Trixie Firecracker

Summary: Buffy's in Romania, Wesley's in LA. Postcards from a secret winter.
Rating: R
Story Notes: Spoilers through A:tS 4x22 Home, BtVS 7x22 Chosen.
Disclaimer: Joss owns the Buffy and Angelverses. I do not.

My favourite thing to do is stand in front of the mirror. My reflection glares back at me, unblinking, silent, still. Sometimes I can do that for hours. Sometimes minutes. It always ends with my finger tapping the switch. So I can watch myself disappear. It as if there is a black zipper snaking from my belly button and curving like a bowl around my forehead. The teeth snap quickly. Bzzzpt. I am swallowed.

It is not like it was when Heaven spit me out through Willow's belly and left me breathing dirt in a silk lined coffin. It is not like it was when I could still feel Angel's blood stinging my fingers as I touched others and kissed Scott and saw that stupid ring in every glint of silver. It is not like it was when I heard the wind chimes and watched Dawn crack her knuckles on the floor of her school. There have been changes in my life. Everyone goes through them. Big losses, big loves - as Faith would say. Deal and move on. I have.

This time, I have.

We live on the lip of Bucharest, just outside the city. We stopped in Prague and I remembered Spike's stories, like tiny whispers up my spine. I saw Dru and thought she was burning from the inside out. The mob had gotten to her. Skin dripped off and came lashing down on my hands. Bloody sick. But so fucking beautiful, Slayer. She looked beautiful. Giles' contacts smuggled us through the countries without much trouble. I found a few vampires for the SITs to slay. Faith and Wood kept disappearing to have sex, and eventually, they just never came back. I wasn't surprised. Move on. I blew a kiss to the salt air and said Goodbye to them.

Giles found us a house. It's cold and creaky and it settles during the night. Dawn always giggles as she feels the walls move. "Mom would be really mad that I'm living here," she told me seriously one night. "But I don't mind."

I thought about how Sunnydale had been sucked into Acathla's mouth and touched her chapped lower lip. "I'm sorry." Dawn looked confused, but said no more.

The field behind the house is wide and sprawling, with fences surrounding it. Willow and Kennedy train the Slayers on the wet grass, commanding them to get up when they fall on their knees, smoothing lotion on their scrapes and teaching them what they can of battle. Every day, Giles meets with his contacts. He gathers the Slayers up in his palms, spilling them like change into our lives, letting them roll carelessly until they settle. He never learns their names. One died of pneumonia the first week. I didn't know her name, either, but I went to her funeral service in the backyard and put a flower on her grave. It is the least I could do.

I am their Mother (would that make Spike their father?), but I feel as if I have aborted them all - left them half-alive, struggling to awaken in strange new worlds they know nothing of. Willow and Kennedy don't let me help them anymore. They say I scare the girls.

So I stand in front of the mirror, making myself disappear. Or I make sandwiches in the kitchen. My speciality is Dawnie's favourite. Peanut butter with bananas and corn chips. They're disgusting, but everyone loves them. I watch Xander out of the corner of my eye. He usually lolls on the veranda, no matter what the weather, a cup of tea in his hand, the eye not blinded by the patch seeking the young girls training. Only I know the tea is laced with vodka. He's become an alcoholic, right before me, and I haven't even tried to stop him.

Leaving the bathroom now, I am surprised to see Xander walking unsteadily up the steps. He nods at me. "Postcard for you."

"From Angel?" he's the only one who knows this address. Something must be wrong.

"Don't know. Didn't read it." The words are clipped, and his hand shoves against mine as he gives me the piece of crisp paper. There are little bite marks on his palms. From his own teeth or from one of the girls? I don't know.

I don't read the postcard right away. As I take the straight flight of steps to the attic, I remember the conversation I had with Angel after Heaven. I remember saying I was like cookies that hadn't been baked when he came with the amulet. I remember before Spike died.

I called Angel once when we got here. From a pay phone in the city. It cost a lot of money but I didn't tell anyone. They'd have complained - but it couldn't be helped. It seemed somehow important that Angel know I was all right. Especially since he was the only one who could get word out that the Slayer was still alive. If the demons thought I was dead, who knew what kind of chaos would emerge from the bowels of the world? But they'd believe Angel. Angelus, brother, vampyre. They'd believe him.

The pay phone smelled of grease and mustard. The dial tone was familiar, reassuring. The number was easy to remember. When he answered, I was chirpy. "Hey!"

He didn't sound too pleased. "Buffy. I thought you were dead."

"So don't you think you could sound a little happier to hear from me?"

He growled. "No. What happened?"

"Sunnydale's a hole. We had to split in the Magic School bus." I was irritated by his attitude.

"Who's 'we'?" he asked suspiciously.

My eyes narrowed. "Me and Spike. Actually, he's here right now, but he's too busy sucking on my toes to come to the phone."



I could almost hear him trying to control his temper. "Who's 'we?" he asked again.

"Giles, Willow, Kennedy, Dawn, me and the Slayers in Training." I paused. "Spike's dead. He saved the world with the amulet you gave me. Happy now?"

"Not completely," he murmured.

"Good thing."

"What's your phone number?"

