Disclaimer: All intellectual property pertaining to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Harry Potter belong to Joss Whedon (Mutant Enemy and 20th Century Fox) and J.K. Rowling (Scholastic), respectively. I claim ownership over this story alone.
Timeline: Post BtVS7, AtS5 and HP6 excluding the developments below:
- the Unbreakable Vow
- A certain character death
and including AU:
- Changes in
O.W.L. scores to accommodate class schedules
- Horace Slughorn resigned after HBP
- Snape is once again Potions Professor
- Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Draco have passed their Apparition Tests
Author's Note: The New Testament identifies Abaddon as the 'Angel of the Abyss' in Revelations 9:11. The Greek equivalent for Abaddon is Apollyon. He is one of the princes of the Demons and also known as "the Destroyer", lower in status to only Lucifer. Abaddon is noted on Wikipedia as a fallen Seraphim from the first Heavenly Sphere.
Many thanks to all the betas who have helped me along the way!
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A Death blow is a Life blow to Some
blow is a Life blow to Some—
Who till they died, did not alive become—
Who had they lived, had died but when—
They died, Vitality begun.
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Buffy Summers was intimate with death. It was something she lived and breathed, dealt with her hands each night, while it chased her at the heels. Like most, she had been afraid to die, that first time. The second time had been different, snatches and whispers of a time half remembered and half dreamt. It had become something else entirely—a desire too indecent to voice, so thoroughly hidden until it became but a shadow of memory long lost in the murky backwaters of the mind. More than anything now, she recalled the sensations of dying with a supernatural clarity, lingering instants of perfect awareness: The lightheaded giddiness of blood loss tempering paralyzing panic, the desperate struggle for breath only to encounter the liquid poison of stagnant water. The lethargic break of day and air whipping past her face as invisible fingers pulled at her descent followed by the jarring shock and searing numbness. The dull, burning ache, limbs limp as if the tendons had been severed, hands too slick with blood and guts to grip the hilt of her scythe.
the enwombing stillness,
the impenetrable hush,
Buffy cracked open her eyes. A searing white glare filled her vision, burning her retinas and springing up stars behind her eyelids as they quickly shut. But it was too late, in that brief glimpse she had already seen someone she never wanted to meet again. Buffy swore. Why couldn't she just die like normal people? Maybe if I don't answer, he'll just leave me alone and go away? A small snort erupted from her lips.
"Summers. You awake?"
So much for that strategy. Sighing dejectedly, she cracked open her eyes again and took in her surroundings. She found herself standing in the middle of a seemingly infinite white space as far as the eye could see. The only breaks in the monochromatic landscape appeared to be herself and the Balance Demon, who sauntered nonchalantly up to her, wearing his usual bowler hat and tacky suit in an offending shade of puke green. For the lack of an alternative, she pulled herself up into a standing position and crossed her arms. "What the hell are you doing here, Whistler? Or better yet, where the hell am I? And what am I doing here!" she spat at him before he even had a chance to open his mouth again.
Whistler raised his hands in mock surrender as he took a small step backward from the seething Slayer. "Woah, looks like somebody woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning."
When Buffy offered no response, he shrugged it off. "Look kid, we're in limbo right now, a kind of holding zone between life and the sweet thereafter. I'm here to make you a deal. And by the way, you're dead again," he said with an apologetic half-smile.
Buffy glared. Of course she had died again. She had known that fact with absolute certainty, and had made her peace with her fate. In truth, she had been looking forward to the chance to finally enjoy her eternal rest. She had been looking forward to that day for a long time now. No, the only development that surprised the veteran Slayer was the fact that she was currently stuck in some ether dimension that looked suspiciously like a Matrix knockoff and about to be propositioned to by a short, pesky, badly dressed Balance Demon.
A frown crept onto her face as she tried to make sense of why she would possibly end up here with Whistler. Fragments flitted in and out of consciousness until they coalesced. Oh god. The blood, the carnage... strewn haphazardly all around her on the ground. The dust... "They're dead aren't they?" she gasped. "All of them? Giles, Willow, Xander, Faith, the newbie Slayers, Angel—and Spike..."
Whistler had the decency to look genuinely sympathetic. "For what it's worth kid, I'm sorry it ended that way. You had it rough, but I'm just a messenger, nothin' I coulda done about it."
Buffy tipped her chin upward, trying desperately to blink away the rapidly welling tears that now scorched her eyes more than the blinding light. There was no way in hell that she would ever let Whistler see her cry. She clenched her fists until she felt her nails digging painfully into the skin of her palms as she fought to hold back the overwhelming grief that suddenly slammed into her with the heft of her old troll hammer.
"Look kid, I'm sorry—"
"Don't," Buffy hissed, low, menacing. Her sorrow instantly flared into unadulterated rage. Years of being the Slayer had taught her to conceal her vulnerability well to all but a select few. All but one of them was gone now. And the last one remaining was certainly not the meddlesome Balance Demon. Buffy willfully shut herself off from all emotion, letting the Slayer part of her reign supreme, going into the backwoods region of her mind that allowed only cold calculation and brute violence. "Just tell me what the damn deal is." She folded her arms in front of her chest once more, upper lip curling in derision. "And make it quick. I've got a sudden urge to rip out your spine and wear it as a scarf."
