Summary: When she’s too late to stop the Harvest, she loses everything but an oath of vengeance and a man.
Notes: This is an AU on what could’ve happened if Joyce had kept Buffy from leaving the house when she did on the Harvest. It’s not a pretty world.
The fragment Angel reads is from Sonnet XXV from “Sonnets from the Portuguese” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
The club stinks of blood and death. Bodies, mostly teenagers, lay scattered across the floor, the fleshy wrappings of finished meals. They’re pale; necks crusted with blood and faces contorted with fear.
She knows she’s failed, that she’s too late, but she lingers in this temple of death. Despite the grotesqueness of the scene and the feeling that she could vomit up everything she’s eaten (shouldn’t she? Isn’t that what normal girls do?), she can’t leave.
Instead she trails farther into the club, scanning the bodies for familiar faces. She hopes they had the sense not to enter without her.
She finds Cordelia first. Pity stirs within her. No one deserves a death like this. Even Cordelia.
Then she sees her Watcher.
She kneels by his side and another man’s face flashes through her mind. Why? Why do her Watchers always die? Is it because of her?
She turns her head away and spots red hair.
Trembling, she approaches the body.
Willow. And Xander next to her.
There’s a cross lying next to his fingers. It failed to protect him. Just like she did. Tears rise in her eyes.
If she hadn’t been late, they’d still be breathing.
A throaty, deep voice interrupts her. “Look who’s late to the party.”
Her body stiffens and she reaches for her stake. But again she’s too slow and the vampire is on her. It’s the one from the graveyard, Luke or whatever.
She’s pinned to the ground with no leverage to knock him off. His mouth lowers and she wonders what it’ll feel like to die.
Maybe this is karma: she was late and now she’ll die like the innocents around her. She doesn’t want to follow them to whatever afterlife beckons, if one exists at all.
She wants to live.
A low growl breaks the silence and suddenly the weight’s gone and dust is showering down on her. Someone’s helping her up. She recognizes him: the handsome man with the annoying cryptic warnings.
She wants to say thank you, but instead says, “I thought you were afraid of them.”
He looks at her with an intensity that startles her, that makes her look away. “I had to help you.” He says it as if it’s the simplest thing in the world, but it dredges up so many questions.
She opens her mouth, but he shakes his head. “Not here.”
As he leads her to the door, she halts in the middle of the massacre. He looks back at her and she answers before he asks.
“I have to stay.”
“Why?” He looks at her as if she’s just suggested marching into Hell. Maybe she has.
“I need to stay and fight the Master. He’ll come – no baddie can resist gloating – and when he does, I’ll slay.”
Her eyes flash angrily. “I have to do this! I can’t let anyone else die because I’m not doing my duty.”
His fist comes too fast and then darkness claims her.
She wakes up on a bed in an unfamiliar room. She sits, muscles coiled.
“It’s okay.” Angel’s there, leaning against the wall.
She’s ready to interrogate him about the mystery room when she remembers everything. Despair floods through her, but she shoves it aside in favor of fury.
“You had no right to stop me!” She stands, pointing a finger at him.
“So you could get yourself killed?” He shakes his head.
“One Slayer dies, the next is called. That’s the drill.” She shrugs bitterly. “No one will care anyway.”
“I won’t let you throw away your life like that.”
“Why?” She sighs, suddenly feeling tired beyond her years. The death of too many people hangs like a veil, shrouding any possible light.
He asks warily, unsure of her mood, “Why what?”
“Why does it matter? Why do you care if I die?” Her eyes drop to the ground, fear and vulnerability and guilt gnawing at her insides. It’s all the spirits, crying at her for letting them die. “The next Slayer might be better. She might be able to stop a slaughter before it happens. She might be able to take the Master down.”
“I care because it’s you.”
That isn’t the answer she expects.
She stares at him in amazement, really looking at him, and he looks away, biting his lower lip. For her, that small movement cements the sincerity of his words.
She can’t bring herself to ask why. Why does he care about her? What makes her special? Had he seen her before?
It’s funny that she’s being so quiet now since with any other guy she would’ve been ready with a flirty remark to a comment like that. It’s far too confusing to think about Angel’s confession, so her mind moves on to other things.
She thinks about her friends instead. She didn’t know them very well and now she never will. They’d been living normal lives, futures bright and shiny with hope, and then she’d come. They’d taken her side and now they were dead.
