Waking the Dead
By Annie Sewell-Jennings
Sequel to The Waiting Season
SUMMARY: As old
friends return to Sunnydale and life begins to move on, a new adversary comes
to town and shows Buffy more about herself than she ever wanted to know. B/S
characters within this story are the property of Mutant Enemy Productions,
except for the ones that you don't recognize, because I made them up all by my
lonesome. Aren't I cool? No? Shut up. You don't know me. Bitch. Music will be
disclaimed as it is used, and it will be used occasionally. Like in this
chapter. Really, it will.
I have had this idea brewing in my head for what seems like an eternity, and
only now is it finally coming together on paper. Or screen. Whatever. Anyway,
the necromancy information is a combination of genuine research and Lovecraft's
mythology, as well as some embellishments from yours truly. It may help if you
read my The Waiting Season series of
vignettes to help establish this story, and those are also on my site.
I'd just like to
make a shout-out to my beta dawg, Devil Piglet. Big props to her mad grammar
skillz. You know you a pimp.
Chapter One: If You're Going...
Smile on your
Try to love
one another right now
The hippies were
out on the corner again, just like they were every night. Girls sitting on the
pavement Indian-style in their brightly colored peasant skirts and puffy
blouses, weaving garlands of wildflowers and singing folk songs, boys with long
hair and bellbottoms strumming guitars and passing joints. Which was stupid, if
you thought about it, because the cops hated the hippies and they hated pothead
hippies even more. Still, they were out there every night, passing out
pamphlets about the "revolution" and handing out flowers to everyone
who walked by and singing those stupid songs. Every fucking night.
was miserable this August. The city was gripped in the clutches of a vicious
heat wave, sending stifling humidity and scorching temperatures across the Bay.
Thunderheads loomed in the distance, pushing in slowly and ominously from the
Pacific, and lightning crackled and sizzled over the dreary gray waters. It was
a wonderful time for the flower children, those wacky free spirits who held
protest rallies in Golden Gate Park and stripped down to next-to-nothing,
singing about free love and smoking pot.
Shoving her hands
in her heavy wool jacket, Maya sighed and ducked her head as she approached the
dumb hippies on the corner, trying to avoid their eyes. Lucky bastards, all
sitting around half-naked and weaving garlands like that was going to do a
damned thing for their "brothers" in Vietnam. And here she was, the
real warrior, stuck in some heavy overcoat because of the multitude of actual
weapons she concealed beneath the billowing folds of fabric. Knives, swords, a
crossbow, daggers... Maya was armed to the hilt, and preparing to fight the war
that nobody knew about.
she muttered under her breath as one blonde-haired nymphet with a dopey grin
stood up, holding out a string of lilacs and daisies.
sister," the blonde called, her eyes half-closed from drugs and peace.
"Have some flowers, man. Embrace the revolution."
revolution is upon us!" some scraggly-bearded kid poorly playing a sitar
added, strumming on the strings. "This is the time, man, the time for love
to ring through the mountains and shit, and we're going to stop all the tanks
and the choppers in 'Nam with the power of peace, and..."
going to make the White House hover off the ground," Maya said flippantly,
waving her hand dryly at the silly children playing at war. "Yeah, yeah.
I've heard it all before, kids."
She tried to
move on, but the blonde girl stepped in front of her with her bloodshot baby
blues all hurt and wounded, pouting as she presented Maya with her lavender and
white garland of flora. "All you need is love," the girl said
sweetly, and for a moment, Maya faltered, blinking with a dull look on her
face. She was so flabbergasted and struck by the girl's innocent phrase that
she allowed the blonde to loop the flowers around her neck, and then stood
there with a blank look on her face as the hippie kissed her cheek. "Go
on, sister. Fight the good fight."
smiled, despair registering on her face. "Yeah," she whispered.
"The good fight."
roads must a man walk down
call him a man?
And how many
seas must the white dove sail
sleeps in the sand?
