Buffys Lost Summer
III Rumble City
Chuck Benson yawned as the Broadview subway station hurtled towards him. He hated the early shifts; his wife would be the first to tell you that Chuck was the very opposite of a morning person. Here he was already on his fourth coffee of the day, and it wasnt even 6:30 yet. The train rattled on the tracks as it entered the flickering lights of the subway platform, and Chuck started the speed crank counter-clockwise, gradually slowing the plastic and steel rocket to a stop. The Toronto Transit Commissions catch-phrase for their subway services was: Ride The Rocket, but this early in the morning, there werent a lot of people up to the experience.
His head was pounding from the caffeine buzz, and in the five seconds that the trains doors were open, he rummaged through his packsack for some aspirin. At least the sun isnt all the way up yet, he thought as he popped two Excedrin into his mouth. He reached for the crank and began dialing up the speed again. There was a lightness in the tunnel ahead, which was the Bloor viaduct, a long bridge that spans the Don Valley, with Bloor Street on top and the subway rails underneath. The conductors were supposed to take it a little slower than usual while on the viaduct, to give the passengers a nice little view, but Chuck wanted to get the train to the other side before the sun hit the windows. If I thought my headache was bad now He turned the speed crank over a little higher.
* * *
If I were you, I would run as fast as I could, and maybe you might live.
Buffy snorted. If you were me, youd be good-looking. I wouldnt hold my breath.
The vampire advanced on her slowly, and she raised up her stake. Buffy was a lot more nervous than she was letting on, though; this guy was by far the biggest vampire she had ever seen. Seven feet if he was an inch, and built like a linebacker. She wondered if the stake would even reach far enough into the vamps body to pierce his heart.
Youre going to kill me with that? The vampire laughed. Little girl, it wont be that easy.
Buffy took a step back along the catwalk. To her left, subway tracks. To her right, a ninety-foot drop to the valley below. A train hadnt come by since they came onto the bridge, and she was hoping she could get this done before the next one did; she wasnt ready to trust the width of the catwalk. She had been chasing this vampire for three days, this demon that had been labeled the Rocket Killer by the local media for his serial-killing spree. Six young girls, ripped from the fabric of life by this creature. Six young girls who would never find true love, who would never fulfill any destinies they might have imagined for themselves.
Why not? Its worked every time before. What makes you special? Aside from the stench.
The Rocket Killer grinned. Im one of a new breed, a better breed of vampires. When I kill a young girl, a special young girl on the brink of maturity, my demon takes her soul and feeds on it, making me stronger. Who knows what I may be capable of, with enough souls to charge me up.
I wouldnt get too excited, Energizer bunny. You still have to deal with me, and you wouldnt believe how special I am. She took a few more steps back; a slight tremor thrummed its way up her legs and through her spine. It wouldnt be long now
He lunged at her, and she brought up her knee to meet with his midsection, twisting out of the way. He grunted, then spun around to grab her arm and slam her into the walkways railing. She cried out in pain, bouncing back to nearly fall into the rails, her arms flailing for balance. Swinging her right leg around, she did a graceful twirl in the air, landing between the subway tracks. Behind her, the subway train started across the viaduct, chasing the sunrise. She turned her head to see it, then returned her piercing gaze to the vampire. She crooked a finger at him.
Come on, Duracell. Ever play chicken?
* * *
Chuck felt his stomach growl. Breakfast might have been a good idea, but he had wanted those ten extra minutes of sleep. He had one of those stupid nutrition bars that his daughter kept trying to get him to eat in his packsack. At least it wasnt as bad as those rice cakes his wife ate. Why not just call it styrofoam and be done with it? Nutrition or no nutrition, his belly was way beyond caring now. As the train entered the viaduct, Chuck reached for his packsack. His hand stopped two inches from the zipper. His eyes saw something that shouldnt be.
They tell you in training that if you see someone on the tracks, you pull the emergency brake cord and hammer on the horn.
His hand stayed where it was, frozen.
They dont tell you how it feels when you dirty your underwear in an instant.
A young girl and a very big man were fighting between the rails halfway across the viaduct. Chuck found himself spellbound by the sight; for a moment, he felt a religious awe, that he was witnessing something elemental, beyond the understanding of mortal men. He was witness to a battle between good and evil. His headache was forgotten. So was the brake cord.
The train hurtled towards the duo.
Three hundred feet.
