Also Comes in Strange
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Title: And I Run
Author: Tania & Josey
Rating: PG
Summary: Angel, Wesley, Oz, Riley, Giles, Xander, Spike. Seven men, seven urges to run away.
Notes: This was a tag-team effort, we had this idea of seven degrees of departure from Sunnydale, a sort of Men Do Leave kind of thing, this is the result.
Feedback: tania@fangedfour.com or Josey@emptymirrors.org.uk
Archived at: Travelogue (http://www.fangedfour.com/travelogue) Others please ask first.

Angel

I love her so dangerously I cannot stay.

I feel stronger than I have in years, maybe ever. The blood coursing through my veins, her blood, fuels me. The copper taste of her coats my tongue, seeping into every corner of my mouth and reminding me of my sin. A quiet voice in my brain tells me I am broken. Thereís no way to fix it. It cannot be put back together. Yesterday I nearly died again, called out her name, wanting her so badly in my delirium that I could not resist her offered flesh. Today I know she deserves better.

And so I run.

I canít find the words to say goodbye, and even though I have already told her, I see the hurt in her eyes. The smoke and sirens are not sufficient to block out that level of pain. The myriad bodies littering the ground donít make this any easier. The air is saturated with blood, not all of it human, filling my nose, tugging at me in some primal way I had nearly forgotten has to be controlled. Pulling me back to a Rumanian hillside awash in horrified screams of the dying, familiar voices calling my name into the blackness of night.

It wasnít difficult finding find a car. Even on a day where an eclipse blots out the sun for hours there is still someone willing to make a deal. It wonít get great mileage, but thatís okay, itíll take me away from here. Head south to LA, a town Iíve known long and intimately since before she was born. Stolen strength rebuilding my body, and yet I feel weak escaping to such a familiar home. Close enough to help, far enough to ease the need to see her everyday.  It should be simple to walk away. Iíve lived alone for a hundred years, I can do this.

Simple.

*****

Wesley

I love her so duteously that I cannot stay.

My body still aches from that one strong blow, but it pales in comparison to the burn of my humiliation. I left everything I knew to come here and watch over her. I wanted to train her, make her the best slayer she could be. In my arrogance I pictured years of working closely, my knowledge the perfect counterpoint to her strength. We could have been a formidable team if she had given me the chance. But now my chance is gone.

And so I run.

Without much effort I find a motorcycle. A Triumph. A magnificent machine. The fellow at the lot said it was perfect for me and, clothed in my artless suit and reliable haircut, I heard the mendacity in his words. When did I become this stiff pratt incapable of seeing beyond good and evil? This isnít me, itís time I stopped watching and started doing. Iíll just ride until I find someone in need of help. I can do that. Iíve trained my entire life for that. Mr. Giles and I attended the same academy, after all.

Iíll head east, see a little of the continent. It will be simple. Iíve enough to get by comfortably for a while and itís better to suffer my nightmares alone than face my fatherís disappointment. Eventually she will want me back. Sheíll need someone watching her back and I will be there. I just have to shed this suit and muss my hair and Iíll be a new man. No need to fall back on old standards and duties.

Simple.

*****

Oz

I love her so deeply I cannot stay.

The taste of blood is fresh in my mouth. Stronger than the first touch of motherís milk to a babyís tongue. No amount of time will wash it away, not as long as the beast owns me. It is me, it holds me and wonít let go. There has to be someone with the answer. If there wasnít a way to control it wouldnít you see werewolves everywhere? Werewolves donít control who they infect like vampires do, so shouldnít there be more. More like me, not like her. Canít give in to the beast or  I become a shell of man only stifling the power within until those three uncontrollable days each month.

And so I run.

I canít look her in the eyes, canít see them well up and overflow. I put the van in drive and head south. Away from parents that wonít notice and friends that will forget, and red hair swinging to cover a trembling mouth that will always say ĎI love youí just when I need to hear it. Drive through LA, tempted to stop and see old friends that know about fighting the demon within. Drive through Tijuana and a never ending party, deep into the hills of Mexico in search of something that can give back my life.

It will be simple. Iíll just keep driving until I find a way to live with myself. Iíll fix this thing and go back to my life as a human, marry the girl I love, live happily ever after. Pretend that a toddler didnít have more power over the outcome of my destiny than my own will. Just as soon as I find the truth behind the rumors of shamans and repression and resisting the monster,  Iíll go home. Sheíll be waiting.

Simple.

*****

Riley

I love her so blindly I cannot stay.

