Everything was utterly and completely black. Not a speck of light anywhere.
Buffy reached out, her hand collided with a hard surface very close above her. She tried to think about where she was but she didn't know. The last thing she remembered was falling. Jumping. She had been jumping to her death, to save Dawn. Then there was something...something peaceful. Inexplicably peaceful.
That was not what she was feeling now.
She could feel the cushion she was laying on, a hand out to either side and she hit another hard surface. Blindly fondling about didn't help anything. She was enclosed in something small. Very small. Very dark. That was all she could tell.
What was going on?
She tried to look down at herself, crooking her sore neck up, but all she could see was more black everywhere. Images started to float around the corners of her eyes but she couldn't see them long enough to make out what they were.
Wasn't she dead? Did she die again? Was she dreaming?
Where was she?
She pushed out both hands again and shoved as hard as she could on every surface she could reach. Nothing. Nothing happened.
Buffy could hear her breathing quicken but she couldn't feel it. She tried breathing in deep but no matter how deep she breathed, she couldn't feel it. Thick air entered her lungs and her chest rose but something was missing. There was nothing coming out of it. It was just a movement. It was like the air was just gone. Panic flowed through her at the thought that she had run out of oxygen already. Who knew how long she had been stuck in the small space or if it even had air flowing into it at all?
Squeezing her eyes shut she tried to calm herself and figure out what was around her. If she could determine what it was around her, what she was trapped in, maybe then she could find out where she was.
The more she relaxed, the more scratching filled her ear drums. Small movements stuck out somewhere around her. She could hear nothing else. No cars, no people, no wind. Just small scratching.
She reached out and knocked on the hard surface at her side. It all rebounded back to her, making her head hurt in return. Nothing made a noise outside where she was trapped. It was like she was closed in something. A box of some kind.
Gently she ran a hand on the surface above her and froze. A slim layer of fabric covered the top of the very hard and small box she was trapped in. Enough to fit a single human. She had looked at enough of these for her mother to know what it was.
She slid her hands up her body, running against the fabric of whatever she was wearing, not remembering ever owning a dress like that, to rest her fingers on her face. Cold and hard flesh danced under her fingertips. She was all there. Cool, thick breaths fell on her hands and she knew she was breathing. She could feel it not just inside herself. Why did it feel so different?
She felt okay, no injuries on her body. Quite the opposite actually. With each muscle she tensed she could feel the power that flowed. Her body was really starting to wake up under her and she needed to get out of the damn coffin. She knew she would run out of air soon if she didn't get out. She needed to stretch. Everything was just too close.
Frantically she started to rip away the fabric above her body and feel for the lid of her coffin. Over and over she just kept thinking; I'm dead. Where am I? I'm dead. Am I dreaming? Is this a nightmare?
The fabric tore and she frantically started punching up. Her arm wouldn't bend properly in the confined space and it took her multiple tries before she could break through the surface. She punched again and again feeling the material start to crack along with the skin on her knuckles.
Dirt and blood started to rain down over her, landing in places she just couldn't see. She punched again and again until her hand came through to the damp dirt on the other side. She pulled her hand down and more and more dirt flooded over her. She reached her other hand up and ripped at the hole to tear away more and more of the lid.
Wave after wave crashed over her, muddling her ears with the overwhelming sound. She scrambled her legs up into herself, pushing the dirt down towards her feet, as fast as she could. With her hands she pulled more and more down on top of her, pushing the dirt down until there was no more room. She took a deep breath and curled up as much as she could and started digging her way up.
Stroke after stroke she used as much of her strength as she had to push the dirt down to fill the space she had just come. Dirt was everywhere, filling and colliding into every one of her pores.
It seemed hopeless. She was sure to die again. No light was coming. It was just the dark and the sound of her pathetic struggling, the sound of the dirt that fell into her eardrums.
Slowly she inched herself up and up knowing any moment she would pass out from lack of oxygen even if she wasn't yet feeling it. It had to be the adrenaline. She was a slayer after all. She was used to having extra.
Using all that adrenaline she wormed her way up until her hand punched through another surface to be greeted by empty space. Desperately she punched up with her other hand to feel the same emptiness and pulled herself the rest of the way, letting the dirt fall to the spaces below her. She scrambled up and up until her head popped through and behind closed eyes she could see the blistering amount of light. She opened her mouth and gasped in a breath, still feeling no relief, just sucking in some of the dirt caked onto her lips. Before she could give it a second thought she scrambled the rest of the way out and pulled herself onto the grass.
Turning over and trying to blink away the dirt, the shapes started to form. Trees came into focus along with the source of the blinding light; the moon.
Her first thought was that the moon should not have been that blisteringly bright but she decided it had to of been because of coming from such blackness. Any light would seem blinding after that.
She rolled to her side and sat up. As exhausted as her body should have felt, it wasn't. Everything was still screaming adrenaline. She knew she needed to move. She couldn't stay. She wasn't sure why but she knew she had to get away. To be somewhere. She needed something. She just couldn't think of what that something was. She couldn't really think straight at all.
