In the Dark
Disclaimer: I do not own the television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or the movie The Descent, nor any of the characters from the Anita Blake books. No copyright infringement intended. No profit is gained. BTVS belongs to Joss. Anita Blake and her cohort belong to Laurell K. Hamilton.
Summary: “The worst thing that can happen to you has already happened.” Set at the end of 'The Descent'.
“The worst thing that can happen to you has already happened.”
As the Slayer crouches in the ever present darkness those words constantly circle round and round in her head.
The sentence is only a half truth, she knows that.
Her friend had meant the death of her husband and daughter. The sudden extinction of her family like the damp hiss of smoke ascending from an extinguished flame.
Except it was more screamingohgodohgodthetrucknononoandbloodsplatterdeverywhereandmylittlegirlandlimbsandpaulwakeuppleasewakeupohgod
Waking in the hospital bed, the smell of sterile wards and cold white sheets and the look on the Doctor’s face. The sick, quiet feeling of loss all over again. The sudden urge to throw up and the pitying look as the nurse changed the sheets and sponged her clean again.
The year spent grieving her loss and visiting yet another row of headstones on the trip round the graveyard.
The thing is though, and she hates to admit this, is that it’s not the worst thing that has happened to her.
And she can’t stand the fact that losing her husband and child, her Jessica, her little girl, is not the most crippling thing she has ever had to face. Wonders what kind of sick person she is that she thinks there are worse things that have happened to her.
Like being prophesied to die at just sixteen years old and having her blood drained from her neck and then drowning.
Or killing her first and truest love to save the world by sending him to Hell.
Or being dragged out of Heaven. Choking on the grave dirt in her mouth, clawing her way out, breaking her fingers scrabbling against the compacted earth and the wood of the coffin.
Or finding out she would never die again, immortality being a final two edged present from the PTB. Watching everyone she’d loved die, Giles and Willow, Xander, Dawn, her beloved scoobies and then watching as their children and their grandchildren and great grandchildren died, until nobody knew who she was anymore, all of her old links washed away in the past.
Or finding out that unlocking all the potential slayers into Vampire Slayers meant the line ended with her, and as all those girls eventually died she was the last, the oldest. The alpha and omega.
Until the First Slayer and the Last Slayer were one.
She isn’t Buffy- she scraped away the valley cheerleader long ago, long before she became Sarah. She’s had many names in the years between being Buffy and becoming the wife and mother who she knows now she could never have possibly lasted as. She is a permanent thing, stuck outside of time, whilst everything goes past her in a continuous cycle of death.
She isn’t Buffy and she isn’t Sarah. Who is she?
“The worst thing that can happen to you has already happened.”
She is now utterly alone. The words circle her.
In the dark there is no need for a name.
Years may have passed.
She doesn’t know and she doesn’t really care anymore. In the darkness the primal Slayer has emerged and taken over. The woman who has no name still tempers her wildest darkest urges of blood and savagery and revenge but barely.
She can’t remember why.
In the beginning, at the point of breaking down, as the crawlers had been closing in on her, she’d been prepared to die, too tired and weary of life to care anymore. She’d wondered if the crawlers could actually even kill her. Even if they’d torn her apart she’d gradually knit herself back together until she’d wake up one night (it is always night) and gasp for air.
But even as she’d given in, the Slayer that resided in her had been pacing up and down like a lion trapped in a cage, sharpening her claws against her steel bars. And as she’d shut herself down, the Slayer had emerged and the crawlers hadn’t stood a chance.
She has learned to thrive in the darkness.
The crawlers have learnt to steer clear of her.
There is a quick and painful end to whoever, or whatever crosses her path, and they aren’t stupid.
Neither is She.
Living off the animals that fall into the system of caves, hunting bats and the other wild creatures that haunt the cave she has enough to live on. Her metabolism has slowed anyway, she rarely needs to eat more that once a week, and the food that she does catch she stores in her own den. She has her own cave hidey-hole where she sleeps and lives, surrounded by piles of bones. Water drips down the cracks in the rocks, and she can lie for hours, feeling it drop by drop fall down into her open mouth.
It passes the time.
Over the years that pass she learns the crawler tongue. Their series of guttural clicks and croaks becomes her own second language. Her English, long unused and rusty buries itself deep in her mind for use at a future point, as yet un-thought of. She doesn’t think of the future anymore, only the present. The now of killeatmovementbloodfood
. The crawlers have no word for future either, but twenty for survival.