Did she really see me in that place? That place so low that I canít believe I went there? The perfect impression of teeth still marred into the curve of my arm, flesh torn wide and yet that isnít where the pain lives. In her mind she probably gave as much as she could. I couldnít see that, never could see love in those eyes. Looked for a reflection of this longing and wanting that builds inside me and never saw it. Should have known that the first morning after, the look of shock distorting her face when she rolled over and found me still there. In two years that look was her faithful companion, there each morning, Ďwhy do you stay?í ĎIím strong, you can goí Ďhow can you love me so hard?í.

And so I run.

Following Graham into the jungle, the whirl of chopper blades drowning out any regret that tries to seep into my mind. This is where I belong, with these men. I was born for this, how could I forget that? We pass over gulf waters and abandoned ruins and a forest canopy so thick you canít see the life that brims just beneath, canít see the animals running free living out daily struggles of life and death. So easy to not see the struggle when youíre above it all.

Iíve always been able to do this. Follow the mission, itís a simple way to live. Kill what they tell me, show no emotion. So little has changed there. Less focus on study, more on eradication, easier here than it ever was in Sunnydale. The heat of the battle defines me, ask no questions, stay focused on one thing, and that thing is no longer her. This is who I am, once again a soldier.

Simple.

*****

Giles

I love her so powerfully I cannot stay.

This woman before me who doesnít realize sheís become a woman. Still thinks of herself as a child. The most powerful in all the world and yet she leans on me rather than standing on her own. Would that I had known all those years ago that she would become the one person I could not live without. The girl who made my ears bleed with her mutilation of the Queenís English and what she laughingly called music I watched her grow in so many ways, and yet in this one she is still that same naive child. Now itís time to let go of the bike and watch her ride off alone.

And so I run.

It seemed so practical when I bought the ticket. Board the plane and return home, back to friends and interminable weather. She will only be a phone call away and they will all be that close. Time to see if all the training stuck. For my sins, I will live a country gentlemanís life free of monsters and magic and the dramaís that only unfold on a Hellmouth. I will board the plane and say goodbye with tears in my eyes, pretending not to see the tears in theirs.

I will re-cross the ocean and then I will be done. It will be simple. Back to the Watcherís Council to help in a way that serves them all, perhaps training potential slayers as I did in her youth. Iíll find someone new, someone who needs me in the way she no longer does. Focus my energies on a new challenge and forget the old.

Simple.

*****

Xander

I love her so much I cannot stay.

I feel numb with the pain. Still see the look in her eyes when she asked why I couldnít love her forever, couldnít just start over. The altar so near and yet so terrifyingly far away. The tears in her eyes, tears I put there. My body is stiff now from the fight, and chilled bone deep from walking through torrents of rain that wouldnít stop. I want to run and cradle her and tell her Iím sorry, feel the sobs my words bring out because I deserve to be the one holding her through them, but I canít.

And so I run.

Find a motel outside of town. Dingy, smells like the remnants of sex and cigarettes, dampness clings to the windows inside and out. Iím reluctant to even take my jacket off here, donít want this place to feel like home. Iím not looking for comfort tonight. Iíll ask for forgiveness later, some other day when I think I deserve it. If that day ever comes.

Eventually Iíll have to go back. Explain to them all that it was too soon, that I still love her but that I canít be someoneís forever. Iíll be able to find the words. It will be simple. Iíll show her that sheís better on her own. A thousand years to become her own woman, I just havenít had long enough to become a man, not the kind of man she deserves. Sheíll understand. They all will, and weíll go back to saving the world and loving each other in a way that doesnít hurt us.

Simple.

*****

Spike

I love her so desperately I cannot stay.

She surrounds me, still. The smell of her clings to my skin, her voice inhabits my head, "Ask me again why I could never love you." Bruises - purple and green on flesh I simply needed to touch one last time. I'm drowning in her. Two years of pain and still she will not leave. So I will go in her stead.  Rip flesh from bone, the heart remains. A dead heart, this. A dead heart in a dead man. Not worthy of her, beneath her, not what she deserves.

So I run.

Half-way across the world cannot be far enough, the answer must be harder to find than a cave in the African hills. Doesn't it? The bike only takes me as far as the airport. Bit of wandering the lanes and I find what I'm looking for. Flight leaving in an hour, bound for East Africa, arriving in the middle of the night. Perfect. Fooled myself into thinking she could love me as I am. She couldnít give herself permission to let it be anything but need and want, never love, should have known that.

Hardly received a glance walking through the hangars. Nicked set of coveralls complete with embroidered nametag and now I am called Bob. Finding a bed amongst the luggage is easier than it should be, pressed against dinged leather cases and duffle bags full of safari gear. Better down here than in first class with some rich git on his way to live the cliche. It's simple, sleep the day away, wake up a few thousand miles away, and find a way to come back and face her, make her love me gently.

Simple.