Princess Twilite

Summary: "She'll live." "By who's definition?"
Rating: PG-13
Story Notes: Spoilers through Season Seven (btvs), Season Four (ats)
Author Notes: Beta Reader: Serasempre. You tore me a new one, girl. Thank you. :) For Minim, because she's a fic hungry ho. This is a 'what could have happened' fic for the end of BtVS. Obviously, it's not what *did* happen. There are a few big spoilers, but most are vague at best to make room for this new little world.
Disclaimer: Not Mine
Site:Twilite's Whip

The rocking of the bus over broken pavement woke Wesley from his slumber. He yawned widely, blinking his eyes in blurry confusion when he found his face planted against the window, the ground running beneath the wheels outside. Everything was torn now, a harsh fragment of the world it once had been. He snuffled, rubbing the back of his hand over his mouth and straightened away from the glass, ignoring the imprint his dirty cheek left on the surface.

The seat creaked beneath his ass as he shifted, turning to face his companion. Buffy sat beside him stiffly, neck straight, facing forward. He sighed. She was breakable in the way stone was breakable.Very little showed on her face, but the hardened expression she wore said more than the fine trembling he'd noticed previously.

It never failed to make bile rise to the back of his throat when he remembered how hard it had been to convince Buffy to come. Too hard.

"You have to get up," he had said to her, pulling on her limp arms as she stared at her sister's dead body. "Buffy, please. We need to leave this place."

"Why?" She'd asked, a whisper bagged in plastic, blood dripping slowly from her bottom lip.

Wesley had thought, a long moment of silence while the sky flamed above them. As orange as hell must be. His words, when they came, were hard. "Because you have no reason not to."

Buffy turned her eyes up to him, face as blank as dead air. "She's dead. I died to save her once and now she's dead herself." the darkness reflecting from her gaze mirrored the blood she had witness spilled across the ground and onto her skin. So many dead. And those not dead had gone away.

Wesley couldn't help but touch her blood-crusted hair. She hadn't avoided his touch; he imagined she hadn't even felt it.

"I know." He shook his head, because how could he? "But others are alive. And while we are as well, our duty is to help them."

A slayer knows all about duty.

She stood, dropping Dawn's lifeless hand. "I have no reason not to."

Wesley wished he had been able to say something more. Beside him, Buffy looked terribly young and old at the same time. She'd become a dangerous paradox, severe and paper thin, who could just roll over and forget about the world if she wanted to. Why did she even continue on?

Wesley tore his gaze away, staring instead at the back of the driver's head, dampened with sunlight as they traveled east, the possibility of safety. After a moment, he leaned his head back against the seat, waiting for the molasses time to pass.

The sky was never dark anymore. Who knew what time it really was?

The bus came to a stop when they reached a small town in Northern Texas, outside of Amarillo. Wesley peered through the window, trying to get a clear image of the burned and looted town. Black smoke rose above the buildings, thick and fresh, but the fires appeared to have gone out, at least from what he could see. His forehead creased when he saw a small, pink bicycle lying on the sidewalk with its wheels missing.

The few passengers on the bus avoided each others' eyes as they all stood, yawning loudly and grunting in appreciation as they stretched their legs. The bus driver, Shaun, stood as well and Wesley almost found himself smiling. Shaun was only a man who had the gas and said to a group of bleeding, terrified people, "Get on if you're wanting to leave. It's the least we can do for each other in a time like this."

Wesley gently cupped Buffy's elbow as they grabbed what little they had and walked down the aisle toward the exit, looking more at their feet than at each other. "I'll try to find some food," he told her when they stepped off of the bus, into the hot sunshine. "Are you up to looking for water?"

She briefly glanced up at him. The bruise on her cheek had begun to fade, turning her skin a ghastly yellow color. Anything was better than the swollen fleshy purple that it had been when they'd first gotten onto the bus.

"I'm fine," Buffy replied. She reached up to tuck her hair behind her ear, and Wesley winced when she dropped her hand away with a pained expression. She'd chopped her hair off last night, when it became clear that there wouldn't be any chance of bathing for a while.

"I think I can manage to find some water," she continued, in a weary voice. "I saved the world didn't I?"

Wesley watched her look around bitterly at the destruction in this town so far away from Sunnydale. "Yes, Buffy. You did. If you hadn't, it would have been a lot worse than this."

"Everyone that I love is dead," Buffy said emotionlessly, and then turned away from him. She walked across the loose dirt, in torn jeans and bare, scratched feet. Even with slayer strength, she remained bloody and beaten, a testament to the fight she had endured.

