Disclaimer: I don't own anything. All characters belong to their creators and the people who pay for everything, which isn't me.
Author's Note: Set right after Chosen for BtVS and post Phoenix for Smallville. Answer to a challenge set by Dezi, but I, uh, played with the terms a little. :)
“Yo, I just wanna sleep for like a week,” Faith said, a playful smile spreading across her face as she jokingly pushed at Giles.
They had just defeated a big bad, even closed down one gate to hell in the process, and here G was already talkin’ about a new Hellmouth.
For the Watcher it was all work as usual. For Faith, she just wanted a vacation; somewhere with hot cabana boys, sunlight, and nothing that goes bump in the night…unless it was her. All Faith wanted to do right now was to rest.
“What are we going to do now?” Dawn asked as she turned towards Buffy.
The blonde Slayer still stood apart from everyone, her back facing them as she looked down upon the wreckage that lay before her.
Faith watched as Dawn walked towards Buffy and gave a loud snort in contempt at the others; Dawn, Giles, Xander, hell, even the little Slayers disgusted her.
Here they were patting themselves on their backs for a job well done and not one of the others had said sorry to the blonde for kicking her out of the house.
It still looked like all was forgiven though, and Faith had to give it to the blonde, she had come through when everyone else had written her off. Granted, she didn’t know how Buffy been able to forgive them so easily or how she could just pretend it had never happened.
Shit. She was surprised the blonde had even made it through the battle with the First. There had been a minute when Faith thought that Buffy’s number was up. The brunette remembered the shock that traveled through her when she saw Buffy lying on the ground, her hazel eyes wide with pain, her breathing labored, and that wound…damn.
Buffy had always been so…bouncy. Even when B was being a pain in the ass, even when Faith thought that the blonde would give in, there was always that spark in her eyes. And down in the hole, there had been nothing in Buffy’s eyes but pain, it was like she had given up.
It'd been like a knife in Faith’s gut as she had caught the Scythe from B’s weak toss. Her sister Slayer lay there dying and Faith was unable to go to Buffy as she bleed upon the dirt of the cavern.
Briefly, Faith wondered if any of the others realized how close the blonde had come to dying down there.
Shit, she still didn’t want to think about how close they had all come to dying, to failing…
“Faith?” Buffy’s voice carried softly in the wind, almost too faint to hear. The brunette Slayer looked up, her expression disturbed at the her path that her thoughts were going down, and looked over at Buffy, reassuring herself that the other Slayer was still there. Faith had almost lost Robin down there, she didn’t think she could have stood to lose Buffy either, strange as it sounded.
Faith had never thought they would reach the point, but somehow, Buffy had become the only person that really understood her.
Buffy had seen the darkness that always beckoned to the Slayers, a promise of freedom, no matter the cost, and even though B had fought it while Faith had embraced it, somehow, Buffy had become the only person that really understood Faith. She was the only person that really knew about what was always there. The darkness that always beckoned. That always called. And Buffy had helped Faith to fight it. Granted, it had taken a knife in her stomach and a few hiccups along the way.
Creepy when Faith thought about it, maybe she had spent too much time brooding with Angel.
Trying to shake away the sense of foreboding that had over taken her, Faith sighed as she made her way towards the older Slayer. Coming to a stop beside the blonde, Faith smacked Buffy on the back in congratulations, never even noticing the way Buffy’s breath hitched in pain at the contact. Faith whistled softly at the sight and she opened her mouth to speak….
“What are we going to do now?” Dawn asked as she made her way over to her sister.
Buffy barely heard her, her attention was focused solely on the crater below them.
It was over.
How long had she been dreaming of this moment?
The thing was, Buffy didn’t think she had really thought of the possibility of everything being over. Buffy had been so centered on her dreams of a home with a white picket fence, of a normal life, that she had never thought about simply destroying the problem. And not just the big bad of the month, the Hellmouth in it’s entirety.
Smiling, Buffy looked up, her gaze searching the skies, hoping for something she was still reluctant to believe in.
