quinara: Wishverse Buffy in a white frame. (Buffy Wish white box)
[personal profile] quinara
[start of fic and notes]

'I love you' is a thing you say to people who are dying

by Quinara


Season 7. Buffy/Spike. Some Watchers survived, because sometimes people do.

free association II

--afterwards--

Outside on the back porch, reliable as the setting sun, Spike was waiting for her. Or, if not waiting, he was smoking, sitting on the steps and staring off into the yard.

When he said nothing, Buffy took that as an invitation, the way he'd done so many times before. She eased herself down onto the step, a few inches away but close enough to feel a tingle from the nearness, no matter that she didn’t deserve it.

Drawing her arms around herself, Buffy side. After a moment, Spike seemed to decide on something: he made a sound like he was going to start talking, then stopped, then finally went through with it. “Is that what happened?” he asked her.

Buffy looked at him. The moonlight made his leather gleam in sharp shadows and highlights. When he spoke he smelled like Marlboros, which was nasty, and yet somehow also the exact antidote to the familiar school smell of chewing gum and BO, lately smellable around her house.

Steadily, Spike repeated the question. “Is that what they did to you?”

In the end, she didn’t bother to act like she didn’t know what he was talking about. Spike had listened to the story about the Shadowmen just as well as the rest of them. Of course, it had only been after Buffy had told the tale that she'd remembered how many sets of chains existed between her and Spike, but she could recognise the similarity now. It was easy to construct a damning narrative thread between the various agents involved and, naturally, Spike was doing that now.

“It wasn’t the same,” Buffy dismissed the line from her own head, looking up to the empty sky.

He’d walked away from her, inside – all over again. This time, though, it was different. Now that Buffy had tracked him down, Spike wasn’t holding back. He snorted; his jacket creaked as he looked at her. Then he was spoke, dark and serious and direct: “Bollocks it wasn’t.”

Buffy rolled her eyes, but part of her was suppressing a smile. It felt good to have him back, this Spike she remembered.

Not looking for an argument right now, though, Buffy said nothing. She just attuned her ears into the night.

Obviously, Spike didn’t let it go. “I was gonna rip you to shreds, you know? For what you did.” He said it nonchalantly, dragging on his smoke again after he’d finished. Buffy couldn’t help watching him, not now. “First for what you said,” her guy explained. “Then for going off like that on your own.” He had a good rant stored up inside him, it was clear. “No preparation, no weapons, no nothing,” he almost started on it. “It was a risk and you know it.”

“It seemed worthwhile,” was all that Buffy could think to say. Spike side-eyed her, but that really was all she had. She shrugged, a small smile on her face.

Looking like he didn’t expect anything less, Spike nodded. “Yeah, well,” he added, his coat creaking as he leant an elbow on his knee. “You’re lucky I don't much have the energy to get into all of this. Even if I’m sure you’d prefer I put on a show.”

Now that comment frustrated her. Sending her glare off into the yard, Buffy grit her jaw and told him, “I don’t want you to put on a show. That’s not what I said.”

“Yeah, yeah, I heard what you said,” Spike replied easily, sarcastically. “But that’s all it ever was, the Big Bad you remember: one pathetic, needy bastard, grasping at more than he’s been given, sometimes with a decent hairdo.” He sighed, and when Buffy looked back he was flicking ash towards the grass. “Never fear,” he added, “your message got through. You need me and you need Willow at the top of our game and we haven’t been there. I get it.” For a moment he glanced at her, and Buffy knew he was recalling some of their worse shared experiences. “Just hoped I might also make something better of myself. Actually see something changed.”

There was so much that Buffy wanted to say to that, she wasn’t sure how to get it into the right order. To hear Spike say he understood, it was amazing – it was more than she would have hoped for. At the same time, it hurt her in a particularly wriggly part of her gut when he talked himself down, no matter how much practice she had at ignoring it.

“I…” she began, still uncertain what to go with. She reached out a hand – but Spike jumped when she touched his fingers.

It was almost as if she was imaging it, but when Spike covered he covered too far, pulling away and climbing up to his feet. It was exactly like he was nervous, as he took a last drag of his cigarette and then dumped the end into the soil of a dead pot plant.

