don’t know her. Angel gave me the address.”
That stopped him dead. “What?” He grabbed her arm and whirled her around. “Forget it. I’m not going in there if you got the address from the great poofter. For all I know I’m dust before I’m even through the door. No way.” He let go of her and turned on his heels to go back to the car. “I’m out of here.”
But she was in front of him in a flash and took his hand in hers. “If it helps at all - he only gave it to me because I threatened to have Willow cast a spell that removes his hair.”
His eyes, blazing in anger a second ago, softened and briefly delight danced over his features, and again he surrendered to her pleading look and followed her grumbling to the house. At the entrance she pointed with a tilt of her head at a sign board that was fastened to the wall beside the door.
He read the words written on it, and again he stood rooted to the spot. He blinked and read it once more.
He looked at her, thunderstruck, watching a small smile light up her face, and awe softened his features. He tilted his head a fraction and stared at her, his eyes shining brightly.
“You – “ His voice broke away.
She placed a hand on his cheek, gingerly. “I can finally do something about it,” she said, “do something about this stupid fear.”
He raised his hand, laid it over hers, and looked at the signboard again that read:
Dr. Lisa Martens
Private Institute of Brain and Spine Surgery
“But – ” He swallowed. “Are you…are you sure?”
“I’m sure,” she said.
He inhaled deeply, then exhaled.
“I’m not him, Buffy.”
She looked up at him, fixing him with her gleaming eyes.
“I am sure,” she said
And then she led him inside.
This had been her chance to truly start anew. And started anew they had, and it had felt completely right.
Still does, she thinks. She casts a sideways glance at her companion. That’s the weirdest part – she’d known that she’d been running with a vampire. And yet, even that had felt right for some reason.
As if he’d felt her eyes on him he turns his head and looks at her. Before she can hurriedly look away he catches her eyes with his and smiles. She sees his whole face lighting, and before she can control herself, she feels her lips tug up into a smile, too.
It also feels right.
She sighs and leans back, sinking a little deeper into her seat.
After living for months with Randy, it’s not him she’s been smiling back to.
It’s Spike. Snarky, bleached blond, eighties reject, pain in her ass Spike.
And it still feels right.
She peels his hand from the steering wheel, raises it to her lips and presses a kiss on it.