She pushed up off the ground aware of the now evident pain throbbing in her head. She tried to swallow it down but it only made it worse. Bringing a hand to her face she slid her fingertips down trying to determine the source. When they slid down her chin to her neck she could feel it. Her head was hurting because of something in her neck. It was so dry, burning. She needed something to drink really badly.
That was probably all it was. Dehydration. Who knew how long she had been trapped down there?
But where was there?
Looking back at the hole she crawled out of she could see the small plaque heading what she could now determine as her grave.
Buffy Anne Summers
She Saved The World A Lot
So she was dead. That was her name chipped into that stone. Those were words her friends and family picked out for her to be recognized for, so anyone passing by may have a glimpse of who she was as her flesh decayed beneath their feat. Decaying away because she was dead.
Where did she go after she died? Where was she now? How did she wake up down there?
She started to hyperventilate, as would be expected at looking at your own headstone, but she was fine. Her breaths came quick and fast but she was centered in being okay. There was no lightheadedness.
She looked around some more for any kind of clue but couldn't tell where she was. It wasn't any of the graveyards she could remember patrolling at her time in Sunnydale. Who was to say she was still there?
Small noises kept sounding from around her. She looked around for the source, darting her gaze in and out of trees. She was surprised by how much she could see moving about. A squirrel, an owl, an ant. How the hell did she hear an ant? But there it was climbing up and over a branch. Her ears must have been sensitive from lack of use.
She had to get out of there. She had to figure out where she was and she knew she had to be somewhere. There was something or someone. Someone she had to meet?
Pushing off the ground she just started walking. Woods surrounded her but she had no trouble maneuvering in and out. Her eyes darted everywhere checking for any predators in the area. It was surprising how much energy she had. She just wanted to run and do what she needed to do. Whatever that was.
After clearing the dark woods she could tell she was in Sunnydale after all. Or some form of it.
Everything was wrong.
There were turned over cars, broken glass, abandoned bikes. Fires were started littering the sidewalks, cars, and buildings. They emitted a harsher glow than normal and the heat was burning too intensely. It had to of been some sort of chemical fire for how hot they were. She had to dodge a path around each of them every time she saw one lighting up in the distance.
Her senses were too intense for her. Every light was still completely overwhelming, making it hard to make anything out. She could actually hear the fires crackling and the glass breaking off in the distance, falling down on the hard pavement below. Then there was the smell.
Every smell was so overwhelming. The smoke from the fires was harsh, burning her nose. Gasoline added into the mix clouding around her eyes. There was something else. Something that bubbled over everything else. Something almost metallic but savory. She couldn't tell what it was or what source it was coming from but it was everywhere. It was all so confusing.
A ripping, roaring sound screamed in her ears and she too screamed out loud, slamming both hands over her ears. Out of the corner of her eye she saw something coming fast. The horrible noise was getting closer and closer until it roared right past her, accompanied by the sound of something breaking. She couldn't make out what it was as it moved so fast but it left.
She kept walking, still not knowing exactly where she was meant to go, just that she had to get there while still avoiding the harsh orange glow of the fires. She walked down a different street and walked and walked until she could start to make things out again. It was just dark enough that she could see the car in the driveway. She didn't know whose driveway it was or if anyone was even there but she knew she needed to figure out where she was so she could make it to wherever she was going. She turned against the car to try and calm her pounding head so she could see clearer but then a horrible shrieking started.
She covered her ears again, screaming to herself as the beeping of the car sounded in her ears, effectively stalling her. A blinding light shined in the direction she was looking and she screamed again, slamming her eyes shut. Then came the smell. Some kind of overwhelming smell. It was that metallic but savory one. Her first thoughts were that whoever was in that house was making some kind of roast as her mouth watered. She wanted nothing more than to run to that smell. Screw whatever she had been running towards. Screw the sound ringing in her ears and the light blinding her. She needed to get to that smell.
The cocking of a gun was distinctive even with her ears covered. Someone was screaming and she couldn't tell what about. She just knew someone was there, standing in that light, holding a gun. She chose to ignore the part of her pushing towards that smell in favor of getting somewhere quiet and much less bright. She couldn't do a damn thing with all that going on around her.
She started to run and finally walk again thought the pain followed her everywhere. While she expected her heart to be pounding in her ears, all she could hear were the noises of the world around her.
It had to be hell. She had to be stuck there as an outsider. Some kind of phantom. Doomed to be dead and yet sensitive to everything around her. She obviously wasn't herself. Everywhere she turned just brought more pain. Yet she had to keep walking. Keep moving. That calling was getting stronger and stronger as she walked back into town. More fires sprung up and she avoided them and their heat but still had to push forwards.
Figures started to shape themselves in the distance. There was talking. She couldn't make out what they were saying as her ears were still ringing but she could hear words. The first words she heard in this place and she couldn't even tell what they were.
