In All The Alleys In All The World

by Lara Wilson

"You are one ugly mother fucker," Roy muttered as he dodged a flying leap from some crazed disco relic with a face not even a mother could love. Keeping one eye on the guy struggling back to his feet after crashing headfirst into a dumpster, he kept the other on the swirly hole- like thing that it had charged out of.

Out came another one, this time a young woman, face all messed up, too, but wearing what looked like a flapper dress and a pair of doc martens. She aimed right at him and before he could dodge, he went down beneath her.

It was not fun laying on a quiver full of arrows. It also wasn't fun having some she-creature from hell trying to bite him--what was that about?! The butt of his palm to her chin drove her off of him for a moment, and he managed to free an arrow before she came back, howling at him. He aimed for her shoulder, but somehow she twisted and he caught her heart.

A moment of horror, then utter confusion as she dissolved into dust.

He sneezed.

And the other one attacked him.

Before Roy could do anything to defend himself, a young blonde woman dove out of the swirly thing and stabbed a wooden stick into the guy's back.

Roy was not surprised when he went poof, too.

Coughing and choking, he let the woman pull him to his feet, noting her strength first, her cuteness second.

"You learn not to breathe when they dust," she said helpfully, patting him on the back. As Roy got his breathing under control, they both turned in time to see the hole in space disappear.

"Crap."

"What was that?"

"Portal."

"I mean the current pile of dust. Two piles."

"Vampires," she said, as if that explained everything, before going over to the location of the former portal and poking her hand into the air. "Crap."

"Thought they were myths." He slid the arrow back into his quiver and stooped to pick up his bow.

"Yeah, you keep thinking that." She turned back to him. "So, where am I? Is this a world without shrimp?"

"Huh?" Roy started to laugh, then realized she was serious. "Uh, no, we have shrimp."

"And, doesn't look like any hell I've heard of."

"That depends on who you're talking to. It's New York. I'm Roy, by the way." Holding out his hand, he waited for her to take it, which she did when she turned her full attention on him.

"Buffy." She tucked the stick--stake, he guessed--into the back pocket of her very snug jeans. "Nice outfit. Leaves nothing to the imagination."

He returned her grin with one of his own. "Neither do your jeans."

"...Are all the guys in this dimension lame?" she teased.

Not taking offense, Roy laughed and nodded because he figured guys everywhere were lame at one time or another. "So, vampires, huh? What does that make you? Some kind of vampire...hunter?"

"Slayer."

"Ah."

"And you? Why the red and black leather get up and enough weapons for a small army?"

"Superhero."

"Ah."

They grinned at each other, then Roy gestured with his bow towards the end of the alley. "Want to get a cup of coffee?"

"I probably shouldn't wander too far from here. I'm sure my friends are working on reopening the portal," Buffy hesitated.

"There's a diner just around the corner. They know me there, won't ask questions."

"A superhero diner?"

"Nah, we eat there a lot. My daughter loves the cheese fries." Realizing what he'd admitted, he gave her a wary look, but she simply smiled back at him.

"I could use some cheese fries." They started down the alley. "So, no vampires here?"

Roy shrugged. "I think Dracula might be real."

"He's a pain in the ass, which probably carries over from dimension to dimension. What about demons?"

"A few. Mostly they stay in hell. They're more the Bats' field. I tend to just fight bad guys. I specialize in muggers."

"Bats?"

"Batman, his whole clan."

Buffy stopped walking and when Roy turned to give her a curious look he found her gaping at him. "Batman's real?"

"Scary, too."

"The first movie was pretty good, and the last one but mostly because of Christian Bale, but the rest of them sucked, even if Chris O'Donnell played Robin. Hey, is there a Robin?"

"Several. Wait a sec, movies? Does that mean..." He lowered his voice. "Do you know who they are?"

"You mean, their secret identities? Can't see why anyone bothers with those."

"Yeah, they're a pain."

"But you said your name is Roy, unless that's your secret identity."

He laughed. "No, I gave up the secret thing years ago. Mask got itchy."

"To answer your original question, if the names are the same in the movies and comic books that my friend Xander drools over every week and hordes in plastic bags between cardboard, then, yeah."

"Heh."

"You want to know?" she asked conspiratorially.

"I'm one of the few who does, actually."

"Cool. So, is Robin as cute as Chris O'Donnell?"

"Which one?"

"How many are there?"

"Four. Number three is Robin again so he's technically the fifth, but he'll argue about that for hours and it gets old and no longer funny after about ten minutes."

