Note: Some of the ideas and themes used in Catch A Falling Star were in a four issue series on Rogue (I think it was part of a larger series called Icons). Since that’s what mostly inspired my particular take, I felt that credit had to be given.
“You know, there is no law that says you must wear shapeless lumps of clothing,” Buffy offered as they walked through the department store. Joyce’s first step in the Help Marie program had been “get her some new clothes of her own”. So far, Buffy was unimpressed with Marie’s choices.
Said choices consisted of loose fitting, long sleeved shirts, baggy jeans, and even baggier sweatshirts. All of which were either black, black, or, when Marie was adventurous, very dark gray bordering on black.
Marie shrugged, ignoring Buffy’s commentary. The looser the fit, the more it covered. The darker the color, the easier it was to hide. And hiding had been her entire focus for the past two years.
“I agree with Buffy,” Dawn chimed in. “Why can’t you pick something cooler?”
Marie sighed, stopping by a display of tank tops. They wouldn’t give up until they had an answer. “Because I can’t expose myself like that.” She pointed at the mannequin, barely covered by the low-slung jeans and skimpy tank.
“Why?” Dawn asked.
Such a very good question, why.
“I would feel uncomfortable.”
“Oh.” Dawn considered this new information. She walked over to another display table, “Then how about this?”
She was holding up a long sleeved shirt with a deep v-neck. It was a dark plum color with embroidered flowers along the collar. “Wear this over a t-shirt and voila, stylish yet covered!”
“Good choice, Dawn,” Buffy clapped. Then she put in her own two cents. “Shirt like that is long enough you could wear those fitted jeans over there.”
Marie stared at the shirt Dawn was holding. It was pretty. And her suggestions meant she could still be 100% covered up. She reached over to finger the fabric. It was a light material; she wouldn’t be suffocating like usual. Then she checked the price tag.
“I couldn’t ask you for this,” she said, gesturing at the tag.
“Whatever,” Buffy waved her hand, blithely ignoring all things money. “I hold the mighty power that is Mom’s credit card. And her specific instructions to get you ‘some nice outfits’. We’ve got, what do you call it, carte blanche.”
Dawn nodded emphatically. “We’re, like, on a mission. Money holds no bounds for us. Besides,” she added, “this is better than my own dress-up Barbie.”
Over Marie’s continued protests, Buffy and Dawn managed to find two other outfits that met Marie’s criteria (meaning, a nun wouldn’t be ashamed to wear them). As they were going to the cash register, another display caught Marie’s eye
Gloves. Long ones that reached the elbow. Shorter ones for hands only. All sorts of colors. All under the most important sign of all. SALE.
Marie rushed over, spying a three quarter length pair, a nice pearl gray, almost white. She was using her secondary pair; her other set had been too torn up in the fight with the vampire. Marie checked out the size. They fit!
“Jeez, Marie, what is it with you and gloves,” Dawn teased. She knew better than go deeper than that; Marie got awfully defensive if you bothered her about why she wore gloves. It was probably, like, some weird safety blanket thing. Mom had told her to lay off about it, “There’s no reason to traumatize the poor girl.”
Marie blushed, “May I please?”
“Sure, sure. Though why you get all excited over gloves instead of that totally awesome shoe sale, I totally don’t get.”
Marie smiled, adding the gloves to the pile. “Thank you.”
Buffy paid for the purchases, “Oh the joys of Mom’s credit card,” and then they left. Step One in the Help Marie program was a success.
After leaving the store, Buffy directed them to the Magic Box. “Sorry we can’t go straight home. I promised Giles I would stop in.”
As they walked down the street, Marie turned to Dawn and asked, “Who is Giles?”
“Um, kind of like Buffy’s mentor helper figure guy. He owns the Magic Box; they sell a lot of cool stuff. Like magic books and charms and eye of salamander – ”
“Eye of salamander? I thought it was supposed to be eye of newt.”
“Eye of newt is too expensive, according to Giles. It’s kind of funny, ‘cause, Willow, she’s a Wicca, has this whole name brand thing going with the eye of newt. Look! We’re here.”
It didn’t look so very different from the other stores. A big sign proclaimed “Magic Box”; an attractive window display beckoned shoppers. Marie smiled as they entered. She always liked shop bells that chimed when the door opened.
Buffy bee-lined to the back of the store, pausing only to admonish Dawn, “You break it, you buy it.” Dawn only rolled her eyes before strolling over to a table set in one corner, dropping a shopping bag with a thump.
Marie, however, didn’t feel comfortable enough to sit down and drop things with a thump. She opted to try and blend in with one of the displays.
However, the woman behind the cash register wouldn’t let her hide.
“Hello, welcome to the Magic Box. How may I take your money?”
Huh? Did she understand correctly?
“If you are not going to make a purchase, please step away from the window. If you are in front of salable goods, real customers might not be able to buy them.”
“I-I’m sorry, ma’am,” Marie mumbled, embarrassed. She stepped away, only stand awkwardly in the middle of the shop.
The other people in the shop felt sorry for her.
“Don’t mind Anya,” a red head said, “she’s always like that.”
“You can sit over here,” the blonde sitting next to the red head offered.
A dark haired man got up and spoke to Anya(?). “Honey, remember how we talked about not scaring people away.”
Anya sighed, nodded and then turned to Marie, “I am sorry if I made you feel uncomfortable.” Sulkily, she added, “But you were standing in front of the merchandise.”
