“I’m sorry, I don’t do this much. Uh, blind dates that is.” Faith apologized, reaching for her glass of wine and taking a huge swallow. Much was an understatement. Try never. Except when ambushed by busy-body friends with too much time on their hands.
The man chuckled. A soft sound, not unfriendly. He was handsome at least. With dark blond hair long enough to curl behind his ears. Bright blue eyes, baby smooth skin and an angled jaw. His whole frame looked like those thin wiry magazine models. Men that looked eighteen years old for their entire lives. Even the way he tapped his perfectly manicured fingers on the table was fluid and smooth.
“Nothing to be embarrassed over. I have learned to take life’s surprises with grace.” he grinned, flashing a pearly white smile. “Tell me, Faith, were your friends truthful? Are you a virtuoso of vampires?”
Faith choked on her wine, setting down the glass quickly to pick up a napkin. “Vampires…?” Those jerks. They didn’t.
“Yes. Vampires. Your charming friends mentioned that you write books. Stories about vampire love affairs? They explained they chose my profile specifically because I asked for a woman interested in vampires.” His eyebrow raised in a curious gesture.
They did. God damnit! She hated her friends! “Uh, yeah. I have a series that’s gotten pretty popular lately.” Her momentary embarrassment shifted as she cast him a dubious expression. “Did you seriously add that to your dating profile?”
He shrugged his shoulders, casting a wry grin. “What can I say? I like a woman who shares my interests. Do you like vampires, Faith?” He leaned forward on the table, resting his elbows as he clasped his hands together. The look he gave her reminded her of a few exboyfriends. Where they’d try to give that deep, mysterious stare that usually came off creepy and disturbing. He kind of looked like he wanted to eat her.
Here it comes. That moment when a date turns totally awkward. Lucky for her, she knew when to bail!
“Wow, look at the time. I can’t believe it’s almost midnight. I better call myself a cab.”
Her date chuckled, dropping his gaze to lift a hand and summon for the check. “Let me drive you home, it’s the least I can do for taking advantage of this ambush.”
“Really? Thanks.” Faith grinned appreciatively. Grateful it wasn’t going to turn in to one of those ‘Why don’t you like me?!’ scenes.
A few minutes later they were outside, walking down the ramps in the parking garage, looking for his car. They got down to the bottom level and turned a corner. The entire place seemed to be empty.
“Do you even remember where you parked?” Faith asked, turning to face her date. With a glance at his face she jumped, stumbling back a few feet as she raised a hand to point a finger at him. His eyes were… they had changed color! Instead of the bright blue, now they were dark red, almost black.
“I’m afraid I fibbed a little. I don’t have a car.” He smile was unnerving. Now he had glinting white fangs. Vampire fangs.
That was just the last straw. Faith’s moment of being startled was gone, replaced by the still slightly disturbed, but much more manageable annoyance. Her date was clearly a wacko and slipped himself some contacts and teeth in while she wasn’t looking. “Okay, I gt it. You’re one of those roleplaying freaks. That’s cool, but if you try to bite me, I’m going to kill the hell out of you, okay?” Faith’s hand slipped in to her coat pocket and curled around a handy spray bottle of mace she kept on her keychain.
He laughed out loud! Apparently her words were hilarious. In a blink of an eye he jumped in the air, practically flying before he landed right in front of her. His fangs grew longer as he grabbed on to her shoulders. Instincts prevailing, Faith whipped out the mace and sprayed him in the eyes! While snarling in pain, she shoved him back and took off running. Vampire. Real vampire! One that was recovering quick as she could hear him growling her name and darting closer!
A stumble over something on the ground had nearly took her off her feet, but she snatched up the object – some discarded piece of metal – last minute. Just she turned, the vampire was there and she thrust it forward in to his chest! He looked surprised as blood slowly oozed from the wound. His head tilted slightly to the side as his lips turned up in to a smirk.
“You missed.” He sneered, his fingers curled around the metal piece and jerking it out of his chest in a swift motion.
“…oh shit.” Was all she could squeak out before his arm swung and struck her with enough force to send her flying backwards. Faith crashed in to a wall and crumbled on the ground in an unceremonious heap of pain. As he approached, Faith scooted backwards until her back caught the wall. Looked like she was going to be a vampire’s dinner. A fangirl’s dream come true!
“If you’re going to be disappointed,” a new voice rang out, echoing against the alley walls, “try going after more exciting cuisine. You like Thai food?”
A moment after the interruption, a man stepped out of the shadows between Faith and her vampy pursuer. Where had he even come from? This was a dead end! It was hard to make out what he looked like in the dark (also when she was looking at the back of his head), but he was tall and was wearing a long black leather coat. There was also something in his hand… a very pointy stick.
