The Sunnydale Book Of The Dead: Excerpts
by glossolalia

1. Powa: The practice involving transformation and ejection of consciousness

Grief is like water, transparent and corrosive, wearing her down.

She can still hear Willow, smiling, licking her lips, using a soft, slithery voice. Flirting with her. Wanna go back? End the pain? No more tears, Dawnie.

That was Willow. Not a junkie; Dawn and Xander, they both knew it was Willow. Xander's a hero for going toward her, believing that; Dawn just wants to take her up on the offer.

Wants Tara safe and Willow gone. Tara's got a hole in her heart and she'll never get to see England. Not like some people.

Tara's skin was cold and rubbery under her fingers, a cheap doll left out in the rain. Just like Mom's was. All dead people feel the same. Spike's skin, too. Just like that.

She's helping Anya clean up the mess Willow left in the store and thinking about layers of lies. Xander told her once that he lied to the girls about remembering being a hyena and a soldier. Pretended he forgot the hyena, pretended he remembered the soldier. Dawn's done the same thing more times than she count; lying about stealing, all her trinkets, lying about who she is.

Willow saw that. Willow wanted to kill the girl Dawn is now and send her back. Back to the place where Dawn came from, the place she watches behind her lids when she can't sleep (and she's barely slept since she found Tara dead and bloody and gray). Green and purple place, full of light, and it's nothing like heaven, and Willow the smartass was wrong about the most important thing.

There's pain everywhere.

It doesn't stop her from wishing.

"Wish I wasn't here," Dawn whispers as she sweeps up more shards of glass, always more. She's been wishing under her breath since she sank into the corner and kept watch over Tara. Maybe some day, somewhere, someone will hear her wish, maybe sometime it will take. "Wish I was somewhere else, some place where Tara's safe and Willow's the dead one -"


2. Gyulu: The illusory body practice

The cut on his face opens, blood in his mouth, a couple ribs broken, but Oz is fighting, shoving, when he sees Larry. He hurtles forward, grabs the redheaded girlvamp too. For a moment she flickers away, then she's back and he doesn't think, just shoves her against the broken board.

Then he runs.

Fight's turning, he can feel it on his skin, and Oz is running and he just hopes Larry's not going to pull another dumbass heroic stunt and try some Alamo last-stand thing.

He runs into town, ribs grinding together, lungs burning, keeping to the center of the street, heading for Giles' apartment. Needs Giles. Things go fubar, you get Giles.


She was muttering in the ruins of the Magic Box. Next thing she knew, she was standing in the alley, and Oz, blond, ran past. Ran like he's running now, small solid body tearing forward, taking the steps two at a time, crashing against Giles' big door, fumbling with the keys on his belt.

She remembers Oz but she never knew him.

He was the only one besides her who liked lemon sherbet; he gave her Nevermind and Candy Apple Grey for her twelfth birthday, Dharma Bums and Lipstick Traces for her thirteenth; she helped wolfsit a couple times in the crypt after they graduated.

She remembers Oz and understands all over again how memories can be lies.

Wherever this world is, at least Giles lives in the same place. Everything looks the same, just - grungier. Grimier, colder, sky full of smoke and ash. No one's around.

He says Buffy's dead, dropped by the Master. CPR's not gonna help a snapped neck. He's got no idea who she is and doesn't seem to care.

This isn't Oz, but she never knew him anyway.

"You've got keys?" she asks between heaving breaths. No one, not even Buffy, has keys to Giles' apartment.

Oz just shoves her inside.

The air in here smells like sweat and meat and Dawn stops, Oz bangs into her, and then it's even worse.

On the desk, the remains of a spell, smoking. On the floor, splashed against the wall, it's all - it's flesh. Giles, liquefied, clothing and broken spectacles floating in the shallow puddle of flesh.

It's more disgusting than anything she's ever seen, steaming shreds of skin and maroon ooze that once were muscle, threads of ivory once bone.

Oz crashes to his knees, then forward onto his hands, moaning.

For a second, three, then he's up and his face is set and they get to work.

This Sunnydale's just like the one she knows. You clean up first, then you get to feel. She and Oz scrub and mop, set aside the spectacles, stopping only to dryheave, and it's hours, aching and sourmouthed, until they're done.

Morning then.


3. Tumo: The subtle heat (generation and emanation) practice

This girl talks a hell of a lot. All the time, chirpy and bright as the birdsong starting up outside and the sounds pierce through the heavy cold wrapped around Oz, makes his head hurt even more.

