And Let The Dead Bury Their Dead
Humans scare you in a way that no demon ever has.
It's not fear of temptation. That's too self-evident a threat to catch you off-guard, and it's not as if you haven't had plenty of practice controlling your hunger. It's certainly not fear of any physical danger they may pose to you. It's not really even fear of rejection – you've lived too long to fall prey to the approval-seeking games that ensnare so many others.
What scares you is their vulnerability, the inescapable fact of their mortality. When you sit and watch them, all you can think of is how futile and painful their lives are. They work, they suffer and they die. They go about their lives oblivious to the danger around them, oblivious to the fact that you could kill them all in an instant if you chose, as easily as snuffing out a candle.
Except it isn't really that easy, not for you.
One day, each and every one of them will be dust. They'll pass away in agony, their remains left to be burned and scattered or buried and left to rot by bereft families and friends. Their lives don't really matter. But you don't feed on them, you can't, because you know that, pointless as their existence may be, those people belong to something that you never will. They have hopes, dreams, loved ones. Their deaths leave a cold, empty space in the hearts of those closest to them. When they disintegrate, they'll be missed.
You won't be. And yet somehow, you're always the one left standing while they wither away and die. It doesn't seem fair.
Meeting her for the first time is slightly surreal. To have known of her for so long without ever approaching her, for her to have had such an impact on your life without even knowing you exist…to her, you're just a potentially hostile stranger in a dark alley. To you, she's everything. She's like nobody you've ever met before: beautiful, pure-hearted and utterly obnoxious. You're not sure whether you want to kill her or kiss her.
The scene plays out like something out of a second-rate film noir. You're aware of it even as the words leave your lips, and you can't quite hide the twinge of mirth that manages to bubble up in spite of the gravity of what this conversation means to you. You're sure she notices, and fairly sure she despises you for it. You don't mention how long you spent deliberating over the necklace, picking it out for her carefully and keeping it in your jacket pocket even though it scorches you through all its wrapping. You don't tell her anything she doesn't need to know. You just say what you came to say and leave, the back of your neck still aching from the vicious kick she planted.
Buffy. It's a ridiculous name, and it suits her. You descend the gritty stairwell outside your apartment and let yourself in. When you first saw her, from the shaded windows of Whistler's car, she'd been a vapid, carefree child. You'd been expecting her to change more – had dreaded, in a way, the loss of that innocence which had so enchanted you. She'd been the Slayer for almost a year now. You'd thought that by now she'd have become more or less like the rest of them – grim, self-assured and utterly isolated from her peers. Instead, you find her now as bubbly and irresponsible as she'd been then.
You lower yourself into a chair, not bothering to switch on the lights. With such a cavalier attitude towards her calling, it's a wonder she's survived so long. And yet you know, instinctively, and have known since the moment you laid eyes on her, that Buffy Summers was stronger than other Slayers had been. You don't know quite how, but you feel it.
When you close your eyes, you can see her there before you in all her fashion-conscious, vertically challenged glory. You knock your head against the wall behind you to preserve the painful sensation she'd left you with, not knowing why except that you need it to be sure the evening's encounter really did take place. It's the only thing that assures you you're not just imagining her. Because her existence makes absolutely no logical sense – what is it about her that makes her so important? You don't want to think about any of it, but you can't take your mind off her. Her kicking you was the only thing that seemed remotely believable. If she hadn't kicked you, you think maybe you would have attacked her, just to make sure she was really there and you weren't going crazy.
The thought leaves a bitter taste in your mouth.
You follow her so much that it begins to haunt your dreams. Sometimes you stalk her, lure her into dark corners and sink your fangs into her neck. Other times you pin her to the wall and kiss her until she's moaning your name and trembling. When you wake up, you're not sure which sequence makes you feel more nauseated.
You were right. Buffy is stronger than any Slayer you've met (and you've survived a good few in your long lifetime). The more you see her, the more you come to realise just how tough she really is. For all her teenage mannerisms, so utterly incomprehensible to you, she isn't really a teenager. She's a warrior. A courageous, dedicated warrior.
You often watch her while she patrols, observing her graceful, seemingly effortless fighting style and feeling disgusted with yourself because it's finally beginning to dawn on you why she can get under your skin in a way nobody else can.
You're falling in love with her.
It isn't a happy revelation. It makes you sick to your stomach – you, in love? You don't have the right to fall in love. Especially not with a sixteen-year-old, especially not with the Slayer, especially not with someone so utterly, inarguably above you.
There is absolutely no way this senseless attraction of yours can be permitted to go any further. And yet you're aware that somehow, she's noticed you as well. You can hear her pulse quickening whenever she's near you, can see the blush rising to her cheeks. You offer her your jacket and she wears it for weeks afterwards (and you don't mind a bit, because it looks better on her in any case). You look at her and she meets your gaze with shining eyes, then turns shyly away and blushes all the more. You tell yourself it's wrong, letting her get close like this. You try not to, but you can't resist. She has you spellbound. Every word she says, every gesture, every smile, takes on a new, momentous importance. In the silence of your apartment you spend countless hours thinking about her, making lists in your mind of all the things about her you adore. Maybe, if all you ever have is these fleeting encounters and feverish dreams – maybe you can be happy.
And then the Three are sent after her and all the tension comes to a head.
It's reckless, entering her house, but with the adrenaline and fury burning your veins you're no longer thinking about consequences. All you know was that the Master has gone too far, that if anything happens to her you'll rip him limb from limb yourself and to hell with the danger.
"Take off your jacket and your shirt," she says, cheeks reddening, and you go along with it and allow her to dress your wound even though it'll be healed in a few hours anyway. Her warm hands are like live wires, and for a moment the whole world fades into the background.
You refuse to think about the implications of agreeing to stay with her that night. You don't sleep a wink, of course. You just watch her lying there, eyes closed peacefully, chest rising and falling with each breath, hair strewn messily across the pillow. By coming here tonight, you've crossed the line between you and some supremely foolish action you know is impending. There's no turning back now.
Hours and hours spent alone in her room, awaiting her return from school, dreading and craving the moment she walks through the door. Maybe you should just leave now, before she gets back. You're here because she thinks you're in danger outside – it's just a business trip. She'll worry if you leave. Stop thinking about her. Perhaps you had better leave…
And then she's home and you're still there, against all your better judgement.
When you kiss her, everything you've ever done is forgiven. All the pain, all the violence, and the sick, sadistic pleasure you took in it – none of it matters anymore. She absolves you.
Then you taste blood in her mouth, and you're a demon again. You tear yourself away, hide your face, but it's too late. Her shrieks are like every human you've ever tortured, maimed killed – you panic. She knows what you are. You leap out the window and hit the ground running.
Through your melancholy daze, you see Darla. Darla, the most terrifying secret of your past, the embodiment of all your demonic dreams and passions and urges.
She comes to you. Always, she comes to you. You run, and she finds you. You hide, and she finds you.
It's so clear. The pain, the rage, the constant struggle – it's all utterly pointless. You're an animal, a fiend, and you don't have to play by the human rules. You can't deal with her, so you have to kill her. It's the only way you've ever really dealt with your problems.
"Come back to us," says Darla, clear, soulless eyes burning into yours. Those eyes promise freedom, bliss, if you let them engulf you.
So you go to her. You go to find the Slayer.
"Let's get it done."