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Widening Gyre, The

by starlet2367

FEEDBACK: Talk to me, baby.

DISCLAIMER: The characters herein are the property of Mutant Enemy. No infringement is intended and no money is being made.

AUTHOR'S NOTES: The title's from Yeats's poem, "The Second Coming." Thanks to Ophelia, for asking the question "what if" and for the most excellent beta. Thanks also to Julie Fortune, whose humor, stories and faith keep me on track.

She remembers sunlight. Not the constant, eye-gouging light of the higher realms, but sunlight. Pure, warm and golden.

She crosses her arms and stares out the window. Instead of her reflection, she sees herself at the beach in a red bikini guaranteed to stop traffic. All she had to do was hold up her hand and the boys crashed like cars at a malfunctioning stoplight.

The shadows outside the windows move, and her heart skips a beat.

He's out there somewhere. He thinks she doesn't know that he's waiting, watching. Angel is such a dumbass. She knows him better than anyone now. Knows his habits and his obsessions. Knows he'll stalk her--stalk them both--until he kills them.

She'd like to put the golden smackdown on his undead butt. Does he think he's the only one whose life ended that night? He has no idea what she's seen, what she's felt--

How could he? Mr. Deficient was convinced she was happy in heaven. And then when she finally did get her memory back, all he could think about was whether they were in love. Right. Because hearts and flowers are so important when the earth is about to open up and swallow you whole.

Rage rises in her like a hot, red tide, and she closes her eyes to block it out, but what she sees in her head is worse. The Beast, like lava risen from the fiery core, scorching everything it touches.

Something moves in the corner, and she turns her head sharply. Shivering, heart fluttering, she watches as the shadows twist and change, becoming spiders that skitter towards her feet. She gasps, scrambles away, imagining their feathery touch on her skin.

Where are her shoes? WHERE ARE HER SHOES?

She runs to the shelves and starts yanking clothes off and throwing them into the floor. Palms sweating, hands trembling, she barely feels the fabric as it passes through her fingers, as she kicks it into piles. The cold metal shelves squeak when her damp hands pass over them, and she grits her teeth at the sound. Whirling, she scans the room, looking for shoes, socks--anything.

Nothing but inky, crawling shadows. Nothing but bare feet and spiders.

She jumps onto the bed, coils her arms tightly around her knees, and rocks. Even with her eyes closed she can see them skitter and the hair on her arms stands up. Something tickles her wrist and she slaps it, backing as far into the pillows as she can get.

Oh, God, oh, God. Angel, please make it stop. And then he's there, stroking her hand gently across the divide of years. "I want you to rest, and we're going to handle this." She was nine months pregnant in one night, and she deserved it because everyone knew sex was bad, and this was the payoff for pleasure. "We'll leave you alone," he'd said, but wasn't that the problem?

She hasn't been alone for a long, long time.

She's suddenly aware that she's sitting on sheets that are sour with sweat and sex, and her stomach lurches. She bolts across the room and collapses into the chair, realizing too late that she's sitting on a couple of damp towels and one of Connor's shoes. It hurts her hip--but at least she can feel something. At least she's not still up there floating in the void.

She twists her fingers together, fascinated how they become a flesh-and-bone braid. Now she understands Dennis. How strong he is to pick up a loofah and how bitter he must be at not tasting food or being touched or--

Angel's hand brushes her hair off her face. She leans into him, asks him how he does it. How he makes everything feel safe--

She knows he's out there, watching. That she lost that Angel--the good one--when she screwed Connor. Now she's left with psycho-stalker boy, and there's no way he's stopping at goldfish. She remembers the stories Buffy whispered about Miss Calender's body. How Giles found her, neck twisted around all wrong, lying in his bed.

She's so tired, so tired.... It would be so easy to just open that window, lie down on the dirty sheets, and let Angel in.

She snorts. That would so be what Connor needs. As much as she'd like to sleep forever, she can't risk it. Not with what she knows about the end of the world.

