Author: Jo
Disclaimer: Not mine, alas.
Wordcount: 500
Setting: The Harvest
Notes: Written for ba_rosebuds. Prompt ‘Cowardice’.



He loved the Slayer as soon as he saw her, with the sun on her hair and her baby-pink nail polish. He knows, but won’t admit it. That way brings only madness, torment and death. And for decades he’s been... careful. It’s strange what having a soul will do to a vampire. It’s made him careful of his life, because when he was human, religion meant something, and he’s been taught how terrible life after death will be for a sinner. He has to face the fact there are no worse sinners than him. That’s not going to say much for his eternity, if he gets dusted.

If she is going to fall tonight, he doesn’t want to go down with her. He fears the long march of ages burning in Hellfire if he dies. And he fears being taken alive if he fights the other vampires as the Slayer’s ally. He’s seen what the Master does to captive enemies, and that would be everlasting suffering as dreadful as Hell.

Buffy asked why he didn’t stop the Harvest. He said he was afraid, and that’s the truth. He hadn’t expected so many strong vampires, when he came here. He doesn’t believe she can do it so he has let her go alone. Yet, as he stands in this mausoleum, watching her disappear down the tunnel to stop the Harvest, he wants to go with her. To watch her back. To protect her.

She’s such a tiny thing, half-girl half-woman, but with the heart of a lioness. Could she really beat that bat-nosed old vamp? Could she really stand in the way of prophecy, and the Master?

The Sunnydale vampires don’t like him. They think he’s a perversion of vampirehood, about as welcome as a tramp at a wedding, but so far they’ve done no more to him than the equivalent of warding off the evil eye. Darla knows that she brought this upon him. Perhaps she’s hoping to fix him, to reverse his neutering.

He hunches a shoulder, unhappy with himself. Buffy knows the odds are against her, and she’s gone in there anyway. Gone to do her duty, while he waits here, a hesitant messenger preparing to take the tidings of doom to the Watcher.

Is he a coward, to be thinking like this? He never used to think that of himself. He kicks a fragment of bone into a corner of the mausoleum. Has a century of brooding over his sins made him a coward? It’s not cowardice, right? It’s just being careful. He can’t possibly have loved her on sight, because he’s a thing without a heart, without true devotion. Maybe he really is as stupid as the demon makes him feel.

He reaches a pact with himself. If Buffy comes out alive, he’ll take a chance, step up to the plate. Perhaps he’ll find that the tinman can have a heart, the strawman a brain. And just maybe, the cowardly lion will find his roar.

The End
August 2010


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