She walked closer to distinguish the noises and as she did the shapes became clearer. There was a horrible fire with monstrous heat behind them but she ignored it to see what was going on. She was directly behind the figures when she saw the grotesque and twisted face of some kind of monster. She was used to seeing monsters, when she was alive, but it didn't help her theory about this not being hell. The demon looking thing was an odd greenish pale with oddly shaped ears and face that looked like it was held together with leather straps. The rest of him was decked out in a cliché biker gang getup and, looking around, she could see the rest of the figures looked the same.
The slayer in her told her to fight these things but something was keeping her there. She didn't know where she was. What if she fought them and killed them and that was wrong? Would that make hell even worse?
She could finally understand a few words coming from the weird demon's mouth. "Gentlemen, start your engines!" She looked in the direction he pointed something shining silver, a gun if she focused hard. To her left she could see...herself. Tied up and chained to other demons on motorcycles. She looked calm, almost confused. She wasn't wearing the old black dress she had on but something brighter, like one of the outfits she wore when she was alive. "Bye, bye, slayer."
A deafening blast went off from the gun and more terrible noises started up and she had to cover her ears yet again. She kept her scream inside as she watching herself, chained to the bikes. It looked like she was trying to say something but the motorcycles moved too quickly and her body was ripped apart.
It was hell. It had to be. She was watching her body be drawn and quartered and she could almost feel it happen to herself. Limb separated from socket, pulled apart until severed. It was a fascinating concept but terrible to see when it was her own body. A small scream escaped her lips without her permission and every demon turned to face her.
With her eyes still on the horror scene in front of her she noticed something wasn't right. That wasn't her body. Bits of metal flew from her sockets, not blood or muscle. What was going on?
"Another one for the fire boys." The gravely tone of the demon biker's voice reached her ears and she looked around at the monsters all starting to giggle around her. She didn't like what he said. Some deep instinct in her said it was very bad that he phrased it like that. Something about the fire was wrong. "Tear it up."
She felt like she was fighting herself. She wanted to go back. She wanted to laugh in the demon's faces and rip them all to shreds but again, she didn't know what was going on. In fight or flight, flight won out.
The sounds followed her as they rode their bikes towards her. Tires screeching against pavement followed her as she ran until another light cut her off, coming her way. She looked at both motorcycles, cutting her off from both directions, and ducked as she could hear a metal clanging whipping against wind in the air. The metal chain of one cyclist wrapped around the other and pulled him from his bike causing them both to crash.
She rolled away with a second glance and ran. Unending energy had her running and running from the demons and closer and closer to that thing she needed to get to. Whatever it was.
Motorcycles were fast though and just as another was coming quick on her heals she bounded, easily jumping over a dumpster and filliping over a chain-link fence. It was clumsy for her as she still was getting used to the attack on her senses but she landed on the ground still conscious and with a wall between her and her attackers.
As she moved forward and jumped over another small fence, she had to stop as she was pounded with the smell. It clouded all around her. That metallic, savory, now spicy smell that burned her throat in a way smoke never could. She stood to face four figures standing in front of her each wafting that sent towards her.
"It's the Buffybot."
She took a moment to adjust to the new light, ignoring the words spoken in her direction, and adjusted to the smell before scanning each face and seeing; Tara, Xander, Anya, and Willow.
Another kick of adrenaline rushed into her as she looked them each over and understood who they were. She did not need them at the moment. She would rather deal with the headache she had than start a new one.
"Ah. Peachy." Xander's voice. "No doubt to lead the wild bunch right to us again. Hey Will, next time this thing is damaged couldn't ya program it to find the nearest Radio Shack or…"
The smell kicked into overdrive as Willow's name was called and she lost herself to the stinging in her throat. Her mouth started to water as they each walked closer to her, Willow leading the way.
"Buffy?" She could hear as each of them gasped, as each of them turned to face her, as each of their hearts leapt.
How could they be there? What was going on? Why did they smell like that?
Buffy ignored the primal need to herd them all up and start getting answers to run again. She didn't like not knowing what was going on and the presence of the friends she had before she died only made it worse. What if this was a trick?
They all called out her name and she ran faster. She didn't want to talk to them. She wasn't inexplicably happy to see them. She didn't even know who they were. They could be demons or tricksters. She didn't want them around.
They ran after her, each calling out in concern over their friend, only just realizing the spell must have worked. Their hearts leapt, Willow's a bit more as she realized just what this meant. She didn't fail. She brought back Buffy. She brought her best friend back from the dead.
Buffy ran until there was nowhere to go. She was stuck in another ally. A dead end. So she hid. She crouched in a corner, a prime spot for attack if needed. Her mind was slowly coming back to her but she still didn't understand what the hell was going on. Being ready to fight seemed like a good idea.
They found her and each huddled around the easy exit as Willow walked forward, speaking softly at her as if she was a lost child.
"Buffy? Buffy are you-?" Willow didn't know how to ask that question. Of course she wasn't okay. So she continued to try and ground her, without frightening her off. "It's Willow. Can you hear me?"
