A Dying Slayer
Series Title: Thistle and Sinew
Title: A Dying Slayer
Prompt: #345 avulsion
Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and all related characters are copyright of Joss Whedon and ME. Vampire Diaries and all related characters are copyright of L.J. Smith, Kevin Williams and the CW. No infringement intended.
Note: This will be a series of short stories written as the prompts from the livejournal community 'tamingthemuse' inspire.
Synopsis: Buffy really only knew one thing for certain. It was the same as it had been since she was sixteen and prophesied to face the Master. “I don’t want to die.”
Enthralled, her head bent over Dracula’s wrist, lashes pressed tight against her cheeks as Buffy Summers found herself unwilling, unable to watch as she succumbed to his compulsion. His flesh felt cool against her warm mouth as it sealed over the wound he’d inflicted upon himself with a deft movement of his thumbnail. Which was odd and a little gross, but, she supposed, it was less gross than him biting his wrist and offering it to her.
Her tongue traced a hesitant line across his skin and green eyes opened, startled and wide, when it reached the visceral fluid, the taste of it tugged at something deep and primal within her. The hands holding Dracula’s wrist tightened. Uninhibited, she sucked greedily at the wound, until she focused solely on his blood and the senses it overwhelmed. The lukewarm feel of it sliding down her throat and the heavy scent of copper saturating the air as a hunger grew within her and tore her away from the wound, his blood.
Her head cocked, loose blonde hair slipping around her shoulders as Buffy stared up at Dracula and let his wrist fall from her grasp. She could feel the damp weight of the blood on her mouth and she resisted the frightening craving to run her tongue across it, to clean it, savor it. Instead she focused on another hunger within her as that hunger sharpened into an urge, an urge she could and would bend to, as she stepped forward.
Buffy smiled, saccharine sweet and unassuming, at the knowing smirk that bared Dracula’s fangs to her. His assumptions turned that smile predatory as she brought her flattened palm up and underneath his chin, snapping his head back. Black hair, which was in desperate need of a deep conditioning, fanned outward as his feet left the floor and he was sent floundering back a step. She retreated as well, booted feet crossing as she made her way back towards the table and her stake as the hunger, that was always just beneath the surface of her control, took hold and she sank into that primal need to hunt, to kill and focused it solely on Dracula.
The lie to taunt him with how gross that had been danced on the tip of her tongue, but she swallowed it and instead brought the back of her hand up and across her mouth. Smearing the blood, the temptation for one more taste away and dropped into an elementary fighting stance; balled fists up and feet slightly apart.
Dracula regained his footing, narrowing brown eyes and ordered her, all traces of seduction lost from his voice, “Come to me.” Buffy’s brows tugged together when she felt her fists drop marginally and she watched his pupils spiral outward before narrowing back in and that simple movement transfixed her. “Come.” She’d already taken three steps towards his offered hand, stake forgotten, before she realized her mistake and Buffy inhaled and lunged forward to use the misstep to her advantage.
She caught the wrist of that offered hand in her left and tugged it, forcing him to stumble forward and his look of astonishment annoyed more than it should have as her right hand, balled into a tight fist, connected with his chin. The impact made her knuckles ache in the most satisfying way before she spun, using his confusion and her momentum to toss his into the table dominating the large room. The impact forced a groan from the heavy wood and his shoulder tucked as he rolled up and onto the table.
He crouched there, chest shuddering with his uneven breaths—since when did vampires breathe—as annoyance turned into rage and Buffy lifted her chin in acknowledgement of that small victory and ignored the nagging voice, which sounded suspiciously like Willow, telling her she was missing something. A growl, now that
was familiar, escaped Dracula and Buffy watched, stunned, as the veins around his eyes thickened and blood spilled in to cover the white of those eyes and the nagging became a shout as she suddenly remembered.
She remembered his compulsion, his blood filled gaze and his order to forget it all. She’d known then, what she knew now, that Riley had been right and she was well and truly in over her head. Buffy stumbled under the sudden insight and took a stumbling step back, spine straightening as Dracula’s mouth opened and suddenly he was in front of her, hand around her throat and forcing her into a retreat.
Buffy impacted the stone wall behind her with enough force that it stole her breath and brought her head back with a crack that clacked her teeth and filled her mouth with blood. Her vision tunneled as Buffy locked gazes with Dracula and the skin around his eye smoothed, the blood slipping away to leave his face entirely too human looking.
Ignoring the sudden and intense ache in her head and neck Buffy retaliated to his annoyingly quick moves with some of her own and he, almost absently, dodged the knee she aimed for his stomach before stating, “I would have taught you, but now,” his free hand swatted away her fist, “now you will discover eternity on your own.”
Fear snatched away her breath, harder and quicker than the wall, and her eyes widened as she struggled and failed to free herself. Dracula seemed to anticipate her moves, or they were more sluggish than she realized, as he countered all of her attacks until he simply stepped back and she tumbled. A wince worked its way across her paling features as her knees impacted the floor and she caught herself with a hand against it. Palm scraping against stone as Buffy shoved herself back onto swaying feet, taking a moment to frown at the blood smeared across the wall in front of her.
