A muffled scream rings outside the castle. It’s Dawn. I shake my head.
I’m way too exhausted for this.
Still, I can’t help wondering what the flavor of the minute is. Maybe she grew another head? That’s exactly what we need: an extra mouth for an extra mouthy Dawn.
Eh. There was only one scream. If she had, there’d’ve been two.
That’s too bad. With two heads she could argue with herself and leave me out of it.
I don’t even get why this is happening. It’s not like we didn’t warn her. She just wouldn’t believe us. You’d think she’d have it figured by now. Spotting and stopping the freakish and the fiendish is sort of what we do. Even if it does suck, we’re not half bad at it.
Well, she did want attention.
It could be spots. Or maybe she turned blue?
Nah. We don’t get that lucky. The Smurf jokes—though hopelessly tired—might be good for a laugh. Couldn’t have that.
Maybe her two beady little eyes became one great big eye in the middle? I try to picture how indignant she’d be. The gag really isn’t working for me, but that part is.
That’s the real problem. No one knew. No one could predict how this’d turn out. I guess that’s why she ignored us. She intentionally hopped in the Mixmaster of wacky, random, transmogrificationy fun because no one could give her a straight answer. All we do know…
No. Not ‘we’, ‘me.’ I knew this’d be bad. I told her so. She wouldn’t listen to me. Not like that’s hard to predict. It’s always bad. She never listens. And it always comes back to haunt me.
And what with the thrice in the wise, this was bound to be a triple feature. Three times the fun. Her wearing a horse’s ass was enough for me. I had to leave.
She deserves this.
So why am I still stressing? Dawn’s convinced that she’s so grown up she doesn’t need our advice. She’s all up for making her own choices. She should have to deal with the consequences.
Sounds great in theory, but again with the fallout…
Right on cue another scream echoes outside my window. Male voice and all, this one really isn’t Dawn.
Oh, Xander, you didn’t stay out there with Ms. Ed did you?
Dammit. It figures. I was comfy.
I leap out of bed as Dawn shrieks his name.
Yeah, yeah, he did.
And why would Dawn want him to stay? I sure wouldn’t want an audience if I’d done something that epically brain damaged.
Over by the window, Will waves a hand to catch my attention. I thought she was—
She says, “We need to get down there.” There’s a no-nonsense sorta edge to her voice. She’s worried too.
So, why am I tweaking? There’s trouble. Trouble’s normal. Ergo I should be fine.
And when did she get out of bed? I didn’t even feel her move. My gut reaction is to make a break for the door. She’s right. We need to be there. Like, now would be good. I jerk, fighting the impulse. She wants me to come with her. I stare at her, trying to make up my mind what to do.
Another cry echoes outside.
’Kay, so…not feeling any smarter.
That isn’t Dawn, but it’s definitely a girl—one of the girls. I need to—
Ignoring my instincts—yeah, that usually ends well. I trust Will, so I do.
“Hold onto me,” she says.
She’s hurt. Like really, really hurt. The only way I’m holding on is if it’s to help.
While I’m stalling, she opens the window and takes my hands one at a time, resting them on her shoulders.
That worked out about as well as—
Putting her arms around my waist, she goes out the window.
I grab hold.
My arms snap tight.
My calves smack the window ledge.
I turn my head to look down. My hair plasters to my face. We’re only about fortyish feet up. No big, right?
It’s a huge big! A massive, ginormous, big! We’re seriously moving! Not just a little bit ‘moving’…
It wouldn’t be so bad if she’d just fly upright, but no…she’s gotta play SuperWill. And with me hugging…hanging on to her neck, her hanging onto my waist.
Hanging’s right…more like dangling. At least half of me is. She’s totally getting leotards and a cape when I have time.
I tear my attention from the lawn whooshing underneath us. Of course, I have to shake my head to get my hair to behave. It only half works. And it’s not like I can use my hands. Eventually, I see something besides blurry nothing. The corners of her mouth are curled just a smidge, like she’s fighting a grin.
She’s enjoying this!
I roll my eyes. Just you wait!
Lifting my legs, I wrap them around her. It’s better, but a little weird. Way contactier than I’m comfortable with. Especially after yesterday.
Or was that today?
It’s one of those days, in a string of fuzzy days that all run together into one long day since Will turned up. Most of them spent in my bed.
Not that there’s anything to report. She was hurt and I helped. That was the only thing, except that other thing. But that other thing was nothing.
Or maybe it was everything.
It was nothing. At least nothing I have time for. Self analysis later. Now…
I crane my head around to look down. The ground’s so much closer.
That does it! Next time I get dragged out a window, I’m gonna be the one doing the dragging!
When we get close enough, I let go, hit the grass and tumble to my feet. Will touches down just a little too gracefully next to me, but I barely notice her. I’m way more interested in Xander and Satsu.
Why aren’t they moving?
More importantly, why do they look like they sprayed a can of that fake snow on before they dressed?
