Going Solo 4

Previous chapters: ANYASEMF008, ANYASEMF013, ANYASEMF026

"What kind of deal?" Angel asked suspiciously.

"I'm told vampire blood can fix just about anything," Ford said, recalling what Xander said about vampire blood preserving human brains.

"While true, it has some major downsides," Angel cautioned, realizing why Ford was asking to make a deal.

"Like?"

"It's addictive," Angel said. "Once you've drunk enough to cure you, you wouldn't be able to live without it."

"So, not so different than what I'm currently going through," Ford said bluntly.

"That bad?" Angel asked sympathetically.

"Brain cancer," Ford replied, "you don't want to know how bad it is."

"You'd also be under the control of the vampire who fed you three times or more," Angel added.

"So I'd have to find a vampire who can be trusted," Ford said, looking directly in Angel's eyes.

Angel nodded and considered that.

"How much would I have to drink?" Ford asked.

"A mouthful a week," the cursed vampire said, trying to figure out if there actually was a downside for Ford, considering his condition.

"So, what do you say," Ford asked as Xander returned with three drinks and set them on the table, "do you want to save my life?"

Xander kept quiet. They'd let Ford know what was what, it was up to him to make the decision now and maybe as his sire, Angel could order the vampire who replaced Ford to help them.

"Alright, I'll do it," Angel said as Ford took a long pull on his drink.

Ford slumped in his seat and let out a relieved sigh. "Thanks man, you have no idea how much this means to me."

"Actually, I think I do," Angel said, pulling Ford's drink over to his side of the table and pulling out a pocket knife.

As Angel bled into the glass, having to twist the knife to keep the blood flowing, Xander realized what they'd agreed to.

Angel pushed the now crimson drink back towards Ford and Xander held up his glass. "A toast," he said, waiting for the other two to pick up their glasses, "to beating the odds."

The three tapped their glasses together and drank, completely draining their glasses in one go.

"A bit salty but not bad," Ford offered, before falling silent, a slowly growing smile on his face. "The pain is fading."

Xander gave Angel a respectful nod, which seemed to surprise the vampire. "Just wait until the superhuman strength kicks in, it's a pretty handy power."

"Superhuman strength?" Ford asked.

"The servant of a master vampire, which Angel is, gains a portion of his physical capabilities," Xander explained, "that's why people become blood servants."

"When you said hanging around you guys would end up with me developing superpowers, you weren't kidding," Ford said in disbelief.

"Yeah, but I was planning on teaching you telekinesis," Xander answered honestly.

"I wasn't sure you were serious about that," Ford admitted.

Xander grinned. "It's a handy skill to have." He finished his drink. "I'll get us some cokes." At Angel's raised eyebrow he explained, "A single alcoholic drink is fine, but more than that on the Hellmouth is a bad idea."

Angel nodded, conceding the point. Once Xander had left, he turned to Ford. "No dating Buffy. We just broke up and as your Master, I share your senses."

Ford looked a little disturbed by that, but stopped and thought about it. "I can see how awkward that would make things."

"I'm glad you understand," Angel said.

"This senses sharing thing… is it always on?" Ford asked, trying to sound casual.

"I sleep from two hours after sunrise to two before sunset," Angel said, knowing what the teen in front of him would be concerned about, "and I can ignore most things, it's just Buffy…"

"No, I get it," Ford assured him. "I can work with this."

"Good," Angel said, relieved.

"Man, it feels so good not to be in pain," Ford said with a smile. "It's even easier to think now."

Xander returned with their cokes. "You know, you're going to have to get a place in town and it'll probably be easier if you both live together."

"I value my privacy," Angel said. "It's been decades since I lived with someone."

"I return home in good health and tell my folks I have to stay in Sunnydale to continue treatment and they'll buy me a mansion here," Ford said bluntly. "With a big enough place it'll be like you're living on your own."

"Threshold protections would be nice," Angel admitted as he considered the idea.

"Some place with a phone we can call you at rather than waiting for you to show up," Xander suggested.

"I have a phone," Angel said.

Xander just stared at him for a moment before sighing. "None of us have asked for your phone number, have we?"

Angel simply nodded while Ford grinned, amused.

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"Give me all your money and I'll let you go," Willow said.

