I guess that it was just ironic that I was the one who found her. I mean, everyone knew how much I didn't like her. How much I thought that she was a detriment to the team. All the guys had heard me talking about how we didn't know her real agenda, and God knows that everyone had heard me saying that I didn't like how closely Finn was associating with her. I'd said it to his face that I didn't like that he was dating her - questioned his judgement in the matter.
Anyone else would've listened to her, would've realized that she knew a shitload more about these beasties than they ever would. They would've done what she had asked and questioned her later. Anyone, from Finn himself right down to Private James, who still wets his pants sometimes on patrol. The only one who wouldn't listen to her was me, and I was the one who found her.
I found her in the middle of a clearing, fighting an HST. It was your typical garden-variety nasty - teeth, horns, slime - except for the fact that it could've given Edward Scissor-Hands a run for his money as far as hedge-grooming potential was concerned. The huge razor blades the existed where hands or claws should've been were dripping with blood, and from the limp and splattered form of a co-ed lying against a tree, I could guess where all that plasma had come from.
The moment Buffy caught sight of me, she pulled back from the hand-to-razor she had been engaging in. I ignored her almost completely, and pulled out my rifle. I was positioning myself to shoot a few rounds into this particular nasty when Buffy stopped me and pressed a small clay bottle into my hand.
"Your gun won't work on this one. You have to throw this potion into his eyes." Her voice was rushed, and the moment she had passed off the bottle, she ran over to check on the crumpled form of the co-ed.
I learned later that the ritual to kill this HST - or, as Mr. Giles called it, a 'Temoriel' - was almost an hour long, and involved seven separate parts. By the time I got there, Buffy had completed six parts, and must've been exhausted. By giving me the potion, she was trusting me to complete the ritual while she went to see if the co-ed was still breathing. Of course, I didn't take it that way.
To me, she seemed so smug and condescending. Like she was some kind of expert and I was just some wanna-be. All the resentment and distrust bubbled up in me, and I just clenched the bottle in one hand, while with the other I quickly aimed the rifle and fired at the creature, which was now heading straight for me.
I'd gotten off the entire clip before I realized that the bullets weren't affecting it. Downside of an automatic - once you start firing, it's hard to really stop. By that time, though, it was within slashing distance, and it was royally pissed. I dropped the rifle, and even then I didn't admit my fault and throw the bottle. Instead, I started reaching for my knife, even though I knew I'd never get to it in time.
And that's where the tale of Forrest Paul Gates would've ended - torn to shreds by a hostile-sub-terrestrial, had it not been for a certain Buffy Anne Summers.
The razors had come close enough to start to tear the fabric of my vest when she knocked me aside - substituting my body for hers. Then the razors that had gone through special-issue Kevlar like tissue paper sliced into her unprotected form.
I'd never heard the sound of flesh tearing before.
The wound was five inches deep, and extended from her left hip to her right shoulder, slashing across her form in one savage motion. She didn't scream, but the one wet, bubbling gasp of agony that escaped her throat seemed to ring through the still night. Then the creature struck with its other razor in a viscious follow-up, slicing across her neck and silencing her laughter forever. As the beast turned to me, she fell backwards to lie on the ground in a heap that was horribly still.
Five years of training was no good. I couldn't move. All I could do was stare as the grass became wet with her blood. A soft clattering noise finally drew my attention to the form of my own death that was moving towards me, and I saw that the creature was busily licking up the drops of her blood that had splattered in its face.
I didn't remember Buffy's instructions about the bottle that was still tightly clenched in my hand. All I knew was that it was something to throw. The fact that it hit the creature's eyes was pure chance.
Where the potion hit, the creature's flesh melted, and it sizzled through the eyes to turn the brain into useless jelly. All I cared at that moment, though, was that it was no longer moving.
I crawled across the clearing to Buffy. The grass was so soaked with her blood that I slipped a few times. At first I thought she was dead - but then I heard the wet sound of someone trying to breathe through lungs that were filling with fluid. She was alive. I pulled out some bandages, but I didn't know where to put them. Would applying pressure cause more damage? I didn't know. That was also when I realized that I was crying.
Blood was dripping out of her mouth, but I could see her mouthing something. Her eyes were urgent. So I leaned down and listened as she managed to choke out, "...'s it dead...?"
I nodded, but whispered, "Don't try to talk." The blood was flowing slower now, there wasn't as much left in her tiny body. She tried to say something, but more blood came bubbling out, and whoever she called out to was left unnamed.
I watched as the light slowly left her eyes, leaving them glassy and empty. I didn't even have to check her pulse to know that she was dead.
I don't remember picking her up, and I don't remember how I got back to the base, but the next thing I knew I was standing with her in my arms while medical staffers swarmed around me. She was pronounced dead. Riley fought his way to her, even when they tried to pull him away. He gathered her tiny body into his arms, sobbing like his heart was breaking. Maybe it was. Rocking her back and forth, he wouldn't let go. They had to give him a tranq. Even in his drug-induced slumber, we had to pry the slowly-stiffening body out of his arms.
I gave my report, then left. With Riley out of commission, I was the commanding officer. So that night I told Buffy's roommate - Willow - about her death. I held her as she broke down. Then I escorted her to a house on Moss Lane where she told an older man and a young couple about Buffy's death. I watched as they drew together in their pain. Phone calls were made. To Buffy's mother, to some people in LA.
It was only when I got back to the base that I realized that my hands were still stained in her blood.
I caused her death as surely as if I had been the one to rip her open. I'm the one who placed the haunted look in Riley's eyes as he goes through the motions of life like an autonomoton. I'm the one who makes Buffy's roommate start crying at seemingly random moments. I'm the one who put the look of utter shock and pain on the face of the red-haired girl Anya. I'm the one who caused the dark-haired boy, Xander, to drop onto the floor as though his legs had been cut out from beneath him. And I'm the one who was the reason that the older man, Giles, placed his hands in his hands and wept silently.
All because I was the one to find her.