"Father, kind of, to me. Father figure, I guess. Well, to my sister, so logically -" She stops when Oz looks at her, narrowing his eyes. Tries again. "Was he like that here, too?"

He rolls his head against the back of the couch and stares at the ceiling. "Father?" The idea would make Giles bark out a laugh, then, later, might heat up his hands, pull Oz close, whisper things about doing it for daddy until they were both squirming and gasping. "Nope. More like a lover."

"Eww. You and Giles were -?" She sounds sharp and about nine years old and the sound slices through him.

Oz looks at her again. "Get out."

She takes a step back, then stops again, mouth opening and no sound coming out. Glances over her shoulder at where Giles was, then back at Oz. "I'm sorry. I-. I'm sorry."

"Yeah," he says. Pond stones in his mouth, pressing on his chest. Everyone's sorry. Sorry world, sorry people. "Thanks."

"What are we going to do?"

As if he has any fucking clue what to do with a girl who just popped in and seems convinced that they're in this - whatever this is - together. Oz takes a long pull off the whiskey. "Don't know about you," he says, lifting the bottle, shaking the pills, "but I'm gonna get fucking stoned."

She's pretty and moves like a doe, like a baby deer. Picking her way around, scanning constantly.

"Sit down," Oz says. "Please?"

"Not a werewolf?" she asks.

She's got some pretty fucked ideas about people she thinks she knows. Oz touches his face, presses both palms against his chest, and takes a deep breath. "Not that I'm aware of, no."

He gives her half a tablet of Valium and takes a whole and the other half for himself. She stares at the crumbling tablet in her palm for a long time, well after he's swallowed his own. Then she nods, like she's making up her mind, and takes the whiskey out of his hand.

"Dawn," he says, and it's a good name for her, pale skin flushed, her eyes bright like purple and green grapes, morning clouds with the sun behind them. "Yeah. How do you know me again?"


So she tells him. As heat starts creeping and branching through her, as her muscles relax and her head floats a little, as this calm she's never thought possible spreads under her skin, she tells him. About Buffy, about Willow and Tara and Giles and Anya and Xander. About himself, the Oz in her fake memories with the cool hair and gentle smile (neither of those things is any different).

He nods along, silent like the Oz she knew, weird secret smile on his face, and even as she's talking, her mind keeps going to dark and dirty places. Giles and Oz, kissing, naked, writhing like the bodies in magazines she found under Spike's mattress, and it's gross and exciting at the same time.

"Feeling it yet?" he asks, hand in her hair like it's natural, fingers stroking her scalp and combing the hair.

"What?" He can't mean the heat pooling and swimming lazily in her stomach, between her legs.

"Diazepam," he says, shaking the bottle with his free hand. "Little blues of hazy good."

"Oh. Yeah, I guess so."


His voice's rough and hoarse and for a second, Dawn doesn't understand what he's said. Like he's talking another language. Then she blinks and understanding kicks in and Dawn nods. "Yeah."

Oz pushes off and up from the couch, stumbling a little bit, holding out his hand. When she stands, Dawn's legs tremble like gelatin and she stumbles too, clutching his hand. Oz shakes his head a little and helps her find her balance, then takes her up to the loft.

The stairs are crowded with books, so many of them, the apartment like it was after they hauled the books out of the library. She's never seen the bedroom, and part of her believes it was never like this in her Sunnydale. Dark, a red curtain on the window, the bed wide and tousled like a storm coming up out at sea, sheets kind of stained, and the bedside tables littered with more pills, another bottle of whiskey, and sticky bottles of clear liquid. A pair of handcuffs and a length of black silk rope.

Oz is already lying down, and Dawn starts to pick up one bottle until she sees the label - premium lubricant - and gets grossed out all over again.

"Other side," he mutters when she goes to sit on the edge of the bed. He rolls over, shirtless and tiny and bruised, and lifts his head. "That's his side. You take mine."

Dawn leaves her clothes on and goes to the other side. He talks to her like he hates her and it doesn't help to remind herself that this isn't Oz. Or this is another Oz. Or something.

But when she lies down, he rolls closer to her, arm thrown over her waist, and holds her like he's drowning.


4. Osel: The luminous and radiant mind practice

Oz huddles inside the rhythms of animal life: sleeping, eating, waking. Can't think about time, about what's going on outside, can't think about Giles.

He wants to think about Giles. He won't.

