Buffy the Vampire Slayer and all associated characters were created by Joss Whedon and are owned by Mutant Enemy. Ren is a copyrighted character I created for a work of original fiction and belongs to me (and I'm not joking about that). She can not be used without my express written permission.
Setting is between Season 6 and 7.
Text in italics denotes internal thoughts.
Xander sat at the bar, trying to unwind after a hard day at work, regaining his strength for a hard nights patrol. With Willow and Giles in England, and Anya back to being a vengeance demon again, it was a hard to hold down a full time job and act as back up for the Slayer.
The rest of his crew were sat at a table, and had started drinking heavily: Friday meant payday and a weekend off, so he didn't begrudge them the chance to relax. And at only 20, it wasn't like he could join them without getting kicked out by the barman.
Someone dropped a quarter into the jukebox in the corner and it started to play Free Bird by Lynyrd Skynyrd.
"Cher Dieu!" The woman sat two stools down from Xander rolled her eyes, lifting her shot glass and downing the content in one go, "Now matter where I go..." her soft French accent caught Xander's attention; it wasn't something he was used to hearing in Sunnydale.
Xander looked her over: she was relatively tall, almost the same high as he was. Her body was slender, but curved in all the right places to interest most men. Her shoulder length hair was flame-red, a tad lighter than Willow's, and seemed to shine in the lights set above the bar. Her eyes were ice-blue and seemed to sparkle. Xander was worried that she might have been a vampire on the prowl, but then he noticed the small silver cross on a chain hung around her neck, just above her ample cleavage.
"Not a fan I take it?" He asked.
"It's a long story." The woman looked at him and smiled, "So, you local, or just passing through like me?"
"Born and raised; mores the pity."
"Yes, it is a very strangle little town."
"What about you: what brings you to Sunnydale?"
"It's between where I was and where I'm going. Could have kept driving, but it was getting late..."
"You should have kept going."
"I see that now." The woman moved down so she was sitting next to Xander, "Sophie Wren. My friends call me Ren."
"Alexander Harris." Xander shook her hand, "People generally call me Xander."
"So, Xander, what is there to do in this town on a Friday night?"
"Not a lot; it tends to get dead quiet around sunset."
"On a Friday night? Par le tout ce qui est sacré: even the English are not this bad!"
"Huh, what can I say: it's a hell of a town."
"There must be something?"
"I used to go to a club called The Bronze with my friends when we were in High School."
"The lead on, MacDuff, lead on."
Xander was surprised to find that he was enjoying himself.
He hadn't been to The Bronze since leaving High School: it just seemed too tame after his almost legendary Road Trip. But being there with Ren was different; she was easy to be relaxed around, without the emotional baggage Willow or Buffy represented.
At first they just talked about nothing of any importance: music, TV, sport, books. It felt good to have a discussion that didn't involve demons or the end of the world in some way. Just being able to relax and talk about mundane, everyday things, was amazingly relaxing.
Ren was amazingly down to earth: she smiled and laughed at Xander's jokes, listening to what he had to say rather than just waiting her turn to talk. He was careful to keep from getting too relaxed, and managed to stop himself from mentioning anything to do with Sunnyvale's non-human night life.
It was when he mentioned Anya and their almost-marriage that he got his first good look at what sort of person Ren really was.
"So this guy came and told you a load of lies about Anya, and said your life would be hell if you married her?" Ren took a sip of her drink, "Sounds like you got played. Was he an ex of hers or something?"
"Something like that."
"Sounds like he couldn't stand to see her happy, or happy with someone other than him."
"That's the story Anya gave me afterwards. You sound like you've been through something similar."
"Yeah, well I did a stupid thing and fell in love with someone I can't have. De même que la vie."
"Why; doesn't he feel the same?"
"No; he's married, apparently quite happily. And I'm not the kind of woman who'll try and break up a happy home."
"Is that what you're doing here? Staying out of his way?"
"Not really: he lives in London, so as long as I stay out of England, there is no temptation to try and see him. No, I'm here doing some work for a friend: someone he knows has gone missing in LA, and he asked me to look into it."
"Isn't that what the LAPD's for?"
"My friend doesn't trust the police: he wants someone to look into it unofficially. I happened to be free and in California."
"So what do you do, if you don't mind me asking?"