Realizing, belatedly, that her back was to the room, she spun and swallowed thickly when the room tilted with the movement. Her gaze darted back to Dracula, to the table and just beyond him where her stake still remained since she’d failed to grab it when she had the chance. Buffy stepped forward and flinched when the space directly in front of her was simply filled with Dracula and she felt, rather than saw, his hands as one cupped her neck and the other slap her chin.
The room blurred and then all was black.
A sharp pain, echoed on either side of her upper jaw, and a gnawing hunger awoke Buffy. Brows tugged together before green eyes opened and she frowned up at the ceiling above her. Rafters spanned the length of it and the dark wood contrasted nicely with the yellow of the walls and, while it was a well above par as ceilings went, it wasn’t in the least bit familiar. Buffy sat up and the blanket that had been tucked around her fell to pool around her waist as the hollow feeling in her stomach deepened, but the pain in her jaw distracted her. A hand slid free from beneath the blanket to push her thumb and forefinger into the areas of her face that resonated with pain and Buffy rubbed absently in an attempt to alleviate it as she took stock of her surroundings.
She definitely wasn’t in Dracula’s mansion any longer, which she supposed was a good, and the muted light coming in through the closed drapes told her it was now day. Dark wood, that mirrored the rafters, covered the floors and the couch she found herself on was overstuffed and far too comfortable. She looked around, over the back of said couch and found an archway that led into the dining area and while everything was still unfamiliar Buffy did take a moment to admire, perhaps even envy, the apartment she found herself in. She shook her head at that train of thought and the hand massaging her jaw dropped from her face to lift the oddly heavy blanket so she could slide her legs free.
The wood was cold against her feet and Buffy frowned down at her lilac painted toes and the bare expanse of leg now showing because she was certain she’d worn boots and her yummy new leather pants to face Dracula. Not that she’d worn them for
him; she’d worn them to look good while slaying
him—and she’d keep telling herself that. Her memories of the previous night seemed to be of the fuzzy variety, but she didn’t recall shoving a stake into his heart and that brought Buffy to her feet and heading towards the front door.
She unlocked the deadbolt, the door opening easily enough, but the sudden burst of sounds from outside staggered her. Car horns blared, engines revved and the chatter of numerous voices were only so much useless noise and it reminded Buffy of her time as a telepath and her hands rose to clutch at either side of her head before slipping down to cover her ears. They pressed in, a throbbing formed in her temples and she watched stunned as the door slowly closed of its own accord, quieting the din.
The sudden loss of white noise allowed her to hear the whispered conversation going on behind the closed bedroom door. A voice that sounded suspiciously like Cordelia snapped, “I’ve got a migraine and a dead body on my couch! The dead body, I might remind you, of a friend,” she huffed, “Okay not a friend, friend, but I tolerated her! And this is not—”
“Cordelia!” An familiarly accented voice interrupted the tirade, confirming her suspicion in case the correction about her friend status hadn’t already.
“There isn’t a dead body on your couch,” Angel’s quiet retort stiffened Buffy’s spine and had her hands falling away from the sides of her head.
“Yes,” Cordelia argued, “There is.”
“No,” Angel’s tone softened, “She’s awake.”
“Oh,” her voice calmed before something close to surprise crept into it, “Oh!” and the bedroom door opened, revealing Cordelia and one of the worst fake smiles she’d ever seen on the brunette. “Hey, Buffy!”
Her attempt at returning Cordelia’s smile fell short of its mark and the other girl’s slipped way as Buffy’s looked past her to see Wesley standing just behind, his gaze sympathetic and somehow understanding, and the familiarity of the accent was suddenly sense making. Angel was just beyond them and also with the staring. His face was void of emotion which was never a terribly good sign when dealing with him. Her heart picked up speed, thudding in her chest and the air in the apartment was suddenly suffocating.
“What is going on?” Her question remained unanswered as the trio glanced amongst themselves until Angel moved around Cordelia and through the dining area into the living room. Buffy frowned; realizing all
the drapes in the apartment appeared to be drawn as he made his way towards her. She glanced down, finally taking note of her attire—or lack thereof—and she stared at the oversized tee-shirt, that she’d admit was on the softer side, and the drawstring shorts she wore and added another inquire to her previous, “And where are my clothes?”
“Probably the morgue.”
“Excuse me?” Buffy snapped at Cordelia’s readily supplied answer.
Angel shot the brunette a look that Buffy translated as him asking her to let him take care of the situation and her eyes narrowed with the fact that he thought of her as something that needed to be taken care of and not at all because he now shared intimate, silent type exchanges with Cordelia. Nope. Denial, Egypt; were not ringing this blonde’s bell.
Her arms rose to wrap around herself and she could feel the thudding of her heart against her right forearm as her unease intensified. Misgivings were beginning to stir with the sudden silent treatment and Wesley’s concerned-puppy like stare was not helping matters.
