A/N: No real spoilers, post-series.
God forgive me for all my sins, God forgive me for everything
The sun was rising majestically upon the horizon in the east and left the impression of a great fiery inferno to the dying young woman watching it for the last time of her life. It was almost eerily quiet (with the exception of her own rattling struggle for breath) owing largely to the two-inches of snow covering everything like a great layer of cotton.
As far as deaths went, this one wasn't the worst her fucked up excuse for a mind had spawned over the years. Hell, it was almost beautiful. Now, if only George Clooney could have the god damned common courtesy to come by and give her a last kiss, it would all be what one could call "perfect."
She coughed and some of the blood filling up her lungs spattered the ground, tainting the pure white snow with scarlet.
At some point, she had called for an ambulance, but she was starting to hope it wouldn't arrive at all. It was just so peaceful here, why disturb it?
Besides, it was far too late for any doctor to patch her up at this point. Years of experience, years or death and misery had ensured she knew that with the utmost confidence.
Grimacing, she spat out another mouthful of blood and leaned her cheek down against an untouched patch of snow.
As she drifted away, she thought that at least it had been an alright night.
A dozen and some hours earlier
Halmstad, a small-ish city at the south-western coast of Sweden, was a great place to live during the summer. Tourists would flood in from all around the country to enjoy the sun and the fine beaches.
It was late January now, though, and no tourists were to be seen anywhere. The weather was unreliable as always, usually bouncing up and down both sides of zero degrees Celsius, making the streets and roads slick and dangerous as the ice melted during the day and refroze overnight. Hanna had always thought she'd stay there, but four years ago, the changes had come. She had been seventeen at the time and in no way ready to be told that she was a slayer, a chosen one. She had spent a year in Scotland and three in London. Then, a day like any other, there had been a call from Xander Harris about an elusive group of vampires having a party in her old hometown. She had accepted right away, not because of some lingering sense of patriotism, but rather for the change of scenery.
London was a great place to live and yet she had been growing increasingly unhappy there. Slayers led a harsh and brutal life and depressions weren't uncommon in their line of work.
Hanna stood with her elbows against the railing of the many bridges connecting the small city centre to the one of the outer parts of the town, staring down the dark waters of the river below over the rims of her sunglasses.
It wasn't even four in the afternoon yet and the sun was already gone. This meant snack-time for her foe, her prey. But there weren't many of them around these parts. The place was just too sleepy and small to ignore corpses piling up.
Sighing heavily, Hanna pushed the sunglasses farther up her nose, runny from the harsh wind, and drew her coat closer to her body in hopes of warding of the raw invasive cold. She needed a drink rather badly, but it wasn't past seven in the evening yet, and as dependent as she was on the alcohol to make her life bearable, those limits at least gave her the illusion of having some control.
Steering her steps towards the core of the city, she walked past the McDonalds, across the square the large fountain of Europa and the Bull at it's centre.
As the had completed her walk diagonally across the cobblestoned area, the state owned alcohol company proved a momentary distraction.
Sighing once more, she kept on walking, eyes fixed on the church and the steepled roof of it's clock tower. It would be warm and quiet inside. At the moment, she really needed both.
This particular house of worship wasn't Catholic and thus lacked both the priest and the confessional standing by. To her, it didn't really matter. She didn't come here to speak to God. Her pessimistic mind had a hard time believing in Salvation. Even if it existed, she had doubts she'd qualify. As you fought evil, you generally tended to do evil. Hannah knew she had…
Entering the church, she let out a held breath. God or no God, there was something about this place that gave her a feeling of peace, of tranquillity.
The church was an open-spaced building, with the aisle in the middle surrounded by benches and massive stone pillars bearing the weight of the high roof. A few yards inside, past a sort of ante-chamber, where you could buy yourself a bible should you wish to, Hannah took a left and settled in one of the chairs waiting for her.
An old lady was sitting with her hands clasped in prayer deeper inside the church, in front of the large portrait featuring Jesus on the cross, but she was the only other person present.
