|Story Title:||Miles To Go Before I Sleep|
The Scoobies struggle to capture the Glargabullgashmanick demon to so they can brew the cure for the comatose Slayer. What will be conjured in her idyllic world when it’s finally administered?
Music Referenced: Without You, Air Supply http://youtu.be/hKkOZIfKcxM
|Thanks:||Giant thanks to Anona for betaing this chapter, including her grammatical and punctuation corrections, wonderful commentary, and final review. Also thanks to Capella42 for her insightful suggestions that made the whole story better and epd4 for her help with the initial beta. All mistakes are mine because I simply cannot stop fiddling right up to the last moment.|
|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.
Monday, May 2nd, 2011, 11am, Sunnydale, Unexpected Universe:
Xander sighed as he folded up copies of all the discharge papers he’d just signed and stuffed them into his back pocket. Annie was being sent home from the hospital today. With both of her parents unavailable, the task fell to him. Buffy and Spike had long ago given him and Anya medical Power of Attorney for all the Weckerly kids. Heck, he’d had the one for Annie since she was four years old, when Buffy and Spike had entrusted him and Anya with their only child while they battled The First Evil. This was the first time he’d actually had to use it.
Xander put on his most enthusiastic look and entered his niece’s hospital room. “Today’s the big day!” he called brightly as he strode in, rubbing his hands together as if in anticipation of something truly wonderful.
Annie rolled her eyes. It was her new favorite activity. “Whatever,” she grumbled, never looking at Xander.
“Aww, c’mon, Doodlebug,” Xander cajoled. “It’s gonna be so much better at home. You’ll have your brother and sisters and JJ to annoy you all the time and Miss Kitty to hog the bed …” he began.
“There’s plenty of bed now. I only need half of it,” she reminded him tersely. “Miss Kitty could bring all her friends and all their friends and I’d still have plenty of room.”
Xander sighed and dropped the faux enthusiasm. “Annie, I know …” Xander stopped. “Actually, that’s not true. I have no idea how you must feel. I can try to imagine it, but, really, no one can that hasn’t been there. But, you’ve got to try and find the silver lining, honey.”
Annie snorted and finally looked at him. “Please show it to me. Start with how I can still dance in a wheelchair and how great I’ll look rolling down the aisle as a bridesmaid at my friend’s wedding … ‘cos I’ll never be the bride, and how much money Mom can save since I don’t need shoes anymore, and how I don’t have to worry about skinning my knees if I fall, and …”
“Fine … you’re right,” Xander interrupted her rant, holding his hands up as a sign of surrender. “Maybe there isn’t any silver in the lining, but it’s not all black, either. You’re still beautiful, you’re still smart as a whip, your family loves you with all their hearts … your mom and dad love you more than life…”
“Oh, yeah … my mom, who I put into a coma, and my dad, who a big sea monster swallowed. I’m not only a cripple, I’m practically an orphan, too.”
“You didn’t put your mom into a coma,” Xander assured her – again. “She got attacked by a demon and it injected her with a poison. We’re working on it. We’ll get her back. Trust me: that was not your fault. And Willow, Bess, and Dead Boy are gonna get your dad back. They’re almost ready to try her ‘hocus-pocus, conjure Casper, and trap the monster’ spell.
“Annie, I know you’re scared,” Xander continued.
“I’m not scared. Didn’t Mom tell you? I’m brave … like the Brave Little Toaster,” she argued. Annie clenched her jaw and blinked back her tears, adding, “Bitty-Buffy,” in a quivering voice.
“Oh, Doodlebug,” Xander sighed, moving over to her and pulling her into a hug. “It’s ok to be scared. But everything will work out – you’ll see. I know it looks bad now, but we’ve gotten through bad things before. We all love you and we’ll all help you.”
Annie’s tears turned to sobs as she clung to him. “I’m so scared. What am I supposed to do now? Who am I?”
“You’re a beautiful, strong, smart, funny, sweet girl with her whole life ahead of her,” Xander told her. “What we do now is go home and take one step at a … uhhh…” Xander swallowed hard. Oops.
Annie actually started to laugh through her tears. Her chin quivered and tears flowed and she laughed against his shoulder. Finally she pulled back and looked at him. “Maybe we should take one day at a time, instead.”
Xander gave her a smile and nodded. “See? I told you – smart girl.”
At the mansion, Annie was swamped with hugs from her siblings. They had made a huge sign in her favorite colors, pink and purple, that said, ‘Welcome Home Annie!’ and hung it up in the great room. Anya made a French Silk pie for the occasion, one of Annie’s favorites. Annie’d had a few lessons with the wheelchair, but it was still hard to maneuver around the furniture, so the other children helped her with it. There had been a small glimmer of … normalcy to the afternoon at home. Apart from having to be carried up and down the stairs and pushed around in the wheelchair – the rest felt like a typical day. They played video games, watched some TV, then she helped Dani with her homework, and helped Tara feed MacKenzie. They'd talked about what they were doing to fix her mom, and Willow and Bess had called and told her what they were planning to do to get her dad back. They’d played with Angelpie and Miss Kitty and had dinner in the kitchen … just like everything was fine. Annie was starting to think that perhaps there was some kind of lining in the cloud – not silver, but maybe nickel or copper.