He had promised her, so many people had broken their promises. So many of her friends, of her family had turned away from her.
Buffy lowered her gaze. Frightened another person would leave her. Instead she looked around, catching the darkened expression on her friend’s face.
“Faith?” Buffy called out to her and watched as her friend seemed to snap out of her thoughts and made her way over. The brunette Slayer’s brown eyes brightened as she looked down at the mess before them.
Smirking, Faith gestured towards the gigantic crater, and whistled appreciatively at the mess that was still settling deeper into the earth. Buffy barely caught the 'good riddance' that Faith mumbled under her breath.
“Yo, B, you’re starting to make me feel like some second rate hack. I run out of Boston, fleeing a master vamp, and you end up dusting one, and sleeping with another as a chaser. I come out of a coma and you wake up from bein‘ dead. I break out of prison and you,” Faith’s eyes cut to the crater beside them, “manage to make an entire town go boom.”
Buffy’s eyes widened as Faith gave her a playful smack on her back and the pain suddenly blossomed in her injured side.
The brunette took her hand away and shaded her eyes from the sun as she looked at the sky, her ears catching an odd distant sound.
Buffy was barely aware of anything though, the pain had lessened, being replaced by a invasive numbness. Buffy‘s heart was thundering, drowning out the others as they spoke; their words unable to break through the suddenly throbbing beat that echoed throughout Buffy’s body.
Dawn’s hand gripped her arm, jerking Buffy back away from the brink of the crater, and the movement sent a sharper wave of pain through the Slayer, jolting her into awareness.
“Shit, we go from one problem to another. When the fuck are they gonna give us a break?” Faith snarled. Buffy looked over and followed the other Slayer’s gaze, a smile returning to the blonde’s face in realization of what was coming their way.
“Faith?” Buffy reached out, a hand softly coming to a rest on the one of the brunette‘s forearms.
“B?” The brunette’s gaze flickered back and forth between Buffy and the oncoming helicopter.
“Take care of them?”
Buffy took a hesitant step forwards, the sound of the helicopter was coming closer now, and even as it drew nearer, the blonde Slayer was terrified that it was some imagined dream.
Everything became strangely still to Buffy. She heard everyone speak at once. Their voices worried, and their words seemed somehow foreign to her ears, her mind too sluggish to decipher their meanings, and her body too tired to calm the panic she felt rolling off of her friends. Huh, her friends….
She’d tried so hard for them. She had failed them, she’d never been the leader that they needed or wanted. And they had let her know. God, how they had let her know how disappointed they were in her. They told her leave, even Dawn, and when she came back after the explosion, Scythe in hand, they just let her back.
Like nothing had happened. They had taken her out of heaven, torn her away from her mother, and then, when she had failed them, they had just discarded her. Her friends…her family….
Tearing her eyes from the copter, Buffy looked at the survivors, their forms oddly hazy and darkened in the sunlight.
Willow stepped forwards, her lips moving silently as she began an incantation when her eyes rolled backwards, and her knees buckled from beneath her. Buffy wanted to move towards the red-head to help, but her feet seemed too sluggish.
Kennedy reached out and caught the witch as she began to crumple, dimly Buffy heard the new Slayer berating her girlfriend for attempting a spell so soon after the last one.
Giles moved over towards the two women, taking the weakened red-head from the young Slayer, so that Kennedy was able to move in front of the Watcher and the witch, and attempt to shield the two from a possible attack.
Xander roughly pushed Andrew behind him, taking the fore as everyone readied for a fight behind him, and Buffy nodded in acceptance.
She could leave them and they’d be okay.
She could rest.
And she was so tired. Right at that moment, all she wanted to do was follow Faith’s suggestion and sleep for a week.
So very tired.
And so very cold.
Shivering, Buffy drew her arms tightly around her chest, whimpering softly as she felt her side throb from the movement. Everything was so strange….
When had it become so cold?