At night, they stay inside, in bed, a red quilt wrapped around them and Oz tells her what went down. How the Master rose, how Giles killed Darla, how everything just got worse and then worse, how it's Zeno's paradox of worse, always approaching worst, never getting there. His throat hurts and he doesn't want to open his eyes, but she's warm against him and her hair smells like flowers.

"I know this story," she tells him, and she sounds excited and scared all at once. "This is what happened when Cordelia wished -. But it's just like it was, you're just like you were, or could have been, and -"

Stones on his face where his bones used to be, Oz feels heavy and slow and cold. Giles went liquid and all the dense hard things in the world went to Oz. It feels fitting, somehow.

"Conservation of energy," he says and eats the last piece of bread and peanut butter she made a while ago. The bread's stiff, starting to go stale in the air, and the whole thing clogs his mouth. "Nothing's created, nothing's destroyed. Just changes."

He stopped going to school when he was fifteen, but Giles always said he was smart, deserved to know more, could learn as readily as any university student. So Oz knows physics, and some Hebrew and Latin for spells, and the metaphysical poets like Herbert and Donne.

"It's not supposed to be like this," she says. "The world wasn't supposed to be like this. It's better."

Oz rolls onto his back and she follows him, practically lying on her stomach, and he's not the only one who can't stop touching. "That's what he said. Said the world wasn't supposed to be like this. That it was better. Before." He can hear Giles' voice, excited and proud and confused, and it's brighter, clearer, in his mind than anything this girl has said since she got here. It was the last time he saw Giles, as he set off for the apartment, for more books, and he and Larry finished oiling up the crossbows. "He was wrong."

"No." Dawn pokes his chest, pokes and pokes like a little kid who likes you in second grade and doesn't know what to do about it except pick fights. "He was right. I'm right."

"Your place is so good," Oz says, and every time she touches him it's sharp as a hornet's sting, hot and sharp through the heavy layers of cold he wants to sink under, "why'd you leave?"

"You left, too." She doesn't smile when he looks at her, but long strands of hair crisscross her face and he pushes them away with his thumb and that makes her sigh. "Twice, actually."

"Other me. Doesn't count."

"You-you," she says and for some reason that makes him smile. His face and lips stretch and he actually looks at her, sees her pretty face, big eyes and thin neck, and wonders all over again what the fuck she's doing here. She's clean and warm and she does belong somewhere else.

His head is blank. He can see the top of his skull, empty and white and domed like a cathedral no one goes to any more.

For the first time in years, he's not fighting.


While Oz sleeps, Dawn totes up everything she's done so far. She doesn't have her diary with her, but she likes making lists, and she wants to remember everything. Later, some day, she'll have a chance to write this all down and she doesn't want to miss a thing. She's gotten drunk, taken controlled substances, literally gone to bed with a boy - with Oz, Willow's Oz, sensitive smart goodlooking Oz, and neither Oz ever treated her like a little kid. Just like a person.

Even if this place sucks more than her Sunnydale, and it really does, still would even if Xander wasn't a vamp, Buffy wasn't dead, and the Master was still trapped like some ugly Freudian monster under the town, it's all right.

She has to believe that; everything's a lie, and lies are ugly, squirming things, and if they squirm in different patterns, they're still lies.

The one thing, other than Oz, that might save this place, make it way better than her old world, is at the end of the telephone. But Dawn's frozen, standing at Giles' desk, hand on the receiver.

She called Cleveland information and she's got the listing for a "J. Summers" and she could hear her mom's voice again if she could just make herself dial the number.

"What're you doing?"

Oz is next to her, hair all messed up, wrinkles from the pillow pressed into his bruised cheek. Guilt digs into her stomach at the idea she hasn't even helped him clean up. Dawn knows a little Sumerian, less swordplay, but a hell of a lot of first aid.

"I -" She takes her hand off the receiver but Oz is picking up Giles' notepad, reading what she wrote down. "I'm sorry, I know that was his, I -" She didn't let Buffy move Tara's stuff; it's still there in Mom's old room, along with charcoal-gray bloodstains and the sour air. "Sorry."

Oz's brows wrinkle together as he just looks at her. "She's not your mom."

"Dumbass -" Dawn tastes blood and whiskey in her mouth. Brine like pickle juice, on her tongue, in her eyes. She doesn't have a mother, just a nice lady who got lied to. "I know that."

"Not here, I mean."

