"Have you found anything out yet, guys?" Buffy asked, a few days after Marie's freak out. They were at the Magic Box, helping Giles and Anya with inventory.
"Nothing, Buffy," Willow answered with a shake of her head, "But it's not like we have a lot to go on. She hasn't gotten all spacey since, and it only lasted five minutes. Bad, but not fitting anything we checked out."
"I still think it's non-Hellmouthy. She obviously ran away from home and has some issues," Xander suggested, "maybe it's just trauma or stress disorder or whatever they call it."
"No, her aura wasn't right for that. I can't describe what happened, but it wasn't just mental stress. There's something more to it. Honey," Tara turned to her girlfriend, "did you look up after-effects of personality spells?"
Willow nodded. "First thing, 'cause of what you said about the aura. The whole zone thing fits the description, but Marie doesn't have a rash, her hair hasn't turned white, and most importantly, she's still alive.
"Buffy, don't take this the wrong way, but we've kind of been focused in other research type areas. With Glory and the Key and all. Unless Marie starts to seriously go crazy, she's taking a back seat to the rest."
"I know. Believe me, I know how important the Glory info is. But whenever you get a chance, can you look into it?" Buffy asked. She'd been feeling really guilty about being so bitchy to Marie before, especially since Marie had turned out to be so nice. After learning about her mom's operation, Marie had devoted herself to helping Joyce out.
"We will, but until something happens, we've got zip," Willow pointed out.
"Hey, Buffy!" Dawn popped into the room, effectively ending all Scooby talk. "Giles wants you to go lift some heavy stuff!"
Buffy made a face, "Duty calls."
"Ah, the burdens of super powers," Xander teased.
Buffy gave him a good natured swat on the shoulder before leaving to go move whatever heavy thing Giles wanted moved.
She found him in the basement, examining a big sculpture thing. It was an angular incomprehensible blob of metal, in her opinion. Buffy guessed that is was probably some expensive statue-type thing.
Marie stood next to Giles, having also been roped into inventory duty. From her expression, Buffy guessed Marie agreed with the whole makes- no-sense interpretation of the metal blob.
"Buffy!" Giles finally noticed his Slayer. "Anya seems to think this," he waved his hand about, "monstrosity would make a good display piece. Could you bring it upstairs?"
Ick. He expected her to carry that hunk of junk? She stepped forward and awkwardly picked it up. It wasn't that heavy, especially with her Slayer strength, but it was BIG!
She couldn't see around it.
"Marie, help Buffy with that, will you?"
Buffy felt, rather than saw, the other girl grasp the other side and begin directing her to the stairs. With Marie at the lead, they managed to ever so carefully maneuver the sculpture up the steps. By the time they reached the top, Buffy was ready to slay Anya for wanting this.
"Do you know what the hell this is?" she huffed as they reached the top step.
Marie shrugged, answering, "Some modern art rendition of an earth mother figurine, according to Anya."
Struggling, the two lugged the sculpture into the main part of the shop. As they set it down, one of the sharper angles snagged on Marie's shirt. It ripped, and blood welled in the resulting cut.
"You okay?" Buffy asked, seeing the gash under the torn cloth. She walked towards Marie. "You want me to get the first aid kit?"
Marie looked down at her shoulder. The cut was shallow, but it still stung. She gingerly touched the now bare patch of skin. "I'm good. It's just a scrape."
Buffy ignored her, reaching out to examine the injury. Marie jerked back, aware at how exposed she was. "Really, there's no need to - "
"Chill. I know what I'm doing. Just let me look at it." Buffy took hold of Marie's arm and pushed the cloth away, disregarding her protestations. "You'll need to put some Neosporin on it - "
Her hand connected with Marie's skin. Involuntarily, her hand clenched and her grip tightened. The skin on Buffy's hand crackled, growing taut and dry. Her breath came in quick, short gasps and her eyes stared ahead, unfocused.
