characters not my intellectual property. no profit intended or made.


It's After.

"It'll just be a moment," the woman says to her.

Buffy goes for a facial and the mud dries on her face. It dries so completely that she can hear the cracking of it, dirt and water creating concrete, a literal masque to be pulled off later. Of course, people would say you can't actually hear mud dry, you just can't. Since she's a Slayer, her hearing is a little better than just people.

"Nearly there," the woman says to her.

Buffy's tasted heaven, she's felt the all-divine. She'd like you to fuck off, she can hear the mud drying, she can hear it drying and feel it becoming something new, something older than just mud. She can feel it becoming part of herself.

"Your skin is beautiful," the woman says to her.

Buffy used to buy moisturizers and lotions to make sure her skin stayed fresh and healthy, young. UV protection, exfolliant, hydration, detoxifier. She was well versed in the balms and potions that would keep her outsides from feeling the signs of age. Each bottle was a secret fountain of youth, was another way she battled the darkness - Buffy refused to not care if she was pretty.

"After this, I'll steam your pores," the woman says to her.

Buffy nods, carefully, without knocking any of her mask off. The thing about After is, she no longer needs to use a bottle to keep the signs of age away. She has tasted heaven, but she has also tasted hell.

"You must take very good care of yourself to have your skin in such good shape," the woman says to her.

Buffy can remember a dream she had once, as a little girl, where her and Dawn were making mud pies in the back yard. They plunged their hands into the dirt and water, the sticky clay, and wiped it across each other's faces. It couldn't have been really real, since it included Dawn. It was a lot like the first Slayer, the smell of that wet clay.

"Just another moment and you'll be brand new," the woman says to her.

Buffy knows that smell, the smell of wet dirt. It follows her dreams and nightmares, it haunts her while she's awake. It's the smell of the grave, the smell of something truely, frighteningly, old. She'd know - she's dug herself out of the ground twice before, after death. She can still remember the way her face felt when she was a vampire, the ridges, the new power. She's died enough to recognise that smell, to know it clogging her nostrils, to taste the age beneath it.

"There, and we'll take that off you," the woman says to her, and starts to peel.

Buffy feels the masque peeling off her face, and taking her dead skin with it.