The vampire looked pretty inconvenienced. After all, he spent a lot of effort on this dinner and now he was getting royally cockblocked. That was probably why instead of shooting back a witty reply, he went lunging forward, teeth and all. Tearing at him to knock that pointed stake out of the intruder’s hands and make a grab for his throat at the same time.
The vampire was fast. …But Faith’s possible rescuer was somehow faster. It was his hand that wrapped around the vampire’s throat, not the other way around, and he followed this by slamming the vamp into the wall as hard as Faith had been slammed- or harder. Faith caught a glimpse of white teeth bared in a grin and blue, blue, hella blue eyes.
“See, the Chosen are kind of like Thai food for vamps. Delicious, but you might regret it.” The stake slammed point-first toward the vampire’s chest.
“What was in that wine.” she muttered under her breath to herself as she clambered to her feet. She stumbled very quickly and very dizzily out of the way, squinting at them just in time to see a spurt of red and her date dropping to the ground like a big sack of beans. “Did you just. Did you- You killed him!”
Considering she had stabbed the asshole in the chest HERSELF a moment ago, that was a pretty dumb thing to say. But Faith was pretty sure she was now sporting a sweet concussion. Her hand rose up to the back of her head.
“You killed him. I’m an accessory to murder. …a vampire, really?”
“It’s not murder if they’re already dead.” He kicked the corpse, as if to make sure he was down for good. Then he turned to Faith and oh wow, yeah, those eyes were intense. Also he was giving Faith a downright scathing look of disbelief. “Don’t tell me you feel sorry for the asshole who tried to have you for dessert. He would have ripped your throat out and smiled while doing it.”
He stepped forward, and reached out to tug her closer- and look at her head.
“I’m going to give you a pass on grounds you bumped your skull, and hope you’re not really that stupid.”
There was blood on his cheek.
Why was he giving HER the blue-eyed stare of you lunatic. He was the one in the long coat and staking vampires in a badly lit parking garage. Faith blinked at him in wide-eyed, owlish confusion. Partly because this was awkwardly close, partly because her vision was swimming, but mostly because he was CRAZY.
“I’m sorry, I forgot the customary way to end a bad evening is a mutual murder attempt. I’ll remember that next time my date snaps his teeth at me.” Why was this even a conversation? Faith looked even MORE confused. “Who are you?”
“I’m the guy who saved your ass,” he chimed back at her. “Unless you’re telling me you’d prefer to be dead. Or worse.”
Rolling his eyes, he stowed the bloody stake inside his coat and then picked her up in a full-on fireman’s carry.
“Okay. You’re concussed. Let’s get you somewhere you’re not going to just end up eaten anyway. Or mugged.” Before she could protest, he was carrying her toward the exit.
“I had things pretty well under control. I did stab him first.” Even she knew that was total bullshit, but she was getting whisked off her feet. The weird surrealness of the moment had her completely off-kilter. One of her arms went around his neck, just out of instinct, while her other hand rose awkwardly, trapped in her indecision on whether she should be screaming about getting kidnapped or at the very least not letting a strange guy carry her away. “Thank you for not letting me get eaten. I think. …but who are YOU to be lurking around in dark parking garages slaying things that don’t even exist?”
“It’s kind of what I do,” he answered. He glanced down at her hand, his lips twitching. “Ever seen Buffy? It’s kind of like that, only there are more of us and we weren’t all cheerleaders.”
The blood was dripping into his five-o-clock shadow. They reached the alleyway’s end and stepped out into the soft glow of streetlight, and he made a beeline for a bike that was pulled up to the curb.
“You’re Buffy.” What even. A real vampire and guy-Buffy. That’s great. This was just… unreal. That asshole must have slipped something in to her wine. She was hallucinating up vampires and now a vampire slayer. “I get it now. I’m totally unconscious.”
It made sense and she was sticking to it. Which made her reaching up with the sleeve of her jacket to wipe the blood off his face a lot less weird.
“I’ve got the pom-poms in my closet and everything.” He batted his eyes mockingly, then rolled them. She was finally set onto her own two feet next to the bike, and he let go of her only to snatch up the helmet and plunk it over her head. “So where to? You haven’t forgotten where you live, right?”
She wavered on her feet and the first thing she did was pull that helmet right the hell back off, sending her hair cascading in all different directions.
“I don’t care what kind of dream this is, I’m not getting on anything without seatbelts.” she stated first, pushing the helmet back at him. “I know exactly where I live.”
…Wait. Thinking. Christ, her head HURT.
“Tch, just a second, it’ll come to me.”
