I decided to write a story this round, since I never got around to it last time. Instead of going for a short story, or for thinking of something… well, let’s be redundant – short, I decided to create a new WIP *weeps* I’m horrible. But that’s okay! I think…
Anyway, I currently have seven chapters, most of which should go up today, but it is with great woe that I tell you that it is not even halfway finished (seriously – GREAT WOE.) I hope you enjoy what there is so far, and if you want to friend me to follow along – that’s fine!
Title: The Lost Summer
Rating: PG-13 so far
Disclaimers: For ‘Owners of Buffy’, refer to ‘Joss Whedon’, ‘Mutant Enemy’, ‘WB’, and/or ‘UPN.’ For ‘Person Who’s Not Making Any Money Off of This Whatsoever’, see ‘itmustbetuesday’.
Spoilers: Everything’s fair game, I believe. Starts off a year after Not Fade Away, and then… well, you’ll see.
Summary: When Buffy is stabbed by a strange demon, she finds herself in a place she’d never thought she’d be again – confronted by a lost love and trapped in a world she’d thought she’d lost.
Author’s Notes: Thanks to enigmaticblues for the “Is this any good?” look throughs that quickly became betaing. You rock!
It was another lonely night.
Buffy shivered, tucking the down comforter under her chin as she stared at the glowing numbers of her alarm clock. 2:54… wait, no, 2:55. She’d gone to bed hours ago, but sleep still eluded her, leaving her body alert and attuned to every sound—the chilly Cleveland wind rustling the thin branches of the trees outside the apartment window, the moonlight dimming and brightening in response to the passing clouds in the sky.
She wished that she could find some comfort in the warmth of her bed, but every night it reminded her that she wouldn’t rest, not really. Not like she’d thought she would after becoming one in a thousand, instead of one in all the world. Or, one of two in all the world. Buffy knew that the only rest she would receive would be in the arms of death, when she returned—if they’d let her, after being torn away—to that place where everything was just… right.
Buffy didn’t want to die, and she didn’t resent her life. She’d long since gotten over that. But embracing it was more difficult than it used to be. In all honesty, there was little to embrace.
She had her work, which had taken her all over the world, but somehow she still managed to find herself on a Hellmouth. A less exciting Hellmouth, if truth be told.
She had her sister, who she didn’t see much of anymore now that she was going to university in Italy. Buffy was fairly sure she would’ve gone to school back in California if it weren’t for a certain Eduardo factor.
She had friends who she often kept in touch with, though mostly for work reasons. Reporting on the Slayers they’d contacted, asking for help with their local demon issues, yadda yadda. There were even some of the girls in town she could call friends. Heather, a Slayer at the age of nineteen, was one of the most startlingly loud people she’d ever met, and yet she connected with her. There weren’t many mall dates involved, but they would hang.
What Buffy missed most of all in her life was someone who understood her. Someone who would be there for her when she needed them to be, someone to talk to when she felt lonely. Someone who needed her, and genuinely seemed to care for her. Someone who loved her.
Someone who was there.
Buffy stared at the ceiling as she felt tears forming. You don’t need another pity party, so don’t start crying now. She told herself this, but she found herself in the company of a box of tissues on more than one night out of the week. It was just so frustrating to have moved on from a life that was so full and fulfilling… to this, this perpetual state of melancholy that had worked its way into her being at some indiscernible point in her life.
That was a lie. Buffy knew the exact date. May 20, 2003, the day a greater part of her life was literally sucked into the earth. She’d seen it as a new beginning, and it had been, but somehow she’d managed to leave her happiness behind.
She missed Sunnydale. Even with its annual apocalypses and neurotic demon population, she would’ve preferred living there in exchange for the scattered monotony of her Cleveland life.
Buffy pulled the other pillow that was rarely used from the other side of the bed and held it close, wishing it were something else. Wishing it were someone else.
* * * *
“I cannot believe you’re eating that.”
Buffy looked down at her burger and fries, unsure of what Heather meant. “Oh. Am I hurting a cow?”
The young blonde sighed dramatically and dropped her schoolbag onto the seat beside Buffy at the table outside of Burger King. “No, I mean you’re chowing down on a burger when less than two weeks ago you told me you couldn’t stand fast food. You hated it, even. Said something about teamwork being a scam, and I think there was a button rant.”
Buffy eyed the bag bursting full of school books with jealousy. Not that she liked to study, but she wished she was back in school. Unfortunately, her life was often interrupted by death.
“Yeah, well. I’m living on a budget.”
