With thanks to Perri, Dee, Lizbet, Tina and the Horsechicks for betaing, editing, and giggling.

[A follow-up to this is now being posted under the "Smallville" category,
with the title "Lines of Communication"]

Spoilers through "Wrecked" for BtVS, and "Jitters" for Smallville.

Dawn and Clark belong to a slew of production companies and themselves; the
story is my own, and may not be re-posted without permission. A follow-up to
this is posted under the "Smallville" category.

Pop Quiz Question of the Day:
If a supernatural teenager from Sunnydale, California heads east at 70 mph,
while a super-powered teenager from Smallville, Kansas is heading west at 65
mph, at what time will they meet up in a Greyhound bus station in Denver?

Runaway Trains at 3 A.M. (1/7)
by C. L. Kamnikar
copyright 2002

"Stupid piece of junk. Give me my Almond Joy!"

Dawn kicked the candy machine twice, thumped it with the heel of her hand,
then narrowed her eyes in frustration, braced herself, and body-slammed it,
hard. Nothing. Nada. Not a twinge. What was the point of being a
supernatural energy blob, if she couldn't even make the stupid vending
machine cough up her candy? She could see the Almond Joy dangling just off
the edge of the dispenser row, taunting her. Sure, if she felt like feeding
the machine more money she could get it easily, but it was the *principle*
of the thing.

Okay, so, maybe not. It was more like the really evil mood she'd been in
since the bus had broken down in Denver in the middle of the night. She
couldn't ream out the six-foot-plus driver, the other passengers from her
bus were just as pissed off (and mostly asleep in the lobby), and everyone
else in the downtown bus station was kinda scary. Three more *hours* she
was going to be stuck here, the snack bar was closed, and she couldn't even
get a candy bar? What could she have ever done as a green glowy Key to
deserve this?

Everyone was *so* lucky she couldn't melt people's brains with her thoughts.
The linoleum would be _covered_ in goo, if she could.

"Let me get that for you, sweetheart. Pretty thing like you shouldn't be
hurting herself just to get a little snack."

Dawn turned, and immediately made a face that Buffy would've recognized from
the time the Slayer had come home covered in viscous grey slime and smelling
like a bottle of nail polish remover gone bad. The guy trying to invade her
personal space looked like a bad cross between a greasy TV-movie pimp and one
of the more-fashion-impaired vamps from home. "Uh, no. Thanks. I'm cool."

"No, I insist, I can get this for you. What's your name, sweetheart?"
Pimp-Boy got a little too close, then stumbled back in surprise when she
elbowed him in the gut. His face darkened. "Hey. That wasn't very
appreciative."

"I don't like being crowded, okay? And I said I had it." Dawn could hear her
voice rising, and for once there wasn't anyone there to tell her to be quiet.
Too bad, since the quaver in her voice had a lot to do with that--- no one else
seemed to be within screeching distance, and Pimp-Boy was between her and
the break room door. She planted her feet like Buffy would, bending her
knees and putting up her fists. "Now back off, will you?"

The creep smiled unpleasantly, stepping closer, leaning in again, and she
backed away from his breath. "I don't think so, honey. I think you ought to
reconsider your attitude. Little girl like you--- you really think you can
look out for yourself?"

"I did okay a second ago. And I've never needed anyone before." All right, big
fib, but that was in Sunnydale, which didn't count. She'd kicked a demon in
the crotch once, she could *definitely* handle this guy.

If he would just move away a little, give her room to punch or kick or
*something*....

"All I'm asking is for you to be a little nicer, and maybe I'll get you what you
want--- breakfast, maybe something else?"

"Eww! Like I'd have sex with you for a candy bar? Or scrambled eggs? That's
*beyond* skeezy. I think you've discovered a whole new state of pervdom.
Thanks for sharing your discovery, but *go away*."

Pimp-boy was getting madder, and Dawn was just starting to get scared --- he
was still between her and the door, and sure, someone would hear her
yelling eventually --- they always did, and this was still a public
place --- but not before he hurt her, and that was going to suck.
"You gotta real mouth on you, chickie---"

"Leave her alone."

They both stopped dancing around for position, and Dawn peered around
Pimp-boy to see a guy about her age standing in front of the Coke machine
immediately behind the skeez. When did he show up?

"Stay outta this, kid. I'm just having a talk with my girl---"

"I am _not_ his girl. Get Security! He's trying to pick me up, and that's
gotta be a felony even if we aren't in California, I'm sure of it!"

"Kid, if you leave now, nobody has to get hurt." Total lie. Which Pimp-boy
proved in the next second when he tried to hit the guy, throwing a full-on
punch at his jaw.

And that was when it got weird, because the skeez staggered back from the
impact of his own punch, cursing and holding his hand, and the kid didn't
even move. Dawn blinked, looking at Pimp-boy for a second before glancing
back at the guy who'd come to her rescue. He shrugged helplessly at her and
smiled ruefully.

Pretty eyes, she noted, and gave him a brilliant smile back.

"Gonna get you for that, you little---" Pimp-boy wasn't giving up; he rushed
toward the younger guy, snarling and going for his solar plexus with both
fists. The kid caught one fist in each of his hands without even trying, and
just held them out and away from him while the guy struggled. Wow. Not even
*breathing* hard, and he had Pimp-boy totally dealt with. Dawn fought hard
not to giggle. After about a minute of this, Pimp-boy lost whatever grip on his
temper he'd had and tried to head-butt the guy in the stomach.