Chuck had the fleeting impression that he was still asleep, his alarm was going to go off at any moment now, and his wife would give him a hug and tell him in a sleepy, sexy voice how much she loved him.
Two hundred feet.
He wanted nothing more at that moment than to tell her the very same thing, and he whispered those magical words to the cramped morning air.
One hundred feet.
The girl flipped up onto the catwalk, out of the way of the oncoming train. The large man seemed to laugh, then, and Chuck watched as he jumped up to follow her.
She seemed ready for this.
As the mans feet met the catwalk, she stepped to him and took his arm like she would a lovers, pivoting on her heel and tossing the man
Directly in the trains path.
Chuck had time to see the outraged look on the mans face, the face Chuck instantly recognized from the newspaper photos, before the Rocket Killer slammed head-first into the steel grill on the front of the subway car.
The conductor screamed, remembered the brake cord, and yanked on it.
Behind the train, the sun came up.
* * *
Buffy pressed herself against the railing, screaming involuntarily as the train passed by her with scant inches to spare. Finally the cars went past, and she took a deep breath. The train continued down the line, but it was obviously slowing; the conductor must have hit the brakes. Fifty feet down the tracks, the vampires body was sprawled between the two rails.
Hes still in one piece, she marveled. Maybe he was telling the truth.
She hopped down to the tracks and approached the vampire. His skull was caved in above his eyes, both legs were broken, and one arm was twisted in an unattractive fashion. But he was still breathing. His other arm was flapping at his side like a fish on dry land. She felt a warmth on her neck, and Buffy turned to see the sun peek over the horizon. She looked back at the vampire and frowned. Too many shadows.
Come on, Rocket Killer. Time to fall back to earth.
* * *
There was only one person in the world who saw the body fall from the Bloor Viaduct; her name was Sarah Jackson, and she was driving back from her boyfriends house, where she had spent the night. Her parents were not aware of this yet, but if they were up and about by now, it wouldnt be long before the brown stuff hit the fan. She was speeding down Bayview Avenue, which passes right underneath the Viaduct. The sun was just now shining past the buildings on the far side of the valley to hit her right in the eyes. She blinked, and looked up and away, only to see a mangled body being pushed off the subway catwalk ninety feet above her. She slammed on the brakes, afraid that the body would hit the car, and how would she explain that to dear old Dad? Sarah watched the body fall; she watched it catch fire as the sunlight enveloped it; she watched it explode in a cloud of ashes, which rained down on her vehicle.
Wonderful. Now she had to find a car wash on the way home, too.
* * *
(two days previous)
Cordelia pressed against the railing and let the fine spray of water wash across her face. She felt the warmth of Xanders body against her, his arms encircling her waist, his chin resting lightly on her shoulder, as they both watched the Niagara river flow over the crest of the waterfall. A giggle to their left drew her attention; another couple was wrestling playfully, the man tickling her ribs, the woman twisting away, laughing. Cordelia sighed, and returned her gaze to the majestic waterfall.
She didnt know why Niagara Falls was supposed to be romantic. Its just a lot of water falling down a big cliff. Whats the big deal? All it really made her want to do was go to the bathroom. Still, there was something to be said for what they were doing right now, sharing this moment, him holding her close, his warm, light breaths tickling her ear. The constant flow of the white water was hypnotic, and the loud roar of the falls was oddly soothing. She turned around in his arms to face him and kissed his cheek, throwing her arms around him.
Maybe we should come here for our honeymoon. She smiled sweetly.
Ga-wah? he uttered insensibly, his eyes going wide.
She loved it when she made him all confused and scared, like an animal caught in the headlights.
You know, thats the thing that newlyweds do after theyre married? Its traditional.
Xander tried to back away, but she tightened her grip. Not so fast, pancho.
Uh, well, marriage, thats a long way off, dont you think? For both of us? His eyes were settling down a bit, now. He thought she was teasing him.
Havent you thought about it?
Cordy, were seventeen.
Xander, its a logical progression. Two people meet, they fall in love, they get married, start a family, raise some kids, grow old together. Youll notice that in that chain of events, marriage is somewhere in the middle.
Yeah, but what, Xander? Whats wrong? Dont you love me?
Her eyes locked on his and saw the indecision deep inside. Before he could reply, she put a finger on his lips. You know what? Lets give that one some thought, okay?