Buffy only stared blankly at everyone looking at her. Another sort of heat rippled through them, accompanied by that smell. She opened her mouth a bit to ask but promptly shut it as the pain in her throat kicked into a maddening need in her head. She was so thirsty. And something kept rushing. Thumping. It was hypnotizing. None of it made sense. It sounded like a heartbeat or multiple at that but her heart was perfectly fine. Or at least she thought so. She couldn't exactly hear her own heart.
"What's wrong with her?" Anya asked, half hiding behind Xander's arm at the uncomfortable feeling coming off of her friend returned from the dead.
"Nothing! She- She's- She's in shock." Willow said it more for her own sake than for the truth as she was the one who sounded in shock. She was.
It had to be true though. She knew people went through shock. This had to of been what it looked like. There was no other explanation. Buffy was fine she was just shocked. This was normal. This would be expected.
"Her hands are bleeding." Tara pointed out shaking her head. She knew better. This was not okay. This was not expected. They used big magic and something was wrong. She could feel it. "Her fingers…"
Buffy looked down at her own hands as if to see what Tara was talking about. There, glowing in the moonlight, was the red liquid seeping from her knuckles. Funny. She remembered them breaking open but didn't remember them hurting.
"She's fine." Willow tried again as Xander shook his head, realizing what had happened.
"Oh no." He said out loud still shaking his head, getting angrier and angrier at himself and his friends with every move. How could they not see this? How could they do this to her?
"What?" Willow asked, still in her own state of shock.
"No." Xander continued to stare at what they did as Buffy continued to stare at him, unblinking and watching his every move. "How could we…be so…so stupid!"
"Xander!" Willow yelled, looking back at Buffy to make sure she was still okay. Buffy just looked at her, still unmoving, still not blinking.
"Our spell. Our resurrection spell worked like a magic charm. We brought you back to life Buffy…right where we left her." He turned to his friends to explain what they just weren't getting and horror spread across their faces.
"Oh god." Willow whispered out in horror, falling back towards Tara automatically for support who enveloped her in her arms.
"In her coffin." Xander continued to explain though the horror was obvious.
Buffy watched eagerly as they came to that conclusion, somehow relishing in the guilt coming off them in waves. It started to make sense in her mind though everything was still muddled about in there. So she was dead. Her friends brought her back. They brought her to this hell with a spell.
"She had to dig out of her own grave." Tara said aloud as if to make it more real to herself. What had they done?
"Buffy." Xander leaned forwards towards her crouching figure and Buffy leaned back from him, jumping at how much heat was coming from his body. "Buffy it's Xander! We're sorry. We didn't know. Buffy!"
"You aren't reaching her. She's too traumatized." Tara tried to call Xander away, still keeping her hands on Willow in support.
Anya pulled Xander away and walked straight forwards, crouching in front of the crouching Buffy. Again the heat was extremely close but this time Buffy didn't move away. Instead she listened as the thumping grew louder and that smell seemed more intense than before.
"Hey Buffy. Here's some good news that might perk you right up! Xander and I have an announcement-"
"Anya!" Xander pulled her away scolding her for almost spilling the beans about their secret engagement.
"What? I'm just trying to help."
"Buffy." Xander leaned down again. "It's gonna be alright. We brought you back. You're home now. Yeah, that's it. You're home."
"Yeah. Welcome home slayer. Alive and kicking after all." The gravelly voice of that demon reached her ears again. "Well, alive anyway. Not looking too good though is she?"
"I don't see you winning too many beauty contests." Xander replied, always with the smart remark. "Unless the 'Miss My Face Fell Off' gets going."
"Big axe you got there."
"Better to cut you down to size grandma."
"Incindere." Tara lifted a hand and a ball of fire leapt from in front of the demon. Buffy recoiled at the unwanted flames but stayed in her fighting stance to watch what would happen next.
"So you got a witch in the mix." The demon growled out.
"More than one." Tara said confidently even knowing Willow was just about juiced.
"I happen to be a very powerful manwitch myself. Or male…is it a warlock?" He turned quick to Willow who nodded just as fast in return. "Warlock."
"Plus we have a slayer here." Anya chimed in, trying to help. "Um. Who might actually be looking to eat some brains so… I think a little quiet moseying, no hard feelings, and I'm sure your demon horde won't think any the less of you."
"Now my boy see that's tricky. They came looking for a massacre. And I think you got exactly enough magic between you for a kiddy birthday party."
Willow stepped forward, defiance in her eyes. She knew just how powerful she was. She just raised her best friend from the dead. "Then you'd be wrong."
"Whoa. Well I better back off or you might what? Pull a rabbit out of a hat?"
"Don't do that!" Anya, hearing the name rabbit started to panic. "Why would she do that?"
"Look, we don't want trouble." Willow continued to try and reason with the demons, as if she ever could. "You don't want trouble."
"Of course we want trouble. We're demons. We're really all about trouble."
"Not this kind."
"Oh, I get your point." The demon rounded back his fist and slammed it across Willow's face sending her flying towards the pile of rubbish Buffy was leaning next to. Willow's heat was intense above her. Morse so than any of the others.
Willow was burning.