"Owww...." The skeez toppled over, moaning, flailed at his head with his
hands, then slumped down against the Coke machine, his eyes rolling back in
his head. Dawn squeaked in surprise and glee, then skipped back a step so he
wouldn't touch her shoes when he slid to the floor.

"Wow. I didn't mean for--- that's never happened." Boy Scout Guy was looking
all worried and guilty now that the bad guy was unconscious, which was
mega-sweet but *so* not practical. She could totally believe that no one had
had ever knocked themselves out on him before. "We should probably get him a
doctor---"

"Are you kidding me? For him? Sleazy dude? No way." She flipped her hair
over her shoulder and marched to the door of the breakroom, waving to a
security guard and motioning him over, talking to her rescuer the whole
time. "The best he should get is being handcuffed to the plumbing in here.
Which is just ick, by the way. You *really* don't want to use the restrooms
in this station."

"Um, sure... Are you okay?" He was giving her this concerned look like he
thought she might be traumatized, and Dawn snorted.

"Me? Yeah, right. I was more scared the time lame-o Harmony kidnapped me and
chained me to a wall. This guy *so* should have met up with _her_ in a bus
station. That'd teach him to mess with teenage girls."

Whatever Rescue Guy was going to say to that got lost as she explained the
situation to the security guard, (telling him the skeez had tripped on the
polished floor, and thus completely leaving Boy Scout Guy out of it). He
hauled Pimp-boy away after determining that Dawn's bus didn't leave for
another threehours and that she'd file a complaint before she left.
She turned back to her rescuer in triumph, before she was hit with an attack
of post-rescue awkwardness. Being grateful was always *so* embarrassing,
and he was *extremely* cute.... Cuter than Kevin, even, and then there was
the whole obvious superhero thing, which made it that teeny bit harder to
seem cool when she said thank-you....

All of the weird melted completely away when she saw that he was minutely
examining the floor in between his shoes, his shoulders hunched up nearly to
his ears. And that those ears were tipped with red, bright enough to match
the shirt under his denim jacket.

"So. Are you just going to stand there all night, or are you going to help
me get my candy bar?"

"What?" Big green eyes shot up in shock, and he unhunched his shoulders
enough for her to see that he was really tall. As tall as Giles, almost.
Hair as black as Xander's, cheekbones like Spike's, shoulders like
Riley's--- if she'd gone down a checklist and made a guy up out of her
favorite guys, this is what he'd look like. Only not as shy. And
possibly, way better-dressed.

"Candy bar, machine, tilt? You can do that, right? I figure it's got to go
with the whole superhero thing. You know, lifting large objects, helping
starving travelers...." He gaped at her, and she got a good look at a lot
of white teeth. "Hello? It's not like I'd be _stealing_ it, I already paid
for it, the stupid machine just won't give me my Almond Joy---"

"I'm not--- um, I mean, what are you talking about?" He tried to laugh,
nervous and breathy, and the blush spread up to his eyebrows. Jeez, he was
even more edgy than Wesley used to be, back in the day. "I'm not a
super-whatever-you're-thinking---"

"Oh, *please*. Skeez-o-man knocked himself unconscious on your abs. And it's
not like you're wearing a bullet-proof vest or something, it'd completely
show through that shirt." If he turned much redder, he was going to have an
heart attack or pass out. And then she'd have to give him CPR... Focus,
Dawn. "Plus you didn't even have to duck when he tried to hit you, all you
did was hang onto his hands without *even* trying. And he probably broke a
couple bones on your jaw. Total it up and you're *not* of the norm."

"I... I just.... " He was looking at the floor again, and trying to shrug
his way into disappearing inside his jacket, which was just _so_ sad.
Clearly, this guy had issues about the hero-thing. Still, he'd saved her,
whether or not she'd needed it, and who was she to mock anyone else's
abnormal-ness?

"Did I remember to say thank you?" When he looked up again, some of the red
fading out of his face and ears, and his eyes actually focusing on hers, she
gave him her very best smile and added in her begging voice, "And that I'm
really really hungry, and I want my Almond Joy?" He rolled his eyes and
actually laughed at that, and she bounced on her toes. "Cool. So, thanks.
That was really... neat."

"Uh, you're welcome. Sure. Uh, I'll just---" He motioned to the candy
machine and she scooted out of the way. He shot her one hesitant look, then
his jaw clenched and he placed both hands on the machine, tilting it towards
him and back with one quick, snappy motion that looked way too easy for as
heavy as she knew the machine was. Three or four candy bars fell out of
their slots, and Dawn chortled happily as she crouched down to retrieve the
loot.

"We should pay for those." Boy Scout Guy sounded worried, and Dawn
grimaced in response.

"You're kidding, right?"

"No, I only meant to get your bar--- never mind, I'll pay for it, it's my
fault...."

Which would be so not fair, even though she didn't want to pay for them, but
it was pretty clear that her new friend was a straighter arrow than Riley,
even. "We'll split it. You tilted it for me, so I'll pay too. And you can
have half."

"Thanks." He aimed another one of those bewildered-but-amused looks at her,
and she handed him a Crunch bar as they walked back out into the lobby. "Uh,
I'm Clark."

"I'm Dawn."

"Hi."

"Hey. Do you like M&Ms?"

"Yeah, thanks.... Want half a Hershey's?"

"Sure."

*
More to come, real soon.

Chris Kiki Chaos }|{
kikimariposa@prodigy.net