And that's really the problem, isn't it? That she knows too much. That she sees too much.

That she didn't feel enough.

A scream cuts the air and she jolts to her feet, heart racing into her throat. Then she realizes it's nothing important. Just her, just another woman the beast is breaking, burning. Another life, being destroyed in this eternal night.

She slides bonelessly into the chair and stares at her fingers, twisted like Jenny Calender's neck. Then she notices her feet are still bare. Maybe she'll ask Connor to find her slippers when he gets home. Connor would do anything for her. God knows he--

She swallows bile. She only wanted him to have something real, some idea of softness and love, something good and bright for his soul to take into eternity.

Now she's left with shadows and darkness.

She sees them in his eyes every time he looks at her. Poor boy, stupid enough to believe she was nothing more than a beautiful girl stopping traffic on the beach. He had no idea that when he fucked her, he also fucked his father, destroying any chance for a real relationship they might have had.

She laughs at the irony. One good turn deserves a worse one, and now Connor is screwed, in every sense of the word.

Voices come out of the woodwork. "Were we in love?" "I need you." "You're important." The voices whisper and jump. She puts her hands over her ears. Go away, go away. Now they're in front of her, and she opens her eyes, blinking fiercely so she can see.

No one is there.

"What, no hug?" She jumps and turns--it's Angel, smiling. His leather pants glimmer in the faint glow of light from the grimy window.

"Angel?" She reaches out her hands. "Oh, my God. Are you--"

When she touches him, he disappears. The only thing left is the glow of his eyes, hot and relentlessly penetrating as that awful light. He touches her face and suddenly she's looking into the eyes of the Beast. The searing heat of his paw melts her skin; she skitters away, and screams in grinding pain as her bones crunch under his hooves.

The Beast steps back and now she can see them, all the people that he's going to kill. One woman cries for her children, who lie dead at her feet. Cordy screams, NO! and runs toward them. The woman steps in front of her babies as if Cordelia is the thing they need to be protected from.

She looks around to see if any of the others noticed, overwhelmed with shame strong enough to make her want to run and run, until everyone disappears. So no one can see what she's become. Empty. Wasted. Nothing but a void where her body used to be.

She wishes Angel would finish her off; God knows, Connor never could. Not that Connor could do much of anything. Something like humor bubbles in her chest. One last fuck and he couldn't even get her off. You'd think, if you were going to drive your entire family down the road to hell, the Powers would at least rent you a convertible.

A door slams, jerking her back to the dark room, and Connor walks in. He presents the package of Twinkies like it's a 4-carat diamond. The plastic crinkles in her hands and the doughy feel of the super-refined cakes turns her stomach. He's trying so hard--but is it too much to ask for a Lean Cuisine? An Eggo? Something with nutrients besides sugar and fire--

Her blood boils, an erupting volcano, and she wants to scream, but then Connor kneels and takes her hands, pulling her out of the flames. His callused fingers feel rough and reassuring and they remind her of Angel--

In her ear the Beast's breath is hot as hellfire. He laughs--she fell for it, didn't she? The skeptical one, the one with the cross in her pocket and holy water in her atomizer, fell for the lie. The world hadn't ended; instead, morning came on cloven hooves and kicked her into the abyss. Now she's falling, spiraling, grabbing at anything that will keep her steady.

Connor. She smiles and cups his cheek in her palm. She'd loved him so much it made her heart hurt. She was dying, and then there was Connor, giving her hope and a place to focus all that love she'd been afraid would never be used.

Her smile fades. She had a lot of practice covering up her intelligence, but she read Oedipus in high school. She knows what happens when you fuck your son--you go crazy and die. She drops her hand to her lap and looks away.

She's pretty sure that one of those has already happened to her, but she can't say which it is. If she's dead, she's in hell and it's no worse than she deserves.

She feels Connor's trembling fingers on her chin, feels him tilt her face up.

She looks into Connor's shadowed eyes, clings to his hand desperately, and wonders if she'll ever see sunlight again.


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