Angel turned back to her, finally, and asked, “What do you remember about last night?”
Buffy frowned, her arms tightening around her middle as she stepped back and Wesley followed Angel into the room with Cordelia trailing just behind him. Suddenly feeling overcrowded and overwhelmed she moved back towards the couch. “Dracula,” Buffy turned back to them and explained, “It’s a bit jumbled. I know I fought him and I think,” she trailed off as the memories of their altercation came violently back to her.
Tears blurred her vision and a hand rose to cup the back of her head, probe at the spot that where it had impacted the stone wall. Fingers searching for a contusion that wasn’t there before her hand dropped to wrap around her throat and she felt the muscles tightened as she swallowed. Her voice came out paper thin a she confessed, “I think he won.”
She looked up, a tear slipped past her lashes to trail down her cheek as she met Angel’s gaze, saw his tight-lipped mouth and more furrowed than usual brow, but it was Wesley that made his way to her. He took her hand and she noticed that his fingers found their way to her pulse point even as his gaze searched hers while he stated, “I think you may be right.”
An exasperated noise escaped Cordelia and Buffy caught the rolling of Wesley’s eyes before the brunette announced, “Of course we know she’s right!” Hazel eyes narrowed and Buffy pulled back from the calculating look on Cordelia’s face as the brunette continued, “We also know she drank Dracula’s blood,” her nose scrunched, “Which ew by the way,” she glanced at Angel quickly before adding, “They fought, he won.” She turned back to Buffy and her voice softened as she finished with, “And he broke your neck.”
Cordelia interrupted her question with the explanation, “I get visions,” and a shrug like it was no big thing.
“Huh,” Buffy frowned, “I thought Doyle got the visions…” she trailed off when she noticed Cordelia’s pained look. Her gaze slipped away from the brunette to Wesley and she frowned at the fact that he was gazing at his watch with his fingers still pressed to her pulse point. Her head inclined, but before she could inquire about what the hell he was doing, realization dawned on what Cordelia had said.
Green eyes widened and turned back to Cordelia as she questioned, “He broke my neck?” The brunette held her gaze a moment before her chin dipped in agreement and a humorless laugh escaped with the whisper, “Then I should be dead.”
Wesley’s grip on her wrist tightened with her words and Buffy glanced down, annoyance helping to chase away some of the shock and she tugged her arm away—or at least she tried to tug her arm away. Wesley remained stubbornly attached after her first and second attempt. Annoyance was quickly replaced by something similar to fear and she yanked downward, tugging Wesley forward, but only slightly, his grip never wavering.
Panic tickled the back of her throat and her left fist rose in preparation to strike, but Angel’s quiet voice distracted her. “Wesley,” Angel called and he let go, a sheepish expression on his face as he stepped back from her.
Buffy rubbed absently at the redness forming on her wrist from the small struggle and she saw the three of them looking at her as if she were one of the hopeless they helped. She’d seen the business card and since she had no intention of being their client she reiterated her first question, “What is going on?”
Wesley answered for her, “You’re in transition.”
“Transition?” Green eyes narrowed and then widened before her head shook, vehemently, and she snapped, “I’m not a vampire!” Her hand rose, placing a palm against her chest and felt the thudding of her heart. “Nope, still have a heartbeat and, I don’t know, a conscious!”
“Don’t!” She snapped at Angel, “Don’t say my name like that. Like-like I’ve gone all Slayer, Interrupted!”
“She saying she’s Winona, not Angelina,” Cordelia spoke over Wesley who only looked further confused by the explanation and she let out an exasperated breath, “Crazy, she’s saying she’s not
crazy. Watch a movie sometime!”
“I watch,” Wesley paused, as if finally coming to the same realization most of the Scoobies had long ago. It was easier to ignore Cordelia than argue with her and he turned away from the brunette to focus on Buffy. “You’re not crazy,” he assured her, but continued, “But you’re also woefully unaware of what Dracula was—”
Her annoyed interruption only garnered a tired smile from Wesley and he nodded, blue eyes studying her from behind a pair of wire framed glasses before he stated, “He was,” he frowned, amended, “Is.”
“Dracula isn’t like most other vampires.”
“I know that,” Buffy agreed with Angel’s ever so quiet assessment, “What with the fog and shape changing being my first clue.”
“He’s a different breed entirely.” Wesley’s revelation brought her head up and her gaze boring into his and he hastily explained, “The Council believes them a folly. A Native American legend with no real basis in truth and I believed that too.” He smiled faintly, “That is until I met one while I was a rogue demon hunter.”
“A rogue what?” she didn’t bother to keep the derision from her voice.
Cordelia snorted, Angel scoffed and Wesley cleared his throat, disregarding them all—it was almost like old times—as he continued, “Yes, well, as I was saying. I had a run in with one in Seattle while taking out a nest. A pleasant individual who called herself Lexi. She was most helpful—”
“In other words she did all the work?” Cordelia asked sweetly.
