Title: For the Moment
Author: Jade Hunter
Disclaimer: None of the characters and properties of Dark Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer belong to me.
A.N: This takes place before Hello, Goodbye and, of course, some time after Chosen – almost seventeen years, to be precise.
The music was pre-Pulse, alternating between pop/rock and R&B, according to the whims of the DJ and the mood of the crowd. The beer was poor, almost piss water that reminded her of the stuff they used to serve at Willy's, but the hard stuff was good and strong, and she had shot after shot, knowing that she could drink until sunrise and she still wouldn't get so much as a buzz.
She kept her eyes on the dance crowd, her index finger slowly tracing the rim of her shot glass, not meeting anyone's eyes, lest they take it for an invitation. She had tried it before, to loose herself in the music until a warm and willing male body came, but she would feel so bad afterwards – she had always hated one-night stands, and they were all too young for a relationship with a high-maintenance girl like her.
There had only ever been two men who had successfully been able to deal with and accept her fully, and both of them were long dead.
Refilling her shot glass, she tossed the drink down and felt grounded as the burning sensation traveled down her throat and went down further to warm her stomach.
She didn't really dwell on it much, the lack of love in her life. She was no longer that girl from long ago who jumped from angsty relationship to angsty relationship – one could only take so much before things got tired. And it wasn't as if she had a bad life; things were going pretty well for her, and she rather thought she got things right this time.
A phone rang, the shrill tone indicating a cell phone, not a land line, and it took her a moment to realize that it was her cell. "Hello?"
"Hey, it's me."
She smiled at the familiar voice, turning back towards the bar. "Oh, hey!"
"It's okay – not exactly the way it used to be, but what city can claim that anymore? Why?" she asked.
"Giles wanted an update; he worries, you know how he is."
"Well, tell him I'm okay, I'm going to visit the girl after my stuff gets here – you sent them, right? – and that things here aren't normally as out-of-control as they appear on TV."
"Yeah, we sent your stuff; they should be there in a day or two. Everything is okay, then, even the whole mutant-but-apparently-not-evil-government-projects thing?"
"Say that five times," she laughed. "Yup. I've been here for an entire day – no secret government mutant sightings, just some weirdo fanatics who want to wipe them out."
"That's good. Well, not the wiping out part, because the mutants aren't evil, at least we don't think so, and genocide is always bad, excluding the case of evil demons, but good that you haven't seen one yet."
"Uh huh, breathe, Willow. How's Faith and the girls?"
"Faith's good, she went to give the sales pitch to a new girl; we still haven't figured out who's been replaced, but…working on that. Anyway, Faith checked in from our England base not too long ago, so she's probably landing in France by now. The other girls are all good, too, keeping busy, keeping alive."
She stilled. "Yeah," she said softly.
"Oh, shoot. I'm sorry, Buffy, really, my bad. Big bad, really big bad. How many times do I have to tell myself – "
Closing her eyes, she exhaled slowly. "It's fine, Wills."
"But – "
"Really," she insisted. "It's not your fault, it was my idea in the first place, and you didn't know this would happen. None of us did."
"…Are you sure you're okay?"
"Okay, then, I have to go, I have a date in a few."
She smiled, "Have fun."
"I will. Bye, Buff."
Shoving the phone into the pocket of her coat, she glanced at her shot glass and thought better of it, suddenly not willing to spend the night drinking. It now reminded her of bad things, of a time when she was going through some heavy problems and had taken it out on someone who hadn't deserved it just because she couldn't take it out on those who did.
Gesturing to the bartender, she placed fifty bucks under her shot glass; he saw it and nodded, heading over. Not caring about the change, she got up from the stool and tucked her hands inside her pockets, more for comfort than for warmth. She wove her way through the crowd, thoughts of the past clear in her mind, and her feeling of not belonging was stronger than ever.
It was because of that day, almost seventeen years ago, when she had come up with that wacky plan to defeat the First and its army of Ubervamps. She hadn't known then, they hadn't known, until quite some years afterward, when Willow looked at her college pictures and laughed at how much she'd changed since then. Xander had joined her, and when Buffy had joined them, they realized that the blonde hadn't changed much at all.
It didn't take long to note that Faith hadn't aged much either; neither of them looked as old as they were supposed to.
The situation inspired a research party like none other, and they eventually found out that it must have been the spell Willow used, to Call all the Slayers. No one knew how Slayers were usually Called, but Willow had flooded power into all the links to the weapon; even Potential Slayers were connected to the Scythe in a dormant link that only opened when they were Called.
However, because they hadn't known, Willow hadn't differentiated between the two active links – Buffy and Faith – and the multitudes of dormant links to the Potentials. They figured out that when the Potentials were flooded with Slayer power, Buffy and Faith – who had both felt the power wave – had also received a second helping of the power. Not only that, the power they had all been filled with had been the power from the Scythe, an ancient thing, made for the earlier Slayers who had to fight pure demons.
The power was primal, stronger and more closer to the source, which explained why each of the newly awakened Slayers were able to take on multitudes of Ubervamps at a time, without the Scythe, when Buffy had struggled with the one for weeks. It explained how Faith had been able to fight her way out of a pile of Ubervamps, how quickly Buffy's stab wound had healed, how their friends were all in their late thirties but the two of them still looked as if they had just turned twenty.
It didn't take a genius to figure out that the second dose did something to their inherent beings, something that slowed down their aging to an unnatural crawl.
At first, it had been kind of neat. What girl really wanted to gain the wrinkles and sagging skin that came with age?
Then came the day when Xander and Willow looked old enough to be her parents, and when she hung out with them in public, people assumed it to be so. When Giles, who had been like a father to her, began to look like her grandfather.
The kicker, for her, had been when Dawn began to look as if she was the older sister, not the other way around.
For Faith, it had been when Robin looked old enough to be her father; their relationship might have been strong enough to survive it, but the Slayer had pulled away, going with her old motto of better safe than sorry.
At that point, both she and Faith had begun to hate it, their un-aging bodies, and they still did, because it never let them get close to anyone new, and there was now a silent barrier between the two of them and the others. The new Slayers that arrived were in awe of them as soon as they found out, as well as a little afraid, and treated them not like Sister Slayers, but like figures of legend.
It was disconcerting.
Willow, Xander, Giles, Dawn, and the rest dealt with it as smoothly as they could. It had been a shock, to be sure, but they were still close. Just…not as close as they used to be. Buffy didn't know when it had begun to happen, and although she still thought of Wills and Xander as her best friends, Faith was the one she could relate to the best, even more than before.
They both didn't age; they were both Slayers before the Awakening; they both were distanced from loved ones because of it – and they both hated it with a vengeance.
They always would hate it.
Closing her eyes for a brief moment to banish the depressing thoughts, Buffy was startled when she bumped into what felt like a brick wall, but warm and with a heartbeat she could hear. Not looking at the person, not caring since vampires had no heartbeats and demons would never walk into a bar filled with humans, she mumbled an apology and moved past.
Pollution and smoke had long staled the night air, created a screen to hide the stars, but it was a lot better than the packed atmosphere of the club. Taking in a deep breath, she let her Slayer senses loose to their utmost range, searching for a vampire or a demon in her current Sector.
She felt like beating something up tonight.
Not even a block away, a small grouping that made the hairs on the back of her neck bristle, that made adrenaline pump through her system, that called to the Slayer inside her.
A grin that was all teeth and no smile spread across her face as she ducked into the nearest alley, choosing to take the darker and shorter routes.
The hunt was on.