Summary: Xander discovers that while facing vampires is bad, facing Cleveland is worse.
Length: 960 words
Notes: Special thanks to vichan and gillo for giving me the idea, and to the lovely strangexgirl for the beta. I own nothing except a hatred of winter.
Xander shoved the car’s transmission into drive again and hit the gas, getting the same results as last time – maybe a foot of movement in the knee deep snow. Quickly shifting to reverse, he once more pushed down the accelerator, rocking the car. Outside he heard the tires continue to spin even after he let off the gas, but he slammed the gear shift back and forth.
Andrew’s words, spoken over the phone from the nice, centrally heated Watcher’s Headquarters, mocked him. “Don’t worry about the weather, Xander,” he repeated to himself. “The locals get around fine in Cleveland storms, Xander.”
There was no movement in any of the cars parked around him; apparently everyone else had decided to stay in the convention center, but he was supposed to be back at the formerly closed-down motel where their so-called school was located. Everyone else could spend a happy night geeking out among the various booths at the First Annual Cleveland Science Fiction Blowout, but a dozen teenage slayers could not be trusted to spend a night alone without tearing the place apart. Too bad Buffy had picked this weekend for an overnight trip to Fort Wayne, where it was not frakking snowing, leaving him in charge.
The car moved, gaining maybe an inch. The weak winter sun was just vanishing beneath the horizon, and Xander had no confidence in his night driving ability, what with the one eye, and the six or eight inches of snow that fell while he was waiting in line for Masi Oka’s autograph.
“The weatherman’s always wrong, Xander. Bring me back an authentic Cylon helmet, Xander.”
Another shift, another rock.
“Andrew dies. I get back to Chicago, Andrew dies. This was the worst convention ever. George Takei didn’t show up. Neil Gaiman didn’t get any of his books signed. The hot Asian chick from Battlestar Galactica is stuck at the airport. If they hadn’t sold out, I’d use a Cylon helmet to crack Andrew’s little troll skull.”
The car’s passenger side door opened and Xander jerked his head around, half expecting to see Buffy ready to tease him -- even more than she had before he left. Instead, a solidly built man in a flannel shirt and jeans stood there, looking in with a grin. “Having trouble?” Despite a lack of coat or hat, he seemed perfectly comfortable in the driving snow.
Without bothering to answer, Xander jerked at his coat’s zipper, reaching for the hard wooden cylinder in an inside pocket. But the intruder was too fast, and before Xander could reach a weapon or a door handle the man was on him, face changing and fangs growing out as he clutched for Xander’s arms.
There was no fighting it in this close space. Xander jammed both feet into the floorboard, trying to break free as the vampire used one hand to pin him and another to bend his head to the side. The car’s tires spun wildly, making a violent whirring sound as the car settled further into the snow, but there was no movement. The vamp opened its jaws wide and bit down.
Then it jerked back, choking and spitting out chunks of cloth and a little cloud of feathers. “What the hell --?” It tried again, tearing at the layers of material, then jerked Xander’s hood off to reveal – another hood. “What’s the matter with you, man? This is Cleveland – you’re not used to the cold yet?”
“Hey, I’m from California!” Xander could barely hear his own voice over the screaming tires. He whacked at the horn, hoping the noise would attract help. The vamp just laughed.
“You’re kiddin’ me. No wonder you were too stupid to stay home – I’ll bet you were the only nerd at this convention who didn’t bring a sleeping bag and a day’s supply of food.”
How humiliating. He hadn’t given all those backpacks a thought.
“And now you’re my frozen dinner!” The vamp yanked back Xander’s hoodie, then jerked off the stocking cap beneath. Then, mouth open, it froze.
“Ow. Ow. Ow!” It jerked around, slapping at its legs.
Released, Xander grabbed at the door latch. He shoved the door open, then tumbled out into the snow. Only after scrabbling a few feet through a drift did he turn around, jerking the stake from his inner pocket.
But the demon had forgotten him, intent on saving itself. Flames from somewhere under the car’s engine compartment had spread up into the open door, setting the vamp’s jeans on fire, and as Xander watched more flames broke through the dashboard and licked at its shirt. The vamp tried to dive into the back seat, but it was too late – it caught, then flashed, and was gone.
Smoke billowed out of the car’s passenger compartment. A moment later, with a whoosh, flames engulfed the area. Xander stood there, his front half uncomfortably warm, while snow began to drift down his neck.
“I caught Buffy’s car on fire.” Granted that she never drove it, but still. And there was the vampire, but what proof did he have of that? The dust was ashes by now. Oh, this was so going to come out of his pay.
Turning, he stomped toward the convention center, hoping against hope that someone had an extra sleeping bag, or maybe a blanket. And chips, or a hot dog. Water that didn’t have to be melted. Behind him, the car popped and crackled; distant sirens were muffled by falling snow.
“Frakking Cleveland. Freaking Midwest winter frakking weather. This sucks! I’m going back to Africa, I swear! On the next plane!”
But all the flights had been canceled, of course.
“I swear to God, the next time one of these streets collapses I’m going to jump in after it, and just start digging.”