Until that night.
Alone in her room, lying in her half-empty bed with Miss Kitty, Annie looked around at the posters on her walls. Two walls were covered with places she’d dreamt of going one day, landmarks she’d wanted to see: the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China, the Colosseum in Rome, the Cathedral of St. Basil in Moscow, Stonehenge, Manchu Picchu, the pyramids in Egypt, the Eiffel Tower. The other two walls were covered with posters of ballet dancers from world-renowned companies in a variety of ballets, including the newest one her parents had brought back from London of the London Ballet’s production of ‘The Nutcracker’.
Annie tossed her covers off and pushed herself up to sitting, leaning her back against the wall behind her. She looked down at the nubs that used to be her legs and up at the dreams that lined her bedroom. Her eyes focused on the ballerina in the poster from London. The dancer playing Clara held a perfect poise en pointe – frozen in time by the photographer. Her legs were strong – long and lithe and … whole.
Annie’s emotions turned and dove down like runaway rollercoaster, slamming headlong into absolute fury. She reached up and ripped the posters down that were nearest her – the Eiffel Tower and Stonehenge were the first to go, followed quickly by ‘Swan Lake’, ‘Romeo and Juliet’, and ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. She began to cry and scream as she ripped the shiny paper of the posters into shreds – littering her floor with the remnants of her dreams.
When there were no more that she could reach from where she sat at the head of the bed, she used her arms to pull herself down to the foot of the bed and snatched the beautiful poster Buffy and Spike had brought her of ‘The Nutcracker’ down from the wall, crumpling and tearing it into tiny pieces before moving on to the Taj Mahal and the Great Wall of China.
Miss Kitty screeched and dove for cover under the bed, trying to get away from the wild girl. Annie leaned over the edge of the bed as far as she could to reach the pyramids in Egypt. She’d no sooner grabbed the corner of the poster with her right hand than she lost her balance and tumbled down to the floor. She was still on the floor, crying, screaming, and ripping the poster into shreds when Tara rushed into her room and Miss Kitty scrambled out.
“Annie! What happened?” the witch asked in a rush before taking in the whole scene.
“It’s over! It’s just … over! All this is gone! It’s just … just rubbish now!” Annie shrieked, using one of her father’s terms. She continued rolling around on the floor, picking up the larger pieces of paper and ripping them even smaller as tears flowed like rivers down her face.
“Annie, stop!” Tara cried, dropping down onto the floor with her and pulling the distraught girl into a hug.
“It’s all over. I’ll never …” Annie started hyperventilating as she sobbed in Tara’s arms. “Please fix it … please … somebody … fix … it,” Annie begged between shuddering breaths. “Mama … please tell … Mama … or Papa … please … they have to … fix it. Please … I need … my legs. Can’t … you … please … God … please.”
“Oh, baby girl,” Tara sighed, stroking her long hair and rocking her, trying to soothe her. “I’m so sorry.”
Annie cried against her. Annie’s world felt like it had been put through a giant paper shredder and no one seemed to know how to put all the pieces back together, least of all her.
(Two days later) Wednesday, May 4th, 2011, early evening, Sunnydale, Unexpected Universe:
Tara uncurled from the soft, overstuffed chair near the fireplace when she heard a commotion in the basement. She rubbed her tired, bloodshot eyes and rose to her feet stiffly. It had been five days since the attack on Buffy in the basement, five days of Tara trying to keep the Weckerly children from falling completely apart. Their father was still missing and now their mother was unconscious nearly all the time.
Buffy would wake periodically, disoriented and confused. When she realized where she was, the Slayer would start to physically tremble with terror. She’d often simply cower in the corner of her room, refusing to come out even to see her children, muttering that it was all a dream, a horrible dream. Tara had coaxed her into eating and drinking during those brief periods of wakefulness, but Buffy couldn’t fully escape the hallucinations brought on by the Glargabullgashmanick demon’s poison, which were apparently making her believe that nothing here was real.
Annie’s breakdown on Monday had launched the girl into an even deeper, more morose depression, and that worried Tara. Annie seemed to have expelled every bit of anger from her soul in that one tirade, leaving nothing but hopelessness in its wake. Tara expected the girl’s anger to pass with time, but Annie seemed to have retreated back to self-pity rather than moving forward through the resentment to resolve. Annie, Tara knew, was just as frightened about her parents’ welfare as Dani and Billy, but with the added burden of her injuries weighing on her heart. Not even Clem coming and doing his silly ‘magic’ tricks or Troy bringing her a large bouquet of chocolate roses had any effect on Annie’s dejected mood. Her friend Janice couldn’t even lighten Annie’s spirits by bringing her a huge platter of chocolate chip cookies that she and her mother had made from scratch.