“I thought you got that job at the bank?” Heather asked with concern, reaching onto Buffy’s tray and grabbing a French fry.
“Nah. Buffy and numbers? Apparently they don’t work well together. They have a tendency to get smaller and smaller, and besides, I think I killed the manager’s cousin.”
Heather’s jaw fell. “You killed a human?”
“No! It was a Rarvic demon. Apparently they can breed with humans, though. Hence the very pissed off human cousin.”
“That sucks. He can’t blame your for doing his job, right? I mean, he knew his cousin was, well, you know… evil?”
“The manager’s a she, and… I dunno.” Buffy shrugged and finished off the last of her burger. “I’ve got another interview in an hour. I left my purse at my place, though, so I should get going.”
“Oh hey, I can drive you.”
Buffy smiled. “That’s okay, it’s only five blocks.”
“Don’t be silly.”
Buffy was going to open her mouth to once again remind Heather that she liked to walk when three young men approached their table, all of them poster boys for American college jock-dom.
“Hey, Heather. How’s it going?”
Buffy recognized the taller one, Matt, as Heather’s older brother. He pulled on her short ponytail and she scowled, causing Buffy to grin. If that boy had any idea of the power his sister wielded…
But he didn’t. Heather had decided not to tell her family that she was a Slayer, and Buffy and the Council stood behind her decision. It was her choice, even if Buffy didn’t always agree with it.
“What are you doing here?” she asked, pulling the sandy blonde strands of hair back into place.
Matt sat facing the back of the chair next to Heather, wearing what must be his trademark grin. Buffy never saw him without it.
“Derek, Sean and me were planning on going to the TKE party tonight. We were asked by a certain someone to pass along an invitation.”
“I’m guessing ‘a certain someone’ translates into Kyle?” Buffy asked Heather with a smirk.
As if on cue, Derek broke out into a great big smile, and Buffy’s good humor wavered slightly. This was only the third time she’d ever seen this boy, and each time was as unpleasant as the last. She’d been stupid enough to go with Heather to the first frat party of the term, and was unfortunately the center of many a gangly frat boy’s attention. Derek, however, was… ick.
“You can tell that jackass that I’m disinclined to acquiesce to his request.”
Matt rolled his eyes. “You know in the movie the girl who said that was given an ultimatum involving public nudity.”
“Yeah,” Heather snorted, turning her attention away from her brother and his friends. “Let’s not go there.”
“Look, are you coming or what? I’ve got to tell him something or he’ll be on my ass for the next week.”
Heather rolled her eyes and faced him. “I think I already gave you an answer.”
“Right. So it’s a definite no? What if your friend comes again,” he asked, sparing a glance in Buffy’s direction.
“Yeah, Buffy,” encouraged Sean, a shy smile on his face. “You should check it out.”
Buffy shook her head. “I have plans.”
“Matt!” Heather snapped loudly as he started playing with her unused straw. “I’m not going. Tell Mr. I’m-too-good-to-keep-my-pants-on that he’s out of luck.”
“Hey,” he sighed with resignment, throwing the twisted straw back onto the table as he stood. “At least I can say I tried.”
Buffy watched them disinterestedly as they left, Heather huffing loudly as she opened her box of crown shaped chicken tenders.
“That boy is never going to get it through his head that I’m not interested.”
Buffy smiled ruefully. “Yeah, I know what that’s like.”
“I think Sean likes you though,” Heather added, smiling as she opened the container of barbecue sauce.
Buffy’s rueful smile turned bashful. “I don’t know why.”
“Uh, hello? You do know you’re a totally kick ass, hot chick, right? Because if not I’m going to have it tattooed backwards on your forehead.”
“That’s not what I meant. He’s in college I don’t see what he’d see in a twenty four-year-old, currently unemployed, college dropout.”
“Oh, you’ve got a job,” Heather reminded her in a low voice. “And do you think he cares about what you do? Seriously, Buffy. He’s cute, and he’s not an ass like most of the guys on the basketball team. You should give him a shot. Unless you have a thing about dating younger guys?”
Buffy grinned and lifted her eyebrows. “No, I usually go for the older ones.”
Heather was eating her fries and nuggets with record-breaking speed, and somehow managing to speak through mouthfuls. “What’s this about you having plans tonight?”
Buffy’s eyes widened. Uh-oh, caught. “Oh, you know. If the interview goes well, I think I’ll pop a cold one and celebrate the night away. And if it goes bad… I’ll pop a cold one and wallow the night away. Either way, I’ve got a solid plan.”
