Disclaimer: I do not own BtVS or LotR.The Gulls
The night Buffy Summers is Called, her dreams are filled with blood and death and the biting desert wind howling in her ears. She gasps awake, her heart throbbing a staccato drumbeat in her chest: the fading echo of a thousand girls who came before.
In San Diego, India dies.
In Sunnydale, Buffy dies
In Los Angeles, Buffy rolls over and finds her sister awake and watching her, blue eyes dark in the half-light.
“Hey,” she croaks, licking dry lips. She looks at the clock on the nightstand. It’s still very early. Blinking hazily, she turns back to her sister. “Did I wake you up?”
Dawn shakes her head. “Couldn’t really sleep.”
“Mmm,” Buffy hums, and closes her eyes again, listening to the gentle whir of the motel room’s air conditioner. Across the room, Willow gives a snuffling snore before falling quiet once more.
“What were you dreaming about?”
Buffy cracks her eyes open blearily. “Hmm?”
“You were talking in your sleep,” Dawn tells her, propping herself up on one elbow. “I couldn’t understand what you were saying. It didn’t sound like English.”
“What did it sound like?” Buffy asks sleepily, tracing looping patterns on the quilted comforter.
Dawn peers at her through dark lashes. “Musical,” she says after a moment. “Beautiful. Like wind over a plain of dry grass.”
Buffy smiles, and reaches out to touch Dawn’s cheek. “Maybe you were the one who was dreaming,” she teases. She stays like that for a moment, matching her breathing with her sister’s, watching the rise and fall of her chest, listening to the ticking of the clock.
Willow snores again loudly, and Kennedy grumbles something unintelligible through a cocoon of blankets. Buffy sits up slowly, and stretches. It’s still early, but pale glimmers of California sunlight are beginning to spill around the curtains. It’s been three days since the world didn’t end, and it’s the first time Buffy’s slept through the night.
“What now?” Dawn asks again, sitting up beside her. She wraps her arms around her knees and peers sideways at her sister. The question stretches between them until it fills the quiet motel room.
There’s a whole lifetime packed into those two words that Buffy doesn’t have a clue how to deal with; where to even begin.
“I don’t know,” she says honestly. “Let’s start with breakfast.”
Something hangs in the air at the edge of her consciousness after that, heavy and ever-present. It follows her east across the continent, and then across the Atlantic to Scotland, Rome, Athens. She’s in Istanbul when the storm finally breaks; and all of the waiting, searching, wandering, wondering
coalesces into a gut-clenching yearning for something she cannot name.
She stands on the edge of the Bosphorus Strait, and looks not across, but out, to the Sea of Marmara, and beyond that to the Aegean and the Mediterranean.Say Istanbul and a seagull comes to mind
Half-silver and half-foam, half-fish and half-bird.*
In her dreams, the desert winds become the ocean squall.
After that, she can never again shake the feeling. She carries on, following the Council’s call, across whole continents, and countries she wouldn’t have been able to place on a map, and never once dreamed of visiting in her life, before
. Before, when she was destined to die a dusty, bloody, desert death.
Now, she chases sunlight and finds excuses to follow the coast. But the sun always sets in the west, and it won’t be long,
she thinks, and then wonders, won’t be long before what?
She can barely sleep for dreaming of the gulls.
Once upon a time it was prophesied – by curse, by shadow, by desert trial – that India Cohen will die like a thousand girls before her; and so it comes to pass.
India falls, and Buffy Summers rises unwillingly to take her place. Just another girl, the one girl, the everything-girl, who won’t take no for an answer and won’t stay dead, and wishes she were dead, and chases the sun – light, life – with a desperation so deep her bones ache with it.
The line is bent, and broken, and reshaped.
She’s in Cleveland when the pull of the ocean finally overwhelms her. The Atlantic is closer, but every fiber of her being is screaming at her to go west, west, west!
so when she slides behind the wheel of her borrowed car, she points it towards L.A. and the Pacific.
It takes two days and over two thousand miles, but she’s standing on a pier in the late afternoon sun almost before she knows it, and only then, staring into the dying sun, white and gray birds wheeling overhead, does she stop to wonder what she is doing.
She backs off the dusty planks, eyes never leaving the sky. She kicks off her heavy boots and unbuckles her belt, shimmies out of her jeans, and drops them, too.
There’s something sharp on the air.
She peels off her shirt and everything else, until she’s standing absolutely naked on a lonely California beach. She used to come here as a child, and held tight to her parents’ hands as they lifted her up between them to jump the waves.
The sun is full and low in the sky, like some overripe fruit ready to fall, and the waters sparkle chaotically with its reflection. She imagines an electric current running beneath the surface. She remembers what it felt like once to stand on the edge of the world and watch the sky tear itself apart in a bright blaze of energy.
This...this is nothing like that.
The ocean glistens and crackles and sighs, but the air is mild, and the sea-breeze warm against her bare skin. There is no sister-daughter-self bleeding and terrified behind her. She is not the one girl in all the world.
A lone gull wheels and dives overhead.
The sun sinks a little lower.
She breathes in the salty air and steps forward.
The waves break golden.
* Bedri Rahmi Eyuboglu
Turkish painter and poet (1913-75)