Buffy was surprised to see it all happen, and a little bit annoyed. “It wasn’t the same,” she repeated, leaning on her right arm as she turned back. Maybe, she thought, she could diagnose his jumpiness. “What they did, it shouldn’t get to you.”

Spike looked like he was planning to go back inside, but was caught between her and the door.

Forcing his decision, Buffy clambered to her own feet, an ache in her arches and a slight chafing burn just underneath her knees. This was what happened when she wore new boots all day, in soil and then in sand. The heels were a little high and the tops of them were a little loose; she only had herself to blame.

“They had no idea who I was and they didn’t care,” Buffy tried to explain, distracting herself back to Spike. “That girl,” she said seriously, looking into his fearful eyes, “when they took her, she was a tool. She was something they could use to make their lives easier.”

Clearly, he didn’t get it. Buffy knew, as well as anyone could, that there were hundreds of other girls for whom Spike had been a nightmare, so probably he was right not to figure it out. Even Buffy didn’t pretend she had it completely.

“When they took her,” Buffy tried to work it through, all the same, “they’d planned it all out.” That girl who became the Slayer, she’d had no idea what was coming, just the same as she knew those men never cared who she was or who she would fight, who she would be once they’d cast her out into the night all alone. The thought was dark and heavy in her stomach, “She was nothing to them.”

The decking creaked as she took a step forward, as Spike shuffled his feet. Once Xander had said something about rotting joists, but Buffy had planned to ignore it until it became an issue. Most likely a demon would be thrown through the porch before Mother Nature had her chance to destroy everything.

“That was their plan,” Buffy continued to explain, not letting herself lose this thought, even if she did glance down. “With you and me,” she told Spike at last, “yours has always been something else. I… I don’t want you to think of yourself like them.”

Looking back at her, some of the tension in Spike’s body seemed to release itself into the air. What he’d seen in her, Buffy didn’t know, but it was a relief when he put his hands in his pockets, like he had no intention to go back inside just yet. “Shouldn’t worry about me, love,” was what he said, a crease in his forehead because he clearly hadn’t conceded her point.

“I can’t help it,” Buffy replied, drawing her arms around herself again. She didn’t admit that she did worry about him, not precisely, so she figured she could say it. “You and Willow…” she added, looking away. “I know you can’t control guilt, but sometimes I worry that it’s gonna get you killed. It’s gonna take you like some disease.” OK, so maybe she was going to spell it out. “This apocalypse is so much – more than anything we’ve had before, and it’s like that every year, but we’ve all got to step up and I don’t know how…”

“See, if you’d have put it like that, I wouldn’t have been so bloody angry with you.” When Buffy looked up, Spike was smiling. He took a step towards her, at which point they really weren’t very far apart. “Look,” he continued, like her fear made him as sick as it did Buffy, “Willow’ll pull through when she needs to. Thing about Red,” he suggested, doing that thing that Buffy now realised had always been suggestion, but sounded like he was revealing the truth, “she’s as righteous as you are.” His expression turned serious. “The whole lot of you, you’re ruthless. Yeah, she might’ve spooked herself; might be feeling like she wants to play the mouse for a bit – and taken up with Puss in Boots to prove it… But if you set her off she’ll be all right. She’ll pull through.”

Buffy wished she could believe it. She looked at Spike, realising after a few moments that he actually did. Could it be possible? “You have no idea how much I needed to hear that,” she muttered, turning away with the admission.

Everything she’d heard from Giles and Willow herself had made her question whether Willow really was ready to be back here, on the Hellmouth. They had Althanea now, of course, but from what Buffy could tell she was more about the healing than the battle magic Will actually excelled in. Everything everyone was saying, it was all about how they couldn’t rush Willow back into things, but Buffy felt rushed. She felt really rushed.

It must have shown on her face or something, because Spike creaked a little closer towards her. Buffy rolled her shoulders back, planning to summon some sort of smile, but not quite expecting it when his fingers grazed her forearms.

