Drain Brameged Inc. Proudly Presents
This is not the End.
Ashes, Ashes, They All Fell Down
Tara Maclay broke her chopsticks as the crash of thunder seemed to explode directly over the house, cause the glasses to shudder and the panes of glass in the windows to rattle in their frames.
"Tense are we?" Amy mumbled around a mouthful of noodles. She was forking the brown, stringy things into her mouth as fast as possible.
Tara grabbed another set of chopsticks and poked at her food listlessly. "I guess," she answered quietly.
Another flash of white outside briefly disguised the night sky as the light of day and a split second later another peal of thunder seemed to crawl across the sky only to smash down onto the tiny house.
"Storm got you down?" Amy asked.
Tara nodded glumly. "It's just like the last one. You felt it didn't you? The building up."
"Yeah," Amy replied chewing contemplatively. She held up one of the take out boxes and scraped the remaining noodles on the bottom into a corner. "S'why I didn't do any magic today. Too unpredictable."
"Do you think..." Tara's voice drifted off.
Amy sighed, reaching out she took the blondes hand in one of her own. "Say it honey. It won't make any more or less true."
"Do you think it could be another?" Tara said. "Like...uh...her?"
Amy shook her head. "No. It was too fast this time. Before it took weeks, this all happened in a day. I don't think the storm is natural so..."
"She's coming back," Tara whispered.
"She's going home," Amy added.
The two girls looked at each other for a quiet moment. Not saying anything just feeling. A familiar cold had settled over the room once again. They had grown well acquainted with it since it had been added to their lives a few days before. Cleansing rituals and had helped some, getting back into the day to day aspect of life had also helped but remnants of it still lingered and, maybe, would never fade completely.
The silence was shattered like the sky seemed to do when the next crash of thunder came, the earth seemed to rock in protest before the storms assault.
Again Tara flinched but managed to not shatter her utensils. "Why exactly are we eating out again?" she asked changing the subject.
"We're not eating out," Amy relied, waving her chopsticks in the air imperiously. "We're eating in the comfort of our own home since I destroyed dinner."
"Again." Tara adlibbed with a smile.
"Keep that up missy and no belly rubs for you!" Amy playfully snarled poking Tara's shoulder with her free hand.
"Promises promises." Tara stuck her tongue out at the other witch.
"Ooo! Let me catch that!" Amy leaned over the table.
Tara jumped back with a shriek. "Eewww! Your mouth is full....yucky, disgusting...get awaaayyy!" She turned to run and Amy chased after her, sharing her mouth full of chewed noodles with the world, waving her hands in the air, while chanting, "Blarggh blargh blarrraahhrraaa.."
"I won't let you kiss me like that!" Tara shouted back, they had run into the living room now. "Keep that up and you're sleeping on the sofa!! Amy..I mean it!"
Amy stopped, swallowed. "What about now?"
Her voice purred and her smile was sweet with unspoken promises. Tara felt her lips smiling to match her lovers own. "You've still got some stuck between your teeth." She murmured allowing her lover to approach her.
"You'll take care of it," Amy whispered her arms reaching out to pull the other woman close. She was going to get rid of the cold, oh yes, she had plans to make things very anti-cold.
The doorbell rang.
"Shit," Amy muttered.
"I'll get it," Tara sighed.
"You don't have too," Amy said hopefully. Tara just leveled an even look at her and Amy's will buckled.
"Okay...you have too but that doesn't mean I have to like it." Amy answered herself with a pout, crossing her arms of her chest and collapsing on the sofa.
Outside the rain came down in hard, brutal cold lines, like arrows they hit the earth and more exploded than merely splashed. The wind whipped over the earth like a hunter, around corners, through the trees, pulling away leaves, tearing out bushes, tracking down and consuming the last vestiges of warmth, it seemed, on the entire planet.
It was onto this world that Tara opened the door. The rain stung her face and the wind pulled at her long hair, so carefully combed now hopelessly tangled. She didn't mind, she didn't have the attention to mind as all her thoughts were focused entirely on what she beheld at her feet.
"Tara, baby?" Amy came up behind her. "Who is it? What's--" Her sentence died stillborn on her lips.
