For the Cheerleader
Drusilla tossed on the silken sheets, struggling to control the events occurring on the dreamscape. If she could twist this one person’s vision enough to change his path, then a great many other things would be changed. If she could just change things a little bit… She must be the mighty butterfly flapping her wings as hard as she could, so that China received a double portion of rain. Everything could change if she just flapped her butterfly wings hard enough…
Elsewhere, a man called Whistler felt himself still and stiffen as the vision flooded his mind from greater powers. He saw a man, tall, gaunt from hunger, leaning against a soot-stained alley wall. The man’s clothing was little better than grimy rags, and he wasn’t much cleaner. Accompanying that image was the feeling that this man needed to pull himself out of the misery and despair that he’d been wallowing in and become a champion, someone who fought for something greater than himself. Considering the wretched picture of the man, Whistler wondered what could possibly motivate him into being a hero. He knew exactly where this pitiful figure was at the moment, and doubted that he’d go very far without substantial outside interference, and he couldn’t imagine why any mortal would bother with such a disreputable, pathetic man.
The image changed, becoming a petite blond in a cheerleader’s uniform, walking along a sidewalk with a backpack over her shoulder and a pair of pompoms in her hand. She was beautiful, in a much too young sort of way. Her image was accompanied by a feeling – he will fight for her. He will change to be a better man for her, to be a hero for her.
The vision released him, and Whistler gasped for breath, his head throbbing in a way that reminded him of a weekend-long party’s hangover or the way that the visions had flattened him when he was much younger. Before he’d learned the best way to open himself to their messages.
Once he’d regained his breath, Whistler decided that his first step would be to figure out who the cheerleader was, and more importantly, where she was. He couldn’t very well use her to motivate the wretch if he couldn’t show her to him, now could he? Learn her name, learn what city where was in so he could show the pretty blond to the supposed to be champion… best either take some pictures or maybe drive past her, it wouldn’t do to frighten her off with a pair of strange men staring at her, one of whom looked like a filthy bum from the twenties. He didn’t need her actual address, and he doubted that it would help to let the bum actually talk to her.
Find the cheerleader, show her to the bum, and then get on with the rest of his life. It sounded like a wonderful plan to him. Maybe he could suggest that Tasha could work on a new dance routine, or perhaps CiCi could use a different costume…
Over the next two weeks, Whistler searched the internet for one particular blond cheerleader. He found all sorts of fascinating but not helpful images before a stroke of luck – or perhaps those higher powers finally smiled on him – caused him to stumble onto a newspaper article. It was a local interest story about a school rally to support Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and it had pictures of some of the assembled students. One of the pictures showed the varsity football cheerleading squad, with that pretty blond in the front left. He still lacked a name, but now he had a city.
By the time he went to New York to find the wretched bum, he also knew the cheerleader’s name and had taken a few pictures. She seemed like a fairly popular girl, with friends, a father that worked too much, a pretty blond mother – that boded well for the cheerleader in a decade or so – and a fairly ordinary life. While he had no idea what the powers could have in store for her, he suspected that it was more than cheerleader, possibly getting involved with a football player and living the teen fantasy life.
When he found out that the wretched half starved bum was actually a wretched, homeless half starved vampire, Whistler had decided that somehow, he’d made the powers angry. First the half starved vampire nearly bit his hand off, literally, and then he’d found himself sitting there, reassuring the vampire that it was okay, he wasn’t here to kill him, it wouldn’t be better if he was dead, and that everything would look better tomorrow. He suspected that several of those things were a lie, among others the fact that he was not happy about his mangled wrist. Actually, he was pretty mad about his wrist, and he doubted that things would be much better tomorrow.
Hiding his real emotions, he tried to put on a sympathetic expression and took the vampire to a hotel room. Sending the vampire into the bathroom for a shower, he used a few spare napkins to gather up the filthy rags and dropped them in a dumpster before going out to pick up some clean second hand clothes for the vampire. They were clean, they should fit, and anything would be better than the rags he’d been wearing before. He also stopped at a butcher shop and got some cow’s blood. If that miserable vampire was still hungry, he could have that instead of any more of Whistler’s blood.
Somehow, the combination of a shower, clean clothing, and a belly full of cow’s blood left the vampire a far more tolerable tag-along as they made their way to the city with the cheerleader. Whistler found himself rambling about higher powers, about destinies and second chances, and about how there was a girl. He stressed how this young, pretty girl had no idea about the plans that these higher powers had for her, and that he suspected a little help might be in her best interest. Help that the mortals around her couldn’t provide.
“Then where is she supposed to get this help?” the vampire had asked slowly, his tone indicating that he had unpleasant suspicions about the answer.
“Now Angel,” and Whistler refrained from snorting at calling a vampire anything as absurdly misleading as Angel. “If the mortals won’t know how to help her, and I’m… look, I’m definitely not a fighter, I’m more of a messenger. That leaves… well, that leaves you. But you might want to start taking better care of yourself if you’re going to be any use to her at all.”
“I don’t know that I’ve ever been of use to anyone,” Angel mused, his brows lowering as he pondered his past.
Whistler tried not to roll his eyes. Angel had gone from half starved and attacking his wrist to brooding and moping. Honestly, Whistler wasn’t sure which was worse. “Second chances, remember? Maybe you weren’t much use before, but now you can be. Once you aren’t the half starved wreck that you are, you’ll be stronger and faster than any human that might mean her harm, and probably a good match to fight anything else that would cause her problems. Make yourself useful to her instead of dwelling on how you weren’t useful before.”