"As little as I can." Ren smirked, "I suppose you could say I'm a sort of investigative journalist turned professional whistle blower: I found out something some powerful people wanted hidden, and it was suggested that I travel for my health."
"So France can be unhealthy?"
"When you've upset the wrong people; yes. So now I mainly work for my friend, keeping an eye on some things for him."
"Then welcome to America: land of the supposedly free."
"This is getting depressing." Ren downed the last of her drink and stood, "Come on: I want to dance."
"Hey, I don't..." Xander tried to protest, but Ren was deceptively strong for her size and pulled him to his feet and across the floor.
Dancing with Ren was an education: Xander's past experience had been limited to some purely platonic dances with Willow or Buffy, and a few times with Cordelia and Anya. But this was different, more primal: Ren's body moved with an easy, fluid grace that Xander had only seen before in Faith.
But Ren danced much closer to Xander than the young Slayer, and there was something defiantly different about her. She wasn't a Slayer, of that Xander was sure, but she wasn't normal either.
"Ok," Xander through to himself; "things are moving faster than I expected..."
After dancing for some time, Ren had taken him by the hand and led him outside and into the mouth of a dark alleyway. Xander was worried that his previous conclusion that she wasn't a vampire was about to be proven wrong, when she had suddenly pushed him up against the wall and started to kiss him passionately, holder his face with both hands.
Having a warm, female body pressed up against his own was something Xander hadn't expected in his near future: he was sure that Karma was going to get him for dumping Anya at the alter and keep him single for a very long time to come. True, Ren had said that she was just passing through, but there was always the possibility that he could go up to LA with her for a few days...
"Well, well, well." A voice called out from deeper in the shadows, "Looks like dinner's sorted then."
"Son of a..." Xander broke away from Ren and banged his head against the wall behind him, "God is mocking me."
"Diable..." Ren looked round until she saw the newcomers. Her eyes narrowed, "Vampires." She looked back at Xander, "This is a Vampire town?"
"Yeah; kind of." The young man answered sheepishly, "Didn't want to say anything too obvious, in case you didn't know about them."
"I know all about Vampires." Ren broke away from Xander's embrace and looked at the four demons slowly encircling them, "I hate Vampires."
"Yeah, well we love humans." The lead vampire gave a cocky smile as he advanced, his face changing to its demonic form, "Time to feed."
Xander's view of time started to slow down.
Ren went from stationery to moving so fast she seemed to blur. She span round, her right fist striking out at the lead vampire with enough force to send the startled vampire flying through the air to the far end of the alley.
He landed with a crash amid a pile of trash cans.
But Ren was already moving on. Grabbing a nearby fire escape for support, she swung into the air, both legs tucked in tight against her body. One foot shot out, the short heel on her right shoe impaling the second vampire in the chest. It was dust before Ren landed, looking at the lat two vampires.
"Okay." Ren eyed up the last two vampires as she dropped into a fighting stance, "Who's next?"
"Very good." A new voice came from the shadows, accompanied by the sound of clapping hands, "It's so rare that I have a worthy challenge."
The vampire that stepped out of the shadows had lost the ability to assume human form centuries before, forcing it to shy away from all human contact, unless feeding. But age had brought with it strength and skill far beyond that of any normal vampire.
"Oh crap." Xander muttered, "A master Vampire."
"The bigger they are," Ren gripped a large iron beam supporting the fire escape she'd previously used to support herself and ripped it cleanly away with no apparent effort, "the harder they fall."
The enraged Master Vampire leaped at the young French woman. Ren swung the beam like a baseball bat, swatting the demon out of the air with no apparent effort. But this had no apparent effect: the vampire simply stood up and grinned, fangs glistening.
"I think maybe we should find a way out of here." Xander looked round, finding all the exits blocked by vampires, "Easier said than done."
"Do you trust me?" Ren asked.
"Right now I see no reason not to." Xander nodded, "Yes."
"Then hold on and don't look down." Ren wrapped her arms around Xander before he could reply, and the ground suddenly seemed to drop away. The alleyway grew smaller below them, and Sunnydale unravelled below them like a miniature galaxy of streets and houses
"Wow!" Xander looked round, stunned by the view, "Something you want to tell me?"
"I'm not like other girls." Ren smiled, before capturing her companion's mouth with her own.