Wesley said nothing as he watched her go, only stood for a moment with his hands in his pockets. When she turned a corner and was no longer in his sight, he went in the opposite direction, prepared to scavenge the ravaged town if only for a piece of bread. A half an hour later he came across a dead body, lying face down on the lawn of a large, blue house. He glanced at the corpse and sighed before walking toward the house.

He pushed through the splintered wooden door, not bothering to knock. If someone still lived there, then they would just have to turn him away. Wesley kept very quiet as he stepped over a broken lamp, peering around the corner of the entry way. His heart gave a sickening jolt at what he saw. In the kitchen, holding a spoon in her hard hand, an old lady sat in a rocking chair. Her hair was blue, eyes wide open and unseeing, body cold from death. She'd died alone, perhaps suffering through a heart attack, and no one had been there to help her.

Wesley swallowed down the acid taste of his own puke and looked away, moving into the room. He opened the cabinets quietly as if any noise might wake her from death.

Death. It was so prominent these days.

All gone. Every single one of them. It was ironic that they would be the ones to live. He and Buffy, when they didn't even really like each other all that much. He remembered the look on her face, caught only from the corner of his eye as he held a vampire at bay with a long wooden pole, when Spike fell to ashes with a group of vampires piled on top of him.

Desperately fighting the vampire off, staying alive by sheer luck, he'd still caught glimpses of her as she attacked them. There had been blood lust in her eyes as she killed them all, one by one, an eternal rage limned her face. He felt sorry, even now, because he understood. Still, he didn't want to think about Lilah, Fred, Angel, Gunn, Cordelia, anyone he had ever cared about.

There was Buffy, and there was him. That was the logic of the matter.

Wesley found only old taco shells in the cabinet, but at least it was something. He stuffed the box beneath his arm and continued to go through all the drawers and cabinets, going so far as to check the ones beneath the sink which were usually reserved for polish and dish detergent.

Nothing else. Not even a crumb.

With a frustrated sigh, he left the kitchen, careful not to look at the lady's accusing dead eyes. It wasn't like she would need the taco shells anymore anyway; someone should be able to put them to good use. Feeling guilty anyhow, he locked the door behind him as he left, as if it would really make a difference if someone wanted to get inside.

Cautiously, Wesley slid the box inside his jacket, zipping it up. He'd just have to tolerate the heat until he could share his find with Buffy. He didn't want to run the risk of fighting over a few stale shells. Eyeing the buildings around him, he searched for any sign of where she might have gone in search of water.

When he didn't see anything of interest, he began the slow trek back to the bus. The heat was killing him by the time he reached the outer edges of the town where the bus had stopped. It waited there, glaring with the light that glinted off its silver body. Shaun sat on the steps, shaded by the tin roof, keeping guard over their precious treasure, the bus.

Wesley nodded at him when Shaun looked up, and took a seat on the curb across the street. Wrapping his arms around his torso, he held the box close to his heart and waited. He didn't have a watch on anymore, he'd lost his in the fight, but it was about ten minutes before he saw her familiar form striding out of the sunlight and into the shadowy stretch between the buildings.

He stood as she approached, brushing the dirt off his pants, so stained they were beyond hope, as if it mattered. Wesley eyed the jug she had swinging near her hip with weak relief.

"I broke into a house," she said without preamble when she reached him. "I wasn't sure about the water lines, so I boiled some water. It's still hot."

Wesley nodded and unzipped his jacket. "This is all I could find," he told her, holding up the box of taco shells. "I only went into one house, but this town has been cleaned out. I don't think I would have done much better elsewhere."

She shrugged and was about to take the offered box when they both heard footsteps. Wesley quickly slid it back inside his jacket, re-zipping it. The sun burned down on him. Buffy shifted and looked around him, eyes narrowing. Wesley stayed very still as he waited for her reaction.

"Can I have a drink of water?" A female voice asked from behind him. A very soft female voice. Wesley craned his neck around, surprised when he had to look down to see who it was. A sun-burned little girl with a shallow crusted cut running down half of her face stared back up at him with the most impossibly brown eyes he had ever seen.

He swallowed and nodded. "Of course you can."

"Wesley," Buffy murmured uneasily, touching his shoulder.

He tossed her a look. "*Of course* she can." Her eyes flickered imperceptibly from him to the girl, and then she nodded slightly, dropping her hand. He moved out of the way as Buffy bent at the knees, untwisting the cap from the jug of water she held. The little girl took a couple shaky steps forward and held her small hands out for the jug.

Buffy tried to hand it to her, but the child couldn't lift the weight with her trembling hands. Wesley ground his teeth, attempting to keep from feeling pity for this little girl who was destined to either live or die in a world such as this one. Buffy was obviously having the same problem, biting her lip as she held the jug up for the little girl to drink from.