Out at sea, Willow, Bess, and Angel were scheduled to try the Casper lure on the demon sea monster tonight. If all went well, they should intercept the creature’s path just an hour or so after sunset. Tara hoped to hear good news on that by morning. Perhaps with Spike home, Annie would be able to begin to move forward again.
Faith, Giles, and Xander had started hunting for the unpronounceable demon on Saturday night, as soon as Tara identified it in the demon database. The creature proved elusive, however, moving around too much for even a locator spell to be of much use. They checked all the typical demon haunts, even pressured Willy for info, but came up empty. It would’ve been much easier with a vampire, who could’ve tracked its scent – but all their ‘blood hounds’ were otherwise occupied. Finally, Clem heard about their problem and volunteered to help them. He had a few tricks up his sleeve … or tucked in the folds of his skin and hidden behind his red eyes, as it were. He didn’t show his supernatural skills often. He was born a demon, but he didn’t like to let that define him.
Tara had just started towards the basement door when it swung open and three mud-covered men emerged into the great room. Or, more accurately, two men and one demon.
“Oh my goodness! What happened?” she asked as she started moving more quickly towards Clem, Giles, and Xander.
“Clem was able to track it,” Giles replied, wiping at the muddy water that was dripping from his hair and running into his eyes.
“Did you know Clem has Teletubby antennas?!” Xander interjected, swirling his fingers around in front of his face and flinging mud in all directions.
Giles and Tara just looked at him blankly. “Not the point,” Xander mumbled, dropping his hands.
“Unfortunately, it was in the reservoir … hiding in the muck on the north end,” Giles continued, ignoring Xander.
“Soooo … did you get it?” Tara wondered as she headed for the bathroom to get the guys some towels.
“We got it,” Xander answered and Clem cleared his throat loudly.
Xander rolled his eyes. “Fine … Clem finally got it – but we sacrificed our bodies as a diversion.”
“I’m a lover, not a fighter,” Clem explained with a shrug. Muck dripped from the flaps of his skin when he moved, leaving more puddles of brown sludge on the tile floor that Tara had just mopped less than an hour ago.
“But I was able to bonk it on the head while it was stomping you two into the mud. Just lucky I brought that baseball bat – and you laughed at my weapon of choice,” he chastised, looking at Giles. “Baseball bats are classic. Didn’t see that fancy tranq gun you brought doing anything but making it madder.”
Giles rolled his eyes. “Well, regardless of the details, we have it secured in the basement,” Giles summarized, reaching for one of the towels that Tara brought them.
Tara sighed as she handed them the towels, her eyes drawn to the dirt that covered her clean floor. Who knew demon fighting required so much housework? How did Buffy do this day after day, year after year?
“I’ll just get cleaned up then I’ll help you extract the poison so we can brew the antidote,” Giles offered.
“Ok, but we need to hurry. I think she’s getting worse,” Tara admitted. “Buffy hasn’t woken up at all in over fifteen hours.”
Meanwhile, in Buffy's Hallucination World:
On Monday, a couple of days after the party, when Elizabeth and William came downstairs for breakfast, there was an excited, joyous atmosphere in the parlour. Cassandra and Nellie, along with Anne and Bess, were gathered around Theresa and everyone was grinning and laughing. “What’s going on?” Buffy asked when she got near the group.
Cassandra turned to her with wide, excited eyes. “Tre-sa’s in the puddin’ club!” she proclaimed enthusiastically.
Buffy smiled and raised her brows. “Oh … is that like the ‘Cheese of the Month’ club? I thought about joining one of those once.”
William gave his wife an amused smile, then turned to Theresa. “That’s wonderful news. When is the baby due?”
“Baby?!” Buffy exclaimed in surprise, looking at Cassandra. “Why didn’t you say she was having a baby!?” she chastised the girl.
“But … I did, milady,” the nursemaid replied with confusion.
“Oh! That’s so wonderful!!” Buffy gushed, ignoring Cassandra and turning to the mother-to-be. “It is wonderful … right?”
Theresa smiled and nodded, unconsciously running her hands over her still flat abdomen, then answered William’s question, “I ‘aven’t been to the midwife yet, but I reckon it’ll come in October or thereabouts. Been praying for a child for ages! Had nearly given up, we had.”
“Congratulations!” Buffy exclaimed, pushing past Cassandra and pulling Theresa into an unexpected hug. When Buffy released her, she began talking quickly, giving orders to no one in particular. “We need to get you to the doctor and make sure everything’s alright and vitamins … do they sell vitamins? Never mind, I’ll check at the drug … err … apothecary. You need to drink lots of milk and get plenty of protein and fresh vegetables – do you eat plenty of meat and vegetables … green vegetables, I mean – not just potatoes?” Buffy rambled, looking at Theresa.
