Disclaimer: I do not own Lord of the Rings or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I make no profits from this and never will.
A/N: So this is a rewrite of For the Wild at Heart Trapped in Cages. I know I could have just gone in and changed the chapters there but I feel that I shouldn't. Can't actually. The story won a COA award and to change it would to change the very things that made everyone vote for it. So I'm leaving it as it stands and will be finishing it as soon as I can.
The reason I'm rewriting is simple. In the two years since I began FtWaHRiC my writing has changed and developed I think. And after spending the last day and a half rereading it so that I could finish it I realized that I could make the story more. Flesh it out better and do more with it.
And so I am. But separately.
All that I ask is that everyone give it a chance and please remember that I work without a beta. I always have and I always will.
And also that concrit is something I'd love because if no one wants to see this or doesn't like it I may simply drop it.
ok. Now on we go.
Been given 24 hours
To tie up loose ends
To make amends
His eyes said it all
I started to fall
And the silence deafened
No time to sit down
Just wanted to
Run and run and run
Be careful they say
Don't wish life away,
Now I've one day
And I can't believe
How I've been waisting my time
In 24 hours they'll be
laying flowers on my life
Its over tonight
I'm not messing no I
Need your blessing
And your promise to live free
Please do it for me.
Sunnydale California May 19, 2003
She could feel him behind her. Cold, dead, no breath from him and yet Spike was a comfort. Odd, that. Especially considering their history but one none the less. But the comfort he gave her was small, a small drop in the ocean of all that assailed her.
After seven years she could have almost laughed at the fact that it was a vampire that had hurt her, tried to kill her, that was the only thing that was keeping her afloat. The word irony came to mind.
But all things considered she was grateful for what little Spike could give her. What he had given her over the last days, weeks when her whole world had fallen apart. When her friends, her family had turned on her. Xander's face, Dawn's eyes, Giles' quiet, Willow's fear and the anger of everyone else. All but Faith.
They had turned on her, tossed her out into the night to die. There was another irony. The very thing that had caused them to get to the point where they would turn on her they had caused because they wanted her back. Had pulled her from her peace, her reward into a world of pain and death only to toss her to the side when the real consequences came back to bite them all in the ass.
She'd have laughed if she could have found it funny.
And then later, they screwed up, in a manner of speaking. They got burned again and only this time it wasn't an ambush with one or two wounded or dead. Green and stupid little girls. It was an explosion and she'd done what she always did. She saved them.
But why? Out of loyalty? No. That was gone. But love, well, she couldn't not love them. Love doesn't ever really die. Angel had taught her that. But it did change. And she still loved them.
But she couldn't be loyal to them any more. She couldn't lie any more. Not to them or herself. But she had come back. Because love demanded that she protect them. Honor demanded that she finished what she started. One last battle.
Though she had few illusions that she'd survive it. That any of them would. But if she did.....some things that were broken couldn't ever be fixed and if they won her time was done.
Faith was back. Faith, that had somehow managed to grow up. Her sister at heart had finally grown out of her rebellions stage and when it was over, when the last line in the sand drawn Buffy planned to do what she realized now she should have done five years before. She was going to walk away.
Walk alone. Dawn could finally do what she wanted, stand on her own. Buffy wasn't cut out to be a mother to her own sister and after everything, it was time for Dawn to learn the hard way about real life. No Spike, he was a crutch, a life line for all that he was dead and though he had a place in her heart he needed to learn to stand alone just like she did. The Scoobies weren't her problem any more. They were all adults now, and somehow they had all gotten broken along the way. Somehow they'd all broken each other.
Little chips here and there until it all shattered. Even diamonds could be chipped away at. She loved them still but things could never be the same. Never be bright and shining again. Too much hurt. Too much pain. Too much blame. Too many broken pieces.
And finally there was Angel. A dream. She'd woken up and, like all dreams, it had begun to fade. Little more than a memory. A fleeting thought now and again. She wasn't that person any more. Innocence had long been burned away leaving her someone else. And that person just wasn't who Angel saw when he looked at her. She'd seen that all too clearly in his eyes earlier in the night. She'd out grown him.
There was a shift behind her, Spike moving to find what comfort that could be found with the two of them sharing a cot. Not that much could be found and she found herself standing, She couldn't offer him much but a comfortable sleep was so little compared to the strength she'd given her the night before.
She wandered around the basement, cold cement floors a grounding point. Something real to focus on because the last months felt like a nightmare. She stopped near one of the basement windows, a small thing cut high in the cement. Like the small windows in old castles used to defend archers as an enemy lay siege on them. But this wasn't a castle and there were no princesses or knights or kings. Only broken soldiers and little girls.
“Pretty ain't it?” a voice, the voice of something, not someone, she'd killed only hours before. She glanced over, oddly disconnected. She should be afraid but she wasn't. The worst that he could do was take her family and they were already too broken to fix and she had stopped fearing death in her last lifetime.
