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Catch a Falling Star - Chapter One

This is already posted at spuffy_wonder, and I thought I had it here, too, but apparently not.  Reposting to my LJ.

Title: Catch a Falling Star
Chapter: One
Word Count: 1534
Setting: The summer between seasons 3 and 4 of BtVS
Summary: A heartbroken Buffy finds a bit of compassion in an unexpected place.
Rating: PG-13.  No warnings.
Disclaimer:
The characters herein are the property of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy.  They are being used out of respect and admiration, and not for the sake of profit.  No copyright infringement is intended.
Banner: amyxaphania 

Notes: Written for the spuffy_wonder  2010 Art-to-Fic challenge.


Catch a Falling Star
Chapter One

*~*

 

Long before she entered the building — before she even set foot on that bus — she’d known she shouldn’t be doing this.  Shouldn’t be lowering herself to becoming that girl, the one who couldn’t let go, couldn’t accept that the end was the end and hung on, pining and whining and putting her face to the definition of pathetic.  Was that really who she was?  She didn’t think so.

 

So why the hell was she walking down this hallway?  What did she expect to find behind that door?  A big hug and a weepy confession that it was all a dreadful mistake?

 

Onward she walked, telling that inner reasonable voice of hers to shut up and get lost.  Her heart was pounding so heavily she could feel it trying to burst out of her chest, along with that fluttery, on-edge sensation of far too much adrenaline she usually felt before a fight.  How could a person both want and dread the same thing? 

 

She could see the door now, the one whose number matched that on the postcard in her purse.  Its streaked glass window showed a hint of movement in the room beyond and she paused, reaching for the wall to steady herself as a wave of nausea swept through her.  She couldn’t do this.  This wasn’t a problem she could beat into submission and afterward dust her hands off and carry on.  If she turned around now, he would never know she was there.

 

The door opened.  It didn’t creak, didn’t do anything other than swing inward, but the action, its lack of sound, everything about the growing gap felt horror-movie ominous in a way she didn’t understand.  And then he was there, tall and dark as ever, standing with only half his body in the hall, as if he were as uncertain about her presence as she.

 

“Buffy.”

 

Seeing him looking so calm, so unaffected, made the tremor in her hands deepen and her stomach clench with anxiety.  How could he look so normal, after everything?  How could he look at her and not feel the pain, clawing and gouging away at his insides?

 

It was too much.  Hot tears gathered in her eyes, blurring Angel’s face, and she was glad she didn’t have to see him anymore — didn’t have to see him so over her that he couldn’t even pretend to care.  He took half a step forward, and Buffy spun around and fled down the empty hallway as fast as she could.

 

He caught her just as she shoved open the outer door, a firm hand on her arm pulling her back to him, to what she was both running toward and trying to escape.  His touch had the effect of falling headfirst into cold water, stealing the air from her lungs and sending a jarring, frigid shock through her body.  Her knees wobbled, weakened and aching, and she couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t do anything but gasp and stare at Angel’s blurry face.

 

His grip on her arm anchored her and angered her.  A ghost of feeling, a shadow of the certainty, the safety, the love she once felt in these arms passed over her, leaving in its wake a deepening, gnawing sorrow.  A pain in her side and an ache in her heart that begged the question — how could she ever have felt so much for this man?

 

And why did she still?

 

After everything, why had she come here, expecting a miracle, knowing in her heart that their happily ever after was nothing more than her own girlish fantasy?

 

She twisted her face into a fierce glare that finally broke through Angel’s impassive mask.  An odd glint flared in his eyes’ brown depths and a flash of expression she couldn’t decipher passed over his face and was gone in an instant.  The mask vanished, and he looked like her Angel again, but she didn’t know if that was better, or worse, than him looking like somebody she didn’t know.

 

“Buffy,” he said, his grip tightening around her arm until it almost hurt.  “What are you doing here?”

 

To her ears, he sounded angry.  Annoyed, maybe, that she would dare show up in his shiny new life-without-her, and it stuck in her chest, a searing knife thrust into her frozen lungs, ripping through the non-thrall holding her motionless.  She wrenched her arm out of his grasp and tore her eyes from his face, legs carrying her away and gaining strength with each backward step.

