Okay. I'm not positive that I'll be keeping this up. I'm already a little antsy about it, and that's probably only going to get worse. So...here it is, for now.
Oh, and let's get this over with right away: Twilight is not the character he is in the comics. :)
It begins with just one man. That's how it goes, doesn't it? It only takes one man to change everything, just like it only took one girl, back then. Before the hate. Before the terror. Before one hundred slayers cry out for vengeance for their thousand lost sisters.
And Twilight makes promises, ones that people want to hear. Want to…
It begins with one man.
He isn't particularly tall or impressive. He doesn't have much in the way of good looks, not even once the mask is removed and the man is revealed. But he has a golden tongue and a sharp mind, and he knows just how to work people exactly how he wants them.
It begins with the demons and vampires willing to listen, willing to change. Most are young, still new to vampire life, and Twilight's ideas sound reasonable to them. They like hunting humans, but they like killing slayers more, and they're quick to reject the former for the latter.
"He's telling them that we're their common enemy," Faith explains when she returns from a reconnaissance mission. She holds out a poster. "That slayers are a poison, and it's time to work as a team to find the cure."
Buffy squints at the poster. There's a poorly done caricature of a blonde girl brandishing the scythe, her yellowed teeth bared back in a ferocious grimace and a starved-looking vampire limp beneath her feet. "Is that supposed to be- I am not that short!"
Faith doesn't smirk. "You're not taking this seriously."
"We are," Xander puts in. "I just don't see what the problem is. So vampires want to stop feeding on humans and fight slayers instead?" He pats the poster approvingly. "Best of luck to them. Don't let us stop you from doing our job."
"There are nearly a thousand of us, Faith. Let them try." Buffy is unworried, and Giles agrees. They're better off with vampires who won't harm humans, of course. Right?
And then two slayers return from an operation bruised and brutalized, relating how they were burned out of their base by a group of angry teenagers.
Teens who take orders from the owner of a local club, where vampires and humans mingle and share ideas. One of many that are cropping up across the country.
Giles sends a team of slayers to the club. They stake thirty vampires in front of a gaggle of terrified local students. When it's over, the slayers try to reassure the fearful onlookers.
Instead, the teens spit in their faces and flee.
When they appear on local media, they call the encounter the Oakland Massacre.
The next time the vampire situation is discussed on TV, it's in the guise of Twilight himself. A vampire has drained a human without turning her, what Twilight calls "an unforgivable sin."
"He has been turned to dust," the masked man announces on the large television screen in the main slayer base. "We do not tolerate these acts of violence. We're no slayers." He spits out the word with extra venom, and Buffy recoils in her seat.
"How are they feeding?" Willow wonders. "Where are they getting their blood?"
But there's no answer, no simple solution that can vilify the vampires to people who have never known their evil. There's nothing but building resentment for the slayers.
Giles arranges for Vi and Faith to appear on television in a press conference. They're meant to debate with Twilight, but the moment Vi opens her mouth, Twilight whirls around and addresses the crowd.
"This is an era of hurt, of pain and suffering. This is a time when people are dying around us, and all we can do is watch. Watch, as people are declared superior, as girls with super-strength bully their way to the top and demand acknowledgement of superiority. Superiority?" he bellows, and Buffy frowns from the audience. She doesn't recognize the voice. "These creatures- these slayers- are alien! They aren't even human anymore!"
Faith jumps up, her eyes flashing. Twilight gestures to her. "See their impetuousness? See the way they jump to violence?" He tears off his mask. "They took my wife when she was turned. They brought me to this!" He announces, and Buffy squints at the network of scars lining his face dubiously.
She'd expected him to be familiar, somehow. Someone from her past, bent on revenge. An old villain, returned to life. But Twilight is just a stranger with a vendetta, and it's the realization that there's no connection that makes her blood run cold.
He doesn't care about taking her or Faith on. He doesn't care about individual slayers. He just wants them all exterminated.
