Free At Last!
During the next few days Willow kept Buffy company while Dawn was at school. Then Dawn would sit with her until around six when Xander got off work and would come over. And Dawn would stay with her while Willow and Xander patrolled. Anya would sometimes come over with Xander but then would go home, not wanting to be out half the night walking through cemeteries.
At first it was hard for all of them to find things to talk about since Buffy rarely spoke. They often reminisced about the good old days of high school. Sometimes Willow or Dawn would read to her.
On the fourth day, after Willow had given Buffy her noon-time quart of pig’s blood, which she still disliked but was getting used to, Buffy actually started a conversation.
“So, how’s the patrolling going? Blowing up vamps and demons left and right?”
“I did that a couple of times, but it wasn’t so great. Now, I just slow them down while Xander does all the staking.”
Buffy gave Willow as sarcastic smile.
“And I’m sure he thinks he’s doing it all by himself.”
“No. He knows what I’m doing. But sometimes I wait a bit. He’s actually getting pretty good at it.”
“And none of the vamps suspect there’s no real Slayer around?”
“Well, once in a while we’ll let one go and I’ll use a Glamour so I look like you. They’re not real bright, you know.”
“Don’t get too confident. Some of them are smarter than you think, particularly the ones that have been around a while.”
Willow smiled warmly.
“Thanks for the heads up.”
“No problem.” Buffy answered with a smile of her own.
“Spike hasn’t been around.” Willow said, changing the subject. “You have any idea where he is?”
“No. Haven’t seen him in a couple of weeks. But unless he’s got himself staked, he’ll show up. He always does.”
Willow nodded in agreement.
Early Saturday morning, Dawn brought Buffy’s breakfast blood to her. After it was finished, Dawn started untying the ropes that had bound Buffy for almost a week.
Buffy looked at her suspiciously while her legs were freed but didn’t say anything.
While Dawn was untying the ropes around her hips and chest, Buffy asked, “How can you do that? I thought Willow put a spell on them.”
“Only to keep you from breaking them. Anyone could untie ‘em.”
Buffy put her hands up so Dawn could get to them.
“Why are you doing this?”
Dawn hesitated, the resumed her work.
“Willow thinks you’re ready. And if she thinks so, it’s good enough for me.”
As Buffy rubbed her wrists, she looked toward the open door.
“She’s right outside, isn’t she?”
Buffy nodded, then sat up and put her feet on the floor.
“You want to come downstairs with us?”
“Sure,” Buffy replied.
She stood up and stretched, twisting her shoulders, rolling her head around.
“A little stiff,” she said, then walked out of the bedroom ahead of Dawn. Willow was standing near the top of the stairs.
“Hi,” she said. “You okay?”
“As well as can be expected.”
Together, the three of them went down the stairs, Buffy first, followed by Willow, then Dawn.
She walked into the kitchen where Xander had finished a stack of pancakes and was drinking a cup of coffee.
“Morning,” he said cheerily, as if nothing had ever happened.
“Hi.” Buffy replied.
And then things got silent and awkward.
“I suppose you told Angel you were letting me go.” Buffy said after a few seconds.
“Yeah.” Dawn answered. “He said if we thought it was okay he didn’t have a problem with it.”
More awkward silence.
“So, what do you want to do?” Willow asked with forced brightness.
“I don't know.” Buffy didn’t share Willow’s enthusiasm.
“Want to watch a movie?” Dawn asked. “Or … something?” Her voice trailed off.
“I guess … no, don’t want to watch TV.”
“So what do you normally do on a Saturday morning?” Xander asked.
“Probably sleeping after a long night of patrolling.”
“Your laundry’s beginning to pile up.” Dawn suggested.
“Yeah, I guess I could do that.”
“Buffy….” Willow started to say, but still at a loss for words.
“It’s all right. I can find stuff to do. It’s not like there’s never any housework that needs to be done. Maybe I’ll clean out the cellar.”
“Yeah! I can help.” Dawn volunteered.
“If it’s all the same, I’d rather do it by myself.”
Dawn’s face had a mixture of disappointment and relief.
“Just until I can get used to the … new me. You understand.”
“Okay, sure. Everybody needs time alone.”
Buffy gave them all a weak smile, then headed downstairs.
On her way down she absently flipped on the light switch, but didn’t even notice the light bulb was burned out. She could see almost as well in the semi-darkness as in broad daylight.
Buffy sat down in an old, overstuffed chair that should have been tossed out months before. She lay back, closed her eyes and went to sleep, waiting for sundown.
Buffy slowly opened her eyes. It was nearly pitch black; the sun had set. The cellar was deathly quiet but from upstairs she could hear voices, and music.
She slowly rose from the chair and cautiously went to the foot of the stairs, then carefully and silently climbed to the top. She paused, listening. The music was louder and the voices more distinct; there seemed to be maybe six or seven people all talking at once, and laughing.
Buffy eased open the door a few inches and looked through the narrow slit. She didn’t see anyone, but she could now hear the sounds of ice tinkling in glasses, and she could smell food - chips and dips and pizza and sausage and dozens more finger foods.
‘They’re having a party?’ Buffy thought to herself. ‘Strange.’
Buffy closed the cellar door behind her and walked into the dining room. Everyone was there, and they were eating and drinking and talking and laughing and thoroughly enjoying themselves.
“Buffy!” Willow yelled out to her, “Come on in!”
“Yes, do join us.” Giles said to her.
‘Giles? What’s HE doing here?’ she thought.
Suddenly everyone spoke at once, inviting her into the group -- Anya, Dawn, Giles, Spike, Willow, and Xander.
Giles went over to her and hugged her tightly, expressing over and over how glad he was to see her.