Before the woman could answer, Buffy turned her attention to William. “We need to hire someone to help her – she can’t be lugging those rugs in and out and whacking them, or doing the laundry, or carrying firewood. You need to put an ad in or … call an agency or something and get someone here to help her,” she instructed her husband. “Oh! I can’t wait to go shopping! We’ll get some cute little outfits and … oh – a pram! And … well, whatever you need, we’ll get it. Won’t we William?” Buffy beamed at her husband and finally stopped talking.
William pursed his lips to keep from laughing aloud at her enthusiasm, then finally nodded his agreement. “Whatever you say, dear.”
Theresa shifted nervously, her face tinged pink with embarrassment behind her dark freckles. “I assure you, ma’am … that’s quite unnecessary. I’ll need no ‘elp with the work – I’m perfectly capable and …”
Buffy didn’t seem to hear her. She gave Theresa another quick, excited hug. “Oh! It’s gonna great! I love shopping! And, after the baby arrives, if you want to keep working, you bring him … or her, to work with you. It won’t be any trouble at all!”
Theresa looked pleadingly at William for assistance, but he simply shrugged. There was no sense telling his wife that employers weren’t, as a rule, that philanthropic towards the household help. Telling his wife that Theresa’s ‘condition’ was really none of their concern would’ve been akin to telling a leopard to change its spots: it would’ve been an exercise in futility, and would likely result in getting your head bitten off.
Later that day, Anne and Bess, along with Buffy, who was pushing the double pram that held William and Wanda, breezed in the front door of the Weckerly home on Macaulay Road. It had been a gloriously sunny afternoon and Buffy had taken all the children for a walk around the Common while William was at work. Of course, the walk included a stop to see Wanda at the church, and a stop at the apothecary to check and see if they did have any vitamins for Theresa. Buffy looked at what they had, decided it was all ‘snake oil’, and told the pharmacist so in no uncertain terms. She decided she’d just have to make sure Theresa drank plenty of milk and ate a well-rounded diet – not just bangers and mash. After the apothecary, they had made the mandatory visit to the hokey-pokey man’s ice cream wagon. The old Italian vendor had remembered Anne and Bess from a couple of weeks ago and talked them into doing their funny dance for him again – and Buffy joined in.
It had been just the best day, beginning with Theresa’s news and lasting all through the afternoon walk, and they had completely lost track of time. By late afternoon, a fog had rolled in and covered the whole of London in a thick pea soup, but that didn’t dampen their spirits any. Buffy had planned to be home before William got in from university, but the large clock tower on the east end of the Common announced that they were about an hour late.
The euphoric mood they were all in died instantly when they entered the house.
Anne and Bess stopped short, just inside the door, their eyes wide with disbelief and horror, unable to completely fathom the scene in the front foyer. Buffy nearly ran over the girls with the pram as she closed the door behind them before turning around.
“Oh my God,” were the only words that could escape her throat before it completely closed up.
The entire foyer was red and glistening with blood. The walls, the floor, it even dripped from the ceiling. It looked like … paint; like someone had splashed gallons and gallons of red paint over the mahogany paneling, the hardwood floor, the Persian rug. But it didn’t smell like paint and Buffy knew immediately that it wasn’t.
Cassandra and Theresa were sitting on the floor like limp rag dolls, propped up against each other next to the wall facing the front door. Their dead, blank stares, gaping mouths, and blood-soaked clothing greeted Buffy and the children. It was a horrific scene; like something out of ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ – the 3-D version. Buffy tried to breathe, but there didn’t seem to be any air in the room. She starred at the bodies in disbelief – as if waiting for them to jump up and begin laughing, like it was some horrible practical joke. She actually looked around a moment, expecting Allen Funt to step out and say, ‘Smile! You’re on Candid Camera!’ Nothing like that happened.
After some moments, Buffy didn’t know how long, her eyes were drawn to their necks, which were ripped open. Vampire. Could all this blood be from just two people? Buffy’s heart, which she was sure had stopped beating a moment before, suddenly took off in a sprint in her chest. It thudded in her ears, and her whole body trembled with a rush of fear and adrenaline. For some time they all simply stood there, frozen, still unable to comprehend what they were seeing, as blood soaked into their shoes from the pool on the floor.
Buffy couldn’t see into the parlour, but she could hear someone moving around in there. Her heart fluttered wildly and then suddenly leapt into her throat. William. William would be in there … with the monster.
Buffy quickly opened the front door and pulled the pram back outside, then gathered the shell-shocked Bess and Anne in her arms and ushered them out, as well. Buffy fought her panic and blinked back tears as she hurried her children back out to the road in front of the house.
