blackswanevent: (Hoffman is on edge)
[personal profile] blackswanevent
In a white room, in a darkened palace, animals talked.

They were three, as they had been at the beginning and as they had been at the end and as they would always be. Three in the ruins of the old world; the last guardians, the last fighters.

"...I will ask again." He found a voice, deep and rich, "What shall we do?"

The ram looked up sharply, "What shall we do?" He threw up hands that were hooves and became hands again, "What can we do? This is victory, we have yet to decide. That is what the hart and I have been thinking on. What we shall do with victory." The ram sat, "It is not a decision to be taken lightly."

The wolf was troubled by this, "I do not question your ruling."

"Nor should you..."

"I do not like this place." overturned office furniture and worn carpet. Robbed furnishings and the scatterings of a civilization. Ghosts of other animals, "It is dead."

The ram laughed, "Of course it is dead. They are all gone. The last one blew their brains out years ago and they are all in torment. As they should be. What we will make with them gone..." The ram had always had an almost unhealthy hatred of their allies, their enemies, their sometimes partners and friends, "It will be - an eden."

He sat heavily and the world crackled with dust and fire. Wolf for his part was not satisfied, "This is not Eden. This is not the garden. I have seen the garden many years ago and it is not this place."

"No. It is not." The ram said, "He who is false abandoned us and hid behind the walls of his garden. He who is a traitor and shall not be named left us and the old ones behind to hide behind his gates and his walls. What a shock and a surprise to learn that there was nothing there for all of man! No, your prayers are not heard, your cries for help are not answered by God. Of course not, it is us - the very creatures you fear..."

"Be quiet."

The ram and the wolf quarreled and the hart rose, silent and serene.

"The answer is obvious. We must start again." The Hart raised a hand and the portal between dimensions was opened, "First however there is someone I must see."

The wolf considered the hart. He considered the shape of her legs, the curve of her breasts. They were sometimes animals and sometimes human themselves as punishment (for crimes he could not remember) and she was not the oldest but the wisest for this the sacred feminine. Her shapes were always female save for the horned crown she wore about her head. He considered her and contemplated attacking her then. Perhaps he would eat her, destroy her, hurt her and then they would be back.

She and Ram would sit, and talk some more.

Ram for his part was older, the horns on his head curved and he advocated caution. He played devil's advocate like no other and with his sometimes hands and sometimes hooves he was the one who suggested patience. Wait. Wait. The human Holland had been one of his. They were all there, waiting for them down deep in the other place.

"You will see them first?"

"No." Hart looked at the two of them, "Are you coming or not?"

The animals left the dead place and the world around them - sustained only by their existence crumbled into the breeze and became as nothing but a scent on the wind.

Buffy Summers lived the last moments of her life over and over again. She learned to laugh at them.

She learned to laugh at the not Giles leaving her behind. At Faith taking Riley and then taking Angel and leaving her behind. She laughed at Los Angeles falling into the sea and at the world ending and she wondered if she was mad or if this was perhaps the beginning of wisdom. Was I ever good? Is this being wise?

"...Giles..." the not!Giles was looking at her. She wandered the halls of Sunnydale high as she did every day from seven am to nine am, "...Not you go away I know you're not real." she turned her head up to the air ducts, "Also "Hell as a high school" is about as unoriginal as you can get."

"It's tailored to the soul of the person." a voice said, "It's your hell."

The voice rasped, it choked, it whispered, it made promises of love and Buffy whirled around to put a hand across her mouth and cry out in fear. Her hell was made up of abandoning the people that mattered to her, of death and sorrow and isolation. This was a thing that had invaded it and she could not comprehend it's majesty, it's abject majestic horror.

It was a woman, she gathered that much. Naked and serene and perfect. It's hair, a wild mat of tangles and torn leaves obscured a pair of deer antlers that curved above her. She walked on the balls of her feet, graceful and when her eyes opened Buffy Summers realized the thing before her had no soul and she was sore afraid.

"Just an eternity of this. Being late to classes and having everybody turn into vampires." She snorted, "Have you not heard me laughing or -"

"Do you always make jokes or do you only do it when you're afraid?"

"...I think I'd have to be pretty stupid not to be afraid of all of this." The creature smiled and Buffy shrank back, "...Seriously. Don't do that again okay."

