Prologue - Ether
Disclaimer: All the characters belong to Joss Whedon and co. Only potential new characters are my own. The creators of the Buffy-verse, in no way profit from this story. Any creative evolving of the canon characters could not have been done without the original show.
Basically, this isn't my playground, I'm just here to have some fun.
She struggled with her shaking hands, as she desperately tried to fit the key into the lock. The oozing wounds on her body were dripping onto the hallway carpet and for a second she wondered how the landlord would take it. Then the agonizing pain set in once more and she quickly forgot about the trivial things. She needed to get inside and get cleaned up, before infection set in.
If tears mixed up with the blood, she didn't notice.
Pushing hard and breathing rapidly, she finally got the door open and stumbled into the dark living room. Harshly shutting the door behind her, she made her way to the couch, where she fell hard into the soft cushions. She was close, that much she knew. If she wasn't careful, she wouldn't have long to live. She made a promise though and she'd be damned if she weren't going to try her hardest to keep it.
Even if she was the only one left.
Holding tightly on to what little strength she had left, she hefted herself off the now crimson stained couch and slowly made her way to the small bathroom, connected to her bedroom. To her, hours passed and perhaps they did, as she slowly rinsed out cloth after red cloth, going over every inch of her battered and bruised body. It seemed never ending.
As soon as she was thoroughly cleaned up, she began stitching and mending each cut, each abrasion, before moving on to the more serious wounds.
The lower front of her stomach, where the kamunji sword went all the way through. Her left collarbone, where she hit the ground, hard. Her right foot, thankfully the bullet missed the major arteries and bone. The gash in her spine, the bone-deep slice in her thigh, the scar she'll forever have from forehead, through her right eye, right down to the middle of her cheek.
Even if she survived the night, the coming days would be the hardest, now that she had lost everything that mattered. A part of her fervently wished to have been killed out there, along with her family.
Slower than she had ever moved in her life, she pulled on her satin nightgown. She figured that this would the safest and most comfortable clothing at the moment. Without looking she opened her bathroom cabinet and grabbed her trusty pills. She didn't need to read instructions anymore, she had been taking them for as long as she could remember.
She stood there, in the tiny bathroom, completely still. The light-bulb above her head was blinking, as she silently stared at herself in the small mirror. Brown eyes filled with sadness, loss and pain stared back and it took every ounce of inner strength to not break down right here.
Suddenly her body pitched forward and she was quick to catch herself on the sink. Her vision became hazy and she realized that that feeling in her being was tiredness. If she didn't get to her bed fast she knew she would simply collapse right here, on the cold tiles of her white bathroom.
Slowly she turned around, letting go of her own reflection and grabbing tightly onto the doorjamb. She looked somewhat longingly at the large bed in front of her. Even though it hadn't been many hours since she fell asleep, not long before all the loss, she felt as if she hadn't slept in weeks instead. Maybe she would be better able to consider her situation in the light of day?
With that almost hopeful thought in the forefront of her mind, she slipped under the cool covers, wrapped herself up tightly and closed her eyes. She relaxed her abused body and drifted away, into a world where her loved ones were still alive.
It was night once more, when she finally came to. A few minutes of blissful ignorance passed, before her mind caught up with her and she remembered everything that had happened in the last couple of days. Tears quickly poured down her bruised cheeks in streams, as she sunk further into the covers, wrapped around her like a protective cocoon.
Images flashed in her mind, of better times. Of laughter, smiles, days spent in the burning sunlit park and nights around the dinner table, filled with vigorous conversations about nothing in particular. She would never have that again, never see their faces outside of her memories and more than any emotion that thought brought her, came fear. She was undeniably scared of what the future now held, for her and for the world as well.
Champions were dead and gone, meaning innocents lives would be lost as well, in the coming days. That knowledge laid heavy on her soul.
Taking in a deep breath, she steeled her inner resolve and slowly, and quite painfully, slipped her bare feet over the edge of the bed and onto the cold, hardwood floor below. Ever so carefully she padded towards the bathroom, needing another dose of painkillers, if she were expected to get through another day. Unfortunately there was no medication for the mental agony.
Not long after waking, she was sitting on a blanket on her bloodstained couch, staring into the nothingness. She had forced herself to eat one lousy leftover bagel, knowing that her lost friends would be disappointed if she didn't at least make the effort to keep going. But now she was at a loss. Where was she supposed to go from here?
She didn't have anything to fall back on, even if she planned to give up on the good fight, which she knew she never would. College hadn't been for her and besides, things had gotten in the way. Like growing up and fighting battles she never expected to find herself in.
Her friends were all gone and although she felt more alone than ever before, there was a small, niggling thought in the back of her mind. There was still one place she could go, start over, so to speak. But was she ready for that?
Emotionally, mentally, psychologically.
She decided that there was only one way to find out. After all, she had always been a woman of action, not thought. And she couldn't just sit here, in a place so filled with memories, in a town that held nothing but pain and loss. She needed out, but in a reasonable manner.
Ever so slowly, careful about her injuries, she reached over to the table beside the couch and picked up the phone. She dialed the number for information and soon she was patched through to the bus terminal in town.
“I would like a one way ticket to Sunnydale, as soon as possible.”
Cordelia Chase was going home.