Secret Slasha – The Buffy the Vampire Slayer & Angel Slash Fanfiction Secret Santa Project
Secret Slasha – The Buffy the Vampire Slayer & Angel Slash Fanfiction Secret Santa Project

They Make Solitude And Call It Peace
By Mosca
For A Secret Slasha Dropout

You feel like you should be able to peel the skin back from your arm and see circuitry. Little green lights flashing. You were so cold on the phone, not the best friend that you've been for these fifteen years. You said the things that you are supposed to say to her when she calls from a hotel in Venice (Italy, not Beach) to tell you she's left her husband. "I think my wires are crossed," she said. "I don't think I can love the living."

"At least you tried," you said, thinking, if that's what it will take, you will slit your wrists for her. You will go to the alley behind the roller rink in Carpinteria and give some eternal Valley Girl twenty dollars to bite your neck. You will carry your spell books up from the garage and find a way to make yourself suitable.

It has been a long time since you've done any real magic. Every so often, you'll float a pencil or something, just to keep yourself sharp, but you don't cast anything potent enough that you can feel the adrenaline. It's not that you need to be on the wagon, but the longer you went without casting spells, the more it seemed like you could handle your life without supernatural assistance. You are happier working with computers. They are literal-minded, and they obey without demanding anything in return. And there is a real estate firm in Santa Barbara that pays you plenty to keep them under your command. Your supervisor calls you a magician, says you lay hands on computers. You laugh nervously.

Sometimes, as dawn breaks, or on a full-moon midnight, you can feel the power fighting through your veins, eager for you to cast it out. Reminding you that you may be retired, non-practicing, a network administrator living in Ventura County, but you are still and will always be a witch. You are the most powerful woman in the world. Power, like wealth, accrues when you don't use it. You are waiting for a spell worth casting.

"You should come back to California for a while," you said. "Until you find your feet."

"Until I'm ready to get back in the ring," she said. She still likes the violent metaphors. She's retired, too-- what Slayer wouldn't be, at the age of thirty?-- but the power won't stop running in her, either. If she were closer to you, you could feel it.

You feel all of the Slayers now. You are so used to it, after almost a decade, that you don't notice them unless you concentrate. Sometimes, you'll wake up a few minutes before your alarm clock goes off, and you'll check in on them. Every time, a few more have died. They are getting too old to fight, washed up in their twenties. There are new Potentials, but no one new will be activated until the last Slayer dies. If enough of them retire to quiet lives, it will be a long time before that happens. You will be the one to cast that spell, restore that balance, and the power has become so alien to your hands that you don't know why you have retained that responsibility.

You know why. There is no one else to give it to. You're the one person who can take it. All through high school, you wanted to understand what she was, and now you are what she isn't anymore: one girl in all the world.

"Why did you come back to California?" she says on the ride home from the airport. "You could have gone anywhere."

"Free tuition at any public school in the state to former students of UC Sunnydale," you say. "Remember? I liked school. I wanted to finish."

"You never seemed like you should've been born in California," she says. "Are you sure the goblins didn't kidnap you from, like, Silicon Valley?"

"That's still California," you say.

"Yeah, but it's the other California," she says. You both giggle, and you feel fifteen and in awe of her ability to say the right thing, her insistence on treating you like a friend. That awe never quite subsided. You wondered, while she protected Western Europe from the forces of evil and you retreated into the quiet life you would have had if you'd never met her, why she kept making expensive long-distance phone calls and sending you silly e-mails. Now, waiting at a red light and studying the lines that converge into the corner of her eye, you don't wonder anymore. She knew she'd need you eventually.

When you get home, she flips channels on your TV for half an hour. She's not used to so much English. She falls asleep with cartoons on, when the jet lag gets the best of her, and you cover her with a blanket. She used to do this all the time when she got back from patrolling, and you'd have to wake her for work or for her morning classes. You've always thought she looks prettiest when she's sleeping, angelic but touchable. When she's asleep, you can see yourself crossing the line from friendship to whatever the thing just on the other side is called. The thing that you don't know the name of because she is comfortable with your being gay as long as you're not gay for her, and that has been enough to keep your hands in your pockets and your eyes away from her breasts.