"That information isn't up for grabs," I said firmly. "We need to keep the lowest of low profiles right now. I can give you a basic address—but it's not exactly where we are."

"You don't trust me?"

"Can we not be silly?" I asked softly. "This isn't my decision."

"Everything's your decision."

"Not everything."

He cleared his throat. "Do you need anything? Money?"

"No," I lied. "The government paid us some. To keep this hushed up and safe from the big bad media. They're scared Sunnydale will turn into another Area 51, I guess."

"Area 51?" he echoed blankly.

A sigh and I shook my head. "Never mind. But you might want to do the grocery shopping once in a while."

He chose to ignore me. "Are you sure there's nothing I can do?"


"Get the word out that you're alive," he finished for me. "Yeah, that's a given."

"That's about the it." I gave him the address quickly, and heard the scratching of ink on paper.

"Romania?" he said with a slight laugh. "Make sure to hunt down Vlad while you're there."


"And do some reading while you're at it."

"I repeat... Area 51?"

Angel chuckled again and then added softly; "I hope you get to see the Black Sea."

I shivered. "Sounds... a little ominous."

"Like everything else in life. You just have to be careful."

My money was ticking away. Any moment now I knew the operator would click on and speak in a language I didn't understand. But I didn't want to hang up. Desperate for a taste of a world I had left behind. Yes, Sunnydale was swallowed—but did that mean that everything that had happened there was gone too?

"How are you, Angel?"

He sounded faintly surprised. Vague. "I'm fine. How are you?"

"Past pleasantries," I admitted. "I should go."

He hesitated. "Will you be back?"

Will you be back... for me?

"I don't know."


He understood. "Goodbye, Buffy."

"Bye, Angel." I whispered it as I hung up the phone. My hands were shaking but there were no tears on my face. I had cried them all when my Mother died.

Now, I feel no twitch in my fingers as I hold the postcard. Settling down amongst my books and blankets by the window, I watch the streets below for a moment. It is snowing. I imagine it burying us in porous white, until we can't see, only breathe.

Finally, I glance down at the card. It is a picture of the Los Angeles sky at night. Smoggy, starless, usually, but the photographer obviously has an excellent art department. Turning it over, I get my first shock. Not Angel's writing.

I regret to write to you this way. However, Angel wasn't clear on a possible phone number in which to reach you. A rather delicate matter has arisen, which I felt you should be apprised of. Spike has returned to the so-called 'land of the living'. It seems as if he's been resurrected by the amulet that sent him to his death. It's rather perplexing, and we are attempting to ferret out the particulars. He has returned in the form of a ghost, and cannot leave the Los Angeles city limits as of yet.

He has expressed a desire to see or hear from you; however Angel was resistant to the idea. It is up to you, Buffy, as you are an adult now. Would you like to write to Spike? I thought you should be informed of this and be given the decision.

Wesley Wyndham - Pryce

Wesley. It takes me a long moment, but I finally conjure up an image. Bespectacled. Mini-Giles. Impossible number of crisp grey suits. But no, that's not what he looks like now. When I went back to hunt Faith - stubble, smell of oranges and dust, mussed hair, attractive in a way I found disturbing. But pushed away. Too much going on - too much with my two boyfriends. It still felt like that at the time. Two lovers. Angel and Riley and oh, who would I choose?

A smirk plays on my mouth. I realize with a sharp jolt that I'm avoiding the real issue.

But I don't want to see the words. Forcing myself, I read the postcard again. Spike is alive. Well, ok. Spike's alive.

"Spike," I test the name on my tongue. I taste it, but it reminds me of golden light and the smell of charred flesh. My last words were stupid and thoughtless - I love you - as if that really meant anything in the moment. As if it could ever mean anything. I love you, Spike. I love you for everything you've done to me.

A ghost. Wesley hasn't given me enough detail. Not exactly shocking, considering what I recall of his personality. Is he dangerous? Is he hurting people? Did Angel still think he ruled my life, or what?

Tearing a page out of one of my books, I pen a quick note in response. I don't think through my words. Tomorrow, I'll mail it out. Right now, I just want to sit and watch the stars flood the sky.

Thanks for trusting me enough to let me know. I guess Angel doesn't feel the same way - no surprise. I'm a little shocked, of course. Is he really 'alive'? Does he still have the soul? More importantly, is he any danger to you and the rest?

I don't think talking to each other will do us much good, right now. Sunnydale is swallowed. It should stay that way.


Wesley's postcard in return only takes three days to arrive. I wonder briefly if he is using magic and then decide I don't care. It is only Willow I worry about when she lets sparks alight on her fingers like fireflies. She and Kennedy fight sometimes. I hear snatches of words - You're not Tara — I know, Willow! She's dead! - but ignore them. As long as they continue to shoulder the burden of the girls, I don't mind how they live.

It is early morning when Wesley's card comes. Frost spears the blades of grass in the back, but the Slayers are already training. Xander sits with his usual companion. I keep my eyes off the bottle of vodka as I flop down on the bench beside him.

"Where's Giles?"

He doesn't look at me. "In the city."

"You know." I stop suddenly and then press my palm to my forehead. Sweat prickles on my eyebrows. "You know - when we left? You were braver than this. What changed?"