"Willow!" Buffy exclaimed.

The floating vampire scrabbled through his pockets, tossing everything at the red-haired witch.

"What? He's a master vampire, he's obviously got cash to spare," Willow said as she collected the wallet, loose bills, and gold ring.

"Yes, but we're supposed to stake them, not mug them," Buffy complained.

Willow dropped the vampire as she counted the cash. "No, you're the Slayer, you're supposed to stake them, I'm just an innocent witch with empty pockets."

The vampire climbed to his feet nervously.

"Besides, I said I'd let him go, not that you would," Willow pointed out.

"Oh," Buffy said brightly as the vampire's eyes widened.

There was a brief scuffle as Buffy swept the vampire's feet from under him and dropped down to stake him.

"Over two hundred dollars," Willow said cheerfully, "though the ring looks fake."

"You are going to split that, right?" Buffy asked.

"Of course," Willow agreed, passing her half the bills.

Buffy grinned and ran her thumb across the edge of the bills, enjoying the sound it made before handing it back to Willow. "For the boat fund," she said.

"For the boat fund," Willow agreed, adding her own money to it and slipping it in her pocket.

"Hey, Willow?" Buffy asked, a trace of nervousness in her voice.

"Yes, Buffy?"

"Have you noticed any changes since Halloween?"

"We've all changed since Halloween," Willow replied. "I mean, it's pretty obvious."

"I'm thinking of a specific change," Buffy said, looking around the graveyard, though the entire place was empty.

"And that is?"

"I've been… noticing the girls in the locker room," Buffy admitted.

"Kinda hard not to… Oh," Willow said as she realized what Buffy meant.

"Yeah, 'oh," Buffy said with a heavy sigh.

Willow took a deep breath. "I'm… noticing them, but then I kinda always have."

"Oh," Buffy said, surprised.

"Yeah, 'oh," Willow fired back with a grin.

Buffy giggled. "Well, it's kinda new for me."

"Just because you notice them doesn't mean you have to do anything," Willow offered. "I mean, it's not like I've stopped noticing Xander."

"You've got a point there," Buffy said, relieved.

"He's been dressing better," Willow said with a smile, "more darker hues and tighter jeans."

"He has been scarring my retinas less lately," Buffy noted. "Now, picture him in Leia's chain mail bikini."

Willow burst out laughing. "With his hair in buns!"

Buffy laughed so hard she had to take a second to catch her breath.

"I think I'd rather see him in a loin cloth," Willow said.

"Chained up, like in Miss French's basement?" Buffy teased.

"Oh yeah," Willow said, licking her lips.

Buffy considered it. "Suddenly, I feel like having ice cream. Let's go get some ice cream."

"Good idea," Willow said, "I'm normally not one to sublimate into anything but studying, but ice cream sounds like a good idea about now, otherwise I may jump him the moment I see him."

"Are you going to make a move on him soon?" Buffy asked hopefully, as they left the cemetery.

"I've ordered a slave Leia outfit," Willow replied, "the creds for that bounty are in the system as soon as it arrives and I invite him over."

"How- Shit!" the vampire cursed as he stepped out from a dark alley and spotted the Slayer.

Willow lifted him in the air with a gesture. "Your money or your life," she demanded.

"I'm broke!"

*Poof!*

Buffy put her stake away. "Still feels like we're mugging people, especially when you say things like that."

"That's why I do it," Willow said with a grin, "it makes it more fun!"

Buffy snickered. "Okay, put like that, I can see why you do it."

"If you're not having fun you're living life wrong," Willow said.

"I think Han had more of an effect on you than he did on me," Buffy decided.

Willow shrugged. "I'm still figuring some things out, but you have to admit, we were all wound a bit too tight."

"Can't disagree with you there," Buffy said, "but I won't fully relax until we've got a ship beneath our feet."

Willow smiled. "Into the black, or the blue in this case."

"Spirit's the same," Buffy said as they entered the coffee shop.

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"Han got around," Xander said, "but he was never the lady's man he pretended to be. One night stands are not seduction."

"It feels so weird to be talking about this like its real," Ford said. "Kinda blows your mind."

"More than vampires?" Angel asked dryly.

"Way more," Ford said. "We are talking about countless planets filled with life here, not just a couple of myths and legends turning out to be true."