She doesn’t want to break down in front of him, but tears begin rolling down her cheeks anyway. It’s too much. She turns away from him, wanting to hide her sorrows.
Arms wrap around her hesitantly. She can’t explain it, but she feels safe ensconced in those arms. Like she can cry all she wants without fear or doubt.
She wakes up alone.
She remembers crying in Angel’s arms until sleep took over. She remembers the feel of safety, of being with someone who cares. She also remembers the blood and gore though she tries to put that aside.
Her stomach rumbles. She rises and finds him in the next room, sitting at a table. There’s a plate of waffles by him and she smiles.
He notices and nods his head at the food. “Go ahead. I’ll make you some tea.”
She eats the waffles, not really tasting them, her mind weighed down by everything that is her fault.
“What time is it?”
She frowns, making calculations. If she’d gone to the Bronze around one and then cried till three, that would mean only four hours of sleep. “I slept longer than that.”
“In the evening.”
She stares. “Why didn’t you wake me?”
He looks away. “You needed the sleep.”
“My mom’s going to be worried sick!” She jumps up. “I need to get home.” He watches her and she adds, “You can come.”
It doesn’t seem as if he’ll answer and she’s ready to leave, but then he nods. “The sun’s set. We’ll need to be careful.”
When no one answers the doorbell, she shrugs. “Maybe she’s out.”
She draws her own key and opens the door, entering the house. It’s quiet and there’s an abandoned vibe, which is ridiculous since she was here just last night.
She glances back at where Angel’s lingering outside. Irritated and concerned, she snaps, “Do you want to attract vampires? Get in.”
Once he’s inside, they shut the door.
She shouts. “Mom! Mom! I’m home!”
“Something’s not right.”
“Vague that up, will you?”
She doesn’t know what he knows. She can’t even with Slayer-enhanced senses. But she’ll know soon enough.
It’s a frightening tableau straight from a classic serial killer film. Her mother is stretched out on the sofa. Her eyes stare at the ceiling, glassy and dim. There’s a wreath of blood around her, a halo for the dead. It’s matted in her hair and crusted over her pale skin. Her neck hasn’t just been bitten; it’s been torn open, the flesh pink and exposed. Some flies crawl over the meat, buzzing softly. On the wall, there are words in dripping red.
Come out and play, Slayer.
This was their play, their games. This was what they called fun.
It’s impossible. How could her mother, so apart from the Slaying, be dead because of those creatures? Her mother’s not a part of that world – how dare they kill her like this!
She drops to her knees, retching, dry-heaving when nothing else will come. Tears tumble down her face and she feels Angel’s arms draw her to him. She lets him pull her close, her eyes frozen on her mother.
It’s too much, far too much for a sixteen year-old girl to face. Her mother shouldn’t be dead. Yet she is and again it’s her fault.
It’s always her fault.
She doesn’t know how much time passes, but her sobs fade away to nothing and she’s left staring silently at the body. Her mother.
“I hate them.” Her eyes are blazing now, burning with a Slayer’s righteousness and a deeper, primal hatred. She doesn’t remember ever feeling like this. Not even when Merrick died.
“I’m going to kill every single one of those damned creatures.” Her voice is harsh, angry, so far from the teenager who didn’t want anything to do with the supernatural.
He doesn’t say anything and she doesn’t expect him to. This is her promise.
The house is too big and empty for her. It’s too full of ghosts; every time she walks into the kitchen, she expects her mother to be there, making pancakes or washing dishes. And even though she cleaned everything up, the sofa is stained with blood and the air with putrid death.
She can’t stay here anymore.
…But where else can she go?
He offers her a place at his apartment and she accepts without a second thought. She packs her bags and says good-bye to the place that never had time to become her home and now never would.
“If you want to face the Master, you’re going to have to work hard. You’re going to have to train a lot.”
She nods. “I know.”
“I’ll train you.”
Her brow rises. “You, Mr. Scared-to-face-them? I thought you were more of a leave-cryptic-hints kinda guy.”
His lips quirk upwards. “Punch me.”
She curbs her strength, but not her speed. Still, it’s not fast enough to avoid having his arm jerk up to redirect her punch to the side. His other arm shoots out, fist stopping a few millimeters away from her body. He smirks.
“Okay, you can be my Yoda.”
She doesn’t have a Watcher anymore and with no way to contact the Council, she doesn’t think she’ll get another anytime soon. The thought doesn’t bother her – after all, her Watchers tend to die.
