|Story Title:||Can't Buy Me Love|
Wishes and Stars
Bess followed her heart and has arrived at the Hellmouth in Cleveland – what will she encounter here?
September 2010 - November 2010
MacKenzie Verity Weckerly born October 9th, 2010
Edmond “Eddie” Giles Rosenberg-Maclay born March 11, 2010
Joshua "JJ" Harris was born on April 21st, 2004
The twins (Danielle Dawn, "Dani" and William Rupert, "Billy") were born on February 12th, 2004.
Annie was born on February 14th, 1999
Spike and Buffy were married in February 1999
Buffy was born January 19th, 1981
William/Spike was turned by Dru in
All the Potentials were endowed with full Slayer power in February 2003.
Buffy and Spike learned of the other dimensions and got the memories from the 'Rome' Universe in May, 2003.
The ‘Wish-World’ lasted from January 19th, 2005 to January, 16th 2010.
Wishes and Stars, Harper Simon (Paul Simon's son) http://youtu.be/oW1sIo9wjI4
ScreenCaps courtesy of ScreenCap Paradise: http://www.screencap-paradise.com/?cat=3
Thanks to 'epd4' for betaing this chapter - any mistakes are mine because I can't stop fiddling ...
|Rating / Warnings:||
NC17. Content is only suitable for mature adults. Contains explicit language, sex, adult themes, and other adult situations that some people may find objectionable. If you are under the age of 17 or find any of these themes objectionable – GO AWAY.
(ten days later), Early morning hours Tuesday, September 28th, 2010, Cleveland, Ohio:
Bess pulled the Harley up in front of a massive, old, stone building on the college campus in Cleveland, Ohio and cut the engine. Her body thrummed with energy … and it wasn’t from the rumble of the Harley, it was from a powerful dark force and it seemed to be emanating from the historic building in front of her. She knew that feeling, she’d felt it before – in Sunnydale. It was a Hellmouth, she had no doubt. She’d spent a long time meandering up from Indiana without any real route mapped out, just heading generally northeast, stopping when she felt like it, riding when she felt like it, sitting under trees or in small town diners when she felt like it. Now that she was here, she wasn’t really sure what she should do next.
Suddenly, the hairs on the back of Bess’ neck prickled and stood on end and a warning tingled down her spine. In one motion, she jumped off the motorcycle, dropping it on its side with a bang and a crunch, and retrieved the stake from the waistband of her jeans as she twirled and faced the threat, ready to strike.
Behind her was a petite, freckle-faced strawberry-blonde, not much larger or older than Bess … also holding a stake, also poised to strike.
“Jiminy-Christmas!” the girl exclaimed with a thick southern drawl, standing up out of her crouch and lowering her stake. “I’da sworn you were of the undead persuasion! Ya’ cain’t hardly swing a dead cat around here without hittin’ one!”
Bess furrowed her brow slightly and lowered her stake, as well. Why would you swing a dead cat?
“You must be new here,” the southerner continued. “I’m Sue-Ann,” she offered, switching her stake to her left hand and extending her right.
“Bess …” the Slayer-vamp replied, taking her hand and shaking it.
“My Lord! You’re colder ‘an a witches’ titty in a brass bra!” Sue-Ann exclaimed. “I was just headin’ back to the dorm, you can warm up there … I’ll show ya,” the girl offered.
“Oh … uhhh – dorm?” Bess questioned.
“Yeah, well, that’s what we call it – it’s actually just a big ole house that we all share to save on expenses…” Sue-Ann explained as she moved over to help Bess pick the bike up off the pavement.
“Oh … are there a lot of Slayers here?” Bess questioned as they set the bike back on its wheels.
“You cain’t swing a dead cat without hittin’ one…” Sue-Ann quipped.
“Do you swing dead cats often?” Bess wondered, looking at the Slayer a little strangely as she lowered the kickstand and set the bike up on it.
Sue-Ann laughed easily. “I reckon not … just, you know, if you want to hit a vamp or a Slayer.
“Nice bike…” the girl commented, looking it over. “Oh … the clutch handle’s tore up…” Sue-Ann noticed when they got the bike righted.
Bess sighed and picked up the broken handle off the ground.
“That’s my bad for sneakin' up on you … I’ll get ya a new one and fix it for you tomorrow,” Sue-Ann offered.
”Oh … that’s not necessary,” Bess assured her. “I have money…”
“No! I gotta insist – it was all my fault! Been a coon’s age since I worked on one of these … it’d tickle me pink t’ work on one again!”
“Well … if you insist,” Bess agreed hesitantly … not sure how long a ‘coon’s age’ was or just how long you had to be tickled in order to turn pink. “You … you’ve worked on motorbikes before?”
