NB: The usual disclaimers. Don’t own anything of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, owned by the great and mighty Joss, La Femme Nikita, the 90s TV show, or JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series, and purely for entertainment purposes. Other alt dimensions may be included later and will be added in disclaimer.
The road to hell is always paved in pints of blood, pounds of flesh and the bones of the innocent. This is the road less traveled and there was a reason for that. Not a good one, but a reason. Only the dark, damned and the demented would be able to stomach the stench. And good intentions? There is no such thing.
I learned something, at least I think I did. However, the memories are so jumbled and shattered but I have a sense, this feeling which said that I'd learned some very good lessons a long time ago. That sometimes, most of the time, there is no meaning: it just is. One road leads to a fork, the other, a dead end. Everything circling back upon itself and the ultimate quest of discovering the truth but what is truth? I knew that someone else’s truth versus my truth, versus the other truth not bound by either forces, doesn’t always mean a damn thing. What is truth, yours, mine, theirs and the real unvarnished, brutal truth, a truth that is supposed to be profound and worthy? Sometimes, it was the absence of meaning that was the bitter end of 'truth' and facing that made living utterly pointless. Sometimes the quest had no purpose.
Light backlit my lids. I felt hot, but cold inside. Tentatively, I opened an eye, which immediately rejected the light and shut closed again. That light hurt. A part of me said that the light would always hurt. I flinched, grimaced and I blinked rapidly into the wicked light because I felt blind and I had to see, but the fringes of my vision remained blurry and blank. I licked my lips, tasted the brine, the copper tang. Wonderful. I’d been drooling blood in my semi-unconscious state.
A face peered over mine. White, serene, stranger. Lethal. Beautiful. Nordic looks, tall, tall blonde woman, pale blue eyes, a smile filled with woe. She tilted her head, searching my face. “Good morning, Buffy.”
Morning? Good? That remained to be seen. My tongue felt like sandpaper and thick, my thoughts disorganized and clumsy. "Water," I croaked, meaning to sound strong, roaring like a lion, but my voice failed me, and it came out like a lamb. I had meant demand who she was and where I was but instead, my body spoke for me. The stranger, this woman, gave me water and I felt every cell lap it up. I sighed.
“How are you feeling?”Like shit
, I thought. I managed to groan my sentiments. My lips were dry, the flesh cracking, then splitting as I coughed. Everything felt like it'd been set on fire and I was still burning, inside out. The embers were still being stoked but I still felt so cold inside.
The woman smiled down at me, her eyes gentle but lost, haunted, world-weary. “You’ve lost a lot of blood and you’re still in the recovery process.” Her tone was light, meant to convey...something. Not comfort, but nothing unpleasant either. It just...was. "You've been in a coma for the past week and a half. They projected that you would die."
Death, dying, dead, die. But not. I was alive. "Great."
"Yes. You've proven to Section how much you want to live," she said. "I'm afraid I have no good news."
Being alive and awake hurt like a bitch but the pain was like an old friend and this furling, unending pain reminded me of things within the cobwebbed tunnels in my broken brain that itched to be appeased, to be learned and re-discovered. A whisper stormed through my mind, fracturing any coherent thoughts and I was whisked back into this reality that seemed fixed and unchangeable. But, that whisper managed to leave a trace of its intention. What happened to you?
, it asked. It wondered, who are you?
Confusion and uncertainty muddled and dismantled my thoughts. I had no energy to think beyond the present moment but an answer flittered at the edges of my clogged brain but it eluded me, jumping away. There was nothing before this moment, no sudden realization of anything about the past, or the present. It was like I existed in the ether, in the here and now and I had no idea what any of it all meant. My eyes squeezed shut on their own accord, watering and leaking out the pain and the tears fell at the corners of my eyes, unbidden and useless in revealing my emotions. I felt emotionless. In fact, I felt rather calm but then there would be these sudden, raging jabs to set myself free. The fear and panic crowded inside my cold body and there they remained. My skin, the thing that contained the dark, cold fires, didn't let anything out, as though the flesh could burn away those useless emotions.
It didn't feel normal. Was that normal?
I hacked up blood then sucked it back down. You never know when the next blood transfusion is likely but it didn’t go anywhere but settle back in my throat, lining my mouth with its copper tang. Nausea ignited my gag reflex, sending waves of delicious pain through my worn, tender muscles. I shifted, my limbs finally my own but still limp and weak. After a few exploratory moves, I realized I was cuffed at the ankles and wrists with limited freedom of movement and flat on my back. Lifting my head, I looked down at myself, not recognizing a thing, the metal railing that all the way around, my feet, bare but moving. My clothes were not my own. There was my body in pale blue drawstring pants and a white tank top. There was my body, confined, contained, vulnerable. My vision blurred, my skull screamed and the light bearing down on me blotted out everything else. It was like being enveloped in some pale void, no sounds, nothing else familiar. But the white I knew, the white light, so brilliant my eyes watered, that was familiar.
“Yes,” she said delicately. “You sustained massive trauma during the explosion. The swelling finally went down but the doctor’s aren’t sure if you’ll ever fully recover all your memories.” She paused, her gaze speculative, even thoughtful. “Perhaps that is a good thing, in your case.”