She does have Angel. She doesn’t know where he learned and he’s evasive about her prodding, but he’s got crazy good combat skills. He’s become her teacher, her guide, and her partner.
They patrol together, talking and hunting. He steers them clear of the big vampire nests, telling her she isn’t ready yet. She lets him direct them, knowing that she’d be lost without his anchoring.
“I’m going to check out the Bronze.” She looks over at him, alarmed by his proposition. She doesn’t want to think about entering the club again. He adds, “You can stay here.”
“But what if the Master’s there?”
“It’ll be simple recon. I won’t get caught.” Angel promises. She stares pleadingly at him, afraid for him but too unnerved by the thought to offer aid. “We need to know if the Master’s there or if he’s got a different hideout.”
He walks out the door. She considers following, but she can’t bring herself to move.
So she whispers, “Stay safe.”
As minutes pass, she wishes she’d gone with him. She doesn’t want the one person she has left to die. She thinks about his body immobile and still – another victim of her incompetence.
Then she hears him enter and she breathes out in relief. He’s still alive.
“What was it like?”
“Empty. The Master’s living somewhere else.”
“Are we going to find him?” She doesn’t know if she’s ready to face the master vampire. She didn’t think Angel thought she was ready.
“No. You’re not ready.”
She’s glad for his answer though part of her just wants it over with.
She considers calling her father to tell him about her mother’s death, but every time she lifts the phone, she can’t do it. She knows if she does, he’ll whisk her away to LA. They’ll grieve her mother and move on.
But she can’t move on.
She can’t leave Sunnydale. She’s sworn that she’ll kill them to avenge all the lives lost and to protect the lives still around. She knows Sunnydale will probably be her grave, but she doesn’t care as long as she kills them in the process. There’s nothing left for her but this oath of vengeance.
She stops attending school. It just seems more important to focus on slaying. When she makes the choice, she can see Angel watching her with sadness and she wants to snap at him for it but can’t bring herself to.
She also adopts a nocturnal schedule like her prey. He does challenge that, telling her that she shouldn’t give up the sun and the human world to live in the shadows. She fires back that he does the same thing, sequestering himself from the light to better hunt the vampires.
He doesn’t say anything else on the subject after that.
They’re out patrolling one night when a trio of vampires jumps them. Two are men – she dubs them Curls and Hedgehog for their hairstyles. The other is a blonde woman whom she recognizes from her first night in Sunnydale. It’s two against three, but the two fight well together.
She doesn’t know why the blonde woman calls Angel that, but she’s backed away. The vampire sneers at him.
“Slayer’s lap dog now? How pathetic. You’ll watch her die and then maybe we’ll let you back in. The Master’s wanted a replacement since Luke died. And you were the best.”
It happens fast. Curls and Hedgehog charge her. A punch knocks Curls away, but Hedgehog grabs her arm before she can withdraw. He twists. Then the woman is there, fangs angled towards her exposed neck.
A growl rips the air. Angel moves with a speed she hasn’t seen from him as he barrels into the woman. They fight like jungle cats, spitting and hissing and roaring.
She watches, transfixed by the sight of his demonic visage, of the way he fights. But Curls and Hedgehog are still around and she must fight when Hedgehog lands a blow on her jaw.
It doesn’t take long for her to stake them – they’re fledglings and she’s had an excellent master. An excellent master who happens to be a vampire.
Angel. A vampire.
How could she miss that?
She watches the fight between the vampires, unable or unwilling to jump in as usual. His face sports the enemy’s features and he fights with a new ferocity, but it’s still his style. She reminds herself that vampires aren’t people, that they’re monsters intent on destruction and mayhem, but she can’t (won’t) plaster that definition on Angel.
He’s something else. Or maybe she’s just a fool.
They’ve been fighting for a while and she fears that he might lose. It’s irrational – why care if another vampire is staked? But she doesn’t want him to become dust… at least until he’s given her answers.
Like why did he say he cared about her. Or why has he been helping her slay better. Or why hasn’t he killed her yet. Or –
The blonde woman pulls him close and her heart jumps.
She murmurs, “We can be together again, Angelus. Powerful.”
“No. That’s over.”
The stake is swift, the hidden serpent, and then she’s just dust in the wind.
He turns away from her, but she catches the look on his face.
Regret. Sorrow. Shame. Not vampire emotions at all.
“Why are you helping?” Somehow the words push past the bubbles in her throat though they come out quieter, meeker, than she wants them to.