As they stood together, locked in an embrace, Buffy became aware of the smell of his blood as it coursed through his jugular vein. Hot, enticing, irresistible blood.
And without a moment’s hesitation, Buffy changed into her vamp face and buried her fangs into Giles’ neck, piercing the vein and sucking the blood from him in seconds.
As her former Watcher fell dead to the floor, everyone stood transfixed, unable to move, watching as the horror before them unfolded.
Then one by one, Buffy, moving with incredible speed, visited each in turn, draining the life from them until only Spike was left standing.
“Welcome to my world, Love,” he said calmly. “Dru would be proud. Hell, I’M proud of you. Finally those annoying Scoobies are gone for good. Something I was never able to do.”
“Should -- should I have turned them?” Buffy asked, unsure.
“Why? Why would you want them to wake up?”
“Buffy, wake up!”
Buffy jerked awake. Standing in front of her was a black form, backlit from the light coming down the stairs from the kitchen. But she knew it was Dawn.
Without thinking, Buffy leapt up from chair. Such was her speed that when she grabbed Dawn by the shoulders they both traveled half way across the cellar to end up with Dawn flat on her back, Buffy in full vamp face on top, ready to sink her fangs into her sister’s exposed neck.
“BUFFY!” Dawn screamed out, terrified. “STOP! DON'T!”
Like she was suddenly hit with a bolt of lightening Buffy threw herself backwards off Dawn, shocked and horrified at what she was about to do.
Dawn immediately scrambled to her feet and ran up the stairs, slamming the door behind her.
Buffy stared up at the door, unable to move, watching the slit of light across the bottom of the door.
How long she stood there, she didn’t know. But she knew she would have to face them sooner or later.
She cautiously went to the foot of the stairs, then carefully and silently climbed to the top. She paused, listening to the voices -- fear and agitation in Dawn, confusion and concern in Willow, uncertainty from Xander, and irregular, panic breathing from Anya.
Buffy eased open the door a few inches and looked through the narrow opening, she didn’t see anyone.
Buffy closed the cellar door behind her and walked into the dining room. Everyone was there -- Anya, Dawn, Willow and Xander. They turned to look at her, unsure of what was coming next.
Buffy almost asked where Giles and Spike were.
“Dawn,” she started, then stopped. She wasn’t sure what else to say.
“Dawn,” she then continued, “I am SO sorry! You have no idea how -- how horrible I feel, how ashamed and disgusted with myself I am. I don't know what happened. I was having this dream, and suddenly you were there and I lost control. And I ….”
“I think we should tie her up again.” Anya interrupted. “She’s clearly a danger to all of us. I don't relish the thought of any of us waking up with our throats torn out by a Slayer vampire.”
No one else spoke, but they were all thinking the same thing.
“She’s right, you know,” Buffy said. “I thought I could control these urges. But it’s obvious can’t.”
“But you DID!” Willow contradicted her. “As soon as you realized what you were doing, you stopped! Dawn just surprised you, that’s all.”
“I don't know. It just happened so fast. The next time I might not be able to stop in time.”
“See?” Anya exclaimed. “She said ‘the next time.’ I think we should tied her up so there won’t be any next time.”
Willow turned to Dawn.
“Dawny, what do you think we should do?”
“Why are you asking HER? Our lives are on the line, too. Xander! Tell them! Back me up here.”
Xander looked back and forth at each of them, unable to make the decision.
In frustration, Anya slapped Xander hard on the arm, then crossed hers, muttering just loud enough so the others could hear her. “Maybe we should just stake her and be done with it.”
Willow took a frustrated breath and turned back to Dawn, but before she could ask again, Buffy said quietly, “Maybe Anya’s right. Maybe the best thing to do would be to just kill me. Then none of you would have to worry about me … killing you.”
“No!” Willow, said flatly. “That is NOT an option!”
“Why not?” Anya asked. “She said it herself.”
“Do YOU want to do it? COULD you do it?” Willow retorted.
“Sure. Just give me a stake and point me to her.”
“We’re not going to stake her.” Dawn said, looking directly at Anya. “And I’ll kill anyone who tries.”
Anya crossed her arms again, pouting.
“Willow’s right.” Dawn continued. “It was dark, and I just woke her up too fast and she was surprised. But when I screamed, she stopped. It could happen to anyone.”
Dawn and Buffy were sitting alone on Buffy’s bed. They wanted to talk. The feelings were there, but the words weren’t coming easy.
“I’m sorry, Dawn.”
“I know. You don't have to keep saying it.”
“It’s just … it was so easy to attack you.”
“You were surprised, that’s all. You didn’t know who, or what, it was.”
“But that’s just it, I DID know! I knew it was you, but I still went after you. I wanted to rip your throat out and….”
“But you didn’t. You stopped yourself, remember?”
“But I shouldn’t have attacked you in the first place! You … you don't know how hard it is, not killing, not feeding. I have to control myself every second, every microsecond. I’m afraid that one little slip, one moment of weakness and I’ll be just like all the other vamps I’ve killed. Just like them.”
“And the thing is,” Buffy went on a few seconds later. “No one can help me. No one can get inside me and keep me from doing what I so desperately crave to do. No one.”
“Sounds like Willow was with her black magicks, or Anya’s Vengeance Demon thing, or when Oz would turn all wolfy, doesn't it?”
“Yeah, I guess it does.”
“See? Everyone has their demons inside, just dying to get out.”
“How did you get so smart?”
“I had good teachers -- my mom and my sister.”
Buffy gave Dawn a warm, sad smile and caressed her cheek.
“You know, I think maybe I can do this. It’ll be a struggle, but with all my friends, and my family with me, I think it’ll be okay.”