Title: Weep Not For The Past
Author: Jedi Buttercup
Disclaimer: The words are mine; the world belongs to Joss.
Summary: "I'm sure you noticed I wasn't exactly a fan of yours, when I first came to Sunnydale." 1800 words.
Spoilers: Tag for BtVS 7.22, "Chosen".
Notes: For not_purrrfect. Title from a Shelley quote.
Buffy rested her head against the safety glass of the bus window, staring absently out at the landscape passing them by. She felt strangely numb: not the blank, gnawing emptiness that had swallowed her up after her return from Heaven, nor the denial she'd felt after her mother's death, nor yet the catatonia that struck her after Glory kidnapped Dawn, but a clear, hollow stillness like the calm after a storm. As if she could drift away with the clouds, unfettered for the first time since she'd moved to Sunnydale; or if she'd flung herself off a cliff, face into the rushing wind, not caring what would happen when she reached the bottom.
Grief. Relief. Freedom. Maybe it would hit her harder when they reached their destination and had some time to process; in the meantime, all she wanted was to keep sitting there, and just be.
The rest of the team apparently hadn't got the memo, though. Buffy sighed a little as the seat jostled beside her, its leather cover flexing under another person's weight. A light scent wafted to her sensitive nose; something with a vanilla base that she was too tired to more specifically identify, masking some of the blood and dust and pain drifting through the bus.
She could think of only one other woman who might have bothered to perfume up that morning, and would wear that kind of fragrance. "Kennedy," she greeted the other Slayer, not bothering to move her head from the window.
Kennedy caught her breath a little, then swallowed, nerving herself up for something. Buffy hoped it wasn't another criticism, or some kind of demand regarding where she and Willow would be assigned in the future; she was just too tired to deal with that at the moment.
"I just wanted to tell you something," Kennedy began, then paused: a pensive, purposeful silence.
Buffy sighed, then finally shifted a little in the seat, careful of the still-healing wound in her side as she turned to look at Willow's girlfriend. Whatever had put that wrinkle in the other woman's brow, she wasn't sure she wanted to hear it.
"You know," she said, determinedly interrupting with the first thing that came into her head, "you never did tell us your last name. Or your first name; for all I know, you could be one of those Kennedys." The girl was certainly confident enough in her own identity to come from one of those old, blueblooded East Coast families. Even more so than Cordelia, and without the carefully hidden sensitive side that had made Cordelia more bearable over time.
Kennedy blinked at her, then laughed suddenly, a rueful sound without any of the mocking overtones Buffy might have expected. "Hello to the random," she replied, but she was smiling a little as she said it. "But weirdly on point. That's-- kind of what I wanted to talk to you about." She took another fortifying breath. "I'm sure you noticed I wasn't exactly a fan of yours, when I first came to Sunnydale."
Despite herself, Buffy felt her lips curve into a slight smile. "Yeah, kinda hard not to," she said. "You started off aggressive and disapproving, and never let up."
Of course, Buffy hadn't been blameless in the discord between them, either. She'd reacted just as harshly, as much because Kennedy often said things she knew she would have said herself in years past but couldn't admit to under the circumstances, as because Kennedy was a natural alpha female and they probably would have been destined to knock heads regardless.
"Yeah, well." Kennedy shrugged, long, tangled hair shifting over her shoulders. "I never told you, but I kinda came in knowing a lot about you, and I didn't like what I'd heard."
"I figured as much," Buffy said, glancing a couple rows back at the profile of her Watcher, dozing in his own seat with Xander incongruously snoring on his shoulder. "I knew you had a Watcher already, and after what happened the last couple of times the Council visited Sunnydale I doubt I'd be surprised at anything they had to say about me."
Kennedy bit her lip, then shook her head. The continued hesitation in her attitude was starting to catch at Buffy's curiosity, drawing it out of the distant fog clouding most of her emotions. Kennedy didn't do hesitant; it just wasn't in her makeup.
