Dedication: To the LJ gang.
Spoilers: Through BTVS season 7 episode "Beneath You."
She needed to stop this, this nightmare. The smell of sizzling flesh hit her nose, and Buffy covered her mouth. His beautiful skin, scorching. This wasn't real. But it was, as real as his love, as real as her denial. As real as the timbers of the church and the glow of the stained glass, and the cross that held the man she loved.
Loved. Love, loved, loving. To be loved.
In the blink of an eye, they'd fallen in love. They'd been planning a wedding, as insane and ridiculous as it was to think on it now. Willow in a bridesmaid's dress, her mother weeping tears of joy. "Wouldn't plan on a church wedding." She never wanted to see another church again after tonight. Would never be able to see another cross without thinking of her stupidity, her selfishness.
Sitting on his lap in Giles' chair, his strong arms around her, she'd felt safe and warm in a way she hadn't felt since her father left. There was none of the foreboding she felt with Angel. Just peace, and comfort. After she'd had the first taste of him, she'd never been able to get it out of her mind. And the love, it had remained, hidden and forbidden.
Do the right thing, fight the fight, be a good girl. Twist her love into something she could use, something she could express. Punch, kick, threaten, mock. Don't look him in the eye more than you have to, channel your passion to the good man, the right man. Always another chore, another class, and another battle to be won. No time, not for her, and especially not for him. Never, ever him.
Then things fell apart, loss upon loss, until she just wanted to lay her head down and weep. Death is your gift. Every Slayer has a death wish. She needed to sleep, to rest, to stop giving, blood and body and soul for the world. But they just kept on taking, needing, sapping her strength. The end of the world was coming, and she was the Chosen One. Heroes could never falter, never fall. Never rest.
Stupid vampire. Beaten and bruised, damaged, for her, and for Dawn. Tortured by a god, for her sake. Why? And then she looked into his eyes, and knew, of course. For her, the one he loved. Despite the chains, his threats, even the robot, his love was true, had never stopped. The answering spark in her flamed brightly, so sweet and pure she couldn't turn away. She bent her lips to his, gently, a whisper of a kiss. My love, she'd thought. I won't forget this moment, this memory. One bit of love between us again.
Death is her art, and her hands shape the sacrifice into a realm of peace and stillness. Her world becomes one of light, laughter, motherlove and rest. All burdens lifted, all cares eased, cradled in the womb of tranquility, eternal slumber. She can feel an echo of him there, and it comforts her. Even a whisper of him is enough, now, and there is no shame in it.
In a wrenching instant, her bliss is ripped away. Crashing into her shell, breathing sharp air. Bursting forth, her skin alive with fear and dread, into an unfamiliar landscape of pain, noise, and chaos. This world a distorted dark, so far from her home, so very far from peace. Nagging voices chatter, mirages in a desert.
And then there was him. Love. The world firmed and stilled and healed, in the blue of his eyes. In a hazy realm, only he seemed real and solid. The dark knight, a comfort in the wilderness.
Soft hands, touching hers, bringing sanctuary. She wanted to sink into him and hide away. There was an echo of slumber in his voice, a feel of eternity in his hand. Here you can rest. Too soon, the moment fragmented, and where he had been, there were puppets clamoring. She understood. They would not let her rest. She was the Chosen One again, and there was no peace for her. Paradise was lost.
Be the mother, be the warrior. Pick up the burden and carry on. March to the drummer and sing the same old song. Destiny is a prison, and there will be no pardon; they'll only drag you back again. So put on your paints and pick up your stakes. March on, fight on. Until the end of the world, again.
Seek him out, see the pain in his eyes. Even better, feel the love, a secret wound inside you both. It bleeds, and hurts, and it's the only thing that makes you feel alive. The only pleasure, now, is the pain.
Going through the motions, another patrol, another big bad something. Back to her shadow self, her monster, and he sings what she already knows in her heart. She feels the song coming, the music rising within her to rip away all pretenses, tear down every barrier. Fear fills her for the first time since her death, and she flees, trembling with the need to get away and the scorching temptation to speak the truth.
Life's a show, and we all play our parts. Strong arms reached out and saved her from bursting into flame. Saving her from herself to benefit himself; she knows he fears her loss more than anything. She watches him leave and her heart aches. Just one kiss to thank him, she lies to herself, and nothing more.
But when she was in his arms again, feeling his strength, she was lost. The sweetness and the serenity of his love spilled through her. It was as addictive as anything she'd learned about in school, more powerful than anything she'd known.
She watched the smoke rise from his skin, as it had risen from hers. She couldn't let him burn, any more than he'd been able to let her become ashes. Carefully, slowly, she pried him from the cross.
"I want to go home," he said. He looked up at her, his jaw blackened. "Are you my home?"
Tears fell from her eyes, landing in his. He blinked, and looked at her wonderingly. "Buffy?" The tears poured down her face, as things shifted and broke inside. She struggled to fix the barriers, put up the shields. But she was so broken now, as wounded as he was.
"Don't cry, Buffy," he said softly. "I'm a bad man."
He'd always been a bad man, hadn't he? And still, still she loved him.
"You can't. Evil, disgusting thing." He laughed a clear crystal peal that rang to the rafters.
"Not any more," she said. "You're so beautiful, and so strong. You were always so strong." She leaned her head against his, and drew a hand across his hair. She could feel it now, his soul, fluttering inside him.
He pulled away from her touch, scrabbling backwards out of her grasp. "Don't look at me that way," he hissed. "Lying eyes." His voice cracked. "She looks of love, and we know it's not true." He looked at her searchingly. "It's not true, is it?"
Her mouth went dry, as he looked at her with utter sanity, clarity. "Is it love, pet? Now we love?"
She ran then, as she always did. Fighting the fire, forcing back the yearning. Denial upon denial, and always the same burning truth inside: she was loved, and she loved in return.