"Ouch, still with the imagery, huh?" the short Balance Demon drawled, unperturbed. By now, he was more than used to her unique brand of colorful threats.
She simply stared at him, not caring to dignify that with a response. Whistler sighed again and shook his head a little. Buffy Summers was all business and no pleasure nowadays. Not that he could blame her, the poor kid.
"Alright, here's the deal. You're right, the only survivors are Rona and Vi. Don't worry 'bout them, though. They're tucked away safe in the mother country." He paused for a moment, looking straight into her eyes that were staring unblinkingly back. "The deal is: you can either stay dead and enjoy your eternal rest or be sent back to continue the good fight."
She laughed incredulously at that. It sounded dry and shallow, harsh even to her ears as it rang out across the unending white space. "And why, pray tell, would I ever want to take the second option? What's the catch?"
Whistler chuckled, "You don't miss a beat, slayer. The thing is, you go up to the Pearly Gates and your two vamp pals get the fryer. You go back, and they get redemption."
Buffy remained silent for a long time, ruminating over the PTB's latest bombshell as she stared with morbid fascination at the small trickle of blood on her hands as they opened, closed. Blood. Pain. Death. She was so tired of all of it—fighting the good fight, dying, living. "So if I go back, Spike and Angel will really get into Heaven?" she asked Whistler, not bothering to look at him because she already knew his answer. It was all atrociously unfair. "What, saving the world a few times on their own wasn't enough!" she yelled bitterly. Just like my saving the world at least fifteen times over wasn't enough? she wanted to shout to the Powers. Just like how dying three times wasn't enough?
"That's right, kid. They were evil a whole lot longer before turning white-hat. Two for one ain't even a fair trade, kid. The Powers are only offering this as a favor, considering the weight you pull for the good guys."
An incredulous snort escaped her lips at that. "Sure, and the fact that I'll have to slave away as the PTB's prize Warrior of the Light again has nothing to do with it."
Whistler appeared slightly annoyed. "It's simple enough, kid. What's it gonna be?"
God, to finally rest in peace, it sounded like bliss. She knew what that bliss felt like, even if the actual memories of Heaven were all but faded glimpses and shattered remnants now. Already, the memory of Heaven seemed a lifetime away. With a humorless chuckle, Buffy reminded herself that technically it had been a lifetime ago. Like a siren song that tickled at the back of her mind, the she yearned for Heaven, for her escape from all the horror and heartbreak that was slowly making her lose whatever little humanity she still possessed. She wanted to go back to that bliss more than anything in the world, but not if the price was letting Angel and Spike burn just to gratify her own impatience and selfishness. No, it's really not much of a choice, is it? Taking in a deep breath, she forcibly shoved aside the desperate ache, steeling herself for a return to the sacred duty that she had never asked for, had never wanted.
"Okay. I'll go back," Buffy finally answered in a deadened voice, more empty than their surroundings.
"Knew you had it in you, kid."
She held his gaze firmly, icy hazel eyes boring into his brown orbs. "Don't let me ever see you again, Whistler. This is it. I'm through with the PTB."
"Whatever you say, princess," Whistler said dismissively, already turning away from her.
She really did want to rip out his spine in that exact moment, but somehow managed to stay her hand. Buffy Summers simply watched as he stalked away.
"By the way, you'll be getting a few enhancements to help lighten the load," the Balance Demon called over his shoulder.
What! Better not be more demony aspects...
In a blinding flash, the bright space disappeared. Buffy instantly jolted awake. She found herself immersed in total darkness, in a tight metal box, lying under a sheet... and naked. For a few seconds that seemed to stretch for an eternity, her heart thundered in her ears as blind panic rose in the pit of her stomach and her breath sped dangerously close to hyperventilating. It was the same crazed desperation she had felt when she woke in her coffin years before. Then, cool rationality took over and the blonde Slayer brushed aside the fear and concentrated on catching her breath. She pulled both arms out from underneath the sheet and felt for her surroundings. Great, I'm in the fucking morgue! And they say third time's the charm, Buffy grumbled, shivering at the feeling of cold steel on her uncovered skin. Lifting an arm above her head, she groped for the locking mechanism, her hand falling on a handle.
Thanking whatever gods were listening that the door wasn't locked, Buffy slid her tray out of its drawer, noting that her particular compartment was number 24. Wrapping the stiff, sterile sheet around her body protectively, she climbed agilely down from her final resting place of steel. She shuddered, not entirely from the chill. The room was bathed in unnatural fluorescent light. Glancing up at the clock on the wall above the doorway, the blonde Slayer breathed a sigh of relief. 3:26 A.M. At least time's working on my side. Now clothes would be nice. Buffy's gaze flitted around the too silent room, quickly spotting another cabinet shelf along the opposite wall. She opened the medium-sized drawer labeled '#20-30' and found a clear plastic bag containing her clothes and sundry possessions inside. Mentally rejoicing, she quickly donned her bloodied and torn white tank top, black leather pants, leather coat and boots, wrinkling her nose in disgust. Well, at least all my battle wounds are healed. So, it's not a total loss, Buffy thought in mock cheeriness. It didn't cheer her up.