His voice is flat. "You tried to kill her once. Just be happy she's dead."

"How can you even say that to me?"

"The way I see it," he continues, "we're even."

My bones ache. "What do you mean?"

"You know."

I do. William and Anya. Both lost in the ash.

Standing, I almost reach out and touch the black covering his eye. "I am sorry, Xand."

"Not sorry enough," he snaps without any rancour. There is no energy left in his body for hatred. I almost wish in that moment that he wouldhate me. Anything but this snowy silence.

I glance up at a tapping on the porch door. The wood creaks beneath my feet as I pad over to where Dawn stands, pressed to the glass like a little ghost. Her hair hangs almost to her waist. She is beautiful, and I mourn that too. There is no one here to appreciate how beautiful she is becoming.

"What is it?"

She holds up the postcard and waves it a little. A seascape. Ocean blue and hot sand.

"From Angel?" she mouths, shrugging.

"Probably," I say, opening the door and grabbing it. "Thanks, Dawnie. Did you have breakfast yet?"

"Left over sandwiches," she nods. "There's mold on the bread."

My head throbs sharply. "I'll buy some more. Why don't you keep Xander company?"

She rolls her eyes. "Oh, yay."

But she goes willingly. She is the only one he tolerates. I always thought, if it came to this, he would spin towards Willow as if driven - but it is the opposite. How well did I ever really know them? Sometimes I think they are my children as well. I gave birth to them when I moved to Sunnydale, and they have been stumbling - without guidance - since.

My gaze drifts down to the card.

Spike is anxious to have contact with you, but I doubt you'd find him very personable at the moment. He is no danger that we know of. The only danger is that one of us will quickly become exasperated with him and perform an exorcism. Of course he has tried a few tricks, but Angel is too smart for him.

As for the question of his being 'alive' - he is still a vampire. He is a ghost, at the moment. The soul is intact. How did he receive his soul, if I might ask? Everyone here is still fuzzy on the details.

Wesley WP

Angel is too smart for Spike? Wondering what Wesley is smoking, I make my way through the ramshackle living room into the kitchen. It is the warmest room in the house. A huge fireplace rests against the back wall - sometimes Dawn plays Cinderella and makes Kennedy order her around. Smiling at the memory of their last game, I drop Wesley's postcard on the table and pile wood, lighting a match and watching it begin to burn. My hands come away black, and I wipe them carelessly on my jeans. We are running out of kindling. The bread is moldy. Giles is still in the city. Spike is back.

I stop for a moment, trying to think of more bad things. Oh yes, Xander the alcoholic. My sister playing Little Orphan Annie. And me. You're not the one girl in all the world anymore. How's that feel? Staring at the Sunnydale sign crashing into the teeming pit. Yeah, Buffy, what are we gonna do now? Gathering them all onto the bus and smelling the blood. I looked back once. Miles to go. It was 7:30 in the morning and we were leaving with no plans to come back.

I write a quick note to Wesley at the kitchen table.

Cliff's Notes? He went to Africa. He came back crazy. The rest is a big barrel of confusion, in my opinion. He was never clear on where he got the soul. It was a surprise to me—I didn't know they were selling them at the local discount mall. It changed him, but in a strange way. He doesn't seem to feel the same level of remorse that Angel does. I'm not sure if that's just because of his personality, or what.

Spike's a mystery. I'd be careful around him.


Understatement. Filling the sink with water and detergent, I wash the dishes and then clean the table free of bread crumbs and smears of oily peanut butter. I cut the mold from the bread methodically. We can't afford to throw it out. Beneath the oven is stashed a bottle of Jack Daniels. Wanting to pour it down the drain; instead, I take a shot and feel its welcome heat filter through my veins.

Giles voice is dry from the doorway. "I would have thought I'd be more likely to catch Xander imbibing."

I cough slightly. "I was cold. Did you get any money?"

"Some," he answers absently, dropping his bags by the mini-fridge. The shadows beneath his eyes are like indigo silk. "We may have another coming."

"Who is she?"

"A wealthy girl," Giles responds, beginning to boil water for tea. "Her parents are resistant. But she is no longer safe where she is."

"Maybe they can send some cash," I say hopefully.


"Spike's back."

He looks at me. "How did you know?"

"A little birdie from LA," I answer. "How did you know?"

"A contact at the embassy," he sits down, stirring a teabag into the dark depths of his mug. "I was planning on informing you when we had a spare minute."

I shrug. "It's ok. What's the word?"

"He's no danger."

My breath is sticky from the alcohol. "Maybe not to some people."

"You think he'll attempt to find you?" Giles sips his tea.

"If his history is any barometer, he's already moved on to the next big love interest," I chuckle without humour. "Besides, he can't really know where I am. Angel wouldn't tell him."

"You're correct on that score," Giles says wryly. "I highly doubt Angel is too pleased to have Spike back in his life."

I sift through the sour memories and can only remember little flashes of lightening. Spike and I are in a band. Angel, why don't you come on in? You're just a shell of a loser. I started it, you know. The soul thing.

"He's jealous of him."

"Of course he is," Giles responds gently. "They're jealous of each other."

"I don't see why," I return.

"Don't you?"