Xander ran forward with his axe, easily thrown on his back. Anya ran towards him to help him up and Tara ran to help Willow. Willow was out cold as Tara turned her body over. Something about Willow was different. Something that drew Buffy's eyes. Something that made her realize she was no longer seeking that thing that had been calling her. This was it. This smell and the feel Willow gave off. It was what was pulling her. But why? If only she could get her alone, she would know. Tara was crowding that feeling. Even standing up against the wall to get closer didn't help to bring it back.
"Now let me tell you something children. We're not gonna fight you. We're just gonna hold you down and enjoy ourselves for a few hours. You might even live through it. Except that certain of my boys got some anatomical incompatibilities that ah, tend to tear up a girl, so, who wants to go first?" Buffy rolled her eyes and walked forwards to stand in front of the demon. This meeting was going very unproductively and she wanted to move on in matters. All that was going through her mind were the smells of the people around her, the thoughts that didn't make sense, and the horrible pain in her head and throat. "I was really hoping it'd be you." He reached out and slapped her against the face causing it to spin in the other direction, her dirt-matted hair clinging to the side of her face. She reached her tongue out and felt the crack the slap caused to open in her lip. The sting of the blood rushed out of her and caressed against the tip of her tongue.
Something snapped inside her.
She turned back to the demon with a smile on her face. He tried to punch out again but she easily caught his fist in her hand and landed a punch of her own. All that extra energy she had from lying around dead fueled her as she continued to fight demon after demon that came after her.
First it was just knocking their leader to the ground, bitch slapping him across the face a few times with her powerful strokes.
"Does this mean we win?" Anya half pleaded as Willow started to wake and all humans watched Buffy lose it on the monsters.
If killing the demons meant hell would get worse, consequences be damned.
She was having fun.
Another demon ran straight at her so she kicked up high and landed her foot in his jaw, sending him flying. She smiled to herself again and turned to face another coming at her side. She easily blocked him and punched him in his squishy gut, sending him to the floor.
The others started to join the fight, holding off the other demons but Buffy had whoever came.
Another demon came at her and she landed a punch across his face, grunting to herself as she did. Another came and more punches were thrown. A demon holding a knife was stopped by someone setting off the crossbow and sending an arrow straight through his stomach.
More came at Buffy and she stopped every blow, kicking and punching, even throwing one demon into another just for the fun of it. They both fell to the ground as another came running at her and she simply stepped to the side, almost too easy in defeating it.
Those that fell stood up again coming back for her. She only chuckled at them as she barely tried, flinging out an arm to send one spinning and punching the next that came. She grinned at the crunch their bones made as her fists fractured their jaws and ribs.
Four ganged up on her and all had something in their hand hitting her. She stood there, only blocking her face, as every other blow did nothing. She barely felt any of it. She giggled again before leaning down and shoving them all away at once, grabbing their weapons and flinging them away.
It was never ending as she kicked another in his groin, stealing a bat from another attacker and hitting it with the first, sending them both off their feet and to the ground. The same demons started to circle her and she fended them off with more gleeful blows as others attacked the humans.
Xander kicked one away from him and Anya as Tara and Willow helped each other with another.
Buffy used the knife of one demon to cut down another and grimaced at the odd smell that hit her nose. That demon smelled bad. She looked down to the one in her arms and grinned before snapping its neck between her hands and letting it drop to the ground.
"Well they wanted a massacre." Tara ironically pointed out as they all grouped back together, all demons having been killed or fled.
Buffy could distinctly smell Willow walking up behind her and standing in front of the rest of the group. What was it about her that made her feel so different? Odd that she could now discern her smell over the others.
"She's Buffy." Xander said smiling. "She's herself again. You're back Buffy, you really are." He tried to walk forward but he was masked in the smell of the demons. Buffy stepped back and looked at Willow wondering how the others could smell so vulgar and yet she had that alluring savory sent. What was different about her? "Whoa. Whoa." Xander tried to coax her down, misinterpreting her disgust with fright.
She couldn't stand the smell anymore. She had to get out of there. She could figure out what was going on with Willow later. All she knew was that she was dead, she was alive again, this was some kind of hell or dream or mirage, and that she was hopped up after that fight. The details she knew she could figure out later. Words she were told were still not sitting right in her mind. She couldn't just sit around to answer questions or ask her own. So she ran. That seemed to be a pattern.
She could hear footsteps behind her and turned ready to run the other way to get away from Xander or Willow but the smell was wrong. It was another demon trying to sneak up on her. She turned and stopped its attack spinning it around and slamming it against a pipe sticking up in some more garbage. Blood trickled down from the hole the pole made in its body and the stench of the demon reached her nose again. She covered her nose with the back of her hand and started running.
She didn't know where she was running to until she got there. She climbed and climbed and climbed until she was to the top of the tower she ran off of. Jumped off of. The jump that killed her. Or what she thought did.
She sat there overlooking the wreckage where she remembered jumping into that ball of light, to save everyone, like she always did. There was the realization that her death would equal Dawn's. The goodbye she tried for. How sad she was to leave everyone behind. She tried to remember beyond that. How did this all happen?