A bell rang and the creature cocked it's head to the side. Buffy swallowed hard and clutched at her books that sometimes became a stake that were books again.

"Are you going to tell me what you want or are we going to stare?"

Silence deepened. The thing stared at her, into her eyes, into the depths of her soul, "...I mean it. This may be your turf but that doesn't mean I'm not going to kick and scream and -"

"Did you want children?"

The voice was so out of left field that Buffy Summers could not hide a cry of horror, "Children?"

"Children. A career. A house. Diamonds. Arms around you at night." The Hart (she stopped. where had that come from?) stepped forward, "picnics, parties, coworkers, offices. Were these things you wished for?"


"I see a son that could have been. A daughter that could have loved you. A family of your own and a support for one who has been the strength of the world. If only a different path were taken!"

"...I took the path I was on. I chose it."


A dead wind blew.

"No you did not choose it it was chosen. Chosen. I want to give you the choice. I want to give you the choice. It has to be you. It has to be you and no one else." The school faded around the two of them. Buffy reached for her heart and felt it thud, one, two, three times in her chest. She was pulled, she allowed herself to be dragged back to the land of the living and awoke gasping on the soft green grass.

Pull yourself together Buffy

"Do you know what happens after fire?" She turned, sitting up on the grass to see the hart standing bare foot in the flowers. Out of the school, out of the room and out of hell her hair was less wild and her eyes less black, "After fire new things grow. That is life. You judge fire. You say it's bad but behold the world after fire."

Buffy wondered if she was naked herself and realized it didn't matter. Who was going to see? Climbing to her feet she looked up and down and inhaled, "This is..."

"Your world."

Her world had never been this lush. Her world had never been this green and this bright. She knelt and pressed her hands to the grass before throwing herself into a cartwheel across the dirt. She wanted to run and jump, she wanted to scream, to throw herself on the deer and rip it apart with her bare hands, to feast...

"You see."

She shivered and they were back, the world sucked away and Buffy Ann Summers screamed, one desperate howl of frustration across all of hell, "You see what we do. It is not change that is the problem, it is the threat of it. That's your hell. The threat of change, I want to know if you will make the leap out of it. I want to know what you will choose."

"I don't..." she dodged a student on the way to class. The walls grayed and the deer woman was horrific again. Buffy blinked, "I don't understand..."

"Do you not see?" The thing moved and it was on her. It gripped her wrists and hissed at her with her teeth bared, "Do you not see? Your choices are their choices. You are called to a destiny without being asked. The time of it is over and the old ones are gone. You can choose. You must choose."

"Choose what!" she shoved the deer away, "Choose a life or a destiny? Choose my friends or myself? Be specific. I may be in school but I'm not being taught anything! What do I choose?"

"I have made this thing and it shall be a world in our image." The hart's voice was hard, "And I'll do it. You know that, I'll fucking do it." Her face was malice, her face was terrible as the sun, as the desert, as the things that Buffy Summers had done, "We shall make a place to please them and they shall reward us but I have to know. Will you be with us. No one else, you."

She digested this. They wanted something from her, that much was clear. She stepped back and considered the demon, "You're one of the senior partners."

"...Am I?" and for the first time the deer looked...sly, "Or am I one of the powers that be?"

The world blurred and Buffy was face to face with Cordelia, "Or am I your friend? Or your enemy?"

"...If you're going to mess with me..."

"No. No I will not. I have to know. What you will choose and it will be within my power to give it to you. Do you stay here, do you live your destiny which must always end this way. You are the ashes." the deer passed judgement - pointing at her in the hallways that now wept blood, "You are the ashes and from you new growth shall spring. Shall you return? Or shall you be a legacy to the flowers and the trees?"

For one brief moment Buffy Ann Summers was torn.

She imagined then this son, this daughter. Her wedding like she had wanted it to be, going to high school and being popular. A childhood that wasn't perfect but was hers. No monsters under the bed, no vampires. Normal.

In their own hells her friends looked up and wondered. Rupert Giles found it in him to mouth the word no before his cries of pain began again.

"I'm tired."

"You are."

She exhaled, "And I can't bargain with this."

The hart smiled, "You want a bargain? A contract? That is no trouble. I shall summon a lawyer. I have a stable full of them. Come. Come."