"They are our common enemy! They are the reason even our brother vampires have joined us! To fight! To rid the world of this scourge!"
And from one end of the crowd, a slow clapping begins.
It isn't long after that Buffy comes into her bedroom room and sees Dawn and Willow huddled together, watching TV with somber faces.
"Buffy," Willow says quietly, and she blinks at the television twice before the image registers. It's an ad for beer, and a blonde girl- again, with so little a resemblance to her that she's sort of offended- with the scythe strapped to her back is approaching the star of one of those action shows she occasionally watches, beer in hand.
"Find your power," the smooth voice-over begins, and the man yanks the scythe from the girl and sends it crashing down on the bottle in her hand. She hisses, her face twisting nastily as the voice-over continues, "Make the choice. Find a better beer."
"I think I'm going to be sick," Dawn whimpers.
Buffy can only stare.
Twilight shakes the president's hand in front of a crowd of approving onlookers. An authorized biography is released. A team of vampires are initiated into the military and give long, rousing speeches about American pride. Harmony Kendall gets her own talk show.
Giles leaves for England to find out more about the situation abroad. He takes Xander and Andrew with him, and tries to bring Dawn along, but she refuses to leave, not when her sister is in danger.
Three slayers are arrested on duty a few days later, the charge unauthorized slaying. Kennedy talks about finding somewhere else to work. Buffy doesn't object.
The next afternoon, Twilight exits onto a stage during a talk show when he's hit in the arm by a wooden bolt. They don't catch Kennedy, but it's not difficult to put the blame for this one on the slayers, and the police arrive at their local headquarters an hour later, warrant in hand and fully armed. A few resist, and they're shot on the spot.
One boy, younger even than Dawn, pulls back to stare at the bodies on the floor. "I didn't…are they…?"
"They're not like us," an older man responds. "They're freaks. See?" He nudges a girl on the floor- Dahlia, Buffy thinks, but she's never really taken the time to figure out who's who- and grunts with satisfaction as she shifts. "Freaks," he repeats, and Buffy watches his eyes as they close off and darken.
"Outside!" a sergeant orders, and they're led into the courtyard at gunpoint. Vampires emerge from the shadows, eyeing the slayers like they're dinner. Buffy tenses.
Faith catches her gaze, and though Buffy wants to object to what Faith is implying, she can't afford to anymore. The other original slayer hurtles toward the closest vampire, kicking and slashing and punching, and several others follow her lead, unaware of what Faith's committed herself to.
And Buffy gathers up the rest of the girls and they run.
They're underground for a week before Xander finds them, holed out in the hotel in LA where Angel used to live. Now, it's bare and empty, but it's far from Twilight's base in New York and large enough to house the twenty slayers with Buffy, Willow, and Dawn, so Buffy brushes aside her doubts and fears concerning Angel and busies herself with finding out as much as she can about the other bases in the country. There are eleven left intact, thirty worldwide, but nearly forty other bases have been dismantled on trumped-up charges, most forced to prison by accusations made by vampires and by the willingness of the people around them to believe it.
"Giles is okay," Xander reports with relief. "He's in Scotland. There are people out there who are listening to him, second-guessing the American news and Twilight's mojo." He grins hopefully. "He even told me that the Council owns a castle there."
"A castle, huh?" Willow repeats, and Buffy can already tell that they've made their decision. "Sounds pretty…secure."
Buffy wriggles her fingers against the side of the table thoughtfully. "Take the slayers and Dawn," she says finally. "Keep them safe."
"I did this," she murmurs. "I brought these girls into a world where they'll never be safe. I never gave them a choice. And as long as there are girls in danger, I can't leave this country."
Willow argues, Dawn shouts, but she stays firm, thinking of Faith and Dahlia and all the lost girls she needs to find. Finally, Dawn storms off, Xander kisses her cheek, and only Willow remains.
"You have the Council's cash?" she asks, and Buffy nods.
"Look…" Willow starts.