Before the two could begin to bicker back and forth Angel interrupted them and Buffy found herself grateful as the pounding in her head had from the headache inducing noise outside seemed to settle in with a vengeance. He steered the conversation back on topic with a comment directed to her, “They kill my kind. We draw too much attention to ourselves and them. They also tend to avoid the Watchers Council and Slayers as a rule.”
“Except, apparently, Dracula.” Cordelia supplied before looking to Buffy, “What was he like?”
“Deadly.” Suddenly feeling incredibly tired Buffy turned away from the trio and made way to the chair nearest to the fire place and she paused to admire the blue and white tiles decorating it before taking a seat. She looked up to Cordelia and offered, almost absently, “Nice place.”
“Thanks!” Cordelia beamed with the compliment, “Isn’t it great? its rent controlled,” her smile slipped as she glanced back and forth between Angel and Wesley before adding, “Not that that’s the most important thing right now.”
“Buffy,” she turned to Wesley and he stepped forward, “To become one of this breed a human must ingest their blood.”
“Which I did.” The sense of panic was back.
Wesley nodded his thanks with her agreement before he added, “And then one must die with this breed’s blood still in their system. Then they awaken from death, still human, but in transition. To complete the transition they must ingest human blood.”
“Right,” Buffy propped her hands on her knees and dropped her head back to stare at the ceiling, “Of course I do.”
“Buffy,” she brought her head back down and looked to Wesley, at his so very sincere face as he finished, “If you don’t ingest human blood within twenty-four hours of your death,” he frowned, “Give or take a few hours. You will die.”
Her cheeks tingled and she knew they were paling as the pain in her upper jaw, just above her canines, and the hunger she’d awoken with now made sickening sense. Her overachieving hearing was most likely another nail in her humanity’s coffin and helped to cement what Wesley said as truth. Though one nagging thought needed to be voiced and she questioned, “If I’m in transition shouldn’t I be at least vampire strong? I couldn’t break your hold a moment ago.”
Wesley and Angel exchanged another glance and Cordelia bit at her lip, but it was Angel that came closer to her. He knelt beside the chair she sat in and gazed up at her face as he confirmed, “You’re mostly human until you complete the change.”
“But I’m not human,” She frowned at her own words, the truth in them before she continued, “I’m the Slayer!”
“No, you’re not.” She flinched and Angel took one of her hands, wrapped it between his own as she glared up at Wesley, but he continued, “The Slayer essence left you when you died by Dracula’s hand. You’re as human as Cordelia or I and that will remain so until you complete the transition.”
“Complete?” Buffy’s hand clenched, formed a fist between Angel’s palms as she snarled, “You want me to become a vampire?”
“I don’t wish you dead, Buffy.” Wesley gazed down at her, voice suddenly tired, “But if you do not complete the transition that is exactly what you shall be.” He turned his attention to Angel, drew him into the discussion with a pleading statement, which sounded more like a request for him to overshare. “You mentioned you’d met one as well.”
Angel read the same into that statement as Buffy and his hands tightened around her fist as he replied, “Once. It was the turn of the century,” he frowned, corrected, “Of course that century was eighteen hundred.”
“Ah!” Wesley nodded, “When you were Angelus.”
“You have his history on rolodex in your brain, don’t you?”
Buffy watched the back and forth between the pair, but before it could get interesting, perhaps even distracting, Angel spoke over them. “His name was Elijah and he nearly killed Darla.”
“He didn’t nearly kill you?”
Buffy inquired and watched Angel’s gaze lower to the floor before he sighed, “I wasn’t my most chivalrous back then.”
Her brows rose and Buffy felt a small smile tugging at her mouth. “You left her to die?”
“I did,” Angel confirmed, but hastily added, “Elijah was protecting the village we were destroying. He saved countless lives that night.”
“He was a good vampire. Got it.” Buffy looked first to Angel and then Wesley before she stated, “Dracula, however, was not.”
Her jaw clenched, the sharp pain there intensifying with the movement, and Buffy eased her hand free of Angel’s grip and, unlike Wesley, he let her go. She ignored the nagging voice reminding her that Angel usually let her go easily and instead she stood. They all looked at her, not to her, and Buffy wasn’t yet ready to be their weekly damsel in distress.
Shoulders rolling back, she turned to Cordelia and asked, “Is there a bathroom?” she paused and added, more as an afterthought to herself than them, “I think I have to go to the bathroom.”
Cordelia nodded , hazel eyes searching her face a moment before she stepped to the side and motioned behind her. “Through the bedroom.”
Buffy kept her head high, choosing to ignore Wesley’s worried stare and Angel’s stoic expression as she moved past them. She hesitated when she reached Cordelia and turned towards her, head inclining as she met her gaze and offered a quiet, “Thank you.”