"I guess I mean number one. He would probably be the one in comics and the movies. Grew up in a circus," she hinted as they turned the corner.

"Yeah, that would be him, and, no he's really ugly. Why he wears a mask," Roy said with a completely straight face.

Buffy sighed. "Real life never lives up to the movies." Entering the diner ahead of him, she flipped him a small, appraising smile. "But, hey, there aren't very many red-haired actors in Hollywood. If they made a movie about you, they'd probably make you ugly or something."

"...Thanks." He thought there was a compliment there somewhere. Sitting at a booth, they each grabbed a menu from behind the napkin holder. When the waitress came, they both ordered cheese fries and coffee.

"So, Batman and Robin are real. What about Superman?"

"Yep."

"Cool. Spiderman?"

"No. He's a comic book character."

"Oh, right, I think those are different publishers."

"So, no superheroes in your dimension?"

"No. Lots of Slayers and witches and supernatural creatures." Her eyes took on a pensive look. "It's a hard world, always being threatened by the forces of darkness--demons, vampires, mayors turned into giant snakes."

Roy nodded in understanding. "And you stem the tide. I can relate. Besides the random muggers and general bad guys, there are the supervillains, those with powers who want to rule the world or destroy it or both. And then there are nutjob villains, but they mostly bother Gotham."

Their food arrived and Buffy munched on a cheesy fry, before asking, "So, what's your super power?"

"Don't have one. I'm one of the idiots who does this with skill alone," he replied, sipping his coffee.

"It's harder that way. My friends who fight with me, some of them are normal. My sister, too. Sometimes I think I have it easy."

"It's never easy."

"Even for Superman?"

"Even for Superman."

"Huh, something to think about." She stuffed another fry in her mouth, then drawled her next question, "So, this daughter of yours, does she go along with a wife or girlfriend?"

"Nope."

"A superhero single father, that's very impressive."

"The hero stuff, that's in my bones. Being a dad is the hard job."

"Got any pictures?"

Roy gave her a look of total disbelief as he fished his wallet out of a pouch on his belt. "Please." Flipping open the picture section, he passed it to her.

"Oh, she's gorgeous! How old?"

"Nearly six."

"You must have been a kid yourself." Buffy lingered over a picture of Roy holding his daughter as a baby.

"Nineteen and stupid," he acknowledged, taking back the wallet when she handed it to him.

"And her mom?" Buffy asked hesitantly, not wanting to push any possible sore buttons.

"Bad girl," Roy answered her, keeping his voice light. "I have a weakness for them."

"Me, too," adding quickly when he grinned at her, "guys, bad guys."

"I figure it has something to do with fighting them so much. We come close to that line between good and evil where the world is all a big mess of gray."

"Yeah, the Watchers--the old guys who supposedly guide the Slayers--keep trying to convince me that the world is all black and white. Slayer good, vampire bad." She snorted. "They never mention how sexy some of them are."

Roy chuckled. "That's not in the superhero handbook either."

"You have a handbook, too?"

"Never read it. I was too busy catching crooks and flirting with the girl superheroes."

"I never got my handbook," Buffy grumbled good naturally and ate a handful of her fries. "I'm not book-reading material."

"Instinct works for me."

"Yeah, me, too."

They finished their fries and coffee telling war stories, and after Roy paid the tab--because Buffy's visa wasn't going to be valid here--they headed back outside.

"I need to check on the portal. See if anything's stirring."

At the dead-end of the alley, nothing was stirring but some trash.

"Crap."

"Look, you don't have any money, a credit card that'll get you hauled in to jail if you try to use it, and you don't know anyone but me. Come on back to my place, you can crash there, and I can get some people out here in the morning to analyze the scene and do science stuff that's all over my head, but they're the best at that shit." At the wary look she gave him, he smiled back innocently. "Lian is the best chaperone in the world, I swear."

"Okay, but, remember. I do have superpowers."

Laughing at her lightly spoken threat, Roy plucked an arrow from his quiver and shot a line to the top of the six story building, then held out his hand to her.

Her look remained dubious. "Haven't you ever heard of cars?"

"Rooftop express, babe. In mid-town traffic, it's the only way to go."

With a sigh, she stepped into his arm and gasped as the line retracted, sending them swinging up to the roof. As soon as she was free of his embrace, she grinned. "Cool! I so want one of those. I'm really good with a crossbow. Can it be fitted to a crossbow?"

As they started loping across the roof, Roy launched into a lengthy explanation of his weaponry and the various types of arrows, amazed he'd found someone who actually wanted to listen.

End

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