Tara's POV, disturbing imagery, rated R.
Little Mouse Sounds
Willow? Why are you crying? What's wrong? Oh, Buffy. Is Buffy dead? Dead. Everything is dead. All the mice are dying. Willow, let me hold you. Hush Willow. Poor Buffy. Poor Dawn.
They skitter on their claws. They make little mouse sounds. Dead.
What happens now? The mice will come to eat her hair
Xander's hurting Buffy. No, I guess he can't hurt her, she's dead. And the spiders will eat her eyes. And that will hurt her. But he's hurting my Willow. Poor baby, don't be angry, he has a plan. He's trying to help us. And he's touching her skin, and the beetles will eat her skin, and then he'll be touching her bones.
And Spike is crying, poor Spike. And Dawn, oh, she's hurt. And Anya is unconscious. Spiders are making webs in her head. Please, why doesn't help come? Where are the ambulances? The mice have switched the road signs.
Hospitals are not made for waiting, which is strange considering how much waiting you have to do. Mom died at home. That was, nice, I guess. It was nice that I could be by her side, taking care of her. But the mice were still there, they still scratched her face, still she screamed at the feel of little claws skittering. But it was hard on Daddy and Donny. They were so sad; their auras were all brown.
They took Buffy away, to the morgue, I suppose. Can you hear the mice? And Anya's up in critical care. Xander went too. I hope he can be with her. She'll be scared. And the spiders will crawl on her, covering her mouth. She's not used to pain. Pain and dark and little mouse sounds. Get used to it, you'll be spending a long time in here.
They're coming for Dawn. They're coming for everyone; no one here gets out alive. Giles is going with her. Poor Willow. She's so sad, and none of the Scoobies are here for her. Everyone is alone, the only things you can count on are the mice. And the spiders. Poor Will, poor baby. Come cuddle close, let me stroke your hair.
Xander's here, and Giles. They both look so tired. Of course we can stay with Dawn. She needs comforting, after her mom and Buffy. No comfort, only darkness and the skittering of claws. Xander, of course we'll look in on Anya. Oh, okay, I will. I know that she'll be scared. And the mice will build nests from her hair.
Take care of Spike. And, Xander, take care of yourself. You've been so concerned with everybody else that I think you've been forgetting to do that. His soul is full of wasps, stinging and poisoning.
Oh, I must have fallen asleep. Willow's lying in my lap, her curls spread along my thigh. Pretty hair, all red like fire, like blood, like eyes shining in dark places. I'm so happy, even with Buffy gone, just so happy to be back. For Willow to have found me, to restore me. The dark is still here, you never left, you are lost and alone, wandering in a country that is not yours, looking for friends who don't exist. Only the mice, the spiders, the wasps, everything else is the illusion, they are the truth.
The doctor says that Dawn can go home. The paperwork will take a while, Willow you stay with her. I'm going to the gift shop, I want to bring something to Anya. Bring her a wasp, she'll like that, she'll like the poison.
I know that Anya would like a journal, a book of days. She told me once that she enjoyed the banality of recording events that she remembered perfectly well. Will she remember the mice? Will she write about the spiders crawling on her?
I sit with Anya while Xander's at work. We talk of commonplaces and sometimes we hold hands and sit in silence. But always there is the scrabbling of claws, the gnawing of sharp white teeth. She's very excited right now. Xander proposed. Her ring is very pretty. Little eyes, glittering in the dark.
Anya is coming home. Willow and I will take turns staying at home, helping her, and going to help Mr. Giles at the store. Taking care of Anya is a lot of work, but Xander takes care of most of it when he's home, and Willow and I can easily handle the small everyday stuff.
It's very hard for Anya to accept help. Don't be upset, it's a chick thing. We always go to the bathroom together. You are alone.
I dropped Dawn off at school on my way to the magic shop. We took the bus. It isn't far, but hardly anyone walks around here. Why do you have an umbrella, mister? It's not going to rain. It's foolish to carry an umbrella if it's not going to rain.