"I'm staying," Buffy repeats.
Willow nods. "I know. But you're going to need help." She nods at the scythe hanging on the wall behind them. "That thing screams slayer, Buffy. And if you don't hide it, your mission will be over before it starts."
"I'm not leaving it behind." It's become a mark of pride, a symbol that screams to the world that she is slayer and she isn't backing down. Twilight isn't going to crush that.
So Willow does a spell and the scythe is transmuted into a small tattoo on the inside of her upper right arm, easily freed with a few short words. It's less comforting than having it in her hands, but she still feels safer with the scythe within her grasp.
She travels to New York alone, her hair a dark shade of brown and her purse a careless Gucci. She wears heels so impractical and a skirt so tight that none of the vampires in the airport give her a second glance even as they look around suspiciously, trying to pinpoint the slayer setting off their internal alarms.
The in-flight movie is straight from theaters, a critically-acclaimed heartbreaker about a man who has lost his lover to a horde of angry slayers. A few people break into applause as the hero, who looks remarkably like Twilight, strikes down the lead slayer with his sword, and Buffy slips past her seatmate to go to the restroom and heave.
She slides the scythe from where it's been sealed into her body and examines it, wondering what would happen if she came out of the room wielding it at the clappers.
No. She'd just be another icon of slayer barbarianism, and she can't bear the thought of being held accountable for any more evils. She doesn't blame herself for what Twilight's done. He's a malicious, twisted man, and she can't fathom his motives or his history, not beyond the sob story he's told the media again and again. But she takes full responsibility for cursing the girls with powers they'd never asked for and for putting them in a situation they can never escape.
She finds an apartment to live in somewhere in the Bronx, just a few miles from where they say the slayer prison is, and she forks over enough Council money that the owner doesn't ask for ID. All she's got is the faked passport Willow managed to obtain and an enormous heap of cash in her suitcase, and while both are suspicious, they're better than a Californian drivers' license issued to a girl named Buffy.
As soon as she's settled in, she walks the twenty blocks to the prison, her hand itching with the need to reach for the scythe. There's a constant prickle at the back of her neck, a constant awareness that she's being watched, and it's all she can do not to spin around and face the enemies she's probably inventing for herself.
The prison walls are high and forbidding, a dark stone that towers above her and the other passersby, free of graffiti or any flaws. She passes the sealed door, pauses to read the sign outside, and glances around furtively to see if anyone is watching.
No one sees. No one bothers to look at the building. The people around her walk on, absorbed in their own private lives and uninterested in the monument to hatred beside them. It's just another landmark to them, just another skyscraper in a city of skyscrapers. And it doesn't matter.
She takes in a shuddering breath and heads home.
Plans have to be made, a mass jailbreak staged, but Buffy instead loses the first three days to inaction, out of plans and ideas. She dials the secret number Xander has given her twice with no answer. She watches TV, buys the newspaper, and scours both for news of her slayers.
The news report comes on the fourth day. The army has taken a castle in Scotland and handed over its slayer denizens to Twilight. All is lost.
"Buffy!" one slayer shouts, struggling away from her captor. "Buffy, you need to help us! It's all on you now! Buffy!"
"The creature calls out for Buffy, whom we now know once led the slayers," the announcer notes. "She's reached mythical proportions, but does this Buffy really exist? And if she does, where is she?"
Buffy lets her fist fly at the television and watches with little satisfaction as the screen shatters.
The informant who led the army to the slayers turns out to be Andrew, which comes as no surprise. Andrew's always been a sucker for the charismatic ones, and Twilight won him over the moment he whipped off his mask. And now Andrew appears in the papers daily, speaking seriously of the threat the slayers pose and the way that one of their allies brutally murdered his best friend. When she finally replaces the TV, the first thing she sees is his appearance on Harmony's show, talking about how the first slayer he knew used to keep a vampire as her sex slave.