“Oh, sure! I used to help my bro…” Sue-Ann started, then shrugged. “It was in my other life.”
“Your other life?” Bess questioned as Sue-Ann took the Harley down off the kickstand and started pushing it towards the ‘dorm’.
“Yeah, you know … when I was just normal and didn’t swing dead cats…” she explained with an easy smile.
Bess furrowed her brow and looked more closely at the girl. “Don’t you … see your family anymore?”
“Naaa … when my Watcher came and … well, you know … I just high-tailed it out of there … That hick town I grew up in,” Sue-Ann explained shaking her head. “They woulda whuped me like a rented mule an’ burned me at the stake if they found out I was … supernatural ... as in, devil spawn.”
“But surely your family would’ve understood. You didn’t even tell him where you were going … you never even called,” Bess argued. The family resemblance was unmistakable now that Bess really looked – this was Suzy-Q … Sammy’s sister, Bess had no doubt.
Sue-Ann stopped and looked at her. “I never told him?” she questioned, looking at Bess suspiciously. “How did…”
“Them …” Bess corrected, interrupting her. “You never told them… your family.”
Sue-Ann narrowed her eyes slightly, then turned and started pushing the bike again. “My family’s done gone … this here’s my family now. Anyhow, I reckon I won’t live to see twenty … he … uhhh … they might as well get used to me being gone.”
“But don’t you miss … them?” Bess wondered.
Sue-Ann shrugged. “Like naked ‘taters miss gravy…” she admitted. “But that’s not what butters the biscuits now, is it? Gotta play the hand you're dealt.”
Bess frowned but didn’t say anything more … she assumed that meant the girl did miss her brother, but wasn’t 100% sure. Sue-Ann had a family … perhaps small as far as families go, but a brother that cared and was worried about her. And Slayers were living longer and longer these days, thanks to them not standing alone but rather working in teams. Even if an early demise was in the offing … it didn’t seem right to Bess for the girl to cut her brother off with barely a word and no explanation at all. If Bess could have even one more day with her family … with Wanda and John, William and Anne … she’d give anything … she’d give her soul for that.
When Sue-Ann turned the bike into the driveway of a house just off the college campus, Bess hesitated.
“I … uhhh … I wasn’t gonna … ‘check-in’ for a …while,” Bess stammered, not wanting to go into the ‘dorm’ with the girl. First of all, she didn’t think she could handle a house full of Slayers and second of all, she just really wanted to be alone so she could figure some stuff out, and third of all, she wasn’t sure how to explain that she would need to be specifically invited into the house in order to cross the threshold.
“Oh, yeah … I get it,” Sue-Ann agreed. “Well … ummm … I’ll get the bike fixed tomorrow – you want me to meet you tomorrow night back at Albert Hall?”
“That big ole building you were at tonight – the one that’s sittin’ smack dab on top of the Hellmouth…” Sue-Ann explained.
“Oh – yeah – ok, sure that sounds fine,” Bess agreed.
“Ok – about eleven then?”
“Fine, see you then,” Bess agreed as she retrieved her purse from one of the saddlebags and then continued walking down the sidewalk away from the ‘Slayer dorm’.
Bess continued down the deserted street, not really having any plan at all. She wandered aimlessly as she pondered the unbelievable coincidence of running into Sammy’s sister … what were the chances of that? A million to one? … Maybe less, but still it seemed almost pre-ordained, fateful; she wondered what it meant, if anything. She kept walking, turning right, then left … then right again and finally finding herself in a rundown industrial area of the city. She picked an empty warehouse at random and went inside to find a place to sleep for the night. She heard rats scurrying around in the dark when she entered the building and she shuddered. She’d never liked rats and the time on the ship going to London only cemented that feeling for her … they were nasty – always running around in the shadows eating other people’s food … and they smelled bad.
She had just turned around to leave the warehouse when she heard a loud commotion in the back of the building. She stopped and drew her stake then stalked silently through the abandoned warehouse, stepping lightly over and around the remnants of what used to be a shoe factory, to see what it was … perhaps a nest of vamps or other demons had taken up residence here.
Bess had nearly gotten to the back of the large building near the old offices where the sound had come from when she was suddenly attacked. She screamed in surprised fright and jumped back as a rat ran over her foot, followed quickly by a mangy calico kitten that was barely larger than the rat it was chasing. The heel of Bess’ shoe caught on some debris on the floor and she tumbled down backwards onto the dirty floor just as the rat changed directions and headed back towards her. She screamed again and scurried away quickly, but the rat seemed to think she was some kind of a new hiding place and honed in on her.
