You're made of my rib or baby
I didn't want to hurt you baby
And the moon gives me
I didn't want to hurt you baby
I didn't want to fuck you baby
I didn't really love you baby
You hurt me baby
If you knew how much I love you
I didn't want to hurt you baby
-Vast 'I Didn't Want to Hurt You Baby'
Ashes, Ashes They All Fell Down
It flew overhead, with the moon at its back and the earth underneath; and if, as it did fly, It noticed the evil, the demons and the other night children that were free and about it didn't care. If It saw the vampire feeding on a young girl whose last wish was that she had listened to her mother and not snuck out of her room, then It did nothing. If it noticed the bestial shouts coming from an alley it flew overhead, and how the end of that alley was just a little bit darker than the rest of the night and how the unmistakable sounds of tearing flesh, and chewing, and swallowing, came from that maw It did nothing either.
It did not hold that duty. It did not save the living, It avenged the Dead. Those were the rules, laid down by Itself far before the dawn of time. Its reasons and justifications of Its own. Maybe It was that way so there would be equal opportunity for both Chaos and Order and the balance would be maintained. Maybe It made these rules at the behest of a greater power, at the behest of the Watchmaker, or maybe it was a cold, ancient power that honestly did not care and merely went about the motions of it's duty.
Or maybe it was wiser than that and knew it could not save everything and settled for doing what it could. How human of it then. On the other hand maybe it just preferred the taste of dead meat when it was feeling peckish. Either way, if It noticed, it did nothing. As it had always done and as it always would do.
All it noticed was her, It's charge, messenger, avatar, agent and slave. Watched as she hugged herself through her new clothes. Watched as she reached into a jacket pocket and discovered the small wad of cash secreted there by the witches. Watch as she turned around to return to their house...stopped...shrugged her shoulders and continued on to the bus station.
It watched her pay for a ticket. It watched her get on the bus and it saw her open a window through which it quickly darted and perched on the luggage rack within in a dark corner. And if she herself had noticed any of the death, evil, rage, pain and hate that had surrounded her as she had walked, she didn't do anything either.
But It doubted that she had.
She sat on the bus and waited for it to pull away from the curb. She hadn't noticed any of the other passengers boarding the bus, she couldn't get out of her own mind. She didn't want too. When the young man in the snappy business suit sat across from her and eyed her with an appreciative glance she didn't notice. When an old woman, carrying many suitcases and hobbling with a cane nearly tripped and fell in the aisle only to be saved at the last minute by the young man, she didn't see or hear. Her face was turned away, looking out the window waiting for the bus to start and she could begin doing what she really wanted.
Vengeance is a tricky master. It supercedes right and wrong, overwhelms the question of morals, it is unto itself a circle. Its own beginning and its own ending. Closed, isolated alone. She was all of these things and locked within as well. The pain of memories, all with a hundred sharp teeth, fed on her insides and when the horrors of the endings grew bearable they would switch and loving memories, good memories would come to the fore and for all their happiness they had more vicious blades than the pain for they told her what she had lost. What had been undone, what had been stolen, destroyed, twisted...consumed.
And now, on this bus, this moving can on wheels with people, people, PEOPLE stuffed inside like fish in sardine can. All of them breathing, pushing, grunting, standing making things hot and terrible and there was no way for her rage to get out!
'The easiest way,' she decided, 'to go insane is too look on the face of every person you walk by and realize they all have the same wants, hopes, dreams, fears, pain, joys and struggles that you do.'
With that in mind, she opened her eyes and gazed out on black Sunnydale. 'Easier to look at something fallen, than it is too look at the living.'
The bus moved away from the curb with a jerk.
It spread its wings for a moment to maintain balance. The slick steel of the rack slid between Its talons easily making remaining upright a bit of a challenge. It didn't like that and so reality accommodated It and in moments It could remain upright easily simply because It wished it so.
Cocking It's head to the side it looked down on the people. It tasted the air. Much darkness was about, and pain. Pain from the living was different from that of pain from the dead. It had less purchase on the living's minds and hearts. That pain could be challenged, could be faced and defeated. If they were so inclined. It tasted the air again and drank in what was always there within the living.
Hope. It burned inside them no matter the circumstances, eternal. It could not understand how this was possible but it had accepted it long ago. That was one of the reasons that, while It grew bored with these mortals and their plodding little flicker lives, It would never fail in its duties to their dead.
That was its role after all. Not to care, but to do.
As the bus moved, her eyes couldn't help but see what had become of her home. She didn't really want to, everything within not occupied with trying not to scream aloud, told her that looking would be a bad idea. The outside, the depths of Sunnydale passed before her and she could not look away. Like a traffic accident with twisted metal and steaming engines exposed to the world. Like a traffic accident from underneath which a large pool of liquid was spreading, darkening the road and you couldn't be sure that all of it just came from the destroyed cars.