She took her and and Buffy knew that shrieking pull between worlds again.

This is what signing your soul over to hell gets you. Lilah Morgan stared at the brief in her hands, A never ending work day.

Although to be fair the employees of Wolfram and Hart were considerably better treated. As one by one they had arrived those who had died and been brought back were nonplussed. Those to whom it was new were only mildly annoyed. They had always thought of themselves as baseline human but something had changed within them clearly.

It certainly had changed the man sitting across from her making notes on a yellow pad with a twist to his features. Well. Give him credit for trying. "How's the hand."

Lindsey Mcdonald looked up sharply, "Fuck you."

"...Not your job. Not my job." Lilah tilted her head, "Although given that both of our significant others are bus- Sorry." She sighed, "Sorry. It's hard to ...not think like that. In hell."

"...It's fine." he had grown surly since the last time they'd met, but then again he'd always been a bit of a loose canon, "Are you still sleeping with the ex-watcher?"

"Are you still sleeping with the senior partner's whore?"

They traded glares like cats on a roof before Lindsey smiled, "...I can't believe I actually missed you Morgan."

She thought then that they would give in to their urges. It happened before, this was hell and the longer you spent here the less the rules of common decency applied. The payroll department had long ago descended into anarchy - then again it was payroll. They'd never been wholly sane.

Before she could bring it up however, there was a pop and Holland appeared and behind him the ram their leader and faithful master. She and Lindsey rose as one, "...Do we kneel?"

"I think we should." Holland's voice was full of cheer, "Because liberation is at hand. Rejoice, rejoice!"

"...They're letting us go?" the question of where was always on her mind but all the same, "They're releasing us from our contracts?" She and Lindsey exchanged glances, "we'"

The ram behind Holland laughed, "...Released? No. I have had millennia to know the law. I am she and she is me little sister. It was I who gave the commandments to moses. I who spoke from the bush. I am not going to overlook a single thing. You and McDonald are mine, are ours in perpetuity rest in peace Amen."

"...A second chance." Lilah Morgan wondered if Holland had finally lost his mind here in the halls where he once was king, "A second chance. Glory to them below! We're going back. Don't you understand that?"

He looked between them, "You two are the best. You will work together, it is of grave importance. You two are the best." He clapped them both on the shoulders and pulled them close like an indulgent father, "The very best. And your work shall do what you set out to do as lawyers, what you set out to do as humans. Save the world." he glared at them and she realized he was insane, "...It's justice for our deaths! It's the rebirth! Don't you see? If You don't fuck this up we're going home!"

Once upon a time when Angel was someone else entirely he had read a story. The story was of a Greek king who had done the wrong things and was sentenced to push a boulder up a hill. Once he reached the near top it would roll down again and his great strength was for nothing. Angel walked up the hill howling, cutting through earth and wind and fire and monsters screaming for his love and his family and...he fell back down again.

Something always drove him up the hill.

His heart broke each time he fell.

He wondered how long he had been trying and wondered why he hadn't given up when he saw her standing at the bottom - at the bottom of the hill. Sweating, half naked, he ran toward her and wrapped Buffy in his arms and had her return the embrace, "...You're in hell."


"We're...we're all?"

"So remember all that talk about God? Turns out he's absent. Like completely. Been that way for awhile."

He was having a hard time pulling his mind away from the boulder, "...So?...You're...are you even real?"

"Do you need to ask?" Buffy exhaled, "Do you? I mean...after everything we've been through do you need to know?"

That everything we've been through split him. He pulled away from her and stared, "So what? That's it? We all lost and the powers that be..."

"Are the senior partners."

He felt like screaming, "They were playing the field?"

" don't understand it. Angel, all I know is they've offered me a choice and I'm going to take it." he'd dreamed this, hearing her say it was something else entirely. She continued, "In exchange for everyone coming back. Everyone. They'll do it."

"...What? Your soul? Turn you into a demon? Make the ultimate slayer a vampire?"

"...No." her voice was soft, "This is for you too."

"We're already in Hell Buffy. What can be worse?" he raised a hand to her cheek, "...You slept with spike. What can be worse? You're..."