Images kept flashing through Hanna's mind, despite her attempts to block them out. Her grip on the chair hardened almost to the point where the wood would splinter.
A group of children, laughing as they ran down the shortcut through an alley to the cinema… Where they ran into the fang's of death. Quite literally, actually. Hannah remembered that night over three years ago so well. She had been on one of her first missions and had killed a few vampires. But never more than one at a time, and there were six now.. Six. So she stood there, unable to look away or even will herself to run. And too afraid to intervene. They'd died horribly in the gutter with her watching and after a few weeks of guilt and unrelenting nightmares, she had started drinking to be able to sleep - and live.
An hour later, she crossed the square again and made the bus just in time.
Her destination, Tylösand, had some of the nicest beaches in the country as well as some of the poshest residential areas in the city.
Hanna's parents were both doctors so the house was large and beautiful, but not of the crazy extravagant kind some people were building nearby.
"Johan, you there?" She shouted as soon as she got through the door. She had only been home for three days and hadn't seen her three years younger brother more than a few minutes. They'd never been very close as children and though she wished to remedy that now, she hadn't so far. She had been gone for over four years, but her parents hadn't actually done anything to her room. Her father had always joked about turning it into a gym, but evidently hadn't, the lazy wanker.
Hanna consulted the old black alarm clock standing faithfully on top of her dresser, telling her it was 18:10.
She glanced at the bottle of vodka standing beside the clock on the bedside table, but decided it could wait a bit longer. Or rather, she could wait a bit longer. Besides, the need for a shower was starting to get pressing. A good deal cleaner and wearing a fresh change of clothes, the slayer lay back on her bed, pulled lid off her bottle and took two deep pulls. A calm spread through her as the vodka burned it's way down her throat to her stomach and she sighed contently.
"Sis!" Hanna finished a modest sip and looked up at her little brother.
"What're you drinking that shit for? C'mon." He disappeared out of the doorframe and Hanna rose slowly from the soft bed to see what he wanted.
By the time she had reached the kitchen, her brother had already grabbed a six-pack of Staropramen.
"It's Friday," he declared with a grin. "Might as well celebrate your return in some style."
Hanna didn't know if she should smile or not as they got seated in her room.
"It's just temporary," she told him. "When I'm done here, I'm going back to London."
The prospect left an unpleasant feeling in the pit of her stomach. Hannah attempted to wash it away with beer.
"What is it you do, anyways?" Her little brother asked, half curious, half concerned. Hanna missed the times when she was the one taking care of him.
"Mom thinks you're whoring."
Maybe it was the vodka from before starting to really hit her, but Hanna found that hilarious. When she had stopped giggling, wiped the tears from her eyes and downed the rest of the 33 centilitre bottle, she gave Johan a serious look.
"It's- uh - Would classified be a too cliché term? You wouldn't believe me anyways."
"Course I'd believe you. Try me!"
Hanna smirked at him.
"Which part of classified didn't you get, dumbass?"
Sighing, her brother drained the last of his beer and popped the cap of the next one.
"Sorry," he mumbled awkwardly, running a hand through the strawberry blonde hair they had both inherited from their mother. "Didn't mean to pry."
Hannah tried to smile encouragingly at him, and clinked the neck of the green bottle to his.
"S'alright. Cheers kid."
They polished off another six-pack of the Czech beer and a bottle of jägermeister over the next four hours, which felt Hanna taking the bus back to town in a reasonably good mood, having tucked in her passed out weakling of a little brother.
The place she'd be staking out that night was called Penny Lane when she had left. It had since been renamed The Corner and had it's middle-aged clientele replaced by younger people.
Hanna settled by a table at the far end of the main floor. If she was fortunate, the vampire would try to pick her up. It was unlikely, though, what with so many young people looking to hook up and with her looking the way she did.
At the basement, there was a secondary, smaller bar, and a dance-floor. Hannah loathed the dancing and the loud obnoxious music people tended to while doing it. She'd check every now and then, but for now, she had a good overview where she sat.
An hour and a few cheap beers later, there still hadn't been any sign of customers of the fangy variety.
