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Shadow Sun (DeadWar 0)

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  • Shadow Sun (DeadWar 0)

    Standard Boilerplate Disclaimer: None of the characters in this work of fiction belong to me; they are the property of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. I am making nothing from this fic except perhaps a reputation.

    Rating: R for violence


    If the radiance of a thousand suns

    Killing barely requires a thought any more, for Buffy. A twitch of the fingers. A flick of the wrist. Bared fangs sunk into the neck. How long has it been since she had to reach for a weapon? Perhaps two years...a little more, maybe. Sometimes she does so anyway, for nostalgia's sake. Or for a challenge. Easier, now, to seize hold of a head and rip it free to the grate of snapping bone and tearing ligament. Easier still to merely drink, to drain the body in what she might once have called the beat of a heart. Rare, any more, for a blow to strike her even once while she feeds.

    It's hardly worth the effort. More fun to dance and weave among the bodies. More fun to swirl a blade, to make it hiss and crack. Buffy's hand shoots out, finds a pumping heart and crushes it to pulp. Buffy's foot leaps up to shatter a skull. Buffy's teeth seize a bone and rip it free as she flickers backwards. Buffy's form blurs. Buffy's mind blurs, shading the world in red haze. Pain is the point. Death is the point. She has always known this, somewhere in the back of her thoughts. Fear, guilt, and shame were all that prevented her from acknowledging the fact. All three are strangers to her now.

    The cries of her victims sing in her ears, in her heart, in the absence where her soul was. All too soon, though, the screams fade to silence. Challenge has become too rare. At times, even, she finds herself wishing for the old days. Wishing to face Glory again, or the Mayor in the form of Olvikan. Wishing to face anything that might risk her unlife and thrill her blood. It would almost be pleasant to reacquaint herself with fear.

    Buffy slows. One dance has ended. Another, slower tune throbs softly in her brain as she gathers one of the corpses into her arms. An older tune, the reason she trudges on through the monotony of unlife. There is only so much pain one can wring from a body. True, infinite suffering springs from the mind. No. From the soul.

    Were to burst forth at once in the sky

    Death has followed Buffy around the world, but she has yet to leave the part that calls itself "civilized". Spain, China, Turkey...nowhere off the beaten path. Nowhere from which she cannot return in a month's time. She has an appointment to keep. This is the structure that gives her existence meaning.

    Buffy sprints through the darkness, with the body lolling over her shoulder. She can tire, in theory, though it's been a long while. The creature she has become can run all night, fight till the sun rises, and never know fatigue, so long as she keeps herself well fed. Tonight she is far too near her goal for rest to be an issue.

    Not long after midnight she reaches his doorstep. Across it she lays the body, arranging its limbs just so. Not enough to simply drape it there. Buffy wrenches an arm behind its back, pulls till the spine arches, tilts back the head, gapes the mouth in a cry of anguish. By itself the body is without meaning. Buffy takes the photograph from her pocket and tapes it to the unmoving chest. Human faces, laughing, oblivious to fear and pain alike. She scrawls her taunt on the back, the one she always leaves her ex.

    Buffy stands, studying for a few more seconds. Angel could perhaps be inside. All that she has done here has been accomplished in less than a minute; were she to relent, he might never know she was here. Buffy has no intention of relenting, though. Not ever.

    She turns from the scaly corpse and fades into the night. Other nights the bodies have borne horns, claws, fangs. Ridges on the forehead. Three times she has left urns of dust and ashes--the last from perhaps thirty vampires culled in one night. And the mocking photographs of the innocents she has saved. Each time, the same message.

    I can.

    That would be like the splendor

    In blood, life. Flavor sizzles down her gullet like the dizzying plummet of rollercoaster cars. Before blood, there was nothing. Buffy roots at her victim's neck, drawing out the feeding, seizing each moment. Vibrations tickle her fangs as he moans.

    If she doesn't stop, Angel is proven right. About himself. About her.

    Buffy never wants this to end, except the way she could end it--one last eruption of blood into her mouth as she drains him all at once. Her stomach clenches at the thought of letting him go. The demon underlying her mind rebels.

    If she kills this one, Angel's pain eases.

    It would be so easy. Shift her bite a fraction, sink her teeth into the jugular or the carotid. Draw on him with all her might and drain him like a child's shake. To kill him...to kill him would be right. Would be her right. This is the prey she deserves.

    If he dies...Angel wins.

    Buffy wrenches free of him, mouth dripping crimson. The wound screams for her to come back, finish her meal. The man huddled beneath her shivers and gasps as the (pain/pleasure) subsides. "Don't...don't stop." His lips, his eyes, her gut, all begging for her to return. But she doesn't.

    She rises off him. It's the most jaded who ask for her, the ones ready to skirt the very fringe of death. She's tried turning them down before, only to find she was the last reason they had to live. Since then, it no longer worries her to take from them. Buffy gestures to the assistants to help him rise and turns to the door. "Next." Better, she supposes, to feed from those willing to give than to take bagged blood from those waiting to receive. It tastes better anyway.