When he turns to her, his face is back in its human mask. His eyes stay on the ground. “I want to.”
It’s an unsatisfying answer. Lions don’t help lambs and vampires don’t help Slayers. They kill them. It’s a fact of life.
What gives him the power and will to defy those facts?
The bubbles in her throat pop and angry words rush out, “That’s not a good answer! You should want to kill me. You should want to turn Sunnydale into your personal playground. Not play hero. So why the hell are you helping?
“I have a soul.”
“How?” Her hand is still tight around the stake.
“It’s a long story.”
“Then let’s go home and you can tell me over a steaming cup of tea...” She frowned, “…or blood, I suppose.”
He looks at her, surprised, and she rolls her eyes. “Yes, I’m not staking you right away. Now let’s go.”
They arrive at his (their) apartment. He puts the kettle on the oven and as they wait for the water to boil, he talks about gypsies and curses and dirty alleyways and demons fighting for good. He skims briefly over his career as Angelus, noting that he was a vicious, bloodthirsty vampire. He finishes by telling her about the promise he made to himself – to protect her.
She’s quiet when he finishes, just as she’s been through the entire story. Finally she asks, “How did I miss it?”
“Sometimes people can’t see what they don’t expect.”
Sunnydale syndrome right there.
After that, they lapse into more silence. She drinks the rest of her tea. He stands tall, the monster awaiting judgment.
She wants to believe that he’s the man she’s come to call friend. And really, if he was evil, wouldn’t he have killed her when he had the chance? Wouldn’t he have helped Darla – his sire – out instead of staking her?
Maybe he’s got a master plan, she doesn’t know, but she does know that he’s her only friend and she’s not losing him like she did the others.
“Can we spar now?”
Judgment passes, he’s welcomed by humanity.
She’s awake before him tonight. He’s always made her breakfast and now it’s her turn. Once she’s finished, she sits at the table, eating her food.
When he enters, he freezes. His eyes focus on the cup across from her.
She glances at him and smirks. “Better hurry or it’s going to get cold.”
“You made me blood.”
“And the award for stating the obvious goes to…”
He smiles broader than usual. It looks good on him and she’d doubly glad for her action.
But looking at him, she sees that it is a big deal.
He punches her; she grabs his arm and hurls him to the ground. She straddles him. A pen pokes his chest and she leans over him, “Dust.”
He smiles back and with that smile, her heart flutters in her chest. With the adrenaline fading, she’s suddenly aware of how close they are, how the air buzzes with electricity around them.
He’s noticed too; there’s an animal heat gleaming in his brown eyes. She only needs to lean her head down a few inches and…
She draws away quickly.
“I’m going to shower,” she stammers out and hurries out the room.
Water pummels her mercilessly, sweeping away the heat. A part of her calls for it, but she ignores that part.
She can’t get into this. She won’t. People she loves have a tendency to die and she doesn’t want that for him.
And, perhaps more than that, she’s afraid of getting hurt. She’s afraid of losing someone again. It’s okay as just friends, that’s what she tells herself anyway, but anything more would break her completely.
And, hello, vampire. It would never work. Being friends was okay, good even, but having fuzzy feelings for one?
Nope, out of the question.
Things are quiet when she exits the shower. For a moment, she fears that he’s gone, but then she spots him curled up on the sofa. He’s reading a book.
She sits on the armchair, peering at the cover. “Whatcha reading?”
“Sonnets from the Portuguese by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.” At her puzzled face, he adds, “Poetry.”
He looks intently at her before glancing down again. “A heavy heart, Beloved, have I borne, From year to year until I saw thy face…”
Again, the heat rises to her cheeks and she can’t make out the rest of his words.
When he finishes, she forces out words, “It’s pretty. All nice and flow-y and metaphorical. My English teacher loved metaphors. He was all about the hidden meanings in stuff. I was never big on them. Deciphering metaphors, not poetry. I like poetry.”
She swallows down the rest of her babble and stares at the floor. She tries to not think about Angel and heavy hearts and being near him.
“Poetry is good.” He replies, setting the book down. “It’s late.”
“We should get to sleep.” She agrees, grateful for the escape.
In bed, she spends hours locking away her feelings.
The Master’s elusive, hiding in the darkness. They keep their ears open, but there aren’t any clues to his whereabouts. He’s a master at remaining hidden when needed.
It’s maddening, this game of cat and mouse. Sometimes she’s not even sure who’s the cat and who’s the mouse anymore. Both sides stalk the other; both have death gleaming in their eyes.
