Summary: A Slayer caught between life and death with no escape, no voice, what do you do? Why get the help from someone who can literally walk inside her mind of course.
Disclaimer: BtVS is the property of Joss Whedon, and Inception
is the property of Warner Bros. Pictures, and written by Christopher Nolan
Author's Note: This is complete AU from Seeing Red and its after effects.
Special Note: Special thanks to mmooch for stepping up to betaing this for me. Thanks for all the help sweetie.
A small body lay still amidst a sea of white sheets. The only sound in the sterile room was the steady beeping of the heart monitor. The body started thrashing and jerking against the restraints holding it in place. It twisted and turned into unimaginable positions, contorting its shape as if no bones lay under the skin in its efforts to find release. An arm, then a leg, sprang free from its bonds, quickly followed by its partner. The only part to remain constrained to the bed was the torso, and even it continued to arch against the offensive material. Unable to get completely free, the body still twisted around, shooting out an arm or leg as it fought some invisible foe.
This went on for what seemed like hours, while in truth, mere minutes had passed. As quickly as it began, it ended. The arms and legs dropped as if someone had cut their strings. The body returned to its unearthly calm.
Suddenly, the monitor went silent. Alarms filled the air, and hospital staff filled the room, while 'CODE BLUE ROOM 1C' announcements blasted out over the PA system.
A lone observer watched, feeling helpless. He stayed motionless as the scene played out the way it had for the past year. The doctors and nurses worked to revive the patient. They pressed on the small chest; pumped air into the lungs, and when that didn't achieve the desired results, used those hated paddles.
He had come to hate this part of the routine. The way her body would arch up from the bed as if it was trying to break free from this world. He couldn't help but think that was exactly what she wanted to do. His breath whooshed out as the monitor caught her faint pulse, which steadily became stronger. He cursed the sound, and then the others. His Slayer lived again - if this half-life even qualified for living.
Giles knew it wasn't what she wanted. However, no matter how hard he tried to convince the others to let Buffy go, they refused. Dawn became hysterical at the idea, screaming that Buffy was fighting to stay alive. Xander… well, Xander stormed from the room whenever he mentioned the subject. Anya was the only one who agreed with him, but that was little comfort. No one listened to her. Her reasoning, though sound, did little to help. Anya simply told Dawn that if she didn't pull the plug on Buffy soon that she'd have to sell the house to pay the medical bills.
He turned to leave, unable to watch any longer. Giles had to do so something to resolve this situation. It couldn't go on the way it was for all their sakes, but most especially for Buffy. She deserved some peace. Now he just had to find a way to help the others see that.
If Willow were still able to use magic, he would have had her walk inside Buffy's mind and show the others what was happening. Willow, poor Willow. She had decided upon a path, regardless of the warnings from him and others. Now she was paying for her reckless actions.
Giles shook his head at how far the promising young Wiccan had fallen. He had returned from England in time to help the others stop her from unleashing hell on Earth. A coven he had remained friendly with had agreed to take her in and slowly siphon off her magic. The process was painful, and the best outcome they could hope for was that at the end Willow would have some portion of her sanity intact.
They had no other choice. Oh, he could have forced them to turn her over to the authorities, but the penal system had no way of dealing with a magic user of Willow's caliber. She could immolate any detainment unit with ease.
Cobb sat looking at the man he had agreed to meet for coffee. He looked like he belonged in some lecture hall, rather than trying to convince him to pick up the tattered threads of things, things he had sworn to leave far behind. The cool stare leveled at him told Cobb this man was more than his first impression.
"My name's Rupert Giles, and I've been led to believe you can help me."
Cobb felt the fine hairs rise on his skin at that clipped British accent. This guy had come to the wrong person. His information was several years too late. He had architected his last dream, and laid his past to rest. Cobb still missed Mal, but he wouldn't trade having his children back for anything.
"Who gave you my name, Mr. Giles?"
Giles sat watching the different emotions play across the younger man's face. He knew it was going to take some serious persuasion on his part to get Mr. Cobb to do what he needed.
"Miles and I were at Eton together," he said with a smile.
Cobb's head jerked up and he nearly spilled the coffee he was about to drink. His hand rattled as he carefully sat the cup back down on the table. He couldn't believe what he was hearing. There was no way Miles would ever send someone to him for - this.
"That's bullshit! He would never send someone to me for this. Not Miles," Cobb growled in a loud whisper.
Giles leaned forward as his eyes heated with compressed anger. "I don't have time to play games, young man." He slipped his hand into his pocket and drew out a mobile phone, and tossed it on the table between them. "Call him yourself. His number is the last one dialed as we talked right before I came here," he challenged.