Surprisingly, Buffy was pretty certain for both of them, Cordelia’s hand rose to wrap around the shoulder closest to her and she gave it a gentle squeeze. “You’re welcome,” was offered with more sincerity than Buffy had ever heard from the brunette—people really did change—but then Cordelia, being Cordelia, ruined the moment by adding, “And help yourself to my comb,” her gaze rose to shoot a critical eye at Buffy’s head.
People did change, but apparently not that much, though in that moment her tactless honesty was more than appreciated as a genuine smile spilled across Buffy’s face. She turned away from Cordelia to make her way through the dining area to the door the trio had exited earlier. The bedroom was dimly lit by the sunlight peeking around the edge of the pulled drapes and Buffy moved past the bed and towards the closet. She paused, curiosity forcing her to take in the wide array of clothing and her gaze dipped to the closet floor to study the rows of shoes neatly lined there.
While admiring a pair of pretty spectacular suede pumps she heard the trio’s start up a whispered exchange. Her brows tugged together when Wesley questioned if they should have told her that holy objects would have no effect on her because she lacked a demon and that this Lexi was already on her way to Los Angeles. She didn’t need a holy water test thanksverymuch
and Buffy certainly didn’t need a lecture from a Watcher, or some vampire, on the merits of eternal life—that, like her calling, was not something she’d asked for or wanted.
The fact that they were discussing her, as if she had no say in the matter, her future, pushed Buffy to bend and snag a pair of sneakers from the closet before finishing the space between her and the closed bathroom door in a few quick strides. She opened it and the room was flooded with light, which explained why it was closed in the first place. Green eyes narrowed against the sudden and bright onslaught as she stepped into the bathroom before closing the door and locked it before turning around.
She blinked, her eyes taking a moment to adjust before she could take in the bathroom, much like she had the rest of the apartment, and felt envy being to rear its head as she gazed at the vanity beside the walk-in shower. Recalling the community showers at the dorm made her sigh before pulling herself together and she made her way to the toilet and put the lid down. Buffy sat and tugged Cordelia’s sneakers onto her sockless feet before rising. She hesitated a moment before flushing the toilet in case Angel was eavesdropping, which was just all kinds of weird, but a chance she couldn’t take.
Making her way to the sink, and frowning at the fact that Cordelia had been right and she was in desperate need of a comb, she turned the water on before turning towards the window in the wall beside her. Reaching out she unlatched it, but before she could push at the beveled glass the window relocked of its own accord. Remembering the front door closing in a similar fashion Buffy glanced around the bathroom, frowning at the empty space before she turned back to the window and unlatched it again.
It relocked and Buffy felt her frustration, and just a slight case of hysteria, rising since she was no longer strong enough to get past Angel, or even Wesley for that matter, and she needed to escape. She needed to get away from them for at least a little while so she could work through this on her own. Desperate times, and all that, as she turned back to the bathroom to address the entire space before saying, “Hello?”
The facet turned off and Buffy lunged to the sink and turned it back on and whispered, “Please,” before she went back to the window and unlatched it.
It snapped back in place and Buffy’s head lowered, chin dropping to her chest since she was pretty certain the entity, or ghost, or whatever was sentient and wanting her to stay put. Instead of giving up she lifted her head, stared out at the sunlit world just out her reach and pleaded, “Please let me go,” she pitched her voice low, hopefully below the sound of the faucet, as she stared at the latch and voiced everything that was tumbling around in her head, “I’m sure you overhead everything and I just need time to figure it all out. I can’t do that here. I want,” she hesitated before clarifying, “I need to go to Carbillo Beach. You can even tell them that!” Her brows pulled together as she assured herself more than the entity, “I’m sure you can tell them that.”
“Please!” The latch remained stubbornly closed and Buffy tried one more time, “Please don’t trap me here.”
Silence for a heartbeat, two and then something clinked behind her and Buffy turned, saw Cordelia’s jewelry box had been opened and she moved back towards the vanity. Loose change was nestled in one of the top compartments and she glanced around the room before snagging just enough for bus fare and promised, “I’ll pay her back,” before turning back to the window.
It unlatched and slowly rose upward just in time as Buffy overheard Angel question how long she’d been in the bathroom. The sink was left running, in the hopes to muffle the sounds of her movements, as she attempted to lift herself out the window. An easy enough thing to do once upon a time, but her arms now shook with exertion as she pulled herself up and the fine tremble forced her to use the vanity that housed the sink as a stepping off point. Her upper body was free as the door to the bathroom shook and she heard Cordelia call her name and for someone named Dennis to unlock the door.
She was blinded by the sunlight and deafened by the noise, but Buffy allowed herself to tumble forward anyway. Her shoulder impacted the concrete walkway beneath the window and she shouted, “Thank you!” before pushing herself onto shaking legs and running towards the stairs.
Sunset cast long shadows on the beach as the few stragglers still present began to pack up their belongings and Buffy continued to stare out at the water and the light refracted by the waves. It sparkled, just like she remembered from when she was a child and her parents would take her to this beach. They’d spent nearly every Sunday there during her formative years and she’d built more sandcastles than she could count with her mom and they’d buried her dad in the sand at least once a month.