Feeling cornered, I shrug. "Different things happen with different people. How can you really measure what's important and what's not?"

He finishes his tea and begins to rinse the mug. "If you believe I'm asking you to make a choice between them, you're quite wrong." He smiles briefly, wearily. "Someday you may have to decide what you want, Buffy, but the time for that is not upon you. I'm simply pointing out that their feelings for each other are mired with confusion - not only because of you, but also because of their past. For many years, they were the vampires that ruled the demon world - together. I'm afraid it is something neither of us can understand."

Of course. All of the years. I used to feel it when I'd crawl into the crypt with Spike. So much history between them that I would never see, never feel, never taste or touch and it wasn't fair. Goddamn Order with such specific names - Angelus, William the Bloody, Darla, Drusilla - and I was simply one girl without a name anyone would ever remember.

"Story of my life." I kiss Giles on the forehead. His skin feels chapped and smells like the wind.

The next two weeks bleed together with postcards.

I am trying to keep an eye on Spike, but it's difficult. Running a law firm is a fulltime job, and it doesn't allow a lot of free time to shadow a dangerous vampire.

The business of the soul makes me uneasy. He doesn't seem to have come by it in a way that would suggest it holds any validity. How was he acting when he returned? 'Crazy' seems like a harsh word. Was he literally insane? Have you ever seen any evidence that he, does, in fact have a soul? Wesley

Running a law firm? I've been out of the loop too long. Angel definitely didn't mention that when we had our phone call.

He just was. Crazy. He was acting weird. Scratches on his chest from trying to get it out, I guess. I think it was the First Evil making him loopy though. He was better when he got out of the basement of the school. Spike's always been a question mark - I always followed my instinct with him, so I guess I just assumed he was fine. He never showed much remorse over anything but what he did to me. Buffy

Technically I suppose Angel runs the firm. We were given the opportunity to take over the law firm, Wolfram and Hart, which was once our greatest enemy in Los Angeles. Now, we are attempting to use it for good and not evil - to put it in clichéd terms. Angel and I handle the general running of the firm, Fred is the head Scientist and Harmony is Angel's secretary. I'm not sure if you've met Gunn.

How are you finding Europe? Angel has never been clear about where you are. Wesley

I've never told Angel exactly where we are. Part of the deal we made with the government is that we lay low for a while. They're trying to hush up what happened in Sunnydale. No surprise, seeing as the media might be interested in the little factoid of a town being swallowed by the Hellmouth. All I can say is that where we are is beautiful, but the company's pretty bleak. All I do is train Slayers and read poetry. I'm turning into Giles. Buffy PS: Wait, Harmony is Angel's secretary?

You are correct. Harmony works for us. Or rather, she irritates us and answers the phone occasionally. I think she's still quite besotted with Spike, which is rather sad. He takes no notice of her- he's much more interested in bothering Angel. I have not told him I'm corresponding with you. But I think he is still eager to talk to you - is there a phone number where he could reach you?

Poetry? The Buffy I remember would not have been one for poetry. How hard did you hit your head during the final fight? Wesley

Ha Ha. So you grew a sense of humour. I happen to like poetry. It's much more uncomplicated than my life right now.

I don't want to talk to Spike. As I said, Sunnydale is dead. And so is he—to me, anyway. Buffy

I wish I could say the same. Unfortunately, he's in my face each and every day. I'll respect your wishes and will not tell him I have been in contact with you.

Have you read Yeats? Or Neruda? I would be pleased to send you some poetry, if you'd like. I must admit, I wouldn't have thought we'd have anything in common. Wesley

I smile faintly as I read his words. Cuddling deeper under the old velvet quilt I found one of the antique chests beside me in the attic, I ignore the growling in my stomach and wonder what to write back. Somehow I never really thought the letters between Wesley and me would get personal. Even talking about something as innocent as poetry seems like dangerous ground.


I stop for a moment. The smell of blood-oranges and dust. It was just for a brief moment. I looked up into dark as coffee eyes and took it all in. Stubble, tousled hair, different, different. It was almost like a warning. This was not the Wesley I knew. I could not order him around or speak sarcastically of screaming like a woman - he would not. I stared up at him in the mess of confusion and the velocity of sound and remembered a quote scribbled on one of Willow's papers - it might have been an incantation - I've got you belly-deep in me - and wondered why I was looking at Wesley and thinking of that but pushed it away. Disturbing and it wasn't the time.

I write back, many hours later, as I watch Xander braiding Dawn's hair in two plaits.

Sometimes people surprise you. Giles has stacks and stacks of poetry, but I don't think he's bothered to crack a book that doesn't star Dracula in about a dozen years. Sometimes I spend all day reading. The Slayers train with Willow and Kennedy and they don't seem to need me for much except inspirational speeches. There's a place up in the attic that smells like the old mansion in Sunnydale. I like to curl up there and read out loud.

As for Yeats, yes of course I've heard of him. I did attend a few classes in High School, you know. Neruda is one of my favourites. More with the imagery and less with the flowery stuff. I could definitely do without some of that crap. Maybe that's why I never warmed up to Wordsworth. Giles thinks that sacrilege. You're probably cursed with the same British mentality, right? Wordsworth = God = Be All and End All blah blah Until the End of Time.