Tucked in the corner of the doorway, as far out of the 'mercies' of the
elements as possible was a small basket. Wrapped in blankets to keep her warm
she stared up at the two young ladies with black, curious eyes. She waved her
tiny hands in the air as if trying to grab them. A certain blade lay next to the
basket and pinned to the blankets carefully, so as not to blow away easily, was
She trudged through the night, arms pulled tightly around her. She was cold, so very, very cold. Before she hadn't noticed the cold, it already was all inside her or burning rage. Either extreme, both were bad but at least she was never empty. Now it was all she was. Hollowed, gutted, cored from the inside out like an apple. Every time the wind tore past her part of her was afraid she break apart and be blown across the land.
She stumbled across the wet grass and past blackened trees that twisted and bent in the wind. The rain cut long slashes of chilling lines across her exposed skin, or pooled across the collar of her clothing, to trickle and slide down inside leave icy trails.
"Broke the rules." It was walking beside her, the messenger. Where she could barely stand it seemed untouched by the storm. It wore a long, brown, leather jacket that the rain water oozed right off of. Shreds of dry flesh, attached to his bones fluttered in the breeze. Around its neck it wore a bandanna that was so old it had turned grey and the tattered cowboy hat didn't budge from it's head, no matter how strong the wind blew.
"Saved the baby. 'Gainst the rules." It kept step with her easily. Not upset in any way by the tempest overhead.
"G'way," she whispered. She had little strength left. After leaving LA it had swiftly drained away from her limbs, this told her she had little time left.
"'Spose to avenge the dead. Y'know who I mean. Yerself, missy and the brat. Avenge them, not add to the family tree." It lifted a soggy stogie, held between skeletal figures and, somehow, deeply inhaled.
"Not too late," It said. "Could always go back. You have strength enough for that, witches would be easy, just knock em' on the head. Take care of the baby. She'll be a bad seed anyhow. Mother, daughter...too closely linked."
She stopped walking, struggling to remain upright against a the wind. She turned her head to stare at the messenger, eyes narrowed, teeth clenched. "Joking," she said hoarsely. "You have got to be."
"Don't joke." Its hollow eyes met her stare easily. "You go do it. Now. Or else you broke the rules. Once we can let go. Twice, no way. Do it, or you don't get your puppy." It's skeletal grin somehow grew wider. "Wouldn't that be a shame."
She turned her back on it and resumed her slow gait.
"Mistake, Red." It called after her. "All this for nothing then. Regrettin' for eternity ain't a fun thing either!"
She ignored it and continued on her way.
The was a flash of lightning, a crack of thunder. The messenger was gone, not even leaving footsteps to mark it's passage in the dancing grass.
She stepped through the gate, its rusty hinges screeching in the storm as the wind blew it open and shut again, open and shut. She moved past stones, memorials and tombs. She approached the base of the hill and painfully, slowly, began to climb it.
It was a small hit, a ten year old child could have run over it and back in under a minute but for her, her it was a grey, granite slab, going straight up a thousand, thousand miles.
The storm howled, lightning rent the sky, leaping from cloud to cloud, or cloud to earth, thunder smashed the planet like hammers, all these furies focused on her, to deny her access, to bar her way and impede her path. She ignored them, taking it one step at a time, head bowed, red hair pasted to her skull by the torrential, continuous downpour.
She slipped and muddy rainwater, ran between her fingers, when she fell on her hands and knees, making cold, dead fingers even colder. Pulling herself to her feet she took another step and again the earth cheated her, sliding out from beneath to send her tumbling, rolling, flailing, to the base.
She didn't say anything. She sat up, wiped the mud from her face, clambered to her feet and started over.
She collapsed in front of her grave a short time later. The dirt and shattered coffin lid still jutted from the earth like a maw, patient, waiting, ready. Ready for her to dive and take back her rightful place among the dark, the worms and maggots.
She tried to rise. Couldn't. Her legs wouldn't hold her anymore. Letting gravity have it's way she sank over and her cheek rested again cold stone. With a trembling hand she traced the letters of her beloved's name.
"Got her, Buffy," she whispered. "Got her. But I had to break the rules. Maybe I lost you. But you wouldn't have wanted me like that anyway right? No. No you wouldn't have wanted me to do what she did. Couldn't have lived...died with myself. So...so I think I did the right thing. Even if they don't agree and said I broke the rules. You always broke the rules right? Couple of renegades right? That's us. Do what's right. Even if we're told otherwise. Wait for me okay?"
