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Mask and Mirrors by pfeifferpack
Chapter 14 Pt 2 (Interlude in dreamland)
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"Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.".....Carl Jung

Buffy drifted off to sleep faster than she had in years. She entered REM almost immediately.

The sun baked the desert sand under Buffy's feet as she moved over the barren landscape. A slight wind that felt as if it had been channeled from hell itself whipped her hair about her face.

Buffy looked to her right and noted a cat, small and compact like a lynx, keeping pace with her as she moved. "Hello, kitty. Nice day for a walk," she said to her silent companion.

The two travelers continued until they reached the rise of a large sand dune where a lone boulder stood. Buffy sat on the rock and was relieved to find its surface oddly cool to the touch. "Well, what's up, pussycat? You know, you kinda remind me of Spike for some reason. You'd like him; he's a predator too."

Buffy smiled at her little joke. She leaned back and let the heat of the sun bake the soreness from her muscles. After a short rest, Buffy continued on her journey, heading toward a small growth of trees in the otherwise empty vista.

"Gotta be my destination, right? Last stop for gas, from the looks of it," she directed at her furred companion. "I take back what I said about you reminding me of Spike; you're too quiet."

The cat let out a low growl of seeming agreement.

Buffy arrived at the odd oasis. The trees didn't belong in any real desert, being broad-leafed and thick with age. No water was visible to nurture either the trees or the grass that felt cool beneath Buffy's feet. Night was falling and Buffy began to gather some small branches from the ground to build a fire against the rapid drop in temperature. Soon she had a cheery fire crackling. Staring into the fire, her eyelids felt heavy and she began to doze.

Buffy was snapped from her dream-within-a-dream to the voice of a woman coming from the lynx. As Buffy struggled to waken enough to understand her words, the cat stretched, bones popping, as it became the familiar form of the first Slayer.

"You seek answers, yet you slumber," the mud-caked girl accused. She sounded like a throatier version of Kendra.

"I seek peace," Buffy corrected.

"There is no peace for the Slayer. You are born, you are called, you fight and you die." The heavily accented words chilled Buffy and she shivered more from them than the cold night air.

"No, I'm more than that. I'm the Slayer, but I'm Buffy too!" Buffy protested.

"Why do you ask me then, if you have all the answers," the ancient Slayer taunted. "What is your real question, girl?"

"Why can't I love anymore? I mean I used to love…I was a regular love-a-palooza. I could love ‘til the cows came home and then lavish love on the cows." Buffy began to cry softly as she mourned the girl she had once been.

"You ask the wrong question, girl. You do not seek to know why you cannot love, but instead how you can give up that much power to another again. This is the same question asked by all the world's brokenhearted." The old Slayer nodded sagely as she went to the heart of the matter.

"But I keep getting involved with vampires," Buffy yelled as she stood and began to pace. "I'm the vampire SLAYER. Why am I such a freak?"

The old one smiled smugly, as if in possession of a dark secret. "You are no freak. You are but true to your nature."

Buffy stopped pacing and whirled on her predecessor. "Huh?"

"Think, child," the slayer urged. "Did you ever wonder why you are called the Vampire Slayer when your duties call for you to slay all sorts of demons?"

Buffy looked at the sincere black and white painted face gazing at her serenely from across the fire. She felt as if she were a rabbit facing off with a snake. "I don't get it. Vampires are demons. Demons are evil. I slay vampires and other evil demons. I got that memo when I was

The first Slayer sighed deeply and prepared to explain. "I was the first. Once I was a normal girl. The essence of a demon was put in me to give me the strength to fight the evil ones. And so was born the Slayer line."

"Wait, are you saying I'M a demon?" Buffy was appalled.

"No, child, you are a demon slayer," the original answered. "I am saying your POWER is the essence of an old demon. There is a difference."

"Like what, the difference between Swiss cheese and cheddar?" Buffy huffed.

The old Slayer laughed a bit at that. "It is far more complicated than we have time to explain. What is important is to know that the demon whose essence was used was similar in nature to the vampire. So, my daughter, your powers are a form of vampire designed to slay demons.
Thus, you are a vampire slayer. This is why the powerful masters of your cousin race are drawn to you and you to them. As I said in the beginning, you are true to your nature!"

"Does the Council know this, ‘cause I'm thinking ‘no’," Buffy interjected.

"They know both more and less than they think they do," the old one said cryptically.

"They fear you when they do not have full control. It was thus in my day as it is in yours. That is why girls are chosen so very young: easier to manage. Or so they think," she added with a wink and a laugh.

"Most of my daughters never grow to be fully women and their true nature isn't a problem. There are rituals and tests designed to make certain their Slayer both fears the vampire and is repelled by him, or dies in the process."

"The Cruciamentum!" Buffy said in sudden understanding. "I was eighteen! But I was already in love with Angel then," Buffy whispered that last part.

"Yes, you were ahead of them. You already knew the pull of the demon and this is one reason they fear you. Put aside the shame you have felt for attractions you were intended to have, Buffy.

"Now to the issue of your hardened heart," the early slayer continued. "This is the part of you that is other than the Slayer. This is the defense of a wounded girl. Most first loves end, and most end badly. You merely need to mature, child. You will love again. You have already begun
to," the slayer looked pointedly at Buffy as she spoke. "I doubt he would be pleased to be told that I remind you of him, however."

"And again with the ‘huh?’" Buffy said, deliberately misunderstanding the turn of the conversation.

"All in your own time," the slayer responded with a chuckle. "Know this, girl, if you come away from this with no other wisdom: you must forgive to be blessed with real love. You must take the chance of pain to know bliss. You must die to yourself to live a new creature. Judge each being for his own actions and no other, and be merciful in your judgments. This is all I can tell you."

"But what about my inability to love?" Buffy cried.

"There is no inability to love. You deny what you feel out of fear. You love deeply; you are full of love. You love your family and friends enough to die for them. You begin to love in other ways again too, but must take that at your own pace. When the time is right…." With that the slayer seemed to fold into herself, becoming the sleek cat once more. The cat turned golden eyes on Buffy and turned away from the fire, purring. As the cat sauntered away, it turned once more towards Buffy and gave a low growl before disappearing entirely.

"Well, that was more and less than I expected," Buffy said, already looking for the river Nile for a quick dip. "Thanks, Giles, and thanks, kitty-cat. I guess I'll just take my chock full o' love self back to the land of the wide awake and work on all that other stuff."

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