Forge Part One - Broken

I'm awake finally, lying on my back. I can feel the blades of grass tickling my skin; there's a lot of skin to tickle now. It's dark, and I'm awake being tickled by grass while hurting in places a good Jewish girl shouldn't think about.
In movies whenever something staggering or dramatic takes places the musical score tells you to feel in such and such a way. Heavy chords, maybe or a choir, sometimes just a lone violin playing a single high note. Or they use sound effects, a whistling wind, maybe somewhere a wolf howls..anything. Real life doesn't have a soundtrack, or sound effects. I'm not that important I guess. All I can hear is the television in the house nearby. They probably turned it up really loud so they couldn't hear me. I think I can hear the 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire theme music. I really should try and get on that show, make lots of money.
I'm smart enough.
But that's not important right now. What is important is the two shapes sliding out of the shadows outlined by the moon. What is important is I recognize their figures and what is important is what they're saying.
"Thought we'd come back and have another party." One says.
"Ding dong, round two!" The other says.
And than their faces change and they have ridges and fangs and yellow eyes and I can smell them now. They smell like a graveyard.
"And this time babe.." One says running his tongue over his teeth.
"We're taking everything." The other finishes.
I'm awake finally, lying on my back. I can feel her fuzzy flannel pajamas tickling my skin; there's not a lot of skin to tickle now. It's dark and I'm awake being tickled by fuzzy pj's but I'm not hurting anymore. Not on the outside at least.

I hear her wake up, she thinks I'm asleep. Another nightmare I would bet. She stopped screaming about a week and a half ago. Now she just whimpers deep in her throat like someone swallowed a hiccup. I tighten my arms around her and just hold her close letting her know that I'm here and not goin' anywhere else. She reaches back with her hand and caresses my face. I lean into the touch a little, it's.. wonderful and awful at the same time. Wonderful because it means so much, awful 'cause of all the shit that it's about.
"Buffy I gotta get some water." Willow says.
I bury my face in her red hair and give her a kiss on the nape of her neck in answer.
"Didn't mean to wake you." She says.
I slide a little higher and just whisper "Shhhh" in her ear, the 'non-issue' joke got old a long time ago. She eases out of my embrace goes to the door.
"Water?" I ask.
"Bathroom too." She says.
Not so long ago such she would have blushed, even a little but now it's just a fact. I miss her blush.
She opens the door and looks out into the dark hallway for some moments.
"Buffy?" Her voice is very quiet now. Damn. She was doing a lot better before those drunken idiots grabbed her, no not the rapists just some college boys, they met no harm just trying to have a little fun, Y'know 'Startle the girl' kind of thing. Maybe I shouldn't have put them through the wall. Water under the bridge as they say; but 'cause of them she's gotten scared again. Not that I can blame her and I wouldn't..even if I could.

I sit on the toilet with my face in my hands. Buffy is outside the stall keeping watch, making sure nothing happens that any threats to me don't come close. It's stupid, it's stupid and I'm stupid and this fear is stupid and the fact that I'm crying again is stupid and everything is so damn stupid but it won't stop and I'm just sitting here crying in a stupid bathroom with my stupid tears and the stupid fears just won't stop.
I look at my hands, yep, they're wet. I am crying again..I'm told this is a 'good thing', that I'm venting or some such. How much more venting does a person have to do anyway? If it's such a good thing why does it hurt so much? Answers simple: It's not a good thing, it's yet another stupid thing in a long list of stupid things. A good thing is being able to smile without effort, a good thing is a night without nightmares, a good thing is being able to touch other people besides Buffy without wanting to jump straight up.
I wipe and flush, fumble with the lock for a few seconds before getting it right and go over to the nearest sink. Buffy is just standing in the middle of the room in her 'defense mode' posture. Hip cocked to the side, arms crossed over her chest trying to look dangerous and capable. She can pull it off in flannel jammies. Whoa.
Let the cold water run over my hands for a bit, let the stimulation distract my mind give me some breathing space..a 'get it together' break. I cup my hands, take a sip or two and splash the rest on my face.
Better. Not much, not at all in fact but I can fake it. I'm a woman, I can fake anything.
I deserve a reward and after I dry my face I turn to Buffy. She deserves a reward too.
I focus for a second and manually start to smile, autopilot takes over and by the end of my attempt I'm pretty sure it looks almost as good as fully natural 'Willow-Smile.'
"Jumping." I say and I see her eyes light up.
"Catching." She says and she braces herself and holds her arms open.
I cross the room in two steps and give a little hop sweeping my legs up so that she can catch them with one arm and my torso with her other. At the same time I fling my arms around her neck, bury my face in the crux of her shoulder and …feel ever so much better.
"Gotcha." Buffy says quietly.
I lift my head and give a quick peck to the side of her neck. "Got me." I confirm.