Cobb couldn't stop his hand from reaching into his pocket to touch the small metal top. His fingers traced the rounded contours as he fought the urge to spin it on the table. He pressed his skin against the dull tip, until he felt the ache that told him he was awake. His fingers released the talisman as he withdrew his hand, and reached for the phone. He saw Miles' number, pressed send and waited for the familiar voice to come onto the line.
"Rupert, how did it go?"
"Miles, what's going on?" Cobb asked in confusion. His father-in-law had never approved of his previous line of work. He couldn't believe that he would send this man to him to ask return to it.
"Dom!" Miles exclaimed. "Where's Rupert?"
Cobb pulled the phone away from his ear to stare at it, as if he wasn't sure what he was looking at. He put it next to his ear again to hear Miles scream into it.
"Why would you do this? Why now, after everything I've done to get back to the children and put it all behind me?" Cobb almost didn't recognize the hoarse painful whisper as his own voice.
Silence fell heavy over the phone. Cobb could actually hear Miles breathe across the line. "I owe him, Dom, more than you could ever know. Do you really think I would ask this otherwise? I didn't actually promise him anything, only the opportunity to talk with you. The rest is up to you."
The phone went dead, and Cobb stared at it as if it might actually come to life and bite him. He turned back to his audience with a heavy sigh. He would listen, then politely refuse whatever Mr. Giles wanted him to do.
He listened to an incredible story. If this man wasn't Miles' friend, Cobb would have said it was complete make-believe. Except, he couldn't - not after everything he had seen and done. The more Mr. Giles spoke, the more Cobb found himself drawn into Buffy Summers' life.
Giles placed his card on the table before he pushed his chair back and stood. He looked down at Cobb wearily, then finally said, "I'll await your decision, Mr. Cobb. Please think over what I've said. You really are Buffy's only chance to find some peace, one way or another."
He wasn't sure what had changed his mind, or how he planned to go about doing this without his team. Cobb didn't even know how to get in contact with anyone. He had completely lost touch with Arthur. The last he had heard, he and Ariadne were together somewhere in Switzerland. He wasn't sure what they were doing, and didn't want to know. Although, he wondered if they were still building, would Mr. Giles have gone to them instead? Cobb didn't think so. He thought Miles' connection to Mr. Giles had more to do with them asking him to come onboard. He was their last chance. Cobb shook his head at the thought. Who would ever think that about him?
Mr. Giles reassured him that he could take care of everything he needed. Cobb decided if he was going back inside, he wasn't going to drag his old team down with him. Miles and he had an exhaustive talk after he took some time to calm down. The outcome was that Cobb knew he could trust Mr. Giles. Well, as much as he allowed himself to trust anyone. He still couldn't help but feel that he was an alcoholic about to take his first drink after the long years of sobriety.
Cobb had spent the past week reading Buffy Summers' diaries. He felt he knew her even better than he knew himself. It was rather disconcerting to think that while he had created dreamscapes inside others' heads, she had survived true nightmares. He shuddered to think of Phillipa having such a destiny thrust upon her. Shaking his head to clear away such thoughts, Cobb pulled his car into the hospital parking lot.
He walked into the small hospital in an even smaller town that he had never heard of until two weeks ago. It was strangely quiet with no medical staff around. His hand slipped into his pocket to touch his talisman. Cobb wondered how long it would take him before he could live without it. He made his way down the hall, looking for the room number where Buffy Summers lay immobile.
His pupils enlarged and his heart rate increased as he stared through the glass window. She was so small. Cobb wasn't sure what he had expected. It certainly wasn't this. Laying there breathing with the steady rhythmic noise of the monitors the only sound in the room, she looked like a porcelain doll. He had created this other picture in his head. This wasn't the vibrant woman in the lone picture Mr. Giles gave him. It wasn't the fearless warrior he had read about, or the teenager who lost her first love.
Cobb pushed open the door and went inside the room. His eyes gazed about the room, noticing the small personal touches someone had added. A handmade quilt lay at Buffy's feet, a beautiful watercolor hung on the wall directly across from her, and fresh flowers filled the vase beside her bed. Cobb noticed a book next to the vase, with the bookmark sticking out from the pages. He picked it up and softly started reading to Buffy.
He heard the soft click from the door opening and thought nothing of it. The staff came in periodically to check on Buffy. Cobb continued to read, but startled from his chair when someone placed their hand on his shoulder.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Cobb. I didn't mean to startle you," Giles apologized.
"N-no, that's all right," Cobb stuttered as he waited for his heart to dislodge from his throat. "I thought it was the staff coming to check on her."
His eyes immediately went to where Buffy remained unmoved. Giles caught the gesture, and couldn't stop the small smile from playing across his lips. It seemed Buffy had won another admirer without even trying.
