Author's note: OK, a lot of people have been telling me they wanted to see a bloodier version of this. So what the hell, I've got a bottle of whisky, writing utensils and a sick imagination, let's get this show on the road. Here's an alternate version of the last chapter, starting off from where Leatherface turns up, but going MUCH darker from there.
Last warning: If you thought the previous chapters were nasty, they are Disney candyfloss and puppies eating ice cream (hehe) compared to this one. STOP READING. NOW. Seriously. I can't make it any clearer than that. I'm going to The Special Hell for this chapter, and anyone who reads it will be right there with me getting poked in the ass by the same pitchfork, burning in the same pot full of molten lava, listening to the same Coldplay records.
Don't say I didn't warn you.
...Tara kissed her forehead. "See you in a few hours." She called down Morpheus' blessing on Willow, who was soon out of it again – but this time sleeping soundly, not leaning on death's door.
And then the doorway darkened. Tara and Dawn both spun around to see Leatherface standing there, staring at the scene before him. Whimpering, he walked up to his father's corpse and bent down to pick up the severed head. He poked it gently, as if to make it talk.
"It's OK, Robert." Tara spoke as softly as she could. "You're free now. He can't hurt you anymore."
Leatherface looked up from the head to Tara, absently grabbing at his face and saying something unintelligible.
Tara smiled at him. "That's right, you won't have to wear that anymore. You don't have to hide." When he responded by bending over the body of their father and picking up the bloodied chainsaw, looking at it curiously, she felt for him. "Yes, I did that. I had to. Everything's going to be fine now, you're going to get the help you need and..." He collapsed in wretched sobs over his father. She got up to join him but he gave her a violent shove, sending her tumbling across the room. Then he he lifted the body with one arm, grabbed the chainsaw in the other, and after one final hurt look at his sister, climbed back up the steps and slammed the door behind him. Dawn ran after him, but the door was locked and all she could do was to beat at it.
"HEEEEEEEEELP! SOMEBODY! HEEEELP!"
Tara slowly sat up. "Dawnie, please don't... there's no one within miles and even if there was, this place is soundproof. Pa used to lock Robert in here when he was a kid. He'd scream for days, but you could stand right outside the door and barely hear it."
"Well can't you... you know... magic it open?"
Tara looked at the door, then looked at Willow, and then shook her head. "I can't... right now the magicks are all that's keeping her alive. If I use some of that to try and break down the door, she'll..."
"What about the gun? On TV they always –"
"No. It's a shotgun, not a rifle. The door's too thick, and there's a padlock on the outside."
Dawn swallowed hard, her lip trembling. Then she turned back to the door and beat her fists bloody against it, clawing her nails out, screaming for help until her voice was down to a whisper. When she couldn't scream anymore, she stumbled down to where Tara was sitting with Willow and lay down beside them, trying not to panic. "Riley knows we're here. Riley knows. He'll..."
"I-I'm sure he will, Dawn. We just have to wait." They knew they were both thinking the same things; if he's OK, if he finds the house, if Leatherface doesn't find him first...
"Tara? I'm hungry."
Tara sat with Willow's head in her lap, softly stroking her hair. It was taking all her power just to keep Willow here. "I know, sweetie. I am too." They had gone through the entire basement searching for tools that could help them get out, and when that failed, for anything edible. There was a tap with fresh water in a corner, but otherwise nothing useful; boxes containing some of Tara's mother's clothes – at least they could make fresh bandages for Willow – a few books, various junk, and that was it.
It was hot in here, but stripping down to their underwear and drinking a lot of water helped some. It didn't help Giles, though; his body had been lying in this temperature for over 48 hours now and was becoming very ripe. The stench and constant buzzing of flies was almost deafening, even after they dumped an entire box of clothes over him and shoved him into the furthest corner.
Dawn held up one of the books they had found. "Is this any good? I..." She frowned. "I can't remember if I've read it."
Tara looked at it and smiled. "'Alice's Adventures In Wonderland'. My mother used to read it to me all the time." She took the book, and they both huddled around Willow as Tara read until the sun went down.
"Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, 'and what is the use of a book,' thought Alice, 'without pictures or conversation?'
So she was considering in her own mind (as well as she could, for the hot day made her feel very sleepy and stupid), whether the pleasure of making a daisy-chain would be worth the trouble of getting up and picking the daisies, when suddenly a White Rabbit with pink eyes ran close by her.