“You can be so pathetic sometimes,” Heather laughed, chewing on her straw and shaking her head. She sipped her cola for a moment before placing the drink on the table and leaning towards Buffy, her demeanor turning quiet and serious. “So, you saying we’re not hunting down those Zhenchuk demons tonight?”
“No…” Buffy drawled, confused.
Heather’s eyebrows shot up at that. “Eva said that she and Lily ran into one last night.”
“You’re kidding. I thought we’d gotten all of them. Are they okay?”
“Lily cut her arm—well, really the demon did—but they killed it. One more down…”
“And who knows how many more to go,” Buffy finished with a sigh. “Okay. I guess I’ll see you tonight.”
“Same time?” Heather asked as Buffy rose from her seat.
The girls parted, but Buffy hadn’t made it five feet before she was stopped.
“Oh, hey!” Heather shouted, turning around before she forgot. “Good luck with your interview!”
* * * *
She sighed when the voicemail picked up, Dawn’s voice lilting in Italian tones, before adding “and if this is Buffy, I’m telling you to leave a message!”
How condescending was that? Sure, she still didn’t know Italian, but she knew what the voicemail feature was for. Buffy wasn’t really bothered by it, but it had been… a long day.
“Hey Dawn, it’s me. I’ve had a really crappy day and I thought I’d call you and whine about it. I promise, though, when the good days show up I’ll call you then, too. I had a horrible interview today at this lawyer’s office. Apparently I’m too ditzy to make a good secretary, according to some people. Maybe I should stay away from the bankers and the lawyers and go back to the fast food industry. Ha.”
Buffy plopped down on her living room sofa, realizing that this was becoming a ridiculously long message, but not caring. She really needed someone to talk to, even if it was a machine.
“I miss you, you know. Thought I’d tell you in case I haven’t mentioned it lately. And tell Eduardo ‘hi’ or ‘benvenuto’ or whatever. Wait, that’s ‘welcome,’ isn’t it? Forget that then.”
Buffy took off her heels and rubbed her sore feet, wishing that she didn’t have to meet with Heather in an hour to go demon hunting.
“I guess that’s all. Call me when you get this, and oh, I love you. Don’t want to forget—”
Buffy yelped in surprise when her apartment door flew open, a large, spindly demon with unearthly pale eyes storming inside.
“Oh, crap,” she muttered, reaching under the sofa for her axe. It was lucky that she’d been cleaning her weapons when she had an unexpected visitor last week, otherwise she wouldn’t have one on hand so quickly.
The Zhenchuk roared with rage and charged at her. Buffy dodged just in time and swung the axe in a long arc. The demon, while it did not appear very graceful, sidestepped the blade and came at Buffy again with its claws extended.
Buffy was in no mood to battle with this thing. The last time she’d faced off with this kind of demon she’d had a bunch of Slayer recruits with her, and there had been at least a dozen Zhenchuks in the condemned hotel they’d found them in. Buffy had thought the nest was full of Lorax demons, a big, ugly, but not overly dangerous species. It wasn’t until one of them sprouted a skewer and stabbed Daphne in the heart, turning her to dust like she were some vampire, that Buffy realized she’d been very wrong.
So instead of tangoing with this demon, Buffy lashed out with the axe, landing the blade square in the demon’s chest. The Zhenchuk screamed in agony and its hands curled upward reflexively, one of its skewers shooting out and stabbing Buffy in the heart.
* * * *
Buffy’s throat hurt from screaming even though she just started. It wasn’t until her knees scraped against something hard that she realized she hadn’t turned to dust. Buffy clenched at her chest, feeling no blood and no hole there, but the pain remained, even if it was just a dying memory of it.
Opening her eyes she saw not the beige carpet of her apartment, not the furry, clawlike feet of the Zhenchuk demon, but herself. Dead.
She tried to catch her breath as she stared down at herself, almost a mirror image, sans mirror. Was she having an out-of-body experience? Did she die, and was she now slowly crossing over?
She didn’t remember that part.
There were no red stains on the white sweater her other self was wearing, and her face looked softer, her hair a lighter shade of blonde than what she was wearing now.
Buffy’s head snapped up when she heard the people coming closer, and she immediately jumped to her feet and ran into a nearby building that looked like it was a part of some abandoned warehouse.
What was going on?
Buffy stood by a row of windows and listened, hearing voices. She hadn’t seen any other people, but now she could hear them shuffling across the pavement, sounding groggy as if rousing from sleep. Some of them even sounded like they were crying.
She recognized this place. She recognized the voices she heard outside and she recognized that look on her dead body’s face.
This was Sunnydale, the day that she died.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/75353.html