Strangers in a diner

The only place to stop on that lonely stretch of highway was some run of the mill diner. Xander, lost tired and hungry decided to stop and get some grub. He loked over at the sleeping Anya and contemplated waking her up or not. He decided that she looked so peaceful. He didn't want to wake her. He got out of the car, shutting the door gently behind him, and walked up into the diner. He adjusted his pants after sitting for over seven hours straight. He walked up the stairs and walked into the small diner. He saw a woman sitting in a stall, clutching tenaciously at a small cup of coffee. At the end of the diner was a tall dark haired guy who was staring at one of those novelty paintings of sailboats that inhabit nearly every diner. Xander noticed at the counter a pretty girl with light brown hair. At first glance she reminded him of Cordelia. She was young, probably seventeen, and her face was covered by cheap make-up. Her blouse was tight and showed off her breasts! immensly. She smiled at him. He couldn't understand what she was doing there so late. He sat down and looked up at the menu on the bulletin board. "What'll ya have?" She asked. Her voice was soft and warm.

"Five dollars for a burger and fries?" Xander asked in disgust at the specials "Without a drink?"

"Yeah, the prices blow,huh?" She asked, smiling.

"Yeah. They do." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a ten. "I'll have the burger special and a coke,please." He smiled at her as she walked into the back screaming out his order to the people in the kitchen. Xander waited, folding his hands on the counter and looking around. That guy with the dark hair in the buissness suit had since taken off his coat and laid it on one of the stalls. He was still watching the pictures. He stopped, as if aware he was being watched, and half turned, looking around him. Xander turned away and saw the pretty waitress coming back.

"That'll be a few minutes. They're slow back there." She smiled politley.

"That's alright. I'm not in a rush." He grinned at her. They sat in silence for a few moments. "How old are you?" He asked. She looked at him angrily at first, offended by the question,and then smiled when she saw he meant nothing by it.

"Seventeen." She said, blushing.

"Why are you still working? I thought it was illegal for minors to work all nighters." Xander asked.

"It is, but they needed me and I need the work." She smiled at him.

"You need the work?" he asked.

"Yeah. My Mom is sick and I have to fend more myself. And her." She smiled brightly. "But I don't complain! Not one bit!" Her voice was begining to show a slight southern accent.

"Your Mom's sick,huh?" He asked sadly "With what?"

"The big C." She said. When she saw that he didn't register, she added, "Cancer."

"Oh. Never knew anyone with cancer." Xander said, looking down. "It's kind of odd that in all the things I've seen and done, an illness is a complete mystery to me."

"What have you done?" She asked.

"Don't ask." Xander said, smiling up at her "'Cause you really don't want to know." He looked around. "This is a nice place." He said, trying to change the subject.

"Why are you changing the subject?" She asked.

"You noticed,huh?" he asked, grinning. "Sorry. There's just stuff I don't like to talk about."

"Awwwww, c'mon. If I can spill my guts about my Ma, you can talk about yourself." She said, leaning towards him.

"Okay, my best friend is a witch, my other best friend is a vampire slayer and my other best friend is a Werewolf. Oh, and my current suedo girlfriend is a former demon turned human." He rambled off quickly. She stared at him blankly.

"really." She said.

"See? I tell people they don't want to know about me, but do they listen to me? Noooooooooooo." He said. His plate was set in front of him. It wasn't very appetising.

"That's an interesting story." She said,smiling.

"Thanks." He muttered, taking a sip of his coke.

"So where are you headed?" She asked, bending over a bit further so he could see her cleavege. He smiled evily and then turned his attention away.

"No idea." he said. He looked around, and then smiled back at her "I'm actually kind of a lost soul."

"Out to find your soul?" She asked. He nodded.

"yeah. Yeah I suppose so." He took a bite of his burger. It was good, surprisingly. "But I'm lost." He looked at her seriously. "No idea where I am."

