This is the way it goes.
Fire floods her skin, burning away in her blood as she screams at the visions pounding and pounding into her very being, a never ending roll of memories that sears at her retinas and makes her claw at her skin in a desperate attempt to shut it all out.
It takes her a while to realize that the desperate, animal like yowling is actually coming from her throat. That it’s her
whose blood is dripping onto the floor, dark and thick, droplets of pain.
She tries to open her eyes, to call for Faith, for Dawn, for somebody to come and help but all she can do is whine
as yet another vision of brightness and wings crashes into her, wrecking her.
She pants, a loud sound echoing in the emptiness of the house as she sees Faith slam into the short man, lifting him up and banging his head against the door. Faith’s mouth is open, she’s saying something, she’s so angry that her aura practically flashes with bright red spots in her every movement.
She’s trying to speak, to say something, but her tongue feels thick with blood and pain and so she clenches her jaw and wills her body to stop shaking and ride out the visions in peace. ”Are you sure about this?” Gabriel leans next to her, watching as she cradles the infant in her arms.
The air is dirty around them, the result of the humans’ evolution, their drive to civilization. And yet, there they are, watching over the first of their own born on earth.
“Are you questioning our Father’s orders?” she turns slightly, watching her brother’s grace falter in it’s shine as he shivers under her gaze.
She may be younger than him, but she’s still an Archangel. He is the Messenger but she is Battle. He is the word of God but she is his muscle, she is his sword and shield. Michael has led the biggest battles, but she’s been in more of them. She has bled with the garrisons, fallen with them, crawled with them.
“No,” Gabriel says and his eyes, the physical, earthly manifestation of them at least, are sad.
“FIX HER!” Faith is screaming and Dawn’s wide blue eyes are terrified as Buffy moans, still laying in a tight little ball on the ground. Her hands are claws, trying to rip the visions out of her and they keep slamming, they keep coming. They’re kneeling in front of their Father, their knees are bent and their heads are bowed.
His voice rumbles through their being, through their souls and through their created bodies. It feels like home, like family, like belonging.
Their orders are clear as Father explains them and she chances a look around her. Ophriel is kneeling next to Gabriel, the youngest ones out of them all. She is the keeper of the Heavenly Gates, the protector, the Key and Gabriel is the Messenger. He is God’s prophetic son, the one that sees the significant births. Both are so young though, so innocent in many ways.
She chances a look in front of her, to her winged brothers, to Heaven’s favorite sons. Lucifer and Michael, both beautiful and terrible and powerful in their silent stances. Michael’s grace glows steadier, a halo of constant strength around him while Lucifer burns brighter, fierier.
Raguel is kneeling next to her, her huge black wings still fluttering from the battle she has just come from. Her head is bowed, her whole being screams obedience.
None of them have ever seen their Father. Their love, their devotion- it’s an emotion borne of perfect obedience, of razor sharp clarity and no deviation. It isn't the kind of love that humans would ever be able to understand.
Faith’s knife is glinting sharply in the sunlight. She has the short man on his knees, a strangely familiar pose for him, and her knife under his collar. She fists his hair and hisses sharp and painful, “Fix her Now
And somehow, somehow Buffy knows that he’s not afraid of her. That this small, smirking little man is amused by Faith. Through the break in the screaming, through the break in the hot, eye blindingly bright visions- she can see his eyes glinting as he leans forward and touches her forehead with two fingers.
And then Buffy slumps forward, falling gratefully into the darkness as the pain recedes from her mind and her skin goes back to normal. To not feeling like it’s about to fall off her, slide off in a bloody heap.
When she opens her eyes, it’s to the sight of Dawn’s worried blue eyes. She’s still laying on the carpet where she fell, her sister has her head cradled on her knees. Dawn’s stroking her hair gently, murmuring softly “It’s okay Buff. You’re fine.”
Buffy coughs as she rolls to the side, spitting a little bloody saliva onto the carpet. She can’t believe that she screamed loudly enough to hurt her vocal chords that badly.
Speaking of loud screaming…
“Where are the girls?” she rasps, making a feeble attempt at Dawn’s hand.
If she was screaming that loudly, then the slayers sleeping upstairs should have heard her. But try as she might, Buffy can only sense three other people besides her in the immediate vicinity.
There’s a sheepish sort of cough behind them and Dawn helps Buffy face the table. Faith has the man firmly subdued, his body in a horribly awkward angle on the table and his neck under her elbow. His face is smashed into the table and yet the bastard looks like he’s enjoying himself.
“I can tell you about that,” he says only it sounds muffled.
Buffy swallows and nudges at Dawn. Her throat hurts too much to speak and her vision is still blurred from the information dump.
“Faith, can you let him up?” Dawn calls out, God bless her little telepathic heart.
Faith steps away from the table, lifting the man even as she keeps her knife under his throat. She has him effectively restrained with her other hand.
