Author: Megan

Title: Ripping Down The Walls

Summary: In another dimension, Buffy is friendless and fighting a battle against evil much too close to home, and it is one that she knows will almost certainly bring about her end. But will being sent to fight the evil in another world bring her death faster? Or awaken her to possibilities she'd never even considered? Set AU Season Three and during NFA.

Rating: I'll go with R but I'm not sure it will go that far.

Warnings: Alternative Universe character portrayals, violence.

Banner: #2 by skybound2

Disclaimer: The characters of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel belong to Joss Whedon. All content in this story is meant to entertain and utilise the brilliance of the world and characters he opened up to us. No infringement is intended.

A/N As always, my sincere gratitude goes to my betas. Firstly, Holly who has been wonderful in encouraging me through this insane process of adding more fics to my WIP list :o) To Schehrezade who always has wonderful suggestions and to slackerace who gives me that added boost of security.

Also, many thanks to skybound for the wonderful inspiration.

Chapter One

She sat on the top of a hill and peered down at the field below. Not far beyond were trees so thick that her sight was limited to barely skimming the surface. There was no indication that beyond the forest her life was crazy; nothing to show that danger and evil lurked behind every shadow. Buffy breathed in deeply, shivering at the chilled air that inflated her lungs as she began the process that would bring her some relief.

Bring her closer to him.

The darkness quieted around her, animals hiding and staring out at the crazy slayer perched on the grass-covered mound with her eyes closed, lips barely parted and a glowing talisman clutched desperately in her hands.

I can't stand her anymore.

The thought burst from her consciousness and Buffy heaved a huge sigh of relief. No words had passed her lips but she'd confided in someone at last—even if she had no clue who that someone was. As long as it wasn't Willow, it really didn't matter. And if Buffy didn't know to whom she was making her heart's confessions, well, it didn't terrify her as much as it probably should have.

There was no inflection in the reply that returned to her, nothing that could possibly clue her in on who the closest being in her life was, but it didn't matter. Time had shown her that the true value fell on a willing ear—this person that gave her tender understanding at the drop of a hat had earned her trust and gratitude.

It's a wonder you ever did!

Buffy's body shook through an internal giggle, her body blind to everything around her while she focused on the warmth that always came with this connection. Her senses were on alert for danger, but from where she sat she'd be able to run in any direction long before an enemy could reach her. Besides, nothing evil ever breached the boundary of the forest. It was almost as if the Hellmouth's influence faltered as soon as the trees gave way to freedom.

Hey now! Buffy chastised with a smirk. Things were of the good…once.

She held her breath, melting at every example of his presence.

Only once? That's hardly satisfying, is it?

Buffy knew her secret companion was a man. No, male. She knew he was male and she wished he was a man—hardly dared to hope that she could have been so lucky to connect this deeply with someone so seemingly perfect for her, particularly when every contact had him stealing more little pieces of her heart.

He flirted with her constantly. Sometimes outrageously, and she soaked up every second of it. Buffy wasn't that knowledgeable about men on the whole, but she was an attractive girl and she'd known flirting—at least, she had done before she'd become all Chosen and her romantic possibilities began to suffer.

Maybe not even once. The admission made her heart seize sharply with apprehension. Flirting was one thing, but she'd not spared a thought for diving into something more seductive. Something so embarrassingly personal. Not for the first time Buffy wished she'd been granted the ability to see him in her head. Not just visualise some romantic ideal which she knew she had no chance of duplicating in real life. The talisman hadn't been provided to fill in her non-existent love life. Being emotionally isolated from people had made her vulnerable and the flirtatious acts had fostered more than a romantic yearning to be with her confessor. For all she knew she was mentally coming on to a monster, but the knowledge of who gave her this magical stone in the first place stalled her from outright panic. The Powers wouldn't have wanted her to initiate a sacred connection with something evil. At least, she hoped they hadn't because, ewww, that would be worlds of wrong.

It was funny how she'd been able to visualise so little about her telepathic companion and yet she had no difficult imagining him smirking at what she'd just revealed. Admitting her virginity to someone she'd never met was enough to inspire shivers of alarm at her behaviour, but to own up to it with hope and suggestion in her voice, Buffy just knew she was going to end up in big trouble. She was relieved—though disappointed—when he ignored the obvious opening and returned the conversation to what she'd opened it with.