"Worse? Worse? Do you know what I get out of this? What they want from me? I go back. They work their magic. I go back and I get my life back. My life before you, my life before Giles - my life. And that life continues. It's not just high school. I get to get to worry about what shoes to wear. My biggest concern is going to be traffic on the way to school. I get - to wear a wedding dress when I honestly thought I'd never get to set foot inside a church and I get children Angel."

The notion was so grotesque he laughed.

"You're laughing?"

"'re the slayer. I mean, into each generation..."

"Not anymore." She straightened, "No. Not anymore. We all get to go back. It ends. Even for you. No more slayers means no more vampires Angel."

It sank in, for real, and he shook his head and blinked at her and she raised a hand to him, "...Say goodbye to super strength I guess."

"You won't need it." Buffy's voice was warm, "You'll have me."

In a white room in a beautiful world, animals talked.

"You have to realize I never met with them directly." Wesley murmured, "Vessels...I did not expect..."

"No one ever expects us." The ram said, "We are as we were made. We wear the shapes that we have chosen like you wear clothes."

"Except none of you are wearing clothes." Angel said, "You're...all naked."

"As are all of you though none of you see it." The ram's voice was calm but all present thought that they could detect a hint of smugness, "All present and accounted for?"

"Buffy Ann Summers." She was staring at a stack of legal files, "...Present and confused."

"Wesley Price for...the senior partners and powers that be apparently. Also present and confused." He stood behind them near to Eve and shook his head, "Buffy you shouldn't do this."

"Angel...Formerly Angelus. Agreeing with that guy right there." Angel stepped forward, "What about Spike?"

"Spike." The doorway burst open, "Late as fuck. Sorry folks. Buffy? You all right?" He went to her and she went to him and Angel...Angel stepped back and stuck his hands against his sides. He wished for pockets and stared at the three people in the center of the room.

He couldn't call them people. They were sharp as digital photographs yet faded as memories. A wolf, broad and imposing sat at the left. A ram, horns growing from the creature's head sat at the right, and in the center siting serene was the hart. He swallowed, "I thought Lorne would be here."

The hart opened her eyes, "He is gone. That was the ruling. "And you shall never see me again."

"I don't particularly think that...he helped me." Angel looked uncomfortable, "He was a good guy. Is he here in Hell?" Is this his home? somehow he didn't remember things being so...pristine. The hart laughed, "He doesn't deserve to suffer for what I did."

"But I do?"

Angel's eyes widened. Wesley stifled a look of distaste and the group parted before the six people who had entered looking displeased. The staff of Wolfram and Hart weren't naked in the eyes of their masters. Their masters knew their secrets. Their masters had them on tight leashes. The ram rose and the Hart spoke, "Buffy Summers."

"...Isn't talking! Nope nope no way no way no how." Someone burst in through the back, "We're not talking, she's not talking. Just because they're gone doesn't mean she doesn't get to have a say or be warned exactly as to what you're doing!" Buffy looked up and saw Angel relax as Cordelia Chase jogged into the room wearing an elegant suit and looking out of breath, "...Buffy. Buffy listen to me, you don't have to do this okay. Seriously. We can set this up and go to another dimension or something there are lots out there. I know that's where I've been..." She put her hands on her shoulders, "You want to go to space? we're tied to space. It'll be nice."

"...What?" Buffy drew back, "Cordy - you're not making any sense."

"No see, you don't get it. All of this. What the senior partners aren't telling you is really important - I mean you all..." she cast a pitying gaze over the assembled group, "You all signed your souls and yourselves away for the worst reason possible..."

The air in the white room chilled and warmed. The sun rose and set.

"...You really want them to know that Cordelia?"

A man spoke and the animals quieted to listen.

Buffy looked puzzled as Cordelia withdrew. The senior partners had parted, and she saw - or at least she thought she saw a host of others gathered around them stretching into eternity. Her stomach rolled as she gazed upon them and then upon the figure that had entered and realized to her shock that the demons. The three true demons were bowing to him.

As was the woman on his arm, the woman with purple hair and an arrogant look to her eyes, "...Who let the nerd in?"

He was just that, a nerd. A little overweight but carrying it well, a sparse topping of red hair across his head and the biggest grin she had ever seen on a human face. Wolfram and Hart looked confused, Angel and Spike looked skeptical, and Illyria (that was her name! Why hadn't she known that? Hadn't she...didn't she know her?)

