[Pause for a poetic introduction: one which has absolutely _no_ bearing on the story beneath it, mind you, but merely is the Author bitka-ing her little heart out. < sweet, innocent smile >]
It hit me at the top of the stairs.
For an instant I was standing there, my arm pulled down by the weight of the sword in my hand, staring at her, not understanding the anger and pain and fury on her face. We had just shared the most beautiful night of my entire existence....
Her sweeping kick caught me just below the knees and I crumpled, so dazed by my own confusion I barely registered the bruising, disorienting plunge down the staircase.
By the time I hit bottom, though, I understood.
The two realities, two memories, two views, two souls-- if either of us had one at all-- meshed, like single-color transparencies suddenly overlaid to form one true-color picture.
"My God, what have I done?"
No thought so coherent. In fact no thought at all as I stumbled to my feet, the sword somehow stupidly still in my hand. The truth of it was simply *there*.
All the pain, all the suffering, all the killing, all the evil, disgusting, _perverted_ uses an intimate knowledge of Buffy had been put to. It was all there. _I_ had done it all, never mind that I'd had no choice in the matter.
It came back to me in a flash, like it had always been there. Like a terrible, repeating, on-going nightmare... a reality from within your mind, yet completely apart from you... that-- within an instant of shocked, merciless understanding-- you know without hope or prayer to have been _real_.
I'd killed. I'd tortured. I'd plotted destruction and death with a glee too disgusting to even turn my stomach. I'd killed her friend-- *my* friend... or might have been-- for the sin of trying to save my soul when by all rights I should have been considered beyond redemption. And then I'd wrenched every last crushing bit of pain possible from the act, just to punish even more those who had dared to care about me.
And of all that, what I could not forgive myself for-- what would make me beg for the merciful fires of Hell just to burn it from my eyes-- was the sight of her face that morning after. The sight of her face when I took the heart-- the wonderful, caring, strong, loving, loyal, funny, determined, precious heart she had given me-- and I laughed at it, brushed it off me like a piece of lint, and walked away.
It takes time to tell, of course, but only a cruelly short instant to realize. I heard Buffy land behind me and I took a reflexive step forward before I turned to face her.
There was nothing I could do. No way to make any of this up to her, or to anyone else I'd hurt. I couldn't put her through the hell of seeing me beg for my life even if I'd wanted it spared.
And I didn't. It had taken me nearly a century before I'd even tried to overcome what I had done the first time the demon posessed me. This time the horror of my own actions was far too close. >From that first instant I would have joyously sold any soul I might still possess for the simple mercy of oblivion.
My sword point was still touching the ground and I stood dumbly as she circled in front of me, staring at me warily, obviously expecting some trick.
"Fight me, you bastard!" she spit out, the pain lurking in her almost showing over the anger she was using so well.
She was right, of course, she deserved at least that much. She deserved to hack me slowly and painfully into tiny pieces if she wanted to-- I would have welcomed it if it would have made up for even the smallest part of the pain I'd caused.
The horror was that it wouldn't. Nothing would. And only in my death could there be any safety for her, any release for the pain she carried, any retribution for the sins I'd committed.
But she would never do it unless I fought back. The least I owed was to make it as easy for her as I could.
I raised the sword and aimed a glancing blow at her shoulder-- one she easily parried. When her response tore a hole in my shoulder, I didn't even flinch.
We fought like that for a moment or two, my resistance so inexplicably weak that Buffy was too cautious a fighter to follow it up. It would have been funny, could I still find it within me to laugh.
Finally her eyes narrowed and she stopped cold. "What's the matter? Suddenly develop a nasty case of niceness?"
The sarcasm was venomous, but it had no hope of reaching me within the layers of agony in which I was already wrapped. I struck out blindly, but quick, like a snake, to confirm her suspicions. She caught the blow, deflected it, and disarmed me before I even realized it. With a speed worthy of her calling she had me up against the nearest wall, arm across my throat and stake-point firmly against my chest.
And she stopped.
As I squinted in the light I could see her studying my face. Looking, perhaps for one last trace of the lover she once knew. I wanted to hug her and comfort her and slap her and push her away and tell her not to be a fool-- all in the same breath. She knew what I had done, what I was capable of, and still she hesitated? I could have killed her, _would_ have killed her, yet she wavered. She was the Slayer. What had I done to her?
"Finish it," I snarled, wishing for the malformed face that might have driven the point-- her point-- home. I was terrified she'd see me within the monster she'd learned to hate and fear. "You've won," I snapped, my anger genuine enough, "So end it."
And she dropped the stake. The dappled shadows traced weird patterns on her face as she stepped back.
Desperately I lunged forward, grabbing her by the shoulders and shaking her. "Do it!"
She just stood there, crystal-blue eyes relentlessly searching my face, and shook her head slowly, as though in a trance.
"Are you insane?" I grabbed up the stake myself and handed it to her, only realizing as I did it how ridiculous it must have looked.
But she just shook her head again, as though it were irrelevant. Her mouth moved then and she spoke two words....
It took me a second to react-- of all the things I could imagine her saying, that was not even on the list. But then I realized what she meant.
I was standing in the sun. For the first time in two and a half centuries, I was bathed painlessly in the sun's warm glow.
I hadn't even noticed.
And I cursed it. I had been so close. "No," I begged her, stepping back as she raised a shaking hand towards my face. "I _can't_." I stepped back again as she moved forward-- and found myself against the wall again.
"*Please*," I begged openly, I who had no right at all....
How can one word embody so much pain? I wasn't even sure if the pain was mine or hers any more as I collapsed to my knees in front of her, unable to bear her gaze.
My head fell forward onto her chest as her arms came around my shoulders, and I began to weep.
Back to SunS Fanfic.