There was nothing so very remarkable in that; nor did Alice think it so very much out of the way to hear the Rabbit say to itself, 'Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be late!' (when she thought it over afterwards, it occurred to her that she ought to have wondered at this, but at the time it all seemed quite natural); but when the Rabbit actually took a watch out of its waistcoat-pocket, and looked at it, and then hurried on, Alice started to her feet, for it flashed across her mind that she had never before seen a rabbit with either a waistcoat-pocket, or a watch to take out of it, and burning with curiosity, she ran across the field after it, and fortunately was just in time to see it pop down a large rabbit-hole under the hedge..."
"Tara! I got it!" Dawn had managed to use the barrel of the shotgun to punch out the small ventilation opening near the ceiling and now a thin shaft of sunlight lit up the basement. Dawn put her head up to the opening and looked out; it was a beautiful summer's day, and she could see a butterfly fluttering across the lawn just over a foot away from her. But the hole was so small. She could barely force her arm through it, scraping it bloody on the sharp edges of the remains of the metal grid that had blocked it to keep rats and rain out. When she pulled her hand back in she had a fistful of grass. She stared at it for a few seconds – green, glistening, fresh – before stuffing it in her mouth and chewing.
"No, Dawn!" Tara tried to stop her, but she refused to open her mouth. "You can't eat that. It won't do any good, you can't digest it."
"I know." Dawn swallowed. "But it tastes like food." She got up again and got a second fist of grass, which she offered to Tara. She hesitated, but the rumbling in her stomach was loud enough to shout down her brain. She took it and ate.
For both of them, it came out both ends a few hours later. Green, sickly. They tried again.
Willow was thrashing in her sleep, groaning. Tara was doing her best to keep her still as she dabbed at her face with a wet rag, but it was obvious that her girlfriend was in a lot of pain.
Dawn couldn't understand how she could let this go on. "I think she's waking up. Shouldn't you be healing her again?"
Tara had known this moment would come, and shook her head slowly. "I... I can't, Dawnie. I've been trying for hours. I have n-n-nothing left."
She carefully lifted the bandage. So far the spell had kept the infection in check, but the wound wasn't healing – on the contrary, it was opening up again, and for the first time in two days the bandage was again soaked wet with her blood.
Dawn tried to get up to sit by Willow's side, but she was too light-headed and settled for crawling on all fours. "But there's gotta be something... I mean, can't you see that she's hurting?"
"She's dying, Dawn." Tara's voice was surprisingly forceful considering how weak she felt... or maybe it was just that they'd gotten so used to whispering that anything spoken at normal level sounded like a jet plane taking off. "Unless she gets to a doctor immediately, she's going to keep getting worse and she's going to die. It'll take hours and it will hurt like nothing I can imagine. And since I can't even keep her asleep anymore, she's going to be awake the whole time."
Dawn looked at her and then shakily pulled herself up to the ventilation shaft. Somewhere far off, she thought she could hear a small engine revving. "HEEEEEEEELP! RIIIIILEEEY!" Her voice probably didn't even carry to the end of the lawn, but it was loud enough to wake up Willow.
The redhead was even paler than usual, her eyes at half mast and sweat pearling on her face. She tried to speak and at first nothing came out. She tried again and only the last part of the sentence made it. "..ospital?"
"Not yet." Tara's hand trembled as she gently carressed her cheek. "Something came up."
"I think..." Willow grimaced in pain. "Not to be a... party-pooper or anything, but... bu..." Tara almost allowed herself to hope that Willow was going to pass out. She almost did, but then she cried out in agony and was conscious again. "...I should probably get there soonish. Feeling real f-funky here."
"I know. It'll be better soon, I promise. Will?"
"You know I love you, don't you?"
"You know I'd give my life for you? You know I'd do anything to take your pain away?"
Willow nodded. "Me too."
"I know. But I... I can only do it one time, so you just let me know when it gets real bad and I'll make it right for you. OK, sweetie?"
It was anybody's guess whether Willow understood what Tara meant, but she nodded weakly. Tara kissed her and then held her, whispering private things in her ear as she waited. It took about half an hour; then Willow squeezed her hand as the pain grew unbearable. "Tara... please..."
Their eyes met. "OK. Close your eyes and open your mouth." Willow complied. "I love you." Tara put the shotgun to Willow's mouth and pulled the trigger. The blast left both Tara and Dawn deaf for several minutes, and Willow dead for a whole lot longer than that as the top half of her head dissolved into a rainbow-like fountain of pinkish brains, copper curls and crimson blood stretching from her upper jaw to the wall two feet away. Dawn remained sitting at Willow's feet unable to look away, while Tara stumbled into a corner where she huddled, shaking, until night fell and everything was dark.
