Beauty Effulgent

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Somewhere Down the Road

Somewhere down the road, our roads are gonna cross again
It doesn't really matter when, but somewhere down the road…
1976 - Los Angeles, California - Universal Amphitheatre
Joyce clenched the cigarette between her teeth as she fumbled with the matches. She winced as the first one struck and burned quickly down, stinging her fingers. She lit another and then puffed frantically as the flame sputtered in the damp night air.
Smoke filled her lungs and she tilted her head back, coughing only slightly as she exhaled.
“I’m telling Mom,” Darlene said serenely.
Joyce turned to glare at her sister. Darlene sat Indian style on her half of the blanket, her eyes on the stage as a smug little half-smile pulled at her lips.
“Your word against mine,” Joyce said, tossing her hair as she took another drag.
“I’ll make her do a breath check, and I won’t share the Binaca,” Darlene said. She glanced down at the blanket. “Plus, you’re ashing on my espadrilles. Put it out.”
Joyce scowled as she leaned forward to grind the barely puffed cigarette into the dirt. Sighing, she sat back and drew her knees up her chin. “It’s raining,” she muttered.
“It is not – it’s barely drizzling. Besides, it’s good for your skin.”
Joyce rolled her eyes. “I’m 17, nothing’s good for my skin.”
Darlene frowned at Joyce and then turned her attention back to the performance.
Joyce shifted irritably on the blanket and then leaned over, bumping her shoulder against Darlene’s as she changed tactics.
“We could sneak out of here,” she whispered eagerly, “we could go down to the Troubadour. Fleetwood Mac’s playing tonight…”
Darlene’s ponytail lashed against Joyce’s cheek as she whirled on her sister, sighing hugely. “You’re too young to get in the Troubadour, and besides, it cost me two weeks salary to get these tickets because you said you wanted to go to a concert. So be quiet and listen,” Darlene hissed.
“A concert,” Joyce nodded, “like rock and roll, not…”
Darlene snorted. “Rock and roll. You think Seals and Croft is rock and roll.” She waved a hand at the stage. “I don’t know what your problem is – this is the same thing.”
Joyce looked at the stage, wrinkling her nose. “It’s really not.”
Darlene flicked her finger against Joyce’s upper arm. Hard. “I mean it, Joycie, shut it, okay? We’re not going to the Troubadour. Somebody’d probably try to give us a marijuana cigarette – and you’d take it!”
Joyce scoffed. “No one calls them ‘marijuana cigarettes,’ Darlene – they’re doobies. And you don’t know what I’d do, I might –”
There was a quiet sigh and the sound of irritated rustling next to them, and Joyce turned to see the man next to them moving a bit farther away on the grass.
“See what you did?” Darlene hissed. “You made that man move with all your yakking. Man, he looks really P.O.'d.”
“I’m telling Mom you said ‘P.O.’d’,” Joyce mumbled as Darlene shrugged and turned away.
The man spread a leather jacket on the ground and sat down on it carefully, as if he were trying to keep as little of the damp grass from touching it as possible. The muscles in his thighs strained against his tight corduroy slacks as he stretched his legs out, and Joyce gasped a little, blushing, but the man ignored her, directing his gaze back to the stage.
Once his eyes focused back on the concert, he seemed unaware of anything else, his body utterly still, although his lips twitched a little, as if he wanted to sing along but wouldn’t let himself.
Joyce couldn’t stop looking at his mouth. She’d never seen a man’s mouth that looked like that – deep red, almost like his lips were stained or tattooed, but natural at the same time.
Maybe it was because his skin was so fair; even the in dim light this far from the stage, Joyce could almost make out tiny blue veins where his hair didn’t brush down to cover them. And his hair – dark brown and silky looking, like shampoo commercial hair. It was a shag cut, and she’d never seen that work on a man, either, but boy howdy, it worked on this one.
“You think he’s a fox,” Darlene giggled suddenly.
Joyce jumped quickly, startled, and then looked back at the man to see if he’d heard, but he was still looking at the stage, unaware of anything but the music. “No, I don’t,” she sputtered, embarrassed. She reached for her purse, dragging it into her lap and hissing as the macramé scraped her bare legs.