"No. You didn't know her." The man clapped his hands together, "I've got to tell you guys this is just amazing. Sorry about the wait. Sorry, sorry I was playing with superheroes and I hate to admit that I'd moved on to other projects but you didn't think I'd forget about you did you?"

He shook his head and moved toward them. Buffy stood firm as Cordelia shrank back, "Cordelia? Go on. You were just about to completely destroy the sanity of everyone in this room."

"Oh no no..."

"No I insist. It'll be funny." There was an edge to the man's voice, "It'll be absolutely hysterical. I will watch and I will laugh and oh man. It'll make for great TV and all of those who took strength from these struggles will have nothing to look to." He continued to smile, "...Am I honestly going to regret bringing you up to my level?"

"No sir." Cordelia frowned, "I just think that Buffy should have a right to say no. Can you honestly blame me for not trusting a demon?"

The man's smile deepened and then lost itself entirely, "...No. See that's just it. You can't trust a demon. All I can think of though is the line repeated across time and space and history. Evil? Real evil? No such thing."

"...Are you a demon?" Buffy wanted to be sure, "I mean because if I'm about to sign away my life to a demon."

The man rolled his eyes, "Look. Buffy. I've watched you...I've watched you all your life. To be honest, you're probably the most important person in this room. I care about you Buffy. You ... you changed things. You changed a lot of things and that matters far more then anyone can ever say. If you want to know the truth, I will tell you. I will tell you the deep truth at the heart of your universe. The meaning of life, your life. Their lives."

She glanced over her shoulder and saw spike bristle. The room was too large to hold others yet she thought she saw Giles watching her with concern. Then he was gone and there was just the man, the man with his hands in his pockets looking at her - intent and serious.

"You want to know?"

"Yes." She straightened, "This...this is a big decision and I've made a lot of them recently." the end of everything, the slayers, the dreams of the past and the future, "I want to know. Tell me the truth."

"Men claim to hunger for truth, but seldom like the taste of it." the man nodded slowly, "I really like that quote. I wish I'd thought of it."

"Who are you?" She squinted, "I mean you're a nerd, I can tell that much and I don't know how. In a room full of lawyers and half naked people and monsters and you're just so unphased..."

"It's like being at comic con."

That really threw her for a loop, "...What?"

"Asking you one more time." The man's voice was hard, directing, directorial, "I have other things I want to do and things I want to see. Things we want to see. Do you want the truth or not?"

"Tell me." Buffy braced herself and clenched her hands, "Tell me the truth. Tell me all of the truth and don't leave out a single detail. I'm tired. I'm tired of lies, and prophecies and magic and bullshit. Tell me."

He stepped close and leaned in and told her.

Spike hadn't honestly known what to make of the entire enterprise. One moment Buffy had been ready to make a decision, the next Cordelia had rushed in screaming no - the lawyers looked bored except for McDonald who was glaring daggers at Angel and then...

And then the man had come in and he had felt that unusual mix of paternal affection and lust...Like for a sire.

He was sure however he had never seen the homely man in his life. Leaning close to Angel during the man's diatribe he whispered, "Are you feeling as weirded out by that bloke as I am?"

Angel for his part was watching Buffy and gripping Cordelia's shoulders as Buffy Summers had the man whisper in her ear gently, ever so gently and step back.

It was gradual, Spike would think later. Like watching a flower wither and die in the frost. Like watching a house age. Buffy shrank, she shrank and tears filled her eyes and she screamed.

The girl who had died. The woman who had suffered, the slayer began to sob and scream. She jumped at him, hands clenched into fists pounding on his chest screaming obscenities. He caught "Sick Fuck" and "How could you do this to me" and "Perverted Masses" and a number of other really terrible things. He didn't recall Angel moving forward he knew that his arms were around Buffy's shoulders and pulling her back to her feet as the animal humans were pulling the other man to his feet.

He smiled. Still.

"That's what they love about you! You're a fighter!"

"Fuck them and fuck you and fuck everyone and...and..." she wrapped herself around Spike trying to melt into him, "Why. Tell me why."

The man who had entered and disrupted everything wiped blood off his forehead, "...Prometheus. Tantalus. Olympia. Zeus. For what it's worth I am sorry."

He sounded sorry then, "...I am sorry."

Buffy wiped her eyes, "...Are ...are we the only..."

