Jonathan stabbed a finger at the elevator call button. The lift call button. Whatever. He had made an effort to talk like the people around him at first, to try to blend in, but had given up when the funny looks had gotten to him.
Nobody looked at him standing there waiting for the hospital elevator. Jonathan didn’t attract much attention these days. Except for the second glance his American accent got him, sometimes. He’d been here a year and a half now. Faking his death with Andrew’s help had been easy; Andrew had always been a sucker for redemption story arcs. He’d been sworn to eager secrecy, helped him fool that Wood guy, and just like that, Jonathan had been free to build a new life. He’d flown himself to England and started over in a big way. It had turned out to be in a small way, like everything he did, but at least he wasn’t killing people any more.
Andrew wrote to Jonathan sometimes, under a code name through a letter drop he’d insisted Jonathan use. Mostly it was excited news about people Jonathan didn’t really know, recounted without enough context to make it coherent. But the last letter had said that Buffy was in a hospital in London, in a coma. Not expected to come out of it. Jonathan had always liked Buffy. Buffy had been nice to him. One of the high points of his life, his real life, had been her smile when he handed her the umbrella for class protector. It had been his idea, even. So Jonathan got on the next train from Norwich to London, to say goodbye to her.
The elevator arrived. Jonathan stepped aside to let people out, then stepped in. Another finger-stab. Fourth floor.
There had been a time when he’d have climbed the side of the building and cut a hole into her window, just because he could. And because it would have been faster. Jonathan remembered what that felt like, that fizz of utter confidence and competence. Remembered what it felt like to jump out of an airplane without a parachute, knowing that he’d find a solution long before he neared ground. Remembered what it felt like to pick up a trumpet and start playing. To try and know that he would do, to reach and know that he would grasp. Nobody else remembered. That was pretty clear.
What were you supposed to do when you’d once been a paragon?
The elevator opened on the fourth floor and Jonathan shuffled out. Become an accountant, it seemed. Though that was a better lifestyle choice than evil mastermind. He knew that, now.
He paused and looked at the signs on the wall. Room 423, to the left. He paused inside the doorway to scope out the situation, figure out if he was welcome. Nobody noticed him.
Buffy was in the bed, surrounded by beeping monitors. No complicated life support stuff. She looked so tiny and frail in the middle of the bed, propped up. That wasn’t right for the Slayer, the strongest human there was. Andrew hadn’t been exaggerating.
At the foot of the bed were Xander Harris and Mr Giles the librarian. Harris had an eyepatch and was wearing a leather jacket. Mr Giles was in a suit that smelled like it cost two months of Jonathan’s salary. The two of them looked unhappy. Harris kicked at the floor, and said a bad word.
Buffy’s sister Dawn was next to the bed. She bent down and kissed Buffy on the cheek.
“Nope,” she said. “It isn’t family, either. Guess I’m the wrong kind of true.”
Jonathan took a step into the room.
“It’s not us,” Harris was muttering. “I was so sure it would be me, and if not me, then you. What the hell. I could have lived with it being you. If it’s that Immortal jackass I’m-a gonna kill him.”
“I’ll help,” said Mr Giles. He had the oddest expression on his face, sort of a combination heartbroken and pissed off.
“Um, hello?” said Jonathan.
“Oh, it’s you,” said Harris.
Then Andrew came through like a missile and whizzed Jonathan over into the corner for one of his weird hugs, where he tried to imitate the way men hugged each other. Or the way he thought they did, or something. When Jonathan had stopped choking, he asked Andrew what the hell was going on. Andrew was more than happy to tell the story: they’d just figured out the cause of the coma, and had a general solution. Tragically, not yet a specific solution. All Buffy needed was the kiss of true love, and she’d wake up.
“I kissed her first,” Andrew whispered, “because I was closest and I thought, well, I thought maybe from the way she looked at me we could have a sort of doomed love thing going. Because you know. I have sworn never to touch women. As a penance.”
Jonathan snorted, very quietly.
“But it was not to be. Then Xander tried, then Willow, then Mr Giles, but nothing doing.” He looked at Jonathan for a second. “Why don’t you try?”
Andrew gave him a shove in the direction of the bed.
“Are we going to let just everybody try kissing her?” Harris’s one visible eye was giving off storm signals. Jonathan gave him a wide berth on his way past.
“Apparently we must,” said Mr Giles.
Jonathan cleared his throat and stepped over to the bed. Buffy was pale, almost waxy. And so still. Jonathan pulled his shoulders back. Try and do. He leaned down.
Buffy’s lips were dry and maybe a little rubbery. He kissed them manfully anyway, because that’s what paragons did. They kissed and flicked out their tongues in a deft way between the parting lips of their sighing girlfriends, who were kissing back. For real.
Jonathan startled, and attempted to pull away, but a shockingly strong hand was at the back of his head, holding him down in the kiss. Buffy’s eyes were open. He stared into them.
She released him. He straightened up and scrubbed the hair on the back on his head.
“Huh?” Buffy said.
“Um, hey? Remember me?”