They are the first words she learns.
She has become accepted as part of them, like humans accept the Bogeyman of their children’s imagination. They know she is there, watching in the dark, this fleshcreature from Above, who isn’t them and isn’t flesh either. She is a series of fast clicks and a hiss- that is her name, a warning to the Crawler spawn as each new generation is born and she lives on.
There is a shift in the cave system.
Bones and rock come tumbling down, burying the crawlers who aren’t quick enough to move out of the way as the earth resettles itself and new tunnels are opened, old ones closed for good.
In the aftermath she discovers a way out, after scrambling over piles of debris and roots and broken rock.
Except escape is not everything it could be.
She crouches in the small hole that is now a new entrance. It isn’t big enough for anyone to ever find, barely big enough for her to squeeze through, lithe as she is now.
The sunlight burns her eyes.
After so long in the dark, her Slayer vision has perfected seeing in the pitch black, her eyes green and luminescent like a cat’s. But she finds in the day she is practically blind. Everything is blurred and searing with colour and sound and movement, despite the fact she is alone in a forest.
There is too much. She retreats to the familiar dead comfort of the cave and its absolute stillness.
After thirteen new generations of crawlers have been spawned she stumbles across her new hole again, chasing a bat across the cave walls. She stiffens in the entrance but it is night now and she can open her eyes here. Even that burns for a short while, the quality of darkness in the forest is duller than the absolute of the cave.
She sits and quivers like a rabbit in its hole, damp and breathless, listening as her supersensitive senses go haywire, giving her information about everything, overloading her brain with things half forgotten from long ago.
Even the faint whisper of breeze on her skin feels wrong.
She lets out a click experimentally and bolts back into the hole when it doesn’t echo back at her. She crouches there at the world that has swallowed the language instead of replying back to her.
It begins to rain.
She has no crawler word for this and so she sits in the hole and watches as everything gets wet and the air changes around her.
The droplets splash her hair but it will take more than a brief shower to wash away centuries of encrusted gore and dirt. A puddle forms and she peers into it but she doesn’t recognise the creature who stares back at her.
Instinctively her hand sinks into the water and kills it.
She takes to sitting in the entrance of the cave when the sun sets.
She has ventured far enough to find the original entrance where she’d entered so long ago and it becomes a favourite spot, so much so that she forms another den for herself here, dragging her animal furs with her that she takes from the animals that stumble into the cave to die. She wears their bones in her hair and uses the rest as weapons. The thigh bone of a bear is her favourite, sharpened at the end. The weight is familiar in her hand and comforts the Slayer.
She sits in the entrance and waits for prey, for the sunset, for the rain.
And then the humans come.
She has just woken from her sleep when the ground trembles, the vibrations skimming up her hands and arms and she growls deep in her throat.
Two humans. A man and a woman.
She slips silently from her den to the entrance and watches them curiously in their climbing gear and the bright beams of light they carry with them. She curls her lip in anger, as the light irritates the corner of her eyes.
They smell different. Leaves and mud and freedom from the man, the overwhelming scent of wolf.
The other woman reeks of death. She wonders if this woman knows she smells like the crawlers.
Something primal in her switches on. She wants them gone but she doesn’t care to know why. She drops to the ground in front of them.
“What the hell?”
“Richard, what was that?”
They have stumbled back in surprise and the flashlight is suddenly shot her way. She moves out of the way of the glare and growls at them.
The woman has got something in her hands instantly, but the little black object does not bother her. She clicks insistently at them warning them away from the cave, but they don’t seem to understand her tongue.
“Anita, put the gun down. She smells human.”
“She doesn’t look it.”
“I can’t believe you brought a gun to go spelunking.”
“You never change.”
“Don’t start this argument again Richard.”
Something is blossoming in her head, a language she thought she’d buried long ago. It is her final ditch attempt to get them out. If they do not leave it won’t be her fault.
She opens her mouth and speaks a centuries old language.
“Leave.” The word is part hiss part click, her mind remembers English but using it now is so very hard, especially when she mostly thinks in crawler. Killeatprotectdarkmovementbloodbones.Food.
The two humans stare at her. She is not surprised.
Her hands are hard and worn from clambering round the rocks, of gripping onto the ceilings as the crawlers do. Her body is lithe but her skin is waxy and cold like candle fat, her hair is lank and covered in gore, tied around her waist so she doesn’t trip on it. Her nails are as hard and jagged as bear’s claws, her teeth are sharp. She is naked but for the fur wrapped round her body, leaving her arms and legs bare for speed and agility. The bones in her hair gleam white in the dark.