Bess continued to scream, dropping her stake and flailing her arms as she tried desperately to get the nasty, vile creature off her. In her panic, it felt like a hundred rats had descended on her and her screams echoed off the walls of the abandoned building. The frightened rat ran up her leg and crested her shoulder, around her neck and back down one arm. She’d heard her mother talk about people having ‘holy conniption fits’, but she’d never experienced one herself … until now.
Bess finally jumped up and ran screaming from the warehouse, still swatting at the ghost of the rat that she could still feel crawling over her with its nasty little feet and satanically hot tail. She didn’t stop running until she got out into the street, but she was still running her hands over her head and neck, trying to get the feel of rat off her skin.
When she finally settled down, she realized that she’d dropped her stake and left it in there … Shit, shit, shit, shit! She considered just leaving it … but it was the one Buffy had given her in London – a memento of their first slay together. Bess stood there and frowned.
So what? she tried to tell herself. Just leave it! It’s not like there aren’t a million more just like it. I bet Sue-Ann could get me a new one tomorrow night. Bess blew out a long breath and her shoulders slumped. She picked up a metal pipe that was about three feet long and headed back into the rat-infested warehouse to get her stake.
She had no problem finding it when she got back in there … the little kitten that had driven the rat at her was lying on top of it … as if guarding it for her.
“Meeeoow,” purred the multi-colored kitten, standing up and wrapping her body and tail first around one of Bess’ ankles then the other in a furry figure-eight.
“Meow yourself!” Bess replied to the kitten angrily, picking up her stake and sliding it back into her waistband.
“You scared me half to death! You could’ve gotten us both killed!” she chastised the kitten as it started purring loudly, still rubbing round and round her ankles. “Well … I’m actually already dead, but still, that was uncalled for and … gross!”
Bess started to walk back out of the warehouse and the kitten darted ahead of her and cut her off, trying to circle her feet and rub against her legs as Bess walked. “You’re dangerous!” Bess informed the kitten as she stepped over her and continued walking. But the kitten was undeterred … it ran ahead again and waited for Bess, jumping out from behind a post and grabbing the bottom of Bess’ jeans with all four feet, then releasing her and running ahead again. Bess laughed as the kitten continued playing its game, running ahead and hiding then jumping out and ambushing her.
“I hate to tell you this, but if you couldn’t slay that rat, you aren’t gonna be able to slay me,” Bess informed the kitten as she continued walking.
The kitten followed Bess out into the street and when Bess stopped to figure out where to go next, the kitten began purring and circling her legs again, rubbing against her with her head and body.
Bess sighed. “You can’t come with me…” she told the kitten. “Believe me, you could do lots better than me!”
When the kitten just meowed and continued rubbing her ankles and legs, Bess just shook her head and started walking down the street. “Stay here!” she told the kitten sternly, pointing a finger adamantly at the little fur-ball … but the kitten was still undaunted.
Bess began to run, turning corners, jumping over fences, climbing over walls until finally she lost the little kitten. Bess felt bad for doing that … if she was home, maybe Buffy and Spike would’ve let her … Huh?
Bess shook her head. Since when had Sunnydale become ‘home’? She took a deep breath and blew it out loudly, dropping that thought and looking around at where she’d ended up. Of course … where else? A cemetery. ‘Lake View Cemetery’ the sign read, ‘Organized 1869’. Humph … at least it was a proper cemetery, with mausoleums and marble and, apparently, a view … because dead people definitely needed a view. Bess wandered around for a while and picked out a nice crypt with a view of the lake … because, well – why not? She was dead … or undead, anyway – that should qualify her for a view. This should work out fine … she’s close to the university and the Hellmouth, and in the center of the prime hunting grounds for newly risen vamps.
Bess made herself as comfortable as possible inside the crypt and finally got some shut-eye … although she didn’t really rest well because her dreams were filled with rats … giant, scurrying, scruffy, gross, and filthy rats.
Bess woke the next day with a warm, furry sensation against her neck and shoulder. Her first reaction was ‘RAT!’ She involuntarily morphed into the demon as she sat up quickly, crawling like a crab on her butt away from the monster, her yellow eyes wide with fright.
“You did it again! You scared me half to death!” she chastised the little calico kitten, which stood up and stretched lazily before beginning to rub happily against Bess’ side, unfrightened and undaunted by her vampire visage. “You know … a person can only take getting scared half to death so often before they actually die!” she informed the kitten tersely.
Bess shook the demon down and picked the kitten up, holding it up to eye level. “How did you find me?” Bess wondered, but the kitten only yawned.
“What’s your name?” Bess questioned as she tucked the little furry creature under her neck, stroking a hand softly down its back and it began to purr loudly.
“I think … I think I’ll call you 'Angel',” Bess decided. “’Cos you’d have to be an angel to want to stay with me.”