She wonders how much longer this’ll last. She wonders how it’ll end, whether it’ll end with blood or dust. Or both – maybe they’ll destroy each other.
As long as the vampires die, she doesn’t care how it goes down.
“Buffy.” He waits to make sure he has her full attention. “When’s the last time you did something fun?”
She looks away, suddenly interested in the wall. “I slayed that vamp last night… It was fun…”
“I don’t mean Slayer-fun. I mean normal fun.”
Her eyes drift back to him and she regrets it because he’s watching her with so much intensity that it’s hard to keep looking. So she looks away again. “I have to kill them.”
“You shouldn’t seclude yourself from the world.”
She stands and smiles at him. “Come on, duty calls.”
But she’s already leaving.
She knows his words are true, that she has been locking herself away from the rest of the world ever since the Harvest. She knows she shouldn’t be. It’s unhealthy.
But she won’t let him penetrate her armor. There’s a reason she’s drawn away from the world. She brings pain and suffering to those whom she’s close to, those whom could become friends. Angel’s different because he’s already in this monstrous world, but she won’t pull anyone else into it.
Slayers were built to kill and hunt, to protect the world from evil. She’s forgotten how to do anything else.
“There are vampires here?”
She stares around them. They’re in front of a fair. The place is full of bright lights and laughter and joyous whoops and overpowering odors and smiles and cranking machinery. It’s not a place she can see vampires in… Though there are plenty of people to pick off and so she supposes they could be lurking in the shadows.
“No.” He admits, shattering her illusions of skulking vamps. “But we’re here and I already got tickets. It’d be a shame to waste them.” He waves the tickets in front of her.
She can’t resist the offer.
At first, she’s determined to not enjoy herself because this isn’t her life anymore. She’s determined to go through the motions because it’s what he wants, but she’s not seeking pleasure. She’s not the girl who goes out to have some fun anymore.
Those thoughts slip away quickly, her emotional armor accumulating a number of chinks. She shrieks in delight when the rollercoaster drops, laughs when Angel mutters about the so-called entertainment, snorts when he admits to intense dizziness after their sixth time on the Twister.
They end the evening with ice-cream – well, she has ice-cream while he walks near-by.
“Did you have fun?” He asks as they near the apartment.
She rolls her eyes. “You couldn’t tell.”
He shrugs, smiling. She smiles back and the rest of the world melts away. Her eyes focus on his lips and then she’s pressed against him, lips gently, shyly, touching. The kiss deepens, the movements slow and passionate and like none of the kisses she’s ever had.
A pleasurable growl rises from his chest and then he pulls away, his eyes glued to the ground. His face has changed, the demon excited.
“Don’t stop.” She steps to him and resumes the kiss.
After that, he convinces her to go out and see the world during the day. She walks through Sunnydale, jacket drawn tight.
There’s too much ruin. Cars broken, shop windows smashed, roads littered. At night, the destruction doesn’t look so bad. It blends with the rest of the horrors. But in the stark sunlight, it seems surreal.
The people are changed too. They watch each other with leering eyes and hurry about their business. There are no friendly greetings even between neighbors. Colors are drab and laughter is gone.
So much has changed – all because of the Master rising up.
Before she returns home, she stops at the Bronze. It’s her first time at the club since the Harvest. Angel has been here multiple times in search of the Master, but she’s always remained at home.
She stayed away because she was afraid. Afraid to face her failure again, afraid to see bodies.
Now she enters. It’s quiet. There are dark stains everywhere, but no bodies. The club has become a monument, a memorial to the night things changed. Tears slide down her cheeks as she murmurs promises to the dead.
She couldn’t save them, but she’ll save the living.
They sit on the sofa as she describes what she saw. He’s silent the entire time, his lips pressed tightly together. When she’s done, she asks, “Did you know it’d be like that?”
“No, but I thought it might.”
“They seemed so different at the fair.” She reminisces, leaning into his chest.
“They were trying to forget their troubles if only for a bit. That’s what people do. They live in perpetual fear and then they try hiding from it for a few hours.”
She hopes they’ll succeed and chase away the horrors so people won’t have to hide anymore.
She’s at the Bronze in an ivory dress, surrounded by the slaughter. Angel’s waiting at the other side, smiling. She smiles back and walks towards him.
A body rises in her path. It’s Giles, his glasses broken and his neck coated in blood.