The man laughed,"Oh god no. Oh god. No there's thousands. Millions. Trillions. Billions. And that's not even counting the ones that haven't made the public eye yet. The private fantasies, the originals, the unpublished. But they'll come."

He ignored Spike and took her hands. Spike held her shoulders and she...she pulled away from him, "It hurts. I can't imagine how you must feel. I think if I were sure that I was in your shoes I'd go crazy."

She laughed, a sad little thing, "How do you know that you're not?"

"...We flirt with the idea. Then we sort of repel it."

She lowered her head and silence descended. People began to talk amongst themselves as Buffy looked at him and Spike knew him for their creator and felt his knees weaken and his hands clench in anger, "...Those superheroes."


"Are they happy?"

The man drew his hand back and covered a surprised laugh, "...No. No they aren't and they're not going to be. They're not even mine and I pretty much...ruined...their lives and I'll be doing it again." he shrugged, "It did inspire an internet movement however. And taught people how to love the a slightly creepy way but..."

"...Because of what you told me."


"Are you happy?"

For the first time the man looked troubled, "...I think we're about as happy as we're going to be, and we're always going to be working to be happier. Plus? It means something. It inspires, and if any indication it continues."

Buffy nodded, "...And you do care?" Somehow it all hinged on that. The man looked teary eyed and reached for her and wrapped his arms around her again, "Of course I care. And not just because you were my first and my best. I care because it's you kiddo. It's you. It's the best of you. And so many other people care too."

She exhaled, "Then...I'll do it."

Cordelia detached herself from Angel's side, "Buffy you don't have to."

"You know I'd love to keep being kept in suspense here but honestly if you're serious I'd like to get on with it." Lilah Morgan spoke up, "Not that we're better off and we're still tethered to evil but if I have a chance to get out of the office..."

The man smiled, "I love you guys. I mean seriously. It's the mayor all over again. Just perfect. He's coming back too." He nodded, "I'll bring you all back. All you have to do is sign."

He nodded, tipped his hat to a few and smiled and the room faded and the animals that had been prostrate rose to their feet again.

"Buffy Ann Summers."

"...No, now we'll talk." Giles moved forward, "she and I will talk. I want to read over this contract. A rebirth? I don't believe it. What did he say to you Buffy, what did he..."

She pressed her hand to his chest and shook her head, "Not this time. I'm making this decision. I want a life Giles. I want a life and they're going to give me one. A real one."

"What did he say to you Buffy?"

The Wolf was there. He leaned in close, "Let the girl sign if she wishes."

Giles stepped back and Spike held her, "You don't have to do this. I like being in Hell. I've got mates." he pressed against her, "You and I could be together."

She shook her head, "...I could go back to you or to Angel I could do anything." A thick sheet of paper materialized before her and beside it was a black pen that she knew had ink made of her blood, "...I could do it. Me. You know what he said to me Spike? You know what he said?"

She raised it and signed, Buffy Ann Summers in dark letters, "He said we do it for the entertainment. And that I was the star of the show."

There was a sucking sound, a roar of horrors and rebirth and there was light and screaming and hands around her and Buffy Ann Summers knew no more.

Sarah Geller tapped her hands on her computer console and read over the brief again with a sigh and added two amendments. They had been trying to screw them over on the payments - payments for an ended life. Well that's what you get when you're saving the world. The dim sound of snoring filtered in through her cubicle and she peered over to where a lanky man slept, drooling into his desk.

"Hey. McDonald." She reached for a file folder and tapped him on the head, "Hey."

"- I'm up, I'm up I'll make breakfast I-" Micheal McDonald's eyes widened, "...Geller I had the best dream why did you have to wake me up."

"Hint. We're supposed to be working."

"No. I don't want to work I want to sleep. I have been having the worst dreams ever. I'm working for this law firm only they're evil..."

"We're lawyers. That's kind of par for the course."

"Yeah but there's ...there's vampires and shit and you're there and you're this preppy blonde high school bitch..."

"I'm in your dreams?"

"Woah woah. Woah." A blond head poked up above her cubicle, "That's my wife you're dreaming about mate." Her husband, William Geller said, "Careful."

"No we're not - it's not like that..." He groaned, "It's the baby I swear to god ever since that kid was born I have not gotten a decent night sleep..."

