By Minim Calibre

Notes: Buffy ficathon entry for templemarker. Buffy/Wesley, PG-13.

The world’s inside out, upside down, sideways, backwards. Pick a direction, and it’s going there top speed on its way to hell. Recon says the enemy front is about a hundred or so demons strong and right on their doorstep, except that recon still calls them hostile HSTs, when recon’s not giving her a buck-up-little-cowgirl lecture or talking about his soon-to-be-firstborn. At least Riley’s still right way up.

Buffy’s pretty certain she’s mixing metaphors at this point. Or mixing something. It’s a whole mixing bowling alley in her mind. She shouldn’t be here. She should be in Rome, in her own apartment, planning the rest of her life and looking through shoe catalogues, not planning battles and tracking down books on demons for Wesley.

“Nothing’s right.” Wesley blinks when she says this, almost, but not quite, coming out of the catatonic crouch he’s been in for the hour since she got back, his fingers running across the ancient pages she delivered like a lover’s hands on skin. That’s not right either. No one, not even Giles, should touch books like that, and she shouldn’t be thinking about Wesley and lovers in the same sentence.

Even if they are. Sort of. Kind of. Technically.

It is, she reminds herself for the millionth time, complicated. Angel told her to look after him; he was pretty specific about that. He just didn’t specify the how. “Just… keep him away from Illyria. And whisky,” was it for instructions. So she does. Maybe there’s another way, but this one seemed easiest.

It’s kind of amazing the sacrifices a person will make to avert an apocalypse.

“Not an apocalypse: the Apocalypse.” It’s not until she hears the gentle correction that she realizes she’s spoken out loud. “Is it really that much of a sacrifice?” There’s more than a touch of humor there, and a hint of a smile that in any other circumstance might qualify as heartbreaking — another not-right thing.

“Oddly enough? No, not really. What does your book say about the J’harden demons? Strong? Large? Impervious to metal? Pervious to metal? Is that even a word, pervious?” If she’s going to be on the business end of an assault in the morning, she might as well get down to business. Besides, it’s less… confusing. For lack of a better term. The whole situation has exhausted her vocabulary. That’s fine. She’ll just use his.

“Every five hundred years, all but one of the males is slaughtered in an effort to refine the bloodline. The ritual’s quite elaborate.” He frowns, lifting his eyes from the text. “But I don’t suppose that’s any help, is it?”

“Unless all of the soldiers are male, and the five hundred years is up now? No, not really. Anything else?”

“Well, there’s more detail on the ritual, but insofar as anything of use goes, I’m afraid not. Is this the last of the collection?” He sounds wistful.

“Afraid so. We’ve got details on the ritual, but not on the demons?”

“Other than a vague impression of large, unpleasant, and exceptionally prone to sneak attacks, no.” Wesley runs his hand through hair that he’s already rumpled a thousand times over in absent moments, that she’ll probably rumple a thousand more times during the course of the night. He looks like he just woke up, and she wonders if he’s eaten. She’s been too busy coordinating the coming fight to coordinate his feeding schedule. “It’s one of the few species I know very little about. That’s probably intentional.”

Meaning the enemy has the advantage. Again.

Last time, they lost three Slayers. They only sent four. She’s running out of people, and this isn’t even her fight.

Inside out. Upside down. Backwards. There’s plaster clinging to the blood on her knuckles, a hole in the wall, and no memory of hitting it. Well, if they lose, at least she won’t have to pay to get it fixed. There’s always a bright side.

She didn’t even know they were at war until Angel called. Apparently, no one did, at least no one on their side. According to Wesley, every apocalypse she prevented — every death, every loss, all of it — was just a distraction. A plan to leave them fractured and fragmented before they even knew there was a fight to be fought.

They know now. So they’ll fight, and they’ll win, because that’s the only option they have.

Of course, it’s that kind of thinking that nearly undid everything last apocalypse.

“What happens if we lose?” Buffy carefully wipes the blood from her hands and sits down next to him. Wesley may not have eaten, but he showered while she was out. She can smell her soap on him, light and floral, brought with her from Italy. It’s disconcerting, a sanitized version of what they are.

“I’m not certain we’ll notice a difference. Assuming we survive, of course, though that’s hardly a given.” He closes the book, stares at it for a moment like he’s never seen it before, then lets her lead him, first to the kitchen, and then to the bed.

She’d rather smell sweat than soap. It seems more honest somehow.

Her body’s a distraction for him, something to keep what’s left of him together. As his hands work at the buttons on her shirt, pushing open a path for his mouth to follow, she admits to herself that it goes both ways. Battle plans get forgotten in a tangle of limbs and linens, in wet bodies and ragged breaths.

It gives her the space she needs to clear her mind, to let her get some sleep.

Pre-dawn, she slips from the bed, covering him with the blankets before leaving the room. It’s just like any other day, only not. There are weapons to count, positions to assign, people to consult. Buffy makes a pot of coffee, makes herself breakfast, makes herself breathe and focus. Everything’s upside down and backwards.

It’s up to them to put it right way to.

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