The little kitten followed Bess out of the crypt, past the lake in the cemetery and down the street a couple of blocks to a shopping district. Bess tucked Angel in her purse and went into the butcher shop. After studying the meats in the display case, she decided on ground beef for the kitten and pig’s blood for herself. On the way back to the crypt she stopped in a 7-11 and got a couple of cans of condensed milk for her new friend and a few chocolate bars, and just in case the kitten liked chocolate, she made sure to get a Milky Way for it.
Back at the crypt, Bess opened the canned milk with her fangs and found a small saucer in the crypt that had, at one time, held a candle. Angel lapped happily at the milk and gobbled down some of the hamburger, but only licked a little at the piece of Milky Way bar Bess offered it. With its belly full, looking like it had swallowed a tennis ball, the kitten curled up in Bess’ lap and went to sleep, absently kneading its paws against her leg as it dreamt.
Bess smiled and tears stung her eyes as she raked a finger lightly over the little animal. She hoped she could be a better ‘parent’ than she’d been a daughter …
“This is a vampire,” Bess explained to the kitten later that night before venturing out of the crypt, morphing into the demon. “GRRRR-ARRRGH!” she growled at the kitten. “You need to watch out for vampires! They’re bad … they’ll eat you!” she warned her little friend, whose name had also morphed … into ‘Sweetie Puddin’ Angelpie’ … or just Angelpie, for short. But the kitten seemed less than frightened by her warnings or her growling and gave her a soft ‘meow’ and rubbed against her leg. Bess sighed and rolled her eyes as she stood up from the floor and started for the door.
“Maybe you should stay here,” she suggested to the kitten when she got to the door, but Angelpie had already darted out and was waiting for her on the lawn outside. Bess sighed. “Or not…”
Bess and her shadow headed around the lake to the new part of the cemetery and it wasn’t long before she found some fresh graves. She and Angelpie waited nearby to see if any vamps would rise from them, having to duck behind a headstone when a pair of Slayers walked by on their normal patrol. She didn’t have to wait too long, though, for a vamp to emerge. Bess moved over to the grave nearest her hiding place when she saw the soil begin to move as the fledge clawed his way out. Bess morphed into her vampire visage as the newly risen demon stood up, brushing dirt from his burial suit.
“Are you my…” the vamp began to ask, but was cut off by Bess’ stake embedding into his heart.
“No…” she answered him as he exploded into dust.
“Well … that wasn’t very much fun,” she moaned, morphing back to her human features. She looked around for Angelpie, who was waiting for her atop a nearby headstone. “Next time maybe I should give them a fighting chance,” Bess commented as she picked the kitten up and went back to her hiding place to await another adversary.
(A month Later), Sunday, October 31st, 2010 - Halloween:
Bess and her shadow, Angelpie, had settled into a comfortable routine in Cleveland, living in the crypt with a view, sleeping during the day and hunting vamps at night. As promised, Sue-Ann had fixed the Harley and had kept her promise to not tell the other Slayers or Watchers that Bess was in town. Bess and Sue-Ann would talk almost every night about everything and nothing at all – about families left behind and their ‘old life’ and what they wished could be, things they wished they could change, words they wished they could take back, mistakes they wished they hadn’t made. But all those wishes were like the vampires they slew every night – nothing more than dust in the wind. There were more wishes than stars, and none of the stars, it seemed, were shining down on the two Slayers who’d put their families behind them.
Despite Bess thinking that her little calico friend hadn’t been paying attention when she tried to teach her what a vampire was, Angelpie proved to have an innate sense of when to stay out of the way and when it was safe to make a nuisance of herself by circling Bess’ feet or jumping out from behind headstones and statuary and ‘attacking’ her. Angelpie had quickly become Bess’ best friend and they literally spent every waking and sleeping moment together. The Slayer-vamp set up a little bed for Angelpie in one of the saddlebags on the Harley and the kitten would curl up in there and purr along with the rumble of the motorcycle whenever Bess went for a ride.
On this night, All Hallow’s Eve, the cemetery was deader than usual, in a good way – all the vamps and demons seemed to be taking the night off. Bess hadn’t even seen any Slayers on patrol tonight – not even Sue-Ann, so she decided to take her sidekick for a ride out along the lakeshore … oh, not the little lake in the cemetery – the BIG lake … Lake Erie. It was as close to an ocean as she could get here in Ohio and she enjoyed riding along the shoreline … it reminded her a little of California and Troy and … other people that she was working on just forgetting.
As Bess maneuvered through the streets around the campus, she was amazed at the number of people out in costume … not children, because it was much too late for children – adults, students. They all seemed to be coming from and going to parties with their friends. Laughing and singing and just being irresponsible for a little while longer before they got kicked out into the ‘real world’. Her mind involuntarily drifted back to Sunnydale and she wondered what Annie, Dani, JJ, and Billy were doing now. What had they been for Halloween? Did they have a party or go trick-or-treating? Were they laughing and having fun? Were they thinking about her at all or had Bess become just a distant memory?