Her arm, bereft of any strength fell into a small muddy puddle at the base of the grave. It made a small splash that was swallowed up by the storm.
It rained. It rained and tore and screamed. The storm. Dark clouds rolled across the heavens like armies sweeping warmth and light before it like chaff. Rain fell in waves, icy sheets of water that sucked the very warmth from the air as it passed. Twisting and changing the usually benevolent, soft warm breath into a gusty, chilled monstrous wind that would shriek between and over houses. Worming it's way into houses, sliding under bedcovers, causing those deeply asleep to shudder violently and seek out a warm neighbor to cuddle against.
It was a cold night.
Lying next to a cold stone, drowned in cold rain, and consumed by cold wind a cold girl closed her green eyes and died.
Somewhere else a gate opened.
"Quiet you!" A soft voice spoke. "I swear sometimes you are just such a handful."
"Banful." A child's voice replied.
"Shhhh!" The first insisted. "Mama's sleeping. You don't want to wake her do you? She's very tired."
"Ma ma ma banful ma ma ma banful ma ma ma." The child babbled, clapping together small chubby hands.
The storm had passed. Shredded tatters of clouds were high in the sky but the rest was clear. The full moon beamed down from it's apex in the great dome, and as mist rose from the cold grass the world seemed to pale and fall away from absolutes. There was a very something in the air and all sorts of maybes felt now was a good time to come out and play.
Fireflies danced from a hollow log, leaving soft arcs and twirls to mark their passage. A few night creatures, the undead, scattered around the town of Sunnydale felt an odd stirring in the back of their minds. A warning keen behind the eyes and, for reasons even unknown to them, they fled for their dark barrows, hidden pockets of black and shadowed lairs. Fleeing as if some white hunter was now loosed, maybe it was.
Other night creatures, less supernatural, began creeping through the now warm dark. Here a raccoon searched through a garbage bin seeking dinner, there several dogs playfully wrestled under a streetlamp. A woman with insomnia turned off the late late late movie and went outside, sat on her porch and looked at the stars. She hadn't done that for years, ever since she was a little girl. A father rose from his sleep and quietly crept around the, easing opening the doors to his children's room he watched them sleep. The steady breathing, soft and quiet, peaceful. He could hear it. Smiling he went back to his own rest, assured that for now all was well in his world.
The blonde crouched down next to the still, silent form of the redhead. Opening her arms she let her daughter scramble free.
The blonde chuckled. "Not often baby. Sometimes." She winked at her daughter.
She reached out an arm tentatively. Only a slight tremor betraying her anxiety. When her fingertips met the wet material of the redhead's jacket her sigh of relief was audible.
"Wake up." She murmured shaking the girls shoulder gently. "Time to wake up sleepy head."
"C'mon lover. Time to get up. Can't stay away forever you know." She gave the redhead's shoulder a vigorous shake this time.
There was a slight moan.
"C'mon, baby, c'mon back. It's time to go." The blond whispered. She bent down and kissed the redhead's white, cold, cheek, letting her lips linger.
It was a small thing, the kiss. It crested something though. Broke a spell, shattered chains or maybe even was something the universe was waiting for. Either way it was just the right thing at just the right time.
Willow opened her eyes.
"Hi there." Buffy Summer's blue eyes twinkled and her friendly smile was brighter than the full moon overhead.
"You...you're really.." Willow's voice drifted off.
The moment was disturbed by her shriek of agony. She hid her face in her hands, curling up into a tight ball on the ground.
"Don't look at me." She moaned from between her fingers. "Don't look at me, I'm ugly and foul and nothing's left inside me but pain and you don't need to see me like this. Please...just...please...it's only pain and pain and pain.."
The back of her hand caressed Willow's cheek and though she shuddered at the contact, the redhead did not pull away.
"I know, baby." The blonde murmured. "I know, but that's over now. Duty is over, waiting is over. It's time go to home, leaving this behind. You've been waiting for so long Willow. We've been waiting. Now we're done."
Willow turned around swiftly letting her hands drop so her lover, her wife, could see, plainly on her face what she had become. She was going to show her the black smile, the dark tears, the pale, dead, empty visage that she had been wearing for...it felt like eternities now...piled up upon each other.