And how many
times must the cannonballs fly
they're forever banned?
my friend, is blowing in the wind
The answer is
blowing in the wind
started their happy-go-lucky peace-out again, and before they could get to the
bridge where they broke out in crappy imitation harmony, Maya quickly walked
away, her hands shaking in her pockets and the necklace shedding petals behind
Once upon a
time, she'd been one of them, living in a commune and weaving silly flower
necklaces, smoking dope out of a copper chukka and preaching the wisdom of
vegetarianism. Just a dumb little flower child who thought that the most
important thing in the world was the Vietnam War and hating Johnson, until an
Englishman pulled her away from her fellow hippies and drafted her in a war
that only she could fight.
stopped dead in her tracks and closed her eyes, hissing in a breath as she
heard the voice murmur like velvet through her mind. Seductive, sweet-smelling,
better than the cheap daisies and wildflowers laced around her neck. Begging
for her. Beckoning her to come closer. Images of bloodied battles, triumphant
singing, primal drums beating primal rhythms...
1, 2, 3, who are we fighting for?
Don't ask me, I don't give a damn
Next stop is Vietnam
Behind her, the
hippies were dancing now, the two women bra-less and fancy-free, spinning
circles with their wildly patterned skirts and breasts bouncing underneath
loose blouses. Happy-go-lucky girls, thinking that all they needed was love and
that would protect them from the monsters of war.
Maya wished that
it was that easy, and maybe she could win this. She could go home tonight and
get stoned, eat some tofu and weave some pretty necklaces, and then wake up in
the morning and go sing with the flower kids on the corner. Add some Jefferson
Airplane to their catalogue.
Yet Maya knew
that tonight, she was going to die, and love wasn't going to save her in the
turned her head and paused, staring at her reflection in the window of a little
antique shop. Coffee-colored skin, inherited from her Mexican mother, and dark
hair streaming in rivulets straight down her back. Her mother once told her
that they were descended from the Aztecs, great warriors and spiritual leaders,
queens of their tribe. Turquoise earrings bound in silver glint in the window
at her, and she reached up with her hand and touched her hair. Gray in it now,
like salt and pepper.
She only started
graying a week ago.
Slayer... Come to me. It's time.
building stood on the corner, rich with history, for on those grounds once
stood a grand hotel destroyed in the turn-of-the-century earthquake. The Queen
Anne had crumbled to the ground underneath the shock of the quake, burying
hundreds of guests underneath tons of debris. An apartment complex was built in
its place and was infested with poverty-stricken folks who couldn't afford
better, and now the building sat empty and dead, haunted by the ghosts of New
draped across the narrow, dirty stairwell like lace curtains, and there was the
skittering noise of insects and rodents scampering away as Maya began to ascend
the stairs. She reached underneath her thick coat and withdrew her crossbow,
carefully loading it with a wooden arrow and warily watching her steps as she
walked upstairs to the lair. Dust and ash were sprinkled through the air, and
something roared suddenly like a jungle cat.
jumped back and then sighed when she realized that it was only the storm, just
the thunder, approaching swiftly towards the city. It was just like Marcus
said, that she would bring down the heavens and make earth into hell, paradise
and pestilence meeting at the juncture of the Bay, while the streets steamed
underneath pouring rain and blistering skies. So dramatic, Marcus always was.
Take a fucking pill, dude. Toke on this for a minute. It'll loosen you up.
Now, of course,
Marcus was gone, and she was Alone.
No more attempts
to sway him over to the peace-loving side while he preached about the evils of
communism, no more all-night talks about foreign policy and demon mythology.
Just her and her crossbow, her and her shadow, stalking someone she should not
have to hunt. All alone, in the end, just like she said. Just like that. It was
how it always went.
A howl of wind
suddenly swept through the crumbling foundation of the house, and Maya ducked,
covering her head with her hands and shielding her face from the shattering
windows. Glass sprayed over her in a sharp shower, and she gasped for air as it
was sucked from her body, strangling her, suffocating her. Can't die like this, she thought to herself, desperately clinging
to the railing of the staircase as the steps rumbled and quaked beneath her
body. I just can't... Not without
And then the
wind died down, and all she could hear was the music from the streets:
always seem to go
don't know what you've got 'til it's gone
paradise and put up a parking lot
Maya whispered. "Oh, man." For a moment, she was tempted to run, to
play cat-and-mouse for a little while longer, so that she could go home and
listen to Joni Mitchell records all night and pretend that she was back at the
commune again, with her brothers and sisters and their meaningless hippie
names, like Moonbeam and Daffodil. She'd name herself Hyacinth and become a
nudist. Hyacinth, the Nudist Slayer.
needed some weed right now.