There's quite a bit to done at the store. Cleaning and restocking the inventory is a big part of it. I don't think I stopped all day. There was a wasp caught in a spider's web, struggling to get free. And when the spider came along to eat the wasp, it got stung, over and over again. And the spider convulsed in an exquisite death agony, and the wasp moved so frantically that it ripped off a wing. Did you hear that? Oh, nothing. It's just, I must have been thinking of something else. I thought I heard someone laugh.
There isn't much laughter in the store. Mr. Giles is so sombre, none of his humour shines through his aura. It's all cloudy with grief and anger and guilt. Killer. He's such a good man. He's a killer. Willow loves him so much. Poisonous spider. His left hand still hasn't healed from the injury it sustained the night Buffy died. All bloody and covered with bites and stings. Marked by the mice and the spiders and the wasps. I think it still bothers him, I see him rubbing at it all the time.
We've settled into a routine now. In a rut. In a grave. In a ditch filled with foetid water and buzzing wasps. I've discovered that I have quite a knack for cooking. Anya helps me as much as I help her. It's a lot of fun, it's been a long time since I had a friend. They're all laughing at you.
Actually, I end up cooking most of the time. Willow gets so caught up in researching and spells that she usually forgets to start dinner. Oh, it's okay, I don't mind. I enjoy the cooking. Daddy's little girl. You can take Mommy's place. You make a good Mommy. Xander is good for breakfast and ordering in, but there's only so many times a week you can have pancakes. And after that, umm, interesting moussaka that Mr. Giles made, I don't think that any of us are eager to have him take on kitchen duty. Slimy, dark, festering. Yummy. Dawn hasn't progressed much past breakfast foods, either. I think that I might want to sit them down for some lessons. That will be a fun Saturday activity.
The evenings are the best time. The best time. In the gloaming the dead things come out. Everyone sits around the den and we help Dawn with her homework. Well, we try to help, anyway. Botany doesn't seem to be a major concern in Middle School. Oh, yes, Botany. I'm a Botany Major. Well, it helps me identify useful herbs. You take fifty or sixty apricot kernels and grind them up. They taste of bitter almonds and you use it to flavour cookies. And within fifteen minutes you have respiratory failure, coma and death. It's good for spells, and, and cooking. Purple foxglove, pretty Fairy Fingers, ringing Witch's Bells. Tasty in a stew. And then your vision blurs, and then your heart beats irregularly, and then you die. And everyone thinks that you've had a heart attack, old man. No one expects pretty things to be deadly. And lots of other uninteresting stuff.
Oh, what's that poem that Spike's reciting? It's so beautiful. Being pulled down into the dark waters. Being smothered by the inexorable hand of god. Escaping the mice and the spiders and the wasps, but your lungs will swell and your eyes will burst and your skin will become red with petichia. He's got such a lovely voice. So full of death.
I love going to bed. Quiet and dark. Only the dead are walking. Drowsing in bed, Willow cuddled close to my side, listening to her soft breathing. Could anything be more perfect? What more could I want? Hot and wet and shameful. Hmm, snuggle a little closer, honey. Yeah, that's nice. So very, very nice. Ohhh, just a little higher. Oh! Is someone there? Xander? What's he doing? Did he hear the mouse sounds? Is he looking for mice? What? Mice? I, what did I say? I don't know. I guess I was confused.
I think that a levitation spell will make it easier to help Anya. I don't want her to go flying around, but if I could lighten her, or float her I wouldn't have to strain so. I scour the books at the shop, there must be something that will help, I can find it if I just look in the right place. That spider has six legs. A spider should have eight legs. That's just wrong. Whoever heard of a six-legged spider? Abomination. Not fit to scuttle about in its six-legged way. What? Oh, is it time to go home already, Mr. Giles? I don't know where the day went. Let me just wash my hands.