“Yes, you do,” Darlene said as she tugged one of Joyce’s curls. “You think he’s fox-y,” she sing-songed, “you wish you were his girlfriend…”
“Shut up,” Joyce said, ducking her head and digging around in her purse. She found the distraction she was looking for and then snuck another look at the man. His eyes were closed, his head tipped back, his shirt open at the neck and just a glint of light was shining off a necklace and… “Okay,” Joyce said, grinning slightly. “He is sorta foxy. Very Todd Rundgren.”
“Gross,” Darlene said, wrinkling her nose.
“Oh, shut up,” Joyce said, opening a bottle of nail polish and stroking a gleam of dark red down one fingernail. “You think Elton John is…”
“Shhh,” Darlene said, jostling Joyce so that the polish streaked slightly. “You’ll make him move farther away and then you won’t be able to stare at his crotch anymore.”
“I was not!” Joyce snapped her jaw shut and tossed her head, looking back down at her nails. Darlene laughed softly and then went back to humming along with music. Joyce snuck another look at the man, only to find him staring at her.
He was frowning, but not as though he was angry at her for talking through the concert again. Joyce stared back at him, and he turned to look at the stage, and then back to her, glancing down at her nail polish and looking, well, hurt.
Flustered, Joyce looked at the polish she’d unthinkingly painted across the backs of her fingers and then jumped again when applause crashed around them. She looked up to find the hillside around the amphitheatre glowing with tiny lights as hundreds of hands lifted lighters. Her lips quirked, because lighters for this…?
I remember all my life, raining down as cold as ice.
The man was standing now, his eyes closed and his head bowed…almost as if in prayer. Joyce wondered why he had sat so far back in the crowd since he was obviously such a big Manilow fan.
Morning just another day; happy people pass my way…
Of course, the fact that he was such a big Manilow fan explained why a guy who looked like that was all alone. Joyce shook her head. Wow. She had great taste.
“I’m going to pee,” she said to Darlene as she got to her feet and headed toward the bushes behind them.
“Joyce! There are bathrooms right across the street!” Darlene whispered harshly after her.
“Too far,” Joyce said, waving a hand back as she eased past the man with the leather jacket.
“I’m telling Mom you acted like such a tramp!” Darlene all but yelled.
Joyce felt the man staring at her, but she didn’t have to actually see him staring to feel any more embarrassed as she ran into the bushes. God, Darlene could be such a b-i-t-c-h sometimes.
Legs trembling, Joyce looped her purse over her wrist and fumbled for the snap on her skirt.
“Hey, lady,” a voice said smoothly behind her.
Joyce whirled around, choking on a gasp. Okay, it was possible to feel more embarrassed. But it wasn’t the man from the concert; this was someone else, darker and more dangerous in a KISS t-shirt with the sleeves ripped off. And, oh, he was checking her out hard.
“Um, hi,” Joyce said, stumbling back slightly. “Sorry – I didn’t know anyone else was here, I’ll just…”
“Hey, hey, girl, mellow – it’s all right. I’ve been checking you all night. Thought maybe you saw me,” he said, nodding his head back to toward the amphitheatre. “Thought maybe you were checking me, too.”
“Um, uh, no,” Joyce said, smiling slightly as she twisted her purse straps in her hands. “I was just…”
“Yeah, you looked pretty bummed out, too,” the man said with a grin. He walked closer toward her, his grin widening, reassuring. “’Cause Manilow…pretty not righteous, huh? Mandy,” he chuckled, “it’s not even like a real name…” 
Joyce relaxed, smiling. This guy didn’t seem much older than she was, and it was nice to have someone smile at her and not tell her to be quiet or look like she’d ruined their life by not grooving to Manilow. “I don’t know,” she said, shrugging. “I think it’s kinda pretty. The name, not the song, ‘cause yeah – not my bag. But Mandy would be a pretty name for a girl,” she said, easing away as he stepped closer. “I mean, it’s much better than Joyce, and you could spell it with an ‘i’ and you know, any of those names with the ‘y’ sound at the end are kinda cute…”
“Like you,” the man said, reaching for her hand. “Joyce, huh? I’m Todd. So…you wanna get out of here? KISS is playing at the Palladium…” Joyce shook her head uncertainly, and the man lifted her hand to his lips, “or we could stay right here and have our  own fun.”
Todd drew her fingers into his mouth, sucking and licking at the red polish. Just as quickly, he pulled his head away, choking.
“Oh, man,” he said, bending over and wheezing, “I thought something smelled off, but it was dark and it looked so real…”
Joyce jerked her hand out his grasp. “Gross! Freak me out,” she gasped, disgusted. She wiped her hand against her skirt, frantically trying to get the feel of his mouth off of her skin.
