A Prologue to Life/I Know You

 
 

Season: Post Chosen (this part, Season II and lll for the rest)

Rating: PG13 this part; NC17 eventually

Summary: This was a stand alone that became the prologue for a longer fic to meet a challenge at the Bloodshedverse. This takes place immediately after the collapse of Sunnydale; the rest of the rather long story takes place mostly in Sunnydale and begins in Season II.  There will be be brief glances into a post-Chosen world in which Buffy never moves to Rome or dates the Immortal.  (I was Jossed, what can I say?)

banners by Bloodshed Baby and Selene

Only the prologue is on one of these funky pages. The rest of the fic will be in plain old black and white.



A Prologue to Life  (Prologue to “I Know You”)


She held it together until they were in the motel.  It wasn’t much of a motel, just a little roadside collection of cabins and rooms; but it had enough vacancies to fit everyone in, and it was only a few miles from the hospital where they’d left the wounded slayers and Robin.


Buffy and Dawn had a cabin to themselves where they flipped a coin to see who would shower first.  Dawn won the toss, and while she was showering off the airborne dust from the crater that had replaced their home, Buffy just lay on the bed, staring blindly at the cracked ceiling.  She idly noticed that there were flyspecks all over it and wondered where all the flies had gone.


Maybe Spike sucked them down into hell with the rest of Sunnydale.  Maybe it created such a big vacuum that all the little teeny things got whooshed into the hellmouth.  I think I’ll ask him if that’s what happened...


Without warning, the full impact of the morning’s events hit, and she could no longer pretend not to know that she would never be able to ask Spike anything, ever again.  Full awareness of what she had lost hit with a physical shock and when Dawn emerged from the bathroom she found her sister curled into a miserable ball in the middle of the bed, keening softly and rocking herself from side to side.


Dawn silently slipped onto the bed behind Buffy’s much smaller body and wrapped her arms around her.  With her own tears sliding down her face, Dawn rocked with the older girl, knowing that as bad as she felt for letting Spike go without healing the rift between them, it was nothing compared to what her sister was feeling.


Dawn thought about Spike’s defense of the Slayer when everyone, including Buffy’s own younger sister, had ejected her from her own house. She remembered hearing Buffy giving Spike credit for enabling her to find the courage and strength to confront Caleb and retrieve the scythe.


  In spite of the anger she’d felt toward the vampire when Xander told her Spike had tried to rape her sister, she knew that he’d been the one constant in Buffy’s life for years.  His love for her sister never wavered, and no matter what happened between them, he was always there for her when she needed him.  And she had needed him a lot this past year.  Right up until the bitter end, when he allowed his newly restored soul to immolate him to save the world.


Choking back her own sobs, Dawn stroked Buffy’s hair and made soothing noises until the high pitched keening tapered off.  Eventually, Buffy stopped rocking and appeared to have drifted into an exhausted sleep.  Dawn quietly unwound herself and went out to join the others for a meal.


When she reached the nearby cafe, Giles gestured for her to join him at the table with Willow, Kennedy, Xander, and Andrew. Faith had stayed at the hospital to be near Robin


“Where’s Buffy?” Willow asked, looking around with concern.  Even though the apparently mortal wound that the Slayer sustained during the fight had miraculously closed up by the time Buffy made it out of the cavern, her exhaustion had been evident and they were all concerned about her.


“It just hit her,” Dawn said quietly.


“What just hit her?  That we won?  I’d think she’d be wanting to celebrate.  There should be singing and dancing and...” Xander’s voice trailed off as he remembered why he wasn’t singing and dancing.  “Oh,” he said quietly. 


“What, oh?” Kennedy asked with her usual disregard of anyone else’s feelings.  “We should be singing and dancing.  We beat the bad guy and we’re all still here to talk about it.”


Xander’s fists clenched under the table and Dawn gasped at the new slayer’s lack of empathy.  Everyone at the table, except Xander who was staring intently at his plate and fighting back tears, turned to stare at her.


Willow struggled to make excuses for her new girl friend’s lack of tact, telling herself that Kennedy hadn’t been part of the group long enough to know how much the others had been through together before the potentials began filling Buffy’s house with noise and hormones.  But she cringed in spite of herself to think that she was falling love with someone so inconsiderate. Tara would never have been that thoughtless. She poked Kennedy hard in the side and hissed angrily,  “We’re not exactly all still here, Kennedy.”


