No Substitute for Sense
Notes: For leni_ba's B/A Marathon. Some of the dialogue is from Prophecy Girl. Huge thanks to metalphoenix and monanotlisa for listening to me whine when this wasn't working.
Summary: Webster was much possessed by death/And saw the skull beneath the skin
Hours before sunset, the dress she'll die in hanging from the back of her door, she tries to write letters. She's going to die, and she doesn't have very long, and every movie-of-the-week she's ever seen has told her she should leave notes behind for the people she can't say goodbye to.
Her mom, her dad, Willow, Xander, Giles. Angel. Sixteen years, six letters, and she wonders if that's a lot or not many at all, and she's glad it's only six because each one feels like she's writing in blood.
They all seem to start I'm sorry, finish with I love you. The last one she writes has just those five words. Nothing between, because she doesn't have enough words to say goodbye to Angel, and if she tries she won't have the strength to go.
Everything's for the last time today. This is the last thing I'll ever say to my mom, this is the last time I'll ever see Willow. This is the last time I'll sit on my bed, brush my hair, leave my house, walk to the school. This is the last dress I'll ever wear.
She doesn't think about all the things she'll never get to do, even once. That list's too long.
She doesn't miss the significance in the fact that her dress is white.
Fastening the cross around her neck, she remembers kissing Angel in the Bronze, knowing it was something she couldn't let herself again. She lets her fingers close around the silver, holding it till the edges dig into her skin.
All day, since she heard Giles and Angel talking about her death, she's wondered if it will hurt.
It does, but it's over fast.
She chokes, coughing filthy water onto the ground; her lungs are on fire and someone's stroking her forehead, and even when Xander says her name she's not sure she's alive.
Then she sees Angel, looking terrified and joyful, and he wraps both his hands around one of hers. And it starts to feel real.
Merrick used to lecture her about her power, speeches she tuned out with long-suffering sighs and pops of her bubblegum. One girl in all the world, chosen by something greater than any human; in her memory it's all so much blah. Her power was just there, something that gave her strength and speed, but nothing that she thought about.
Tonight she feels it. Crackling from her skin, both a part of her and not, and too big to stay inside her. Xander and Angel are trying to talk to her and it sounds like a TV in the next room, the sound turned down.
"One way or another," she says, leaving them to cover her in the hallway, "this won't take long."
The Master doesn't stand a chance.
She feels like she hasn't eaten in a lifetime. It's probably a sign of how Giles is to have her back that he's willing to detour to the pizza place nearest the Bronze.
She wants to feel happy to be alive or psyched at killing the Master, or aww with Willow over the way Giles and Ms. Calendar keep almost brushing hands on the table.
Instead, she's just hungry.
"Hey, leave some for the rest of the starving masses," Xander says, moving the rest of his fries out of her reach. "Note to self, next time you bring someone back from the dead, have snacks."
She keeps her head bent over her pepperoni with extra cheese, too aware that this is where she's supposed to say thank you.
"Buffy, you've got…" Willow gestures at the corner of her own mouth, hands her a napkin.
Swipe across her lips and it comes away smeared with ketchup, red stain on the white. She balls it in her fist. Looks up at Angel, who isn't eating, who keeps ignoring Cordelia's flirting and trying to smile when Willow or Xander make a joke.
She licks her lips.
"Let's go to the Bronze."
She hangs back, holding onto Angel's hand (not cold but cool, and she can't believe how stupid she must have been not to know right away what he was) until the others have gone inside (Willow smiles back at her as the door closes and she knows that Willow thinks everything's going to be okay now.)
To kiss Angel she has to pull herself up his body, legs wrapping around his hips (the dress is in the way, and she tears it, waist to ankle) and one hand in his hair (she wonders if his hair grows, if he has to cut it) and the other flat on the rough, cool wall.
"Buffy," he groans into her mouth, hands coming up to support her, and when he touches bare skin she gasps and grinds against him, biting his lower lip till there's blood on her tongue. Lets go the wall, guides his hand till he's right there…
"No. Buffy, stop this."
She freezes, not able to believe that he's saying this now.
He doesn't let her fall. He eases her away from him and onto the ground, touching her as little as possible.
She wishes he'd just dropped her instead.
"This isn't you."
"Maybe you missed a memo, Angel," she says, very deliberately, "but I died a couple of hours ago and me and you - we - we would never have…" She's exhausted, suddenly, and she hurts all over, and she wants to tell him that she left him a letter, but she can't remember what it said. "I'm so tired."
He hugs her; not hard enough, and he lets go too fast. "I'll walk you home."
"Fine." She smoothes down the ruined dress. "Okay."
She hasn't decided how to explain the dress to her mom.
"I'm going to spend the summer in LA," she says. "See my dad."
Angel just says, "That's good."
She unclasps the necklace and wonders if it burned Angel when she kissed him. Wonders what it means that she didn't notice.
The girl in the mirror looks ten years too old. With Angel behind her it looks like her hair lifts all by itself, away from her neck, uncovering the bite. She has a feeling it'll scar.
"He didn't take much," she says, and she thinks he took everything.
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