She closes her eyes, listening as Harmony starts crying loud, sniffling tears for her poor Blondie Bear and Andrew somberly comforts her, and she struggles to remember his face. It's been so long, so much has happened, and even the man she'd loved like no one before or after has barely crossed her mind over the past year. Especially since she had first discovered that he was alive all along and had never bothered to call.
He gives her comfort when she imagines him beside her, spurring her to fight again. You go out there and show those bloody wankers what it means to be a slayer. You can do this.
I can't. I don't know how.
She can imagine the smirk spreading across his face. Yeah, but that's never stopped me, has it?
You always lose, she retorts, and she notices with some surprise that she's grinning.
You've already lost, love, he says simply.
She opens her eyes and springs into action.
She walks up to the gate outside the prison. Smiles brightly. Says, "Hi! Food delivery!"
The vampire sneers at her, and then everything goes black.
She's kicked awake by another vampire, this one tall and wiry with an unpleasant leer on his face and a handgun in his grasp. "Get changed," he snaps, nodding to the floor beside her. She follows his gaze to a drab brown shift, so thin it's translucent and muddied with prior use.
"You've got to be kidding," she says incredulously. With a single flip, she's up in the air, a kick aimed at the vampire's head-
-And then she's down, the flip failed and all her joints aching. It's impossible. It's almost like…
"What did you do to me?" she demands, trying to summon all her strength. There's nothing, and she chokes with the reeling pain of loss. Her powers are gone as thoroughly as they had been on her eighteenth birthday, and now she's at the mercy of the people she'd sought to fight.
The vampire smirks. "Take off your clothes," he orders again, taking a step forward. She glares at him. He cocks the gun threateningly.
She grits her teeth, seething at the indignity of it all. She's not a victim. She isn't any good at playing the role of a victim. But there are hundreds of slayers somewhere deep in this building, counting on her, and being killed is not an option.
She tugs off her top and yanks down her pants, ignoring the vampire ogling her. "Freeze," he commands, and she continues undressing until he grabs her by the arms and shoves her roughly against the wall. "I said, freeze!" He nudges her stomach with the gun and uses his other hand to palm her breasts, trapping her legs with his own when she tries to knee him in the groin.
"I like them feisty," he breathes, his foul breath in her face.
She sneers at him. "You wouldn't like me. I'm a biter."
He yanks her back to the middle of the room, circling her warily. "Hm, what's this?" he wonders, raising her arm. "A scythe tattoo?" She is silent. He shrugs. "Well, we can't have one of those in our prison." A knife is produced from nowhere, its cold blade pressed against her side, and she kicks like a madwoman, freeing herself from his clutches and running to the door.
It opens as soon as she reaches it, and she hits a hard chest headlong and falls to the ground. A dark figure looms above her. "What the hell is going on here?" he growls, and Buffy nearly cries, because it's Angel, and he's here, and it's finally going to be okay.
The younger vampire slinks back sulkily. "She has a scythe tat-"
"No bloodshed," Angel says coldly. "No wastefulness. Have you learned nothing in training? Now get out of here." The vampire scurries out, and Buffy blinks up at her savior. It's Angel. It must be Angel. Angelus doesn't do organized group work like this.
Then he slams the door shut and lifts her up, crushing a kiss against her lips.
She wrenches her mouth away, stunned. "Angel-"
He kisses her again, forcing her lips closed. "We're being monitored," he murmurs against them. "You shouldn't be here."
Oh. She relaxes, whispering, "I had to come. What can I do?"
"Faith has an idea. We're just waiting for the cavalry." He lets her drop in a heap to the floor and kicks over the shift. "Put it on," he barks out. "Let's go!"
Her hair is cut messily to her neck in the next room, and then Angel leads her down a flight of stairs to a long hallway. He stops at the last door, slips a card into the slot, and it slides open. "Get in," he barks, the gentle hand at her back belying his true emotions. "Number 314, you've got a new friend." A dark figure in the corner stirs, and Angel flips on the light to reveal Faith, her eyes dim and empty and her arms wrapped tightly around herself.