She has been in Italy for almost a decade. You have gotten rusty at keeping your eyes away from her breasts. You kiss her forehead; she stirs; you run. You trip over her suitcase, fall on your face, and curse the suitcase's family for seven generations. She wakes up. "Can we get sushi?" she says. "Italians can't seem to get the hang of sushi."

"Too simple?" you say.

She still won't eat anything with tentacles, and when she's done with her meal, she still sharpens her chopsticks into miniature stakes. They're handy, she told you once, and they work pretty well if your aim is good. When the waiter brings your check, he sets down a little plate of pineapple chunks with toothpicks in them. "For vampire mice," Buffy says, stabbing the bottle of soy sauce.

"Or I could cast a spell to shrink some people-vampires down tiny, and you could bonk them on the head with the pineapple and stake them while they were dazed," you say.

Buffy pokes her finger with the pointy end of her toothpick stake. "You know," she says, "I once staked a guy with a popsicle stick."

"I was there," you say. "It was at the mall."

"I tried with a Duraflame log once. It didn't work."

"How'd you get it through his chest?" you say.

"Timing," she says. "Which reminds me! Sundial! In Luxembourg."

"Did you try wooden shoes, in Holland?"

"Darn," she says. "That would have been cool. And culturally appropriate."

You spend most of the drive home thinking of culturally appropriate wooden items that can be sharpened to a point. "I missed you," she says. "I missed us. I didn't even notice, because I was so far away."

"Well, I'm... glad you're here," you say.

"Because who am I going to make jokes about stakes with? The other Slayers, they take the job so seriously. The sacred calling. And they all-- it's like they want my autograph. And, you know, I tried to marry a normal guy and have a normal life, but I-- even when I wasn't going out and killing monsters, there were still monsters. Out there. And I could still-- If I wanted to, I could kill them. And he knew."

"Is that why it-- why you--?"

"Yeah," she says. "If there's anyone in the world who can take it away, it's you."

You don't want to know what she's asking. You suck on your lip.

"Can you?" she says. "You gave all those people Slayer power. And it's easier to take things away than to give them. So you can, can't you?"

"Yeah," you say. "Probably." You close your eyes, and you know which page on which book. A few things from your spice rack, maybe a trip to the butcher, and you'd be set. And she'd be normal. "But I won't."

She gives you the pouty look, which is much less effective from a thirty-year-old woman than from a high school junior. You are ashamed to admit to yourself that you missed the pouty look.

"You-- you-- you don't want me to," you say. "You think-- you think you do, but you don't. You'd... it'd be great for a day, and then there wouldn't be anything left of you."

She looks at you for a long time, like she can wait you out until you change your mind. You wait back. If there's one thing a person learns, recovering from addiction, it's patience.

"How long have you been more powerful than me?" she says.

"I don't know," you say. "How long have you been gone?"

She comes up close to you and fingers your hair. You are terrified that she will make a move, because you will not stop her. You've dreamed this, and you are momentarily afraid that you've magicked it. She will wake up on the couch with something like a hangover, and the air will stink of wilted roses.

"You cut it," she says. "It looks nice."

"Cut it, grew it out, cut it again, cut it more," you say. "It's been through a few things."

"And it stays attached to you," she says. She kisses your cheek, and you tell yourself she's just being European. "Like me."

The next kiss, the one with the intensity and the hands in your hair and the weighty threat of tongue, would be culturally inappropriate anywhere. "But I'm not the undead!" you blurt out.

"I need the fight," she says. "You're the only one left that can give me the fight."

"No," you say. "There's people. There's men. There's--"

"There's you," she says.

More than a few women have looked at you the way she is looking at you, and none of them have lasted. But this is Buffy, and you have had her longer than anyone. "Are you... sure?" you say.

"I think this is what we get," she says. "I think this is where we end up, and I think-- there are things worth fighting, and then there are destinies that get fulfilled no matter how much you move to Italy." She pulls you in close, as if for another kiss, but she stops. She traces your hairline with her finger. "How long have you been in love with me?" she says.

"Since before I knew what it meant," you say.

"Thought so," she says.

"You were wrong," you say, and she looks insulted until you add, "It's easier to give than to take away. And usually the giving turns out better." She throws you down on the couch; you can feel her holding back her strength, like she knows you will resist her tomorrow, but tonight you have no fight to give.