“You’ve failed your duty, Buffy.”
She trembles and shakes her head. Now other bodies are rising up – Willow, Xander, her mother. They’re all blaming her as scarlet stains her dress.
“You should’ve died for them.”
This unfamiliar voice is cold and chilling. Hands wrap around her throat and the last thing she sees is Angel bursting into dust.
“Buffy, wake up, Buffy!”
She wakes up, gasping. Seeing Angel, she pulls him into a crushing embrace. Sobs wrench from her throat as the pallid faces of the victims swim around her. Her eyes shut, but it doesn’t help.
“Do you want anything? Tea? Hot chocolate? Food?”
She shakes her head. “Just stay here.”
Though she wants to tell him about her dream – Slayer dreams tend to be prophetic and she needs to warn him – she can’t talk about it right now.
He slides into bed with her. His arms wrap around her and like always, she feels safer there.
In the evening, when they wake up, she tells him over breakfast. She doesn’t leave anything out because she’s terrified of what it means and she trusts him.
“Don’t blame yourself for what happened that night.”
“It was my fault. I didn’t get there fast enough.”
She leaves out that her mother had kept her in. Don’t blame the dead.
“If I’d been faster, they wouldn’t have died and the Master wouldn’t be free.”
“Buffy, you can’t change the past.” His eyes are pained as he speaks. “But you can fight. You can save the ones who still need saving.”
It hits her then. He lives with all the lives his alter-ego had ruined and taken. She’s separated Angelus and Angel so completely that his sins aren’t Angel’s, but he hasn’t. He lives with the guilt draped around his shoulders, a self-imposed cloak of blame. It’s like the failure bearing on her.
She reaches across the table to hold his hand. “It wasn’t your fault either.” Complaint rises in his eyes, but she continues, “You’re right, we can’t change the past, but we can fight together.”
His eyes shine in her acceptance and she feels the dead lift off her.
They find Jesse that night. He’s smirking, the cocky bastard, bragging about being the Master’s right-hand vamp now that Luke and Darla are gone. Sharing a quick glance of understanding, they wrestle him to the ground.
Angel holds him there as she asks, “Where’s the Master?”
Jesse snarls, “I’m not telling you.”
She smiles acidly. “For someone everyone’s going on about, he sure is a coward. I’d start a coup if I were you.”
Jesse stays silent, so she tugs off her cross and presses it against him. The vampire hisses and it isn’t long before he’s spilling the information.
“I’m going alone.” She says back at the apartment as they load up on weaponry.
“No, you’re not.”
Rage flashes in his eyes. “What happened to fighting together?”
“You died in my dream. I won’t let you risk yourself like that.”
“And I won’t let you go in alone.”
“Don’t you get it? I can’t lose you!” Angry tears fall. “I can’t.”
He closes the distance between them, pulling her in his arms. She rests against his chest. He kisses the crown of her head and murmurs, “I’ll survive, I promise.”
Yes, he will. Because she won’t risk him.
As they get ready to go outside, she snaps her fingers. “I forgot my jacket.”
“I’ll get it.” He volunteers and she manages a sheepish look that disappears when he leaves.
She looks around for something that’ll do when his voice drifts from the other room. “Leather?”
“Yes, please.” She answers, finding what she’s looking for.
When he steps into the living room, she swings the pan at him. He drops to the ground. She leans down and kisses his brow.
“I’m sorry, Angel, but I can’t let you die.”
Slipping into the jacket, she gives him one last look.
Pushing aside all the guilt (“we can fight together”) and worry (Angel bursting into dust), she leaves, a panther on the prowl. Jesse said the Master was in an old factory, plotting revolutionary, grand things. She intends to end this ‘revolution’ tonight.
She doesn’t meet any other vampires the entire walk over and that’s when she knows that he knows she’s coming. Fine, it won’t be an ambush, predator stalking prey. He’s inviting her over and she’s gladly accepting the invitation to his party.
Part of her calls for Angel, but she smothers that traitorous thought.
He won’t die tonight.
The Master stands at the center of the abandoned factory, caressing a piece of machinery she doesn’t like the looks of. There are other vampires there, but he’s the one she watches.
He’s different – ancient with power rolling off him in waves. He’s been around for so long, an unchangeable boulder in turbulent history, and she’s going to end him tonight. She’ll never admit it, but the thought thrills her, that she’ll end something so eternal.
“Won’t you come in?”
She’s been standing still too long, watching.