"Hmmmmmmmm." She hummed, resting her chin on the palm of her left hand. Then the woman who was clutching her coffee cup let out a low moan. The girl at the counter looked over, startled, and then walked over. "What's the matter, Agnes?" The woman, who was actually rather dirty and covered in a large coat, let out another moan. Xander stood up and walked over. He kneeled down next to the girl, who had kneeled next to the woman.

"I think she's saying something." he said, frowning in puzzlement "Maybe she needs an oil can." The girl flashed him a pretty smile and then turned back to the woman at the table. Curious, the man by the picture walked over, standing behind the two.

"Agnes, what are you trying to say?" The girl asked.

"Paradise." She whispered. The woman stared into space, as if in a trance. The woman turned toward Xander. "Paradise." She said, staring into his eyes. She then began to repeat it over and over again, like a chant, her face becoming a mask of terror more and more each time she said it. Her face got whiter and whiter, her mouth opening wider as each word got louder and louder. The woman began to slam her cup onto the table each time the word was said, splattering coffee onto the table. The counter girl had backed away nervously, bumping into the man behind her, who was watching with interest. Xander kept his eyes locked with the woman screaming the word paradise, not having any choice. Her wide brown eyes didn't show as much terror as they should have. Instead they showed an incredible vacancy. His eyes locked with hers, not even stopping to blink. He couldn't. The words etched into his mind. Paradise. Paradise. Paradise. The woman then snapped out of it, grabbi ng Xander by the shirt. "it's waiting for you." She whispered. The two stared at each other, and then the woman dropped dead, falling out of her chair and into the teens arms. Xander stood a moment, not comprehending, and then dropped her, letting out a low gutteral sound of disgust and surprise. He backed away. He breathed deeply, each breath shuddering as he drew it in.

"Damn. After everything I've seen......" he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. "Shit. That scared the crap out of me!" The counter girl grabbed him.

"Scared you?!" She screamed "That was awful!" She sounded near tears. The man behind her placed a hand on her shoulder. She turned and began to weep into his shoulder. He looked at Xander, unsure of what to do. Xander shrugged, not knowing either.

"That was weird." xander said. He looked around. "I need to make a phone call." He walked up to the counter where the cooks from the back stood. They must have heard the commotion. "Is there a phone?" he asked. The lead chef, a large fat man, nodded with a pale face and pointed out back. Xander thanked him and rushed inside. He picked up the phone and reached into his pocket. He looked at the small piece of paper that Buffy has given him for emergencies. "Let's see....Buffy, No. Willow,no. Oz...hell no! Let's see....Giles! Yes, here it is." He dialed the number. It rang twice. Then there was a british voice on the other end.

"Hello?" It asked.

"Giles!"

"Xander?" Giles asked "This is a pleasent...if not unexpected....surprise."

"Well, I have a mission for you." Xander said.

"Oh?"

"The weirdest shit just went down. This woman in a diner started screaming the word Paradise. Like a chant. And then she said that it was waiting for me." xander said hurridly.

"For you in particular?" Giles asked, his voice deepening in thought.

"Uh..yeah. What does that mean?" xander asked.

"W-well, I'm sure it was just some lunatic." Giles said. "Not anything to worry about."

"I don't think so, G-man." Xander said, shaking his head. "This freaked me out."

"I-I'll look up Paradise for you. Call me in the morning and I'll tell you anything I know." Giles said irratibly, as if the assingment was beneath him. Xander supposed that with all the hellmouth emergencies and what-not that the assignment was below him.

"I'm sorry,Giles. This just....y'know?" xander was aware for the first time that his voice was shaking.

"I know, xander. I'll look it up. Call tommorow." The phone clicked as the librarian hung up. Xander hung it up and then leaned against the wall. He breathed deeply, trying despertly to calm himself. He wiped his forehead, which was covered in sweat. He had had no idea the event had shaken him so badly. Shutting his eyes was no help. All he could see was the womans' face, and in his ears her pathetic whisper.

"Paradise"

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