Clearly he was over whatever had startled him before. Buffy was pretty startled herself, but her hands still fell into the crooks of Spike’s arms; his coming to rest just underneath her elbows. She shivered, realising that this was the closest thing to a hug she’d had in longer than she could remember.

Was that pathetic, or just a sign of what she’d become? Buffy couldn’t be sure. Whatever it was, it made her feel warm, and it was enough support to lean on, for the moment.

Somewhere out in the darkness a nightjar trilled, flittering its way out of a tree. Buffy wondered if it was an omen. Yet leather was crumpling between her fingers and she held her grip. “I don’t want to be nothing, Spike,” she admitted in a whisper, looking at his face just below his eye line. “The way they look at me…” It wasn’t anything like the way they looked at Willow.

“Don’t be daft,” was what Spike replied, drawing in a little. He touched his nose into her hair and Buffy tried to remember if or else when they’d ever been close like this. She couldn’t figure out why it wouldn’t have happened.

Honestly, she wanted to say something, to keep the moment from becoming awkward. The thing was, she couldn’t think of anything to say. For her at least it was enough, too good actually, to simply stop for a moment, feel Spike’s coat crumple in her fingers as she clutched his arms tighter. Unsteadily, his chest rose and sank as he breathed, surely not letting her be as her skin tingled with his nearness, but his fingers to her elbows otherwise still gentle.

There was a moment when Buffy thought she’d stopped thinking, about the Potentials, about the First, about what it would take to get them through this. But it wasn’t quite to be. Urgency flicked through Spike like the toll of an absent bell, and in a second that stole her breath he squeezed her closer: the touch became a grip of his left hand, his other glanced on her shoulder and as her eyes fell shut he kissed her on the crown of her head – quickly, like some sort of secret blessing.

Afterwards, he muttered gruffly, “Company’s coming.” It wasn’t an explanation and the vowels barely got a look in, but it was a command to pull away. Spike looked at her meaningfully as he rocked back on his heels, rustling through pockets and coming up with cigarettes.

Alert now, Buffy turned, and sure enough she could see through the back door’s glass how Quentin Travers made his way through her kitchen. It was so bright in there and so dark outside that she knew there was little risk of him seeing her. As it was, he looked up right at her, but his eyes glazed away like he’d only seen his own face in a mirror.

Still, she prepared herself, so when he made it outside she was ready. Spike was at a distance, surly and watchful; Buffy herself was impeccable, serene and unthreatened, unembarrassed.

The back door swung open in a steady, quiet squeak. “Miss Summers,” Travers addressed her as he came outside, face as clean as hers like this was all any of them should be. “We should talk.”

There didn’t seem any reason to say no.

--earlier--

“Wouldn’t that be dangerous?” Willow was asking, a few days after her date with Wood. The conversation she’d had with Spike. “You know, to get so close?”

Caught up in her thoughts, Buffy took the question seriously. Well, I guess he’s still a vampire, but these days he mostly acts… Wait. “Huh?” she asked, not sure whether Willow was reading her mind again. They hadn’t been talking about Spike, had they?

Sitting at the dining room table, both Willow and Althanea looked at her like she was crazy. They were both drinking tea. Buffy had declined, but she at least remembered what they were talking about now: wards for the house, to keep out the First Evil. It had been Althanea’s idea, and she’d called Willow and Buffy together so that they could talk about it. “I mean,” Buffy tried to recover, wishing she had something to do with her fidgeting fingers, “why would it be dangerous?”

Willow looked down, just for a moment, her straightened hair covering the sides of her face. It was as though Buffy had accused her of something, but for herself she had no idea what she’d said that was so bad. Honestly, Buffy got that Willow was afraid of using magic around the First, that she was afraid of the evil. She didn’t want this thing anywhere near any of them. After Willow and Andrew’s adventures with Radio Shack, though, Buffy was getting a little impatient about this idea they had any other option.

“No, Willow is right,” Althanea said, like she could read Buffy’s thoughts. She was nursing her tea, rings and bracelets jangling against her mug. Buffy looked at her suspiciously. “All magic crafts a connection between its caster and its object,” the witch continued, in tones as though she had often repeated this. She had grey eyes and they were serious. “To cast a snare around the house will be no problem, but should we capture the First Evil that will allow a connection to us.”