Theresa and Cassandra are dead. Dead. They’re dead. She kept thinking it over and over, trying to make it make sense. They couldn’t be dead! This wasn’t Sunnydale! There was no Hellmouth here! Theresa’s gonna have a baby – we’re gonna get someone in to help with the heavy lifting and … Cassandra – she’s so young! She’s really just a girl! Buffy could see them both in their finery, or well, Cassandra was actually in Buffy’s finery, but whatever, at William’s improper soiree. They were so happy – laughing and dancing, garnering so much joy from such a simple gathering. They had so many plans for their futures and now …
Buffy tried to focus. She couldn’t get mired down in what was already lost. She had to save William – she had to save her family. She took a deep breath, and willed the horror that waited inside the house out of her mind. She could do this. She could … she could be the Slayer.
Once she and the children were outside the front gate and on the footpath in front of the house, she stopped. “Anne. Listen to me now,” Buffy began, bending down to be at eye-level with her eldest daughter. “Anne!” Buffy exclaimed more sternly, shaking the girl by the shoulders to get her to focus.
When Anne finally blinked and looked at her, her mouth agape, Buffy continued, “Take the babies and Bess and go to the church. Go find Mrs. Weatherford. Tell her you need to stay there. Do you understand?”
When the girl just stared at her blankly, Buffy shook her again. “Anne! Do you understand?”
“Mrs. Weatherford … church,” Anne repeated finally, her voice detached, a million miles away.
“Right! Now go! Run as fast as you can!” Buffy admonished her.
“But … they’re … what …” Anne stammered out, looking back at the house. Then Anne’s eyes went wide, as if what she’d seen had finally sunk in, and fear clutched her heart. Her blue eyes were as large as saucers when they met Buffy’s. “Father!”
“I’ll get your father – I swear it, but you have to do this now. Go to the church. Do not come out until one of us comes for you. No one else. Don’t go with anyone else. Do you understand?”
Anne nodded slowly, looking down the foggy road that led to the Common, and Wanda and John’s church.
“Ok, run. Run as fast as you can!” Buffy instructed again.
Anne nodded again, then grabbed her little sister’s hand and began pushing the pram with the other, heading down the footpath towards the church. Buffy started back toward the front door, still watching the girls move away. Buffy picked up a small dead tree limb off the lawn and broke the weakest parts off, leaving a fairly sturdy, stake-like piece. She looked back one more time at the girls, who were now past the neighbor’s house and well on their way to safety. She watched them another few seconds until they disappeared from view, engulfed by the thick fog. Her heart ached; she wanted to go after them, make sure they were safely ensconced in the church, but there was no time. William needed her now, or at least she prayed that he still needed her.
The Slayer, without Slayer strength, took a deep breath, gathered her wits, and charged in through the front door.
Buffy didn’t look at the two dead girls, who she knew had been purposely posed there to greet her; she couldn’t let herself be distracted by the sorrow that shot into her heart for them. She had to find William. She had to save William.
Buffy stopped at the entrance of the parlour to survey the situation. She didn’t have much time to take it in: the large, dark vampire sensed her immediately. He had been feeding from Nellie, his fangs buried deep into her neck as the elderly cook struggled ineffectually against his superior strength. The monster turned around when Buffy entered the room and tossed the woman aside to face the newcomer.
“Angel!” Buffy exclaimed in shock before her throat tightened again. She scanned the room for Dru and Darla, but saw neither. William was off to one side, half-hidden behind the settee, crumpled on the floor near one wall. From what she could see, he was bloody and appeared to have been beaten badly, probably in a vain attempt to defend the household. Buffy couldn’t tell if he was still alive or not.
“Truth be told, lass, the name’s Angelus … but m’ heart is dearly touched knowin’ a lovely maiden such as yourself has heard tell o’ me,” the vampire replied in his native Irish brogue, holding a hand over his unbeating heart.
“You’ll make a lovely addition to the family,” Angelus continued as he stalked towards Buffy. “As I knew you would the first I laid eyes on you. And your blood …mmmmm,” he moaned, running his hand down from his heart to his stomach and then lower. “… Just as fiery and breathtakin’ as your tresses.”
Buffy didn’t know what he was talking about. When had Angelus, this Angelus, tasted her blood? Then it dawned on her. William had told her about the ‘queer Irishman’ that helped him get her home after she’d cut her arm. Why would William think Angel was gay?
From the side of the room, William moaned and tried to roll onto his back, drawing Angelus’ attention. Relief flooded Buffy’s heart. William was alive! But she couldn’t dwell on it … she had to get Angelus out of here and away from her husband.
Buffy backed up a step as the vampire moved toward her, then another step … back into the foyer, away from William.
“Did ya enjoy the welcomin’ party, then?” Angelus taunted her as he followed her out of the parlour.