Dawn was too weak to even stand up and reach the ventilation shaft. Not that it mattered; they had picked every square inch they could reach free of grass, and there was no food anywhere. She had ripped out a tooth trying to bite a chunk out of her shoe, and it was hurting bad. She was even almost too tired to cry. Almost. At some point she realized that Buffy was sitting next to her, stroking her hair like she always had when something was wrong... but when she looked up it was Tara.
"How are you feeling?"
"I wanna go home." Dawn sniveled. "I'm so hungry and I'm tired and I just wanna go home. Why can't we just go home... why isn't there any food..."
"There is." Tara's fists were clenched almost as tightly as her jaw as she seemed to make a decision. "We have fresh meat."
Dawn looked at her and frowned before she realized what she was talking about. "Are you INSANE!"
"Dawn, I know it's..."
"No. It's not her." Tara rocked her, sobbing herself now. "It's not her. She's gone."
"Where did she... I mean, shouldn't we have given her last rites or something?"
"I don't know. I have no idea, Dawn, we never talked about that... Jewish stuff... but I have to believe she's someplace good. She was the best... the best person I ever... and she would want us to-"
"How can you SAY that?"
"Do you wanna die?" Tara tried to get to her feet, but stumbled and fell on top of Dawn. It took them a lot of effort to just disentangle, each limb seemed to weigh a ton. "I'm done, Dawnie. This is it. No one's coming for us, and I spent too much energy trying to save..." She couldn't even say it. "I need to eat something or I'll die. Soon. She died trying to save me, and Buffy died trying to save you. What the hell was the point if we're just going to give up? W-we have to be strong, Dawnie..."
"What about..." Dawn hated herself for having to choose. "What about Giles?"
"He's spoiled. You can smell it. If we eat him, we'll just get sick."
"This IS sick!"
"I know." Tara hugged her. "But it's our only chance."
It took them a few minutes to make their way over to Willow's side. Tara had draped an old shirt over her girlfriend's ruined head.
"How do we..." Dawn swallowed. "How... we don't have a n-knife or anything."
"We'll have to use our teeth." Tara removed the stiff and dry bandage around Willow's stomach. "W-we'll start around the wound and w-w-work our way..."
Over the last two days, hunger and the stench of death had become something so normal that they'd almost forgotten it. Now they remembered. Thousands of years of civilization and millions of years of evolution took a back seat as something older took over. Survive. Eat. Gorge. The roar of hunger in her stomach made Dawn forget the pain in her jaw. For her eleventh birthday her mother had served veal. It had been rare, with a delicious red sauce and yams, and incredibly tender. The best meat she'd ever had.
She thought about that as she chewed. And bit. And tore. And chewed. And bit. And tore. And chewed.
Try not to throw up.
Try not to throw up.
hadn't spoken to each other since yesterday. Tara seemed to be
retreating into herself, moving only to get a piece of meat and then
curling up in a corner with her arms around her head. Dawn, on the
other hand, felt stronger; she'd been able to keep most of what she
ate yesterday and this morning, and as long as she didn't think about
it or look at Willow's...
(it's not her, she's gone)
...Its body she found she could actually both think and move better than yesterday. And she remembered that there was something Tara had to do.
"Tara? Shouldn't we be trying the door?" Ignoring her sobs, Dawn pulled the apathetic Tara halfway across the floor before Tara found her feet and began to walk on her own. They reached the door together and Dawn did her best to support the older girl as she let her hands roam over the door, settling on the lock.
Tara took a deep breath and closed her eyes, focusing. Then she pushed with everything she had. "Aperi!" The lock clicked open, the padlock broke and the door swung open all of two inches before stopping dead against something. She peeked through the crack, then exhaled violently, stumbled back to her corner and began laughing hysterically.
Leatherface had made sure they wouldn't get out. A heavy old wooden dresser - roughly the size of a Coke machine - was pulled in front of the door, blocking it.