One of my faves is Robert Frost's "Desert Places". Have you read that?

They cannot scare me with their empty spaces
Between stars - on stars where no human race is.
I have it in me so much nearer home
To scare myself with my own desert places.


The woods around it have it - it is theirs.
All animals are smothered in their lairs.
I am too absent-spirited to count;
The loneliness includes me unawares.

One of my favourites, also. No, while I do unfortunately claim British ancestry, I am not the biggest fan of Wordsworth. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that he was drilled into my brain by every teacher I was ever taught by. Sometimes familiarity does breed contempt. Don't judge Rupert too harshly. He was no doubt born loving William W- it's like knowing all the Beatles lyrics. It's simply ingrained in British genes.

How many Slayers have you gathered so far? I happen to know of another Hellmouth near Cleveland that is stirring because of the rest in Sunnydale. Have you any plans to come back?

I hope you enjoy the book of Yeats. It's a rather slender volume, I'm afraid. What is the weather like where you are? I try to imagine the attic room you write of. It must be cold.


A small package accompanies the letter. It is wrapped in paper the colour of gilt. I open it upstairs in the bathroom, in front of the mirror. "Collected Poems" by William Butler Yeats. I let it rest for a moment by the tube of toothpaste and watch it with wary eyes. It smells vaguely of burnt cigarettes and mothballs and the paper is worn with age and use. Reaching out after a long time, I read the first page.

To Wesley

On the Occasion of your Seventeenth Birthday

Love, your Mother 1988

The script is tight and constricting, as if the ink would like to bubble forth, but cannot. The pads of my fingers trace the name and the date. Wesley is thirty three years old. My belly feels hot, my eyes blank.

I turn out the light.

When I emerge, hours later, the sky is glowing red with the sunset. I can see the spires of one of the cathedrals in Bucharest from my attic window. I went there once, two weeks after we arrived. Its ancient doors creaked as I opened them; stealing inside with all of the grace I once used to stalk graveyards. Inside, it was hushed, burning with the thousands of candles lit for remembrance, for hope, for prayer, for forgiveness.

I stared at the stained glass for long moments. A kaleidoscope of colours that were a shock after the endless white outside. It had not stopped snowing for days, and I needed relief. I listened to the choir practicing their hymns, the music almost unbearably beautiful. Later, I knelt and lit two candles. One for my Mother, one for the Dead I could not save. Joyce, Tara, Spike, Anya.

"Please keep them safe," I whispered. Dawn, Giles, Xander, Willow. My girls. "I've never asked for anything else."

As I left, I considered stealing the collections box. We needed milk. Instead, I dropped ten pennies inside and heard them clank to the bottom.

Now, as I stare at the way the tower pierces the sky, I want to be there again. In the peace. Instead, all I can hear is Willow and Kennedy practicing their magic downstairs in the living room. Crash, bang, boom. From the tinkering in the kitchen I glean that Xander and Giles are attempting to fix our leaky fridge. The bottom is rusted, so orange water spills over the floor during the night, much to Dawn's disgust. Where is she? I stand still on the landing, trying to use my senses to locate her in the house, to no avail. She is somewhere outside.

Once in the attic, I pull blankets over myself and pen a note back to Wesley.

The attic is very cold. It's pretty big, and is crammed to the brim with large boxes from all of the previous owners. I keep meaning to go through everything, but it always seems like there isn't time. Windows stretch the full length of the beams by the nook I always sit in and they overlook the street. Since we live on the edge of the city, we get all of the homeless people walking by. They all look as if they've forgotten their own names.

I don't know where Dawn is right now, which worries me. Hopefully she's with Xander. He's had a hard time since Anya died. He keeps having nightmares. His eye is ouchy, but we have no money for a doctor. All our cash is going towards food, shelter and the Slayers. We've found 15 so far, and they're all arrogant and stupid. Was I like that at sixteen? Don't answer me.

How's the Fang Gang in LA? I haven't heard you mention Cordelia. She still racking up credit card bills and acting like the Queen C we all love to hate?

The Yeats? Very much appreciated.

She lived in storm and strife,
Her soul had such desire
For what proud death may bring
That it could not endure
The common good of life


He responds in just under two days.

Cordelia is in a coma. It's a rather long story.

Do you need money? Just ask.

You were never stupid. Arrogant yes. Stupid, no. I suppose it's only to be expected. Sixteen is a hard age - if I can remember back that far. With the title of the Slayer comes enormous responsibility. I failed to see the guts of the operation or the heart behind it. Too wrapped up in books and protocol. I apologize.

I'm glad you enjoyed Yeats. He was a poet I shared with my Mother.

It's been a difficult night. I just got off the phone with England. It's raining there. Is it still snowing where you are? I write from my office. Los Angeles looks as if it's on fire with all the lights.

He questioned softly why I failed?
"For beauty," I replied.
"And I for truth, — Themself are one;
We brethren are," he said.


It takes me a few hours, but I find the quote to complete the poem.

