by Juliet

Marcie Anne Smith lives in a white house at 407 Manchester Drive. She has brown hair and blue eyes, is five foot two and weighs ninety- three pounds. She has a husband named Dylan and is two months pregnant. She works as a receptionist in a local hospital and every night takes a walk before she comes home to settle down for the night.

She is Marcie A. Smith, and she is a normal woman in a normal town living a normal life.


Marcie wakes up tired every morning at four-thirty. She stumbles down her apartment's barely filled hallway and steps in the shower, the water turned up as hot as she can possibly get it to go. Letting the silence close around her like a cape, she moves quietly through the mechanical motions of getting ready. Hair dried, peppered gray suit, hair in bun. She grabs her small leather purse and looks into the room where her husband is, checking to make sure everything is ok. It always is, for him. The car and her job await her, and so with a final click of her heels she steps outside and shuts the door.

Marcie A. Smith, a normal woman with a normal job and a normal life.


Marcie walks into work early, because she's always been punctual, ever since the time when she was too late. Every second counts. She doesn't say hello to any of the doctors and nurses who throw her a cheery wave or smile as she passes by. She doesn't really say anything to anyone anymore. Marcie just walks to her station, head down, shoulders hunched forward. She goes by pretty much unnoticed most of the day. It's kind of strange and...quiet. Not like she minds. Much.

The life of a receptionist is as boring as it seems, but it passes the time. And boy, does Marcie have a lot of time. Lots of people come and go in the hospital, sure. But all she does is paperwork. Hand out forms, fill out forms. Take back forms. Sometimes people forget forms, or do them twice, and that varies it up a little. But mostly she just sits there and plays invisible midget jump rope with the chain on her pen, or watches people.

People sit in the waiting rooms, alone and sad. Hospitals are places where tension hangs on the coatroom racks along with the coats. She should know, since she spent a large part of high school and college in them, fear for her life, her friend's lives, her mother's life --

She stops her train of thought, and turns her attention to the forms in front of her.

She is Marcie A. Smith, and she went to a boring high school in San Francisco. She is a normal girl with a normal life, and she never had to wait in hospitals for anyone she loves.


Marcie sometimes falls asleep at work. It's a habit. All of her years of abnormal sleeping patterns have turned her into an insomniac who falls asleep on the job. It's fate. Oh look, that was almost a funny joke.

She can never sleep well when she does. That's when the dreams come.

She dreams about that last battle. When she was still Buffy, still the slayer. Now she doesn't remember.

But when she sleeps, that's when she does. The pictures come in terrifying stills.

A little brown-haired girl's body, slung across the cement floor like a weed, covered with ashes and the sleeve of a leather jacket. A bloodied heap she doesn't even need look at, because she heard the scream and she knows her almost-father is lying there and he isn't breathing. A shoe and maybe and more that once belonged to a witch with red hair and an innocent smile lay near the door. Her eyes stare around the room, blank and empty, without reaction and without caring. As she walks out she sees a scrap of a bloodstained Hawaiian shirt and she chokes on her own air.

She takes some of each of them when she leaves. She doesn't bother to look for the ones that she couldn't see, because she knows that they're dead, no longer living, however you want to say it. Gone. Forever.

When she wakes up, she doesn't remember.

She is Marcie A. Smith, and she doesn't remember any of her dreams. Insomnia, you know.


Lunch break. Marcie always goes to the same cafe, and orders the same thing: tuna fish on wheat. She sits in a white chair alone and looks around her suspiciously. She catches a glimpse of red hair and does a double take. Even though she knows it's not her. It can't be her.

As she eats, she slowly lets down her guard. It's not like anyone's going to come, now.

They already found her.

She'd been sitting in the same position, eating the same exact meal, two tables over in almost the same exact chair a year ago.

Then a man came and planted himself down right in front her. He just sat down at her table like one of those invading little armies she'd neglected to learn about in high school.

"You're extremely good at hiding," he said. She lifted her head. The man was tall, and pretty scrawny, with an English accent and glasses that framed his face. If not for the graying hair and five o' clock shadow, she'd say he almost looked like --

"Wesley?" Marcie furrowed her brow. He smiled a little and inclined his head.