 

When the fire died, the frozen knot in her chest grew even colder, and she knew she couldn’t deny it any longer.  This was over.  They were over, and she had made a big mistake coming here.  Angel spoke again in words her mind didn’t want to hear and refused to decipher, and she took a further step backward, and then another, until she spun around and ran, feet pounding on the pavement as she fled into the night.

 

She didn’t stop until her lungs burned and her legs gave out beneath her, sending her tumbling in a gasping, shaking heap in the shadows of an abandoned alley.  The instant she landed on the filthy pavement, the tears returned and her chest heaved with sobs that fought to steal away what was left of her breath.

 

When she ran out of tears and the sobbing gave way to sniffles and hiccups, Buffy pulled herself to her feet, leaning a moment against the brick wall beside her.  She shivered, cold despite the heat of the summer’s night and the lingering warmth of the bricks against her cheek.  The alley was filthy, stunk of God-knows-what, and Buffy knew she was lost but didn’t care. 

 

Leaving the alley behind, she wandered out onto a street she didn’t recognize, scrubbing at her eyes and imagining how horrendous she must look.  She caught a whiff of salty air on the light but warm breeze coming toward her, so she continued, knowing that once she found the ocean she could get her bearings.  Antique-looking lanterns lined the street, but Buffy stuck to the shadows, avoiding their yellowish light and the increasing number of people illuminated within it.

 

The walk cleared her head, cast out the fuzziness and left behind that niggling, stinging pain of truth.  Buffy had a feeling those weren’t the last tears she would shed over this, but for right now she was done crying.  She was so tempted to let the pain of this slide away into that dark corner of her mind, the place she buried what she didn’t want to face, but it wouldn’t go, not completely.  She might be dry-eyed but her chest ached a little more with each step she took.

 

She had been walking for half an hour when she saw the curve of the Ferris wheel arching over the buildings in the distance.  A memory came to her, a sunbeam in an otherwise bleak moment, of a day spent with her parents back when the most difficult part of life was choosing between Lucky Charms or Count Chocula for breakfast. 

 

Buffy remembered how her belly churned with nervous butterflies as she climbed into that swinging car for the first time, and how the butterflies stilled when her father climbed in next to her.  Squished between the two most important people in her small universe, Buffy forgot to be afraid as the gigantic wheel started turning.  Up, up, up they soared, high over the city.  Buffy raised her hands in the air and told her father proudly that she was a bird, a golden eagle flying free.

 

A tendril of warmth seeped into the frigid knot in her belly, loosening it, easing away a little of the sting.  The Buffy of her memories was a happy, carefree child and it felt good to remember even an ounce of that feeling.  She headed toward the wheel, wondering if a bit of flying would be good for a wounded soul.

 

Hand holding-couples, loud, laughing groups of teenagers, and young families with excited children littered the promenade.  Buffy took a seat on an empty bench at the periphery of the excitement, resting her feet for a moment and watching the activity around her.  All the smiling faces and free laugher made her wonder if things just might someday get better after all.

 

The prickle of warning racing down her spine had her first cursing herself for daring to think of life in the positive, and then jumping off the bench as the prickle flared into one of recognition.  Buffy clenched her fists until her fingernails dug into her palms and whirled around to tell Angel how not impressed she was with his following her all cloak-and-dagger-like only to corner her in a place where she couldn’t make a scene.

 

But the black-clad vampire now standing in front of her, a cloud of cigarette smoke curling into the air around his head, was not Angel.

 

Spike’s lips pulled into a delighted smirk and he tossed the butt of the cigarette away, leaving it smoking on the asphalt as he took a swaggering step forward. 

 

“Hello, Slayer,” he said, smirk widening to show a hint of teeth.  “Miss me?”

 

*~*


>> To Be Continued in Chapter Two

Comments

( 2 have spoken — take the speaking stick )
peroxidelove
May. 31st, 2010 01:01 am (UTC)
Awesome way to end a chapter I have to say! But that was an incredible chapter, poor Buffy. You really have a great way with describing emotions! Can't wait for chapter two!
abelina
May. 31st, 2010 09:22 pm (UTC)
Why thank you! And thanks for the feedback on the emotions -- without a beta on this one, I wasn't sure that I was achieving what I was going for.

Chapter two to follow shortly.
( 2 have spoken — take the speaking stick )

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