The floor wobbles underneath her and Dawn goes to grab the notepad from his hand. He ducks and hides it behind his back and she'd like to hit him. Can almost feel the sting of hitting him on her knuckles already, wants to see his face crumple and fall, wants to keep hitting and hitting until he's pulpy and she can cry.

She's made out of Buffy, after all. It's what she knows, hitting and screaming and making shit go away if you just hit hard enough.

But everything's spinning and wobbling and Oz grabs her wrists, wraps his arms around her, holding her hands behind her back, and she squirms and tries to wriggle until she realizes she is crying and he's trying to be nice. He's hugging her, not fighting her.

Her knees go liquid and they crumple to the floor and Oz is petting her hair again, whispering and kind of gasping in her ear, and he is, she realizes, crying, too. Something like Willow's big ball of sunlight explodes behind her face, and Dawn can't see anything but the cut on Oz's face and the tears tracking down over the dried blood there and it's all white and red and everything's shaking so hard it might be an earthquake for all she knows.

"They're gone," she says and her voice is thick with snot and tears and Oz nods, keeps nodding.

"I know," he says and he sounds as stuffed and full of pain as she feels, and he is, she knows that now. "All gone."

She opens her mouth to say something but Oz's mouth is opening, too, and then they're kissing, nothing soft like she always thought it would be, but fierce and hard, teeth clanking against teeth and his tongue pushing at hers. Hot and bright inside her, and she's always going to be the key, so she pushes back, pushes her tongue into his mouth and grabs his shoulders and thinks wildly of fucking, like magazines, like Spike, like Buffy and Spike and Angel and Buffy. Like Oz. She's still crying, she can barely breathe, and she tastes and feels Oz crying, but their mouths are chewing at each other, gasping and sucking, and she's just getting hotter and brighter inside, rolling against the wall with Oz.


5. Karmamudra: The practice of the four fingers, four seals, and a maiden possessing the physical attributes of a woman, such as beautiful hair and so forth, with whom one has a strong karmic link

Giles is dead. Every time Oz lets himself think, that's the only thought that comes.

So he's not going to think. He pulls away from Dawn, his mouth swollen and breathing shallow, and he's alive even if everything else is dead.

Except for her. Dawn is alive. Warm and hopeful, and she's from a better world, whatever she says. He wants to touch that, get inside that, see if he can feel it. He takes her hand, long fingers and twiggy-thin wrist, and pulls her up, takes her upstairs. They need to do this right.

"Are we -?" she asks when they're back in the bedroom. She sounds like a little kid, sniffly and snotty and confused.

Oz gets on his knees in front of her, hands on hers, gripping the edge of the bed. This is all praying is, he thinks randomly, asking for something, touching and hoping. "How old are you?"

"Sixteen," she says and her eyes drop. He can see the tremor beneath the lids, like she's dreaming.

He met Giles when he was fifteen, just a couple years ago. "Okay."

"Have you -" Dawn whispers, fingers closing in his shirt. "Have you ever been with a girl?"

Oz wants to smile, but he's not sure he remembers how. So he kisses her again, gently, and Dawn opens her mouth and sighs and the sound's like wind through apple blossoms or something, it's so pretty. "Yeah, sure. You?"

"No," she says. She opens her eyes and there's ancient light there. Giles said he had old eyes but Oz thinks now that no one's got eyes as old as Dawn's. Steady and brave. "Not yet."

He kisses her again, hard, and runs his hand up her back. "You'll like 'em," he tells her when she breaks to breathe. "Trust me."

She's alive. Hot skin under his hand and she tells him he looks nice, which is just weird and nice all at the same time, and she takes off her shirt, then his, and pulls him against her. Giles was bigger, and stronger, his skin rough and worn-down, eroded beach rocks, while Dawn's skin is like Nancy's was, like Larry's, like Oz's own, soft and warm, stretched too tight over long bones, and she shudders and whines when he kisses her breasts, round and tiny, and he's thinking about apples again, they're so round and small, and they taste like girl, and she's breathing hard, hand in his hair, other hand on his waist, touching him like he's something good.

Like Giles would touch him, late at night, after a bad fight, fingertips skimming and sweet little words coming out his mouth. So Oz tries those, too, to see how they sound - so pretty, and you feel so good, so soft, lovely lovely lovely, let me touch you, so pretty - and, hearing him, Dawn smiles and arches and whispers it all back to him.