The newly called Slayer actually had to think for a few seconds before she remembered that Xander had lost an ex-fiancée and that the vampire that had lived in the basement since before she arrived was also gone.


“Oh, yeah.  Sorry, guys.” She looked apologetically at Xander and Dawn.  “I forgot for a minute.”


Dawn looked as though she was planning to come across the table and test Kennedy’s new-found powers until Giles put a restraining hand on her arm.


“Do you think she will be joining us for dinner, Dawn?” he asked gently. His heart ached for his surrogate daughter, knowing that their estrangement this year was entirely his fault.  He was too old and experienced in the ways of the world to allow himself to wallow in guilt, but he accepted without hesitation that his willingness to help Robin kill Spike meant that his sympathy would not be welcomed at this time.


Dawn shook her head “no” emphatically.  “She fell asleep, finally, and I don’t intend to wake her up until she’s ready.”  She felt her own eyes fill with tears again as she said softly, “He promised he would never leave us...that he would always be there to...” She smothered a sob and got up abruptly.  “I don’t think I’m all that hungry, guys.  I’ll see you all tomorrow morning.”


She bolted from the cafe and ran back to the cabin, an unreasonable fear making her gasp for air as she ran.  She burst in the door and immediately glanced at the bed; there was no sign of her sister.


Terror worse than anything she’d felt that morning seized Dawn’s body and she gasped for breath that wouldn’t come. She had no idea why she was suddenly so frightened; only knew that she should be.


The sound of water running in the bathroom brought her to the door and she cautiously pushed it open to find Buffy, still dressed, standing under the shower and staring at the knife she held over her left wrist.


Dawn’s strangled sob didn’t so much disturb the wet slayer, as it distracted her for a moment.  She looked up slowly with eyes that chilled Dawn with their blankness.


“B...Buffy?” The girl’s voice was a trembling whisper.  “What are you doing, Buffy?”


Her sister continued to stare at her expressionlessly; then she looked back down at her wrist and the knife blade just touching it.


“I don’t have to do this anymore, Dawn,” she said as though explaining something self-evident.  “I’m not The One anymore.  I can rest again.”


“You’re going to leave me alone?  You too?” Too late, she realized that adding to Buffy’s guilt wasn’t going to get her the result she wanted and she immediately changed her approach, moving a little further into the small bathroom.


“Buffy, he wouldn’t want you to do this.  You know he wouldn’t.  He wants you to enjoy not being the One anymore.  He died so that you could have the life you wanted.”


“He died to save the world, not me.”  Even as she said that, Buffy knew it wasn’t true, knew that he’d expected her to be part of that world.  That he’d made her leave the cavern so that she wouldn’t die with him.


“It hurts, Dawnie.  It hurts so much...” She spoke in a whisper, still staring at her wrist and watching the water run down the blade of the knife and onto her skin.


“I know it does, Buffy.  It hurts me too.  But he doesn’t want us to hurt.  You know he doesn’t.  He loved us too much to want us to be unhappy.  He wanted us to live and enjoy the world he saved.  Shouldn’t we try to do what he wanted, Buffy?  Shouldn’t we do that for him?”  Dawn’s voice was soft and pleading as she edged closer to the bathtub.


“I don’t care what he wants!  I want it to stop.  If he wanted me to be happy, he shouldn’t have died.  He shouldn’t have left me.”


Once again clutching her sides as if she could contain the anguish by just squeezing hard enough, Buffy collapsed into the bottom of the tub, letting the knife fall unnoticed into the water. Dawn quickly snatched it up and threw it out of the room as she climbed into the rapidly cooling water still pouring out of the shower to hold her sobbing sister.


When they were both shivering from the now icy water coming from the shower, Dawn pulled her unresisting sibling out of the tub and wrapped her in a towel while she shut off the stream of cold water.  Buffy offered no resistance, nor did she offer any help, as Dawn got her dried off and into dry clothes.


Morning found the Slayer and the Key huddled together on the bed, exhausted, but filled with the calm acceptance that comes from having grieved as much as it was humanly possible to do at one time.  The morning sun washed their tear-stained faces with warm, golden light, inviting them to get up and go out into the newly saved and welcoming world.




To be continued as “I Know You ”


 

A Prologue to Life