And y’know, it’d be just great if that was it. But no, this is the kind of nightmarish image that just keeps getting better the longer you look.
Xander has his back to me. Satsu stands a few feet away, sort of half-facing him. She’s turned just enough that I can just see the side of her face. Her chiseled white expression says ‘agony.’ But that’s not the only wigsome part. If that was it, the trauma—
Dawn’s behind them with her back to them and us. Her arms are folded across her chest. Her hip’s kinda cocked to the side. She hangs her head. It’s that super-sulky pose she puts on when she’s totally ticked off.
The green skin’s not so much surprising. I knew there’d be something like that, but…I’m seeing way more of it than I want to. Way more than I’ve seen since she was in diapers.
And she couldn’t care less! She acts like we’re not even here. How could she possibly miss my pointless landing? I mean, I could see her missing Will’s, what with the three points, but mine?
Green skin. That would’ve been great when she was a giant. Add a few leaves and we could’ve gotten her a job.
That’s not funny.
What’s her malfunction anyway? A little modesty wouldn’t kill her.
And what’s wrong with Satsu and Xander? Did she do that to them? Did they see her and just—?
No. That doesn’t make sense. Then why aren’t they moving? Dawn’s pose totally says ‘tantrum brewing.’ I’d be moving if I had a choice.
But she should’ve stomped away when we showed up. She should be off somewhere sulking by now.
She shifts her hips. Oh, jeez…please, don’t move.
Or move, yeah, but not this way! Don’t turn around! My head hurts enough without—
Y’know, I just hoped when it came, the cure might actually be a cure…minus the complication. After all that, we were kind of due.
Totally wishful thinking. Turns out, a curse really is a curse. Doesn’t matter what I do.
And I may’ve just hit on the real problem. It’s me. Not Dawn. She’s just a bonus added for domestic flavor.
My misery wasn’t quite complete. This is exactly what I was missing. Everyone’s awake. It’s only a matter of time before this yard fills up. And she’s just waiting. The Witless Whelp of the West plans to lecture me on the finer points of who-knows-what in front of god-knows-who without a costume change.
Without a costume.
Won’t that be fun?
Why didn’t I grab my bathrobe? It was right there. I could’ve brought it with and maybe—
With my jammies and Will’s jammies, we don’t have enough jammies to go around. There’s no more jammies, no more nothing…
Why isn’t she doing anything? I mean witch, right? Will, please put something on her to lessen the trauma—my trauma—when I kick her sorry, drama-loving butt all the way back to Berkley!
Somewhere in the jumble, I realize I actually mumbled, “Will.” It’s not the name I meant to say, just what slipped out. And by ‘slipped out,’ I mean ‘just barely.’ It didn’t sound much like ‘Will,’ more like a croak.
“Yeah, Buff?” she replies. She sounds pretty bad too. I have to look. Tearing my eyes from something I totally want to unsee—
Why is that hard? Clueless, but it’s painful and extremely icky.
I meet her gaze. She’s already looking at me. Well, at least…
Uh, no…it’s bad. We’re both just kind of lost.
When the castle flood lights flip on, lighting the surreal scene, Dawn finally blows. “I can’t believe you two!”
I shut her out and plead, “Will, do something?” I don’t want to hear squat from Dawn. The others are coming. I mean, lights, right? Just dress her. It’s all I ask.
And If I actually asked, it might be helpful. “Do something, please?” I mumble.
Oh, yeah…that should make my meaning much clearer. Of course, it doesn’t. She just stares at me.
I snap and turn on Dawn. She still has her back to me. I stomp across the lawn, fuming, “What the hell is wrong with you?” as I weave between Xander and Satsu. They’re totally—
Dawn’s hair, it’s green and wiggly, like worms or sna—
My foot snags. I smack the ground face first, barely managing to catch myself. Even that sucks. It doesn’t feel—
Maybe I’m just—
Fog rolls in. At least I think its fog…really, really quick fog. It clouds my vision. I can’t even see my hands.
Well, at least that means—
It means something hit me! I didn’t even get a chance to register how screwed I was and…
Nothing. There’s no pain, no…
It’s like moving a brick, but I slide my hand sideways. The grass isn’t wet. Really, really quick, totally dry fog.
What the hell?
And really heavy limbs. I flounder, trying to get up. My arms and legs feel like they’re made of lead, but I make it to my knees.
Will yells, “Buffy, don’t!”
Dawn giggles. “Thanks, Will.” Moving closer, she fumes, “Can’t you see?” This must be really amusing ’cause it makes her laugh even harder. I’m personally failing to see the funny.
I’m failing to see anything at all. One huge inky…completely unnatural nothing. That’s what I see.
Unfortunately I can hear just fine. Dawn’s never lacked the gift of gab. And she’s an absolute master of complaint.
“No, of course you can’t. But then, even when you aren’t blind, you still don’t see. You’re so wrapped up in your own bullshit that you totally miss the obvious.”
This is weird as hell. Is she laughing or crying?
Will shouts, “Dawn, no!”