“Right.” Buffy figured it was the same deal as before, when Willow had tried the locator spell on the First. Possible possession; major suckiness. “Got it,” Buffy accepted. Again she drummed her fingers on the table, glancing at all of Willow’s computer stuff, living once more at the other end just like when she’d been dead.

It was difficult for Buffy to sympathise with Willow’s fear, really. The First could take on her face any time it wanted; they were already connected.

“Would it work?” she asked anyway, thinking back to the wards. It seemed necessary to know.

Ultimately, they were all in this fight together. That was how Buffy saw it. She’d been thinking about Spike because she’d spent most of the day with Robin, dealing with troublemakers at school. The after-date awkwardness was mostly over now, and he hadn’t asked her out again, but he was coming by tomorrow to take a look at their operation. Buffy wanted to show him something functional, that she could be proud of, professionally.

Right now she wasn’t sure she had much of anything.

“We could make it work,” Willow said when Buffy looked back to her. Her expression was a little lacking in conviction, round eyes asking rather than telling Buffy to believe her. “I mean, it would be huge, right?” Willow continued, looking between Buffy and Althanea. “If we could keep the First out of the house?”

Buffy did not say, Duh, to her friends, especially not seriously. “Go for it,” she confirmed, pulling herself from the conversation before she could. With a smile she knew would come across as distracted – no matter how hard she tried – Buffy rose from the table. “I’m gonna go check on the girls,” she told Willow, hoping to sound like she had faith.

From Willow’s shuttered grin, it didn’t seem like it was much help.

--earlier--

Seriously, she spent too much time underground these days. That was the main thing Buffy thought. First it was the high school basement, and then after taking in Spike it had been her own. Now they were here in the Initiative and it felt almost the same. The cold, musty air pressed into her clothes, getting into her bones the way she used to let the sunshine.

Most of the time, it didn’t bother her, this feeling. Here on her own, it felt an awful lot like despair.

After a few moments of trying to get Spike to wake up again, Buffy had lost pretty much all the energy she had left. Uncomfortable with her back to the dark, she’d settled at Spike’s side, first turned towards him and now simply facing the same way, back to the wall and with his unconscious head resting on her shoulder. It was all very final.

They needed a plan, really. She needed a plan, for both of them. Thing was, Buffy wasn’t entirely sure she had one. To get out of this immediate situation, at least, Buffy knew she could put Spike over her shoulder and haul him back to the surface. It might tire her out to get him all the way home, but they weren’t completely stuck.

What would they do if they left, though? That was the question. She was no expert, but if the chip was degrading then it seemed to Buffy that it couldn’t keep firing forever. It was possible that Spike would simply sleep out the rest of the shocks, wake up and eventually recover. If they got back home, Buffy figured she could ask Willow to dope Spike up, maybe do something to protect his brain… But it wasn’t entirely clear whether Willow would say yes, as freaked about magic as she’d been recently.

As Spike shivered slightly, in his torpor, Buffy felt it like a cold wash running through her. The chip was still torturing its victim; that much was obvious. It was a reason to get out, to get on with the next possible solution, but now they’d come all the way here, she couldn’t help but think there might be something to help Spike down in this complex.

So, holding Spike’s hand gently in her own, Buffy waited, thinking.

God, she wished he would wake up.

When it came by, eventually, hope had a rather visible appearance. Buffy felt something tickle at her nose that itched like magic – then, in the next second, a warm glow as coming around the corner. It heralded the way for a fuzzy, tiny Tinkerbell of light.

It was like a spell Buffy vaguely recognised as Willow’s, the little helper golf ball of glow that let her find people. The way Buffy remembered it, however, was as a darting green light, buzzing around like a wasp. This was more like a butterfly, rose-pink and making its way gently through the air to settle in front of them. It made Buffy’s whole face tingle, and the urge to sneeze eventually fading away, leaving her with a tight feeling of anticipation, right in her chest.

Gently, Buffy eased away from Spike and made towards the thing, keen to work out what it wanted her to do, if it wanted her to follow it. It seemed – helpful, somehow.