“Yeah. Super convincing.” He stepped astride the bike and sat down, staring at her with his chin propped in his hand and his elbow resting on the handlebars. “Well. I can leave you here with blood on your sleeve a few feet away from a body, concussed and vulnerable to any of that guy’s vampire buddies whom you’ve pissed off by surviving. Or you can get on the goddammed bike. What’ll it be?”
“…And how are they even going to hunt me down? Do they travel in packs?” Of course she was being sarcastic, because that would be ludicrous, wouldn’t it. Vampires traveling in packs. Not that tonight wasn’t already completely insane. She glanced back from where they came. Her friends put her profile up on a dating site. Who KNOWS what kind of info they posted. Faith shoved the helmet back on her head, and with a great deal of awkward reluctance climbed on behind him and then tried to figure out where to put her hands. “I remember my name is Faith, at least, so you can stop sounding so smug.”
He smirked over his shoulder at her. Notably, he wasn’t wearing a helmet.
“As a matter of fact, yeah. They do. So, Faith, I’m just going to head back to my place. You’re welcome to loiter until you remember where you belong.” He was already revving the engine and pulling away from the curb, so she would have to make up her mind fast about where to grab on.
“They do? What? Bu-” There was no getting the rest of that out in time, cause the second they were moving the panic about being on a door-less DEATH MACHINE kicked in. Her arms went slinging around his waist, and fingers digging in like vices to any bit of fabric she could ball in to her fist. Faith might have buried her face at his back too, but with the helmet that was proving to be difficult and really, she was making a fool of herself enough as it was. And she STILL couldn’t seem to get her address to pop in to her head, but she did suddenly remember exactly why she didn’t like motorbikes. If she opened her mouth to squeal, she’d swallow a bug.
Thankfully, it wasn’t a long trip. It turned out that their destination was in the same general neighborhood, a little closer toward downtown than the restaurant. Mr. Buffy pulled up outside of a cheap-as-hell-looking motel.
“Home sweet home,” he said, confirming that yes, this was seriously where he was staying. “Come on, let’s get you some ice.”
Thank all of the gods in all of the heavens. Faith pulled that helmet off, breathing an audible sigh of relief without any pretenses of hiding it. …It was also hard to hide that dubious, and not-so-thrilled stare at the motel’s poor excuse for an exterior.
“Remind me why Murder Motel is a better idea than me staying back at the restaurant and flagging a taxi?” Faith climbed off the back of the bike, nearly losing her footing when she did. The ride had her whole body humming, which wasn’t helping the dizziness at all.
He reached out to steady her, and flashed her a knowing grin.
“Because you’re with someone who can keep you clear of cops or pissed-off vamps. The only thing that’s killer around here is the rates.” Deftly, he steered her toward the nearest cherry-painted door. “I’ve already kept you from getting murdered once tonight. It would be pretty wasteful if I let that all be for nothing now.”
“Pffft. You are not a very good main character. These are the kinds of things the guy says right before he drowns you in the bathtub.” She was still totally unconcious, Faith was sure. At least she managed to ALMOST walk in a straight line. Her depth perception was a little off so her hand was up, making sure she didn’t run face first in to the door or wall. “About vampire packs, they don’t like… get all CSI about it do they? I mean, are they going to go through his stuff and check off a list of all the people he tried to eat?”
“Probably not,” he remarked with an alarming innocence. He slid around her to unlock the door, ushering her inside. The motel room was… surprisingly clean, and almost looked like a one-room apartment from the amount of personal belongings present- a well-stocked desk with laptop and writing supplies, a map on the wall with brightly colored pushpins in select spots- and liberal Sharpie scribblings, a few weird-looking old trinkets, and books on almost every available surface. Her “savior” went straight to the fridge and cracked out an ice tray, wrapping up a few cubes in a dishcloth from the counter. “They’ll just follow your scent. Also, what the fuck are you babbling about? ‘Main character’?”
Faith peered around curiously. This looked EXACTLY like her own place, just with the amount of clutter, kooky things, books and notes everywhere. It cemented the idea that it had to be some weird dream or hallucination. This was ‘home’ and this was her brain plotting up a new story. Her very aching, confused brain. At the word scent, Faith tilted her head slightly, gripping the edge of her jacket to give a sniff. Was she heavy handed with the perfume? She didn’t remember putting any on.
“I am working on a new book. …this is not my usual setup.” Faith pressed her palm against her head, grumbling softly to herself. “You smile too much, you’re not supposed to do that at all.”
His eyebrows lifted.
“Okay, lady, I think you need to sit down and put this ice pack on.” The cold, slightly damp pack pressed against the back of her head as he guided her into a seat on the sofa. He wasn’t smiling now; he was grimacing. “I didn’t sign up for this. It’s obligatory to rescue whomevers-in-distress, but I am not equipped to deal with you having some kind of breakdown. This is not a fucking book.”