"It's hot," she warned the child gently, before tipping it to her lips. "But it will keep you from getting dehydrated."

The little girl took hefty swallows, nearly choking on the water as she gagged as much of it down as she could. A survivor then, he thought. After she'd taken as much as she could, the little girl backed up a few steps, wiping the water from her mouth and wincing as it pulled on the blood-crusted cut branding her face.

"Are you all alone?" Wesley asked, bending down himself so that he wouldn't intimidate her. The girl's eyes darkened a shade as she nodded. "Where are your parents?"

"They... went away. To the happy place."

Wesley heard Buffy gasp beside him and took a difficult breath. "How long ago did they go to the happy place?"

She shook her head. "I don't know. The sun is always shining. And I can't see really well out of my left eye. There's something wrong with it."

Wesley eyed the cut on her face. "Yes, there is. What's your name?"

Her expression grew wary and she took another step back. "I'm not supposed to tell you. You're a stranger."

He nodded and stifled the urge to pull her into his arms and protect her like a little girl should be protected. "Okay, then, that's fair. Why don't you tell me what you would like to be called then?"

She thought about it for a minute, bottom lip poking out. "I don't know... Jennifer? I have a friend named Jennifer and she's really pretty. But she's mean to me."

"Is she?" Wesley smiled a little and it felt out of place on his tired jaw. "Why?"

Jennifer shrugged, scrunching up her eyebrows. "I wouldn't give her my Barbie doll. Is she in the happy place too?"


"Hmm. I don't think I'd like the happy place very much. Bad stuff happens so you can go there."

Wesley froze, tossing a glance up at Buffy who had her arms wrapped around herself as if it was a chilly day instead of blistering with heat. Her eyes met his, filled with knowledge. So many bad things happened to get to that good place. If that good place even existed at all.

"Well, Jennifer," he said, after a moment, still looking at Buffy. "Would you like to accompany me and my friend on a little adventure?" But when he turned to look at the child again, he only saw her back as she ran in the other direction, the tail end of her skirt caught up in the air as if she was playing.

Wesley stood as if to chase after her, but Buffy's strong hand grabbed onto his forearm, holding him back. "We have to..."

"No," Buffy said sternly. "Let her go. She's better off by herself than with two adults that barely have a whole heart between them."

He stared after Jennifer as Buffy put the cap back onto the jug and easily lifted it. She began walking toward the bus, sun catching in her shortened hair, before stopping and looking at him over her shoulder. Wesley only stared at her.

"Are you coming?" She asked. "There's no reason not to."

The words flattened his heart. Wesley looked one more time at the space where Jennifer had stood and then, with extra weight on his already burdened soul, followed Buffy's soldier straight figure as she strode toward the bus.

Shaun wiped a streak of sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand as they approached him. He was a beefy man with more weight around the middle than was strictly healthy for him, but his face was jovial and round. Laugh lines were visible in the skin around his mouth, lines that Wesley had often wondered about on the ride, when there was nothing else but dead friends and hard images to think of. He'd never seen Shaun smile. Not once. It was understandable of course, but a face like that deserved to smile.

"What's wrong?" Wesley asked Shaun when it became apparent by the pinched quality of his face that there was a problem. Buffy stiffened at his side and Wesley shot her a quick look, touching the back of her arm to calm her. She glared lethally up at him and he quickly took his hand away, clearing his throat uncomfortably.

Shaun shook his head, shifting on the stairs. "We need gas. I knew it before, but it's pretty much at the point now, if we don't get gas we're screwed."

Wesley raised an eyebrow. "And you're only telling us now? We just wasted over an hour of time where we could have gotten fuel and been done with it already."

Shaun grimaced up at him, facing creasing, replacing laugh lines with frown lines. "I was trying to figure out a way around it," he explained. "I don't know what the hell we're gonna do."

"Well, I think the first step should definitely be looking for some gas," Buffy said sharply. Without another word, she left them there. Wesley and Shaun watched her stride quickly away.

"She's been hurt real bad, hasn't she?" Shaun asked, but it wasn't much of a question. Sadness seemed to have taken up permanent residence on his face as he looked away from the young woman running toward the sun. "Looks like a chunk of her soul left her."

Wesley's lips thinned and he directed his attention back to Shaun. "She'll live."

"By who's definition?"

"I have to catch up with her."

He caught up with her a minute later. She didn't bother looking up to see who it was. The yellowing bruise on her face looked darker in the bright sunlight, as if it reached beneath her skin and brought her blood to the surface.