She’d loved those lazy afternoons of drinking fruit punch with her mom as her dad snoozed beside them and they watched the seagulls steal from the tourists and she’d never do anything like that again. The blessed numbness that had appeared after her escape from Cordelia’s began to slip away as she continued to watch the excited children and their exhausted parents pack up. They looked content, if a little frazzled, and she knew, with more certainty than a person should have about their fate, that she’d never have another moment like this. She’d either be dead in a few hours or have a severe allergy to the sun and neither of those lent themselves to afternoons at the beach.
Her hands tightened around the can of soda a softhearted mother had offered her a few hours before. She’d attempted to drink it, but the taste had left her gagging and the mother moving her children further down the beach. Buffy had remained in the shadow of the unmanned life guard station, but she’d held onto the soda, pretending to sip it from time to time to keep other kindly mothers at bay.
She didn’t bother to turn around to greet Wesley as he came up beside her. Instead she watched the sun finally slip behind the waves and cast a lavender tint across the sky. It nearly matched the polish on her toenails and she dug them deeper into the sand, disliking the coincidence and welcomed the cool, grittiness of it abrading her skin before she finally glanced back and up.
He’d rolled up his slacks in an attempted to keep them free of sand and held his loafers in one hand, but his gaze wasn’t directed at Buffy. He was staring into the surf just as she had and she patted the sand beside her. He accepted the offer and dropped down into the darkening shade, his loafers placed in a neat line beside him as he brushed at the sand that had already gathered in his lap. “Thank you for telling Dennis where to find you, but you could have been a bit more precise on the location.”
“No,” Buffy argued, “I couldn’t.”
They fell into silence as the sky darkened and the lights lining the walkway flickered to life behind them. Buffy absently rolled the soda can between her palms and ignored the fatigue that had settled into her bones in the last few hours. She was tired, tired physically and emotionally, and while the numbness and nostalgia had been nice while it lasted she was coming to realize she’d done nothing more than put off thinking about the inevitable.
The last few families gave them curious looks as they left, but Buffy paid them little notice as she asked, “What if I go bad?”
“I sincerely doubt—” Buffy turned to him and whatever he saw in her gaze stopped his blanket reassurance and he straightened. “Then I-I shall stake you,” her mouth thinned, but Wesley strived on, “In the however rare chance you go bad, Buffy, I assure you,” He met her gaze, held it, “I will kill you.”
“Thank you,” she paused, added, “I think.”
“I believe you are the strongest person I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing,” she scoffed, but he spoke over her, “I don’t mean physically, Buffy.” He smiled, it was slightly tightlipped and Buffy realized he wasn’t entirely comfortable with the conversation so she eased back and reigned in her urge to interrupt.
“This will not be your undoing.” He turned back to the water and Buffy studied his profile, surprised to see a slight shadowing of facial hair since he’d always been so prim and proper while he was her Watcher.
Thoughts of Watchers narrowed her gaze as she recalled the disastrous collect call she’d made much earlier in the day to her own Watcher and his chilled assurance to her that his charge was dead and the warning that if whatever she was showed her face in Sunnydale he would remove it. The can popped as it dented from the clenching of her hand and Buffy blinked, refocused on Wesley and watched as his mouth tightened, turning down at the corners before he started speaking again.
“You were strong enough to break from the Council because you believed it was the right thing,” blue eyes were cast back to her, found her studying him as he agreed, “And it was. I didn’t see it at the time, but I know that now. It took strength a-and,” he stumbled slightly over his words, as if unnerved by her steady stare, and his glaze slid back to the Pacific. “And grit to do what you did.”
Buffy looked away from Wesley, following his line of sight to the water as well. She watched the tide pull further from shore and Wesley remained quiet a few moments, as if allowing his words to sink in, before he finished with, “I believe that you’ll do what’s best for yourself. Because prior to this you’ve always managed to do what’s best for the world, but now it’s not about the world. It’s about you and what you want.”
Tears blurred her vision as she swallowed and Buffy could see him turn back to her in her peripheral vision, but she kept herself facing forward as he asked, “What do you want, Buffy?”
A shuddered breath escaped her, lower lip trembling as she attempted to figure that out, but her thoughts and emotions were too muddled. She knew she didn’t want this, but she also knew she had no choice other than the one Wesley was presenting her with and Buffy really only knew one thing for certain. It was the same as it had been since she was sixteen and prophesied to face the Master.
She turned to Wesley then, trepidation making her movements slow, but she only saw understanding in his gaze and it helped her to voice that only certainty, “I don’t want to die.”
“Neither,” Wesley assured her with a tired smile, “would I.”
High backed chairs weren’t the most comfortable things, but Buffy had reclaimed the one that sat beside the fire place in Cordelia’s living room. The blanket she’d woken up under was now wrapped around her since she couldn’t seem to stop shivering and exhaustion was creeping into every fiber of her being as the moon rose higher. Her head lulled back, resting against the smooth wall behind her and she resumed her study of the rafters holding up the ceiling. She’d learned focusing with one sense could make the others, such as her hearing, lose their hyperawareness and since Wesley and Angel had sequestered themselves into the kitchen to discuss her
and she assumed they wanted some privacy.