Nonetheless, the firefly was content to wait, closing in to hover just above their heads. In its gentle, warm light, Buffy thought the pain on Spike’s face seemed to ease, his sleep a little more content.

Some part of him could still be conscious, she guessed. Really, Buffy didn’t want that to be the case, because then she really was wasting time with him in pain. As she began rising to her feet, however, she apparently pissed the spell off: it began flitting in agitated angles that were more like Buffy remembered.

Doing as she was told, because at least this thing didn’t seem evil, Buffy stayed sat down, drawing her knees towards Spike again, wondering if she was warm. Calmer now, the Tinkerbell bounced closer, coming to rest on the other side of Spike, just above his shoulder.

Buffy watched it suspiciously, one foot fidgeting in her boot as she suddenly found herself ready again for action. She didn’t trust magic, but she knew that sometimes she needed it.

--later--

The silence was long after Dawn’s accusation. You bought it, that feeling. Spike didn’t know what to say. You bought it. It seemed like Dawn wasn’t all that interested in going back inside the house, not to Buffy’s particularly brutal confab, but Spike wasn’t keen on the idea either. Certainly no more keen than he was on this.

As time went on, he was almost ready to try again. The second fag had been smoked and put out on the sole of his boot his time, the end of it in his pocket like the other. “I dunno what to say to you,” he went with, because it was all he had. “I…”

“Just forget about it,” Dawn replied, though she clearly didn’t mean it.

And Spike was going to get into it with her, have a real good go about it, but at that moment there was a huge blast of blue-white light that came pouring out of the living room window.

Heaven knew what the neighbours thought about moments like this. Spike, when he didn’t know what was going on, had a tendency to feel blind panic. Dawn, who had the same phobia of portals as he did, she clearly felt the same: they caught each other’s eyes and as one went rushing back to the front door.

Dawn had no superstrength, but she was more than a match for the front door, not quite shut. Spike rushed through after her, taking in the blinding, vanishing flash of what was definitely a portal and feeling it like storm pressure on his bones.

“What the bloody hell is going on here?” he yelled, looking for Buffy and feeling his heart drop out of him when she was nowhere to be seen. Surging forward, he’d almost got his eyes settled on Willow – the next person he was looking for – when in the place of the bright spots burnt on his retina there suddenly appeared a massive, hulking form of some particularly grim and toothy-looking demon.

Everyone started screaming. Girls who’d been lounging around and pretending like they could never be the Slayer someday, they were up on their feet and running for the stairs. Spike cast a glance behind him, where Dawn was staring, transfixed. Then, in a second, her eyes were snapped to his and she was off, darting in the direction of the weapons chest. Because some people in this house were useful.

Spike went in the other direction, glancing right as the girl went left. The demon was going through the ritual of all those semi-sentient creatures lost in a new world: roaring at the ceiling and raising its meaty arms while it decided who was going to die first. “Willow!” Spike shouted on the way, because he still wanted some intelligence and the whole point was to distract this thing’s attention.

“Buffy!” was what Red shouted back, because apparently she thought the best idea was to have all his borrowed blood to freeze in his veins. It did so, the very moment he was to find himself in a fight. “It’s an exchange for Buffy!”

Spike had already hurled himself at the demon by this point, of course. What he didn’t know, because no one apparently would tell him, was whether or not he was allowed to kill this thing. Usually it didn’t matter, but usually no one messed around with magic this bloody ridiculous, so who was he to make guesses?

It was a solid thing, the monster, its skin hard like crocodile leather and brown like the deep. Spike couldn’t really get a purchase on it. The ring of steel from somewhere made it sound like Dawn had got her way into the weapons, but Spike’s vision was filled by hair and musk.

Buffy? Spike thought as he clung on, gathering his thoughts. Why the hell was Buffy missing? What the hell had she done? What the hell had she taken on?

The demon crouched, and Spike figured that would have been a moment for him to have been thrown through the ceiling, if at that moment a misaimed crossbow bolt hadn’t struck him right in the side and made all of his muscles spasm into freedom.

