All We Do (All We Can)
Summary: Things don’t go so well during the Cruciamentum.
Author’s Notes: Set in ‘Helpless’. Partly me messing around with style and vampire!Buffy. I hope you enjoy!
There’s so much red everywhere.
All around her, pools and puddles, sticky, scarlet like deep dark lipstick. On her skin too, drying and cracking and flaking, a snake reborn. In her hair, matting the blonde threads to her scalp. Down her throat, slick and still warm, a burning pleasure and damnation.
Too much red, too much precious life everywhere, and none of it hers. She is all predator, death, hazy sight set on the tableau in front of her. Her stomach clenches. She drops to her knees, opens her mouth and hacks. Nothing comes but her stomach continues to roil in waves and everything feels like it’s ripping apart, drowning in red, and she doesn’t know who she is. Not anymore anyway.
The sound – it’s familiar, a caress from his lips. Her name, that’s it. She cranes her head up and there he is, clean, her Angel, always her Angel.
But she’s not his Buffy anymore. She’s tainted, all dirty and baptized anew in blood. No, damned, not baptized, baptism is for the good and she isn’t. Not after this. Maybe not ever if this is what lurked beneath the surface. Her head spins, everything’s so red and it’s dizzying and she can still smell it, but then she focuses on warm brown eyes.
They’re the only not-red around her and she stares into them, lets herself fall into their depths. Maybe if she looks long enough, it’ll be okay. All the red will disappear and she can wake up and –
Except it won’t; she knows it and he knows it, is realizing it as he looks her over. She knows his eyes are tracing the ridges on her face, the yellow gleaming eyes, the fangs still wet with blood.
And all this red, it must be overwhelming for him too, if it’s even an ounce of what she felt, feels, then it must be gnawing at him, screaming at him to morph and feed. Yet he’s strong, he remains human, the only sign anything is wrong is in the yellow specks swimming in his eyes.
“Angel.” Her voice is quiet, crackly like the blood drying on her skin. It’s the first thing she’s said since saying they deserved no mercy. Then her voice was cold; now it’s small.
It’s a plea for understanding, for him to see who she is (was), to forgive and cleanse and turn back time. It’s a plea for punishment, condemnation, one-way trips to hell to burn for the dead. He’s done his round and now it’s her time. But all the assorted phrases to accompany the name are just coagulated lumps in her throat, stuck and utterly useless.
He shuffles closer and then he’s by her side, kneeling in the blood, pulling her close. “Buffy, come here.”
He’s not cold anymore, technically it’s she who’s changed, but he feels warm. Like her safe haven, not that she deserves one anymore. Hell, that’s where she should be. Hell of the eternal flame-y sort.
“I did it. I couldn’t stop. I-I-I…”
Her eyes shut. Blood. Mr. Stuffy-and-Cruel Watcher, Quentin, that was his name, she ripped his arm off, laughing at the tearing flesh, at his echoing screams. Who could’ve guessed the library had such excellent acoustics? And then the others, his partners in crime. One head torn off but that was too easy, way too easy, and so she went slow with the others. Fingers and hands and arms and then finally her fangs sliding into flesh like warm butter. Slippery blood down her throat, hot delicious burning, and she still wants more, wants to glut herself on the heat. But there are only these lukewarm puddles around them.
He cradles her and she nuzzles closer. Like always it’s safe in his arms and she wishes she could stay ensconced in their shelter forever but she’s a big girl and she needs to face the consequences. Admit her wrongs, let judgment falls, that’s how this works. She’s been judge jury executioner for so long, she knows how this goes. She just never expected to fall on the other side.
“I wanted them to hurt.” She confesses, eyes flickering away from him. “I wanted them dead. In the most horrible ways possible. I didn’t know about… My soul I didn’t realize… It didn’t…” Here she stops, taking large gasps of unnecessary breaths as if air could solve everything. Tears haze her vision, drip down.
He holds her though he should push her away. She doesn’t understand why, why he’s still holding her after all she’s done. It’s worse than other vampires – they didn’t have souls. And yet he only holds her tighter as a fresh wave of sobs wrack her small frame.
It all goes back to one word. Cruciamentum. Big ole Slayer rite of passage or something because surviving to 18 isn’t enough of an accomplishment. No, gotta have the big test, right there with the SATs and the driver’s test and all the other exams.
She failed. Big fat red dripping F and here’s the proof. So much red, too much red, in every crevasse every fold of her body – his eyes are the only other color, warm and brown and gentle, but she can’t look at them anymore, afraid of what she’ll find, afraid of which option (pity or revulsion? not love, can’t be love) would be worse.
Couldn’t do it with her mom dead, slumped in a chair. Then his fangs in her neck and she gave up, gave in, too tired to resist until that final moment when she snapped out and bit him, one last survivor’s gut instinct. She thought she’d died nonetheless, didn’t remember the taste of his metallic blood in her mouth until she woke up, changed, darker, faster, stronger. World’s deadliest predator and out for vengeance.
“They were Watchers.” Words squeeze out from between the sobs. “They killed her. Mom. I couldn’t tell, it didn’t feel wrong, it felt so right, Angel, please believe me, it was right, it was, it was, it was.”
It wasn’t. He’s disgusted at what she’s done, all she’s done with a soul still in there, she knows that because she is. He must be. He’s wondering how she couldn’t know, how she couldn’t feel it burn and cry out like it is now, crying so damn loud now that the deed is done. How could she massacre these men, awful as they were?
And what now? She’s not whole like she used to be. All little shards of Buffy, broken pieces crying and aching, spread out on the floor. Try to pick some up and they’ll only cut deeper – better to leave the whole mess for the dustbin.
No words from him. He hates her – she knows he does, he should. But she wants his love too much, wants it even if she’s a monster. Is afraid of it too.
His arms are still there around her. She wants him to push her away, discard her like the trash she is. She wants him to hold on tight forever.
Forever – they can do that now, their life-spans match up eternity for eternity.
But he shouldn’t.
It’s still quiet and she needs him to speak so much, for him to make it alright or damn her or anything except this oppressive silence.
When he finally speaks, it’s not the condemnation she expects. “What do you want?”
For all the red to disappear, swirl down the drain. For this to be a dream, to wake up in the morning and curl up with her mom on the sofa and go to school and make jabs at Giles and gossip about dumb things and dance and slay vampires. For all the punishment she deserves, pain and lots of it. For his arms to never let her go, for his love to stay strong even now. For death to embrace her. For life – she wants everything and nothing at all.
Quiet and small. “I just want to be Buffy again.”
A beat of silence and then.
“It’ll take time. You’ll never be able to erase what you’ve done, but you can fight. You can keep fighting and doing the right thing like you’ve always done.”
She told him that once, but everything seemed simpler then. Not easy, but simpler.
“Will it be enough?”
She meets his eyes, love and uncertainty and strength. She needs to know the truth, see it in him.
“It has to be.”
And there it is – stark truth stretching for eternity.