Buffy’s eyes focused again on the helicopter and she took a step, nearly faltering at the sudden weight that seemed to settle upon her. It was so odd. She had just jumped from roof top to roof top only minutes ago, she had leaped onto a moving bus, and yet, all of the sudden, something as simple as taking one little step was almost beyond her ability.
The copter began to land, a helmeted face staring at the group through the darkened window. Buffy steeled herself, taking one slow and measured step after another, making her way carefully through the group of people around her, senseless words of comfort quietly falling from her lips as she passed them until only Xander and a couple of other Slayers stood between her and her goal.
The younger Slayers shielded their faces against the onslaught of the sand that the force of the blades dove into the air as it settled onto the desert. For a moment there was a stillness as everyone stood waiting, watching to see what was going to happen, and then the door opened, a man stepping forth from its cabin.
The group watched the man warily, his paleness and the white suite he wore seemed almost too bright, too stark to look upon against the emptiness of the desert that surrounded him.
His gait was smooth as he approached them, more like he was floating over the dry earth than actually stepping on it, and the others remained quiet, unsure of what was happening.
He stopped before them, lowering his sunglasses to regard the group in front of him only briefly with something that Giles realized was contempt, before his gaze began to move again. The blue eyes searched through the faces before him until his eyes stopped and locked onto Buffy, the stranger’s face hardening even more as he watched her faltering steps as she made her way towards him until she stopped, unable to continue, only Xander standing between them.
Before anyone could move the man walked past Xander, knocking aside the arm that the one-eyed man had brought up to stop him, until he stood before the pale blonde woman.
Buffy looked into his eyes and a shaking hand rose, the trembling fingers brushed against his face gently, her hazel eyes bright with emotions she couldn’t express.
Carefully, the bald man allowed his eyes to close as he leaned into her touch, feeling the warmth of her skin, and inhaling the scent of the woman before him; like strawberries and sunshine.
The others around them began to chatter questions at the couple while both remained oblivious to the others and time seemed to slow as they looked upon each other.
Buffy smiled absently, she heard the worry in her friends’ voices, but she couldn’t bring herself to care.
At the moment, she only had one goal, and he was standing before her. He had--
“Came. You came.” Her tone was filled with bemused wonder as she looked at him. Carefully, the man lowered his face so that their foreheads barely touched and Buffy‘s hand fell to his neck, coming to a rest upon his shoulder, her arm suddenly appeared almost too heavy to hold up, she couldn‘t bear to break that extra contact, not yet.
Please not yet.
He had come.
She hadn’t thought he would. After all this time, she’d thought he was just lying to her, telling her what she had wanted to hear, and simply leaving behind broken promises. Just one more person that she cared for telling her they would be there for her when instead they would abandon her, leaving her to the darkness.
And now, now he was here and all she wanted was for him to tell her that it was okay, that she could rest.
Time suddenly resumed and with a breathy sigh, the Slayer fell backwards.
The man in white lunged forwards even as Buffy fell back, catching her before she fully collapsed. The momentum from the movement proved to great as he stumbled on the uneven footing, causing him to crash painfully to his knees, her slight form cradled tightly within his arms heedless of the blood that was seeping from the her wound as it stained the expensive fabric of his suit.
Cautiously he adjusted her slight form, tucking her closer to her body as his arms fastened more securely around her as though he were trying to give her his strength through the contact.
The bald man smiled as he looked down upon her, blocking out the worried questions coming from the others, his attention turned only to the woman cradled in his arms.
Faith watched in bewilderment, listening to the others as they threw questions at the couple, her eyes traveled over the couple and her breath hitched as she caught the crimson trail that Buffy’s wandering hand had left upon the man’s pale face.
The hand that had so playfully hit the blonde earlier jerked as realization dawned upon her, looking down, and Faith stared at the stains that covered it, she hadn’t thought…
Running through the press of bodies around her, Faith knocked Rona down in her haste, and scrambled into the bus, ignoring Robin’s questions as she blindly grabbed the first aid kit. Running back outside she headed towards the wounded woman. Faith fell and skidded for the last few steps, coming to a stop beside the two figures in the sand.