Tears filled Marie's own eyes. She had only a moment to mourn before -
Flash! Playing with her doll, seeing her baby sister for the first time. Flash! Who was that strange old guy? "Come with me, your destiny awaits." No, really, she was destiny free! Flash! First love, wonderful and awful all together at once. New friends. Fighting, killing, slaying. Death, dying, gone and back. Flash! Loss. Run the sword through his body, it's the only way. Pain, suffering, run!
Marie pulled free, Buffy's form falling to the ground, unconscious. But the images kept coming.
Flash! Dark sisterkind, betrayal, survival, left again. Flash! Healing heart, try again. Fail. Try once more. Fail. Flash! Sister not all that she seems. Too much, too much. Gods and demons and cancer.
Overwhelmed, she ran. Pushed past concerned friends, past shining green light, out the door, into the street. Constant babble, it shouts to her. Tough. Strong. She will survive, like that time she got all those mind reading skills and almost went crazy. No, that wasn't her. Yes it was.
Where to go? Go to work, slay them. Where's my stake? I forgot my stake! I should go back to the Magic Box, get some stakes. NO! We can't go back. Hunt. Slay. That is who we are.
Marie was out the door before the Scoobies could properly react. All they'd seen was Marie cutting herself, Buffy trying to help, then BAM! Buffy fainting and Marie running like the hounds of Hades were after her.
Willow ran over to Buffy and knelt to check her friend's pulse. "Dawn, get Giles. Guys, help me move Buffy."
Xander nodded at the door. "Should we go after her?"
"As fast as she was running?" Willow shook her head, no. "We can start looking after we make sure Buffy's okay."
"I think I speak for all of us when I say, what was that?"
"Marie's aura went wonky like before," Tara volunteered, as she balled up a coat to make a pillow. "But I don't know why or how."
Giles entered the scene. "What happened? Dawn said something about Marie going crazy and Buffy fainting."
"Tara thinks that Marie did something to Buffy. Something about auras," Willow informed him. "But Marie took off before we could talk to her. But Buffy's okay. I think she's just unconscious."
For once it isn't me, Giles thought. "Try to make her as comfortable as possible. Xander, you and I will go look for Marie."
Spike lounged on his couch, watching a bad horror movie. It was an insult to every creature that walked the night, but was the only thing on. He made a face as the movie monster attempted to menace the beautiful girl. He wondered why the girl bothered screaming; the scene was positively laughable.
As he continued watching the pathetic excuse for a movie, he overheard a bit of a commotion going on outside his crypt. Pair of vamps setting their sights on some tasty bit, from the sound of it. Spike turned the TV off. Dusting such loudmouths was far more entertaining.
The loudmouths were circling a slip of a girl who looked vaguely familiar. She reminded him of the mouse he'd met at Willy's. Marie, was it? But her stance and body language was oddly reminiscent of the Slayer.
"C'mere girl, I'm hungry," said Loudmouth #1. Loudmouth #2 nodded and added, "Stand still, it won't hurt a bit."
Marie just gripped her stake tighter, shifting her balance ever so slightly. Loudmouth #1 rushed her. With a practiced motion, she twisted, impaling the vampire on the stake. He turned to dust.
Wait a second. Last he saw her, she had the fighting skills of the whelp. Now she was using Slayer moves?
Loudmouth #2 was a little nervous now. His friend had been dusted just like that. He attacked with a little more finesse, dodging the incoming stake and knocking her to the ground.
Marie struggled, relying on memories of previous escapes. But those required the full strength of the Slayer. Unaware of this lack, she sought to free herself.
Spike was seriously confused. He'd fought Buffy enough times to know her style. The girl was dead on. And about to be dead.
Moving quickly, he pulled the vamp off her. The following tussle was an insult to the species, in his opinion. Before the dust settled, he turned back to Marie.
And was greeted by a punch in the nose. Wasn't like the Slayer's, but still stung a bit.
"What the hell was that for? I saved you!"
"I was FINE! I don't need your help, Spike."
"Didn't look fine, mouse. Looked like you were about to become a snack."
