"Ever wayward, weak and blind"
-- Gustave Nadaud
Everything was harder when you were blind. Even the simplest things became more difficult, more time consuming. Things like getting dressed. Sneaking out her bedroom window. And navigating. Yeah, navigating definitely had them all beat. Buffy didn't really care if she was wearing different socks or if her clothes clashed -- although looking frumpy on the last night of her life was a pretty big downer. And climbing down the tree outside her window hadn't been all that hard really -- it had mostly been a matter of hugging the trunk for dear life and trying to figure out when it was safe to let go -- OK, she had misjudged that one a bit...but finding her way through the night, all alone in the dark...that was a bit much, even for her.
Forty-eight, forty-nine, fifty. Buffy came to an unsteady halt and stretched a cautious toe forward, feeling for the curb. Feeling stupid.
This was ridiculous. If you had asked her a week ago, she would have said she could have found the cemetery blindfolded. All those nights of patrolling, all of those evening trips to and from the graveyard -- she should have been able to close her eyes and find the way without even thinking about it.
Only it hadn't quite worked out like that. She had crept out at just after midnight -- somewhat startled to discover that she knew exactly what time it was, despite the fact that she couldn't see any of the clocks in the house. Somehow, she had been able to tell the time by the level of darkness pressing upon her, as if she could sense how far away the dawn was and how long ago the sun had set. 'I wonder if the vamps can do this?' she had thought, then had shuddered slightly at yet one more example of how much her life had changed since becoming the Slayer, and how closely her world was entangled now with the other creatures of darkness.
As if that wasn't depressing enough, it had started to rain. Hard.
The most difficult part (besides not being able to shake the feeling that she was completely and irreversibly lost) had been trying to look as if she could see, as if she knew exactly where she was and what she was doing, in case someone did spot her and wonder what a blind girl was doing wandering about at this hour. The streets were pretty much deserted -- she hadn't sensed anyone since she had left her own neighbourhood, but that didn't mean there weren't people out there. She was almost as worried about running into a good samaritan as she was about the vampires and demons. Well, almost. Still, her spidey sense wasn't tingling. That was a good sign. She would know if there were people -- or monsters -- about. Really she would. She drew in a quick, somewhat shaky breath. She had to trust her remaining senses, and that other sense deep inside her, the one that made her who and what she was.
After all, it was all she had left.
Buffy hitched her weapons bag a little higher on her shoulder and shook her head, feeling raindrops spray around her with the movement, and an icy tendril of water roll down the back of her neck. Shivering slightly, she crossed the road then turned right. The cemetery was close... maybe. Still, it was a small town. She'd find it eventually. She hoped. Or the monsters would find her first. She reached a cold hand inside her bag and checked that her weapons were all within reach, reminding herself where everything was stashed. She had just brought the basics - a couple of stakes, a long, wicked-looking knife, and a crossbow -- although she wasn't sure how much use the last one would be. She didn't think she could hit the side of a barn right now (not that there were a whole lot of barns that needed slaying within Sunnydale city limits) let alone a moving target. Maybe if she asked nicely the demon would stand still while she shot at it...
Buffy sighed, then trudged onward. Nobody had ever said this would be easy, after all. At least the weapons check, plus her constant tension, blended with just a little bit of fear and a whole lot of frustration, kept her mind off other, more unpleasant things. Like how she didn't want to die. How she really really didn't want to die. Not tonight. Not any night, actually, but especially not tonight, and not like this -- blind, soaking wet, and probably wearing mismatched socks. 'I wanted to be the first Slayer to retire. I wanted to graduate College. I wanted to see the world. I wanted to have a life..." Misery welled up within her.
"This is so not fair," she thought as she took another step forward...
...and promptly fell over a tombstone.
With a startled yelp, the Slayer found herself over-balancing and falling forward, only reaching out to slap the ground with her hands and cushion the fall at the very last second. She still landed jarringly hard. For a moment she lay motionless, wincing as a shaft of pain shot through her arm, starting at her elbow and working its way up.
She was lying on a newly dug grave, Buffy realized (which beat lying in a new grave, but not by much). The rain had turned the earth to a sea of mud and she could feel it plastering her body, coating her like... well, like mud. With a sound of disgust, the Slayer reached up to scrape a large clump of dirt off her forehead and out of her eyes. Not that it made any difference, sight-wise, but it was stinging. Then she sighed and hauled herself slowly to her feet, checking for any major damage. Nothing. Just a few more bumps and bruises to add to the collection she had started when she had fallen out of the tree...plus a funny bone that was feeling pretty un-funny.