Billy continued to show up in Bess’ dreams and she continued to ignore him. He never approached her since that first time when she shoved him out in the rain and told him to get out and stay out; instead he tried to stay off to the edge of her mind, out of the line of fire. Sometimes she wished he would talk to her again … come out of the shadows and tell her … Tell her what? Tell her that they still thought of her? Tell her that she could come back? Tell her there was someone in this world that cared about her … that knew she existed? But he never did and Bess never approached him … what if what he told her to never come back, just like she’d done him? What if he said they never thought of her anymore? What if he only confirmed what she already knew – she’d burned that bridge … in fact, she had blown it to smithereens with a truckload of well placed dynamite.
Sue-Ann had talked Bess into calling Crawford Street a few times over the last month, but she could never get the nerve to say anything, not to the answering machine or even to Buffy herself when she answered – Bess always just hung up. Sue-Ann couldn’t say much about that, because she couldn’t muster the courage to say anything when Bess talked her into calling Sammy, either. What do you say? What words would be enough?
As Bess drove slowly down the ‘party-row’ of restaurants, bars, and clubs near the campus, a warning tingled down her spine. She looked around and saw a group of girls that she knew, just by looking at them, were Slayers coming out of a club just up ahead of her. They were all dressed up in costumes: a mummy, a zombie, an angel, a devil, and a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader. As Bess continued moving slowly down the crowded street, she saw the cheerleader drop away from the other girls, her hand over her mouth as if to stop herself from throwing up, and head quickly down a side alleyway.
Suddenly Bess’ stomach tightened and the hairs on the back of her neck stood up. As she passed the dark alley where the girl went, she looked down it, but only saw the girl, heaving near a dumpster. Bess continued driving, shrugging off the warning as she wove slowly through the partiers on her way to the shoreline. As she drove away, Spike’s words from London drifted uncalled into her mind…
You have to learn to listen to your gut, listen to your heart … follow your instincts. You do it when you’re fightin’ … I’ve seen it,” Spike preached. “One day, it may be the only thing that’ll keep you alive – don’t ignore it or it’ll stop talkin’ to you.”
Bess frowned and turned the bike around, making a U-turn in the middle of the road then turning into the alley where the girl had gone. Bess pursed her lips in confusion … the girl wasn’t there – but then she heard it, someone yelling for help. Bess dropped the kickstand quickly and jumped off the bike, retrieving her stake from the saddlebag where it was being guarded by a purring Angelpie, and headed quickly down the dark, narrow side street.
Behind a group of dumpsters, which had been set up in a semi-circle to form a shield, Bess found the source of the screams. The cheerleader-Slayer was trying to fight off a nest of eight hungry vamps, but losing badly. The skimpy costume had left no hiding place for a stake – she was unarmed, overmatched, and alone. Bess’ own mind flashed back to the Tower Gardens in London and the fight that had turned her from a Slayer to a victim to a demon, and she momentarily froze as fear gripped her heart.
She didn’t know how long she stood there, unable to move, unable to even speak or scream for help … it could’ve been a second or a minute. She was brought out of her trance by Angelpie, hissing and screeching behind her. Bess turned in time to see her kitten launch itself at a vamp that had snuck around the dumpsters and was approaching her from the rear, a dagger in his hand and a venomous, predatory look in his yellow, demonic eyes.
Bess screamed, “NOOOOOOOOO!” when the vamp slung Angelpie off him and the little fur-ball hit the red brick wall of the alley with a sickening thud and slid lifelessly to the ground.
Bess morphed into the demon and lunged at the vamp that had thought he’d found himself another Halloween treat, and she quickly turned the treat into a trick. His eyes went wide with surprise when the stake embedded into his heart and he dissolved into a cloud of dust. Even as that vamp’s features still hung in the air like a demonic dust bunny, Bess whirled on the other attackers in the alley. The one that was atop the cheerleader was the first to go, sprinkling the girl on the ground with a thin layer of hope that help had arrived.
As the other vamps turned away from their original victim towards Bess, she jumped and twirled in the air, kicking the one to her right with a vicious roundhouse kick that sent him hurtling back against the wall, hitting with the same sickening thud that her baby had – but Bess didn’t hear it. She vented her rage on the other vamps, taking them all on with kicks and punches and roars of anger and grief – moving faster than even their enhanced eyesight could see, striking with more power than they could withstand.