"You look different." And less annoying.

His eyes fixed on her brown hair. "You too."

Marcie zeroed in on her sandwich again, picking off little brown flakes of bread and rolling them around in her fingers.

The short pause dragged out into a long one, and Wesley finally cut the tension with a cough.

"I understand you're calling yourself Marcie now," he offered awkwardly. She nodded, face still down. "Interesting name. Why did you pick it?"

Marcie stilled her hands and looked up at him again. "Why are you here, Wes?"

He paused.

"We, uh...honestly, Buffy..."

"It's Marcie." She cut him off sharply, like there was no question of the fact. Which there wasn't.

Wes looked at her strangely.

"Right. Marcie. It's just that we...we were worried about you."

She raised her eyebrows. "We? You have a mouse in your pocket?"

"You know perfectly well who-"

"Yeah. I know who you mean." She smoothed her hair back for a moment before spreading her arms out to the sides. "Well, here I am! You found me, okay?" She slumped back into her chair and tiredly relaxed her arms. "How did you find me?"

Wes pulled something out of his pocket. His rough and calloused hands set a single folded, worn piece of paper onto the table. "This."

Son of a bitch.

Marcie pursed her lips and looked away. How did he get it?

"I see you know what I'm talking about."

She laughed bitterly. "Yeah, I know what that is. What did you have to do to get it from her?"

"She gave it to Angel. Thought he might want to know what was inside it."

Marcie was seething. Faith never did anything right, did she? Always messing around with people's lives, and the second she had decided to trust her, the whole thing went to hell in a handbasket. Typical.

"It was none of his business." She leaned downward again and started peeling the crusts off of the sandwich.

"I should think it was! You fight a major apocalyptic battle - which by the way kills all your friends - and run off without telling any of us you were all right, without telling a man that the woman he loved was alive-"

"A woman he loved?" She laughed, a bitter and angry sound. "Don't give me that. It has nothing to do with any of this. Everyone I cared about is gone, Wesley! They're gone because Anya can't keep her mouth shut. If I had been five minutes earlier, everything would be okay!"

"But you weren't, Buffy."

"Stop calling me that!"

"It's who you are! You can't run away from it. You can't run away from your destiny and your fight. It's everything you believe in!" By this point he was leaning halfway across the table, desperately trying to keep his voice down.

She shook her head slowly. "No. Not anymore. I'm done. The slayer is dead. It's Faith's turn now. That's what I told her, but I'm sure already know that, being that you all betrayed my trust and read that letter. You wanna know why I picked the name Marcie? Because she could disappear. That's what I want to do. Disappear. So just go home, Wesley. Go back to Cordelia and Angel, and just pretend like this never happened."

He sat back in his chair and looked at her, a look of both surprise and resignation on his face.

"I wonder if your friends would be proud of the way you're handling this," he asked her quietly.

Marcie glared at him, throat tight. "Go."

They stared unblinkingly at each other in a stalemate with no real point for a while, and then Wesley grabbed the letter, stood up, and left the way he came. All without looking back.

Marcie sat, still as could be, as she watched him leave. Then calmly she picked up her sandwich, moved to another chair, and put all her energy into eating what was left.

She is Marcie Anne Smith, and she was going to be normal from now on.

That was how it started.

Of course, Marcie doesn't remember a word of it. This has always been her regular table.


Marcie pays for her lunch. Five dollars and seventy-five cents, and she's sure the cranky old lady behind the counter always steals her nickels. But she might just be paranoid. After, she walks slowly back to the hospital. There's no one waiting at her desk, as usual, so she slips to the elevator and pushes the button for the fourth floor.

The yellow walls there are ominous and imposing. They're meant to be cheerful, but no one here wants to be cheered up. Or can't be.

She counts the rooms, one through thirty-six. When she comes to thirty-seven, she stops and looks around. No one follows her, but she checks anyway. Always be on alert. She can't remember where she heard that before.

When she's confident the coast is clear, she slips inside the room. It's nearly silent. That's to be expected.

Marcie's the only one that visits her now.

She's still surprised she actually does, after all the hell she went through because of her. All that loudmouth droning finally caught up with the woman. And all of them, too. But it just seems wrong to abandon her. Xander would've wanted her to visit.