Worn, the rafters looked worn, as if they’d actually been weathered by the elements. Which Buffy sincerely doubted, but that didn’t make them any less interesting. Though, she supposed, interesting was a strong word to use for her study of them, but since she was alone in the living room and the bright light of the television hadn’t worked out to well for her she was left with little else to do.
She had just found a knot to study when the front door unlocked, with the help of Cordelia’s roommate who just happened to be a ghost, and drew her focus away from the rafters. The door was nudged open and Cordelia entered, brown hair piled high on her head, exposing the smooth column of her throat and Buffy pulled her gaze away before she was distracted by the steady pulse beating there. She glanced down, taking in the burgundy top, that look fantastic against the other girl’s tan, and the brown slacks she wore before noticing the cooler and paper bag she carried.
The front door was closed with a nudged of her booted foot and Buffy watched it lock of its own accord before Cordelia offered the room at large, “Thanks Dennis.” She looked to Buffy and inclined her head, chin pointing her towards the room behind her before stating, “We eat at the kitchen table.”
The potent scent of spices, curry and basil being the strongest, filled the apartment as Buffy rose, blanket still wrapped around her and went to the opening closest to the fireplace and stepped up to get into the dining area. Cordelia placed the packages on the kitchen table and the boys finally stopped their whispered discussion to join them. Wesley made a beeline to Cordelia and his hovering raised her head and a brow which had him stepping back slightly, giving her the space she wanted so that she could open the paper bag.
“Red snapper for me,” she pulled out the top plastic container and placed it in front of her before reaching back in and retrieving the next, “Chicken meatballs for Wesley.” He reached out for them and she hesitated in handing them over as she explained, “Green curry,” which he only nodded at and snatched the container away and she rolled her eyes before ordering, “Not in my bathroom.”
Wesley looked up at her, aghast at her comment, but she was already moving onto the cooler. “And I’ve got pig’s blood for Angel,” she pulled out a pint sized white foam container and placed it on the table before reaching back into the cooler and finished, voice surprisingly neutral, “And Type-O for Buffy.”
She placed the blood bag beside the pint container and Buffy stared at the thin bit of plastic standing between her and abating the hunger deep inside of her. A trembling breath escaped and her jaw thrust forward, eyes closing as she quelled the urge to lunge across the kitchen table and snatch up the bag as Wesley had done with his food. Instead she steadied her breath, opened her eyes and made her way closer to the table.
Angel retrieved the bag and his pig’s blood before turning to her. “Do you need privacy?”
Green eyes flicked to the others, saw Wesley was watching the interaction and clutching his food in the same manner she wanted to clutch the bag, but Cordelia was already opening hers and sitting down, as if bored with all of them. A smile tugged at the corners of her mouth at the normalcy Cordelia seemed to bring to any situation before she turned to Angel and held out her hand and attempted to do the same.
“I’m good here.” He studied her in return before he dropped the bag into her awaiting hand. “Thanks.”
“I’m not entirely sure I want to say you’re welcome,” Angel admitted.
“Then don’t,” Buffy offered and took a seat at the table. She rolled her shoulders, forcing the blanket to slide down her back to drape across the chair before turning her gaze to the bag. “How does this work?”
“Don’t you just bite into it?” Cordelia offered.
“I don’t have fangs,” she glanced to Angel and Wesley, “Will I have fangs?”
“Yes,” Wesley offered as he took his own seat and further explained, “Once the transition is complete.”
Angel nodded his agreement with that assessment and came up beside Buffy, he reached out and lifted the tube that was attached to the bag and tore off what looked to be a stopper on the end. He then presented her with the tube. “Use it as a straw.”
She nodded, accepting the bit of plastic and Angel took the seat beside her at the table as Wesley opened his own food and the scent of curry was suddenly overpowering. Both she and Angel wrinkled their noses and glanced at him and the green paste like substance covering his food. A water bottle was suddenly placed in front of him and Buffy watched Cordelia retrieve another from the cooler and place it beside her own container.
She pointed a fork at Wesley and stated, “You need milk. You get it yourself.”
“Understood.” His hand rubbed together before he lifted his fork and he looked up, offered Buffy an easy smile and offered, “Slainte
!” before taking his first bite.
Angel shook his head as he opened his container and Buffy looked around at the dinner taking place in front of her and was slightly amazed at the habitualness of it all. While she was still being sent furtive glances from Angel, and not as subtle ones from Wesley. They, for the most part, were leaving her to her own devices and making her feel almost at home.