“It was a bit lifeless. I’m more of a balloons and streamers kinda girl,” Buffy quipped darkly. Her heart raced in her chest, butterflies fluttered in her stomach, and her mind whirled. Except in her dreams, she hadn’t faced a demon in over a year. And she’d never faced one without her Slayer strength. She needed to be smart in this, use her guile and experience, not brute force.
“Ahhh, I’ll keep a’ mind of that for next time, a ghrá. Dru always enjoys decoratin’ with streamers, as well. Fashions ‘em out of viscera. You two will get on famously,” Angelus continued, still stalking towards her.
Buffy snorted derisively and kept backing up. “Dru’s a fucking lunatic.”
Angelus was unfazed. He shrugged and nodded. “Too true … but a lovely child, nonetheless.”
Buffy studied Angelus’ face as she moved backwards. A small sense of satisfaction came over her when she noticed a purple bruise and red burn on his cheek the size and shape of Theresa’s clothes iron. The woman had fought back and landed at least one solid blow. If the maid could do that, then Buffy could dust him, she assured herself.
Buffy was near the front door now; she turned quickly and flung the door open, hoping Angelus would chase her out of the house and into the street – away from William. But he was too fast for her; the doorknob was ripped out of her hand and the door slammed shut before she could even start through it.
Angelus grabbed her around the shoulders, lifted her up, and shook her like a toy. The make-shift stake in her hand clattered to the floor and rolled away as he shook her so violently Buffy thought her teeth would rattle out of her head. The Slayer tried to keep her composure, but panic was rising in her throat like bile. She never realized how much stronger a vampire was than a regular human … especially a diminutive, young Victorian woman who hadn’t even whacked a rug.
Angelus stopped shaking her, but continued to hold her up off the ground, her face eye-level with his. “Now, where would ye be goin’, my lovely, red rose? Your party’s here…with me.”
“Party this,” Buffy growled as she kicked with all her strength, and hit Angelus firmly in the balls.
Xander ‘ooomphed’ and nearly dropped the mug that contained the rest of the antidote. He reached out and plopped it down heavily on the bedside table as he clutched at his groin. He clinched his eyes closed to keep his eyeballs from exploding out of their sockets as he tried to breathe through the pain.
“Buffy!” Tara exclaimed in surprise as she tried to hold the Slayer back away from Xander. “It’s alright, it’s just us! We’re trying to help!”
Angelus dropped his ‘red rose’ down into the pool of blood that soaked the floor below them. He clutched at his groin as he bent forward and growled in pain and anger. Buffy scrambled back to her feet, slipping and sliding in the slick, red layer of hemoglobin on the floor. She looked frantically around the floor for the stake, but couldn’t find it. She gave up quickly, lest she lose the advantage, and instead clasped her hands together like a maul and came down on the back of the vampire’s neck with her fists while lifting up with her knee to his face. Angelus roared in pain as blood spurted from his nose, but it wasn’t enough to knock him down or out.
Tara was unable to hold Buffy and the Slayer pounced on Xander, slamming down on his neck with her fists and cracking his nose with her knee. The injured man stumbled backwards. Blood spurted from his nose, covering the bed and Buffy in a spray of crimson. His head was spinning and he wasn’t certain, but thought she might’ve cracked a vertebra in his neck.
Driven by blind fury, Angelus stood up straight, picked her up savagely, and slammed her against the wall with all his strength. Buffy’s head cracked against the plaster and all the air was knocked from her lungs when she hit. It felt as if she’d been fired from a cannon, straight into the solid wall. She slid down the wall, half-unconscious, and landed atop the bloody, cold bodies of Cassandra and Theresa.
“Fancy yourself a cheeky one, then, aye? Your first lesson, a ghrá,” the vampire growled. “Defyin’ me is painful. Maybe you fancy the pain … is that it, my little rose? All the better, then.”
Buffy was covered in blood and a lot of it was her own. Her head was spinning and foggy and she couldn’t find any air, no matter how deeply she tried to breathe. She disentangled herself from the two dead women as the vampire talked. She couldn’t really hear what he was saying … or actually she could, but his words seemed slurred. Maybe it was her hearing that was slurred. She started to crawl away on hands and knees; she didn’t even know where she was going, just away. She still had it in her mind that she needed to get him away – away from William. Buffy didn’t get far before she felt a boot kick her in the ribs. When she fell down flat on the floor, the boot came down again on her back, her neck, and her head in rapid succession.
Buffy ‘ooomphed’ and moaned as pain shot out in every direction, but she tried to keep crawling. She couldn’t see anything … the whole world was spinning out of control.
“Oooo … moan for me, a ghrá. You do like it rough, don’t ya, lass?” Angelus continued taunting as he beat her. “So do I.”
“Buffy! Stop!” Tara screamed at her as she tried to keep the Slayer away from Xander, who had stumbled out into the hallway now. Giles and Clem rushed in past the downed carpenter to help.