“You're not him.” she looked back out the window. The First, incorporeal, couldn't harm her. And she'd faced too many harsh truths in the last few days to have it break her. How could it break someone already broken?
“No You killed him right and proper. Terrible loss. This man was my good right arm. Course it don't grieve me too much. Don't need an arm. Got an army” so arrogant. Like she once was. All bravado and conceit. Ahh, the classics of the big bad. It had to be a class they all took. Their version of gym. But where most seemed to have skipped the class on Strategy 101 the First seemed to have bothered to go.
It was a change that had destroyed so much. She smirked inside. She'd sat in on all the classes for the 'noble hero' though. So she knew how this dance went.
“An army of vampires. However will I fight?” the words were there but the feeling. The chances of winning were slim, like starlight, almost impossible to catch but she knew the rules. She'd lived by them for too long not to play the game.
“Our numbers swell. Bit then you do have an army of your own. Some odd thirty pimply faced girls don't know the pointy end of a stake. Maybe I should call this off.” yes little girls, but once she'd been a little girl. Innocent. Time and war had changed that. It had already started to change those girls too.
She smirked, the same old song and dance. She was so tired of it. “Have you considered a cool name since your incorporeal and basically powerless how bout the taunter. Strikes fear in the he...”
“I will over run this earth. And when my army outnumbers the humans on this earth, the scales will tip, and I will be made flesh” ahh emotion out of it. She'd hit a nerve. Bonus point.
“Talk on. I'm not afraid of you”. She wasn't. She'd already had her worst fears already happen. She'd had what little remained of her world shattered. Nothing left to fear now. Death would be a release. Even hell would be a change.
A set of brown eyes rolled. In a different world Caleb might have been handsome. But his corpse hadn't been so pretty when she'd finished with him. “Then why aren't you asleep in your dead lover's arms? Cause he can't help you. Nor Faith, nor your friends, certainly not your wanna-slay brigade. None of those girlies will ever know real power unless you're dead. You know the drill:”
A shift into her own form. Odd that it didn't bother her any longer. “Into every generation, a slayer is born. One girl in all the world. She alone will have the strength and skill to— There's that word again. What you are. How you'll die. Alone. Where's your snappy comeback?”
Everyone dies alone. It was one of the constants of the world. Born alone, die alone. No way to change it so why think about it? Why worry or be afraid? Everyone dies alone. If you're lucky you might find you aren't alone in the spaces in between.
A point, she didn't like to admit it but true. She would have replied, continued the dance like she'd done a million times before but she blinked and the world shifted.
She tensed, senses stretching out. No, not the world, her. White, white, everywhere. No way to distinguish anything, not even the walls or floors or ceiling. If there was one. A blip on her senses, one she could never forget.
She turned, knowing he would be there and yet still almost wishing he wouldn't be. But she never wished, wishing didn't do any good and it was dangerous to boot.
“Whistler.” it would have been a curse if she had it in her to make it one. Now though, ashes and dust. But this was another dance and she had a role to play. She always did. She moved forward, every inch the slayer she was and grabbed him. His feet left the ground that was almost like it wasn't really there.
“Hey kid. Good to see you too.” it was a croak but he his eyes were still smiling.
She shook him. “Explain, two minutes or I start making my new hat.” the words were quiet but she didn't need to yell. He gulped, the smile leaving his eyes. “And if you've come to tell me I have to kill someone else I love your skull becomes my new bowling ball.”
Hands came up, placating. It didn't mean much. Anger was better than the old apathy. “No killing of loved ones this time.” her grip relaxed some. “Came to offer you a deal, actually. The Powers got a look at your thoughts and decided to offer you a kinda out.”
Anger sparked, only a spark. She shouldn't be surprised that the Powers were reading her mind. They'd done worse things actually. What was one more in the list of things? She dropped him and his fall was soundless. Not anywhere in the mortal world then.
“What's the deal?” she'd listen because she doubted she could leave until she did. That's how these things worked.
Whistler picked himself up, ugly hat going back on his head. “You and your little friends have broken the balance. Let the First in. You can't fix it. No matter what you do.”
Buffy met his gaze. Well why wasn't she surprised? Oh yeah because this was the story of her life. “And if I die?” easy fix.
He shook his head. “Doesn't work like that. You're still tied to this world even after death.”
She blinked. Of course she was. That's why Willow had been able to pull her back. He gave her a small smile. Annoying really. “But if we put you in another world, well the First goes bye bye.”
Made sense. But there was one very large glaring loose end. “And the First's army?”
“There's a deal. We tell you how to beat it and you take on a new job.” he almost looked nervous. Rarely a good sign.
“What's the new job?”
“In the world we send you to there's a lot going on. A big bad and a big hero. Or there was and will be. We've got two jobs for you. Help out with the apocalypse and make sure the hero actually becomes a hero.”
