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Eleven Minutes

Title: Eleven Minutes
Words: 856
Characters: Tara, Willow, Xander, Anya, Spike, Dawn, Giles
Pairing: W/T, X/A
Setting: After The Gift

The hot cup of tea Giles held out to her yanked Tara out of her numbing swirl of thoughts and pulled her back into the living room. Muttering a quiet thanks, she brought the mug to her lips and swallowed a mouthful of the heated liquid which brought reality crashing down around her. A glance towards the clock revealed that it was now 11:47 PM, five minutes since the last time she’d looked.

Willow stood beside her, clutching herself tightly. Her eyes were red enough to match her hair, and her cheeks damp with a perpetual waterfall of silent tears accentuated with the occasional hiccupping sob. She hadn’t uttered a single word since they’d brought… since they’d gotten… well all night. Tara reached out, rubbing her girlfriend’s arm, but got no reaction. With a sigh, the blonde sipped at the tea and glanced around the room.

Xander got up from the couch again, made another circle around the coffee table, then resumed his place next to Anya. Xander had done this pacing ritual, wringing his hands, opening his mouth as though about to say something, and sitting back down approximately once every eleven minutes. Tara had clocked him. Sitting on the couch, he rubbed his hands together nervously, eyes fixated on some floating object in the center of the room that was visible only to him. Maybe he could lift the mood, that was practically his job after all? Something, anything to be said that would… no… nothing… just nothing. He couldn’t do anything. As usual.

Anya never once moved from the couch, but she was even more fidgety than Xander was. She picked at her clothes, her hair, the couch, the curtains. She wrung her hands. She changed positions. And every time Xander got up her eyes followed him anxiously as though he would never return to her. The ex-demon wanted to be a snake, to just crawl out of her human skin and leave it behind and leave all the nasty, icky sadness along with it.

Standing in the front doorway, neither in nor out, Spike pulled on a final pull on his cigarette before dropping it onto the steadily growing pile on the doorstep. Smoking was supposed to help calm one’s nerves. Apparently the rule didn’t apply to vampires. He’d smoked all day waiting for the sun to go down, waiting to be able to do something, only to find these poncy buggers sitting around doing nothing. He drew another pack of cigs from his jacket and lit it up. A deep drag and he blew a puff of smoke into the night air. Maybe one actually needed to breathe for smoking to calm their nerves.

Dawn sat on a chair by herself, eyes foggy as they focused out the window into the black and never ending night. The stars up in the sky still twinkled on obliviously, looking over everyone, looking over the world, and ignoring her completely. She’d made a wish that would never come true on each one of them in order as they’d appeared after sundown. Her knees curled to her chest she looked so small, felt so small. Perhaps if she didn’t move, didn’t speak, didn’t think she’d just disappear. She didn’t deserve to be here, she wasn’t supposed to be here, she wasn’t even supposed to exist.
Giles seemed to find that tea was going to fix everything. He kept ducking in and out of the kitchen, boiling water, carrying trays of mugs, refilling when people ran out. However by 9:00 it had dawned on him that there were only two people actually drinking it, including himself. Finally done with his drink runs he stood by himself in a corner. Obviously no one amongst them fancied themselves adult enough to make a decision, they were all children. All of them…

“We’re going to have to bury the body in secrecy… no one can know that the Slayer is dead.” He said.

Hesitantly, considering the implications, soft murmurs of agreement came from Xander, Willow, Anya and Tara. Willow had finally found it decent to change positions and allowed herself to lean on Tara. Xander stopped wringing his hands, and held Anya’s in his own instead.

Through gritted teeth, not looking back at any of them, Dawn finally spoke, unshed tears ripping in her voice, “Don’t talk about her like that.” All eyes turned to the teen who previously could have been mistaken for a discarded marionette. “The slayer is not dead. There’s always a slayer. Always will be. The Slayer is not dead.” She swallowed hard, fighting the enraged squeak finding it’s way to her voice. “My sister is dead. Buffy is dead!”

Xander made his scheduled circle around the coffee table.
Spike stamped out his cigarette and pulled a fresh one from the carton.
Willow hiccupped softly, fingernails digging into her arms.
Anya tore at the hole in her shirt, pulling one loose thread.
Tara wiped a tear from her cheek absently as her mind wandered.
Giles went into the kitchen to fix himself another cup of tea.
Dawn made another pointless wish on a star.