Gaping wasn't a good look for giant robots. Not at all. It made their mechanical mouths hang open. Their eyes too wide. Their bot bodies too warm as her newest friends hovered over her like a shocked shadow.
Buffy was getting used to that reaction.
Of course, she had kinda, sorta, if she squinted and turned her head sideways, defeated (another) god. Only this time, all of humanity happened to be living on him with none the wiser.
Until he woke up and tried to kill them all that is.
Bummer that one.
Still, another day. Another apocalypse. Yawn.
Only, the nearest bot-boy - Ratchet, if she remembered right - seemed to be taking it much harder than Buffy herself had. He was still staring, still gaping. Finally, his mouth snapped shut, but his eyes were far too blue.
"But Prime… The Matrix…"
Buffy shrugged. "Turns out we didn't need it after all."
For a small town in the middle of nowhere New Mexico, this place sure saw a lot of action. First some sketchy meteorological activity. Then a robot with a death ray. And now, two super-powered brothers arguing over who'd taken the last cookie.
Or perhaps Buffy had made up that last part. Either way, both of them were getting on her nerves.
She gave blondie - "I am Thor Odinson!" - another nudge and turned to what had to be his much put upon younger sibling. Of course, Tall-and-Dark over there was giving as good as he got. Or had been until she'd thrown the hammer at his face. Which seemed to have stunned all and sundry around them.
But still, this whole thing was way out of hand.
"So you're basically pissed because daddy always loved him more," Buffy managed to summarize after another eternity of them yelling at each other.
Loki gave her an evil look that would've reduced a normal person to a molten pile of ash and goo. Though admittedly with his wonky alien powers, there still was the possibility that he could turn her into something rather unfortunate, too.
"Look. I don't really care about any of this," she finally told them . "Suck it up. Play nice. And get some therapy. You both could really use some."
If anything, that only earned her two mulish looks, which were all but identical even with the differences between them. The brothers actually exchanged a glance before glaring at Buffy some more.
Which was at least a step in the right direction, and naturally, they'd find common ground in hating her.
It was a ring. Metal. With a vaguely greenish cast to it when she turned it over in her hand. Almost too masculine but becoming daintier the longer she stared.
Buffy squinted at it. Twisted her head this way and that and all around. She could feel the power in it. Feel it pulsing beneath her skin.
Its energy was a familiar one. Like coming home after a long journey and curling up in her own bed. Like waking up to see everyone she'd ever loved waiting for her downstairs. Like living and breathing and having no regrets.
It was a good feeling. A welcome one. Strong. Fueled only by her determination. Too good to be true almost. And it certainly was.
But Buffy hesitated. She held on and thought and considered and reconsidered. And so on.
Finally, she put it on her finger.
"I know what it's like."
The boys stared up at her. Eyes accusing. Hateful even now that she's stopped them. Stopped what undoubtedly would've been the greatest mistake of their entire lives. Something they'd always regret until they were old and grey. Had they lived that long.
"She's our mom!" the older of the two had shouted then and shouted at her again now.
Angry. So angry. Hurt. Alone save for his brother.
But her own voice was soft. Full of understanding but not pity.
"And you think I loved my mom any less?" she asked, glancing from older brother to younger. "You think I wouldn't do just about anything to have her back? You think I didn't love her? But this… This, even if it by some miracle worked, would only hurt her."
They gazed at each other then before turning back to her. The anger was still there, but it was simmering now and not scorching.
"And if it didn't work, what do think would happen?" she questioned, voice not lecturing but honestly curious. "What if you both died? What if only one of you did? Would you really want that?"
Surprisingly, it was the older brother who crumbled first. Who went from glaring with golden eyes to looking at his sibling like he was the most important thing in the world. Who trembled as he reached for his brother's hand and held tight.
She looked at them like that. And remembered.
"I know what it's like," Buffy repeated slowly.
And held them both as they cried.
His name was Light. But he wasn't. Not quite.
There was something to his eyes. Some shadow. Some gleam. Some hint that the right nudge would send him plummeting over the edge into the abyss. She could practically smell death shrouding around him like a cloak. All but see the grim reaper hovering beyond his shoulder.
Buffy had long fought monsters. But there was something about him that set her on edge. That made her hackles rise and her hand go for her stake. That made her eyes narrow and the Slayer within her come to the surface.
It was a silly thing though. He was just a boy. Just a regular, normal boy.
But she didn't fight her instinct. She just nodded and stepped back. Offered another apology for walking into him.
As she watched him go, Buffy fingered the little black book in her pocket. One she'd found only minutes before on accident and hadn't even looked at yet. It was an oddly heavy weight against her, but Buffy knew she could carry just about anything without breaking.
She watched the boy for a minute longer. Until he was completely lost in the crowd.
Then, she turned and walked the other direction.