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Two Boats and a Helicopter

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  • Two Boats and a Helicopter

    Disclaimer: These characters obviously do not belong to me--although I've certainly altered the setting considerably!

    Rating: PG

    Note: This story, although it stands alone, is set in the same future as "The Djinni Asked Me How I Wanted to Die". I originally came up with the first part of it (that is, the first segment of this story--not "Djinni") for Skitty's last challenge, but was too busy to work on it. It is, in a manner of speaking, a Bangel story, but not in a romantic way.

    I pounded this out in a matter of hours, in one sitting. I'm not sure how.

    Goodbye, Xander. Goodbye.

    I'm the last, now. The last of the Scoobies, and is there anyone alive who'd even know what I'm talking about anymore?

    God, how can I be last?

    We're all standing around his box now and in a few more minutes they'll lower it into the ground. And then I guess he'll be near a shovel for the last time. The Watcher...some guy I don't even know, and he's not even British, he's a Mexican...is finishing up some pre-packaged remarks about how Xander was the best of us, the best of them. I know every word, dammit! I lived through it!

    I know, I know, I'm not being fair to Chao-Anh. She's the one who's lost her husband. She's the one crying her eyes out, sneaking glances at me and wondering if she can make it through fifty or sixty years without him. Even for a Slayer, eighty's still pretty late to go looking for a new man, and...and...

    Right, right, count your blessings. Will's here as a hologram--not Tara, for some reason. The dead aren't as far gone as they used to be. It's supposed to make it easier. But you can't touch them, hug them, cry on their shoulders. Will's smiling, too. They're almost always happy, at least the ones that we can reach, even when it doesn't make sense to us, and that only makes it worse about them being gone. They don't all return, either.

    Dawn...I miss you. I miss you, Giles. Can't you come back just once? Please? Mom?

    The sun shimmers, still settling down. We won that one. Xander got out with his life, what was left of it. Died of natural causes three weeks later. Sounds so easy. No real pain, that I could tell. I sat with him, and we talked about the old days until he...stopped. The doctor said his heart gave out. That's so...so... I guess...now that it's just me...the Scoobies don't need a heart any more.

    I'm the hand, or what's left of it. And that's all.

    Or not. Depending on what you mean by dead.

    As the crowd breaks up, he makes his way between the tombstones, all robed in white, cowl up. "Angel."

    "Buffy. I told you I'd come." There was always a lot of tension between the two of them--I don't think they ever completely got over that--but they buried that hatchet a long time ago. It wasn't for that reason I wasn't sure he'd be here. David and I had a good thirty years...no kids, unfortunately...and for a while I lost touch with Angel. By the time I met him again, he was...

    Well, he was still the same. I wasn't.

    "I thought you would. I..." I look him up and down. "Nice robe. I was...you didn't get the package yet, did you? I'm sorry. I guess the mail really isn't any better these days."

    He almost makes an expression. "I got it, Buffy."

    "And?" What's he done with it? What's he done this time? "Didn't you use it? Didn't it work?" Please don't tell me it went bad. Not that stuff, surely, not ever.

    Angel hangs his head. "Buffy...I got a call from the sanitarium. They said Dru was preparing to check out. She's as much better as she can get...the way she is."

    "My god. You gave it to Drusilla? Angel...Angel, no, tell me you didn't, tell me you...Why didn't you tell me? We could have talked about this, Angel. Or I could have gotten more, enough for both of you, I--" He catches my fist in front of his chest, gently. I was stronger than him for so long. We're close to even now, and Slayer power or no Slayer power, I'm a lot more breakable.

    "I didn't know, not till yesterday. Please, Buffy, you should understand this. Dru had to fight for her soul. And then she had to spend two and a half decades fighting for her sanity, too. But this...this one part of what I took from her...I can give that back to her. I've done terrible things--you know that. But this one thing, out of all of the bad, this one thing I get the chance to undo." There are tears in his eyes. How many times have I ever seen him cry? "I'm sorry, Buffy. But I had to. I had to."