Xanders shoulders lost a little of the tension that had built up over the last few seconds. Cordelia grabbed his lips and twisted them sharply. But youre not off the hook yet, loverboy.
There we go, theres the anxiety back in his eyes again. She needed him to think about this, to think about them. She was a bit undecided herself as to what Xander meant to her, but there were moments when she knew inside that she would be devastated if she lost him. She was starting to approach the point where he meant more to her than anyone else, and she had to be honest with herself: that prospect frightened her a little bit. Xander was all right he was good-looking enough, and he kept himself reasonably fit (memories of him in a Speedo often crept back to haunt her at inconvenient moments). He made her laugh, and while she knew Daddy wouldnt approve, Cordelia thought she could show Xander that a little ambition never hurt anybody.
Certainly Xander had shown himself to be a gentleman more than once. Unlike most of the guys she had gone out with, Xander didnt automatically assume that a hot making-out session would inevitably lead to sex. She had to admit, his expression was a bit amusing when she told him that she was still a virgin, and was very picky about who to lose that with. But he never pressured, never pushed. She assumed he was still a virgin, too; that made it easier for him to wait, she guessed. Although she noticed that some nights were harder than others for him to roll over and fall asleep.
He had to decide, though. She wasnt going to share a life-altering experience like making love with him unless he was totally committed to her, and the way he sometimes looked at Willow, and the way he sometimes talked about Buffy Cordelia knew better than anyone that Xander had three women on his mind, and it confused the hell out of him. But she was patient; she would wear him down if it took her all summer.
* * *
Willow scrolled through the Reuters news service website, but wasnt holding out a lot of hope. Oz had left their hotel room an hour ago in search of something mysterious; he wouldnt tell her what. She smiled, thinking of him. She did that smiling thing a lot, even though they seemed no closer to finding Buffy than the day they started this roadtrip. She never thought she could be so into someone like she was with Oz; her crush on Xander had never been anything like this, because this wasnt a one-way street. Oz loved her back, and he showed her the truth of this in surprising little ways. She remembered the first time they had decided to make love, and how impossibly careful and hesitant he was, wanting to make sure that she was sure, wanting to make sure that it wasnt just having sex, but making love. He even had to go out and get some protection, because he didnt have any; he said he never expected it to happen. He would have been just as happy if they had simply had one of their night-long snuggling sessions.
But now that they passed that initial first-time barrier, they couldnt get enough of each other. In a way, Willow felt sorry for Buffy, because she only got to do it once. At least it was with the man she loved. Willow thought that sex couldnt possibly be very good without someone you loved with all your heart. Thats why it was called making love, after all. Now, they both smiled so often and so widely that even Giles was giving them curious glances.
Willow started in surprise. Maybe she had been a little too loud last night
A knock on the door brought Willow back into focus, and after she said, Come in, Oz strode into the room. She thought that was so cute, how hed always knock before coming into a room he knew she was in.
Hi, sweetness, she said, getting up from her chair.
Hi, precious, he replied. From behind his back, he produced two things: a single red rose, and a brown teddy bear.
Oh, Oz, thank you! She took the rose and gave him a hug.
He grinned. The teddys got something around his neck that hed like to give you, too.
She sat down on the edge of the bed, switching the rose for the teddy bear, and looked closely at the stuffed animal. Around his neck was a golden heart-shaped locket on a thin black string. She sighed, pulling the locket close, turning it to read the inscription on the back:
Love you forever, my precious flower.
There was a small little snap and hinge, and she opened the locket to find a picture of her and Oz in a cozy hug.
Its beautiful, Oz, I love it and you. She pulled him down onto the bed, and they kissed for a little while. Finally Oz drew back.
I think the rose is thirsty.
Would you mind ?
He kissed the tip of her nose. You bet. He rolled off the bed, cradling the rose in the crook of his arm so as not to crush it, and headed for the washroom. As he passed by the laptop computer, he stopped suddenly, bending close to the screen to read something.
The tone of his voice made her sit up quickly. What is it?
I think I know where Buffy is.
She joined him beside the screen and read the headline:
Rocket Killer Claims Sixth Victim.
* * *
The van jerked as Oz hit the brakes. In front of them on the freeway, a mini-van cut them off. Amazingly, the driver was giving them the finger.