"You're staring," she muttered, a warning. Wesley looked away, before unzipping his jacket and once more taking out the box. He opened it, aware that he'd snared her attention. Reaching inside the rustling plastic, he took out an old shell, handing it to her. She accepted it without a word, immediately taking a large bite and chewing loudly.

He supposed he couldn't really judge, since he did the same exact thing a second later. As if late to the party, his stomach began to growl. It had given up complaining a few hours ago, contenting itself with eating the fats his body had stored up for such an occasion. Now, with food on its way, it grumbled to full attention.

As they ate, they walked through the town in search of a gas station. Occasionally, they passed a fellow passenger of the bus, but they didn't speak with them. They didn't even know each others' names. A building on the left side of the street had completely caved in on itself, smoke rising from its rubble. Further down the road, a gray cat that might have once been white, stood on the hood of a car that no longer had wheels, a door, or even windows.

Destruction was everywhere. Wesley couldn't help but stare at it, even though he had seen the same exact thing in Sunnydale when he'd gone with his newly reacquainted friends to the Hellmouth to try and help Buffy save the world. Friends that had been picked off by demons, one by one. Sacrificed to the cause.

Tears burning his eyes, he focused on the urgent needs of now. It wouldn't do to cry. One day he would, but not now, not until they'd found a safe place to settle.

It might have been hours or it might have been less than one, but they found an aged convenience store with rusted gas pumps in front of it. He placed his forearm in the air in front of Buffy to keep her from walking on. She looked up at him quizzically, squinting her eyes to see clearly through the blinding sunlight. Wesley gestured toward the store at the corner ahead of them.

Relief washed over her face and together they jogged toward the building. Its windows were smashed, the entrance door completely torn off and lying on the ground in front of it, but there appeared to be some useful supplies left inside.

"We have to find something to put the fuel in," Wesley stated, stepping carefully over the fallen door and offering her a hand to help her do the same. She looked at him in exasperated surprised, raising an eyebrow. He only continued to hold his palm out. Eventually, avoiding his gaze, she took it and let him help her across the twisted metal and glass so that she wouldn't damage her bare feet further.

"Thanks," she whispered.

Wesley squeezed her hand in response. Inside, shelves had been tipped over and the cigarette case had been successfully raided and emptied.

"Thank heavens I don't smoke," he muttered to himself. "And that I don't have sex often," he said when he saw the condom rack tipped over, containers emptied of their contents. "Even at the end of the world, people have their priorities. Fools."

Slightly irritated, Wesley picked his way through the store, searching for something to hold fuel long enough to get it into the bus. He saw a sign that said there was a bathroom in the back and followed it. A loo would have at least a bucket of some sort, wouldn't it? The closer he got to the room however, the stronger a disgustingly familiar scent became. When he pushed open the bathroom door, he wasn't surprised to find a dark haired man hunched over near the toilet with a bullet wound between his eyes.

"We don't need demons to end the world," Wesley said bitterly to the quiet, blood-splattered room. "We can end it fine all by ourselves."

Stepping over the body, he opened the cabinets below the sink, stifling the urge to shout 'eureka' when he found three 1 gallon jugs, filled with liquid plumber and an unlabeled liquid that he couldn't quite put a name to. Worry slightly eased (as much as it could be, anyway), he pulled two of them out, tucking one beneath his arm while he bent down to grab the last.

He turned. Buffy stood in the doorway, staring at the corpse. Wesley gave a little squeal he was immediately ashamed of and flinched back.

"Bloody hell!"

She lifted her chin and blinked at him. "What's up with you?"

"I just... you frightened me."

Buffy's nose wrinkled, eyebrows drawing together. "You're standing right next to a dead body and *I* scared you?" When he nodded, she rubbed a tired hand over her face. "God, that makes me sad."

"Buffy..." He took a step forward, but she held up a hand and he stopped in his tracks, waiting while she took a deep breath. It was painful to witness her struggle for control.

"I'm fine," she said, biting it out between her teeth, cheeks pulled taut as her face transformed into stone again. "I just came to tell you that I couldn't find anything to put the gas in, but it looks like you did, so it doesn't matter."

Wesley stared at her blankly, before handing her one of the jugs and moving forward, forcing her to take a step back so he could pass her. As he did, he caught just a hint of her scent. *Her*. Not the dirt. Feeling uncomfortable, he hurried down the dark, poster- covered hallway to the main room of the store.

"We should get whatever food we can carry," he suggested, voice a little rusty.