    There's a moment of dizziness...just one...and I have to catch myself against a tree. I'm not going to lean on him...not any more...not now. "All right. I...I understand, Angel. But this is the fourth...no, the fifth!...the fifth time you've had a chance to be human." It wasn't until I saw him again, after David, that he told me about the first time, the time that never happened now, and I still sometimes forget it. "How many more chances do you think you're going to get, Angel? The Mohra are a hair away from being extinct, on Earth anyway, and that resurrection spell was a one-time deal. I really thought you wanted this. Why won't you take it when it's offered?"

    "But it's not being offered, Buffy. Not yet. The Powers...they say I'm close. 'The end of my journey draws near.' They'll give it to me when I deserve it. Not before." He looks so...so tired. He's not leaning on anything; vampire tiredness is different from human. But I can see it in his eyes.

    "Angel," I say. "Listen to me." Clasping his fingers in my wrinkled ones. "I understand that you did what you felt you had to do. Go to Dru and be with her when she changes. I'm happy for you, and I guess for her too. But I want you to promise me something. I want to see you happy, Angel. I want to see you happy before I die." And then I squeeze with all the strength I've got. Snap. Crackle. Pop. He draws in a ragged gasp. "Promise me. Now."

    Angel stands there, staring. "Buffy, it's not up..." I reach for his other hand. "All right. I promise. If there is any possible way...I promise."

    A kiss on his cheek, dry, sandpaper-dry...the echo of a love long dead. Well...mostly dead. Like him.

    And cold.
    ********
    "Welcome, Ms. Summers-Prynn. May I--?"

    "House...off. I want some peace, please." Useful, but damned annoying at times. I sometimes wish they'd never invented the things, and always repent when I need a hot meal. The kitchen was something I never really got very good at.

    I sink into the sofa. It'll be soft until I make a move to get up, then help me out. I'm not really to the point where I have to have that sort of assistance, but it's still nice. In a couple of hours, if I can bring myself to watch, there'll be the news with an update on the intra-Slayer soccer match, and then "Undead Like Me". The things they think about vampires, now that there are so few of them left...well, I guess nothing's really changed, has it?

    "You know what they say about that, B. The more things change..." My head snaps up fast enough to give most people my age whiplash. On the couch across from me...

    There she is. Not a hair on her head different. If she weren't in black and white, I'd be panicking about now. Faith was how we found out for sure you could turn a Slayer...and the disaster that happens when you do.

    "F. Wasn't expecting you today. Or ever." Vampires can't touch the soulnets, and unless they had souls when they died they don't come back as ghosts. Tara told me once...after...that they don't actually go to hell--well, not for what they did when they were vampires, anyway--but they're sort of cut off. Separate, distant, a place the rest of us can't really reach. She's talked to a few, apparently, and it's no fun.

    "Never stopped being a Slayer, blondie. Rules are a little different. 'Specially when you doze off like that. Girl like you's got enemies, B. You should watch your back better."

    "Yeah, well, I'm the one who's still alive." Is this really her? That was one of the things we never did figure out. Are Slayers really in each others' dreams, or is it something else? Shared messages, or...who knows.

    "Guess you are. I'm sorry things didn't work out like you wanted, Granny." She gives me a wry grin. "Angel's got to do his thing, though. Hey, I get it. If I could take back the stuff I did...human or vampire...I sure as hell would. Probably good I didn't get the chance. Damn, he looked peaceful, though, when she took that blood. You remember the one about 'two boats and a helicopter'?"

    "What?" Maybe it's being asleep, or maybe just something I've forgotten. Or it could be dream nonsense...Faith being here doesn't get rid of all of that. "Not following you. Did you come down here just to gossip with me about my ex?"

    Faith drops her head, lips twisting into a miserable grimace. "Sorry, Buffy. Can't say I did. I came back to remind you about the first rule of winning." Our eyes meet. "Don't die."

    The skylight explodes into a rain of glass.

    Sun's down. Faith's gone. And there's a vampire crouching on the kitchen counter.

    Laughter.

    "And to think he thought he was gonna spend a lifetime with you. Whoa...woof!" The patter of fragments on the floor "Don't know if you're glad he listened to Mayor Wilkins now...but I sure am."

    Oh no. No no no... Not now, please not now. A shivery, cracking voice...mine. "Angelus."