"Ah, I see you found our book," he said, changing the subject.
Cobb's brow wrinkled in confusion, until he realized he had the book clutched to his chest like a lifeline. He smoothed his features, retrieved the bookmark and set the book aside.
"I hope you don't mind," he remarked.
"No, not at all. Truth be known, I think it soothes me more than her. Still, there's the hope that she can hear me. Will you do it, Mr. Cobb?"
Pale green eyes held the lightest blue. The two men faced each other in the cloying silence. One desperately needed what the other had. Yet, the other felt torn between his fight or flight instincts. Cobb knew that after seeing Buffy, he couldn't leave her there caught between both worlds. His greatest fear was that he would lose himself, while trying to save her.
"She seems so calm. When do these violent outbreaks normally occur?" Cobb asked, knowing he hadn't answered the question. He was stalling even though he knew he had already created the necessary levels in his head.
"Ah," he hummed his response.
They turned to look at the subject of their conversation. She lay as still as before, never moving, simply breathing in and out, as the monitor chirped rhythmically.
"You want this to happen as quickly as possible, and I understand your reasons. But, I'll need to watch at least one episode, if not more in order to create the right timeline. We have to do this right, Mr. Giles. This isn't easy, and I don't want to do any harm while I'm inside. My previous subjects were all conscious prior to us putting them to sleep. I'm not sure how fine a line I'm walking dealing with a coma patient."
Giles simply nodded his head. He fought to retain his English upper-lip, but the relief he felt inside was becoming overwhelming. This was the first sense of hope he had felt in some time. He had long since come to terms with losing Buffy. His duty now was seeing to her final rest. Legally he had no standing, and since Dawn was Buffy's closest relative, she was the only person who could sign the Do Not Resuscitate form. This was the only way to get her to realize it was time to let Buffy go.
Cobb was happy to say he wouldn't have to witness any more violent 'seizures' as they liked to call them. What a nice technical name for the horror show he had watched. He understood why Mr. Giles had searched high and low for someone like him. If he actually dreamed anymore, he knew he would have nightmares about Buffy's small body fighting and then dying, only to have the staff restart her heart like clockwork. She didn't do so every night - which was odd - but she did it on a regular enough basis that they called her their miracle patient. Some miracle. Cobb grimaced at the memory.
Tonight he would go in and look around, perhaps try to connect with Buffy for the first time. He thought doing the extraction on several small trips was better than trying to jump in during a violent episode. Call me crazy, but I have no desire to tag along for that ride.
Cobb lay down in the chair next to Buffy's bed. Her steady breathing soothed him as he watched Mr. Giles set up the room. He closed his eyes as he replayed his designs in his head. The team assembled was small, but they had shown that they knew what they were doing. He didn't ask Mr. Giles where he found them, and he didn't offer. Last night they did a dry run, and it went well. Mr. Giles volunteered to play guinea pig, and it provided the missing pieces Cobb needed to pull the design together. Tonight was the real deal, and Cobb couldn't help the rush of adrenaline he felt.
He felt the freefall almost before he realized what was happening. One minute he was running through everything then wham…he's back in the game. He looked around at his surroundings in confusion. This wasn't his design. He stood in a long hallway with lockers on both sides, and an arrow pointing down the hall. Cobb walked over to the arrow, where he found written beneath it in large letters - LIBRARY.
This was beyond anything he had ever seen within a dreamscape. He wasn't sure who was guiding the design. Cobb followed the arrow to the Library and stepped through the swinging double doors. There sat Buffy Summers. She wasn't the same as her picture though. Cobb figured she was about sixteen. She sat on one of the large tables, kicking her legs and looking the very picture of a bored teenager. Her head turned toward him as he came through the doors. She presented him with a mega-watt smile and he couldn't help but smile in return.
"Why did you bring me here?" The words burst from his lips before he could stop himself.
Her head tilted to the side as she stared at him. Cobb felt as if she was measuring him for what - or should he say against what - he wasn't sure. She must have decided he had passed inspection.
"You had to see from the beginning."
She jumped from the table, and in one smooth move, was out the door before he could respond. Cobb raced after her. He caught a glimpse of her just ahead, down the long hallway. Pushing as hard as possible, Cobb worked to catch the suddenly elusive teen. As he neared her, he watched her short skirt lengthen and turn white, while the long trail of blonde hair drew up into a fashionable updo as the hallway shifted into a darkened cave.
Buffy threw him a look over her shoulder as she stepped up to face off against an incredibly ugly 'man'. Cobb skidded to a stop when he hit an invisible wall. His cheek slid down the side before he caught himself. He pounded on the barrier and screamed at Buffy to let him through. She couldn't hear him, or chose to ignore him. In either case, he had no choice but to watch the scene play out before him.