She pulls a piece of cloth from her pocket and slides it into the other woman's hand. She'll get it back tomorrow. They take turns. Marcie hears footsteps then, and she quickly leaves for her desk.

No one asks her why she went to room 437, if they even noticed.

After all, she is Marcie A. Smith, and she is normal.


Five thirty. She slips inside the door of her house, tired and drained. She knows those are two different things.

She doesn't know when she learned it, or why she feels that way.

The house is what most people would call quiet, but Marcie can pick up the smallest sounds: creaks in the floorboards, the ticks and rumbles of the pipes. Sometimes, she wishes it would all stop. The noises. The things that seep up through the cracks of what she has and has always wanted. Peace. Quiet. Normality.

The door opens again, and her husband comes in. Dark, tall, and handsome, Dylan is exactly the type of guy she dreamed about as a swoony teenage girl. He smiles his biggest smile in her direction, silhouetted by sunlight diving in from the street into their slightly darkened base-floor apartment. She returns his grin, and leaps forward to give him a big hug.

He wraps his warm arms around her waist, and she kisses him on the cheek before stepping away to close the door.

It's just a normal night, and Marcie Smith doesn't feel at all like she's closing herself into the wrong box.


When they eat dinner, they talk about everything under the sun.

How was your day, what did so-and-so say, what do you think of this. Their relationship is built on a foundation of flimsy words and phrases and plastic smiles, not gut feelings and passion.

Marcie knows this, even though she knows Dylan does not. It's better that way. No one gets hurt that doesn't deserve it. And she deserves it.

Idle chatter fills the dead air. Yes, I'm fine, I had a good day. All lies, but Marcie lives a lie.

No. She does not. Marcie lives a perfectly normal, truth-laden life.

"True," she agrees out loud to whatever comments Dylan just said. She wasn't really paying attention.

  It's dark out now, but Marcie's been used to that. Dylan's head lays back on his blue easy chair, and he's snoring louder than a chainsaw.

She can't bring herself to tell him about the baby.

Marcie knew before the doctors knew. She could feel life stirring inside her, and her first reaction was dread. Marcie A. Smith, normal wife and working girl, would want a child. But Buffy, the half-dead, all hidden girl inside her did not.

The world could be beautiful, but she couldn't bring a child into it when she didn't really even live there herself.

And now, two months later, Dylan does not know. She still has a chance to save it from something it didn't need to experience. Life. She knew the other way, and it would be okay there. Her baby would be happy there.

What Buffy didn't know is why she hasn't just take care of it already.

But she pushes it to the back of her mind, a skill she's honed after many years of practice.

The darkness seeps in through the lamplight that crosses Dylan's face as she grabs her coat. Dark skin. Dark hair. Dark eyes. When she's kissing him, making love to him, she doesn't see anyone else in him.

That's what she loves about him.

Marcie tries not to make a sound as she leaves the house for her nightly walk. The crisp air awakens the parts of her that she would rather fade away.

She is Marcie A. Smith. Remember that, she tells herself. Concentrate on trying to engrain that in your head.

If she does, she doesn't have to think about the little girl or boy that will never be born because its mother wants the best for it.

She doesn't need to think about the man sleeping at home, alone. His wife doesn't love him. She just needs him, because having someone who makes her forget makes Marcie whole and that much more real.

She doesn't have to think about the ex-demon ex-warrior who lays locked in her mind on the fourth floor of some hospital. The girl who, in a way, is the reason this all happened. The woman who clutches the piece of the one person she ever loved every other day. The one last connection Marcie has to Buffy.

She doesn't need to think about Buffy at all. Buffy should be dead. Buffy is dead.

Beside her, a few yards to the left of where she is walking, something is off. She feels it. The oh-so-familiar tensing of her muscles, the way her senses sharpen, the feeling that someone or something needs her help.

She knows what it means. But she keeps on walking. She keeps on fighting

She is Marcie A. Smith.

She is Marcie A. Smith, a normal woman.

She is Marcie A. Smith, a normal woman leading a normal life.

There are no such thing as vampires.

Remember that.


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