"You have a point there," Angel admitted. "Imagine a universe filled with life, where here we have only one planet, as far as we know."

"As far as we know," Xander agreed.

"I remember getting excited about Mars having canals and what might have been living there," Angel said. "It was a big disappointment to find out it was barren."

"Now it's barren," Xander said, "but NASA says it once had an atmosphere and life. Pretty sure it's where Venus flytraps came from."

The two turned to stare at him.

"Venus flytraps, guess where you find them," Xander said.

"The Amazon," the two chorused.

"North Carolina," Xander told them.

"Are you sure?" Angel asked.

"Positive," Xander said. "Venus flytraps are unrelated to any other plant on Earth, as far as they can tell and if you follow the pattern they've spread from to the center, you'll find a meteor crater. I figure a comet whacked into Mars at some point, knocking a chunk of the crust into space and eventually some of it crashed here."

"And plant seeds are something that could lie dormant, until it crashed into Earth," Ford said, following his train of thought.

"Wouldn't it make more sense for something to strike the Earth and it just took a few million years to get caught in Earth's gravity and come back down?" Angel asked. "I mean, even if Mars had atmosphere it would have been radically different from Earth's."

"A prehistoric plant makes more sense," Ford agreed.

"Maybe," Xander conceded, "but I prefer to believe that some life existed on Mars and continued here."

"It's possible," Angel agreed, "just less likely."

"With all the crazy things I've seen, I'll bet on long odds," Xander said.

"That's not surprising," Angel said thoughtfully, "beating the odds seems to be your thing, or possibly is the thing of your group."

"What am I missing?" Ford asked.

Angel turned to Ford. "Most Slayer's last six months before they're killed, human hunters even less, but the Scooby Gang, Xander's term not mine, has been actively hunting, on a Hellmouth no less, for longer than six months without losing a single person."

"Do I have to hunt?" Ford asked nervously.

"No," Xander said, "you seem more like a money guy. Throw money at us and we'll kill things for you."

Ford smiled. "I am perfectly okay with that. I mean, I want to help, but I also don't want to die."

"Perfectly understandable," Xander agreed. "But hey, for every battle we get into, we spend twenty times as much reading dusty books to figure out what to kill. You can help with that."

"I can read dusty books," Ford agreed.

"I think it's the fact that you guys spend so much time on research that allows you to survive," Angel said thoughtfully. "Most hunters go in blind or with little backup."

"You can only make blind jumps so many times before you become one with a star," Xander said, "and that number is usually one."

"Research sounds boring but safe," Ford said.

"That sounds about right," Xander agreed, "Though we try and have fun too. You never know what interesting fact is going to save your life later, so we share them as we read and eat donuts. Actually, it's kinda fun when we aren't racing the clock on how to stop something."

"Some of the ideas you come up with," Angel said, shaking his head.

"Like what?" Xander asked.

"Altering a nail gun to shoot wooden nails," he pointed out.

"Yeah, it's a bit bulky and has to be used at close range for any sort of accuracy, but that one vamp running off with a dozen wooden nails in him was funny," Xander said.

"Sometimes the old ways are the best," Angel said.

"Only because we haven't come up with something new that works better and the only way to do that is to test things out," Xander countered.

"Like the stake made out of petrified wood?" Angel asked.

"I have no idea why it didn't work," Xander said, "but we can all agree it has much better penetration than a wooden one."

Angel swiveled his head to the side. "I'll be right back."

Xander turned to see where he was looking and spotted a pair of guys escorting a couple of girls out the back of the club. "Two on two is a lot easier to handle," he suggested as he got up. "I'll distract one while you deal with the other."

Angel considered it for a moment before nodding. "Alright."

"Hang tight, we'll be right back," Xander said.

"Yeah, no," Ford disagreed getting up, "I've seen this part of the horror movie before and I'm not going to be the guy left on his own to be picked off. I'll stick behind, but close enough to yell if anyone attacks from the rear."

"Suits," Xander agreed and hurried after Angel.

Typing By: Abyssal Angel

TN: Never knew that about flytraps. Had to google to learn more at that point. Pretty interesting stuff, though it seems scientists are claiming they're relatives of sticky trap plants now.