He remembered reading this from her diaries. It was a thousand times worse seeing it up close in Technicolor. The Master reeled Buffy's slight body toward him. He bit into her slender neck then threw her away like garbage. Cobb couldn't stand it. He started pounding again, even though he knew it was fruitless. How is she controlling the design?
He had to wait until he could see an opportunity to take back control. His heart pounded against his chest as he watched Buffy drown. Her friend - what was his name? - Xander, gave her CPR, and she slowly came back to life. Cobb breathed a happy sigh of relief. She rose with such grace, ready to take on the world…to save the world. Cobb watched her every move, every emotion that played across her young face.
The barrier he was leaning against disappeared and he fell to his knees on the cave floor. He slowly stood and approached the murky water where minutes before Buffy had lost her life. Cobb stared down into it, wondering if it held the answers he sought. His head jerked up when he heard Buffy's soft voice.
"Do you understand?"
Cobb thought he caught a glimmer of something, but wasn't sure. What he was sure of was that he needed to take back control. He intended to take back control of the construct. Cobb simply stepped into the pool of water, using it as his kick to take him to the next level. His head cleared the water with a gasp as he drew air into his lungs. He forgot how much he hated that part. Cobb pulled himself from the water.
His clothes dried before he approached the target's front door. He opened it and walked inside to find her waiting for him. She was older. He was guessing eighteen. Her face had lost the rounded cheeks and showed the more angular lines from the pictures he had seen. Buffy Summers would become a beautiful woman, and was a very pretty teen. She sent him that warm welcoming smile he had come to expect.
Cobb was happy to see that his construct was in play as they sat before the warm fire in Angel's mansion. He reconstructed the room from Buffy's diaries and his own visits. Cobb was careful to place certain things about, which she wouldn't see but that let him know he was controlling the dream not her. His hand unconsciously slipped into his pocket for his talisman.
"So, welcome to my life."
She smirked as she waved for him to join her on the couch. He walked forward and sat opposite her. His eyes encompassed her body language and surroundings in a single sweep. She appeared relaxed, with her legs propped up on the couch and had her arm casually thrown across the back. Cobb knew she was watching his every move.
"You didn't answer my question, but I'm guessing since you're here…" Her hands spread wide to encompass the room at large. "Your answer would go in the 'NO' category. Have to say I'm kinda disappointed." She frowned at him. "Thought they'd send someone who was smarter. Catch as catch can I always say." Her little nose wrinkled. "Not really but it's catchy don't you think."
Cobb watched her plump lower lip fall into the infamous pout he had heard so much about. Then the room tilted as he slid from the couch into a heap on the floor.
Varied curse words in numerous languages rang through his head as Cobb felt everything turn inside out and upside down. He closed his eyes as he tried to regain control of the construct. No such luck. His eyes opened to another walk down the twisted lanes of Buffy's memory.
Cobb looked over to the couch expecting to see her there. It lay turned over on its side. His eyes widened in panic. The room was in disarray as if some huge battle had taken place. He started forward to try to find Buffy, worried that she was hurt when he heard horrible sounds. Cobb didn't think he would ever forget them as long as he lived.
He walked around the overturned couch. Buffy lay supine with Angel atop her. His face was horrific in its vampiric guise. It appeared to Cobb as if he were attempting to devour her whole as he drank from her fragile neck. The slurping, gulping sounds echoed in his ears as if the large gothic mansion somehow amplified their timber. Or, perhaps it was his sense of horror at the sight. It didn't matter; Cobb knew he had to stop Angel or Buffy would die. He tried to go to her to stop this nightmare and hit the same invisible force that stopped him before. His hands slapped against it in frustration. Who was doing this? How were they doing this, and why?
He watched helplessly as Buffy's hands beat ineffectively against Angel's arm. They fell to the floor as he continued to feed and she grew weaker. Cobb watched as they fluttered like tiny butterflies in an attempt for freedom.
His eyes narrowed as he watched intently, knowing something was about to happen - something important. Buffy's hand suddenly surged with strength as she reached for a metal vase. Her hand clasped the vase and she smashed it against Angel's head. The dazed vampire stopped his feeding to realize what he had done. Cobb heard the distant monitor go quiet. The vampire gathered Buffy's limp body into his arms to rush her from the room.
There…there it was what he thought he saw in the cave. A dark form was stalking Buffy. It slipped through the door soon after Angel carried her through it. He followed, trying to keep up without letting it see him.
Hope you like it, this is very different from what I normally write, but after seeing the movie the idea wouldn't let go. Plan to post the remainder of the story next week. Stay tuned.