There was a thought. Hero maker Buffy. Huh. She wasn't much of a hero maker or anything else any more. “Help out?”
“This world's got a lot of heroes but the one you'll be helping out. He's the big one. The one that's gonna be the leader in the end. We just need you to make sure he get's there.” he took a breath. “You won't have to hide what you are and you'll have plenty of time before it all goes down.”
She looked at him, trying to get a feel for if he was lying. The proposal had it's appeal but something nagged at her. A catch, there was always a catch. “What's the catch?”
He smirked at her. Annoying little ferret. “I always knew you were a smart one.” she glared at him. “You can't ever come back.”
Not a real surprise. She was breaking the balance. Destroying the world inch by inch. But there was more to it than that. She'd be leaving everyone, forever. No contact ever again. Could she do it?
Yes she could. They were all too broken and nothing could ever really fix it. It was time. Time for her to leave and time for them to all move on. But to another world? Another duty? She wasn't sure if she was strong enough to be a hero any more.
But there she wouldn't have to be. There she could find something new, something different. But she couldn't just leave them all with no protection. Apathy wasn't hate and she still loved them all on some level. And she couldn't have the destruction of the world on her head. There were still some things she wasn't willing to face. “I do this and we set some terms.”
He smiled at her and something deep inside her suddenly felt free.
No flashing lights, no sounds, just her back in the moment she'd been in before. Her mind went back, searched what had been said before and she met eyes that were her own. “You're right.”
A smug look. “Hmm. Not your best” but it was cut short as Spike's form moved on the cot. Mentions of drowning in footwear from something dead that was less than half awake. Well she doubted anyone else would ever have that thought again. She looked back at the space that the First had filled. Empty.
“Buffy? Is something wrong?” concern, unneeded. The realization of what she'd just chosen began to really sink in and she smiled.
Sweet freedom was just around the corner. “No. Yeah. I just realized something. We're gonna win.”
And for the first time in forever hope was sitting on her shoulder.
No more wind whipping in her face as the bus screeched to a halt, jarring her. A jolt of reality. Of a countdown that had started. She shifted, forcing her body down and onto the pavement.
People spilling out, friends, family. Broken people that she loved but needed to leave behind. Their hugs meant everything and nothing all at the same time. Because soon she'd be gone, dust in the wind.
Like Spike, like Anya, like all those little girls. Like all those slayers waiting to change this world. A legacy. Her legacy. Let none ever be alone again. No more lone heroes to be broken and discarded.
She moved forward, closer to the edge of what had once been her home. She stared at it, burning it into her memory. Forcing herself not to hear the others because she knew that if she did it would hurt to leave them. But only a little.
And she needed to remember this, remember the cost. To remember the lives lost, the good, the bad, and ugly. Faces, names, life and death. She needed for this to forever be vivid in her mind.
Because sometimes memory was all one had.
When a voice asked who did this the name slipped from her. “Spike.”
Finally a hero. She hoped one day they would see it that way.
She blinked, a sudden tugging in her midsection the signal of things to come. She knew she had enough time to look back, to see them all one last time but she didn't.
And when that same white nothing as before enveloped her she begins to feel lighter than she has in any lifetime.
Whistler stands before her and she moves, lightness can't destroy anger. Not really. Not hers.
“They weren't supposed to die.” her hands on Whistler's throat again. A theme for them. At least it's consistent.
A look that's almost sad. “I know. But they're gonna get a choice. They've earned their peace slayer, like you did. But if they want to come back.” he trailed off and it's almost a blow.
She drops him. Peace, they get peace. But if they want to...
To come back. She doesn't see the appeal after peace but they're getting something she never had. They get the ultimate in everything. Choice.
Choice and freedom. That's all she's ever wanted. Simple things that aren't so simple really. She looks at him, other matters are now pressing. No more worrying about those she's left behind. She made her deal, they'll be safe. Safe and she gets what she wants. What she's always wanted. Freedom. “So what now? You just open up a portal and drop me in a new world?”
He smirks at her, only for once she doesn't want to beat it off his face. A thought occurs to her, he probably helped plan this. Hell, he probably was the one to offer up the idea. A thought that leaves her off center and makes her finally not hate him. “Nah, we're gonna send you to a Lady. A great one too. She's gonna help you get used to your new home before things really start. Listen to her, she's on the up and up.”
That's oddly reassuring. “When's this apocalypse gonna happen?”
A smile, a real one from him. “Trust me kid, for the apocalypse you'll know. For the other stuff. You'll feel it.”
Feel it? Foreboding much? “Now, I've got to go. Promised I'd tell your merry bunch of white hats what's happened didn't I?” he started to walk away into the whiteness. “Just close your eyes and relax kid.”
Buffy blinked. It suddenly felt real. “Hey Whistler.”
He turned back to look at her. “Yeah kid?”
She smiles and it was the first real smile in almost forever. “Thanks.”
Reqiews? Anyone? Anyone?