“Get the rest of the antidote!” Tara yelled at Giles, inclining her head towards the bedside table.
Finally, Xander regained some of his composure and rejoined the melee. His head was still spinning and he was pretty sure he’d never father any more children. On the bright side, he could stop trying to figure out how to pull his bottom lip up over his head, which Anya insisted he must do before she’d consider getting pregnant again. With Tara, Xander, and Clem holding her down, Giles pinched his Slayer’s nose closed and poured the rest of the antidote in Buffy’s mouth. Unable to breathe, Buffy choked and gagged; she spit some of it out, but most of the rest of the medicine was, thankfully, swallowed.
Angelus flipped the redhead over and straddled her hips with his. Buffy tried to kick, to push him off, but she didn’t even have her full human strength any longer. She was exhausted and pain shot through her whole body with every movement.
“I’ll make it good for you, my little rose,” Angelus purred against her neck as he tilted her head to the side. “I’ll make it burn. Go ahead and scream, a ghrá … You’ll soon find out, it’s all the better when they scream.”
Buffy knew what was happening, but it was like she was seeing it from outside herself, as if she had no control over her own body. Angelus dropped his fangs to her neck and bit down savagely. She felt blood flood her throat and tried to spit it out, but didn’t have the strength – she had to swallow it. Her hands flailed out around her, searching for something – anything to use against him … but she could find nothing.
She felt the life draining out of her. Her limbs were like lead, and she could feel her heartbeat slowing in her chest. Every second that passed, every drop that the vampire sucked from her, slowed her heart that much more.
Then, suddenly, everything went quiet and still. The weight of Angelus atop her was gone. She thought for certain she was dead. She tried to open her eyes to check. Would she be in limbo? Oh God, she hoped not. She didn’t have the strength to fight those giant spiders just now.
“Dear God, please no! Avengelyne? Avengelyne, can you hear me?” William pleaded as he dropped to his knees next to her and drew her into his arms.
Buffy blinked her eyes open and took a breath. Dusty grit filled her eyes and nose; she coughed blood out of her throat as tears leaked from her eyes. “William?” she croaked out past the blood, spattering it on him as she spoke.
She felt him lay her back down gently. She could feel the blood still running warm down the side of her neck. It joined the pool of coagulated blood on the floor beneath her, and soaked back up into the layers and layers of fabric she was clothed in. William took her hand in his and she was finally able to blink the dust from her eyes so she could see.
“Avengelyne … are you … what should I do?” he asked softly. Fear clouded his eyes. His face and body were bruised and bloodied from the beating he’d taken from Angelus, but he would survive. He was deathly afraid the same was not true for the love of his life.
“William,” she moaned again, trying to reach up to touch his face. Her arm wouldn’t move; it felt like the blood on the floor had turned to glue and was holding her in place.
William lifted the hand he was holding up to his face, kissed her bloody fingers gently, and then pressed her palm against his cheek. He closed his eyes and leaned into her soft touch. Tears leaked from his eyes and his whole body quivered with fear. When he looked into her eyes, his chest constricted; he was certain his heart had stopped beating in that moment. His love’s eyes were dull, lifeless orbs; there was none of her normal light in them, no fire. He’d seen that look before, just before his mother had passed. The eyes were the windows to the soul, and he could see that her soul was already taking its leave of her mortal body.
“You … dusted … him … Angel,” Buffy stuttered out. Blood splattered from her lips when she spoke, adding more coppery, red paint to the scene.
“Yes,” William affirmed, picking up the make-shift stake that Buffy had dropped earlier and showing it to her. “You told me of such animals … but I never … I could never fathom them. I thought it was a fanciful ghost story, an … exaggeration.
“Hold on, my darling. Please hold on. The doctor will be here,” he assured her.
‘No doctor. Too late …” Buffy told him solemnly, her voice a hoarse whisper. She could feel her heart slowing. It was taking every ounce of strength she had to just keep her eyes open and choke out a few words.
“No … no!” William admonished her as he kissed her palm gently. “You can’t leave me. Please, Avengelyne, fight, my darling … I’m begging you.”
“Dusted … him … Angel,” Buffy murmured as her friends held her down, although her flailing had finally stopped.
“No, Buffy – Angel’s not dusted,” Giles assured her. “He’s perfectly fine – he’s looking for Spike with Bess.
“Buffy? Can you hear me?” Giles asked her after a few more moments. “It’s Giles.”
“Too late…” Buffy whispered.
“No, Buffy – it’s not too late,” Giles assured her. “It will be alright. Can you open your eyes?”
“Buffy,” Tara tried, speaking gently. “We need you to fight. Your family needs you. Annie, Dani, Billy, MacKenzie … they need you, Buffy.”
Buffy shook her head and tried to clear the fog from her brain – it was so thick, just like the fog that had engulfed London. Everything was so muddled. “William…”
“Yes, Buffy,” Tara continued. “William needs you too. We all need you.”