“It has to be a book. Otherwise I just had a bad blind date with a vampire and went home with Mr. Buffy. My characters don’t even do this. I STABBED someone, and you know… kinda glad I didn’t kill him, but then you had to go do it!” There was a hiss of breath at the cold, but the slow numbing that followed did help the throbbing. Faith did not want to admit she was awake, and he was making that pretty damn difficult. “Who in their real life dresses like this and rides a motorcycle and rescues girls from vampires? YOU are having a breakdown.”
“Well, can’t argue with that.” His mouth quirked. He tilted his head, eyeing her up and down critically. “What are you, some kind of writer?”
Oh no. None of that. Faith scowled, her hands reaching up to grab his face and thumbs turning the corners of his mouth down where they were supposed to be properly mimicking her own scowl.
“I write the most terrible supernatural romance fiction, and the top grossing novel series of the year. And YOU…” she shook her head. “You smile too much and your eyes are too blue and SLAYER is a terrible idea. Girls don’t want to slay vampires, they want to kiss them. …Well -I- don’t want to kiss them, I figured that out VERY quickly today. I am never, ever going on a date again. You understand? Don’t let me.”
“You write vampire romance novels?” Uh oh. She didn’t have to force him to frown now; he was glaring at her with pure venom. “You know how easy that crap makes it for douchebags like that hot date of yours to charm women? Vampires are not romantic. They’re MONSTERS.”
Faith snatched her hands back quickly. THERE was the look he was supposed to have, and now she regretted asking for it.
“First of all, as far as -I- knew, vampires weren’t real.” She pointed a finger right at his nose (or at least tried to, it took a second to get her aim right). “You can’t get indignant with me when you’re not supposed to exist! Do you want to complain about my teenagers talking like old people too? Because I will HIT you.”
For a moment, he just stared at her. Then he sighed, shaking his head, and rubbed his face with one hand.
“Jesus. Of all the people who could be in that alley, it would be the rabid vampire novelist. …Wait a sec.” He squinted. “You said your name was Faith. Faith Williams? The one who writes about that cute psychic girl dating the creepy megadouche vampire?”
Faith gasped and look completed afronted.
“Megadouche?! He’s tortured. He’s lost his soul to his demons, he doesn’t know how to exist like a normal person anymore. So OF COURSE he’s going to be a little dark!” She paused looking really confused. “Whitlock, I live on Whitlock. Nevermind that, so you’ve READ my books, you think she’s cute! Ha!”
“Dark? He’s a fucking psychopath.” His eyes narrowed. “He doesn’t care about her. He treats her like a thing. It’s disturbing.”
He was pointedly not addressing her accusations that he read her books.
“Is that what you think relationships are supposed to be? If so, you definitely don’t need to be going on any more dates.”
“I don’t have relationships!” she said haughtily at first. Then she actually HEARD it. Her hands slapped against her face and she groooaaaned. “I can’t believe I am ending my night with an existential crisis about my writing skill and romance life! I could just end it with an attempted murder, followed by a real murder, and a kidnapping by my new muse.”
She huffed, gesturing at him with her hands. Apparently HE was the muse.
“And how would YOU write it, my blue-eyed Buffy? Big twist at the end and he kills her? End with a tragedy?”
He groaned too.
“Do not ever call me that again. It’s Eli, okay? Eli.” It wasn’t clear whether he was objecting to “blue-eyed Buffy” or the Muse thing. Maybe both. “That’s one option, but that just would make it all seem really pointless. I’d rather see her with someone who makes her happy. Like that other vampire guy, whatsisface. Fuck, why am I discussing crappy teen lit with you?”
He ran his fingers through his short, dark hair and stood.
“How’s your head? You seem more lucid.”
“Only -I- get to call my teen lit crappy, Eli.” He called it Lucid. She called it grim realization that pretending this was all just a weird twisted dream a huge failure. At least right now her head hurt too much for her to properly be hysterical.
“I still see two of you.” she finally admitted, testing to see just how bruised and dented her skull really was. Faith winced. “You would like him better. But that just won’t work.”
And then, as if she were just as disappointed that ‘whatsisface’ wasn’t getting the girl, she tilted over and plopped on the couch.
“And I really want to lay down.” she mumbled after the fact.
“Yeah, okay. Get some rest.” He shrugged out of his coat and tossed it over her. Underneath, he was wearing a surprisingly normal long-sleeved t-shirt and jeans. “When you’re feeling better, I’ll take you home.
“…Maybe you’re right,” he added, wrly, as he settled down at his desk and plucked a book off of a pile. “Maybe this is all just a bad dream.”