So as kinsmen, met a night,
We talked between the rooms,
Until the moss had reached our lips,
And covered up our names

Bet you didn't think I could finish that, did ya? Emily Dickinson. "Tell all the truth, but tell it slant". I've had to do that so many times. Do you think poets just have a secret door into everyone's minds and they can pick brains? Not literally, because that would be gross... but figuratively?

Cordelia's in a coma? Give me the condensed version.

I don't need money. I need to win the lottery.

Are you actually making with the apologies? You can't see me, but I'm on the floor, dead. The world is ending. Must be Tuesday.


PS: The streets are covered with white. It hurts my eyes and the cold air hurts my lungs... I wish I could see what you see.

My breath hitches as I write the last line. It is the first concession I have made that I realize there is something happening. Or do I? I'm not sure if I even know enough to realize anything. Maybe he uses my letters as kindling. Maybe he is kissing someone else right now.

I mail the letter later, and then take a walk with Willow, up through the fields behind our house. She is dressed in a fuzzy white jacket and her hair drips like blood down her back. Everything glimmers in the mid-afternoon glow, and the sky looks orange beneath the shadow of my eyelids.

She stumbles slightly on a piece of wood, and I help her with careful fingers. "Thanks," she acknowledges softly. "Xander isn't getting any better."

"I know."

"Do you think we should call somebody?"

"To say what?" I ask. "Our friend is an alcoholic because his ex-girlfriend got sucked into the depths of fiery hell?"

"Well... it's a start."

I laugh quietly. "How did we get here, Will?"

"Through Prague."

"I'm serious."

"So am I."

"Remember when we thought we could do anything?"

Willow looks at me. "I don't remember anything before Tara."

"I'm sorry."

"Her grave was swallowed too." My oldest friend stares at the snow. "I just wonder what happened to her. You know? She must be out there somewhere. I promised her we'd always find each other. But does that stretch to Romania?"

I don't ask if she's happy with Kennedy. I don't ask because I know. Sometimes, when I lay in the circle of Riley's arms, I'd dream of other things. When I woke up, I never recognized myself in the mirror.

"Tara may have gotten a little lost..." I touch Willow's arm, "but I'm sure she knows where you are."

We walk until our feet freeze. As we head back down the hill, the sky floods with red and the sun crashes into the horizon. Another night and we're nowhere nearer to finding the day.

A few nights later, I have a dream about Spike. I am sitting on the floor of the mansion, playing with blocks. Everything else is grey, but they tumble from my hands in showers of green, blue, yellow and candy apple red. I have to make a tower. Steadying them with my palms, I begin to place them carefully. One on top of the other. Up and up, to the ceiling.

Spike ambles in from the bedroom, his hands in the pockets of his leather jacket. "Summers," he greets me genially.


He looks vaguely irritated, but says nothing. Crossing to the fireplace, he leans against it. "What're you doin'?"


"You look very pretty."

"I need more blocks." Pursing my lips, I look around. "Did you bring some?"

"Sad to say I didn't," he responds. "You look very pretty. I'd like to kiss your neck."

"I don't let vampires near my neck," I say waspishly. "Makes them too hungry. Bad for the skin."

Spike smiles toothily. "Why are we here?"

"I need to build. Why are you here?"

"Needed to see you. I'm back, y'know. Back from the dead. I walked straight into Hell."

"LA isn't Hell," I say firmly. "Be glad Angel didn't feed you to the homeless. I need more blocks."

"It's cold in here."

"You're not listening to me."

"I always listened. Did you mean what you said?"

I stare up at my tower. It shimmers with its kaleidoscope of crayola colours. Spike still looks grey, and I glance in his general direction. "I love you for everything you've done to me."

"That's what I thought."

The mansion closes around me like a fist, its fingers crackling with ice. "This is the room I could never breathe in," I whisper and Spike looks surprised.

"Plath. You really have gone nuts, Summers. But I—I love you, Buffy. I didn't forget you, Buffy."

"Stop saying my name."

"Why can't I?" he asks belligerently. "You said mine. My real one. Not allowed. You know I hate being reminded."

"I need more blocks." Agitated, I stand up and advance on him. "I need more. Did you bring some? Show me."

He slowly removes his hands from his pockets. They are on fire. Burning bright with orange flames, they reach out to touch my face.

"I am William," he murmurs, his lips a breath away from mine. "You look fucking beautiful, Slayer. Like you're burning from the inside out. Let me give you a kiss."

Just as the flesh of my cheeks begins to scorch and I taste the ashes of my hair; I jerk awake. Panting slightly, I sit up. It is still dark outside. I fell asleep in the attic, surrounded by books and an old mug of cold tea. The skin on the top of the liquid is silver from frost and looks like the Snow Queen's tears.

Seeking to orient myself, I fumble for Wesley's postcard. A single streetlamp from outside gives off faint light. I read the words, breathing deeply, trying to forget Spike's snaky eyes, his pallor, his burning fingers.

Cordelia is in a coma. That IS the condensed version, I'm afraid. We are simply waiting for her to awaken. It could be a long time (or perhaps never) before that happens.

Please accept this money and don't say another word about it. I may be many things, but I'm not cheap. Or so I would like to believe. Any contribution I can make to what you and Rupert are accomplishing is worthwhile. God only knows what would happen if Cleveland erupted. We need battle-ready soldiers. If there had been more in Sunnydale perhaps the loss of life would have been less.

