A/N: If I don't get distracted by shiny things, this one should be a first in a row of updates.
In which Buffy does some midnight grocery shopping.
Buffy was standing in the dairy section by the time the past two hours finally caught up with her.
Clay. Pooch. Jensen and Cougar, whom she’d never met before. Aisha.
And Roque, like a paper cutout, a black hole between them. Roque had sold them out. Roque had betrayed them.
She still had a hard time believing it. Not that she doubted what Clay had told her but… it was Roque. Roque who loved knives and fought dirty and held her hair when she puked and laughed at every stupid thing she did and hid critters in her bedroll and slung an arm around her shoulders when they were on leave and she was getting too much attention from drunk assholes.
That Roque was her friend.
That Roque would have never sold out his unit, his family.
But she’d left, hadn’t she? Two years, almost three now. Things changed. She hadn’t thought that people changed, too. Not this fast. Not this fundamentally.
But then, she thought as she stocked up on milk, she remembered being beyond exhaustion after a three day march through the desert and too wired to sleep. She’d climbed on the roof of their hide-away and found Roque already there, sharpening his knives manically, as unable to sleep as she’d been.
They’d spent the whole night up there, talking. About living and fighting. And about dying. About the crazy stupid stunt he’d pulled that had saved their lives. She’d bitched him out for being reckless and he’d told her that he knew the risks.
“Rather go out in a blaze of glory than get old and bitter.”
She’d laughed at him, told him he was
Blaze of glory.
She knew Roque. And she knew he’d known that he wouldn’t get away with selling them out. Physically, Roque could have kicked the asses of the collective unit. But there was more to fighting than the right kind of punch and Bolivia must have been hard.
God, she wished they’d called her. If she’d known they were alive, that they were stuck, she would have moved heaven and earth for them. Didn’t they know that?
Bolivia must have been shit and Roque had what? Decided it was time to clock out? Get done with all this shit?
She dumped two containers of milk in the cart, moved on. Toast. Stuff for sandwiches. Enough candy to keep a kindergarten afloat for a month. She dumped coffee and tea and sugar in the cart, meandering through the aisles without a plan. She kept criss-crossing her own path, just moving.
Why’d he done it?
She thought she understood some of it, understood Roque at a basic level. She knew who he was – had been. A lot of the time, back then, it had felt like she was the only one who knew him at all. Maybe if she’d been there…
Had she gotten coffee already? They’d need a shitload of eggs. And she should probably start calling her contacts, putting out a few questions.
She didn’t know. Didn’t know if she could have stopped him, if she would have even noticed. If it was her fault or why he’d done it at all.
Blaze of glory.
What a bullshit excuse.
Buffy jerked around, hand going for the knife in her waistband. Jumpy. Fucking jumpy. The guy who’d spoken almost jumped out of his skin. He was just a kid, goth to the toes. His eyes were painted black, his nails, too. He wore a ripped band shirt and enough piercings in his face to freak out a metal detector. But he was blinking at her sweetly, worried.
“Are you okay?”
It was two in the morning and he was probably here to buy booze with a fake ID or something and he was still worried about the confused chick who kept wandering around with an overflowing cart. It made up for calling her ma’am.
She smiled, nodded. “Sure am.”
He winced a bit, pointed vaguely at her face. “You sure? You’re kinda… erm… crying.”
Automatically, Buffy palmed at her cheeks and found them wet. Huh. She’d gone a bit teary-eyed in the living room earlier, but that Aisha woman had pulled her right out of it. She’d thought that was it. Apparently not.
Roque, you fucking asshole, she thought, glaring at the ceiling. You never made me cry when you were alive. She sniffled a bit and then tried another smile at the kid. “I’m really fine. Just got some bad news. A friend died.”
“Oh,” the boy was scarlet in the face. “I’m… I’m sorry then. I’ll leave you alone. You just… you kinda looked like you might need some… you know, help.”
“I’m fine,” she repeated and to prove it, she grabbed hold of her cart and pushed it in his direction. He stepped out of the way, about to run off, his courage deserting him in the face of the crazy, crying lady. She just managed to grab the edge of his sleeve.
“Hey, kid,” she said, “Thanks for asking.” Then she stood on tiptoe and kissed him on the cheek, just so he’d have something to tell his friends in the morning.
She didn’t think of Roque again until she was loading her booty into the trunk and found that she’d grabbed a whole bunch of twizzlers. They’d been his favorite.
Why? She wondered again as she got in the car, started it. Why had he done it?
Sometimes soldiers got tired. Sometimes they went bad. Sometimes a guy who said he wanted to go out in a blaze of glory actually meant it.
Fact was, she’d never know.
Whatever, she thought, forcing herself back on track. Roque was lost. He’d made himself
lost. But Clay and the boys were still there, still alive and kicking and she’d cried enough in the past couple of hours to last a year. So she’d better get a move on and figure out a plan of action.
Because nobody, absolutely nobody, touched her boys and got away with it. Ever.
She thought that would have made Roque proud.