Hey, you. How was your day? A breakthrough with the ball of sunshine spell? That's great, honey. Make dinner? I don't mind. Sing a song of sixpence. Oh, Anya, thanks, but you go sit with Xander. You haven't seen him all day. I don't need any help, I'll just whip up something quick. Four and twenty spiders baked in a pie Well, if you really want to Dawn. You can make the salad. When the pie was opened, the spiders were all dead and crispy from being baked for forty-five minutes in a three-hundred and fifty degree oven. I-I don't think we need any more help, Mr. Giles. Thanks for asking, though.
Xander, you don't have to always wash the dishes. I don't mind doing them. You don't have to repay me for cooking dinner, Silly! Well, remind you to thank your Mom. She sure trained you well. Ohhh, look at his eyes, so deliciously wounded. Such a delicacy for the spiders. I-I didn't mean, I'm sorry, I just meant, I-I'm sorry.
Huh? Oh, sit outs-s-s-ide? But it's dark out. Dark and damp and full of crawling things. N-n-no, I guess it's romantic. Umm, do you think that there are bugs? Spiders and wasps and desiccating beetles. I guess you're right. I sup-p-pose they can't hurt us. They'll crawl into your mouth and eat your tongue.
That feels good. My shoulders are so stiff. Rigour mortis setting in? I think I might have strained something when I was helping Anya. Say, I've been thinking that a levitation spell might make things easier. Well, easier to help Anya. What do you mean? It's not that easy to lift her. How else can you help her use the bathroom? What are you talking about? You mean that you leave her all day? Without helping her? How can you neglect her like that?
Spike, you s-s-startled me. Such a lovely fellow, so much torture in him. Dead blood in his veins. You help Anya? That's not the point, Willow, and you know it. Xander is counting on us, counting on you, and you're letting him down. Is this how you repay them for all the times they helped me when I was sick? Wasps are buzzing in your brain. How can you say that! How can you hate Anya? Oh, I get it. You're jealous. You don't want Xander to love anyone but you. I see it now. I see everything so clearly now. Mice are nesting in your soul. It's not that you think that I doubt you being gay, you're the one that doubts it! You are keeping your options open! Well that's not right! It's not fair to me, and it's certainly not fair to Anya. How dare you punish her with your neglect, with your capriciousness? She's sure of who she love, don't punish her because you have doubts. Wasps in your hair, wasps in your mouth, wasps in your heart. Don't you tell me that I'm hysterical! These fucking insects are driving me fucking nuts! I'm going inside.
Oh god. Oh god. Willow. What have I done? You've driven her away. I've driven her away. How can I live without her? You can die. Dying is easy. How can I lose my Willow? You don't deserve to have love. Maybe Daddy was right. Daddy's always right. Daddy's little girl. There's something wrong with me. Degenerate. I don't deserve to be happy. Ingrate. I just hurt every one around me. Freak Why can't I get that through my thick skull? Your bones will shatter like glass, the mice will feast on your brain. Little claws slipping in your blood.
Willow? Oh, Willow. I'm sorry. I'm so very sorry. Please forgive me. Oh, there's nothing to forgive. You didn't do anything wrong. I love you. I love you. Such sweet kisses. Such soft skin. She reeks of lust. She reeks of death. Yes, oh yesssss. So hot, so wet, so very sweet. Dark and wet and hot, that's where evil grows. Yes. Yes. Yes.
Huh? No, I'm awake. Well, maybe it would be best for you to take a break. I'm sure Mr. Giles would prefer to have you at the store anyway. I don't mind. I enjoy taking care of the house. I like helping Anya. Mommy's sick. You have to take Mommy's place. But you're still Daddy's little girl. We'll have fun.
But I don't understand the Stock Market. Isn't it awfully risky? You've made how much? Oh. Maybe you could show me? Okay, right click, double click, security code. I did it. Oh, I did it! I bought a stock! I'm a day trader. This is so cool! Show me more, Anya. This is very exciting. Oh, Spike. See, Anya is showing me how to trade on-line. Did we wake you? Oh, okay. I'll let you know when Dawn gets home. Oh, it's so late. I better start dinner. No, Anya, you stay here. I'm just going to throw some things in the stew pot. It's very simple, but I know that you'll love it. It's very tasty.