The days are long here. Angel and Spike spend a lot of their time together. Fred does not exist outside of her lab - she is consumed by science and numbers and the act of figuring everything out. Sometimes I wonder if questions of science are more important than those of the heart. She takes her work so seriously but never herself.

Secretly I despise Spike. Secretly I suppose I do a lot of things. I fight Angel for dominance, because I feel I could run Wolfram and Hart with more surety than he is capable of. There was a time when I controlled our enterprise, and I have never really recovered from having that particular rug pulled out from beneath me. I am not sure if it is wrong to want to be in control. You, of course, would know so much of that. Your destiny has been planned and calculated. Questions of science, indeed.

It will be Christmas soon. I wish you could see what I see as well. From my room at my home, Los Angeles is like an ocean of stars, drowning in black.

But you burn, and I know it;
as I throw back my head to take you in
and old transfusion happens again:
divine astronomy is nothing to it.


I read it over twice before stumbling downstairs and crawling between cold sheets. They close around me like lips and I cuddle down in the icy softness, waiting for the sun to rise.

It is nearing Christmas. I take the money Wesley sent and buy us dinner. A turkey, potatoes, golden biscuits, stuffing, cranberries and lots of egg nog. Willow and Kennedy help me cook. Giles and Xander stand nearby and crack jokes. The SITs discover the rum and I don't stop them. We eat until everyone feels sick and I remember other Christmases with sharp clarity. Its Cajun pie. Xander gets into the whiskey when he seems to realize he is remembering as well. Well... he disembowled children. I don't stop him; instead, I mix egg nog and Appleton's together until the drink is a thick yet murky yellow. The taste makes me cringe.

Later, I walk upstairs and see Xander and Dawn kissing outside on the field. He has laid her out in the moonlight and her hair falls around them like a chestnut cloud. She is clutching his shoulders and seems to be saying something. I watch them for a moment from the window. I'm not sure exactly what to do. Too much rum. I should do something. Stop them before they go too far—but maybe they already have. Maybe I am seeing something that is past the point of no return.

I throw up right there. It takes me an hour to clean up. Fumbling with the steps, I crawl up to the attic. The velvet blankets enclose me and I write a shaky letter to Wesley.

Merry Christmas. A little early. We celebrated tonight. I had too much to drink. Never a good thing. Drunk Buffy is a pukey Buffy. And no one likes people who puke, do they. I'm up in the attic. Its so cold I can see my breath. My lungs hurt all the time. So does my chest.

I just caught Xand and Dawnie fucking outside in the field. I saw them kissing and I didn't do anything. I don't know whats happening to all of us. I'm not sure if change is always a good thing. Did he forget who she is? Did he forget her name? She isn't Anya. She isn't someone who can save him.

Do you like the holidays? I want them to be over. I want the winter to end. It feels as if its lasting forever. Snow, snow everywhere. It was different in the days of snowball fights and forts and ice skating. Did I ever tell you I used to love to figure skate? I had a Dorothy Hamill haircut. I used to win awards. Angel took me skating once, to the rink in Sunnydale. Its gone now, of course. Sometimes I think our ghosts would still be there if I went back.

I had a dream last night about you. Yes, you. Everything was silver and sparkling. You came to me with frozen lips and you told me that you were going to bring lightening. I didn't believe you. I didn't know what to say. Your hands were heavy like ice and you breathed snow. I knew I would kill you if I touched you, because I was on fire. Girls like me aren't good for humans like you, Wes.

I'm lonely.


Was I wrong in trying to build something here? Maybe Willow and Kennedy are right. Maybe all I do is frighten the girls. Maybe Giles does all of it, and I am simply the absentee Mom. But I do love them. I wish I knew them. I feel though, if I let even one in, my skin would stretch to the point of burning. It would drip off in shivers and drench them all.

Too much rum. My stomach roils as I recall the way Angel stared at my neck during that Christmas of long ago. You need to stay away from me (You look very pretty. Let me give you a kiss, Slayer) You came to see me to tell me I can't see you? (Its like you're burning from the inside out) All you ever were was a monster (You look fucking beautiful) I know everything that you did. Because you did it to me (I love you for everything you've done to me)

I've got you belly-deep. In me.

It is a long time before I sleep.

I know about ghosts. I am in love with Fred. I have been for ages. Sometimes I cannot recall a time when I did not love her, but I know, rationally, that there was one. She is confused, wary, unsure of everything but her science and her duty. I am in love with her like you are with Angel. I know it will never be. In some ways, that is even all right. In other ways, it will always be like a nagging ache in my stomach, pulling me away from work, from life, from what I need to do each day.

I don't know what to say about Xander and Dawn. Except that he should be arrested. I don't know what to say about your figure skating memories. Except that I wish I could have known you then. Maybe we were meant to meet as adults. We clashed before. For many reasons. My own lack of perception and the fact that I wanted you. Badly. Does that shock you? It must. I was an adult. You were not. Over the years I have forgotten the need I used to carry—like music, somewhere in my chest - but since our letters began it has all come rushing back. I do know about ghosts.