"How can you stand me?" she screamed. "I've...I'm...Just look at me! Look what I've become. Look at this hideous mask and I can't take it off and I don't even know if I want to take it off. How can you stand me? How!?"
The blonde stepped closer to her wife, not put off by the storm on the outside or the storm on the inside, in the slightest. She reached up and gently cupped her love's face in her hands. Willow couldn't help but flinch again. She wanted this so much, this touch, this peace but she couldn't take it. Not when she looked like this, when all the was, was this.
"What mask?" Buffy breathed gently. The pads of her thumbs moved softly over the lines of a black smile and where they passed, the shard was gone. Cold white became warm living under Buffy's touch. She gently rested her fingertips of both hands at the edge of Willow's forehead and slid them down, down...over her eyelashes and eyes, again erasing the black from the face of the Redhead.
"No more tears," she whispered. "Never more any tears."
Buffy brought her face even closer, closing her eyes.
Willow knew what she wanted, she knew what she herself wanted too. She let it happen.
They kissed. A key turned in a lock, a path that had dominated for too long was left behind. An ending came about.
They kissed and the last of deep wounds, stopped their bleeding at last and began to heal.
They kissed and it was as good and sweet as any or all before.
They kissed and they wanted more.
And started again. A few quiet burst of laughter would occasionally interrupt but be overwhelmed. Than there would be quiet sobs of joy and they too were eased aside as well.
They kissed, and touched and laughed and even, one last time, cried.
"Mama n' Dada..ki..kiss'n tree." A child's voice sang.
Willow's eyes shot open and she pulled back a fraction of an inch and stared, not really seeing and not really believing what she heard.
Buffy nodded a touch, just a bit. The slightest movement of her head. "Behind you." She mouthed the words, not actually saying them.
Turning around slowly Willow saw her.
She was standing there with her hands awkwardly clasped behind her back, looking at the ground. She had short red hair that ended just at her shoulders. She was wearing a light blue jumper with a pink bunny rabbit on it and looked all of three years old.
"Baby?" Willow choked out. She turned back to see Buffy nodding at her, her face smiling so widely it was fit to split apart.
"Ours?" Willow asked again.
"Yes," Buffy said.
"She's beautiful." Willow's voice went up an octave catching in the back of her throat.
"She's waiting," Buffy added, nuzzling Willow's neck with the tip of her nose.
Willow pulled herself up to her knees and patted them a few times to get the younger girls attention.
Looking up slowly the girl smiled at her shyly. "Mama?"
Willow could only nod and hold open her arms.
"Mama!" The girl cried and ran into her hug.
Buffy looked down at her wife holding their daughter for the very first time and felt tears of her own beginning to stir. She treasured them because she knew this would be the final time anyone in her family...her family...would ever cry again. There were no more reasons for them to do so.
It was warm now. Warm for Willow and Buffy and their child. Warm, golden, safe and far away.
Silently, without sound, the gate swung shut.
"Papa say I a banful!"
Dawn came painting the sky a field of roses. It was perched on the twisted branch of a dead tree overlooking the cemetery. The air was thick and sweet. Living things seemed to be particularly abundant on this day. Even it's tree was was affected. For at the tips of branches that had been bare for many years, buds were beginning to swell, and grow.
It watched the cemetery and the sun. It watched the light of the sky change from pink to white and then to blue. It watched the sun burn away the mists that coated the earth, It watched the dew sparkling in the light like a field of gems scattered in the grass. It watched all these splendors of life at play, rejuvenation, resolution, and resurrection. It watched the coming of a new day, like fresh, clean paper waiting for the next part of a great story to be written on it.
It didn't care either.
It watched a small procession of people ease open the gate to the cemetery and walk up a small hill to a specific headstone. The party was lead by a older man. He looked respectable and was dressed in his Sunday best. Then again he always appeared to be in his Sunday best, even when it wasn't Sunday. Spectacles reflected the sunlight beaming down from above. He walked slowly and carefully, mindful of the woman on his arm.
She was also in her mid forties. Dirty blonde hair that reached just below her shoulder blades with long bouncy curls. A billowing white dress was her only apparel. She walked slowly as well, her left arm around the waist of the gentleman beside her. They were both being very careful as they walked up the slippery grass of the small hill. What with her being very, very pregnant.
