Title: No Happy Ending
Summary: When Buffy’s reality becomes a nightmare, how can she hope to wake up?
Pairing/Characters: Buffy, ensemble
Warnings: Spoilers for Buffy Season 8 Retreat arc.
Disclaimer: Joss is boss.
Word Count: 1146
Author's Note: This story explores the canon question of Season 8 and The Girl in Question and how fans choose which one they want to be "real" for Buffy and which one is the "dream." Written for SlayAlive Scribes challenge prompt #5 "Dreams."
Thanks: To my betas green_maia ladyofthelog and menomegirl for their invaluable help.
“Oh, god,” Buffy breathed aloud, then cursed herself for breaking the silence when Xander and Dawn jerked apart.
They jumped away from each other, desperate to present the illusion of distance, but their wide eyes and flushed cheeks only reminded her of two halves of the same coin. The separation didn’t help. The image of their lips fused together was burned on the back of her retinas.
Xander and Dawn. Xander kissing Dawn. Xander kissing her baby sister.
Xander and Dawnie sitting in a tree K-I-S-S-I-N-G. First comes love, then comes heartbreak and mayhem and death because everyone dies when they’re happy in her world, right?
“Buffy, this isn’t what it looks like,” Xander scrambled to explain. “We’re not…okay, we were, but we’re not…”
“What do you mean this isn’t what it looks like?” Dawn narrowed her eyes, fists pressing into her hips as she cocked her head to the side. “What else is it if it’s not what it looks like?”
“No, I mean – yes, it is what it looks like. Of course it is,” Xander said to Dawn, then grimaced when he looked at Buffy. “Except it’s not. Buffy, I…”
Maybe if she wished hard enough, the floor would swallow her up and she wouldn’t have to be here because here was bad and…
Was she really coming up here to tell Xander that she had feelings for him? Tingly feelings. Happy, loving feelings that had nothing to do with Xander being her best friend.
Happy, loving, normal feelings.
Her eyes drifted closed, sliding down like falling curtains after the final act. When she opened them, the stage wasn’t empty of all the players in this Midsummer Night’s dream. This was real. Her heart wrenched inside her chest, leaving her gasping for air.
“Buffy? Buff, I know this is, well, shocking doesn’t seem like the word here. But it just sort of happened. And we’re…we’re…”
“We’re into each other,” Dawn finished for him, arms crossed over her chest, chin tilted up. “So you can just get over yourself and accept it. We’re dating. Whether you like it or not.”
The twistiness in her heart must have shown on her face because Xander reached for her.
“No,” Buffy gasped, hand raised to stave him off. No touching. No, no, no. “Don’t. Just… don’t.”
She spun around, feet tearing up the carpet in her hurry down the hallway. Stumbling down the stairs, banging against the banister with each unsure step, she ran. Then she fell, tripping on the final stair, smashing her knees against the floorboards with a force that reverberated through her bones.
A warm hand touched her shoulder and she turned to see Andrew’s eyes filled with concern. Right, Andrew had been right behind her when she’d opened the door to Xander’s room and now he was here, looking at her.
Just looking at her and not saying a word.
Andrew had nothing to say and how wrong was that? Andrew didn’t know the meaning of silence, so how could he be here trying to comfort her without rambling on and on?
Instead his eyes were compassionate.
Yes, of course he’d understand rejection.
She couldn’t bear it. She couldn’t bear sharing her pain with Andrew. No, it was hers to bottle up and push deep down. She didn’t want to be close to Andrew. Not like this. Never like this.
Crawling forward, she shrugged off Andrew’s touch and struggled to her feet. She ran to the front door.
If she got outside, she could breathe again. She’d find a way to breathe again.
She ripped the door open, nearly tearing it off its hinges in her haste and wow, she shouldn’t have been able to do that without her Slayer strength. She was halfway across the field of tall grass in front of the house before she saw the figure in the sky, hovering, long black coat billowing in the wind.
She heard the mechanical grind of vehicles in the distance. The earth vibrated. On the horizon, an army crested the hill. Tanks and armored cars tore up the long blades of grass, emitting noxious smoke in their wake.
A loud whirring sounded overhead and she looked up to see a plane sweeping in low under the clouds tinged pink from the setting sun. A small cylinder detached from the right wing, dropping towards the ground in a high pitched whistle.
The seconds ticked by in slow motion, the bomb plummeting through the air, headed straight towards her.
She couldn’t run. She couldn’t fight. She couldn’t lead anyone to victory with a rousing speech because this –
This was the end. Until this moment, she’d clung to that tiny shrivel of hope that they’d somehow defeat Twilight, that they’d triumph.
That at the very least, they’d survive.
But this was the end. There was no one left to be strong for, no one who she needed to protect simply because she couldn’t protect them.
They would all die. Together.
This was the end and because it was the end, Buffy let herself do what she’d always wanted to when she was afraid, but couldn’t because she had to be strong.
Darkness surrounded her, her limbs caged in a prison of cotton that hampered her jackknifing legs. She kicked out, desperate to free herself. Fighting back was futile, but instinct ruled and she struck out blindly at the arms encircling her.
“Buffy. Shh. Hush,” a deep, accented voice breathed into her ear. “It’s alright. You’re safe. It was only a bad dream. Shh.”
His hands brushed her tear-ridden cheeks, then stroked her hair, his soft assurances humming through her, smoothing away the terror gripping her. One arm still hugging her close, he reached across her to click on the bedside lamp. She blinked against the shock of the bright light then squinted up into his handsome face.
He cupped her cheek. “It’s alright, bellissima.”
The Immortal. Her boyfriend. She was in Rome. Rome, not Tibet.
Oh, thank god.
“Cara mia, what’s wrong? What happened?”
Buffy shook her head, whispering, “It was just a dream.”
The Immortal lay back against the pillows, pulling Buffy into his arms, coaxing her to rest her head on his bare chest. “Go back to sleep,” he crooned. “You’re safe here with me.”
“No, I don’t wanna go back to sleep,” she said, curling her hand against the taut muscles of his chest. Touching him anchored her to the real, pushing away the terror of the dream until it became hazed over with fog.
He pressed his lips against her hair, kissing her softly. “Then stay awake and I will tell you a story.”
“Something with a happy ending.”
“Of course, amara. What good is a story if it has no happy ending?”