made of different stuff than mere mortals, though, and if that was one thing
the bitch was right about, it was that. Stronger fiber ran through her bones,
and she could pull herself together in a crisis like this and move. Gritting
her teeth, Maya dragged herself to her feet and began ascending up the stairs
again, her crossbow in hand, shards of sparkling glass tangled up in her
At the top of
the stairs was the penthouse suite, a joke to the previous occupants, because
there was no such thing as a penthouse in the projects. Maya stopped in front
of the door and her hand shook a little, just a little, and she felt the sudden
urge to throw up. Images of Marcus's battered body, his severed legs still
missing, and how nice he'd been to her when she'd first been called, so sweet
and considerate, always telling her that she'd be okay and that he'd watch over
her because that was what Watchers did until they died...
Come in, Slayer.
I've got tea.
good," Maya said in a shaky voice. "I was getting thirsty." And
she opened up the door and...
On the streets, the dancing hippies did not hear the sound of a girl
sobbing and then her final scream. They only heard the beat of revolution,
fucking revolution, man, and the noise of the war machine growling forward in
Vietnam and the earth, Mother Earth being raped like some kind of whore when
she was everything, man. They spun around in circles and passed out
flowers to strangers who didn't really want them, and then shrieked when the
thunderstorm came and the streets were pounded with rain.
When the woman was gone, the rain departed, and the body was left
upstairs in the suite for whoever to find her or ignore her death. As the moon
came back out, the hippies on the street started dancing again, laughing and
smoking pot and throwing flowers in the gutter, and this was the song they
truth is found to be lies
And all the
joy within you dies
want somebody to love?
need somebody to love?
like somebody to love?
find somebody to love
They buried her in the bayou, out in the swampy lands where everything
was half-soaked in water and the boughs of the Spanish moss-laden trees dipped
into the murky waters. Civilization was far away in this family cemetery,
drowned out by the lush scenery. In the dimming light of day, it looked
reserved and shy, a little hidden and not easy to seek out, and even though her
father chose a crucifix for her headstone, the plot was the essence of Tara.
Licking her lips, Willow knelt at her lover's grave and looked
longingly at the headstone, reading the epitaph. Modest and humble was all that
they wrote underneath her name and dates, and it was all wrong because she had
different memories. Memories of Tara giving her wickedly sly smiles and
whispering nasty things in her ear that were shockingly sexual, arousing her
with nothing more than words, and she had this way of looking up underneath her
lashes that made Willow want to get on her hands and knees and beg...
Two years and four months. That was all in measurable time, by the
standards of the modern world, but it had been so much longer than that,
really. So much longer. Sometimes, when they lay in bed at night and murmured
about nothing in the heady spill of afterglow and sweaty limbs, they'd say the
same thing at the same time and she felt like she knew Tara forever. Even
before her birth, when they were waiting to be placed in the womb, they were
together somehow, and this physical knowledge of each other was merely icing on
the metaphysical cake that was life.
And now she was gone.
Yet she wasn't really gone, not really. Oh, yes, her body rested
underneath layers of this damp Louisiana soil, encased in a box and dressed in
her Sunday best, but the essence of Tara... It was everywhere around Willow,
sighing with the wind, strong like the oak tree with its voluminous boughs of
rustling wisteria, and wise as the waters lapping against the shore. Tara
existed in the worship of memory, in the shrine that was Willow's mind, and she
would carry her there for the rest of her life, no matter what.
Willow had traveled far and long to come to this place, riding busses
and taking trains, sleeping on the cars at night and experiencing dreams of
extreme arousal and pleasure while remembering the way that Warren's eyes
pleaded as she drove the bullet through his mortal flesh.
You got off on it, she'd accused, and now she knew more
about her own words than anyone. It wasn't the murder itself, not the death of
another, but the fact that she had power over that person, enough power to take
their life and make it hers. Control, power, force... That was what she was
addicted to. Not the magic.
On the road, she
mostly sat in the train car and meditated. Not literally, not all the time,
just... Reflected. Remembered. Regretted. All of those things, and so much
more. She pored over her sins and acknowledged that she had done wrong, not by
God or by the law of man, but by her own laws and her own decree. She made herself her own judge and her own executioner, for
nobody could really punish anyone else, not where it counted. Lock them in a
jail, sentence them to death... But it all meant nothing if the person didn't
know it. Didn't accept it.
She accepted a lot of things nowadays.