She jumped. She died. There was some kind of light and then there was this peace. She remembered feeling content, like she was floating, just happy and without worry. She knew everyone she loved was alright and they were safe. She didn't have a care in the world.
Then she woke up to black. Complete and utter darkness. She dug out of that into the world of loud noises and demons and exceptionally strange and dangerous fires. She had trouble with her breathing, still there. There was extra sensitivity to everything and it muddled her mind. She was still blindingly thirsty and her head still hurt like mad. The only thing that seemed to dull it for a moment was killing those demons. She was still pent up on that energy, even after that fight, though it was less powerful.
Then there was the fact that she was oddly drawn to Willow. It was like she was connected to her in some way. How else could she have found her?
Willow and every other one of them smelled like that sent that was making her throat even more dry. It didn't make sense at all. They were all so warm and smelled so much, they had to of had something wrong with them. Maybe something happened to them. Maybe it was just part of the hell.
Something happened to her. They did this to her. They brought her back. They were the ones that ripped her from that pleasant state and dragged her down to the fire. That much she knew. As long as they were who they said they were.
"Buffy?" Her thoughts were stopped short as she heard steps coming up the metal stairs and Dawn's distinctive voice reached her ears. She had almost forgotten she would be there. Well not there as in the top of the tower but as in Sunnydale.
She turned to see her little sister cautiously standing near the edge of the stairs. She looked her over, her eyesight adjusted and her head calmed slightly beyond the headache. That smell was there and the heat, just like the others.
"Buffy? How?" Dawn's whispers didn't go past her ears. Her eyes were tearing up but Buffy felt no urge to run to comfort her. In fact she wished to be left alone with her thoughts more. She just needed to think and she couldn't do that with a bratty sister asking her questions she was trying to figure the answers to.
"Is it you?" Dawn asked hopefully, not deterred by Buffy's muteness. She couldn't believe her eyes. When she had been staring up at the tower, she was almost too hopeful that it was her sister somehow. She almost thought she was hallucinating having just seen the Buffybot die. The last Buffy gone. Now there was another looking just like herself. She was wearing the black dress Dawn had picked for her to be buried in. The necklace was even one she picked out herself. Just a simple silver cross for Buffy to be protected by. "I mean really? What are you-?" Dawn started to walk forward and the entire tower started to shift making a bearable but annoyingly loud groan.
Buffy easily kept her balance but glared at Dawn for making her have to. She didn't think she would survive another fall like that. She really didn't the first time. Buffy turned to look out at the pavement beneath her. Yes, that was too far a fall. But it did give her a tiny adrenaline rush to think of what she would feel on the way down. Memories of her last jump, all her muscles tightened, her heart thumping, her breath hitching. Speaking of hearts thumping and breaths hitching…
"No!" Dawn screeched out, thinking Buffy was going to jump again. She couldn't stand to lose her again. Even if she wasn't really real. She couldn't stand to see any version of her jump. Not again. "Don't!" Buffy turned to glare at the stupidity of Dawn who was still gripping the side of the tower like it would save her if it all fell down. "Don't jump Buffy! Don't move! Just walk to me. Please! Please. I'm your sister. Dawn. We were up here. Together. And then you went away. And you don't wanna do that again. I don't know how you're back. But you are. And please, just stay still." Dawn started to walk out on the rail-less plank towards her older sister and again it moved beneath her, groaning loud.
Something churned in Buffy's stomach. She didn't want any part of Dawn at that moment. She wanted to be alone and within two minutes Dawn had already ruined that. She broke the fucking tower. How was she supposed to think up there now?
She could hear that thumping noise jump up a notch and could hear Dawn's breath panting. She could smell extra spices mixing in with that metallic one. Surprisingly she founded she wanted more of that. That, now that was good. She would have to find out how to get it.
"Or move! But towards me. Cus the tower was built by crazy people and I don't think it's holding up very well! Talk to me." Buffy ignored her. "Say something!"
"Is this hell?" Buffy asked simply, thinking that would be a good question to shut Dawn up. It was a legitimate question too. While things had started to clear and reality started to settle in, there was still the possibility that this was some horrible nightmare in her pleasant place or she was dragged back down to hell. Hell on earth would also count as hell.
Dawn only stared at the horrible question she heard from Buffy, confused if that was the actual question or a trick of the wind. Buffy, annoyed, turned back on her heels, pumps actually, and asked again. "Is this hell?"
"No! Buffy no!" Dawn shook her head and the tears formed quicker and quicker. Buffy sneered, though it went unnoticed. So this wasn't hell then. So hell on earth it was. And she was probably expected to save the day. Again. If this Dawn wasn't lying that was. "You're here. With me. Whatever happened to you. Whatever you've been through, it's- it's over now. You're-!" Another scream came from Dawn as the tower moved again. Buffy didn't even scream. If she was back in this hell hole, expected to save the day over and over again, why would she want to stay? She already knew death wasn't that bad. Pleasant even if her broken memories proved anything. "We have to get off of this tower!"