“Oh! No! I’m sorry!” It wasn’t Dawn; it was the girly bloody Watcher. God help him.

Thankfully, as Spike landed behind the demon, the thing was distracted. It stumbled, angry to lose its quarry halfway through its throw, and it roared again. Spike made to barrel at the thing’s legs – but it was faster than him, crashing its way across the wooden floor and right through the coffee table.

“Dawn!” Spike shouted, reaching out an arm and staggering forward in the direction that he’d come in. He raised his eyes, a little worried about what he’d see.

A sight for sore, if terrified eyes, Dawn had an axe in front of her, the blade bigger than her head. Rather than swing it like an idiot, either, she had it held defensively, the haft a shield for her neck and chest, ten inches of steel for anything that would come at her face. The demon was feet away, then closer, but Dawn was turning like a weathervane to follow its movements.

Rather than suss out this threat, the demon took the easy road and galumphed right past it, off through the open door. Spike felt a full chest of air flood out of him as he dragged himself to where the demon had been moments before. He started yanking the crossbow bolt from his side, eyes on Dawn, who was shaking, and his free hand didn’t quite hold back from her shoulder. “Are you all right?” he asked her, his pain some distant problem for something else.

Lowering her blade, Dawn shared with him a guarded, shaky smile. “Yeah.”

Spike smiled back, tightly – then grimaced as he finally tore the bolt free.

“We need to go after it,” suddenly his assailant was by their sides, looking flushed in her comfy gear and her eyes all beady through her glasses. Lydia – that was her name.

Spike stared at her, figured Dawn was staring too. Orders were being shouted behind this woman: something to do with magic, something to do with portals, something to do with managing the panic still thrumming around the room. People kept crunching into the broken furniture.

Yet the Watcher bird seemed oblivious, holding her crossbow like she should be trusted with it. “Come on!” she said, her chin all high and mighty, her hair all wispy. She was too tall to pull off the look, as far as Spike was concerned. “It’s getting away!”

“Right!” Suddenly Dawn was agreeing, and when Spike looked back at her she was holding her axe up like she too had a clue what she was doing with it.

“Jesus,” Spike swore, glancing down to the floor and then up to the ceiling that was thankfully unbroken by his fragile body. This was a nightmare. “The pair of you stay here,” he yelled at both of them, avoiding Dawn’s axe as he skipped around them and retreating to the front door, backwards.

It was on them, it seemed. Buffy had left it on them, and they were all a bunch of wannabes. The fucking Slayer was giving them a test. She’d gambled with her own life to test them.

“Willow!” he called back to the other crowd, incandescent with rage. The witch was consulting with Nigel and Wood while that Potential yipped by her side, the one she was shagging. Still, Willow looked at him and Spike put everything he had into commanding her, “Just do what you need to do, right?” Her eyes were wide like saucers. Spike didn’t wait. “You do it!” he yelled as he left.

He was saving his real ire for the martyr who deserved it, he thought. God, if she ever came back.

--earlier--

The night before, the First Slayer told Buffy what she already knew. It wasn’t enough, any of it, what they were doing. And that was a warning, Buffy realised even at the time, but she didn’t know for what. She was harsh with the girls when Principal Wood came around – and they all grumbled about it. Lydia didn’t seem impressed, like she wanted to tell her off, the way she’d told Kennedy off the day before. The Watcher said nothing, though, just crossed her arms and looked stony-faced.

Buffy didn’t much give a damn. She didn’t understand it, either, when Spike was pissed off to find out that she’d told the Principal about his soul. He looked at her like she’d betrayed him and Buffy was annoyed to find herself annoyed with him. She couldn't figure out if this new introverted streak he had was a part of who he’d always been or an affectation he’d taken on so as to make the soul visible. From the way his eyes burned in the basement, at Robin and at her before he remembered himself, Buffy figured it might be the latter.

He said nothing, of course, because if there was one thing Spike didn’t do anymore, it was cause friction between the pair of them. It was going to have to be her, like everything else.

At the end of the tour, Robin officially revealed the Emergency Kit he’d brought. Everyone who was interested was in the living room. To Buffy, it seemed like a good moment for a pep talk before dinner, or else an opportunity to let them know how much better they needed to be.