    "In the cold, dead flesh." He takes a long stride forward. There'll be alarms going off...Slayer Central on alert. It won't matter. We're both nearly three-quarters of a century older than when we first met. I'm weaker. He's stronger. I'm slower. He's faster. Sorry, Faith...you were too late. But I'll go down fighting. I'm ready.

    I put my fists up in a stance I thought I'd never take again. My hips creak. "Only mostly dead. I think it's time you upgraded."

    "Aww...c'mon, Buffy." He raises his hands into an exaggerated, comical shrug. "I thought you wanted to see me happy. Or him happy. Or something like that. If you kill me now..." He knows I'll never manage it. He may not last out the week once I'm dead, but I doubt he cares any more.

    "I know." I should be punning. I can't find it in my heart, though. I can't find that old place, that old feeling. "If there were another way...but there isn't." Nobody's made orbs of Thesulah in thirty years, not since they discovered the price. Like global warming, apparently, only in the afterlife. The last one got used up who knows how long ago.

    This is the end.

    He lunges at me, swinging, and I ought to be able to block a wild attack like that. I ought to...but his punch catches me in the gut and I stagger backwards. My return kick strikes the mark, at least, driving into his groin, my best chance of living a few more minutes. He recoils, groaning. A vase to the head for follow-up.

    Most people use this neo-plastic stuff now. I've still got plenty of wooden furniture, however low the odds are of breaking off a piece in time. No stakes closer than the bedroom...there really hasn't been a need. I don't think I'll last that long, but hope for the best. My foot lashes out at an upholstered armchair, dashing it against the wall, and I go for the closest leg. Wood with a metal tip--my one shot.

    And then my body is slamming against the bottom of the chair. My breath escapes in a rush, and I hear cracking. The chair, I think, and looking down I see it is the chair. But not only.

    My left leg gives way, spilling me onto the floor. The makeshift stake rolls away across the carpet. My life should be flashing before my eyes, but all I can remember is that we're closing in on the 22nd century and I've become a 1980s commercial cliche. I've fallen. And I really can't get up.

    Angelus' right foot comes down on my leg, pinning me. I could maybe still pull away, scuttling backwards like a crab. But there's no point...not any more. He's got me. I'm toast. "Who's afraid of the Big, Bad Slayer now?"

    Don't die.

    I shove against the floor, rocking forward against the pain, and drive my teeth into his leg. Fangs are overrated; even through the fabric of his pants leg I can taste the blood. One thing vampires never expect...biting back. He howls and wrenches free, stumbling backward. So I bought a few more seconds of life. What for, Faith?

    Angelus opens his mouth to speak...and suddenly a pointed something appears from beneath his shirt. He blinks, shocked. Starts to say something. And blows away in the air-conditioned breeze.

    There's a white dress behind him. I blink, trying to focus, but there's a screaming inferno in my shin.

    "I killed him," whispers an echo-y, lilting voice. "I killed the King of Wands."

    Lovely. So the crazy vampire kills the evil obsessed vampire--surprise or no surprise, no human girl built like her could take out Angelus, so the blood must have gone bad or something--and then... Wait. She's avoiding the glass, watching where she steps. That's a good sign. I think.

    Drusilla looks at me...really looks, studying my face, my eyes. "You're hurt." She bends over me, frowning at my broken leg. "Let me help." And then I see she's breathing. Her hands lock around my left wrist, warm and astonishingly strong. Gently, she pulls me up and helps me back to the sofa.

    I don't think this can be real. None of it makes any sense. I've finally lost my marbles. That's why Faith is on the other sofa, looking at me again.

    "It doesn't make up for anything," she says. "Sorry I couldn't do more. Just...be glad it doesn't work the other way around. Full circle, y'know?" She wavers and fades away.

    The other way around. Faith was a Slayer...who became a vampire. Out of all the girls who might have been Slayers, all through history...there had to be a few...

    "What is this?" Drusilla asks. "What am I? The bits are all swirled together." It doesn't make up for anything. No...nothing at all...but...

    "Give me a minute," I tell her. And I laugh. And laugh. Until I cry.
    DeadWar: Burden of Proof
    Out Now.
    Avatar by Barb
    Feedback is always welcome here.
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