Buffy shook her head at her sister's screaming, trying to rid that pain in her head and sort through her muddled thoughts yet again. It would be so easy to jump and to go back to where she was. She wouldn't be brought back after a good old suicide. She could go back and not have to save these people. She wouldn't have to save anyone. Just float.
"Buffy." Dawn cried. "Please, listen to me. You told me I had to be strong. And I've tried. But it's been so hard without you. I'm sorry. I promise I'll do better. I will! If you're with me. Stay with me. Please. I need you to live. Live. For h-" Another screamed ripped through Dawn as some metal junk fell from above her head and landed behind her. Another wave of that powerful smell drifted over to Buffy and her eyes flew open as it sent a rush through her. "Buffy!" Dawn screamed as Buffy turned towards her.
Buffy started walking back to Dawn's huddled figure across the plank. All that smell was Dawn but how was it? She walked quicker towards her, something bubbling up inside and grabbed onto her arms to pull her up to see better. Warmth spread hot from Dawn's body as she lifted her off the ground and got a good whiff of that sent. She growled a bit to herself but Dawn was already pulling her off the edge of the tower and towards the stairs so she didn't notice.
Buffy shook her head again when they reached the stairs, her head and throat killing her more. Looking out, they saw and heard the plank creak even more and the entire tower started to fall. Buffy saw the pulley system and her survival instinct kicked out any thoughts of suicide or going down with the tower. She jumped forwards and grabbed the rope, surprised to find Dawn clinging to her side. It seemed she grabbed her before she jumped. Oh well. Buffy easily held both their weights up but the pulley was not so gifted. They started to fall and Dawn screamed relentlessly in her ear. She rolled her eyes internally at her actions and gripped the rope tighter as they both descended. The pulley smoked from the heat of the friction their fall caused and old rusted bolts started to unwind by themselves.
Suddenly the rope caught and they were stuck too high off the ground. Another bolt broke and they fell the rest of the way to the ground. Buffy again lead the fall and Dawn half landed on her. Buffy groaned at the small amount of pain from Dawn elbowing her in her side but her eyes flew open when she heard another loud metallic noise and a whooshing sound. Looking up she could see metal falling towards her from above and she got up, Dawn clinging to her side. Because of Buffy they both escaped their almost death and ran away from the tower as it noisily crashed to the ground.
Dawn kept clinging to her side until they were free from the danger zone and stopped to stand outside the fence. Dawn sat from her pain of the fall and Buffy followed suit for lack of anything better to do.
"Buffy?" Dawn whispered out, almost too shocked still to believe it was true. Buffy glared at her again and Dawn smiled. "Buffy." She reached out a hand and started to stroke the side of Buffy's face. Her too warm hands left streaks of heat against her flesh and Buffy did nothing to stop it. There was really no point. "You- you- you're really here." She wrapped Buffy up in a hug before she could do or say a thing. "You're alive. And you're home. You're home."
Buffy could feel the thumping of Dawn's heart against her chest. Her heat stunned her and she could hear her crying, her breathing, her blood rushing. There was instantly an overwhelming need to get rid of that thirst that had been distracting her since her return, the headache almost hypnotizing her. She wanted to ask for water to quench it but she also just wanted to get out of this hug and not promote conversation.
Dawn brought Buffy home and she didn't fight it. She really had nowhere else to go. She knew she should want to go home so there was little point in arguing.
When they reached the house, Dawn turned on the lights, more light than necessary, and she looked at everything. It looked different.
"It's different." She stated as fact before taking a whiff. Dawn's smell was everywhere but there was something else. Willow and Tara, obviously, but on top of that. It was almost like leather but it wasn't coming from the furniture. Cigarette smoke was coming from somewhere too.
"A little." Dawn defended but Buffy really didn't care. She didn't care at all. "Willow and Tara live here now. And we- we didn't do much. We moved some of the chairs and took out some of the little tables. But-" Buffy walked away into the darker room, the dining room, not really caring to hear Dawn's excuses. She just wanted her headache to go away and it obviously wouldn't with Dawn's prattling.
Dawn followed her, ignorant to Buffy's real desires. "This is the same. Except the computer stuff. That's Willow's obviously." Buffy moved on again trying to find another dark spot to calm her mind. Her agitation was rising with her shadow companion. "We eat at the other end. Obviously." Dawn whispered the last part to herself, realizing Buffy didn't want to stick by her side. She went after her anyway, not ready to let her out of her sight, and found her upstairs looking at her old room.
Buffy was lost looking at what seemed like a battery station at the end of her bed with wires sticking out of it. Everything else was the same though.
"We charged Buffybot in your room. It just made sense I guess." Dawn talked from behind her, following her again. When she didn't answer Dawn pushed past her into the room and went for her closet. "We didn't get rid of any of your clothes. They're all in here. Why don't I find you something to change into?" She started to ruffle through things and tossed some clothes on the bed. They were much brighter than the black she was wearing and she squinted at their gleam. It was almost unnatural. "I'll let you get dressed and then we can clean you up. Okay Buffy?" Dawn worriedly shuffled towards the door as Buffy moved in and waited for her to leave. She did so with more worried glances and walked towards the bathroom to find something to clean her sister up.