He looked back up at her, his grin nowhere near reassuring this time. “Don’t want to hold hands?” he asked, shrugging. “That’s okay,” he said, as he grabbed her arms and jerked her toward him, his head lowering, “I’m more into necking, myself.”
“Get away from her.”
Joyce glanced behind her to see the man from the concert, who looked a lot less sad and amazingly more scary.
“Get your own,” Todd snarled, shoving Joyce behind him.
“I don’t let myself do that, anymore,” the man said, walking silently toward them, “and somehow I don’t think I’m going to let you, either, so you can get the hell away from her and get out of here, or…” he lifted his head suddenly, looking back toward the concert and the music drifted over them. “Man,” he groaned, frustrated, “that’s the bridge on Somewhere Down the Road…” he looked back at Todd. “Sorry – you ran out of choices. Duck,” he said to Joyce.
Joyce felt something or someone fall heavily against her, and then she was rolling down a slight hill, her hands still tangled painfully in her purse. She staggered to her feet and saw the man standing behind her, his hand reached out to help her up.
She looked around quickly, brushing at the grass stains on her skirt. “W-Where’d that…um, Todd go?”
The man smiled at her and she swallowed hard. He shrugged lightly. “Hey – no one wants to miss the bridge on Somewhere Down the Road. C’mon, I think your sister’s worried.”
Joyce sighed. “Yeah. She’s a trip.” She looked at the man through her lashes. “I’m Joyce.”
He just smiled back at her as his hand slipped beneath her elbow and helped her up the hill.
“So, do you, ah,” Joyce glanced over to where she could see Darlene staring at them. “Do you wanna come sit next to us?” she asked quickly. “I mean, I promise I’ll be quiet.”
“No, thanks,” he said, backing away. He licked his lips and Joyce swore her knees were only trembling from the fall. “Barry, uh, he always closes with Copa and, well, I kinda wanna be up front for that. Listen, stay out of the bushes at night, okay?”
“Joyce!” Darlene called, waving frantically as people shushed around her.
Joyce waved back, annoyed, and then turned back to say thanks…but she was alone in the bushes with a ripped purse and a grass stained skirt. She shrugged and turned to head back to Darlene, walking quickly in case that freak, Todd, was still “checking” her. Well, she wouldn’t tell Darlene about that, because then this would be the first and last concert she ever got to go to, and please…Manilow?
1998 – Sunnydale, California – Summers’ Residence
“…oh!, uh, this is my mom. Mom, this is Angel. Uh, we ran into each other on the way home.”
Joyce looked at the young man who stood behind Buffy. Well, young, yes, but not young enough to be standing behind Buffy in their darkened living room without cause for some motherly concern.
Angel nodded, as if he understood the worry in Joyce’s eyes and said simply, “Nice to meet you.”
Joyce cocked her head, looking over Angel’s dark jacket and white t-shirt and trying not to think hoodlum because she was Cool-Mom, and Cool-Mom did not think ‘hoodlum.’ “What do you do, Angel?”
“He's a student,” Buffy said quickly. Joyce gave her an ‘I’m Cool-Mom, not Stupid-Mom’ head tilt and Buffy licked her lips, “Uh, first year community college. Angel's been helping me with my history; you know I've been toiling there...”
Joyce nodded slowly, deciding Cool-Mom would buy that. For now.  She turned and started toward the stairs. “It’s a little late for tutoring. I'm gonna go to bed, and, uh…” Joyce paused, her hand on the stair railing as she looked back at Angel. “I’m sorry, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but have we met?”
Angel smiled slightly, looking back at her with a shrug. “Maybe somewhere down the road…or maybe I just have one of those faces.”
“Wow,” Joyce mumbled, “there’s more than one of that face?”
“Sorry,” Joyce whispered as she leaned down to kiss Buffy on the cheek. “It’s just…for a history tutor? Pretty foxy.”
Note: Some dialogue from BtVS-1 "Angel"; Darlene is Joyce's sister's name canonically ("Pangs"); I was only 5 in 1976, so I Googled all the Manilow info and "Mandy" and "Somewhere Down the Road" are both, of course, by Barry Manilow. 
"Somewhere Down the Road" and "Copa Cabana" both post-date 1976, but "Copa" is funny and "Somewhere Down the Road" - um, I know all the words and I think it's kinda pretty?

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