When the last vamp’s dusty visage hung in the electrically charged air of the alley, Bess sprinted towards Angelpie, picking her limp body up with a gentleness that belied the vicious massacre she’d just meted out. As Bess held her baby against her chest with one arm, she roared the Harley out of the alley. With only one hand on the handlebars, she couldn’t brake … but she had no intentions of braking for anyone or anything anyway as she sped through the crowded street, sending mummies and demons, devils and angels and even a few dead presidents scurrying out of her path.
At the Slayer dorm, Bess dropped the bike on the lawn and rushed to the door, banging on it frantically and splintering the wood before someone opened it. “Sue-Ann! Sue-Ann!” she screamed through the door, barely remembering to force the demon down before it opened. “Help me! Where’s Sue-Ann!?” she demanded of the girl that opened the door.
In just a moment, Sue-Ann appeared at the door and came outside. “Bess! What is it, what happened?”
“It’s Angelpie … she’s … oh God …,” Bess sunk to her knees on the porch, still cradling the small life against her chest.
“Oh God …” Sue-Ann cried, dropping down next to her. “Is she …??”
Bess looked up with tears streaming down her face. “She’s alive … her heart … I can hear it … but…”
Sue-Ann jumped up. “Let’s go!” she screamed at Bess, heading for the Harley. The small strawberry-blonde picked the bike up like it weighed nothing, got on and cranked it up as Bess got on behind her. Bess gently stroked and cooed to Angelpie as Sue-Ann expertly maneuvered the bike across the college campus, bisecting the university grounds, ignoring roads and opting for the open lawns and deserted sidewalks to get to the emergency vet on the opposite side.
Bess jumped off the Harley before Sue-Ann even had it completely stopped and rushed into the vet’s office, screaming at them to help her. One of the assistants came out and took Angelpie from Bess’ hands and headed back to the treatment rooms with her, Bess following frantically on the girl’s heels.
“What happened … a car?” the assistant asked.
“No a vam…” Bess began hysterically just as Sue-Ann entered the room and interrupted her.
“Van! ... A van,” her friend explained to the young woman in surgical scrubs who was looking the kitten over. Sue-Ann held Bess back as the assistant examined Angelpie’s abdomen, chest, and head, then legs and hips…
The young woman shook her head as she listened to the small kitten’s heart with a stethoscope and the vet came into the room. “She’s got internal bleeding … a broken hip, broken leg … her skull’s cracked, some ribs feel broken too,” the assistant informed the vet.
The vet looked at Bess sympathetically. “I’m sorry … the humane thing would be to put her down…”
“Put her down…?” Bess murmured, her eyes wide with fear. “What … what does that mean? You want to kill her!?? NO! No! She’s alive … fix her!”
Sue-Ann put an arm over Bess’ shoulders. “They can’t always fix …”
“NO!!” Bess screamed, looking from Sue-Ann back to the vet. “Fix her! She’s alive – she’ll fight, I know it! Fix her!”
“It would really be more humane…”
“DO YOU NOT SPEAK ENGLISH!?” Bess shrieked at the vet, gold flashing in her eyes as she fought to keep her demon down. “FIX HER!”
The vet looked between the hysterical girl and her supportive friend and sighed. “It will be quite expensive and …”
“I don’t care! I have money!” Bess informed them “Here! Here! Take it all! Here!” she cried, pulling all her money out of her pockets and dropping over a thousand dollars on the examining table. “I can get more! Whatever it takes, fix her!” Bess insisted again through hysterical sobs which had started to wrack her thin frame.
The vet nodded in resignation to the assistant and the girl picked the limp body of the little calico up and headed back to the surgery with her. “It will be some time before we know anything…” the vet informed Bess. “Try … try to relax … and keep this for now,” he told her, waving a hand at the money before following the assistant and Angelpie out of the exam room.
Bess sunk down onto a chair in the room and buried her face in her hands and cried. Sue-Ann sat down next to her and wrapped an arm over the girl’s shoulder and Bess leaned against her friend as she did something that she hadn’t done with any conviction in over a century: prayed for mercy to a God she wasn’t even sure existed.
The vet came back a couple of hours later and Bess jumped up from her seat. “I think we have her stabilized…” he informed the girls and Bess let out a sigh of relief. “She’s still not out of the woods. There was a lot of internal bruising and bleeding … she may never walk right – her hip and leg were damaged badly and she’ll be in quite a lot of pain while she heals … she may always be in pain.”
Bess nodded. “She’s strong, she’ll fight,” Bess repeated. “… and we can give her … aspirin or ... ummm Tylenol, right? For the pain?” she asked, remembering what Buffy had given Dani one time when she fell out a tree and hurt her elbow.
The vet shrugged. “It will probably take more than that, but … yeah,” he agreed. “If she makes it through the night, then we’ll see – we’ll go from there.”
“Can I see her now?” Bess asked, looking at the door.