Buffy stared at the clothes on her bed, not really feeling like doing what was told of her. Instead she took a moment to close her eyes to try and rid herself of her headache. It was like she swallowed a box of rusty nails and they all got stuck in her throat. Another swallow made the pressure build behind her eyes and no matter how much she pressed down on her temples, nothing helped. It seemed she would have to wait for this headache to pass. She knew water was needed and maybe some painkillers. But if she wanted to leave the room she knew she would have to change to save a lecture from the constant gabbing of Dawn.
Looking at the clothes again she squinted. Still, she had been buried in the dress she was wearing. She had to change into something. These were her clothes after all. Even if they didn't seem like something she would choose.
She kicked off her shoes and reached behind herself to undo her zip. As she was wondering who stripped her down naked to put her in this thing she started to pull the sleeves down. She jumped and gasped in pain at the pure stinging sensation she felt on her chest. She jumped forward, clawing at what was there, and pulled her necklace from her body as she leaned forward. She ripped the chain off of her and threw it somewhere towards the bed. Glancing at her hand she could see a small red burn mark forming and stared at it for a moment wondering if that had somehow come from climbing from her coffin. After a moment she ripped her dress off to get a better look at her chest. Glancing down she could see a small cross burned into the flesh there.
She gasped and ran a hand over the burn mark, wondering how that was even possible. The only people she saw that happen to were not people, they were vampires. Maybe it was just an effect of coming back. She would have to have a word with Willow. And by word, thoughts of punches and accusations were coming to mind.
She could still feel that draw towards the smell and heat Willow put off but didn't feel the need to run to it anymore. It was still there but it was like her attention had shifted. She could smell it coming from where her mom's room used to be, no doubt where Willow and Tara moved. It was enough to keep her satisfied it seemed.
She dressed the rest of the way, throwing on a different shirt that covered the burn, not wanting to answer questions from Dawn. She stood in the door clothed in what she had and looked at the bathroom door. It was too bright in there for her liking but if she didn't go, Dawn would come out whining.
She walked towards the door, allowing her eyes to adjust before she went in. Dawn smiled at her with a cloth in her hands as Buffy stayed by the door.
"Do you want to come here and I'll clean you up or stay there?" Buffy only moved in another foot and didn't care to make it any easier so Dawn walked to her and brought her a glass from the counter, full of cold water. She greedily emptied the glass of its contents but it had no effect. The burning in her throat and the pain in her head remained. When she handed the empty glass back Dawn automatically refilled it and with another downing she noticed that it only seemed to make it worse. It was yet another question and yet another thing to blame on the hell she was in. Would nothing get rid of the pain? Maybe she would be forced to live with it forever. If she was really even living. She refused a third glass when asked and so Dawn chose to start cleaning her up. She brought out a brush and pulled Buffy's hair back, doing the best she could without it being washed thoroughly. She switched back to the cloth to clean off her face, swiping paths of dirt from the flesh beneath. "There you are. Knew you were under that dirt somewhere. You remember what mom used to say? Either wash that neck or plant potatoes. Yeah I never thought it was funny either."
She moved on to Buffy's hands as they were the only skin left showing and she gasped at the scrapes and tears on her knuckles and the redness of her palm. "Ow. How'd…"She wondered where she got them and almost asked but figured if Buffy wasn't talking, she wouldn't answer her. Instead Dawn opened the medicine cabinet behind the mirror and pulled out the first aid kit. Inside she found a disinfecting cloth and started to open it but her finger slipped on the packaging.
"Ouch." She said pulling her hand back quick. "Paper cut." She held up her now bleeding finger for Buffy to see.
All too powerfully the burning in Buffy's throat screamed at her. It was more than a scream. It was drawing her, commanding her. The pounding in her head blurred the world around her and she transfixed as the small droplet of dark red starting to form and slide down the digit.
"Hang on, I'll get some scissors." Dawn was none the wiser as she turned and made her way towards the kitchen.
Buffy forcibly moved and gripped onto the sink in the bathroom to stop herself from chasing after her. A pressure started to form on her face as the headache grew and grew. Her eyes squinted down, her brow furrowed, and she distinctly felt two tiny points of pressure landing on the top of her bottom lip. Confused Buffy ran her hands up to her face and felt around. Her face was different. It shifted. There were lines and folds now on her forehead. Her nose was scrunched on its own and as she tried to push out, nothing changed. Her fingers slid down over her mouth where she distinctly felt two tiny hard shards that led directly into her gums.
She stopped straight, remembering where she had felt a face like that before.
She grabbed the medicine cabinet door and slammed it shut to reveal the mirror.
There was nothing but the bathroom greeting her as her reflection. She couldn't see her face at all. She reached up again with her hands and felt again. She was sure now. The sensitivity, the thirst, the smells, the heat, the lack of caring, the burning, the pain, the cross. They all meant one thing.
. . .Well that changed things. . .