Behind them were another couple. A younger man, in his mid twenties. He had a shock of black hair that was cut short. Also dressed in a jacket with a turtleneck underneath and tan slacks. His step was solid and sure, broad shoulders completed the appearance of man. His face though, that's what was different. He smiled, always it seemed. A small smile that was there continuously. He smiled at the rising sun, the flowers, the blonde who had her arm hooked around his. He smiled like a man who had forgotten how to smile for a very long time and now, having remembered, was making up for lost time.
The woman beside him was dressed well. A white blouse and grey skirt. A golden necklace hung around her throat and matching earrings glittered in the light. Her hair was also dirty blonde and she was only looking at the man at her arm. She was watching him smile and smiling herself. She had missed this, her man's smile and was intending to soak up as much of as possible. She had been locked in a dark room, but now the sun was out and she was drinking it in. On her other arm she carried a picnic basket.
The final piece of the picture of these two younger lovers, following behind their elder counterparts, were the rings they both wore. Simple gold bands on the second fingers of their right hands. The sun's rays seemed to want to play with these decorations the most and with every step these two took a reflected bit of light glimmered about the gold and bounced off joyfully to be scattered about the sky.
Bringing up the end were the last two lovers. Both were blonde, one with long hair that ended at the small of her back, the others just below her shoulder blades. The first girl was carrying a child, an infant, new to this world and so full of potential. The child herself was sucking greedily at bottle full of warm milk. The blondes lover, walked beside her, eyes switching from watching the child, to watching her partner. She had one arm around the other witches shoulder making sure she stepped in the right direction as all her partner's attention was devoted to the child in her arms.
It watched them spread out a blanket before the smooth, undisturbed grass before a specific headstone. It watched them reach into the picnic basket and pull out sandwiches and other foods. These they ate quietly. Snatches of brief conversation could be overheard. When the food was done everyone took turns holding the infant but she began to cry so was given back to her 'mother'. The long haired witch did seem to have soothing effect on the babe that none could match.
It watched them talk. About friends, adventures, times in the past, people lost and lives saved. Sometimes they laughed. Occasionally they cried. Even the young man succumbed to a few tears though he insisted it was just his 'allergies.' Everyone knew better but did not push the issue.
It watched them, despite the early hour, take out a bottle of champagne and open it. Even the Witches had some. It watched them raise a toast to those that had gone on before, those that they loved but were gone now. They talked some more, telling stories, laughing, and again, crying.
It watched them bury their dead.
It watched them let go.
It watched them keep on loving them.
And if they noticed It watching them from a far off branch on a not-so dead tree none in that party said so.
Not that It would have cared either way.
A warm morning breeze moved across the land and, spreading it's wings It allowed the wind to carry it off. Ancient wings beat against the currents of air, sending it flying through the skies of a world that, in comparison with It, was a mewling babe.
Higher and higher it flew until finally the currents of ether blew behind it and lifted it away. There were worlds to fly, spheres drifting in the night like fine crystal charms. And each of these worlds burned with souls. Numbers so great they dwarfed the number of stars on the first day of creation.
They cried for Vengeance these burning souls. They cried out in pain, in rage and in hate. They cried out for an agent, a power, a Judge. Something, anything, to help them put the wrong things right.
The bus pulled into the Sunnydale depot. The girl getting off was attractive in a tomboyish way. Close cropped black hair accentuated fine Asian features. Her build was slim and athletic if someone on the short side. She walked with assurances of someone who had a pretty good idea of what she was capable of. Almond colored eyes took in, what she imagined, would be her new home for the rest of her life; however long that lasted. The driver walked around the side of the bus and opened the luggage compartment. Without preamble she reached inside and lugged out her duffle bag. It dwarfed her small appearance and must have outweighed her by twenty pounds. She carried it like it weighed nothing at all. Moving to a shadowy corner she quickly inspected the contents of her luggage, indeed everything she owned. It all seemed to be there.
'Good.' She thought to herself zipping the monstrous bag shut and slinging it over her shoulder.. 'First things first then. I have to report in to my Watcher. If I were Mr. Giles..where would I be? Maybe the library....'
END-Ashes, Ashes, They All Fell Down.