“She’s sedated – she needs to rest. Come back tomorrow night…” he began.
“But, if she wakes up and I’m not here she’ll worry,” Bess argued … well, really it was more of a plea.
The vet shook his head. “She won’t wake up, we have her heavily sedated … come back tomorrow night, ok?”
“C’mon, Bess … I’ll see ya home,” Sue-Ann offered gently. Bess frowned but nodded and started to follow her friend out.
“Thank you,” she offered to the vet, turning back around.
The vet nodded. “I hope it wasn’t all for nothing.”
Bess dropped Sue-Ann back at the Slayer dorm … her friend invited Bess to stay the night there, but Bess declined, thanking her for her all her help. Bess would’ve had no idea where to take the kitten … she knew where the people-hospital was, but she also knew that was not the right place, although if Sue-Ann hadn’t been there, that’s where Bess would’ve taken Angelpie.
Bess told her friend that she’d see her tomorrow and headed out. She first started towards the cemetery, but changed direction and ended up going back to the vet hospital. By now it was 8am and the emergency/after-hours hospital was closed for the day, but, of course, that didn’t deter Bess.
The Slayer-vamp found a small window that wasn’t quite closed; it was up high – probably eight feet off the ground, presumably safe from break-ins and too small for someone to fit through … unless you’re a petite, determined Slayer. She jumped up and grabbed onto the windowsill, pulled the screen out, and pushed the window the rest of the way up with one hand as she hung on with the other. Finally, she pulled herself up through the small opening … shimming her shoulders through, first one, then the other on a diagonal. When she was halfway through, her hips caught in the opening and she had to kick her feet and turn her body diagonally again, but finally her bottom half slipped through and she fell to the tile floor of the restroom at the back of the building.
Bess found Angelpie sleeping in one of the surgical recovery cages. Her little body looked so helpless and battered laying there with an IV tube taped to her little arm, the whole side of her body had been shaved and a long incision ran nearly the whole length of her abdomen.
Bess opened the cage and sat down on the floor next to her as tears leaked from her eyes again. She gently touched a finger to the kitten’s back and stroked softly down her body, careful to stay away from her broken ribs and hip.
“Why didn’t you stay with the bike?” Bess asked her softly. “Why are you such a pain in the ass? You’ve been nothing but trouble since the minute I met you…” Bess chastised her quietly as tears streamed down her cheeks. “You just like scaring me … is that it? You probably think this is funny, don’t you?” Bess questioned as she continued caressing her little friend.
Angelpie began to purr lightly in her sleep and Bess smiled and nodded. “That’s what I thought … you’re enjoying putting me through agony. You’re a creep!” Bess accused. “A brave little furry, kitteny-creep that probably saved my sorry skin and that Slayer…”
Bess leaned her head against the open cage door and closed her eyes. She was so very tired … all the adrenaline and energy she’d expended earlier seemed to catch up with her in a wave of utter exhaustion. Bess fell asleep sitting on the cool linoleum floor of the vet’s office, leaning against her baby’s ‘hospital bed’, still stroking a finger softly against Angelpie’s back, even in her sleep.
The vet assistant was startled, to say the least, when she came back a couple of hours later to check on their patients, and found someone sleeping in amongst the cages, but calmed down quickly when she realized who it was. She hated to wake Bess, but had to in order to check on Angelpie. Bess apologized for breaking in, but begged the young veterinary assistant to please let her stay and the girl finally agreed.
Over the next couple of weeks, as Angelpie recuperated, Bess became a fixture at the vet’s office and they soon put her to work, helping with cleanup and feeding of their patients, and restraining larger animals, since Bess seemed to be able to control them even when the vet and the assistant together could not. They finally took Angelpie off the sedatives and the little kitty woke up from her long, recuperative sleep in Bess’ arms. She still couldn’t walk and they had to keep her on painkillers, which made her a little loopy, but she was alive and she was awake and she knew Bess immediately, greeting her with a soft ‘meow’ and a low purr. Bess thought she’d never heard anything as sweet as that sound.
(Three weeks since Halloween), Thursday, November 18th, 2010:
Since Bess had gotten so good at taking care of Angelpie, the vet’s office released the little kitten into her care a few days ago. Bess continued spending many hours at the office, though, to help pay the unbelievably high bill … and because she’d come to like the people there, as well as the patients that came through – all damaged in some way, all in need of help – she could relate. It felt good to help them and see them get better. Of course, they didn’t all get better and Bess mourned for the ones that were lost, but the victories outweighed the losses.
“Did you have to go to school a long time to be a vet?” she asked Dr. Lowenbram one evening.
“Oh, not too long,” he told her. “Four years of undergraduate study and four additional years of veterinary medicine.”