A crunching sound right next to me gives Dawn away. In spite of the weight, I sweep my leg and plant her right on her bare rump. I want to kill her, but—
“What do—?” I stammer.
Before I finish, Will butts in, “She’s a gorgon.” Her tone’s flat. Totally deadpan. Like that answer is somehow supposed to make everything better.
What the hell is she talking about? “A gor-what?” Mid-stammer it hits me. My muscles tense. “It was you!” I shout. My face turns hot. “Let! Me! Go!” Unbelievable! She attacked me!
Ever helpful, she prompts, “Medusa.”
I still wanna—
Oh, shit! Xander and Satsu are—
Rustling next to me makes me flinch. Oh Hell!
The weight lifts as I scramble away. “And you didn’t know this would happen? How could you not know?” I yell.
Will cuts me off. “How could I know? You expect me to know everything. There’re some things I just can’t know.” She bites the last few words off and makes this grumpy sound, kind of a groan, but almost a growl.
I want to throw something. Of course, being able to see would make aiming and hitting so much easier. And there’s the tiny issue of finding something to throw. Being blind just ticks me off. It reminds me of those stupid tests.
I point out the obvious. “But Will, she’s a monster!”
She finally loses her cool. “And what exactly do you think a giantess is…or a kentauride? She’s been a monster!” But she can’t just lose it. She has to make me feel dumb too.
“A female centaur,” she replies.
Ah. The girls have a special name? Good to know. Shame, I’ve forgotten it already. Why couldn’t she just say ‘centaur’? And since when are centaurs monsters? I mean, pretty…monsters aren’t pretty, are they?
She explains, “Look, Buffy, the curse of the Thricewise is a penance malediction. There’s no way of knowing what will happen because the cursee creates the effect. The curser and the curse itself have nothing to do with it. It’s totally unpredictable. I told you that.”
I shout, “No you didn’t!”
She doesn’t say a word.
Almost as an afterthought and completely ignoring me, she adds, “Remember what happened to me with Kennedy?” Oh, goody, more dispassionate bluntness.
I don’t give the afterthought a second thought. My brain’s had enough. It and my stomach are off training for the next Olympics.
Goddammit! “You did this?” I snap in Dawn’s general direction.
No nothing, in fact. No breathing. No movement. No Dawn. She bailed.
The fog thins. Will’s sitting a few feet from me between Satsu and Xander. I meet her gaze through the thick black murk and fume, “Dammit! Why didn’t you let me do something, or—here’s a crazy idea—maybe do something yourself?”
Her face draws into a harsh scowl.
Nice. Really nice.
And the fog really isn’t fog. It falls to the ground like soot, covering us. I have no clue what it is. I shake it off my arms and instantly find sympathy for Pigpen. Hell with it. I shake the whole me and hold my breath waiting for the cloud to dissipate. When I meet her eyes again, nothing’s changed.
Well, something has changed. Somehow, she’s totally clean. Me, I’m still a wreck.
Of course, she makes me wait. And with the waiting comes an examination. She finally answers, “I did.” Her voice is chilling—quiet, almost passive, but angry—angry in ways screaming just can’t convey. And her answer is a little less than satisfying.
I open my mouth, not even sure what to say, but she gets there first. “I can’t fix everything for you. You may think I can, but I can’t. I can’t do it all.”
We’re surrounded by slayers. The entire team’s out here with us and a bunch of the trainees. They stand behind Will at the edge of the sooty mess. I look around, taking in all of their faces. Each one holds a question, but none of them speak. Instead, they listen to her. “What did you want me to do, Buffy? Gorgons are highly resistant to magic. If I had done something, there’s no telling what my something would’ve done. It would’ve been fun in that ‘flopped spell, unpredictable consequence, everything goes flooey’ kind of way.”
She takes a deep breath. Some of her anger fades. It doesn’t matter. I still feel like I’m five. “I’m sorry you think I failed you, but I got the impression you didn’t want that, so I did what I could. I stopped anyone else from ending up like them,” she says, punctuating with a subtle gesture to indicate the two statues on either side of her.
I need to say something, but I’ve still got nothing. And that’s probably a good thing. I thought nothing was the problem. But nothing was actually the best answer. That was a stalemate.
I should take a clue.
While I’m struggling with what not to say, Will stands up and offers me a hand. I accept, though touching her is the last thing I want. The glare she’s giving me is pretty hard to ignore, but I manage. As she tugs me to my feet, I play avoidy and guilty all at once by glancing at Xander. Who says I can’t multitask?
Go figure, it turns around to bite my ass. There’s an unmistakable bulge in his jeans, just level with my field of vision. I can’t miss it. No matter how much I want to.
My mouth falls open. I clamp it shut and let go, landing on my butt.
Another cloud billows up. I blink, praying that this—all of this—is just some huge mistake. I’m seeing things, right?
As the dust settles, cementing the nightmare in my mind, I expect to hear laughter. I want it so much, it’s almost there.