Exaggeration and Blank Verse
Darkness On The Edge Of Town
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Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel the Series

She doesn't have Cordelia's eye for makeup. Probably the lipstick is too bright for her, the eyeliner too thick, the foundation streaky. It doesn't matter; maybe it's even better. It's a mask, it's war paint, it's a ritual before the hunt.

"Are you ready?" Charles stands in the bathroom doorway. She looks at him in the mirror-- the hard set of his jaw, the dull anger in his eyes. He needs blood tonight...no, he needs dust. She nods.

They walk from Cordelia's bathroom to Cordelia's living room, where Connor sits on Cordelia's couch in front of Cordelia's TV. Fred reminds herself who all of this belongs to as she puts on one of Cordelia's coats over a dress taken from Cordelia's closet. The sacred robes, and this is the temple, and Cordelia is the goddess in whose name they hunt. Maybe some ancient cultures had rituals to call back deities who had gone missing. Her next angle of research will be in mythology.

"You okay?" Charles asks Connor, who nods and raises his root beer in a bored, sulky salute. "Lock the door, Phantom D.," Charles adds under his breath, and a potted plant shivers in acknowledgement.

Outside, the moon is full, bright even through layers of smog. "You look good," Charles says quietly in her ear, and she shakes her head.

"I look cheap."

He opens the truck for her. "That's good. Angel's proof that vampires don't have money."

She looks at herself in the rearview mirror. Her eyes are huge and childlike in the rings of badly applied makeup. "Do I look like bait?"

He doesn't hesitate. "Yes."

The truck grumbles into drive.
***
Half of the things in the bar are demons. She can smell them, hear them speaking in tongues, feel scales slide over her skin as she moves through the crowd on the dance floor.

She's dancing to her heartbeat, not the beat of the music, and it calls the vampires to her. They're listening for it, the drumbeat calling the beasts from the forest on the night of the full moon. The slide of blood in her veins that echoes it is her incantation.

She dances and dances, and they come to her. They're waiting. She looks up, through the hair that's flying loose and wild and clinging to her sweaty face, and sees Charles standing up on the balcony over the dance floor. She meets his eyes, and his hunger meets hers and theirs, making the heart-drumbeat sound faster in her head. They're hungry for blood. He's hungry for dust and death. And she's hungry for him.

He nods to her, and she closes her eyes, spinning for a moment more even though the music has stopped. A hand closes on her arm, and she lifts her head to stare into bright blue eyes. They're yellow underneath; she can feel the death under his skin.

"Let's go outside," he says, and she smiles. Cordelia's dress doesn't fit quite right-- it falls away loosely from her chest and throat. It leaves more skin free, skin and the veins that run under it. He's staring at her throat with open hunger. She's the most important thing in the world to him right now.

She follows him out to the alley and they dance again, the dance that the one inside obscures. He presses her to the wall and she writhes underneath him, kissing him as fiercely as she can. His hands creep up under her skirt, feigning desier for sex to distract her from the truth. She tilts her head and frees her throat, swallowing hard to draw attention to it, listening to the wild drums in her head and looking over his shoulder for Charles.

Dust flies, and she shivers. One isn't going to be enough. "Read to go again?" he asks, tucking the stake back in his pocket. She smiles at him. He needs this. She understands.
***
Three more clubs that night, one vamp at each one. It's still not enough. They drive down to the warehouse district, and he chooses a building seemingly at random. "They're all full of them," he tells her as the flames leap up to the sky, a sacrifice to the night. She holds his hand and watches the blaze, willing its heat to sink into them, to warm flesh gone cold in the dark and make their blood run quickly.

He draws her back to the truck, and she follows, watching his every move and staring into his eyes every time he looks at her. She's there; she's with him; she knows. He's been doing this since he was a child. This is how he feels alive-- killing the dead.

He parks in an alley a few blocks away, close enough that they can still see the fire's glow. She kisses him and unbuttons his shirt. He tugs at the ties and zippers of Cordelia's dress until it falls away.

She runs her hands over his scars, rough and jagged and beautiful because they are a part of him. She presses closer to him, bares her throat to his mouth, runs her hands down his back. She wonders if tonight's kills belong to Alonna, or Rondell, or even Angel and Cordelia. She never asks; it doesn't matter. He needs this. She needs him.

His mouth tastes like dust. When he stakes them, he breathes them in. She turns her face away when it happens, but she knows they're all over her, coating her skin. But she's alive inside, and so is he, if they can only find each other. They're both all broken jagged edges, but if they press them together, maybe for an instant they'll be whole.

The sirens have stopped wailing, and the glow of the fire has died back. He kisses her hair, and she rests her head on his shoulder. They're all right now. The hunger is pushed back, and soon the sun will rise.

"Are you okay?" he asks softly, holding her closer. "Did any of them hurt you?"

She smiles and kisses his chest. "I'm fine."

"I'm sorry." She shakes her head; he doesn't have to say that. He stares out the window, toward where the warehouse burned. "I used to do this every night," he says. "They never stop."

"It's okay," she soothes him, moving still closer, wishing she could slip inside his skin. I'm here. I'm here.

"They won't win." His voice is hollow. He doesn't add neither will we, because they both know. The most they can hope for is to keep a balance. Claw and fight and hold on and survive.

She slides across his body until he wraps both arms around her, holding her against his chest. She winds her own arms through his, rubbing her thumbs across the scars. Surviving is something they both know, something earned that they carry in their bones.

The slow sunrise first darkens the shadows around them, tucked down in the alleyway. They curl tighter, holding on to the last few moments of secret darkness before they return to the light.

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