By Shakespeare's Girl
A/N: Buffy thinks about Anne, her life in LA, and what awaits her when she gets off her bus in Sunnydale. Minor spoilers for "Anne" and "Becoming 1 and 2."
It's on her mind the entire bus ride back to Sunnydale.
She could have been Anne. She could have stayed Anne.
Probably if she had, she would have wound up happier. She would have smiled more, would have enjoyed her life. Eventually.
Instead she spends a full three hours staring out her window and clenching her jaw, trying hard not to start crying and hoping against all hope that no one notices the blonde girl, the one who just sits there and stares, the one who doesn't want to be Buffy again.
She wants to stay Anne. She could find another diner, another restaurant. Maybe a chain this time, like an Applebee's or a Steak and Shake. Maybe something out of the way, named after some mysterious woman with an "ie" on the end of her name. Rosie, or Annie, or Susie.
Staring out the window she sees five tiny little diners, five places to start fresh. But she doesn't get off at the stops. She waits. She's going back, whatever that means. Whatever that brings.
She's fairly sure of her friends reactions. Giles will tell her off for being gone, for not saying something, for worrying him so. Xander will be the fastest to forgive, his own issues keeping his mouth shut. Oz will be his normal, taciturn self. Her mother will worry, and schedule and keep Buffy on as tight a leash as possible, although now that she knows about being the Slayer, she'll have to lengthen that chain a little. Willow will worry about being abandoned again, her eyes cautious until finally she manages to reassure herself that Buffy isn't going to leave her again. Or maybe not. Maybe she's wrong about all of them. It doesn't matter.
It's the reaction that she won't get that worries her. She won't be walking down those cold, concrete steps to the basement apartment she's come to know so well. Instead, she'll walk by that old creaky mansion every now and then and look in the windows and wish that inside was waiting her Angel. She won't be opening the door to find him standing there, won't feel his arms close around her waist, one hand on her shoulders, one on her back, hugging her close, keeping her safe. She won't get to kiss him, won't get to reassure herself that because Angel's right next to her, everything's going to be all right.
She'd been stuck in a state of limbo so long while she debated with herself about killing him. So long, she'd not felt anything, just that terrible, mind-numbing, limb deadening apathy. She thought that would be how it felt when she was really grieving for his death. She'd tried it on, moved around, got comfortable in it, and then, when her sword had parted flesh and he'd disappeared into that vortex of light, she'd expected to feel exactly the same. She hadn't expected to break down and cry, or to realize that despite the fact that she knew her mother would take her back, she didn't want to go home, didn't want to be taken. She wanted to get away, wanted to lose everything that would possibly remind her of Angel. She'd snuck back inside just long enough to get the essentials, things she knew she couldn't live without, and toss them into a big, black duffel bag before she climbed back out her window and hopped the first bus to LA. She'd thought about going to her father, but he had that woman with him now, and besides, he'd call her mom.
So she ran. She cried a lot, cried on the bus, cried when she finally got settled in, cried on break at her job. She worked and she went home and lay on her bed and tried not to sleep, because when she slept, she had to relive those horrifying moments when his eyes met hers, shock and pain and confusion in his brown eyes, the eyes she'd wanted so badly to remember looking at her with love.
It had been getting better. Longer hours at the diner meant longer hours of sleep. She could have ignored Joy, too. Could have simply let it be. She would have gotten a better apartment in a few months time, a good enough waitress with her preternatural skills that if she'd wanted she could have had one of the classy, high-end waitressing positions for the private restraunts in the inner-city sky-scrapers. But she didn't want to mingle with the rich and famous. All she wanted was to disappear, so she had. Or, she thought she had. But it never quite worked, and she wound up helping Lily out of pity. Gave her a job and an apartment, gave her most of the tips she'd earned the past few weeks, although Lily wouldn't find that out until she changed the sheets.
Buffy. She tried the name in her head. She'd been Anne for so long. It had become her name, her proper name. The one she introduced herself by. But then came the hunt for Lily's boyfriend, and she'd slipped, let her name be Buffy, or at least, started to. She'd let herself be the other girl, the one she didn't want anymore, the one who was grieving. She wanted to stop the bus, to get off and run away again, to scream and fight and run and keep moving until she forgot all about Sunnydale and Xander and Willow and Giles and Cordelia and her mother and Angel.
Oh god, she wanted so badly to forget about Angel. But he was there, in her mind, tormenting her every night with his eyes, his accusing eyes, his loving eyes, his shocked, hurt, pain-filled eyes.
She'd sent him to hell, but she was the one who suffered.