"Number 314?" Buffy asks, glancing at the little badge reading "881" on her own outfit. "Wait a minute. Does that mean that they have eight hundred and eighty-one of us here already?"
"They had almost three hundred that we never knew existed," Faith murmurs. "Twilight took them long before he ever came out to the public."
"Oh, god." She sinks down beside Faith, tossing a last glance at Angel as he closes the door. "We never knew."
"Most of them are dead already," Faith mumbles. "We get daily shots of Slayers' Bane." She looks up for the first time. "The Cruciamentum vaccine. It's deadly in large doses."
Faith leans back against the wall. "Angel's been diluting mine. See?" She presses her hand against the metal wall. At full strength, she'd probably be able to dent it, but now she can barely leave a faint handprint. "So I live. I live, and the less privileged slayers die."
"Faith-" Somehow, she's expecting Faith to cut her off. But Faith doesn't speak, and so Buffy doesn't either, and they sit together quietly until morning.
They're allowed to leave their rooms once a day. They stand in a long row while their designated vampire ward first injects them with the Bane and then extracts a syringe full of blood from each. "Each cup of slayer blood is enough to feed a vampire for two weeks," Faith explains.
The wiry vampire Buffy had met on her first day is assigned to Buffy, and she watches Angel tend to Faith with no small amount of longing. Her own Bane is far from diluted, she discovers quickly, and her vampire despises her. He doesn't attack her again, not like some of the other vampires on the row do their charges, but he's vicious and violent and sadistic and takes double or triple the amount of blood he's supposed to most days.
On the way back to their cells, they're each given a bottle of water, a bagel with egg salad, and a multivitamin. Only the best to keep their blood clean. And then they're trapped in silence in rooms not much larger than a closet, a tiny bed and a toilet their only companions.
And every day is the same.
It takes almost two months before Buffy can start to feel the changes in her body. By then, the line has extended to Number 943 and twenty other slayers are gone. Faith talks little, if at all, and Angel is starting to look worried. The cavalry he promised still hasn't arrived, and Buffy is beginning to lose hope.
There's a constant drumming in her head now, and her vision is blurring. Standing feels like putting all her weight on tottering sticks, and her skin has hollowed out over her ribs. She hasn't seen herself in a mirror in months, but she knows that she looks just like the slayers who never come back.
And sure enough, she's pulled from the line one day by one of the overseers. "This one's ready for the lab," he notes, and Angel and Faith both look up, horrified. "See what we can squeeze out of her before she drops."
It's time. One last stand, that's all she's got, and so she follows her vampire to the hall obediently, waits until the other vampires are out of sight, and murmurs Willow's spell to retrieve the scythe.
It springs into her hand, and for a moment, she can feel its strength coursing through her, helping her stand and fight with the last vestiges of her power until her vampire is a pile of dust on the floor.
She slumps to the ground, her newfound strength drained as quickly as it had come, and closes her eyes, awaiting death.
It never comes. Instead, a pair of boots stop in the hall in front of her and a vampire crouches down to stare at her.
"Where'd you get that, pet?" he asks her softly, reaching for the scythe. She tightens her grip on it, trying to squint at the newcomer through damaged eyes. He gasps. "…Buffy?"
Then she's being gently lifted into the vampire's arms and he's slipping into a side room, laying her down on what's too soft to be a bed and moving away. There's a loud crash nearby, and then he's back, giving a satisfied grunt. "That was the camera. Idiots."
"You sound like Spike," she whispers.
"Yeah." He brushes a finger down the length of a hollowed cheekbone. "What did they do to you?"
"Injection," she manages. "They…I'm dying."
"Like hell." He kisses her brow. "I should have gotten here sooner. Got held up at the border because they found the holy water…I had to come back twice from two other locations. I only made it in yesterday, and I haven't even found Angel yet." He sits down beside her, his hands running through her hair.