Something she wasn’t entirely sure the Scoobies could have pulled off if presented with the same situation since she knew for certain Giles couldn’t. Not allowing herself to be distracted from what she’d told Wesley she wanted Buffy focused on the heady scent of blood that was nearly masked by the curry Wesley was ingesting. Since the ever present hunger had never abated she lifted the tube, pressed it against her lips only to hesitate. Lashes falling to rest against her cheeks as she closed her eyes, refusing to look at the others as she fed and with a silent goodbye to her humanity Buffy put the tube in her mouth and sucked gently at it.
Blood coated her tongue, metallic and sweet and the hunger sharpened into something ravenous, overpowering any misgivings she had left. Her hand clenched, squeezing the bag and forcing more blood up through the tube into her mouth until was filled with blood that she quickly swallowed. The fatigue that had settled in her bones melted away with each pull from the straw. A straw that was hindering more than helping and she pulled it from her mouth and found the strength to tear it free of the plastic before tossing it to the table.
With the much larger opening she sucked the rest bag down in a matter of moments and left herself panting and shuddering as she licked at her lips and her eyes opened. She flinched at the startled faces of Cordelia and Wesley, but Angel sat calmly, still sipping his pig’s blood, but before she could offer an apology, or die of shame, the sharp pain in her jaw turned agonizing. A startled cry escaped her and she stood, the chair she’d been sitting in clattering to the floor from the force of the movement.
A hand rose to cup around that resonating pain as she opened her mouth to alleviate some of the pressure, but it did little good and her head fell back, exposing her face to the room and Cordelia casually observed, “There’s the fangs.”
Angel came to her side, grasped her hand and drew it away from her mouth. She looked to him, but before she could speak or even respond to his gesture of support the air around her thickened. A cough escaped her as she was thrust back by something large and unseen. It shoved her into the wall behind her with enough force to dent the plaster.
“Dennis!” Cordelia shouted, “No!”
Angel was cut off by another gasping breath from Buffy as she struggled to breathe and something deep within her tugged her forward. She was suddenly past Angel and the others, slamming into the wall beside the entryway leading in the living room. Buffy stumbled down that step and the front door opened wide, Dennis making his presence known, and she struck the doorframe with enough force to shake the wall before tumbling outside.
The suffocating weight was left behind in the apartment as she fell to her knees, sucking in breath after breath. Angel was simply beside her, a hand on her back rubbing soothing circles while she shivered out the last of the mystical assault from her body. “What,” Buffy gasped when she had enough air, “was that?”
“You weren’t invited in.”
Her head turned to the side, gaze narrowed and she panted a few more times before shrugging off Angel’s hand and rising of her own accord. “That was super fun.”
“Buffy,” Wesley was in the entryway to the apartment, “I’m terribly sorry. I didn’t think of—”
“None of us did,” Angel interrupted, reminding him of that obvious fact. His gaze turned to Cordelia as she came up beside Wesley still eating from her food container. “Cordy, could you—”
“Don’t invite me in.” Buffy spoke over him, looking to Cordelia and explained, “It’d be safer if you didn’t.”
“The-the fact that you don’t wish to be invited in,” Wesley argued, “proves you’re no danger to us.”
“No, it doesn’t.”
They spoke in unison and in similar tones of exasperation causing Buffy to look at Angel. They shared a smile and Buffy felt something stir in her at the fact that they could still share a silent conversation. Her head inclined towards Wesley slightly and Angel’s shoulders shook in silent laughter, his smile spreading wider to gather at the outer corners of his eyes.
“Well at least you’re not completely unfortunate looking all vamp’ed out. Unlike Angel.” Buffy’s head snapped upwards at the random topic change and backhanded compliment to look at Cordelia and the brunette raised a brow when Angel made an affronted noise. “What? You have to know demon is not a good look on anyone.”
She turned back to Buffy and frowned, “And get your ass back in here.” Her head inclined, eyes narrowing in challenge, “You’re, welcome.”
Spinning on her boot heel and not giving them a second glance she made her way back towards the dining area and Buffy blinked at the space she’d just been occupying.
Wesley cleared his throat before stating. “Shall we?” He too turned and followed the brunette.
“So,” Angel inquired, “Back inside?”
“Uh,” Buffy frowned, “Yes?”
Angel stepped over the threshold and Buffy followed him slowly, only marginally relaxing when the air remained neutral and not at all choke-inducing. He turned to shut the door and explained, “Cordy’s a little—”
Buffy supplied for him, “Demanding, terrifying—”
Her waspish interruption from the dining table forced a laugh from both of them and Buffy chose, for the moment, to welcome the normalcy they offered as she followed Angel back towards the table. He righted the seat and picked up her discarded blanket from the floor before stepping back and allowing her to reclaim her seat. Buffy slid into it and ignored the dent in the wall behind her for the moment to inquire. “So what can you tell me about this Lexi?”
Wesley looked up, cheeks slight pooched from his food consumption and he hastily chewed and swallowed before replying, “Quite a bit actually.”
“Fill us in.”
Cordelia nodded with Angel’s urging and rolled her fork in the air to encompass the room. “We’ve got all night.”
“Well,” Wesley wiped his mouth with a napkin before starting, “She reminds me a bit of Buffy actually…”