Willow! I've had such a fun day! Anya showed me how to use the intern- - - Oh, I'm sorry. I hate when customers get all poopy. My poor cranky bear. Let me rub your head, I'll get rid of that old headache in no time. Catch a wasp in your hand, you can crush it, so crunchy, and the poison seeps sticky into your blood.
I never really understood Shakespeare. Evil writing. Dirty words. Fornication and sin and wrongdoing. Oh, no, please. I couldn't. I c-can't. I can't act. Liar, liar, liar. You pretend to be normal, you act like you belong.
Spike! Oh, it's so funny! Men pretending to be women. Fairies. Degenerates. Sick. Sick. Sick. Oh, look! Look how funny! Sinful. Wrong. They don't deserve happiness. They don't deserve laughter. Misery is what they need, what's coming to them.
Goodnight. Goodnight. Sweet dreams.
Oh, Willow. It was so much fun tonight. Didn't you think that Spike and Mr. Giles were wonderful? I don't know the last time I laughed so hard. Sorrow is your birthright. Pain is your legacy. Death is your companion.
Oh, Willow. Willow. Willow. Don't stop. You're making me crazy. Funny.
Mice make nests of your hair. Spiders spin webs in your head. Wasps sting and sting and sting.
Uhnnnn! I had a bad dream. I don't know. I don't remember. What's that noise? What's going on? Where is Xander going? What's wrong? Spike? Where's Spike going?
I hate waiting. Waiting never brings good things. Death and disease and desertion. I feel like my skin is crawling. The spiders are trying to get out. Poor Dawn. I don't think that she can take anymore bad news. Th-thank you, Mr. Giles. The cocoa is lovely. Are you trying to drown the spiders? Is it warming you up, Dawn? Down came the rain. Don't worry. They'll be back soon. I'm sure that nothing bad has happened. Down came the rain. I hope that nothing bad has happened.
They're back. They're here. Xander looks so sad. He's full of wasps. And Spike, so very grim. Down came the rain. No. No. Down came the rain. Not Anya. Down came the rain. No. Poor Xander. Down came the rain. It's not fair.
Poor Dawn. Oh, don't cry, honey. Don't cry Willow. Down came the rain. Let me help. How can I help?
What's that noise?Sounds like water coming down a spout.
Oh my god. Oh, poor Xander. Oh, what can I do? How can I help? Down came the rain.
Of course. Of course. My clothes, your clothes. Don't worry about wrinkles, Willow. We have to move fast. Down came the rain. Just throw things on the bed. Move Xander's stuff to Buffy's room. He's quieter now. Come on, let's pack up Anya's things. Down came the rain. Put her clothes in the boxes. Down came the rain. Oh, her journals. Look, this is the one that I bought her. She's been using it. Umm, I guess you can stack them over there, Willow. Hand me a box, please. I'm going to put all of her books together. Down came the rain. I think that's the last of it. Down came the rain. Can you help us move the boxes to the basement? Down came the rain. Thanks, some of them are very heavy. Down came the rain and washed the spider out.
Willow, please help me change the sheets. I just don't feel comfortable using them. Death doesn't stick to linen. What a crazy notion. Can't you just do it to humour me? Oh, don't cry sweetie. I didn't mean to be so harsh. Stupid, clumsy, fat girl. It's okay. I'll do it myself. I don't mind.
Anya's not here. It seems so strange to not have her at the table. Only yesterday she was teaching me about stocks, and now she's dead. Dead. Everything dies. Everyone will die. Mr. Giles looks so very sad, I think that he really loved Anya. He doesn't love you. And Dawn has suffered so much loss. I can see the suffering in her face. Pretty, pretty pain. It looks good on her. She should suffer more. I can't tell what Willow is feeling. That's a little disturbing. I never had trouble reading her before. Her aura seems so dark. Dark and damp and evil. I know that she must be concerned about Xander. We all are. I can't finish these eggs. Slimey pre-embryonic chicken, what's not to savour?
