Vigil in Accustomed Places by Djinn
You've sat this vigil more nights than you can count. The routine started as soon as you found out Buffy was the slayer.
No, that's a lie. She ran away as soon as you found out, and you lost her, you lost your little girl, and even though you hoped she'd come home, you didn't wait for her, not like this. The vigil started after she returned to you, a hardened and sad version of your daughter, who gradually softened as you let her back into your life--as she let you back into hers.
Losing your little girl was the worst thing you could imagine when she was just a child. Once she got older, it was even harder. But she's a slayer: they don't live long. She's died once already.
But you didn't know that at first, and back then, when you didn't fully understand what a slayer was, you were just listening for her footsteps. Proof she'd made it through another night. Because after that horrible test, after being locked in that place with that monster, you understood what a vampire might want to do to your daughter, the slayer, the killer of their kind.
Drink her. Drain her. Leave her bloodless on the floor. Leave her to wake, to kill, to drink...from you.
In your nightmares, you're still tied up in the basement, and Buffy doesn't trick the monster: Buffy becomes the monster.
So you began to listen for the hesitation in her footsteps. The stop at the door. No key in the lock, just a soft knock. A girl no longer your daughter waiting to be invited in.
Bloodless, a bloodless version of Buffy. That is how you fear she'll die. That is how you fear she'll come back to you.
Every night, though, she comes back whole, alive. Ruddy with blood. With humanity.
You've been through hell, the two of you. There were times you thought you'd lost her for good, and not just when she ran away to L.A. But she came back, and then Dawn came and your family grew.
But through it all, Buffy was your little girl. Your baby. Your child that should have made everything perfect with Hank and didn't.
You blamed her, when he left you. You blamed her so much it felt like you were going to split open with that truth, truth you kept bottled inside because you couldn't bear to tell her that you hated her.
But you don't hate her anymore. You don't blame her, either. Hank would have found a reason to leave because that's how Hank is. Not a good husband. Not a good father.
Rupert is a better father to her. You know he'll keep on being a father and you're glad of it. She'll need him.
You've sat this vigil more nights than you can count--only it's day now. You woke up and Buffy wasn't home. You showered, dressed, put the flowers from Brian in a vase, and got Dawn off to school, enduring some teasing from your pseudo-youngest about old people in love.
Then you sat down again. To read, to wait.
It was peaceful. It was quiet. The pages blurred.
And then this.
The door opens. Buffy comes in. She sees the flowers, such pretty flowers, even if they'll die.
"Hey, flower-gettin' lady, want me to pick Dawn up from school?"
She turns, sees you, only not you, the other you. The you you're sharing the couch with. You sit perched in the corner, trying not to touch it--to touch you...to touch the body.
"Mom, what are you doing?" She is so beautiful. You wish you could hold onto that. More beautiful than the flowers, hopefully not as fleeting. Strong, your girl. Strong, she must be strong. Just as you've been strong, resisting the force that pulls you, that wants you to come home, to leave this life to your little girl and the body that was once you. It won't be denied for much longer.
You wish she didn't have to see this. You wish it weren't so...bloodless. She won't know what to do with this, your daughter who fights evil but can't possibly fight what's happened to you.
You reach out as she rushes to the couch. Your hand goes right through her. She doesn't notice.
She is pale, so pale, vampire pale. In this moment, she is dying. She is taken from you. Drained of life.
Your little girl is bleeding out.