Dawn looked at It, her mind's artillery effectively shooting down any thoughts that tried to use the W word. It was now dressed only in a pink short-sleeved blouse pulled up over Its belly, exposing the huge gap in Its stomach. The legs had had the most meat and they'd worked some pretty good chunks out of them. But something was new; when Dawn had gone to sleep yesterday It had still been wearing panties, but Tara had obviously fed during the night and Dawn was grateful that she hadn't had to watch. The area between Its legs was a gaping red hole, and Dawn again had to fight the gag reflex; she wasn't sure if it was the image of Tara lying between Its legs eating or her own immediate reaction. Damn, why didn't I think of that, it must have been a lot easier to chew... She looked at Tara who was weeping in her sleep, blood drying on her dirty face, only the area under her eyes kept clean by a constant flow of salt water.
Dawn turned back to It with dismay. The exposed skin
was turning gray, and when she tried to bite a chunk out of Its leg
it not only tasted bad but also seemed a lot tougher than it had been
yesterday. The food was spoiling; she'd better eat as much as
possible today, by tomorrow it would probably be too late. An idea
struck her and she unbuttoned the blouse
(Pink... Willow always liked pink...)
carefully, making sure she didn't rip out any buttons even though her hands shook. She ran her hands over Its exposed breasts; they seemed whiter, more supple than the rest of her, as if the blouse had kept that part of her fresher than the rest. She grabbed the left breast with both hands and bent down to take a bite.
Suddenly Tara was on her, dragging her away, and for a few seconds they struggled, fighting like dogs over a bone, kicking, scratching, biting, Dawn pulling at Tara's hair. Eventually the larger woman got the upper hand and pinned Dawn down. They stared at each other, teeth bared, until the feral expression on Tara's face melted away into one of unimaginable grief. "Dawnie, I'm sorry... I'm so sorry... but I can't let you... not there. There's enough for both of us, but... not there. That's mine." She grabbed one of Its stiff arms and angled it up towards Dawn. "H-here, the palm is the best bit, I-I've been saving them for you..."
And they ate.
The heat and stench weren't as bad anymore. They were used to it, like rats living at the city dump don't complain when someone dumps a truckload of bad shrimp. And for now, the hunger was gone. Despite the foul taste, they had been able to keep what they ate yesterday. But they also knew it was the last meal for a while; they had tried to eat a little more today, but It tasted awful and only Tara had been able to keep anything down. And so they sat, waiting.
As the light started to dim, Dawn found the book they'd been reading from, but it had been lying right by Willow's head and was ruined, soaked through with dried blood so you couldn't even turn the pages.
"Tara?" No answer. "How does it end?"
Dawn had almost forgot that she asked when Tara finally responded. "She wakes up. It was all a dream." There was a pause, and then Tara recited from memory. "She pictured to herself how this same little sister of hers would, in the after-time, be herself a grown woman; and how she would keep, through all her riper years, the simple and loving heart of her childhood: and how she would gather about her other little children, and make their eyes bright and eager with many a strange tale, perhaps even with the dream of Wonderland of long ago: and how she would feel with all their simple sorrows, and find a pleasure in all their simple joys, remembering her own child-life, and the happy summer days."
Dawn nodded. That was a happy ending. "Tara? Is this a dream?"
There was no answer.
Day... 11, possibly 12
Dawn drank some more water. The hunger was gnawing in her stomach as she crept back to her corner. It was the most curious feeling; for the last... however long it had been since Tara had stopped talking, she had been trying to remember as much as possible of what happened before all this. For some reason her memories seemed to get foggier all the time; the last 3-4 months were pretty clear, but anything before that was weird. She could remember her mother, and Buffy, and she knew there had been stuff before this summer but... she just couldn't remember it.
She wondered if Tara had the same problem. She never answered anymore. Occasionally she'd call out Willow's name in her sleep, but mostly she just sat in her corner. Lately she'd taken to staring at her. Dawn knew because she stared back.
She was so hungry.
The struggle was not as brief as it would have been if either of them had been strong enough to stand or kick, but not very long either. There was a weak groan as one pair of hands was forced to let go of the shotgun. There was a blast. There was a scream of pain, followed by a sickening crack as the shotgun was brought down like a billy club on the wounded girl's head. There were sobs.
And then there was chewing.
...night... not sure... many many
The pain when she bit into her own hand was intense, but not as bad as that in her stomach, and it kept her from passing out. There was a lot of blood, but it tasted so good. She lapped it up and kept gnawing until the first finger came off. Not much meat on it, but every little bit helps.
And after all, she was right-handed. Lots of people get by with one arm.
There you go. Don't EVER AGAIN tell me my stories aren't gory enough.