She is feral and she smells like it to.
She edges closer, her spiderlike movements causing them to unconsciously recoil from her.
“Who are you? What are you doing down here?” The man’s fear and anger coat him like blood. She can smell his wolf pacing up and down him, even as the woman’s magic unfurls around her.
“Go.” The word is drawn from her like teeth from a child. She clicks angrily at them for making her think in this painful language. Her throat is used to the vowel sounds. She prefers her series of guttural croaks and whirs and noises.
“What are you so afraid of?” The woman takes a step forwards and the Slayer scuttles back. Not because she is afraid, but so that if the death woman attacks her she has more range to leap and kill her before she can use her magic. Part of her wonders if it would even work on her.
She tilts her head and listens. From below there is the sound of movement, tiny but audible. The wolf man hears it too.
“Anita, there’s something down there. Something other.” He shifts, clearly uneasy and stares at the woman who is covered in blood.
They debate but every moment they delay death is scuttling towards them. The Slayer wonders vaguely whether she will protect them. They aren’t human so she has no obligation to protect them from the darkness. The primal in her craves a fight.
Part of her is attached to the below creatures. But she will kill them if they start something. Perhaps she would watch the crawlers kill them. After all this is her territory. She has warned them.
She tilts her head again and then bares her teeth at them. “They come.” The two mortals make the decision to leave. They’ve just started the climb up when the crawlers come.
“What the hell are they?!” Their fear stinks to the Slayer.
The crawlers swarm past her, like a river round a rock. The little ones hurry past afraid. She is the bogeyman, and fears no-one.
They surround the wolfman and the deathwoman. He has already swiped off half a dozen and the woman is battling with fervour. The Slayer watches lazily and then decides to let them live. They’ve been the most interesting thing down here for ages.
She stands up and the motion grabs the attention of the elder crawlers. They stop and scuttle down as she clicks and hisses at them. She scuttles into her cave and brings back her kills for them to have, because she won’t deprive them of food. The crawlers watch her hesitantly and then drag the carcasses down below.
Leaving her and the mortals staring at each other. They are covered in cuts and bruises, and the wolf is bleeding badly from a shoulder wound. It looks like one of the crawlers tried to bite the woman’s neck. But they will live. They clamber up to the top and sit panting on the grass outside in the overcast afternoon light. In a flash she has reached the top of the hole where it is still dark enough for her to easily cling to the side of the cave and speak to them, without burning her eyes.
Defying gravity has become an easy job.
She glares at them, two green ovals peering at them from the darkness. “Don’t come back.”
The wolf man is shaking his head, even as the woman is pressing against the bleeding wound on his body. “That..but... I don’t understand. You smell human.”
The woman’s dark eyes bore into hers. “What are they?”
The Slayer smirks at her, the adrenaline from earlier pumping through her form. She will have to kill something big later, the urge to fight is making her skin itch. “Me.”
“Who are you?”
She shakes her head and clicks her crawler name to them slowly. “I am.” I have no name. I am Slayer. I am Primal. I am the First and the Last.
But that is said in crawler and they don’t understand. It hurts too much to tell them in their own language so she shrugs and holds out her grime covered hand, and smears away the gore covering her palm. The grooves of her skin have become encrusted with dirt but it doesn’t matter. She shows the woman the life line in her palm, the unending continuous loop it has become.
“I am.” She repeats, her only explanation. She is about to drop back into the cave again when the man speaks.
“Come with us. You’re clearly not one of them.” The woman is looking at him in surprise, and her lips are tightly pressed together, but she doesn’t object. In fact she looks a bit distant, as though she is having a conversation with someone in her head. Perhaps she is.
The Slayer blinks for a moment and then instinctively shrinks from the offer of civilisation. She fidgets on the ledge. Everything she knows is here. Somewhere in the dark her friends are buried here, a last tenuous link to her other lives.
To Sarah’s life. To Buffy’s.
She fidgets. To go out there is to begin again. Should she? For a heartbeat they gaze at each other and she opens her mouth.
There is the sound of voices from the forest and the smell of more wolves, followed closely by death.
When they look back she is gone.
To her surprise, they return weeks later.
She is sitting at the entrance in the twilight, chewing raw rabbit. She watches them warily from her position tucked into the cave wall. They stay near enough to speak to her, but far enough away from the cave entrance that there is no chance of falling in.