Your dream lied. I cannot bring you anything. I only wish I could. If I had any sort of power, I would bring you to Los Angeles and take you to my room. My window overlooks the fire and we could burn in it together.

I wanted to choose words that even you
would have to be changed by
take the word
of my pulse, loving and ordinary
Send out your signals, hoist
your dark scribbled flags
but take
my hand


I choose a phone booth near a church and stare up at the sign for long moments before dialing. Our Lady of Lourdes. Come and Worship. I think I am beyond prayer, and push the buttons for Wolfram and Hart.

Harmony answers. "Hello!"

"Nice exclamation point," I grit my teeth and don't offer my name. "Is Angel in?"

"Not at the moment," she answers chirpily. "May I connect you to someone else in the vicinity? Or should I just hang up?"

I can taste his name. "Is Wesley there?"

"My, don't you know all the higher-ups," she says. "Sure thing. I'll put you through."

It rings for a few seconds. I almost slam the phone down. The smell of curry is making me sick and I need to buy bread before I get home. This is getting expensive.

"Wyndham-Pryce," he answers curtly.

My eyes close. "Hi."

"Yes." He sounds impatient. "Whom am I speaking to?"

Suddenly I don't want to say my own name. "This was a mistake—"


He knows.

"Buffy," he says again. There's the slight tinge of urgency shadowing his tone. "Don't hang up. I'm sorry. I didn't recognize—I didn't expect you to call."

"Me either," I say softly. "Especially since it costs about three hundred dollars a word."

His chuckle is faint. "I could call you back."

"Pay phone," I explain succinctly. "I called for Angel, actually. Got you by default."

"Ahhh." He is silent for a second. "Well, this is rather—"

"Strange?" I finish. "Postcards then conversation. Verbalizing it makes it real."

"Makes what real?" he asks quietly.

"You tell me."

"It seems - difficult somehow." He pauses and I can hear him settling back into his chair. "Do you know - Fred looks beautiful today?"

I lean against the door of the booth. "You don't say."

"She does. Her hair is loose and she's wearing her glasses. I went down to the lab and she was writing out equations in her booklet. Everything she does—every movement, is graceful and sure. I thought about kissing her. But something stopped me."

There is an implied question, but I don't answer.

"I started to wonder—" his voice is husky, low. "I began to think about what you might be doing at that second. Writing down poetry? Searching for Dawn? Brushing your hair?"

"I could be kissing thousands of people," I respond, aware how ridiculous I sound. "And you wouldn't know, Wesley."

"Are you?"

"I could be."

"What are you thinking about?"

My breath catches. "What you taste like."

"But you don't know."

"True. What are you thinking about?"

"How you looked when you came to get Faith."

"How did I look?"


I consider that. "Did you want me then?"

"Yes. It hurt."

Do you want me now? Or is all of this in vain?I wonder if I should be praying, and press a shaking hand to my stomach. "I have to go."


My fingers slip down into my underwear. The bustle of the streets outside, vacuumed by the paneled booth until it hums like a distant roar. The sharp air. The sound of his voice. "What do you want me to do?"

"Give me peace."

Sitting at the kitchen table, I glance to my left. Dawn and Xander make sandwiches side by side. Little red bite-marks on her wrists and I look at Xander's teeth, wondering how they became so sharp. I can see Willow and Kennedy by the fire in the living room, their heads pressed together as they fight over a book of magic. The SITs are upstairs, sleeping, giggling, playing with the cheap make-up I brought them back from the main bazaar in Bucharest. Giles is in the city.

I am writing to another city.

I am not sure if we are going to be all right. It's been a long winter. It could be longer if our money runs out or if Dawn's belly gets swollen or if Willow's hair runs with black or if Giles decides he has had enough - and I have to take over. The season could stay the same. But I guess I have hope. I always have.

Its cold tonight, Wes. I bet its warm in LA, but here, the stars are raining frost down over the fields, and I can see my breath every time I open my mouth. I know I didn't call you today. The money is low. I considered stealing when I went out for food. Would you think I was a really horrible person if I did that? I don't know if I can let myself care—but I know I do.

Giles doesn't think any more SITs will be coming for a while. The ones that have been awakened are still too young to fight, so they'll be playing happy families until they get sucked into the Hell of our little house. It's just as well. We don't have much more room, and the girls are going stir crazy as it is. I don't even know all of their names. But I still pray for each and every one of them.

Xander has realized how beautiful Dawn is becoming. I'm not sure whether or not to show that I care. When he found out I was sleeping with Spike, he went crazy. He threw it in my face every chance he got. Since Anya died, I feel like I can't get mad at him. Everything is different. We're stuck here. I can't keep them apart. I can't stop it. But she's still my little sister and she's still from my skin. I can't help feeling like he's fucking me at the same time as he's fucking her.

Tell Angel I said hello. I hope your office isn't too lonely tonight. I'm jealous, to be honest. I wish I could work and slay and tan and shop. Maybe if I had known what a normal life was going to be like— I would have done things differently.

Maybe someday you can see Romania. Maybe someday I can see California again.

The fire is dying down. I'll probably go to bed soon. You know I wish you were with me.

Good night, Wes.


"The bees are flying / they taste the spring"

The End.