She still had not spoken since leaving Sunnydale. On her journey to
Louisiana, she did not find it necessary to use her voice when she had all of
the magic within her still. She could imbed her thoughts into the other's mind
just as easily as saying the words, because it was still too difficult to
breach language, to use her voice and be heard. Besides, Willow was patiently
waiting for the moment to be right, for her conversation to push past breakfast
orders and train ticket purchases and towards philosophy and apology. Grappling
with what she had been through was difficult enough at the moment.
Of course, she worried and wondered about what was happening at home,
but her dreams often told her more than enough to suffice on. She had
remarkable visions of Anya throwing white fabric from her window and laughing,
of Dawn wielding a sword with startling ease and expertise, and of Buffy
fingering a black leather coat and smiling secretively to herself. Sometimes,
she dialed Xander's number to hear his voice or his answering machine message,
though she always hung up when he started asking her name or when it was time
to leave an actual message.
She would come home in due time. She just needed to say goodbye, first.
Licking her lips, Willow opened up the purple suede satchel at her side
and withdrew a dozen white candles, silently thinking the incantations and
blessing the wick before arranging them in a circle around Tara's grave and herself.
She stuck a stick of incense into the ground and pulled out the blue sweater,
the bloodstain dark and fatal on the left breast. Tara’s blood, her life blood,
blossoming so deadly on the shirt.
Gently, lovingly, she laid the shirt on the ground before her and
closed her eyes, placing her palms on the fine, knit threads and concentrating
on the blood. The memory of the murder burned dim within her mind, but as the
smell of the blessed candles filled her nostrils, she started to regress
further back, pushing through time until she reached that moment. The moment
where they were smiling at each other, so in love, and then the bullet
shattering glass and spraying hot, startling blood over...
shirt...” Tara says in surprise, blinking her eyelashes at her, and then she
falls forward and into Willow’s arms. But this time, she does not rage against
the dying light, because memory cannot change anything. As the blood pours from
Tara’s body, Willow feels nothing but this empty, harrowing regret and sadness,
and she holds her lover’s warm, dying form in her lap, pressing her palm into
the wound and letting the blood cover her hand.
When Tara is
dead, she bends down and kisses her lover’s forehead, passing her fingers over
her face and gently closing her eyes. She carefully lays her body on the ground
and then smears Tara’s blood over her own face, the markings similar to the
ones she made from fawn’s blood in the tragic resurrection that should not have
Willow is not
trying to raise the dead; she has learned her lesson on that account. Death is
permanent and necessary, and she cannot take from the dead without destroying
the living. It is not her place to decide who lives and who dies, and she must
simply accept what fate hands her, even if she hates it. She is merely
communing, merely placing her hands in the sands and saying her last farewell.
back into the chronology of dreaming, and she finds herself back in their
dormitory room, underneath the strings of funky Christmas lights winding around
the ceiling. Feisty kitty playing on the floor, rolling and tumbling with a
ball of string, her needling claws tearing into the threads of time. “I miss
her,” Willow says with a pang in her heart, looking down at the little
black-and-white ball of fur. “Whatever happened to her?”
away, remember?” Tara says in sotto voice, her back turned to Willow, naked
canvas etched with ancient lettering. Strands of wispy hair are getting in the
way of Willow’s paintbrush, and she resumes the lettering out of habit. “Not so
long after this dream.”
Willow says. “I remember. She was ours, you know, and it makes me sad that we
don’t have her anymore.”
Tara shrugs a
graceful shoulder, eyes downcast, staring at the blankets that they lay on. “Sometimes
people run away,” she murmurs, and Willow frowns.
you run away from me?” she asks, and Tara shakes her head swiftly, without a
moment of hesitation.
says, and her face is so calm, so tranquil, but sorrowfully dead. “I didn’t
want to leave you. I had big plans for that night, you know. There was a bottle
of champagne in the refrigerator, and we were going to have a picnic under the
stars. Like we used to, remember?”
smiles. Of course she remembers. “That’s very sweet of you,” she says, and Tara
winks over her shoulder, so beautiful, just the way that they were two years
ago. Everything was so much better than, before they got twisted and torn, all
used up until they were just sad ghosts of who they were. “It’s hard without
Tara says, bowing her head as Willow writes on her back. “But it gets easier,
Willow. Life is like that, I think. It gets easier after the hard stuff passes.