I hold her cradled against me. Everytime we're together..correction..everytime we're together and alone..I'm holding her in one way or the other. You'd think I'd grow tired of it but I don't and I don't think I will. I don't want too.
"Better?" I ask.
"Butter." She says.
"Parkay." I answer.
I try not to laugh right in her ear. I don't want to understand her mood swings, seconds ago I could hear her quietly sobbing in the stall and now she's all jokes, smiles, cuddles and love.
Right now she's practically purring. In fact I think she is purring!
"Are you purring?" I ask.
"Not biologically possible." She answers. "But if it were I would be."
"Oh..kay." I say. "Bed?"
"Bed." She mumbles and now sounds very tired.
I step out in the dark hallway not caring if anyone can see us. I think most of the people around have picked up on the fact that something happened just they're not quite sure what it is. Suits me, I'm not tellin'. I enter our room and lay her on the bed as softly as possible so as not to waken her. I then lay down beside her and take my normal position of spooning her. She pushes back against me as I put my top arm around her. We've slept like this so long now I've gotten used to having to deal with the fourth arm problem.
I run my fingers through her red hair with practiced ease remembering when it was a lot longer and I'd braid it for her or other high school things. Who knew it would lead to this?
"No more nightmares." I whisper.
She mumbles a bit, almost completely asleep. "nimares' r okay, get ta wak up ta you…"
I lay back and try to sleep.

Willow and Buffy.
Buffy and Willow.
Wuffy and Billow even.
No matter how you slice it, it's still bologna. Or actually in that relationship there is no bologna. Ouch, crass Xander, very crass. Better keep that one to myself if I want to keep wearing my face. I am..again in the basement. The folks have retired for the evening. In other words 'ran out of things to throw at each other.' And I'm staring at the television that is not actually showing anything worthwhile. My thumb idly slides over the crusted blood that marks the scab on one knuckle. The wound I got when I punched one the jaw and his teeth ripped me up. It'll probably leave a scar so I can always remember that night though I wouldn't forget it anyway.
I tear my eyes from the television which doesn't take much effort and look at my 'war-wound'.
I'm supposed to feel different about this one. Sure I've been banged up in my various adventures in all things Hellmouth but this one was different, more personal. It's a sign I tried to kill someone. Not a something, a someone. There's a difference. Or their should be but that's the weird part. It doesn't seem to feel different.
It's like this..I was expecting that afterwards I would feel either..proud of my ability to take care of my friends or depressed because it would be a sign that I hadn't been able to protect them..oh who am I kidding…been able to protect HER well enough.
But it's not either. I don't feel anything..other than the normal temptation one usually feels to pick at a scab. Y'know..pick and pick and poke and other stuff till you tease it off your skin and ..well..that was disgusting. Doesn't change the fact though that I am feeling nothing. Absolutely zero. Not pride, not anger, not depression..not even a hollow, empty, echoing sensation in my gut. Well, okay I have that but that's because I got a wicked case of the munchies.
I never thought if Sixty Minutes beat down my door and thrust a microphone into my face with the question, "Xander Harris you just tried to kill two people in retaliation for their rape of your best friend, how do you feel?" that my answer would be, "Hey, can you guys spare a couple of those doughnuts you got in the truck?"
Hmmm..Buffow and Willy.
I run my thumb along the scab again then reach over and turn of the television. Maybe they'll be free for lunch tomorrow. Maybe Willow will actually be one hundred percent happy to see me.

I sit down in my favorite chair again. I replaced the table that I destroyed with my 'scuffle' with Spike those short weeks ago. He never did come back from his walk. Ah well. I have carefully chosen my music for this nights bout with insomnia and it most certainly is not Pachobel's Cannon. I thought something a bit more..invigorating was in order this night so I'm now listening to Holtz's 'The Planets.' Maybe afterwards I'll listen to a little Handel.
I smile, wondering how Buffy would react to some of these classics.
"But Giles, it's got no beat, nothing to shake your thing too!"
and Willow would proclaim something like..
"That's not true, thing shaking is doable to classical music..I mean..not that I would know..and.." then she'd get all flustered, stammer a bit, get a little red faced and let her voice die away slowly while the rest of us looked slightly amused, or I'm sure in my case, somewhat awkward, as Willow would end one of her diatribes that the others had labeled 'Babble Mode'.
It has been a long time since any of us have witnessed one of Willow's speeches. Too long and now, as I sit back in recollection, I interested how much I miss them. Yet I must also interested that I am missing Willow herself who has been sparse as of late. While from time to time she has been here in person, who she was in spirit is lacking. It is only when Buffy herself is around that our Wiccan ally has been anything resembling her old self. And even when that is it is barely a passable charactiture of what she was.
She did make her position clear though. We were not to speak of this to anyone, not her friends, not hear teachers, and most definitely not her parents; though in that last case I barely think they qualify for the term as such.
I push these thoughts from my mind and try and get some work done. Vapiric activity has been slow as of late and while I would say the timing is somewhat favorable the only instances when that has happened has been either in the summer or when something of larger consequence was about to occur. And as we are in the third week of October I highly doubt that they are just feeling 'lazy'.
The words in the book are merely a blur though and what I can divulge slides away from my mind. I set it aside and look around my empty living room with the sounds of Mars, God of War ringing off the walls. I interested how empty it is and how I wish it was not. That 'The Scooby Gang' was here in all their Juvenile glory with Xander and his inappropriate humor, Willow with her mind and magic and Buffy with her ..what is the term..'Go get 'em' attitude.
Before I pick up my book again I curse the souls of those two rapists for the thousandth time.