Every one stared uncertainly, looking at each other and then at the scene before them, and they watched as Faith fumbled with the kit, throwing it aside as she grabbed pads of gauze, trying to stem the blood that still seeped from Buffy’ side. Faith was worried; it wasn’t flowing any more, it only seeped, like there wasn’t enough left for her veins to push through. How much blood had Buffy lost?
The air became congested with unanswered questions and worries.
"You..you haven--” Feebly Buffy pushed away Faith's hands, no use. Not anymore. Buffy labored for breath as her body seemed to give out, suddenly, it seemed harder to breathe now. She wasn’t quite certain why anymore, she was only aware of two things now. The invasive cold that was beginning to spread through her body and that he was holding her. His warmth was the only one she could feel anymore. She couldn’t even feel the sun or it’s radiant heat. But she could feel him. She could feel his arms, and for the moment, that was everything to her, “haven’t…haven‘t changed. You came, I didn’t think you wo-would.”
Buffy’s hand began to fall from the man’s shoulder and one of his hands snapped out to catch it. Tenderly her brought the bloodied hand to his lips, and kissed the scrapped knuckles softly. “I told you I would. I am yours, even into death.”
Leaning forwards, he kissed her forehead, tasting the salt of her chilled skin, and then softly pressed a kiss to her lips. Straightening up, he watched as her eyes closed, and he leaned his head forwards again, resting his face against hers.
“God, no…” Dawn whimpered. She began to cry as she watched the blood continue to drip from her sister‘s side, stumbling forwards she fell to her knees, one hand reaching out toward her sister. “No!” She screamed, her arm falling, and her hands curled into fists in the sun warmed sand.
The others stared in disbelief, too shocked to move or speak. None of them had thought…they’d never realized….
Andrew looked over, his eyes worried, and moved towards Dawn. Carefully, he crouched down beside her, and she resisted for the barest of moments as he linked his arms around her. Quietly Andrew drew Dawn to him, not allowing her to pull away, and Dawn gave a keen of grief as she buried her face into his shoulder while she wept.
Faith felt the gauze falling from her hands as she rocked back on her heels, her eyes wild with pain as she landed hard against the sand. She was dead. Buffy was dead and she…she….
Something broke within the dark haired Slayer and she buried her face in her bloodied hands, the falling tears streaking through the crimson stains that marred the tanned flesh, she never registered when Robin dropped into the sand beside her, his hand upon her back as he tried to comfort the weeping Slayer.
Willow cried into Giles’ chest as Kennedy turned back towards them, wrapping herself around the red-head as she wept. The new Slayers stood silently, their faces haggard and tired as they watched the man begin to carefully stand, Buffy’s quiet form still wrapped tightly in his arms as he rose.
The quiet blue eyes were still focused on Buffy’s face as he brushed past all of them.
Giles watched the man’s back, his face a host to the emotions running through him. One arm held the witch closely while the other rose, one hand held out beseechingly towards the stranger, the words to stop the man on the tip of his tongue, and Giles found that he couldn’t speak them aloud. They screamed within his mind, the Watcher couldn‘t force them out.
His hand lowered and he held Willow closer, his other arm coming around and enveloping Kennedy’s shaking form as she held onto her lover.
He’d prayed that he’d never lose one of them again, that he would never lose Buffy again. She was the closest family he’d ever had, and was a part of him.
A quiet voice whispered to him that perhaps his Slayer had given up, that perhaps he and the others had somehow aided in her death. The voice whispered to Giles again and again, and the tears gathered in his eyes as the guilt and loss began to spread throughout his entire being. He’d survived Buffy’s death once, they all had, and Giles wondered how they would survive it again. He didn’t know how he would able to recover from his Slayer’s death this time.