You’re strong, too. So strong... You’ll make it through. But you have to go
home, where you’re needed and where they miss you. They’ve been waiting for
this, knows it through her dreams of insight, seeing the note tacked
magnetically to the refrigerator and the people who smile at it whenever they
pass it by. They’re waiting for her to come home and be strong with them again,
and she misses her friends and her town. Yet she cannot leave yet, not when she
feels that there is unfinished business for them both. “Will you wait for me?”
she asks, and Tara smiles.
she says. “I’ll always be waiting for you. You’re my Willow. That doesn’t ever
change. See, that’s the thing, I guess. No matter what you do, no matter how
hard you try, you’re always going to be Willow underneath it all. Cut your
hair, dye it black, it doesn’t change you. I fell in love with the Willowness
of Willow. Not the magic. Not the spiffy wardrobe. Just the... The Willow.”
It makes her
smile, remembering who she used to be. The shy, slightly goofy girl from high
school, the one that Giles adored and the confidant of Buffy and Xander. She
wants to mend the broken bridges, to be forgiven for what she has done, and she
wants to take who she was and combine it with what she is now. She wants to be
Willow again, and not some thing drunk on power and control.
about the magic?” she asks Tara, and Tara arches her wheat-colored eyebrow,
mouth curved and eyes sleepy. Bedroom eyes, her Tara, and she misses her so.
Misses her so.
it? It’s something within you, not something that you can control. That was
always the thing. You can’t control magic like that. You can’t put a leash on
it and make it do tricks. Just let it go, Willow. Let it be, and you’ll do
fine.” A spark enters her eyes, and she grins. “Besides, it wasn’t the magic
that made me love you. You’re not nothing without it, and you’re not special
with it. Remember, the Willow-ness.”
Willow-ness, that which makes her Willow. That is what is special, and that is
what is good. Not the extraneous stuff, but the real deal, the persona and the
spirit within. She bends down and kisses Tara soft on the mouth, and then she
sadly looks at her lover’s back. “The poem is finished,” she says, and Tara
smiles at her.
“I love you.”
When she came to on the grass, Willow began to sob, weeping for the
woman that she’d abandoned in dreams for a waking reality that was uncertain at
every step. She fell forward onto the cursed blue sweater, bunching up the
fabric by her nose in the hopes of inhaling the last remnants of Tara’s hydrangea
perfume, and let herself sob like that first morning. She wept for all of the
grief that she would undoubtedly experience, for all of the sorrow of the
others, and for all the pain that accompanied loss.
After the weeping, she quietly wiped her eyes and packed up her
belongings, extinguishing the white candles and burying the spent incense in
the ground. She neatly folded up the blue sweater and replaced it in her
satchel, and then paused for a moment before the great stone crucifix that
marked Tara’s grave. Mutely, Willow bowed her head and then pressed her
fingertips to her lips, transferring a kiss to the hard stone with a gentle
brush of her hand.
It was a startlingly beautiful day in the bayou, filled with a million
different noises and sounds, and as Willow made her way up the beaten path, she
found herself in awe of the world around her. Great winged herons swooped into
the murky waters, and the wild flora of the swamp was in full bloom, exploding
with color all around. The heat was sticky and invasive, but not so unpleasant,
because it reminded her of the singular, joyful fact that she was alive.
The simple, sturdy pine house sat at the edge of the water on stilts, a
long dock stretching out into the swamp and a worn pick-up truck parked awkwardly
in the driveway. There was an old tire swing rigged up in the boughs of the
sprawling oak tree in the front yard, and an image of Tara spinning around on
that swing, laughing, came to her mind. It made her smile.
She was not nervous when she rapped her knuckles politely on the front
door, not even when Tara’s father opened the door and glowered down at her. He
narrowed his eyes with recognition and disdain, and his cold, antiseptic voice
sneered at her. “Can I help you with something, young lady?” he asked, and
Willow said her first words in almost five months.
“Yes,” she said in a clear, gentle voice. “I’d like to tell you about
She told him all of the wonderful things that Tara was. The way that
she laughed. The way her nose crinkled up and her face flushed red when she was
embarrassed. The smart, complex jokes that she told. The way that she was
always graceful, always kind, and always loved.
She told him the things that she thought her father should know, and
when it was all said and done, Tara’s father was in tears, and Willow knew it
was time to go home.
(end part one)
Continued in Chapter Two: Cruel Summer