The man shoots her a smirk as he tries to twist around, “Look at you, Remy. Still a soldier even down here. Still taking orders from our little General.”
Faith frowns as she gives him a nudge that almost sends him sprawling into the floor once more, “What the fuck are you talking about, guy?”
“I think,” he says, “I think it’s time to stop screwing around…” and the room floods with the smell of ozone and lime. It feels like a heat wave rolling in, power, pure and unadulterated and Buffy gasps as she feels the pain disappear with the heat wave.
Faith stumbles back from the man, eyes wide and terrified as she moves closer to, subconsciously seeking the support of, Buffy and Dawn.
The man rolls his shoulders back and the smell of ozone gets thicker.
Buffy rolls to her knees, shoving Dawn behind her as she and Faith take up fighting positions. Moving on habit, moving in sync.
He moves closer to them, stops close and precise. He feels like danger, like a predator contained within a deceptively simple package. A spring, coiled and ready to spring.
He feels familiar.
Buffy rummages for weapons on her body. There’s nothing. She hung up everything before sitting down at the dinner table, she's unarmed.
Faith still has the knife though.
“Faith,” Buffy whispers, “do it.”
The throw is accurate, perfect and deadly.
He raises his palm to block it and the sound of shattering metal is loud, ringing in the dead silence of the hallway.
Something is tugging at Buffy. Some familiar feeling, like a remembered memory on the tip of her tongue, a slippery emotion of an event long gone.
“Well damn,” Faith mutters darkly, staring balefully at her shattered knife, “that was my favorite blade.” She sounds almost petulant.
“Don’t worry about it,” the man says with the familiar smirk back in his voice. “I’ll fix it if you stay still and listen.”
“Why should we?” Faith snarls, taking a step closer to him. Her hackles are definitely up.
Buffy can smell the blood in the air, she tenses as her instincts tell her to hide. To run.
And then Dawn makes her heart pause, stop beating and pause in stark terror as she escapes from behind Buffy.
Dawn’s eyes are wide, disbelief is etched into her features and she’s so pale that she looks like a goddamn ghost. She licks her lips, taking one step closer to the man.
Buffy lunges for her, just as Dawn asks “Gabriel?”
This time, his smile is wide and real, radiating warmth and reassurance as he steps forward “Hi...I’ve missed you Ophriel...”
Buffy pauses, feeling the memory right
there, about to burst forth into the world if she only concentrates hard enough.
“You shouldn’t be here Gabriel,” Dawn murmurs as she steps even closer until she’s standing only scant inches away from him. “It’s not home.”
He sighs and a breeze flutters in the room, fluttering their hair, sweet and familiar it smells of freshly mowed grass and cookies straight from the oven. “Oh sweetheart,” he says and pulls Buffy’s little sister into a hug.
into him. That’s the only way to describe it.
Buffy’s been on the receiving end of many a Dawnie hug, but this is totally different.
Dawn’s head is on his shoulder, due to the difference in heights but it feels like he’s enveloping her. Their arms are tight around each other and the look of absolute peace
on both their faces is devastating to behold.
And then it clicks.
His smile, his laugh, his questions. Buffy remembers herself with him, a thousand different faces, a thousand different lifetimes. She remembers serving with Gabriel, praying with him. She remembers having to protect him in battle. His jokes. His wings and the hurt he practically radiated whenever Lucifer and Michael would begin one of their fights.
The memories slide into place and Buffy remembers.
“Gabriel?” she whispers and he raises his head.
Dawn takes a step away from him, moving to hold Buffy’s hand as the truth peels itself open in front of her. It bleeds memories into the room.
“Why are you here?”
“Well,” Gabriel laughs a little self consciously as he rubs at the back of his neck, “here’s the thing. I’m not the only one out of us that’s walking the earth right now.”
It feels like she’s choking, the air is thick and viscous as Buffy almost stumbles and Dawn holds her up. “What?” she whispers, praying that he’s wrong.
“Surprise!” Gabriel flings his hands in the air like a demented little cheerleader. “It’s a reunion!” He beams at them.
“Who else is here?” Dawn asks and her voice is surprisingly firm.
“Lucifer?” Gabriel shrugs helplessly.
Alright. This is beginning to get ridiculous. Buffy can feel the headache coming back, this time a headache born of natural causes and in no way associated with having one’s last lifetime dumped into one’s head. “Lucifer’s free?” she asks, just to be sure, and because honestly- now that she remembers her family, it’s always best to double check.
“Um,” Gabriel fidgets, “there was a prophecy. Plus Raphael went a little insane once everyone left and Zachariah, the little upstart, he’s been working behind the scenes for the last fifty years.”
“Lucifer is walking the earth now?” Dawn bites her lip.
They all pause and look at Faith who’s been suspiciously silent throughout the whole exchange.
“What?” Faith demands. “Why are you looking at me