Xander broke away from the group, the tears falling from his eye, as he ran towards the retreating figure. With a strength he hadn’t possessed for a long time, his hand fell onto the stranger’s shoulder as he yanked the man back. He had lost Anya, he couldn’t lose Buffy; not now, not again.
Faith‘s head rose from the cradle of her hands and she watched as the man stumbled back, his balance thrown off by the sudden movement. The chocolate brown eyes watched as the bald man stopped, his arms tightening on the woman in his arms as he slowly turned towards them.
Faith meet his eyes for only a moment as the blue gaze looked at each of them before she looked away. His eyes were full of the same pain she felt, and, at that moment, she wasn’t able to handle it, not yet. Faith looked at Robin, catching the contemplative look in his eyes, and she wondered briefly at it before her gaze turned back to the blue-eyed stranger and his burden.
Silently the man continued looking at each person in turn before he turned his attention back to the shaggy haired man standing in front of him.
Looking directly into the brown eye of the man attempting to stare him down, the stranger quirked one eyebrow, daring the one-eyed man before him to stop him, to speak, to do anything….
“Who the hell are you? You can‘t take her, she…she…” Xander‘s words began to trail and he reached out to touch Buffy when the man stepped back, taking the blonde further away from him. Xander looked up, ready to challenge the stranger, to take his friend back, and found himself unable. His movement stopped at the sudden anger he saw barely contained in the blue eyes.
Seeming to draw himself up, the stranger spoke, the coldness and anger of his tone surprising Xander. “I am the man she called when you people told her she was no longer needed. When you had told her to ’take a vacation’. She called me after you had thrown her away. She wasn’t the perfect leader that you all wanted her to be and so you made her leave her own home,” he paused, drawing in a ragged breath before continuing, “I told her that I would come for her, for her to stay where she was, and instead of staying safe, she went back, she fought for you and now,” he stopped, unable to continue, and looked down at the peaceful face of the woman he held. Closing his eyes, the stranger breathed deeply as he tried to calm himself.
When he opened them again, Xander flinched back at the expression in the other man’s eyes, it was as though all life had been bled from the blue eyes leaving only a void. Like Buffy’s eyes after she had been brought back, empty of life, empty of everything except pain. “Now she’s gone.”
The man sniffed disdainfully, challenging the broken group to stop him before he turned, and began walking away again. This time no one stepped forwards to stop him.
Andrew watched, his eyes shining with unshed tears, until finally he couldn‘t continue to look at the man take his hero away. His head fell to rest against Dawn‘s hair, and he wept. Dimly he felt Dawn’s arms hold him tighter as they mourned together.
As the stranger drew near to the helicopter, another man hastily jumped out, his arms extended to take Buffy from him.
"Mr. Luthor, I can take her.” Lex looked at the man briefly, shaking his head slightly. Instead of passing her off, he simply kept on walking. He held her as he climbed into the helicopter, his arms securing her against his chest as he held her close to his heart while he settled into his seat. He barely felt the blood seep through his clothing and plaster the silk shirt against his chest.
He paid no attention as the helicopter as it rose into the air or to the shattered group of people that watched below as he took her away from them, his eyes instead remained on the peaceful face of the woman in his arms.
It had been so long since he had seen Buffy, he had laughed at her when she had called, especially after the last fight they’d had. He had thrown her words back at her and then he had heard it. The pain in her voice almost physically struck him as she said his name and apologized for calling him. He had come so close to losing her, he'd quickly yelled for her to wait, and she had. The silence stretched between them for what had felt like forever before either one could speak, the pain had been too great for either one to easily gage.
She asked for his help, after all these years, she asked for his help and he'd been damned if he wouldn’t be there for her this time. All Lex had asked was for her to wait. He had told her he would be there. He’d said it even as he boarded the helicopter in Japan to take him to the airport. He had asked her only to wait, to stay safe. He would have protected her this time.
Why couldn’t she have waited? Why had she chosen to be stubborn again? He had tried to get to her in time and in the end he had ended up failing her. Again. Just one more person that had failed her.