Ahh..another lovely night in the 'Whisky, Garter and Booty Klub'. Whoever thought that name for this dive should be shot. That is actually doable as the owner is standing about fifteen feet to my left. As she is my current employer though she wouldn't like it if I shot her. I'll wait till payday first.
But I have other business right now, namely bouncing the guy who was pawing at one the dancers out the door.
"What..what…what I do baby?" He asks.
"You touched." I say and hoist him to his feet.
His bleary eyes slowly come into focus and when he gets a good look at me a leer graces his graceless features. "Shouldn't you be up on the stage darnlin'" He slurs. "Got some spendin' money ta burn."
Then he leans closer and I get a pleasant noseful of somewhat digested whiskey. "Be burnin' much brighter if ya..light my fire." He whispers in my ear.
Right. I temporarily forget that tact exists.
"Bets!" I shout at the top of my lungs. The dancers begin to cheer and some of the other regulars add to it. My..victim begins to sweat. Good, they slide farther when they're sweaty.
"Fifteen feet!" Shouts one of the dancers waving a ten dollar tip plucked from her bikini.
"No..twenty." Another adds; she's waving a twenty.
My boss tries to wave me down but all the people shouting overpower her. Finally I hear her grudgingly add her own opinion.
"Twenty five feet." She shouts holding up a meager five dollar bill. Cheap ass bitch.
One of the catwalks is exactly lined up with the main entrance of the 'WGB' Klub and I yank my friend up on the end, the dancer still on stage, her names 'Glimmer' cause she just dumps that shiny crap all over her tits, steps aside and waves 'Bye bye' to the lug I'm dragging.
One thing I will say I about 'Klub' is the owner did not scrimp on the interior. Mirrored walls, flashy neon lights and..this is the best part..those super slick Death Star type floors.
I decide to get rid of the preamble, none of that 'climatic build up' shit for me. With a heave I send the drunken idiot flying, he makes it about six feet through the air before crashing into the catwalk….
Hmm..have to work on my backhand.
Kinetic energy is still not his best friend as he slides off the end and is once again airborn for a brief time before crashing into the floor now. Then he's sliding, tumbling, rolling, hits the double doors and smashes through them..I hear him ricochet off the brick wall across the alley.
I brush my hands together and step of the catwalk.
"Thirty feet at least." I say. "Pay up."
As the dancer with the twenty hands me my winnings she asks. "Damn Hope, how you get so strong?"
I reply with an absolute straight face, "Decent family life."
The Whiskey, Garter and Booty Klub looks different in the dark and without it's lights the back alleys of LA look just like that, back alleys. I don't care though, it's not like there's anything here that can hurt me..more.
I feel him before I actually see him and the stake slides into my hand easily, a reflexive action. Of course I still carry one, just because I'm off the 'Active Duty' roster doesn't mean I'll just forget what's out there..or what I should have been.
He slides out of the darkness in an typical melodramatic manner. I'm not that impressed then I see his hair.
"Spike." I say.
"That's a cute alias you got." He replies. "Hope I mean. Very cute. Giving yourself a new name but not straying so far from who you really are. How touching."
"I'm not like B, Spike so if ya got any other last words.." And I heft the stake to make my meaning clear.
"You should go back." He says.
I suppose he thinks I should be startled or something but I'm not, to be surprised you have to care which I don't.
"Interesting choice of last words." I say and attack.
For someone with such a horrific past I am really disappointed, he just takes what I hit him with, not even blocking. Those two other slayers must have been really wimpy. Either he can't fight back for some bizarre reason or he's maybe toying with me, either way I don't care..his chest is open..I pull back the wood…
"Red needs you." He gasps. That stops me.
"What?" I say.
"I said, 'Red needs you.'"
"And why is that?" I ask, I want to stake him, I really do, the last vamp I had was weeks ago and in a way I'm just itching for a kill. Not 'cause of that Hungry, horny' thing either.
"The only person who I was even somewhat friendly with was B and Red made it very clear on where she stood in regards to her feelings for me, and that was before Xander."
"Whatever luv," Spike says, he's backed against a wall, got nowhere to go so if this is a bluff it's a wacked one. "I'm just thinkin' you and she might have something in common now."
"And that would exactly be?" I hiss.
"Not my place to say. You'll have to just find out for yourself. I'll listen to hearsay luv but I don't repeat it." He replies. "What hearsay told me makes me think you just might be interested in how Red is doing these days."
Somewhere in our 'conversation' my hand relaxed from it's death grip on his shirt. Free to move he reaches up and tentatively touches his bleeding lip.
"Great." He mutters. "Now I got to find a butcher's shop to tap up."
I do not want to know what he's talking about.

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