The bus turned a corner and her eyes were drawn to the Bronze. It was still there, in fact if not in spirit. She could make out shadows moving around the entrance and even though they were only visible for a moment before the bus moved past, she knew they were not human.
The bus moved on.
As it turned a corner the gutted remains of the high school came into view. Though weathered by time and ruin, she still could see the path. The path that lead to a specific bench, where a specific event had occurred. An event that marked a beginning.
"But aren't you hanging out with Cordelia?" A redhead has asked once upon a time.
"I can't do both?" The blonde sitting beside her had asked.
Her chest hitched and she had to swallow down a sob. The back of her eyes began to tingle, a steady, annoying itching burning feeling. She fought against the impulse, the need to let go; thankfully fate accommodated her and the remains of Sunnydale High swung out of site as the bus turned another corner.
To face the new SunnyDale High school.
The walls might have been built within the last three years but already they seemed to sag with age. Bright colored pastel walls were defaced with layers and layers of spray paint. The bushes that lined the path up to it's front door were twisted and bare. The door itself was locked. With heavy chains and padlocks even she could make out from this far distance. The bus moved on and Sunnydale's new school was lost in the dark.
Her eyes flickered over the road, the houses streaming past, the yards she was beginning to recognize. Again her breath, unneeded but there anyway, caught in her throat. A weak croak worked its way past her parted lips.
"No," she mouthed more than spoke.
She found her voice.
"Not this way. Please. Turn, change, move...please don't go this way," she said in a hushed whisper but the driver didn't hear and wouldn't have cared anyway.
A familiar house zipped past, then another and another and she knew what was coming.
'Close your eyes!' her mind screamed. 'Close your eyes now!' Yet even with her heart hammering away, even knowing about the repeated squeaks of 'no no no' over and over again, she couldn't command her eyelids to shut, or her face to turn away from the window.
It was worse then she could have imagined.
What had been the Summers' household, what had been their own home...wasn't anymore.
Warm light blazed from nearly every window casting a cheery, glow on the even, cut grass of the front lawn. The bushes were carefully trimmed and the front porch had been given a fresh coat of paint. From behind the closed curtains she could make out the silhouettes of two people holding hands. They seemed to be flowing in front of the large picture window, spinning, dancing to music she could not hear.
From the top floor of the house a light switched on, maybe her ears were deceiving her, she shouldn't have been able to hear but...
A small piercing voice seemed to knife through the walls of the house, across the space and into the constrictive, hot, bus just for her ears alone.
"Maaammmaaaa! Maaaaaammmaaa! I'm thirsty!! Mama? Can I get a cup of...." and the voice grew dim as the bus moved past what had once been hers but wasn't anymore.
She covered her mouth with her hands, trying to muffle the sobs that were wracking her body. Her home had been taken, not just left, empty and silent. That would have been bad enough but it had been taken, stolen! And in her place a family had found a home where, inside, they were comfortable, happy, and safe. Things which should have been hers; a great swell of hate erupted inside her guts and she half started to rise from her seat, to smash through the window and take back her home. She started to rise up with her heart set on murder.
A quiet cry from It, for her ears alone, dissuaded her from that mistake. She hunched over in her seat, hands still firmly pressed again her mouth. Behind her eyes the itching had grown to a screaming and she could feel the tears beginning to well up. Her hands pressed her lips against her teeth she could feel the flesh tearing and beginning to bleed from within. She knew if she began to cry, she would begin to scream, and if she began to scream she would never stop.
As if seized by a great hand she felt her head turning of its own volition to again stare out the window. Despite the tears along the edge of her vision making things blurry she could make out what was before her clearly enough.
"May I say, you look truly radiant, Miss Willow. Having a baby agrees with you."
"Ah, and the proud papa, eh?"
"Ah, not only am I an old Italian. I'm an old Gypsy, eh?"
"Mario." The girl whispered, her hands were pressed against the glass as the bus drove by the fire- gutted remains of the Italian restaurant. Bare spikes of blackened wood stabbed upward into the night sky like the ribs of an ancient beast slaughtered and left to rot. The sign that had once glowed in the dark inviting all to enter and feast hung disjointed and broken. The 'I' 'O' and 'S' were burned away leaving only the 'MAR' but it was enough to recognize.
"Not Mario," the girl whispered, her breath fogging the window. She slid down the glass into her seat, head bent over her knees, hands pressed to her face as the final link to what she had known and loved was destroyed.
And as a new pain flared into life within it lent its power to all the old agonies and they reached a point. And inside her they blazed hotter and higher than before and they fed and burned and devoured.
Something was destroyed within, something was eaten and something broke free. Surging, rolling up from the darkness it screamed across her soul with the fury of a tidal wave and in it's wake nothing was the same.