“Who are you?” Marie asked timidly.
“We’re Buffy’s pals. I’m Xander, and this is Anya.”
“You must be Marie,” Willow said with a smile. “Mrs. Summers’ guest.” She nodded towards the bags. “Been shopping?”
“Yes. Mrs. Summers is a very generous lady.”
“So she is.”
A silence fell over the room. Feeling stupid just standing there, Marie took Willow up on the offer to sit down.
The silence continued.
“So,” Xander said, unable to let the quiet continue, “how did you meet the Summers ladies?”
“Um, I was at Willy’s and was attacked – ”
“Buffy came in and saved the day?”
“No, actually my attacker knocked into Spike; they got into a fight and Spike won; then Spike offered to help me find a place to stay.”
“Spike did a good deed? What is the world coming to,” Xander joked.
Marie shrugged. Spike hadn’t seemed that evil to her, for all he was a vampire. She bit her lip, debating whether or not to ask her own question. Deciding that she needed to know, beyond snippets caught from eavesdropping, she asked, “What’s a Slayer?”
They exchanged glances, silently debating whether or not to answer her question.
“I know that Spike’s a vampire and about demons and such.”
Taking that as an all-clear, Willow piped up, deciding to answer the question. “Slayer’s a girl given special powers to fight, I think the direct quote is, ‘the vampires, the demons, and the forces of darkness’. There’s always been a Slayer.”
Marie stared at the table. Guess she came under the Slayer’s purview after all. Brain suckers or whatever she was had to be a force of darkness. She would have to be careful, in case the Slayer found out. Marie didn’t want to leave; she was finally getting a chance to rest.
You deserve it, a voice in her head hissed. Lying, cheating slut. Took you in and helped you, what did you do? Betrayed me, stole a part of me. Hate that girl, thief she stole she did, what am I doing in a den of evil like this. Satan worshippers all, I bet. Repent and be – No she didn’t, she had to open the store, it was always a good idea to open early. Why did she care about a store? Pretty little girl in front of her, what did stores matter? Stop the dark thoughts, let me help you, what about my test, football game tomorrow, have to pick up my daughter for her doctor’s appointment, kill the hitch hiking brat, got to get to the bank early, god I need a beer –
Once the floodgates were opened, it was almost impossible to close them. Hey, you got any dope? I have to go to work, how hard d’you think it would be to knock off that store, walk the dog, got a quarter, does this skirt make me look fat? I wish it hadn’t come to this, can you believe what I heard, hey, that chick’s hot, I wonder if she’s easy –
“Marie! Marie, are you okay?” Willow reached over to shake the unresponsive girl. Nothing happened.
Tara frowned. “Her aura just went crazy. Something is very wrong. Something in her mind.”
At the very back of a mob, a lost girl heard her name being called. But everyone in front of her was so much bigger and taller than she; they wouldn’t let her through. Some of them didn’t notice her at all and the ones that did blocked her way and called her names. They scared the lost girl and made her want to hide.
The lost girl found herself getting braver. Someone obviously wanted her back. They liked her, maybe. They knew her name. Not the other people’s names, but her name. She was Marie.
I’m Marie, I’m Marie, I’m Marie, the little girl chanted as she pushed through the crowd. With every inch of her focused on that one thought, the people in front of her shrank away and went into hiding instead of her.
“Marie!” Dawn shouted, trying to get her new friend back. “Marie!”
For a brief second, Marie’s eyes focused on the form in front of her. “Green,” she whispered, “pretty green light.”
With a jerk, she returned to reality, sanity fully restored. She was surrounded by concerned faces, all wanting to know what had happened.
“I’m fine,” she insisted. “Just zoned for a moment.”
“Try five minutes,” Willow told her worriedly. “We almost called 911. You weren’t just zoned, you were practically gone.”
The rest offered sounds of agreement and concern. Marie tried to pull away from them, not wanting to answer their questions. Why did she have to lose control like this, around people who noticed? People who maybe even cared?
“What’s up guys?” Buffy asked, reappearing from the back room. “Something happen?”
“Marie did a scary zoning flip out thing,” Dawn informed her. “It was like she was in a coma or something.”
“Wow. You okay, Marie?”
“Five minutes,” Willow announced. “Eyes didn’t track, didn’t respond to noises, and she started hyperventilating.”
Marie shrugged. “It was nothing. You finished, Buffy?”
Buffy was in the midst of eye signaling something to her friends. Deciding that her message was understood, she answered, “Sure. Let’s go.”
“I think Buffy wants us research what’s up with Marie,” Willow announced after the Summers and their guest had left. “That girl needs help. There’s no way that was natural.”
“Maybe she’s an epileptic or something,” Xander offered. “It doesn’t have to be something hellmouth-y.”
“Her aura changed when she had that episode. Almost like Buffy’s when Faith took over her body. ”
Willow frowned. This was a mystery. And mysteries were meant to be solved. And why did Marie start talking about green light?
Marie huddled on the couch, afraid to go to sleep. Buffy and Dawn, thankfully, hadn’t pressed her too hard about the episode, but if she had another, that would change.
She shivered at the thought. That was the worst one in a long time. Whenever it got that bad, she feared that she wouldn’t come back. That the lost girl would quietly fade away and never be heard from again; that the echoes would take control.