In the mirror on a spinning sunglasses display (without the sunglasses, of course) he caught sight of her puzzled frown. Shaking it off, he made himself focus on searching through the debris. Climbing over and up-turned shelf, he pushed a few torn bits of newspaper aside and found a flat metal container.

Picking it up, he read the name out loud. "Sardines." He wasn't a fan of them, but it was food all the same. Buffy still had the water, so that wasn't the first priority at the moment. Band- aids. He should find some, because they would be more than useful in the future. And Rubbing-alcohol as well, for the cuts on her feet. He imagined she'd struggle like a banshee, but it was for the best.

From the corner of his eye as he slipped the items he needed into his pockets, Wesley saw Buffy hop over the counter, landing agilely behind the cash register, not even wincing when her sliced up skin touched the floor. She was probably used to running and performing acrobatics when she was in pain.

Young. Strong. Sad.

Wesley looked away. He had spotted another can and started to reach for it when a large crash sounded through the room. Wesley ducked instinctively, crouching as if it was meant for him, before realizing that nothing painful followed. Standing cautiously and peering over his shoulder where the noise had come from he found Buffy had shoved the cash register off of the counter.

She stood there, glaring at him, chest heaving. And then she moved into action again, spots of red flagging her cheekbones as she tore cigarette ads from the wall in a mad rush of fury, yelling wordless things into the air, screaming one long obscenity after another. Wesley stood in shocked disbelief. Had she finally gone mad? He couldn't blame her if she had.

She went for the lottery machine, lifting it over her head and heaving it across the room. "He has family!" Buffy screamed.

Wesley had no idea what she was talking about, but it broke him from his trance.

"Buffy," he shouted and scrambled across the downed shelves, toward the trembling girl behind the counter. When she saw him coming, she looked around desperately for something else to throw. This time he had no doubt as to what her target would be. Not eager to be a victim of her sudden insanity, Wesley slid across the counter, grabbing her wrist when she punched out at him. He barely dodged the knee she sent to his groin, blocking it with his thigh and twisting her arm behind her back.

He couldn't hold her for long; she was far stronger than he ever would be. Wesley found himself with his back to the wall, being shoved up it slowly as she gripped his lapels and lifted him from the ground. Mouth gasping open, he stared down at his toes dangling in the air. 'Oh, Father, if you could only see me now,' he thought. 'This is more emasculating than anything you've ever done to me.'

"He has a family!" Buffy yelled into his face. "And now he's gone!


Wesley blinked, breathing with difficulty as the shirt he wore cut into his windpipe. "Buffy," he choked out. "I don't understand what you're talking about."

She shook her head, tears blurring her eyes as she let him down just the slightest. The air returned to his lungs and he swallowed it gratefully, staring at her wild face in frightened confusion.

"The man," Buffy whispered. "In the bathroom. He's dead and he has a family that will never see him again."

"How do you know?" Wesley asked and Buffy blinked at him, letting him drop completely onto his feet. He reached up and wrapped his fingers around her wrists, holding onto them as her eyes drifted toward the floor. Wesley followed her gaze, seeing a handful of pictures that Buffy must have found strewn across the tiles.

Photographs of the dead man very much alive, with his two little girls and a woman that was probably his wife.

Figuring it out, he squeezed her wrists, bringing her attention back up to him.

"They're all gone," she said softly, tears blurring her eyes, glinting with the half-light the sun tossed in through the broken lights. "All of them. Oh, God. Everyone I love is dead."

It was the same thing she had said earlier, but this time, it was as if she truly felt it, like a punch to the solar plexis. She bent at the waist, her wrists twisting in grasp. Wesley watched uneasily as she began to cry. No soft tears for Buffy Summers. She wept with a frantic, exhausting energy.

Moved, he touched her shoulders, bending at the knees to catch a glimpse of her face. Buffy squeezed her eyes shut, tears leaking from beneath the lids as he wrapped his arms around her, palms flat against her shoulder blades. Broken, she let herself be held, twisting her fingers into the fabric of his jacket and pressing her face into his neck. Her hot tears scalded his skin as he let himself slip to the floor, cradling her in his lap as she sobbed like she might never stop.

Wesley stared sightlessly ahead, silent.

It might have been night, or it might have been morning, Wesley couldn't really say for sure. But it was hours later when Shaun pulled the bus back onto the interstate and drove around the abandoned cars that littered it like candy wrappers glinting in the sunshine.

He'd given Buffy the window seat and she sat there quietly, staring at the horizon through the darkly tinted glass. Her hair stood up at odd angles and her eyes were swollen from tears and the previous fight.

Wesley remembered his words to Shaun. 'She'll live.'

Shaun's response haunted him. 'By who's definition?'

The End