Then, quite out of the blue, a guy sat down in the chair at the opposite side of her table. He was young, probably not even out of his teens yet, with short-cropped black hair, blue eyes and a slightly problematic complexion.
He gave her a mock-serious look, then his face broke into a wide grin, as though he couldn't help himself.
"I'm not saying this to impress you or nothing - But… I'm batman."
Hannah's lip quirked into something like a smile. That wasn't the worst line she'd ever heard. Behind the guy, a group that were most likely his friends, were laughing. She decided to play along.
"May I be indulged your secret identity, oh dark and mysterious avenger?"
"Victor," he said, toppling her fortunately empty beer bottle in his haste to shake her hand.
"Nice to meetcha, Hanna. Let me get you another drink."
She didn't tell him to sod off, though the thought admittedly crossed her mind. His friends clearly wanted a word on the development and he spoke to them for a minute while he waited for the drinks.
With her enhanced sense of hearing, she could hear them all make suggestions on how he was to get in her pants. Hardly a surprise, there. Victor didn't really bother commenting any of it, though, and returned with two strawberry ciders.
When he noticed her raised eyebrows, he merely shrugged.
"What can I say? I'm a wimp."
Hanna took a sip and then fixed her new drinking buddy with her best no-bullshit gaze.
"You're not getting laid tonight, kid. Just to let you know."
Far from seeming disappointed, Victor just smirked and toasted her.
"Probably for the best. I'm way too messed up to perform at this point."
"Oh," Hanna said, not sure what else to comment that with.
"Jim!" Victor shouted loudly.
"What!" His friend bellowed from over by the bar counter.
"Isn't it true that I'm a lousy shag?"
"Yeah, you were complete rubbish!"
"There, you see. You're better off not doing me."
Hanna couldn't help but to laugh now, though the rest of the patrons seemed less amused.
"Do you come here often?" Victor went on with an expression that clearly stated he realized how cliché the question was.
"First time," Hanna admitted.
"You've never been treated to this establishments fine beer before? How empty your life must have been."
Grinning, they clinked their flasks together and drank deep. It was probably just the alcohol working its ways, but the guy was getting cuter by the minute.
"How about you?" She returned.
"Every now and then. My mates-" He gestured needlessly at the small group of people working on a plate of tequila shots by the bar counter. "-Come here for the cheap liquor and the women of questionable morals." He grinned sheepishly.
"And you?" Hanna prodded.
"Oh, me too, generally. Though I gotta say it's complete bollocks that women shouldn't be allowed to screw around like guys if they feel like it."
"A feminist too, how intriguing."
He seemed to contemplate this for a moment.
"Well, I don't shave my arm pits, so I gotta be, right?"
"So, what do you do for a living?" Victor asked when Hanna return with their next round of drinks.
"Exterminator," she answered without hesitation.
"I better make sure not to bug you, then."
"That's one awful joke."
"Maybe, but I'm sticking with it."
"Well, what about you? What do you do?" The slayer observed him with genuine interest.
"Studying - math, biology, that kinda crap. It's okay." He shrugged.
"What's your view on dancing?" Hanna asked. She was definitely due for another sweep of the basement floor, and a bit of dancing, though she loathed it, would make it less conspicuous.
"As long as I'm conscious, I'm too sober to dance."
"Okay. Well, I'm gonna go to the dance floor for a little while." There was a slight look of disappointed in his eyes, probably because he thought that was her bailing. She didn't. The dance floor was devoid of the evil dead (and competent dancers), so Hanna returned upstairs to the table, where Victor had fallen asleep, resting his cheek on the polished wood.
Hurrying over before any of the personnel noticed, she poked him in the side to wake him.
"Hey, dumbass!" She whispered in his ear as she nudged him again.
"Wha-?" Slowly, he got his head off the table, looking befuddled.
"Course." He yawned. "Just haven't slept very much lately."
Victor cast her a slightly nervous look.
"Um-" He stopped, cleared his throat and tried again.
"I was wondering about your shades. What's up with them?"