Apparently, however, the idea that Wood had had the kit all the time he was in America was a scandal to Watchers everywhere, so he and Nigel were pre-empting Buffy with an argument.

“I don’t care if Bernard Crowley gave it to you,” the Brit was exclaiming. “It wasn’t his to give! This is the thing about field Watchers…”

Rolling her eyes, Buffy had half a mind to leave them to it. She glanced at Dawn, who at least had been through the bag ever since it had come home from school.

“I’m sorry; do I need to explain myself to you?” Robin was using the tone that made pretty much every kid in the school shut up. “I had nothing of hers. Crowley understood…”

Getting Buffy’s question, Dawn shrugged as if to say there wasn’t much for them to be interested in. Book, she mouthed, opening her hands like she couldn’t figure out how to pray. And a box, she added, cupping her hands to open them again.

Buffy nodded, figuring that now was the time she would kill this particular confrontation.

And yet, she didn’t get the chance. Before she could even speak, there was a bloodcurdling scream that came from upstairs.

Everyone stopped. The fastest on her feet and pretty much the only one without fear in her eyes, Buffy was first up the stairs and the first past Amanda and the other Potentials to find Chloe (Chloe, she remembered now, that was her name), hanged from the ceiling by a freshly laundered bedsheet. She’d gone blue and was clearly, irredeemably, dead.

How did she even…? Still processing the shock of it, Buffy followed the bedsheet along the contraption Chloe had made, the bedsheet tied to a Swiffer mop she’d somehow lashed to rest on top of a wardrobe door.

It was grotesque. It was the sort of thing an unfocused fifteen year old in throes of suicidal thoughts should have had difficulty pulling off on her own. The Slayer’s call was to get things done, Buffy knew that, but this seemed too much like Chloe had had some sort of encouragement.

“Amanda!” Buffy commanded, not looking away. Behind her, the girls startled. “One of you!” she offered an alternative. “Get a knife. We need to bring her down.” No way was Buffy going to start playing with all the knots. She was angry, she realised that was what she was feeling, but she was still going to give the girl some dignity now that she’d gone.

“Gosh, Buffy, it’s almost like you care about me.”

There was a voice in her head, just behind her ear. It was Chloe’s voice. Buffy knew she wouldn’t have been able to recall it if anyone had asked, but now she heard it, she knew it. It was quiet, suggestive, insinuating. It was the First Evil.

“I guess you thought you could keep me out, huh?” it continued.

Buffy turned around, trying to find the source of the whispers. This time, however, it seemed that the First had no body, no visible presence. From the looks on the girls’ faces, some staring at Chloe, some crying and some turned away – from everyone’s faces Buffy knew she was the only one who could hear what it was saying.

“I can feel it, your witches’ spell. I can feel them.” A short, girlish laugh made Buffy’s ear tingle. “You’re trying to keep me out and it’s cute, you know. The effort. Thing is, I have so many ways to hurt you.”

Buffy scowled, even as Amanda presented her with a hunting knife. “What? Is it not the right one?” she asked as Buffy took it, absently.

“Poor Chloe heard everything you ever said, and she still figured I was the one to listen to. What does that say?”

“No, Amanda,” Buffy addressed the girl, meeting her eyes as she tried to reassure her. “It’s fine.”

“I can’t keep them alive.” It was her own voice Buffy heard this time, louder and clearer and saying exactly what she’d said to Travers on the porch the day before. Amanda jumped, staring at her. They all stared at her. “Not all of them,” the voice continued as they started to look around, between each other. “Some of them will die in this fight.”

Amanda, not least of all the girls there, she pulled back like she’d been stung. Something in her dark eyes suggested how she’d figured it out, that the voice was both a lie and that it wasn’t. As far as she was concerned, Buffy had betrayed them.

The wards had failed. That was what Buffy knew. Turning back to her task, the knife heavy in her hand, that was the thing she concentrated on as she felt the heat of everyone’s gaze.

.

[free association III]
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quinara: Sheep on a hillside with a smiley face. (Default)
Quinara

December 2015

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