Airplane, Headed Home
Constance Eilonwy
eilonwy@earthlink.net
October, 2002

Buffy the Vampire Slayer and all characters is the property of Mutant Enemy/WB, borrowed without permission for nonprofit purposes. Do not repost this story without permission from the author.

Set just before the season 7 episode "Same Time, Same Place"

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The hum is all around me, the breathing of the airplane. Some people believe mechanical objects have no soul. But everything has a soul. I can feel it uplifting, straining against gravity, wishing to go higher. It feels and smells cold and bright, like the sunlight that's glinting off the wing just outside my window. The clouds are piled high in fantastical arrangements. Everything within the plane, the attendants, the passengers, the coats and carryons stuffed into the overhead compartments, wants to go down, wants to obey that natural summons from the vast, warm, solid presence of the earth. Except for the aircraft. It wants to go higher. So do I.

It would be easier. I wish I could just fly away--play in the cloud mountains. Forget who I am, what I did, who I knew, who I've lost. Except I don't want to forget. I'd like to fly away, but still remember.

Will they be waiting for me? Do they hate me? If I were them, I'd hate me. I became the very thing we've all always fought against.

There's no part of me that doesn't believe it, or thinks it was a nightmare. It still feels all too real. Sharp, clear. I can still smell it, the power. It had a slightly burnt smell, like charcoal. Faint. It would be easier if I could wonder if I dreamed it all.

How did I get here? Traveling on a jet home from England to Sunnydale, alone, before I'm ready to, because the big bad hellmouth is probably up to something.

Before England, the farthest I'd ever been from the small town where I grew up was Los Angeles. I lived in Sunnydale my whole life and never guessed there was a hellmouth under the school library.

Maybe I'm a little like Sunnydale. The way I was in high school, no one would suspect I'd one day try to bring about the apocalypse. You know, innocent, sweet, wouldn't hurt a fly. That's how Sunnydale looks on the surface. Until you try to live there and discover what the mortality rate is and how frightened the cops are, which is why they pretty much look the other way a great deal of the time unless it's a routine break-in or a mugging or kids getting drunk and breaking windows.

There's a blond seated a few rows ahead of me, to the left. I hadn't noticed her before. Long hair, dirty-blond. I can't see much more of her but her shoulder and a length of hair, and her chin, which is graceful. She's reading a book, wearing an oversized knit cardigan, the kind that closes with a belt. It's off-white.

It's like being stabbed, a physical, sharp pain somewhere beneath my ribcage. I find it hard to breathe for a moment.

The steward comes by with the drink cart. She looks up from her book, turning to look up at him, smiles a big smile. The face is too gaunt, the lips too thin. She laughs loudly. The steward pours her a drink and she flirts with him as he places it on her tray.

I never wish I could forget. Ever. Anymore than I can pretend that I didn't do what I did.

The clouds continue their slow march outside the window. There's a break in them, and now I can see the sky stretching out towards a blue nothingness. And wish I could go there.

My shoulders twitch. No. Focus. Stay focused. There is someplace I need to be; whether I'm wanted there or not, it's where I'm supposed to go. I can feel that. There is no resistance or sense of wrongness or lack of completion.

Will they be waiting for me? Or will they stay away?

Are they afraid of me?

Is Buffy afraid of me?

Buffy, who never appears to be afraid of anything. I know her too well to say that "Buffy is never afraid." I know what she is afraid of. And I think, maybe, I'm not sure, but I think she wasn't afraid of me, even at my worst, but afraid of what would happen to me, and all of them. But not of me specifically.

Dawn.

Goddess, Dawn is terrified of me now. She has to be. Things I said…did…the worst of it is, a part of me meant it, on a subconscious level. The truth is, I was jealous, a bit. Buffy was like a sister, almost from the first moment we met--and then she actually had one.

Xander. Now, I'm completely sure that Xander is terrified of me. No question.

What would have happened without Xander…

And it's not just that he saved the world, and saved me. Without him, my entire school career would have been a fresher hell than it already was. We probably saved each other from the kind of loneliness that can literally kill you.

Loneliness can literally kill you. I can feel it, inside me, at the edges. Tearing at the strength, the training, the knowledge, wearing away at the edges. Not quite gaining ground--because I'm fighting it every step of the way--but always there. Sharp and cold. Like the sun striking the wing of the plane. But dark instead of bright.

I finger the book Giles gave me before I left. It's an old hardcover with a rough, pale brown cover, that smells of the musty, second-hand bookstore where he must have gotten it. It's a history of wicca in America--why it was on a second-hand book stall in London, I'll never know. I'll also never know how Giles could forgive me so readily. Especially after what I did to him. Yet he took me to his home, to where he grew up, and introduced me to the people who could most help me. He listened, he taught, he sat with me in complete silence while the wind rushed over the grass and rustled the leaves of ancient trees.

I asked him why and he looked very embarassed and coughed in that way he does, and said he'd never had children of his own, but if a daughter of his messed up very badly, he would try to help her and not cast her out. Then he said something odd, that of all his children, I was the most like him.

I hadn't though of it before, me being like Giles. Oh, sure, book worm, really smart and all. But--me with the computer and him being practically allergic to them.

We'd both lost someone we loved. But that could be said of Buffy and Xander, too.

And, yeah, we were both the sort that no one particular thinks of action-taking types--but when the chips were down, Giles and I had kicked our share of booty.

Okay, so in some ways I am like Giles. But something in the way he spoke made it seem like that wasn't all he meant.

We all know vague bits and pieces of his Ripper days. But just pieces. I looked at him where he sat beside me on the rock where we'd settled to eat that afternoon. Just watched him while we ate. If he knew I was staring at him he pretended not to notice.

I wonder what the rest of the pieces look like?

The plane banks, the captain makes an announcement. We're going to reach LAX soon, and from there I'm getting on a smaller plane to Sunnydale airport.

Giles is one thing. But the others…

I'm not ready.

But you need to see your friends. They will forgive you.

What if they don't?

What if they can't?

I lean back in my seat, letting Giles' book drop into my lap, and look out the window again.

Beyond the clouds, the blue curve of the sky stretches out forever.

I wish…I wish I could just fly away…and disappear, for a while.