Hanna damned near flinched at the intent gaze. Well, what the hell. Bend of break. Slowly, she removed the sunglasses and brushed her long blonde fringe away from her face. There was a brief look of understanding passing over Victor's features before he managed to re-establish a decent poker-face.
Most slayers had scars, small mementos their accelerated healing couldn't quite restore to remind them that they were very much mortal.
Hanna had been less fortunate.
In a tussle with a demon with venomous claws, she'd taken a swipe across the face, leaving her with two ugly marks across her eyebrow and down her cheek, ending by her jaw. The eyeball remained slightly bloodshot even now, two years later.
"Ouch, musta hurt." Victor shrugged. "I don't see why you make such a big deal out of it, though. You're beautiful."
Tentatively, almost curiously, he reach out his hand, softly trailing his fingers along her cheek and the scars it bore.
Hanna closed her eyes and leaned into the warm touch, heart fluttering.
It had been so long since someone had actually touched her. To such a point that she had almost forgotten how much she had missed and needed it.
"Listen, this is gonna sound weird."
"Never mind." Hanna felt a bit silly. For a moment, she had seriously considered asking him to just hold her a bit, to experiment a bit more with the feeling.
She felt annoyed at herself now for her weakness.
"I gotta head out and take that bus. Uh - I was wondering if you might wanna meet up tomorrow, have a cup of coffee?"
Hanna found herself smiling. It was almost shocking for her to realize she felt mildly happy.
"Yeah, we should. Here-" She brought out a crumbled receipt from her pocket and wrote down her number on it. "Don't call me too early, mind. The hangover tomorrow's gonna be killing me."
Hesitating for a moment as he arranged his coat and a gloves, Hanna finally made up her mind, walked up, and placed a soft kiss on his lips.
Victor must've been surprised, because he didn't even start to respond until just before she pulled back again.
"Um- Sorry. Tomorrow. Bye." Blushing, Hanna put her shades back on, fetched her coat and skedaddled.
As she stepped out into the cold night air, Hanna brought her fingers to her still tingling lips. For the rest time in moths, hell - years, she actually felt… Okay.
Almost pensively, she put the half-full beer bottle next to a lamp post. This part of the night was the worst. She'd have to walk a few laps around town and check things out. It wasn't uncommon for vampire to pick of drunken stragglers on their way home.
She did not encounter any vampires. Around four in the morning, she did run into a mugging and the resulting talks with the police dragged on for another two hours. The lousy bastards wouldn't even give her a lift home.
Heading back across town under the streetlights and the moon, Hanna steered her towards the church where a small line of cabs usually waited. But those would have left long ago. Still, it was on her way and a gamble worth making. On the way there, she took a shortcut through an alley and spotted the first sign of genuinely troubling trouble for the evening.
Two men were standing in the dark by the wall under a broken light, one leaned up against it and smoking, the other scratching his cheek. Huddled in the corner on the icy asphalt, a little girl was sitting. Every single thing about the situation screamed wrong, and Hanna walked closer to investigate.
She was a beautiful child with ebony skin and curly locks falling to her shoulders, framing a positively cherubic face. By Hanna's estimation she couldn't be any older than nine. What was she doing out here? Prostitution? No- That just couldn't be happening. Not here, not in such a small town right in the open streets. But it did not take a genius to work out that she should not be where she currently was. She must be frozen half to death already, wearing that thin looking jacket.
Hanna walked up to the two men, and stopped with a yard in between them.
It was probably a good time for a pun or some sort of one-liner, but she was in short supply of both and hoped the questioning look she cast the closest man would convey what she wondered.
They did not speak, but moved around slowly. It wasn't until that moment Hannah noticed the tingle at her spine. Vampires. Shit.
She didn't really know how much the cold air and hours without drinking had done to sober her up. Slayers burned through alcohol a bit quicker than normal people, but not near enough for her to be anything even resembling sober. Normally, it wouldn't worry her much… But there was more at risk here than her own pathetic skin. If she died, so would the girl.