Oh, there's Xander. He looks so beaten down, so very sad. So pretty, so very tormented. Someone should say something. What should I say? The wrong thing, of course. The radio, that's a good idea, music will help.
For the first time in history, it's gonna start raining men They'd land in a bloody pool of broken limbs and lacerated flesh if they fell from any height. It's raining men, hallelujah, it's raining men, amen. really like Geri Halliwell's version of this song. It's raining men, hallelujah, it's raining men, amen.
My god, I can't get this song out of my head! It's going to drive me crazy. Too late, baby.
Well, I suppose that it's nice that we get to work together. I just wish we didn't have to. Oh, I didn't mean anything by that. It's just, Anya. I miss her. Easy enough to join her. Yes, Mr. Giles does seem to need the extra help. It sure is busy. Could you help me unpack these books? No, it's okay. If it's a pivotal place in the spell of course you have to finish. I don't mind. You know what lives under a doormat? Spiders. They love it there.
I'm so tired. Dead tired. I'm at least as tired as you, honey. My feet hurt. Hmmm, is this a competition? My hair hurts. Okay, then, top this: my lungs are filled with spider webs and wasps have laid eggs in my uterus. Umm, that was strange, wasn't it? I think that I'm more tired than I realised. Maybe I'll just go to bed early. Sweet dreams. Oh, I should make dinner first.
I don't know what's happening. You are alone. Buffy is dead, Anya is dead, Joyce is dead. You're dead too, they just haven't gotten around to burying you. And now Mr. Giles is leaving. Why would he want to stay around? Surrounded by dead people.
He's so desperate. Desperate to get away. So desperate to get home. To get away from you. His aura is black with despair and guilt and shame. Maybe he'll kill himself. He's good at killing. What could make such a good man so despondent? Killer. So forlorn? He's a killer.
He's gone. You are dead to him. What are we supposed to do now? You could stop pretending. Who's going to take care of Dawn? You could stop dissembling. Who's going to take care of us? You could give up your ridiculous faith in the bright side and look at the darkness that is surrounding you.
Willow, I'm worried. I don't know what to do. Oh, honey, don't cry. Let me hold you. I'll make it better, I'll take care of things. I promise. You lie.
Things are falling apart. Chaos, darkness, it is the way the universe wants things to be. I think that Xander is having a breakdown, he's so frantic, so lost since Anya died. I wish he'd realise that he's dead and stop walking around. And since Mr. Giles left, he's been so dark. Mice have eaten his soul. He's drinking so much, he's in so much pain.
It's hurting Dawn. She's so fragile. Then why isn't she broken? She's lost her family. When will she break? She's lost Mr. Giles, she's lost Anya. Why won't she break? She's lost Xander, he's just not here anymore. Shatter like crystal. Splinter like glass. Fragment into a thousand jagged pieces that will lacerate her flesh and let the spiders out.
Willow, I think we have to do something. I think that we need to talk to Xander. Well, because he needs help. He's in so much pain. Maybe if he could express his feelings things would be better for him. Well, I am kind of new agey, I guess. Stupid, stupid girl. I'm s-s-sorry. I guess it is a s-s-stupid idea. Stupid, ugly, worthless girl.
They're fighting. I hate it when they fight. Vicious, ugly, nasty words. Willow doesn't even sound like herself. Her voice is so hard, so cold. Makes a nice change from the baby talk. And Xander is so angry and so hurt. Can't Willow see the pain? It's so obvious, so delicious. Like he's coated with anguish and filled with rage. Mommy, may I have seconds? She's pushing him so hard, and he's fighting back.
Maybe it's better than his apathy, but, oh, look at Dawn. Poor Dawn. She shouldn't be hearing this. I think that she's cracking. I can see spider-webs on her face. Dawnie, maybe we should go upstairs?
He's hurt. He's bleeding. His insides are coming out. What is Spike doing? Is he drinking Xander's blood? He's feeding off his pain. You all are. Tasty, isn't it?