Its a big highway, even for small people like you, said Oz, shaking his head. Beside him, Giles was picking up the newspaper that had fallen from his lap. The librarian found himself muttering under his breath. He thought that Canadians were a peaceful, polite bunch. A lot like him, actually. Apparently the process of becoming a polite society did not involve learning driving skills. He squinted at the horizon. At this distance, he could easily see Torontos most famous landmark, the CN Tower, even if the top third was partially obscured by a disturbing gray haze.
Are we there yet? asked Cordelia, who was busy untangling herself from Xander, who had fallen into her when Oz had performed his little defensive driving maneuver. Honestly, Xander, only you could fall sideways when the rest of us are falling forward. Was it good for you?
Xander pulled himself out of her grasp and sat back on his side of the seat. You have to excuse Cordelia, shes still trying to figure out why we havent needed snow tires up here in the Great White North.
She snorted. I wasnt the one wondering where all the Mounties were.
He stuck out his tongue at her. You must be really excited, Cordelia; a whole new country to annoy people in. Of course, we had to come up to Canada, since youve managed to alienate everyone in our own country.
Are you sure it isnt your oh-so-attractive Cro-Magnon body odor thats been causing strangers to run away in horror?
Giles turned around in his seat. Enough! Surely you two can sit together for five minutes without killing each other.
Oz shared a glance with Willow. Ill start the betting at ten bucks.
Xander snapped his fingers. Lemme get in on that action, Wolfman Jack.
Giles settled back in his seat, sighing. He would have been worried about Cordelia and Xander if it wasnt so obvious that they enjoyed their bickering immensely. If only they would realize how annoying it was. Why couldnt they be like Willow and Oz? At least those two were nice and quiet, almost British in their reserved affection for each other.
Initially, he had not been in favour of separate rooms for each couple, but five people were a lot to stuff into a single room, and Giles didnt have the heart to stick Cordelia with Willow, so in the end he decided to trust them to behave and do whats proper. He didnt want to think about what Cordelia and Xander were probably up to when the lights were out, but at least he could count on Willow and Oz to be sensible when he didnt have his eye on them. Watching them sometimes made him miss Jenny a little more than he would have liked; that pain still smarted like it was just yesterday, and he wondered if he would ever find a love like that again.
Enough of this brown study; the newspaper was the important thing right now. He scanned the lurid headlines of the local tabloid. Rocket Killer Claims Sixth Victim. Police Increase Security On Subway. No New Leads, Says Chief. Buffy had to be in there somewhere, searching for this killer. Giles seriously doubted that she could ignore a murder spree like this, what with the victims all being young teenage girls. Evil might be attracted to her, but she could be attracted to evil, given the right circumstances.
He turned around to face the others.
All right, this is the plan. What we have to do is find this Rocket Killer. I believe that if and when we do, we should find Buffy as well.
Why not search for Buffy like we have been? asked Xander.
I think I know, Willow cut in. Theres more available information about the killer than there is about Buffy, right?
Giles nodded. Exactly. If we can track the killer down, using clues that the police have picked up, as well as talking to witnesses, then we have a better chance of running into Buffy. The audacity of this man is astonishing. He has been caught on camera several times, flaunting his crimes, even going out of his way to make sure his face is seen, and yet the police seem no closer to catching him. At least He stopped momentarily.
What? demanded Cordelia.
Buffy wont need to do the detective work. Once she gets close enough, I think that, um, shell be able to sense the evil.
Kind of like her own little homing beacon, said Oz.
Yes, exactly. After a certain point, they will begin to attract each other, until they finally meet. Hopefully well be there at the right time.
So what do we do? asked Willow.
* * *
So what do I do? asked Xander.
You talk our way in, replied Willow. Youre good at that.
Good at what?
Its an underappreciated talent. So what am I supposed to say?
They were standing outside the Metro Toronto Police Headquarters, trying to stay out of the hot sun. Oz, Cordelia, and Giles were off visiting the witnesses mentioned in the newspaper, which left Willow and Xander. About to commit a serious crime. In a foreign country.
Youre a student at a local school, and youre doing a project on violent crimes, said Willow. Im your girlfriend, just along for the ride.
And what are we really doing here?
Im going to hack into their mainframe and download all the juicy stuff about the Rocket Killer.
You know, said Xander, I dont even have a passport. What if they ask me for my papers?
This isnt Russia, Xander, you dont need papers here. Well be fine. Were Americans, Willow chirped happily. They love us in this country.
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