This time, when Angel sunk into quiet, he looked more like he was trying to think productive thoughts instead of brooding.
Figuring out a way to show the girl to Angel without being spotted and accused of being a pair of perverts spying on schoolgirls or ending up with vampire ashes all over the rented car was a pain and a half. But eventually, Whistler was able to drive near the school as classes were letting out, and pointed to the blond, once again clad in her red and white cheerleaders uniform as she bounced over to her father. “Do you see that girl?”
“The blond cheerleader?” Angel paused, staring at the girl as she made her way though the other teens, her hair shining in the sunlight. “She looks so happy.”
“Destiny’s coming for her, and she’s going to need help. Will you be there for her?” Whistler hoped that this would work.
Angel watched as she hugged her father and they climbed into a car. He was quiet for several long moments before voicing a soft, “I’ll do what I can to help her.”
That night, Whistler left Angel in that town to get himself settled into his new life. It wouldn’t be easy, but it also wouldn’t be Whistler’s problem anymore. He’d mentioned plans to take over an old warehouse or factory as a place to stay and train, and that he’d need to figure out if there were any local demons or vampires to keep under observation.
In the next few weeks, Angel tried to improve his new home and start new habits. He would need to feed regularly if he would be of any use to her. He’d pondered that for a while, not wanting to resume the awful habits from his soul-less decades before coming to a plan. Not all humans were decent people in need of defense, in fact, some of them were as miserable and evil as any vampire. If he found someone like that, then he would be willing to feed from them, even kill them – especially if it helped protect her. If he was running into a shortage of evil humans, well… Odessa had several ranches nearby. Cow blood didn’t taste that bad, and it had to be better fresh than it was cold and packed in Styrofoam by a butcher.
It also might not hurt if he fed just a little on some people that didn’t need to die, not enough to kill them, but enough that he wasn’t hungry. Not that he thought it would be quite safe to try that just yet – he’d probably get lost in the taste and drain a human dry.
Angel watched her, trying to figure out the best way to handle this. He didn’t think it would be good to lurk in the shadows and follow her forever, not only did it remind him a little too much of his evil years, it would give anybody the idea that he was some sort of pervert or homicidal maniac. But on the other hand, this was something that he’d need to handle carefully. How did you tell someone that Fate had plans for them, and those plans might be very dangerous?
It was a Thursday when he finally decided to take the chance and talk to her. Something was obviously troubling her, and there was a scent of blood and tears. She was slowly walking along the road, arms wrapped around her middle.
“Do you need a doctor?” Angel stepped closer, where she could see him, but hopefully not so close as to make her feel threatened. “You look… upset.”
She shook her head, her hair flopping over her eyes, “No, I don’t need a doctor. That’s the problem.”
Angel moved closer, having no idea what she could possibly mean by that. “Is there something that I can do to help?”
She gave a small shrug before unwrapping her arms, revealing a bloodstain over the bottom of her shirt. It was fairly large, and suggested a rather nasty wound. “I don’t see how you could.”
Angel stood beside her, his fingers not quite touching the bloody area as he realized that there was more than a bloodstain, there was a ragged tear in the shirt. As if something had torn though the shirt and gouged its way into her body. At the same time, the blood, while still mostly liquid, no longer smelled fresh, she wasn’t bleeding any more. “You’re… you were injured.”
“I was,” she paused, and made a sound as if she was choking on a giggle or a sob. “I got better. It closed up right in front of me…”
“Ahhh,” Angel nodded. Her confusion made a lot more sense to him now, though he couldn’t explain how a wound could just vanish like that. “I don’t have an explanation for that, Claire. What I do know is that someone told me you have a destiny.”
“A destiny?” Claire looked at him, her expression suggesting that she was debating hysterical sobs or furious disbelief. “What kind of a destiny is this?”
“I don’t know what your destiny is, I just know that you have one. And having a destiny is usually rather dangerous,” Angel shook his head, wishing for a moment that he had half the glib explanations and charming words that had let his mortal self or his soulless self woo so many women to his bed and often to their doom. “I’d like to help you, as much as I can. I don’t know how much help that will actually be, but I’d like to try.”
“Why?” she sniffled, a shining line on her face betraying tears.
“Let’s just say that I made some mistakes when I was younger, and I was told that if I helped you, it would give me a chance to atone for some of them. Besides that, someone should help you. I may not be much, but I am willing to help, and I won’t tell you that you’re crazy,” Angel replied, not wanting to go into his sordid and despicable past.
“I don’t even know who you are, or how you know who I am,” she muttered.
“Call me Angel,” he gave a small smile, and explained, “A guy who called himself a messenger said that you had a destiny and would need help. He brought me here from New York to make sure that you had at least a little help. And your name was in the paper a few times.”
“Thanks, Angel. Maybe if I don’t have to face things alone, it might not be…” Claire paused, and sniffled. “Who am I kidding? It’s going to be awful, isn’t it?”
For a few moments, Angel debated trying a comforting lie. With a small shake of his head, he rested his hand on her shoulder, looking into her eyes. “Yes, it’s probably going to be awful.”
End For the Cheerleader.
Disclaimer part 2: Whistler, Drusilla, and Angel belong to Joss Whedon, and are as shown in the BtVS series. Claire Bennet is from Heroes, and while I’m not certain who has the legal rights to that show, I know that it isn’t me.