Tears leaked from Buffy’s eyes as her two worlds collided. Annie and Anne, Dani and Bess, Billy and William, Jr., MacKenzie and Wanda … Spike and William. Their faces all swirled around in her mind, meshing, then unraveling, turning in dizzying circles, all calling to her. Then they were all reaching for her and she felt like she was the rope in a desperate tug-of-war. Two families, two worlds, were pulling at her soul, stretching it across time, trying to claim it for their own.
She’d been safe and happy as Avengelyne … until Angelus showed up. Then she couldn’t protect them – she couldn’t fight him, she was just a woman. A normal woman in a normal life. But William needed her, she knew … they all needed her there. If she left what would happen to Bess? What of William, Jr. and the war? And her tenderhearted, sweet husband – what would become of him?
Then Spike was there crashing into her mind’s eye. Lost and suffering the never-ending torture in the belly of the demon sea monster. She could feel him calling for her, reaching out for her, too. He needed her to find him, to save him. And Annie. Oh, God Annie! Her beautiful, once-happy daughter was now broken, mangled, and bitter. Annie needed her too.
How could she choose? How could she help one and let the other go? She hadn’t protected any of them and now they all called to her, their voices ringing like a doleful chorus in her mind. Mama! Buffy! Avengelyne! Elizabeth! Mother! Mom!
She felt like she was being torn apart from the inside. Every cell of her body, every drop of blood in her veins, every molecule, every microscopic strand of DNA was being ripped painfully apart. Her whole being was flooded with guilt and sorrow, right down to the very bottom of her soul and it hurt worse than anything she'd ever felt before.
“Save your strength, darling,” William admonished her, dropping his face down and pressing his cheek against hers. Blood now covered them both and it stabbed a new pain into William’s heart because he could not smell the perfume that was his wife – only the metallic tang of the blood.
“Listen … remember … promise,” Buffy continued, trying to lift her head to make sure he could hear.
“Avengelyne … please. You must be still,” William tried, but Buffy shook her head adamantly against his.
“William … remember … war,” Buffy stammered out, blood flooding out of her mouth with the words.
“I needn’t remember, darling. You will be here to…”
“NO!” Buffy choked out with strength she didn’t know she had. “Promise.”
William clenched his jaw and swallowed the lump that had formed in his throat. “Yes, darling, I remember. I promise to keep William out of the war,” her husband assured her, lifting up so she could see his face. Buffy nodded, her eyes fell closed, and the shallow rise of her chest stopped completely.
William’s chest tightened as he tried to breathe, but there was no room in his chest for oxygen, it was filled with fear and grief and heartbreak the likes of which he’d never known before. Tears streamed down his face, mixed with his blood, and flowed like red rivers off his chin. His heartache dripped from his face onto his wife's cheeks and mingled with hers, streaking Buffy’s face with a heart-rending flood of sorrow.
“Avengelyne … Dear God, no…”
Suddenly Buffy coughed and blood sputtered from her lips. Her chest heaved as she inhaled sharply. William made a futile attempt to wipe the blood away with his right hand, but they were both bathed in it now. He clung to her small hand with his left, as if trying to hold her here, to pull her soul back into her body. His mind raced, sending prayer after prayer up to heaven for God to spare her … to spare him, for he was certain he would die without her.
“Bess…” Buffy continued. “Don’t let … them …” Buffy took several deep breaths and tried again to open her eyes. After a monumental effort, her lids finally fluttered open and she saw William above her. She tried to smile, but couldn’t quite remember how. She swallowed the blood in her throat as she looked up at him. “… Council … don’t let them take … Bess. Promise.”
“No darling, I won’t. I won’t let anyone harm Bess. I promise. But you must promise … you must promise to fight now, my love. I can’t … I can’t do this without you,” William pleaded with her, his chin quivering in fear and anguish.
“No, no Avengelyne, I can not.”
“You’re … strong. Lion’s …” Buffy started coughing again, as what little blood was left in her ran down her windpipe into her lungs, drowning her.
“Shhhh …” William soothed her. “I do not have a lion’s heart. You are wrong on this. You … you are my heart. Please, my darling, please stay.”
“I love you, William, but … I can’t … stay,” Buffy whispered to him as tears streamed down her face. She finally found the strength to lift her other hand up and she touched his face for the last time. "I'm ... sorry."
“I love you … Elizabeth … please, God … please,” William prayed as her bloody hand fell slowly away from his face and the small spark of life that was left in her eyes faded to a dull, dark, blankness. William collapsed down on her now still chest. There was no heartbeat, no rise and fall of her breath. There was nothing. She was gone.
“Why, God … why?” he moaned as he sobbed against her. “Please wake up … please, please come back to me,” he begged. “I need you. I can’t live without you … Avengelyne … please.”
Without You, Air Supply
No I can't forget this evening
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