A bitter smile twisted his lips. He always seemed to be failing the people the cared for. And now Buffy was gone. He'd never have the chance to make ammends. He'd never be able to show her Smallville and give her the life she'd said she had always dreamed about. He'd failed her. So very many times.
As they moved away from the crater and its survivors, a single tear slipped down his cheek as another piece of him died.
She was gone, her face so peaceful….
Buffy had left him to pick up the pieces again, and he couldn’t, not after everything that had happened over the last year.
His head dipped down as the pain of the loss swept over him and he became so immersed, that he almost missed it.
Jerking back, his head snapped up, and as he looked at her, he watched as Buffy grimaced in pain from his movement.
“My, God,” he whispered before yelling orders at the pilot.
The LA sky turned dark and gray as the clouds threatened to bring a much needed rain.
On the empty airstrip, a man walked calmly from the hanger towards the plane, his scruffy appearance at odds with the gleaming beast that was being readied for takeoff.
In the dim light, the silver of his ear studs gleamed duly, and the light reflected softly off of the necklaces he wore, his long hair tied with a piece of twine. A single brown bag was the only thing he carried.
Coming up to the steps, he looked up at the anxious pilot and the waiting body guard.
Darius stepped onto the stairway, pushing aside the pilot as he made his way down the stairs.
“So, what’s the emergency?” The long-haired man asked, leaning against the rail as he drew a cigarette from his pocket, lighting the stub, he watched it glow dimly, thinking of the possibilities. It wasn’t often he was called in by Lex, although it always did prove to be an interesting time when he was. Knowing the younger Luthor, probably something bloody and not to be spoken of again.
“No idea, boss took off for an emergency, he didn’t even wait for me to meet him at the airport, just… took off.” Darius gave an uncomfortable shrug. “Got a call to get you here.” The body guard looked over, noticing the doctor still had on his shades. “Do you ever take those things off?”
“Only when I need too.” The long haired man replied, taking a long drag from his cigarette. The LexCorp helicopter landed and both started moving forwards, each wondering what had happened when the door swung open and Lex stepped off, his clothes covered in blood, and a small form cradled in his arms.
“Damn!” Darius said as he started running forwards. Lex shook his head, momentarily nodding towards the still body in his arms, indicating it was all from the girl he held. The body guard breathed a sigh of relief. That’s just what he needed. His boss to disappear and get injured. “Can’t let you out of my sight. Why is it you always find the interesting places when I’m not there?” He asked wryly.
“Looks like Club Zero all over again,” The long haired man said as he walked forwards. Glancing down at the woman in Lex’s arms, “but with hair,” he amended, “and cuter.”
“She’s injured, I’m not sure how badly,” Lex said as the three men walked towards the awaiting plane.
“How come she’s not at a hospital?” Darius asked; it looked like a lot of blood there. Darius attempted to take the burden from his employer again as they drew near to the steps, but Lex wouldn't let him and preceded other two men as he boarded the plane.
“I want no mention of her appearance and hospitals have a way of talking.” Lex answered as he watched the two men recline a chair. Carefully, he placed her down, wincing as the blonde gave a small cry of pain at the movement.
“Shush job, huh? You always bring me such challenging cases, Lex. At least she didn’t snort any fire ants before any of this happened, right? I’d like to know just what I am looking at.”
“No, I believe that I leave that up to your other clients. She was injured in a fight.”
The doctor looked over the young woman, his hands flitting over her side, tearing the thin cloth of her shirt so that he could get a better look at the wound.
“Shit, Lex,” he said, pushing the sunglasses up from his eyes as he stared at the wound. The doctor whistled, looking over the torn flesh. “Hell, boy, it looks like someone ran her through with some kind of blade, big blade too from the size of the wound. How the hell is she still alive? There’s a hole in her from back to front...”
“She’s special,” Lex took on pale hand in his as the doctor began to work. “She’s even better at cheating death than I am.”
**Hope you liked. Please review!