    Buffy has tried feeding from animals. Their blood is flat, listless. After a week the hunger pains give way to weakness and trembling. Another three days once left her disoriented; it was the closest she has come to killing a human. She has no qualms about draining vampires until they crumble to dust in her hands, an event once unheard of outside of ritual. But vampire blood, already used once, resembles a sugar high--powerful, but pointless in the long run.

    She has made certain Angel knows she lacks certain options he had. His torture is the sole point of her unlife. If she can be good without a soul...then so could he have. Every life saved drives the knife deeper into his gut; every demon killed twists it harder. Buffy no longer experiences the torment of guilt, but she remembers. She would choose one drop of Angel's guilt over an ocean of spilled blood.

    Of the Mighty One

    They shy away from the thing she has become, human and vampire patrons alike. A gothgirl in leather shivers unconsciously as Buffy passes; her black-clad businessman bares fangs, hisses, pulls her closer. Buffy ignores the implied challenge. Those who come here--while not precisely safe from her--are the least thing on her mind. She prefers bigger game.

    As well, threadbare though her truce is, making trouble here would prompt them to ban her. Buffy has no concerns that they could bar her way physically, but the operation could close its doors, or they might seek out magical assistance. She has never been good at fighting magic, though the anti-possession meditations Giles taught her have proven effective in a way he could hardly have imagined. At this distance, not even Willow seems able to break through her shields. Just as well; a soul would compromise her revenge on Angel. Willow seems not to understand; every so often Buffy must fend her off again, always a new permutation of the magicks. Necessity has made Buffy adaptable, but a mystic ward here would no doubt strain her capabilities.

    All the same, the space that opens up around her has become smaller of late. She has no illusions that they are becoming used to her. Their numbers are growing; the able-bodied have begun appearing along with the weak and the young. None of them have any real age on them, not yet, but perhaps in time. If that happens, Buffy supposes she will have to stop ignoring these places; elder vampires are still worth fighting for the fight's sake. A swirl of...something...flickers through her perceptions, familiar and peculiar at once. More and more often, lately. She knows where Angel is. She knows Spike is dust. These are...something else.

    "Why?" interrupts her thoughts. How long has it been since someone has surprised her? Buffy comes to a halt; the scrawny, unkempt boy on her left throws her an uncertain sneer. "You're not like us. You're strong. You could have anything you want. Anyone. No one asked you to come here and take our meal tickets. How do you make yourself live this way? Why even try?"

    What does he expect her to tell him? She could explain her vengeance in detail and he would not understand a word of it. Buffy's previous attempts have produced only blank stares or amusement. The latter generally results in a decapitation; she will not risk wanting to do that here. If even one understood...perhaps it would make a difference to the world. Or just as likely, not. She shrugs carelessly. Gives him the only answer she knows to give. "Because it's wrong."

    I am become Death

    Buffy knows before she enters. Her crypt is spartan, lacking even a cot. The floor is enough, when she is full. When she is not full, a bed is no help. The interloper has taken a seat by the refrigerator that, every now and then, holds blood. She goes on paging through one of Buffy's paperbacks, not looking up, though clearly she has heard the arrival. Most likely she does not realize whose space she is intruding on.

    Calling it a fight would be too generous. Buffy has her by the arm before the other vampire can rise. She has never really understood how one knocks a vampire unconscious; she knows only that blows to the head work as they ought. Quite possibly the intruder never realizes she has been found before darkness claims her.

    Buffy has contingencies for this sort of thing. A good crypt is hard to find, and vampires are not known for respecting each other's territories, save out of fear. Of course, the locals have long since stopped bothering her, but newcomers appear from time to time. And then there are other needs, too. Buffy chains her to the rectangular metal frame--once part of a bed--that she has adapted for this purpose. An older vampire might be able to break the cuffs, or the frame; Buffy certainly could. She can sense, though, that this one is young.

    She retrieves a knife from her collection. Far too many of her weapons from before were left behind, after the change, but she has a few of them. Most have been confiscated from recent enemies. A handful are magical--the latest attempts to stop her have become increasingly imaginative--but for now all Buffy needs is a sturdy, jagged blade.

    Buffy thrusts it into the base of the girl's neck, wrenching her awake with a cry of pain. Screams always give her that warm fuzzy sensation, although they're not exactly conversation. It's been a little while since Buffy had a chance to really talk with anyone. "Never got into Coleridge, myself, but I decided I had plenty of time now to figure him out." Buffy's tone is all smiles. And why not? She's not the one trapped. "Hope you enjoyed your reading. You won't be doing any more of it." She gives the blade a stout, downward tug that draws a thick, bloody line down the girl's shoulder.

    The wails end, eventually. There's no use in inflicting more pain before then; best to enjoy each bite separately. "Buffy. I came. To help you." She tries not to sag in her chains, knowing pain will overpower any relief she might gain from rest. Buffy slides around the girl from the left, one brow raised in mild interest. "Angel asked me."

    "Oooh. That's a good one." Buffy smirks, briefly and faintly. No one's tried to play the Angel card before.. "Too bad for you I don't need your help." Though the girl does remind her of Angel. She's got that earnest look to her, as though she were truly concerned. She always finds the concerned ones amusing. When she was human, they'd have torn out her throat if they could; now, suddenly, she's a sister they want to help. Hypocrites.