But she was armed with a stake and a knife… With the element of surprise, maybe she could pull it off. They didn't know she was a slayer, yet. She very much doubted she had a reputation that'd precede her.
Without any warning other than a noticeable tensing of muscles one of the vampires lunged at her.
Hanna had already reached into her jacket for the stake, but fumbled and dropped it with her uncoordinated fingers. Switching tactics quickly, she centred her body-weight and slammed her shoulder into the considerably taller vampire's solar plexus before he could even get a grip on her. Though he obviously did not need the breathing he had just found himself unable to do, his body still reacted as if it did and Hanna sent him to the ground with her elbow to the back of his head.
Snapping around to deal with the other vampire, she only had time to get a glance of his incoming fist before it struck home and sent her flying across the street.
She skidded several feet extra along the ice and got up with the feeling that this one would definitely hurt in the morning.
Getting up with the knife in her hand, she noted that the vampire she had started off with remained on the ground. At least that was something to be thankful for.
Holding the weapon out in front of her, she advanced.
"That thing's not gonna kill me," the vampire adviced her with a smirk.
"No, but I imagine immortality is going to be pretty boring once I've cut your dick off."
The vampire paled visibly and the little girl snickered, but Hanna dismissed it as irrelevant. Deal with the threat first and the girl's odd sense of humour later. At least she was alive.
The first remained on the ground, whimpering, while Hanna cut his friend to pieces.
The sound of his dusting buddy seemed to finally rouse him, though, and he staggered to his feet. Dizzy as he was, Hanna had the stake through his heart a moment later.
"You OK, honey?" She said lowly, kneeling on the icy street in front of the girl.
She shook her head helplessly.
"Hurts," she whimpered softly in English. Having been living in Britain for so long, Hanna switched language without any trouble.
"I'm gonna call you an ambulance, OK?"
"No - I'm - I live nearby. Could you just take me home? Please?"
"Home- but…?" Hanna shook her head, trying to get some clarity.
If the girl wanted to go home, maybe that'd be best.. But what kind of place would that be if she somehow was here at this time in the morning?
Maybe her parents were divorced? Against her better judgement, she agreed.
"Come here, I'll carry you."
She took the girl in her arms, cradling her cold body to her chest.
As they walked out of the city core, past houses, a school, and past a small asphalted tennis court, Hanna felt the little girl finally relax in her arms, her face rested against the crook of her neck. Her lips still felt like ice as they brushed against her skin every now and then. Hanna walked even slower as she stepped across what was usually a grassy field. There was ice now, under the snow and she mustn't lose her balance and drop the girl. They weren't far away from her home now, at least, thank goodness. Just a few more minutes and she'd be reuniting the kid with her parents.
It started as a kiss to her skin, still cold as the air around then.
Hanna was about to turn her head down to see what was going on, when the soft feeling of lips on skin was exchanged for a sharp pain.
She tried to drop her, but couldn't, as impossibly strong arms grabbed hold of her.
With a grunt and forceful shove, the girl lost her grip on her neck and fell backwards.
Her face was no longer angelic, but monstrous, with large fangs and yellow eyes cleaning in the fading dark.
How could she not have noticed, carrying her around for all those minutes?
The girl grinned, and licked her lips, as Hanna hastily tore her jacket to shreds and used them to stop the flow of blood from her neck.
She was feeling dizzy, as the loss of blood combined with the alcohol struck her, but fetched the stake and the knife from the remains of her jacket all the same.
The vampire, on the other hand, happily skipped back and forth in the snow, leaving small footprints in her wake. Hanna fought to focus her eyes.
She hadn't lost that much blood yet. The small puncture wounds from the vampire's fangs would heal quickly, she knew.
She waited there, stock-still, as the vampire skipped in circles around her, giggling.
Hanna didn't even see the weapon or the movement, but felt the small curved blade made from ivory pierce her skin.
"Slayer," the girl whispered softly, still circling Hanna as she fell to her knees. "You're going to die here Slayer."
She would… And it genuinely surprised her that she cared.
In the distance, the sun was rising.