I tried to speak again but it came out strangled and low, hoarse as though I hadn’t spoken in ages. It felt scratchy and burned. I jerked at my restraints.
“Careful. Don’t strain yourself.” The lady wore all white, a slim-fit blazer and nothing under it. White, loose fitting slacks. Her sleek white-blonde hair was in a loose bun, her pale blue eyes assessing, methodical and knowing. She put her hands behind her, turned her head and stared at the monitor. She pressed a few buttons on the touch screen.
“Who—” I coughed, trying to move, feeling ill, feeling disorientated with every movement. My center of balance was off and I felt my brain and my stomach slosh to and fro like a buoy.
“Try not to talk,” she suggested. “Questions aren’t appreciated at Section.” She turned her gaze back to me, placing her hands on the metal rail. Long elegant fingers with garish, displaced neon blue nail polish. "If you overstep yourself, they'll make you pay and not necessarily right away."
I closed my eyes, giving up. “What is this?”
“Your new life.”
“No. I…no,” I began, trying again but sounding like a stranger to my own ears, in my own mind. I struggled to raise myself up, but failed. “Who are you?” I asked those three words in a rush but it barely came out as whisper and barely audible. The room was round, painfully white, the machines beeping and doing their rhythmic jobs of monitoring. Me, apparently.
I looked at the women. Strange, stranger, strange my brain screamed.Get. Out.
That was what my heart kept beeping. I took in deep breaths of tepid air. Freaking out and panicking, as apropos as that would be at a time like this, would get me nowhere. And not just because of the metal cuffs. I tugged at them, eyeing her, my vision clearing moment by moment. The clarity of my mind also lost its sluggishness but I still felt slow.
“My name is Nikita.” She smiled. Perfect, white teeth set in a perfect, well-meant smile. “I’m here to help you.” All the white made me think, momentarily, she was an angel, that I was dead, or, and this was a dream.
Then she spoke the words that made it obvious she was no angel.
“Do well, be strong. And you might be allowed to live.” She put her hand on my forehead, her touch cool and soft. She pulled lines of my hair off my face, gazing at me like I’d already done something fatally wrong. “Fail. You will be canceled. There are no second chances. You get one shot, that’s all you get, so make the most of what little you will be allowed.” Her hand dropped away, her expression, completely unreadable.
I didn’t say anything. My brain groped at all her fucked up, meaningless tangle of words. Her voice was so goddamned pleasant
, and peaceful, and non-threatening when none of this was any of that.
“Don’t misunderstand me. I am here to help you but you have to help yourself first.” She leaned forward, her hands curling over the railing. Behind her, I saw the black line of a door. Her face went flat, and she stared into my face so hard, I couldn’t help but meet her gaze. Earnest, stealthy and a touch angry. Lowly, she said, “What they want, they’ll take. Don’t let them take anything without a fight. Remember that, remember who you are.”
My fetters rattled against my bones. I was still caught, still bound, still stuck and not going anywhere. I wasn’t even sure I could walk out of here, let alone break down walls or doors to reach freedom. “I don’t understand.”
“Understanding isn’t necessary, Buffy. If you die, for whatever reason, no one will mourn your death.” She paused, straightening her tall stature, her face was once again a coolly neutral mask. “I think you’ll come to realize this, if that is the way you want it to be.”
“Why,” she echoed slowly, “is irrelevant. All you need to think about is regaining your strength. You’ll need it, trust me.”
, I thought, not today
. “Strength?” I said, so tired. “For what?”
“You start training tomorrow. Five a.m. Phase One, the beginning…or the end. But like I said, that’s entirely up to you.”
The fog of pain and exhaustion wasn’t new to me. I clawed for some sense in all this but understood one thing with absolute certainty: I was a prisoner. “Why me?”
This woman, this Nikita, considered my words. “Survive,” she said instead, almost sadly. “That’s all you need to know. Do that—if you can just do that, for now—you’re already on your way.”
I felt my brows knit together, my own face felt like it was limed in wax, not my own. Was this real? Was this really happening, what this was? Did this woman speak the truth, or was this all just a dream? I closed my eyes, counted to five, opened my eyes. She was still there. The white was still all around me, suffocating me, absorbing my fear and panic. Dully, I asked, “On…my way?” Toward what? On my way to what?
She smiled, reaching over to the monitor and touched the screen. The numbers, lines and waves altered. The IV attached to the top of my left hand began to tingle. “Don’t think about it right now. It doesn't matter.” She pulled the covers up to my chest. “Just sleep, Buffy,” she whispered, her cool fingertips pressed into my left temple again, almost like a sweet caress meant to show sympathy, a human connection. Perhaps I was just starved for any connection, not the coldness of the light, the sad, unflinching person before me. She turned away. “Don’t dream about anything meaningful." I could barely hear her now. "There is no meaning.”
Something buzzed in my head, and I felt the gorgeous pull of falling. My eyes fluttered, suddenly heavy. A darkness fell over me, my brain fuzzy and pain pierced it like little needles being drilled into my head. My body felt rubbery, lax, disconnected and was being commanded by such things that robbed a human body of its own awareness and will.
I floated, and dreamed of nothing but the white.
The last thought I had was another question: why the hell did she keep calling me Buffy...