With shaky hands, Buffy fished out the last item from the bag, an intricate diamond ring. She stared down at it for several minutes before finally sliding it onto her left middle finger. The tumultuous memories associated with the ring rapidly flashed in a fresh onslaught in her mind. Buffy swiftly suppressed them, or she would have risked crumpling right then and there and weeping for a good week straight in that same spot if no one had bothered to stop her. The blonde Slayer turned back to the wall of drawers from where she had crawled out to life, wondering briefly if any of the Scoobies and newbie Slayers was in the other compartments. Buffy crushed the thought immediately. Even if they were there, she had decided that she did not want to find out. The she quickly slipped out of the room and into the deserted hallway. Following the corridor to the main lobby, Buffy kicked open the heavy reinforced metal doors of the front entrance, not caring that the safety alarm began its shrill shriek as she stepped outside to freedom.
The chilly air hit Buffy at once as familiar sights and sounds assaulted her senses. She was still in Cleveland. With no particular destination in mind, Buffy randomly turned left down the street. It took a good three minutes before her spidey sense prickled. Cursing up a storm in her head, Buffy turned abruptly into the next alley she saw and sank into the shadows. A tall demon with bright green skin, tiny horns on his head, and red eyes entered the alley a moment later. He was wearing a flashy orange suit and a deep blue silk shirt underneath. The unidentified demon stopped, puzzled by the disappearance of the small girl he had been trailing. Before he knew what was happening, he was shoved up none too gently against a brick wall, a small hand firmly clasped around his neck, his feet dangling five inches above the ground.
"What are you and why were you following me?" Buffy ground out between clenched teeth in a dangerous, low voice.
The green-skinned demon's hands flew upward, trying to dislodge the small hand that was crushing his windpipe. When he discovered the futility of his efforts, he choked out, "Listen sugar, sorry for following you, but I'm here because of a friend."
Her grip tightened. It was a bluff as far as she was concerned. "Just answer the question you Siegfried and Roy wannabe."
The green demon was left gasping for desperately needed breath. "Okay, okay, take it easy, sweetie pie," he rasped, "I'm an Empath Demon. Name's Lorne. Angel made me promise to find you in case anything ever happened to him." A beat later, he seemed to remember her jibe. A highly affronted grimace settled across his face. Somehow managing to puff out his chest even in such a compromised position, he defended, "Please, babe, I am way more entertaining than that flashy, passé duo!"
Buffy fixed him her patented Slayer death-glare. Lorne instinctively tried to shrink back from her, but found it rather impossible as his back was already pressed up against a wall. "Why should I believe you? Give me one reason why I shouldn't kill you right now," her voice sounding as unfeeling as the slab of cold steel she had lain on minutes prior.
Lorne just now seemed to realize the danger he was in. He blanked out as his mind raced to remember. Buffy's grip tightened further. "Oh! Angel said to mention your 'cookie dough' talk. And to give something to you, it's in my front breast pocket," the scared demon gasped.
She eyed him warily, but didn't make a move as he tentatively fished something out from his pocket. In his hand was a silver claddaugh ring.
Buffy recoiled with such supernatural speed that Lorne was dropped unceremoniously onto his feet in an undignified heap, clutching his neck and wheezing. The ring fell onto the pavement with a small clink. The she stared down at the ring, transfixed. Then, she bent down and picked it up, not noticing that Lorne had retreated a good ten feet away from her in the meantime. "Okay, I believe you," she whispered, looking up at him.
Lorne rubbed his tender neck and hesitated. He heaved a great sigh and walked back toward her, albeit slightly guardedly. His heart broke a little at the look on her face. It was the look of hopelessness. He smiled down at Spike and Angel's girl gently, "How about we talk this over in my hotel room, honeydew?"
The Slayer nodded numbly and followed him out of the dark alley. At this point, she wouldn't have even cared if Fashion Disaster No. 2 of the day was out to trick her into her third—no—fourth death. In all honesty, she just wanted to curl up somewhere and cry herself to sleep.
Buffy burrowed deeper into the warm blankets that enveloped her like a protective cocoon. The day had already began with bright, comprised light. The half-closed blinds sent geometric stripes across the sheets as she tried desperately to fall back into sleep. But the efforts were fruitless. Her superior hearing magnified every noise of the city. Traffic and construction, dogs barking, the irritated beeping of cars and tractors. Reluctantly, she pulled back the covers, pushed herself out of bed, and walked into the adjoining bathroom, wondering briefly if she had done the right thing. Then, apathy set in and she couldn't care less. Buffy glanced in the mirror, seeing her reflection for the first time since her third awakening. What the Slayer saw made her death-grip the sink to stop from falling back in shock.