He's crying. Oh, Xander, poor Xander. So many tears. They're washing the spider out. So much pain, so much misery. Such sublime agony, such magnificent anguish.
Willow, I think that we should go. Spike can take care of Xander. I don't think that we should see him like this. Spoilsport. Umm, okay, I guess that you're right. You're his friend, not me. Abandoned, alone, listen to the mouse sounds. But we should go, Dawn. C'mon. We'll see Xander in the morning. It'll be okay. Liar, liar, liar.
Did you want me to braid your hair? Come over here, then. You have such pretty hair, Dawn. So thick, and such a nice colour. Chant the spell, braid it into her hair. Dye it? Well, I don't think that you need to do that, but if you want to. Maybe we'll go to the drug store after you've finished school. Let's go eat breakfast.
I hate waiting. I wish that Xander would come down. Be careful what you wish for. I hope that he's okay. Dawn isn't eating enough. She's been feeding on death. She's getting so thin. Skin and bones and wasps. I can hear him stirring. He must be taking a shower. He's been in there a long time. Maybe he's trying to drown himself. I can't believe that Spike said that. Jinx, you owe me a coke you darling soulless monster you.
Oh, here comes Xander. Spike must have sent him down. He looks so much better. Puffy and bloated, spiders oozing from his pores. Well, I guess that he doesn't so much look better as he looks more peaceful. Isn't that what they always say about dead people? That they look peaceful? Is he making breakfast? We've already eaten. I guess that we should try to eat what he cooks. It might make things seem more normal. Normalcy is the last refuge of the sane. Banality is the last refuge of the living. Cross over, baby. Anarchy is where it's at. All the mice say so. Listen to them.
He's going. Has he gone to the basement? He's gone to the darkness. He's gone to the spiders and wasps and mice. No, I don't think that we should go after him. I think that he needs to be alone. We're all alone, sweetie. Most of us just haven't noticed yet. We need to open the store. And you, missy, need to get to school. Let's go.
Can you believe how busy we were today? I must have sold a dozen sets of tarot cards and at least three dream interpretation books. All the cards are the King of Cups, and all the dreams are of mice. You know that, how can you sell these lies? Right, you're a liar.
Dawn, could you please go lock the door and put up the closed sign? Willow, could you sweep the floor? Oh, well if you're that close to a breakthrough with your spell. No, I can sweep after I've counted the deposit. I don't mind.
Five. Ten. Fifteen. I sat behind a man on the bus, and a spider was crawling on his shirt. Twenty. Twenty-five. And it wended it's way around and around his neck. Thirty. Around once. Around twice. And then three times. Thirty-five. And the third time's the charm. And it's three time three for the spell. It's three. Three's the magic number. Three. Four. Shit. Five. Ten. And the man didn't notice the spider, and he didn't notice the spell, and he didn't notice the magic woven about his neck. Fifteen. And the spider crawled up into his hair, and the man didn't flinch, and I think that the spider was eating his brain. Was I at twenty or twenty-five? Shit. Five. Ten. And I was laughing, because the man was covered with spiders and he couldn't stop them because his brain was gone. Five. Ten. But then the man got off the bus, and I didn't get to see his bones, and that made me sad, but then…
Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! Can't you just be quiet for five minutes while I finish this fucking deposit!
What? No, I'm not talking to you, Willow. You know what? Maybe I am. Maybe I am talking to you. Maybe I should be talking to you.
Willow, get your ass off that chair and sweep up the floor. Dawn, you get your homework together. As soon as I finish this deposit we are going home. And you know what? I am not cooking dinner tonight. It's about time you pulled your weight at home, both of you. Willow, you are cooking tonight, and it better be good. No, you will not just order a pizza. Dawn, you're going to help Xander with the clean up.
Not myself? You know what, Will, I am totally myself. For the first time in a long while I am me. Get used to it. I'm not going anywhere.
I feel so much better now.
Say, Dawn, after supper do you want to make cookies? I have I recipe that I know you'll just love.
Continued in Case #9323