"It'll pass." Sarah's voice was sympathetic. Her hand drifted to her husband's, "What did you name her again?"

"Darla. Don't get me wrong I love her. I love her more then anything but she's so loud. Damien was never that loud."

"He was mate. You just don't remember." William studied his wife with an adoring look before looking back at him, "Look. You and me, after work. Drinks. I will drink you under the table and the world will look brighter."

"How is it progressing?"

"It's us and Japan and we're both down to two. The guys in control are placing bets. Kudos to you both for making the winning choice in the betting pool."

"I think you mean Kudos to me." A feminine voice appeared from nowhere and their supervisor Leslie Morgan squinted, "Kudos to me for making the decision. Vampires." she shook her head, "I swear I've had them on the brain. Vampires and witches and witchy vampires..."

"You know we're putting our share towards a vacation?" McDonald nodded, "Going to Disneyland. I can't wait I haven't been in years..."

"We're up to the final kill folks." A digital voice echoed over the loudspeaker. Steven Hadley was new to the organization but competent. No one disagreed with that, "The director just sent up the word that she's pleased with everyone."

Sarah Geller switched out of word and back to the digital view she'd had of the entire process, "She turned him?"

They had been holed up in an ancient castle for a day and a half seduced one by one by a vampire queen and her sisters. The queen, rather then kill the boy in front of her had changed him. Now he and the virgin were arguing, trading words as his face shifted into something feline and horrific...

"...I mean you want to talk about surprise. Story had totally not prepared for it. Doyle is down there having a fucking fit. It's brilliant they want to use it and we have to get her out alive somehow..."

The lawyers watched as the boy grabbed the girl and sank his fangs into her neck. Sarah could not explain why the image filled her with a sense of horror, "I can't..."

"Watch it all the way through to the end." William was behind her, "Come on love it'll be all right. We have to. It's the rules." The rules that governed their lives. Sarah Geller gripped his hand and turned back to the television screen as the organization's legal department watched.

The girl, staggering, turning, stumbled down the steps as dawn broke in the sky. The ground beneath them rumbled and everyone in the room froze just in time for her to crawl into the boat and set it adrift. She lay back, her body mutating and with a final ray of sunlight...she faded away.

Silence filled the room.

She rose from her chair and went to the center of the room. Her husband followed, kneeling beside her. McDonald came next, Leslie kneeling beside him. Others came, those about their business stopped and arranged themselves in a circle. This one was close.

They were all close.

"Someone going to begin?"

"Ancient Ones." One of the interns swallowed, "We come before thee to offer up this our most hearty sacrifice.

We do believe in the sacred power of the great three. The wolf who is all power, the Ram who is all knowing, and the Hart who is all life.

And in five sacrifices, who we do offer unto you in humility and fear for the blessed peace of your eternal slumber."

"As it ever was." Will intoned. Sarah echoed him, her hand gripping his, "And as it ever will be."

"We believe in the power of the broken star, that was made at the beginning of the world and has brought us peace and brought forth a second chance...."

"As it ever was." McDonald spoke next, "And as it ever will be."

"We thank you for the light that warms us."

"we thank you for the love that guides us."

"we pray for your forgiveness for our living, and pray that you shall bring peace to the dead with your eternal slumber."

"As it ever was." Sarah Geller could not say why she was crying, why this ceremony moved her to tears as it always did, "And as it ever will be."

"Go forth." Leslie Morgan said, "Go forth and live and multiply. Go forth and be and know that we do so with their sufferance. That we are in punishment and that our acts save man. Go forth in humility and fear of their power."

Sarah raised a necklace she wore around her neck and brought it to her forehead and knew that the same gesture was being repeated around the circle. Now they would drink, and tonight she and William would fuck and the kids would sleep. Tomorrow she would wake up and kiss her children and buy them something. It was tradition. Tonight McDonald would go home to his baby daughter and his son, Tonight Leslie Morgan would go for a drink with her university professor boyfriend (Pryce? Was that his name?) and they would live.

On the wall was a clock, the same clock that turned itself off when the day of judgement was at hand. It had counted down to zero and as she raised her eyes the numbers reset. 360 days until the next slaughter.

Until a chance that the old ones would awake and they would once again buy their world anew with five innocent lives.