So what's Red done now that's pissed you off?

It always struck Buffy strangely when he spoke like that. It conjured not-distant-enough memories of the previous year and the peroxide-happy vampire that she'd somehow never been able to dust. The same cocky jerk that she'd hated with the depth of her soul for his part in taking Angel from her. The memory of him flitted through her mind on more occasions than she liked, but Buffy was a realist. It was obvious such a tremendous failure on her part was going to take root and drive her crazy until he either came back to town and she turned him into ash, or he finally had his luck turn and killed her dead. Buffy was rooting for that first option, but it annoyed her that her attention could be so easily sidetracked to thinking about Spike when she had other more pleasant people to talk to.

Had someone who genuinely cared about her—even though he'd never met her.

With a shake and a stern internal lecture, Buffy straightened her spine and shrugged off the mental image of black leather and bleached hair, and concentrated on the one who'd given her more of his time than anyone—except her mother. This friendship she'd forged with the mysterious man at the other side of the talisman was the one shining light in her ever-darkening world. It meant so much to her in the absence of other friendships—particularly Willow's. The redheaded witch might have once been her confidant, the girl she could giggle with and share secrets over chunky-monkey ice cream, but those days were long gone. They were so far in the past that Buffy struggled to believe those carefree, innocent days had ever existed.

Loneliness sparked her into talking, unloading more onto her unsuspecting mental-friend and Buffy again thanked the Powers for whatever foresight they'd had that she might need this. Many days her craved escape to listen to his rough wisdom and sexier implications was the only thing that got Buffy through. So often she'd felt like giving in but the fear of never trading barbs or secrets—or hey, even recipes—propelled the Slayer back into a fighting, kicking, screaming defence of her life. It was enough to leave whatever foe that had caught her renewed zeal as dead as she could make them.

I think she's trying to kill me, Buffy admitted quietly. For reasons she couldn't quite comprehend, the Slayer was terrified that Willow was able to tap into her mind and read every horrible, suspicious thought she'd ever had about the witch. Even now, in this place that was sacrosanct—guarded jealously—she worried that the witch knew everything about the connection. Whistler had said the talisman was protected with magic more powerful than Willow could even imagine, but sometimes Buffy wondered. It wouldn't be the first time Willow had been underestimated.

Her secret friend didn't reply immediately, but Buffy could feel the seething hatred that simmered beneath his advice.

Maybe it's time you two separated, let her bugger up some other poor sap's life.

The blonde conceded defeat. It wasn't like she'd never thought of the possibility. But where would she go? Other than Willow, Buffy knew nobody. Giles was dead, along with Xander and Angel. And Faith also gone; Buffy had no idea who had replaced her sister slayer. She didn't dare find her mother in fear of leading danger straight to her door. The Council hadn't bothered sending her another watcher and all she had left was Willow. Grief had unhinged the witch, and while Buffy became increasingly fearful not only for herself but also for the world, she had enough sympathy and understanding to be unable to leave the girl on her own. She understood better than anyone why Willow had given into the lure of darkness to heal her pain. If it had been an option…no, nothing would have ever made Buffy turn her back so far on humanity. Just because she didn't know any of the faces in the crowd these days, it didn't eliminate the urgency or importance of her fulfilling her sacred destiny. She had a world to protect and she'd continue doing it until her time was up and the mission was passed onto another slayer.

Dark thoughts, little girl. Don't even think of your time coming. It'll be a good long while yet.

Tears stung her eyes as Buffy smiled sadly. This stranger always knew what was going on in her head, knew her intimately, somehow even knew her name. Buffy inhaled tiredly. The game had already arrived and she wasn't ready. There was so much more she needed this night and arguing over not being gifted with a name always bugged her too much to continue making sense.

Not tonight. She couldn't let it distract her tonight; tonight she needed the comfort of his concern far too much.