Bess made an ‘eeek’ face that he couldn’t see. Not TOO long? Humph. “You must be pretty smart…” Bess commented as she started cleaning out one of the dog cages and changing the bedding.
The vet shrugged. “Takes determination and desire more than anything, I think. There are lots of smart people, but if you don’t really love it … you’ll never stick it out.”
“You have to be smart, first, though … I’m not very smart,” she admitted.
Dr. Lowenbram furrowed his brow. “I don’t know … you seem pretty bright to me – you’ve picked everything up that Darlene and I have shown you … and you have a big heart – you work hard and you try harder.”
Bess shrugged. “I can do stuff if you show me … but I’m not book smart,” she explained.
“Maybe you just weren’t motivated to be ‘book smart’ before,” the doctor suggested, drawing another shrug from Bess.
(Next Day), Friday, November 19th, 2010, 10am:
Bess woke from her nightmare with a jerk, her chest heaved with exertion and fear gripped her heart. She’d dreamed there was a huge fire at the mansion on Crawford Street … the whole Weckerly clan was trapped inside and only Bess could save them – but she couldn’t. There was a wall around the house and no matter how fast or far she climbed, she could never crest the top of it. Her head was always right at the top, able to see over, but she could never actually climb over. Then, as she climbed and climbed up the cold, stone face of the wall, trying desperately to get to them, the house morphed into her childhood home in Philadelphia. Wanda, John, William, and Anne were at the windows, screaming at her to help them, but no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t get over the wall and flames engulfed the house with her family inside.
Angelpie stood up slowly from where she’d been sleeping next to Bess and leaned her body against the Slayer-vamp, rubbing down the girl’s leg with her side. Angelpie still wasn’t 100%, but her bones were mended and she was off the pain medication. She had a discernible limp on her back right leg, but she was starting to get her old spunk back and had begun her ambush attacks of Bess, hiding behind the sarcophagus in the crypt and jumping out at her while Bess pretended to not see her.
Bess picked the kitten up and held her against her chest, tucking her furry head under her chin and stroking a hand down her body. The hair that had been shaved for surgery had grown back out and she almost looked ‘normal’ again, except for that limp, which the vet said may never go away, but Bess hadn’t given up on that yet, either. Darlene had shown her some exercises to do with Angelpie, like physical therapy for cats, and Bess worked with her little friend religiously three and four times a day to help her get her mobility back in that hip.
Bess took comfort in Angelpie’s low purr against her skin as she tried to sort out what the dream meant. After much internal debate, she finally decided that she needed to be moving on … she needed to go to Philadelphia, just like she’d planned to do all those months ago when she’d stolen Spike’s Harley and ran off. The dream was some kind of signal … it was time to go.
(Next Day), Saturday, November 19th, 2010, 10pm:
Bess had said goodbye to her friends at the vet’s office the previous night and they made her promise to write or call and keep in touch. Dr. Lowenbram gave her $250 for the work she’d done over the last three weeks. Bess knew that even after giving him nearly all the money she had and adding on all the work she did, that she probably didn’t even begin to cover the vet bill for Angelpie, so she tried to refuse the charity – but he insisted.
“If you come back through here, you can work another week and we’ll be even…” he told her with a smile before giving her a hug. “You’re a smart girl, Bess … you can be anything you want to be. Don’t sell yourself short.”
Bess thanked him and told him that she would be back one day … it was a promise.
Now Bess sat on her Harley parked across the street from where she and Sue-Ann normally met for patrol – in the quad of the university, halfway between the Slayer ‘dorm’ and Lake View Cemetery. From her vantage point, she could just see into the quad between two of the buildings as she waited for her friend to arrive.
Bess watched as Sue-Ann entered the quad and stopped short – frozen in place on the walkway. Bess bit her lip and waited, hoping she’d done the right thing …
“Suzy-Q…” Sammy cried, moving up to her quickly and pulling Sue-Ann into a tight hug. “I missed you like crazy, Suze! I love you so much,” he told her with deep emotion cracking his voice.
Bess watched as the shock waned from her friend and Sue-Ann returned his hug, tentatively at first, then with relief and affection. “Sammy … I’m sorry … I just … I couldn’t … I love you too.”
Bess sniffed and wiped her misty eyes then gave Angelpie a kiss before tucking her into her saddlebag bed and cranking up the motorbike. She knew firsthand how lonely and heartbreaking it was to be taken away from your family to fight demons at such a young age. Even if Sue-Ann thought she had no choice when she was first Chosen – even if she didn’t know how to explain it to Sammy then, Bess knew that she could find a way now and that he would understand and do anything to help her.
Perhaps there were still a few stars in the sky meant for granting Slayer wishes…
Wishes and Stars, Harper Simon
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