It was just getting light when Xander woke. He could feel Ren's arm still wrapped round him, the warmth of her body pressed against his back. As much as he wanted to stay there for as long as he could, he knew that there was something he had to do. Reaching out to the night stand, he was able to grab his cell phone and hit speed dial without waking Ren.
"Hi Buffy; it's me." He rubbed his sleepy eyes, "I know it's early, but I thought you should know that I ran into a Master Vampire last...oh, you did? That's ok then. Sorry I woke you. Yeah, see you later."
"What was all that about?" Ren asked as Xander dropped the phone to the floor.
"Friend of mine kind of has a job taking care of the local Vampire population." Xander shifted round so he was facing his bed mate, "Turns out she ran into him not long after we did and dusted him."
"That's good." Ren kissed Xander on the nose, "Less talking."
"You sure you have to go so soon?" Xander asked as Ren stepped out of the shower, covered in only a pair of towels, "Can't you stay for a day or two?"
"I'd like to; but I still have work in LA." Ren dried her hair and ran a hand through it, "It may not be fun, but someone has to do it."
"This is just my luck: I finally meet a beautiful woman who laughs at my jokes, likes the same movies as I do and can take care of herself in a fight, and she has to leave town." Xander sat back down on the bed, "My life sucks."
"It's not that bad." Ren smiled as she started to get dressed, "And as much fun as last night was, and as much as I do truly like you, we both know it wouldn't have worked in the long run."
"What makes you say that?"
"You're still deeply in love with Anya, just as I am in love with Nathan."
"That's his name then, your mystery man in London?"
"Yes." Ren finished dressing, "I'm sorry Xander, I really am, but it's the truth."
"You still haven't told me how you did what you did last night."
"I wish I could, but I don't understand it myself: I just can. As the man said, 'there are stranger things in Heaven and Earth...'"
"Yeah, I know." Xander opened the top draw of his nightstand and rummaged around until he found a battered business card, "Look, I know a few people in LA: thy might help you look for that guy you're trying to find."
"Thanks." Ren took the card and slipped it into her pocked. She wrapped her arms around Xander, "I'm not the type to go in for one-night stands, but I don't regret this: you're a good person, and that's very rare in this world." She slipped a small piece of paper into his pocket, "My voice-mail number: maybe we can get together for a drink sometime?"
"I'd like that. So, I guess this is Au Revoir then?"
"Not necessarily. Jusqu'à la fois prochaine, mon Alexandre."
Xander had almost reached Buffy's house when a car pulled up next to him, a man in an expensive looking suit and sunglasses stepped out.
"Excuse me, Monsieur." The man pulled an ID card from inside his jacket, "Inspector Dreyfus, Interpol. We have reason to believe that a wanted criminal is in town." He next produced and unfolded a piece of paper and held it up, "Have you seen this woman?"
It took all of Xander's self control to keep from reacting: the photo on the paper was undoubtedly of Ren, probably a year or two old. The word 'WANTED' was printed in bold type above the photo, with '$50,000 Reward' below in only slightly smaller text.
"No, sorry." Xander shook his head, doing his best to sound bored, "What's she wanted for anyway? $50,000 is a hell of a lot of money."
"I'm afraid that's classified." Dreyfus walked back to his car, "Thank you for your time."
Xander let himself into the Summer's house with his own key and walked into the kitchen, drawn by the smell of fresh coffee. Slinging his jacket over a chair he grabbed a mug and the offered coffee pot from Buffy.
"Where's Dawn?" He asked, sipping the hot, bitter liquid.
"Still in bed." The Slayer smiled "She hasn't gotten used to being out on patrol most of the night yet, and that Master Vampire you ran into took a while to deal with."
"Well, she'll learn. Is it ok if I use your phone?"
Xander walked to the living room and grabbed the phone. Looking round to make sure that Buffy wasn't watching, he pulled the piece of paper Ren had given him and dialled the number.
"Hi, it's me. Look, I just had some guy claiming to be from Interpol flashing your photo at me, saying you're a wanted criminal. I don't know if it's true, and I don't care, but there's a $50,000 reward out for information leading to your arrest. Just thought you should no. Bye." Xander hung up and slipped the paper back into his pocket.
"What was all that about?" Buffy asked from the doorway.
"Just someone I met last night." Xander smiled weakly, "Just a Free Bird."