The young man across the aisle had been watching the strange girl seated on the other side carefully. Yes she was attractive, very nice on they eyes actually. Short, slim, a dark burnt hue of red hair that cascaded down just below her shoulders. Her clothes were a bit somber but the figure to die for. Despite all this he was getting somewhat nervous. He'd seen her trying to muffle her cries and when she saw what was left of that restaurant she had fallen to pieces. She now lay on the two seats curled into a fetal position. He could see her shoulders shaking and he figured she was crying.
His heart panged in sympathy.
'Well,' he thought, 'nothing ventured nothing gained. Sides, maybe she'll want a cup of coffee or something.'
"Miss?" he spoke quietly. "Miss are you okay?"
The redhead slowly lifted her face from her hands and looked in the direction the voice had come from. She locked eyes with the man across from her and watched his eyes widen in horror. The man scrambled back to the wall of the bus. He had been wrong, she hadn't been crying.
She was laughing.
She was laughing so hard that tears ran down her face and she could barely keep her eyes open. Her cheeks were stretched to the point of splitting open, her lips were pulled back revealing sharp, white teeth.
"Me?" the redhead asked, still laughing. "I'm fine! Can't you tell?"
Before his eyes her tears began to run turn slightly murky and were soon bright red. 'Blood,' his mind screamed at him. 'She's crying blood!'
She sat up and leaned toward him, her whisper carried across the space between them and struck with the force of a hammer. "Peachy."
The blood streamed down her face, from both eyes, in a long straight line arcing over curved cheeks and around the lines marking the borders of her strained smile. Then, to his mounting terror another line of blood worked its way from her upper eyelids and left a similar trail, directly opposite the lower one, running up her forehead.
"I'm smiling aren't I?" She giggled. "I'm laughing. Laugh and the world laughs with you, cry and the world laughs at you! Can't have that can we?"
She broke off into another fit of laughter as bright blood gushed from her lips coating them solid. A drop of blood in the corners of either side of her mouth, defying all reality, rolled sideways across her face, extending, twisting and corrupting the natural smile of her laughing mouth.
He gaped as she continued to laugh, either oblivious or not caring to what was happening to her. The blood leaking from her face seemed to drain the blood from within and her flesh grew pale and white like carved marble before his eyes.
"La...la...lady." He stuttered in a horrified whisper. "Y...your face!"
"She loved my face you know." The girl snapped her head around to lock him in place with her glare. "We'd spend hours in bed together and she'd just run her hands over my face so gently. Over and over, most of the time with the back of her hand. Or she'd caress the line of my nose with her finger. If you ever meet her you should ask her to do that for you, it feels great."
She snapped her fingers. "Wait. Sorry, you can't meet her. Why you ask? Because she's dead. She's dead and gone and I somehow got left behind. I can't quite figure out how that happened. We became dead at the same time you see but... who knows. Maybe Heaven's behind on the paperwork?"
She giggled into her hand and the blood did not smear or run.
Instead it began to grown darker. In a few short seconds it was midnight black and she looked like a hideous caricature of a clown. A mask was on her face now. Comedy, lighter of the twins of Drama. She wore Comedy on her features but Tragedy feasted on her heart.
"Yes." The redhead said nodding. "She's dead. But that's okay. I got left behind and that's okay too. See...I got left behind for a reason. This shouldn't have happened. To me, to her...to us. It was wrong. Wrong, wrong wrongity wrong wrong wrong. But that's okay just like the other parts. Do you know why?"
She peered at him intently as if waiting for an answer.
He worked the muscles of his suddenly parched mouth trying to find the saliva to speak. "W...why?" He gasped.
She smiled again. It was a suddenly gentle, sweet, lost smile, even under the hideous caricature she wore he felt its impact shatter against his heart and he felt tears of his own beginning to well up.
"Because," she began in a soft lilt. "Because I'm going to put things right." She looked away from him for a moment and was silent.
With a sigh she looked at him again. "Thank you for asking, really. Are you going to LA?"
The question caught him off guard and it took a moment for his brain to catch up.
His best effort resulted in a mute nod.
She clucked her tongue a few times and shook her head. "I...I'd advise against going just now." She said softly looking him in the eyes. "It won't be a very nice place for the next few days. Sure you wanna go?" She titled her head to the side and her lips slid apart in a wider smile revealing the tips of her teeth.
He dumbly nodded, scrambled to his feet, grabbed his belongings and hit the 'Next stop' button.
As he clambered off the bus she called softly after him, "Run home."
The bus pulled away from the curb and she slid past the people still on board like a ghost, unnoticed. She worked her way to the back seat and peered out the large window in the rear. She watched him run as fast as he could, tie flailing behind him, long legs eating up the distance between the bus stop and wherever he lived.
"Maybe that wasn't such a good idea." She said to herself. A scratching sound attracted her attention and she turned her painted face up the luggage rack. It stared down at her with black eyes and she met it's stare, moment for moment, inch for inch, pound for pound.
It stared at a girl.
The Crow locked eyes with The Crow.
And carrying them both, like a can on wheels with a full load of flesh, a bus drove to LA.