She shut down her computer and watched her husband clap the young father on the back before he returned to her, "He's going to drive himself off a cliff if I don't do something. You going to be all right?"

"I'll tell Dru and Dawn not to wait up." She hugged him, "Just call me if you need a ride. Or stagger home on the bus please."

"I won't hurt him." her husband kissed her head, "See you tomorrow love."

The numbers counted down. Milliseconds. Minutes. Hours. Days. She walked down from her offices and hit the button for the elevator - not checking when she saw the man dressed in black military fatigues standing with his hands in his pockets.

Silence filled between them.

"...Geller right? Legal?"

"That's right. How did you know Mr...."

"Boreanz. David... Military operations."

"Praise be to the ancient ones for the excellent work they committed today."

"Praise be indeed." he put a hand over his chest, "Whole place has been on edge. This one gave a lot of people bad dreams. I'm glad it's over."

"What do you mean?" she watched him. Well made, tall, broad in the shoulders, "Everything all right upstairs?"

"Oh yeah. Yeah it went fine. My guys got in got the boy, got the queen. He's in containment just like we expected. It just...not a lot of sleep."

"Dreaming about me?" hell if McDonald had maybe he did too. She was something of a running joke around the office, the next in line for promotion when Leslie retired.

"Yeah actually how'd you know?"

More silence in the elevator. She hugged herself and clutched her shoulders, "...I'm a married woman."

"That's great. I have a sister and a dog and a wife who is sleeping with the woman down the street. It's not about that. It's you." He faced her, "I feel like I should know you. Like..."

This is all somehow my fault? "...I don't know you." But she did. She knew him in his fatigues and his shoulders, she knew his touch and a name flashed across her mind ...and was gone like dust.

"...Yeah no, I know. And to be honest I despise you. You were the people who arranged for that school to be blown up and my guys had to lay the bombs."

"Them or the rest of the world."

"Agreed but -"

"This is my stop." She stepped off the elevator and walked through the lobby. She said goodnight to the night guard, a surly looking woman with black hair who nodded once and adjusted her portable television set. Looking back she studied the interior of the lobby.

Above the security desk was a drawing - the logo of their company rendered large. It wasn't the star (they wouldn't have been perverse enough to use the star) three animals twisted around each other. A wolf raised it's paws and went after a deer while a ram chased the wolf's tail. It was a circle, a consistent wheel...

And under that a clock. The ever ticking clock. It lay on her like a death sentence, like a brand, like a mark. Eden is never free.

She went home to her husband and her children and did not look back until the next day when she had to go in again.

In a white room at the heart of the facility that was once a city known as Sunnydale, animals talked.

"This pleases me much more then I would have thought." The wolf said, "But I grow restless. I want to hunt, I want to taste the latent evil..."

"It's there." The ram was blunt, "Will you never be pleased? Do you think that the previous world would have allowed five innocents to die? Please. The one called Angel would have stopped the act. If he found the actions of my lawfirm so reprehensible he would have stopped the organization for certain."

"Yes." the wolf said, "I suppose that is true." He frowned, "They have all but destroyed magic."

"The slayer did that." Ram's voice was patient, "And they have not destroyed it, they have locked it away and what is locked away will be free again."

"Then the slayers will return?"

"No." The deer woman spoke, "No, they shall not return. We have spread their power to the wind at his behest. Their time is done, instead it shall be man that fights as it was meant to be. Man in his evil and man in his good. We shall conquer them without assistance when we are free."

"Will we?" Wolf looked at her, "Will we be free?"

"That is the deal I made." The Hart smiled, "They buy their Eden and every year more of their humanity slips away and still then it is not enough. They buy peace with the souls of others, and when we return..."

"We will return? We will?"

The creature smiled and her mouth was red with blood.

"Nothing stays buried forever." Her smile was serene, "All we have to do is wait."

"Wait where? Why?" wolf rubbed his head, "We cannot kill them now you say wait. Wait for what?"

The deer smiled and somewhere a god-man laughed and an audience cheered and cried and wept and sang lamentations to them and the thousands more like them held in thrall. They tattooed their bodies with their image and sang praises and the god heard them and knew he had done well and those out of the realm heard them. And the deer smiled.

"The eventual sequel."

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blackswanevent: (Default)
And that is why that girl is called a tease.

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