Well, it wouldn’t have been fitting to end this with a crossbow anyway.
Angel’s trained her well.
She starts with a punch at his temple, switching for a jab to his stomach in the last moment with her other hand. It’s the first hit, but it’s not enough to stop him.
Other vampires attempt to interfere, but he calls them off. Says he’ll finish her himself.
They fight, two predators locked in a fast dance to the death. She circles, he lunges, she darts, he punches, she kicks, he dodges. It seems as if they’re in a draw when he pulls a move she’ll never learn.
Hand at her throat, he hisses, “Stop.”
Paralysis seizes her. She doesn’t know why, but his voice, the one that’s haunted her dreams for so long now, holds her. She vaguely remembers Angel warning her about thralls, about older vampires being able to control victims.
She never thought she’d be a victim since she got her Slayer powers, but now she’s truly terrified.
The Master laughs; the hand not clutching her throat runs down her face. It stops at her pulse and she wishes she could slow the frantic beating.
“A Slayer in my hold, how pleasant.”
Then he leans over and his fangs meet her neck.
At first, it hurts, but then her head grows light and everything seems to fade away. Even the pain… It’s becoming faint and she can forget about the vampire at her neck. Peace wraps around her.
She thinks about her dead mother and the friends that might have been. She wonders if she’ll meet them, if they’ll have an eternity to get to know one another. She hopes they don’t blame her for being too late.
…Angel. She wishes she could’ve told him how much she loves him.
The fuzziness disappears replaced with the harsh edges of reality.
It takes a few moments for everything to sink in. She can feel the pain again and there’s blood sliding down her neck, but her main concern is Angel grappling with the Master. The image of him becoming dust overlays the scene in front of her until terror is working its way through her system.
Other vampires join the fray. She stakes those who get in her way as she approaches the Master.
Sensing her, he shoves Angel away and turns. Predatory eyes meet. She’s too fast and the stake is entering his heart before he can lunge.
Everything freezes. Vampires and Slayer in a historic moment.
A gurgling scream ushers forth from the Master’s mouth. His flesh is becoming dust, particles spewing in the air like a macabre fountain. When the flesh is gone, his bones clatter to the ground. The only remnants of the monster.
Everyone’s staring at her now, wide eyes. She smiles back tentatively at first and then that smile becomes a triumphant smirk.
Maybe it’s the smirk that does it. The others flee, not keen on facing the wrath of a Slayer who’d defeated their leader.
She murmurs, “I’ll give them a day.”
Angel’s immediately at her side, his hand gingerly touching her neck. “Are you okay?”
“Tired, beaten, and bloody, but I’m doing good.” She hugs him, looking accusingly at his face. “You said you’d stay home. Remember, dusty-Angel dreams?”
He lifts an eyebrow. “I don’t recall saying anything. I just remember being knocked out.”
“Hmph…” She draws close to his chest, inhaling his scent. To think, she was so close to losing it tonight. “I’m glad you came.”
He rests his chin on her head. “I am too.”
His eyes scan the factory. “We should get home before anything comes back.”
On the walk home, she’s silent, lost in thought. She came so close to losing her life tonight. She wouldn’t have minded a while ago; it would’ve been a discharge from her duties, a release from a grim world.
But she has Angel.
The Master isn’t the only threat. He’s probably not even the biggest one humanity has to fear. One day, one of those bigger baddies will squash her. One day, the string will slip from her fingers and she’ll be dead.
Or it’ll be Angel – his body finally dust.
She remembers her wish and makes a new oath.
They sit on his bed. He’s bandaging up her wound and she’s still revolving this new promise in her mind.
When he’s finished, she turns and stares into his eyes. They’re lit with raw passion and she knows that hers are the same, if the fire burning under her skin is any indication. Her hand lifts to caress his cheek.
“I love you.”
She kisses him, slow and deep, and when she’s done, he responds, “I love you.”
As she leans in again, pushing him down on the covers, he asks, “Are you sure?”
In response, she kisses him again.
She’s a bit hesitant once their clothes come off, a mix of fright and excitement coloring her passion. He’s gentle with her, murmuring sweet exclamations of love. They take it slow and she rides on a river of passion.
Then they go faster and she’s lost in the rush of love and ecstasy. Past and future are erased – all that exists is the two of them, wrapped up in one another. They move together, two beings as one. For that moment, there are no painful memories, just love, warmth, and acceptance.
There’s only one thing to call this.