    The intruder struggles to focus her thoughts, forcing the hard ridges to retreat from her forehead, withdrawing the fangs. "Swear it. Came to help. I know...you know me." But Buffy slides around to the right, taking the reddened blade in her hand with her. The face is familiar, but then...so what? Neither of them are the same people they were. Neither of them are people at all. With a grimace, Buffy grinds the knife deep into her captive's other shoulder.

    "Someone like me knew someone like you. Once." The intruder fights not to convulse. Sometimes vampire strength is a liability. It would be possible to tear off her own arms. Buffy's seen that happen before, every once in a while. She's always wondered why the broken-off pieces don't turn to dust. "Ever wonder what decapitation really means? What the boundaries are? I do." She slices the blade down the softer tissues of the girl's back, beside her spine, stopping above a rib. "Can't say I know you. Don't particularly care to."

    The intruder keeps trying, though. Buffy has to give her credit for stamina. "Don't...you feel it? Know you...feel it." Feel what? Compassion? Mercy? Pity? Someone's been reading Anne Rice again. Though an actual undead monster ought to know better.

    She remembers who the face belongs to, now. What Buffy does feel is amusement--detached, ironic. "I remember you wanted to be a vampire once. Guess you figured it was freedom. Didn't stop to think about the rest." The knife digs, grinding against bone. "How nothing anyone does to you can matter. I could peel you like an apple. I could take you apart joint by joint. I could rip your clothes off and ride you till you're a mass of bruises. Not that you're my type, but hey...eternity, meet boredom." Serrated edges begin to saw. "Point is, you're not a person anymore. Just a thing. You're no one."

    The rib snaps at its base, setting her to writhing no matter how hard she tries to stop. Drat. Buffy may have to give the girl's limbs time to reattach, and by then the rest of the healing will be done and they'll be back where they started. But the intruder damps her struggles to a shudder in time to prevent disaster. Her lips twitch as she struggles to draw breath. She still wants to talk? More credit, for now, but eventually Buffy will have to start marking her down for stupidity. "Got it back. My soul. Buffy...I'm really me. I'm Anne."

    Destroyer of Worlds

    Fascinating. Buffy favors her with a thin smile. Usually her play is not so interesting. "Now what could possibly have persuaded you to do that?" She tosses the knife onto the bookcase for now. Let the girl think she's getting somewhere. "Was it worth it? Cry yourself to sleep much? How are the nightmares?" Buffy can guess what it's like. She killed humans, once or twice, when she was one of them. Circumstances never matter.

    "It was worth it. You, you don't understand...what's been happening...do you?" Anne tries to moisten her lips, but her tongue is just as dry. There's only so much fluid in a body. Sometimes Buffy wonders where all the blood goes. "Things are changing, Buffy. You can come home. I told you...we want to help."

    "You want to make me suffer? You call that help?" She knows what Angel went through, and Spike after him. She's seen the misery. Misery is what Buffy inflicts...not what she experiences herself, or ever wants to. The knife whispers to her to resume the cutting. She wants to know.

    "The sooner you come, Buffy, the less it hurts. We know you haven't killed anyone." The girl gives her a questioning look--not even whether it's still true, but merely how Buffy did it. As if that weren't obvious. "Would you believe Harmony started it? She actually begged Willow on her knees. Anything that would make her safe from you. After that, it...spread." As if Buffy didn't already know. "There's a dozen covens practically mass-producing those Orbs of what-do-you-call-it. It's not just that, either. Chad turns away fledges, and nine out of ten still don't make it through the challenges, but he's opening up a franchise in Mexico anyway. You'd be good publicity...it'd be a breeze for you. You really didn't know, did you?"

    Buffy sighs and picks up the knife. "Is that what you think?" She remembers catching up to Drusilla at last. Those were good times. "You be in me," Buffy told her, and started with the eyes. Seven days, it took, before there was too little left of Dru to scream. Buffy shakes her head. "That I haven't noticed? You really believe I can't tell? I've known from the beginning."

    Anne tries to draw away as the blade approaches her neck. "Please, Buffy. Don't you understand what you've done? We're more afraid of you than guilt. We're more afraid of you than hell." The serrations come to rest, whisper-light, across her spine from the incision already there. "You've won."

    If she won...the fighting would be over. Buffy drives the blade deeper this time, piercing the larynx, shutting off all but whimpers. "And you want me to come get my prize. My soul." If she peels out the entire spine...does that count as a decapitation? "You're the one who doesn't understand." Perhaps when she severs the nerves that lead to the heart. Or will she get to slice away the vertebrae one by one? "Souls don't matter." Cutting downward, milking blood and sobs and terror. Buffy is still the Slayer. She'll always be the Slayer. Kill demons. Save the innocent. "I'm the proof."

    Special thanks to Yosso, for being my beta-reader, and to Skitty and Pesha for inspiring this fic
    DeadWar: Burden of Proof
    Out Now.
    Avatar by Barb
    Feedback is always welcome here.
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