"Mouse? That's a new one. What happened to Slayer?"
"You're not the Slayer," Spike said slowly, "you're Marie. Slayer's a little blonde bitch, not a dark wanna-be Goth."
"Who do you think you are?"
Marie rolled her eyes, duh, "I'm Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. The one who's kicked your ass for the past four years."
And he thought Dru had been nuts. "No, you're not."
"Care to let me in on the joke, Spike? I think I know who I am."
"Check the hair." Marie reached back and pulled a strand forward, her attitude clearly stating 'I'm humoring the crazy guy'. She stared at the dark brown, nothing like her own blonde tresses. This wasn't her body. Or was it?
She suddenly felt very dizzy. What was going on? Must be a spell. No. That's not it. Curses and thieves, that was the truth. Tried to rest, couldn't do that, always betray, always hurt them, evil thing demon succubus monster, that is you, yes it is. Time to run. You can't stay, traitor girl, remember? They try to help you, yes they did, reach and touch, offer aid to the thief. RUN!
She tried to run, to move. All she could was stagger and fall. Maelstrom in her mind. It spun and whirled, as each and every piece of the puzzle shouted out to her, asking for control. But there were too many. Spinning, twisting, jerking about, too much too much.
Marie vomited over Spike's shoes, her body reacting to violently to the stress. She choked and sobbed, as fragments of events came back to her. Every time, this happened. She would relax and let herself rest, only to be destroyed once again.
Spike stared at the sobbing girl, carefully stepping away from the puke zone. It was official. Marie was cracked. First she acts like she's the Slayer, he points out she's not, and then she goes into a fit to rival Drusilla. And now his shoes were dirty. And gross.
"C'mon, mouse, get up."
She didn't answer, only whimpering, "Demons evil bad bad thief demons bad - "
He ignored her and grabbed an arm, hauling her to her feet. "Don't know why I bother," he muttered, "crazy girl isn't my problem, and she ruined my shoes."
"Let go, let go, don't touch me!"
"I'm not trying to hurt you!"
Marie didn't hear him and continued to pull away. He let go and she collapsed to the ground again. Thankfully, she didn't throw up this time.
"What is going on with you? Marie?" The hunched over form stopped its weeping and looked up. Spike tried again, "Marie?"
Dark hollow eyes met his and whispered, "It always goes wrong. I'm sorry, I'm so sorry."
"What went wrong?"
Ignoring the question, she responded, "Do I know you?"
"Yes," Spike answered cautiously, calling on every inch of patience gained from a century with Drusilla.
"But do I know you?"
"We met at the bar," he said slowly, "you pushed a demon into me and I killed it."
"Okay. But she knows you, too."
"The new one. Her name is - "
"Spike!" Xander's voice broke through. "Hey, Dead Boy, have you seen," he jogged onto the scene, noticing the first time the huddled girl, "Marie?"
Upon hearing him, Marie surged to her feet. "I'm sorry, don't be angry, I didn't mean to do it," she babbled before turning to run.
"Slow down! We're not angry. Buffy's fine. We just want to know what happened."
"Something happened to Buffy?" Spike snapped about, focusing on the new arrival, "Is she okay?"
Xander pretended not to hear him. Instead, he concentrated on the still backing away Marie, "Listen, we know that you've got some funky problem going. We just want to help."
Marie stopped her retreat. Every other time she used her power?curse? people would go after her. If they were generous, they kicked her out. If they weren't, she had to flee for her life. She had expected this to be no different. Especially from these demon hunters.
"You don't hate me?" she whispered.
"We don't even know what you did. And it looks like you don't really know, either. What's to hate?"
"I hurt your friend."
"Will she wake up?"
"No harm, no foul, then."
Was this for real? She listened to the echoes of Buffy in her mind. It was. Marie straightened her shoulders and looked Xander in the eye.
"I don't know how or why, but whenever someone's skin touches mine, I absorb a piece of their mind."
There. Would they forgive her now?