“Go. Away.” This time her English is quicker to return but it’s hard, like trying to remember a dream from long ago. The words are all still there, curled sleeping like a butterfly in a chrysalis.
Ignoring her request, they begin with the hardest question again. “Who are you?”
She spits out bones at that and repeats her earlier statement. “I am.” She clicks her crawler name. They still don’t understand, but then to her they are children and she is so very old that perhaps they never will.
“I’m Richard, and this is my friend Anita.” She rolls her eyes at the patronising tone. It’s almost like they’re speaking to a small child or a small wild animal they’re trying to coax away from danger. She smiles at that. She is the wild animal. But they are the ones in danger.
“Why are you living down here?”
She shrugs. “Home.”
They look at her as if she’s mad. Perhaps she is. But she has nowhere else to call home anymore. Sunnydale is a crater in the surface of the planet last time she checked. The cave is not quite the mouth of hell but its similarity makes it comforting enough.
She rolls the words round in her head. “What year?”
The two glance at each other and when they tell her she finds she is slightly surprised. It had felt like longer, but then immortality does tend to drag when everything you know is gone.
She doesn’t need to elaborate for them to know she is speaking about her age.
Richard scoffs. “You smell human. How...”
But in the slow blink of an eye she is already at his throat, her ragged nails digging into his soft jugular flesh. Anita momentarily stunned tries to grab her off him but Buffy just drags him into the cave and up against the wall. She holds his weight easily with one hand wrapped round his neck, the other to the cave wall. He scrabbles for purchase but she dangles him over a fifty foot drop.
“I don’t age. Don’t die. But you do. All the mortals. All the wolves.”
It’s the longest sentence she has ever said and her throat is raw from the effort, her mind aching. She sniffs his neck and smells the forest again.
She squeezes tighter. “Death is my gift.”
And then before he turns blue from lack of oxygen she hauls him out to the ground and again where Anita is waiting to shoot her. She nips back into the cave again before she has a chance to. Richard is coughing and holding his throat. Anita is at his side in an instant.
“Are you alright?”
“Quite a grip.” Richard touches his sore neck. “Has she gone?”
Anita nods. “Before I could even press the trigger,” she admits angrily. She hates being beaten by anything and this strange wild creature has her beat in many areas.
“Come on let’s get out of here.”
She watches them leave from her hiding hole. They won’t be back.
She is wrong.
They have returned more times than she can count as the year passes and the winter sets in. She doesn’t understand their fascination with her. They’ve bought others, another wolf and a dead creature with shining blonde hair, who she is instinctively drawn to, but she dislikes the change and hides from them even as they call to her. After that only Richard and Anita come.
She knows she’s their pet, a project for Richard the teacher to figure out. Oh yes they’ve told her all about themselves. She barely speaks but she doesn’t mind listening to their inane chatter. It provides a pleasant contrast to the clicks and growls and things she is so used to.
They don’t ask her anymore questions after the first painful incident, and instead they talk about themselves. They always leave asking the same question.
“Come with us?”
She never does. The urge to give in is becoming stronger and stronger each time they ask though, and she knows one day she will give in.
But not just yet.
It takes them two years.
Two years to finally persuade her to come out of the hole and into civilisation.
She leaves in the middle of the night and hunkers down in the backseat of the car, curled up in the filthy furs she insisted on bringing with her. They’ve covered the back in sheets but they won’t be getting the smell of decay out for several months.
There is an argument in the car on the way back over where to take her. Anita wants to bring her to her house, Richard to his and they’re having another of their mind conversations with Jean Claude- a name she recognises from what they’ve told her- who wants to bring her to the Circus. He wants to meet this strange wild creature who claims to be centuries old. Jean Claude can sense an untapped power resource a mile off.
When they come to a stop and she scrambles out of the car she realises the vampire has won. She stops and scents the air automatically, taking in the old smell of people who have come and gone, the overpowering smell of rich, sweet food, which makes her feel sick. She is grateful then when Anita and Richard motion for her to follow them. She no longer walks, faster on her hands and feet in her spider motions, keeping to the shadows as she quietly stalks them down into the underground.
Already she feels more at ease as she glides down the steps. She senses death and the familiarity of it comforts her. The Slayer perks at this, at the feel and shift of something she has never truly forgotten.
There are vampires here.
She lets a feral grin cross her face. Death is her gift.
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