"Make it good for you," he whispers and Dawn doesn't want to let him go, she's squeezing his arms, pulling him back down, but Oz gets up on his knees and reaches for the lube and rubbers. Kisses her again, promises again. Needs to make it good for her, show her something he doesn't even know the word for. "Make it good, you'll love it, you'll love it, lie back -"

Giles' words, Dawn's body, and she shivers and bites her lip as Oz kisses her breasts again, cups her between her legs, and she's wet, hot and wet against his palm, and he tastes apples, not quite ripe, on her skin and in the fabric of her panties and she arches up, hipbone knocking his jaw, driving teeth into the bottom of his tongue, so he does it some more through the red sheets of pain.


Thank you, Oz keeps saying whenever he comes up and sucks in a breath, and Dawn's way past answering. She's just streaming along in the fastest, roughest, brightest riptide she's ever felt, red and gold banners twisting and tangling through her from this deep, deep ache in her gut and between her legs. Fingers clutching the bed, legs thrown open, and thought is faint as smoke.

She's having sex. He's down there and she should be worried, she should be thinking about smells and juices and bad embarrassing things, but she's not. Or she is, but the smoke keeps rising and she twists back and forth and yells out when Oz's tongue goes lower as a wet finger describes the outside of her hole, the pit of that ache, and he's licking her ass and Dawn's shaking harder than she ever has, and there's a burn entering her, Oz's little nailpolished finger pushing inside her and she sits up a little, looks down, and he's staring at her as her movements push the finger in deeper.

"Thank you," he says again, the thousandth time, "taste so good, lie back, please, just -. Thank you -"

He sounds like he's praying, like this is a rosary or a mantra, like he has to keep talking and kissing her there and Dawn doesn't want to pray. Just wants to sink and flow along this riptide, and she works her hips up and down and it's a long time full of red and saffron lights streaking past and then he's slicking another finger and it's inside, too, and she falls down, bouncing hard, as her hips shove up and she can only hear the noise of his voice, nothing like words.

She's crying again, maybe she never stopped, but it feels so good, yellow fireworks everywhere, and it's Oz, small and brave and silent, talking to her, and he wants her and Dawn keeps crying until she's shouting and he's lying on top of her, pulling her legs around his waist and pushing slowly into her.

"Fuck -" she says and she keeps swearing through tears and shouts and she's fucking Oz. She's fucking.


They sleep, and eat, and screw, and it's natural, rhythmic and thoughtless, and there's a measure of kindness there that's better than anything.


6. Jangwa, Gyurwa, Pelwa: The dream practices of the liminal and peripheral

Everything's dead and Dawn's the only thing alive here and she's going to leave, too. Sooner or later, this world's going to stop again, go dark and still, and he'll be all alone.

Oz wonders if he can go back with her. He could find her Giles, introduce himself, and maybe they'd get along. He's a good fighter, he could go back to school, make himself worthy of another Giles. He's not stupid, he knows it was just circumstances that threw them together. In a better world, Giles would never look at him unless Oz forced him to.

He could go back and learn how to play guitar like the other Oz and he could hang out with Dawn.

It'd be cool.

It'd also never happen.


He asks if it's better there. Back there, where she came from.

"Define better," she says. "People you love still die. Vampires still turn on you." Mom and Tara, Spike raping Buffy. But she also remembers walking home with Buffy after Willow failed, remembers her big sister being smaller than she. She remembers the sun on her face, the azaleas blooming. "The flowers're out, though. That's pretty."

"California," he says. "Can always find flowers." He shows her the patches of pansies and violets in the oldest cemetery. His favorite one, where all the names are Spanish. Squats down and picks one for her; its stem is delicate between her fingers. "See?"

Conservation of energy, mass, and momentum: She's a geek, she knows stuff like this. This flower will wilt, die, rot, return to its constituent molecules and become something else. Mulch, dirt, another blade of grass. This world's as much of a lie as the one she came from, just a scrap of grief and vengeance like any other.

Oz squints up at her from his crouch. They go walking now, at noon, when the sun's bright and high. He's got a sunburn spread over his sharp cheekbones, and his nose is peeling, and sometimes she lies awake when he thinks she's sleeping and feels him watching her.

"I'm not who you think I am," she says and gets down on her knees. Oz wraps his arms around her waist and he smells like graveyards, like Buffy always did, and there's nothing more she can say.

"Me neither," he says.

They tip their heads together and stay like that until it's not so bright any more and they have to run for home.


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