Rubbing her elbow, Buffy turned slowly, unsure of her footing, making sure the bag was still looped around her neck. She pushed ineffectively at the mud caking her shirt and pants with one hand -- it felt like she was wearing half the graveyard -- and suppressed a shudder as yet another gallon or so of rainwater ran down her back. 'I do not believe this,' she thought miserably as she prised one foot out of the ankle-deep mud, trying not to lose her shoe as she did. "Life just sucks," she said out loud.
"That is does, darlin'."
The voice came from behind her and a little way to the right. Buffy gasped and spun around, her feet sliding a little on the wet ground. Nevertheless, in less than a heartbeat she was in a defensive stance, weight balanced on both feet, knees slightly bent, crossbow in one hand and knife in the other while her heart hammered wildly as she tried to lock in on the other presence. The driving rain was making it difficult, the water messing with her senses and throwing her off balance. There was definitely something out there, she could tell, and it wasn't human. But other than that... If only she could see. Buffy caught her breath then stilled, blinking away the raindrops running into her eyes. And listened.
There. He...it...whatever it was, was moving toward her. Slowly, unhurriedly, as if it had all the time in the world. And...it was familiar. She knew it. Him.
"Look like you've seen a ghost. Feeling jumpy tonight, are you, Slayer?" A pause, then: "Gotta say I'm loving the wet t-shirt look..."
English accent. Taunting overtones. Sexual innuendo.
Buffy's shoulders abruptly sagged with relief. Not a demon (well, yes, technically he was, but not a threat to life and limb. Maybe.) She lowered the crossbow and knife before he could see how much her hands were shaking as a single thought flashed across her mind. 'Don't let him know.' Buffy wasn't quite sure why, but there was definitely something inside her that did not want the vampire to know that she was blind. Not questioning the instinct, the Slayer turned her head to where she thought he was and said flatly: "Spike. What are you doing here?"
"I live here, remember?"
She must be near his crypt then. Good, that told her where she was...more or less.
"Haven't seen much of you lately," he was saying. He made it sound as if it was because she was wearing too much clothing, not that she hadn't been around the cemetery, and suddenly Buffy became acutely aware of how much her wet shirt was clinging to her. Resisting the urge to fold her arms over her chest, she put the knife away, though keeping a good grip on the crossbow, and turned fractionally to follow the sound of his voice.
"Too busy with Captain Cardboard to come out and kill the bad guys, is that it? Lad seems pretty high maintenance to me. Wonder what your Watcher thinks about all this shirking..."
"Flattered as I am that you seem to be so worried about my job and my love life, I really don't have time for this, Chip Boy." Sarcasm dripped from her voice and for just a moment Buffy felt better, probably the best she had felt since she had been blinded. Somehow, trading veiled -- and not so veiled -- insults with Spike, not having to worry about his feelings or be treated like a piece of glass that was liable to break at any minute...it was refreshing. And she had missed it. And for just a moment, she could almost believe that things would be all right, that everything would work out in the end, somehow...
And then he was at her back, one hand seizing her right wrist, the one holding the crossbow, while his other arm snaked around her waist, pulling her tightly against him, his grip like iron. She hadn't even heard him move. Her heart, which had been slowing, jolted painfully and resumed a frantic pace. He would be able to hear it, Buffy knew, would know just how frightened she really was. Anger flashed through her instantly at the thought and she struggled against the vampire's grip. Nothing. She could get no purchase on the wet mud, her feet slipping beneath her, while he seemed to be rooted into the Earth itself, solid as a tree trunk behind her.
"Ken doll is obviously a bad influence on you, Slayer." Spike's voice said in her ear. If he had breath, she would have felt it along her neck, he was that close. "You're all distracted," he continued. "You'd never have let me get this close before."
"Maybe I just let you get close so I could do this." With that Buffy lashed downward with one foot and jerked her head backward, feeling a reassuring thud as the back of her skull impacted with his nose while her heel drove into his instep.
"Bloody hell," Spike said, dropping her like a hot brick, both of his hands going to his nose while he teetered precariously on one foot behind her.
The Slayer spun, her actions coming fast and automatic. A stake was in her left hand, the crossbow pointed unerringly at his heart -- she didn't need to see to know where it was pointed. She just knew -- and the adrenaline rushing through her was helping, rather than hurting her fighting skills. Another joyous rush went through her. She was still the Slayer. She could still kick major vampire ass...
...and then a demon launched itself at her out of the night and she flew backward beneath its weight.
Continued in Part 2