It's coming; you and I both know it, Buffy replied irritably. She was so sick of the futility of her life—the lack of answers, the narrow path she had to tread. Why was she forbidden the life fulfilment that other girls experienced? Starting with a boyfriend…just one. Or at least knowing the damn name of someone she considered her friend. Seems like the perfect time to finally tell me your name, she prodded, despite knowing first hand his stubbornness at concealing itAnyone would think he was afraid to reveal his identity, Buffy mused with a smirk.

Hopeful seconds ticked by and then an amused chuckle filled her completely with heat.

Now that wouldn't be fair, would it? I guessed your name, you have to guess mine.

In her mind, Buffy pouted. As if she had any chance in hell. He never told her too much about himself, willing to listen to her ramble about Willow, mostly, and her dangerous, almost self-destructive night walks. It had astonished her that he knew of the monsters that only came out at night, but then she'd quickly decided he must have a fast track to the Powers in order to be the other half of this relationship in the first place. His connection to the Higher Ups kind of dispensed with the surprise at knowing of the existence of the demon world.

Ugh. Fine. So not in the mood for that aggravation. Let's just agree that Buffy sucks in the guessing of all things and concentrate on how I'm going to survive Willow.

Sometimes, if she'd lost herself deep enough within the trance, Buffy could actually feel him place his arms around her. Her body would spark alight like a match, the tiny flame bounding around every nerve in her body until she was blazing and needy. It was inappropriate for her to be hinting at Willow's darker plans to rid herself of her hanger-on slayer while silently hoping for a virtual touch of a more intimate nature. Who ever heard of being turned on by a ghost? By hands that didn't exist? By a voice that was husky one minute and chilling the next? Not that she'd ever been warned about having pen pals that only ever contacted you in your head—and never sent photos. It was all new territory and Buffy was more than flying blind. She was flying blind but full of unrequited desire.

Slayer, any time…

She felt the explosive blast of frustration from him and could even imagine him pacing. She desperately wanted him to say he'd come to her; she felt it was high time they met in person, but the fear that that thought always brought quickly swelled and made all her muscles clench tightly. She wanted it so much she could taste it—wanted him like he was a pearl of the sweetest nectar on her tongue—and yet the reality of it scared her to death.

God, what if he was repulsive? What if he was old like Giles had been? Buffy stopped thinking that line abruptly. This secret friend had given her more support in the last year than anyone—he was the only one that wasn't out to kill her. Was she so superficial now that she'd only value their meeting if he was good-looking and athletic? No, he'd be perfect because it was him. The initial contact might be a shock but there was something there between them—she could feel it humming through her veins and singing to her in a way that no song had ever done.

Yes? Buffy encouraged, leaning forward on her hill as she held on to the hope that this was it, that he was finally going to come to her.

Do you think…is it time for me to come?

Oh! The images that flashed through her brain like whipcord lightning strikes made her laugh.

Baby, only you can tell me that! Happiness surged through Buffy and she waited, breath held and heart pumping.

Cute, slayer. Real cute and as it just so happens…

Ewwwwwww! Buffy squealed in her head, but she was delighted. Their conversations had never turned this deviant before and it stirred something deep in her belly she'd only felt once before—a memory so long ago now she'd almost forgotten.

Right, so you can handle Red on your own then? he teased and Buffy only wished he was here right now so she could pop him one in the nose. He had to turn it back on her, didn't he? He was about to offer and now he had to make her beg. Well, she would. This time it was warranted and as she realised how very much she needed someone at her side now—that as lonely as it was supposed to be as a slayer, she really wasn't cut out for walking the path alone—the words spilled into her mind with a fear-laced desperation that made her wince.

Please come? I need you. I need someone to watch my back.

Buffy felt sick as she waited for his reply, so tired of fighting her one-time friend and sleeping with one eye always open, waiting for the inevitable. It was only a matter of time before Willow grew tired of sharing the hero gig with her, and while Buffy did it for the compulsion of saving lives, Willow was definitely in it for the glory alone. How could Buffy win against someone with that kind of desperate need to win?

Time ticked away so slowly, but finally he was ready. Buffy's fanciful thoughts imagined a cool kiss against her lips, soft and barely there. But it was enough to seal the deal and she felt herself shiver in anticipation.

Okay Goldilocks, he said, his voice husky yet strong. You might not be so happy with what you get, but I'm on my way.

And then the connection was severed and he was gone.