And suddenly, she can easily believe that it's Spike, because he's always gone for her hair first, and it makes her mourn her formerly long locks for the first time since they were shorn, the last bit of vanity that suddenly matters. "Are you the cavalry?"
She can dimly see him shrug. "I'm the vampire who just dumped ten gallons of holy water into the blood supply. S'not horses, but it's nearly as good."
She tries to smile. "I love you."
"Yeah." He kisses her on the lips. "You're delirious. Let's get you out of here, Slayer."
She can already feel her strength returning after just a few days in Spike's apartment, and her eyesight is back to normal after only a good night's sleep and a meal that seems to consist of all the takeout that the closest Chinese restaurant has ever offered. The Slayers' Bane wears off quickly, and while she can still feel its toxic aftereffects in her system, her slayer healing is battling it successfully.
And the best part of it is Spike, who's really here, not dead, and treating her like a princess. She splays her legs out on the couch, resting them on his lap and sighing with contentment as he massages her atrophied muscles. "How much longer before the poisoned blood gets to the vampires?"
"Shouldn't be more than a week," he says thoughtfully. "Angel should be keeping an eye on it on the inside, and Willow's supposed to monitor its movements."
Buffy jerks up. "Willow. She's okay? I thought-"
"She's not a slayer," Spike says quietly, and she slumps back down, feeling sick. "I'm sorry, love. Your friends made it out. Dawn, too. We met in Rome and she seems happy. Worried about you, but happy. There isn't much slayer hate in Italy."
"Good." She doesn't ask about the slayers. She's seen too many of them in the prison not to know what happened to them. "Any other sympathizers? How's the media treating this?"
Spike doesn't answer, just squeezes her thigh and looks away.
That's what she discovers when she goes online the next day. Slayers have been written off as villains, and now that the vast majority of them are contained, nobody cares anymore. Oh, there are a few activists, a few anti-vampire or anti-slayer message boards that fight vigorously about the fates of their subjects, but there's little they've done beyond a rally or two and a few online petitions. The threat is over, the enemy dealt with, and America's ready to forget.
Nobody knows what's going on in Twilight's prison. There's no legal or medical aid for nonhumans like slayers, and nobody bothers to find out if the slayers' treatment is humane. Nobody wants to think about it.
She cries hot, angry tears for her lost sisters, for the ones still fading away, for the folly of the world she's spent the past nine years protecting, and for the folly of her own betrayal of her girls.
The vampires are delivered their blood a few days later. Buffy sits with Spike on the bench opposite the prison and they watch silently as the guards take swigs of blood from their mugs and dust from the inside out. Over three-quarters of the vampire contingent of Twilight's forces are gone by the end of the attack, and most of the rest retreat, finally afraid. The war is over.
Slayers emerge from the prison, many of them close to death, Faith in Angel's arms, and the passersby recoil and try not to look at the skeletal girls. Twilight arrives at the prison hours later, when it's almost dawn and Spike is getting antsy.
Buffy stands. "Hi."
Twilight turns sharply. "Who the hell are you?"
"I'm Buffy, asshole," she announces, producing the scythe with exaggerated dramatic flair.
She stands tall as he takes in her cropped hair and hollowed face. "You…you've been one of ours all along! How did you-"
She swings the scythe and he runs.
In the end, it isn't the scythe that strikes him down. She's no killer, and that's somehow still a relief, even now. A starved vampire grabs him when he runs into the cafeteria, and he's drained moments before Buffy reaches him, panting from the exertion of running on her weak legs.
She stakes the vampire and stares down at the monster dead at her feet. In the end, he's just a man. A man who is the reason that she's lost one thousand slayers. A man who incited the world against them with a few well-placed accusations. Just a man.
She leaves the prison, scythe held high, and watches civilians overlook her again. Spike is waiting for her.
She reaches for his hand. "Ready to go?"
"Where to, pet?"
She looks around at the world she's saved time and again, and she closes her eyes. "Anywhere but here."