"My watcher was actually on your side," the dark-haired Slayer finally said. "He wasn't the one who warned me you were judge-y, and that anyone relying on you to protect them was making a mistake."
Buffy's jaw dropped slightly at that. "What?" she blurted.
Kennedy gave her a wry look. "Come on. You're not as bad as I thought, and I really should have given you more of the benefit of the doubt, I can see that now. Don't tell anyone I said this," she added, lowering her voice slightly, "but I'm not sure I would have done much better in your shoes. Seriously, though, you can't tell me you don't get where it came from."
Well, duh; just ask any of the people Buffy had lost-- for one reason or the other-- during all her years on the Hellmouth. She wasn't quite that oblivious. She hated what being the Slayer had done to her capacity for trust and her sense of responsibility, almost as much as she hated the way it had ripped up all her potential futures and buried them. That didn't mean she wanted to hear it from other people, though, especially a pretentious little snot like Kennedy. Especially second-hand.
"So who did warn you about me?" she asked, clenching her fingers around the edge of the seat until it creaked.
Kennedy's eyes dropped to Buffy's hands; then lifted slowly, catching and holding Buffy's gaze. "My name is Kennedy Calendar," she said, simply.
Buffy glanced involuntarily toward Giles again; then back to the girl seated next to her. "Excuse me, did you say-- Calendar? As in--?"
"The mainstream offshoot of the Kalderash clan of gypsies?" Kennedy replied. "Yeah. Jenny was my aunt; she stayed with us while she got her college degree. I never knew why she made my mom nervous until much later, though; they never told me about Dad's heritage, or even that Aunt J was a technopagan until after her funeral, and even then I wasn't one hundred percent sure I believed it, you know? But that was about the time my great-uncles found out that my latest tutor was actually a Watcher, and I got the whole 'World Is Older Than You Know' speech."
Buffy swallowed, and stared, unable to stop herself from seeking out traces of the woman who'd once been her favorite teacher before secrets that basically amounted to betrayal had surfaced to shatter Buffy's life. If Miss Calendar had said something sooner, Angel wouldn't have lost his soul; Jenny would not have died at the hands of Angelus; and everything that had happened since would have unfolded very differently. Experience told her it probably wouldn't have been much better; but she couldn't help but remember Giles' depression, Willow's lack of magical teachers, the absence of a maternal presence in the gang's lives the last couple of years, and believe she was living in a much darker world.
The hair, the eyes; something in the shape of the face. Buffy swallowed. She could see it, now. No wonder Kennedy had come prepared to hate her. Buffy knew, the way she hadn't been able to face at the time, exactly how much of that debacle had also been her fault, not just Miss Calendar's; and she could only imagine how the rest of the woman's family had probably reacted. Especially without the emotional context that had eventually led her to friends forgive her for her part in what had happened.
"I'm so sorry," was all she could think to say, too wrung out to be more eloquent about it.
"I know," Kennedy replied, shrugging. "I get it now, a little. I mean, what Spike just did... if Angel was anything like that when you dated him...." She trailed off, shaking her head, her expression conflicted. "If you felt for him anything like what I feel for Willow.... Anyway. It was stupid, and preventable, and I'll never get to know the kind of woman my aunt really was, and that will never not be a tragedy. But you're not exactly the villain they said you were, either. So. That's-- that's all I wanted to say."
A stab of pain went through Buffy at the mention of Spike's name, cracking the deadened surface of her emotions further, and she took a shaky breath. "Does-- does Willow know? Or Giles?"
Kennedy shook her head. "No. I-- I knew I couldn't tell either of them and expect them not to tell you, and I wanted to tell you first."
"They'll want to know," Buffy said, then reached out hesitantly and pressed one of Kennedy's hands. "Thank you."
Kennedy froze for a second, then pressed back, offering her a relieved smile. "You're welcome. Though I'm kinda surprised you're taking it so well. That's why I picked now; I figured you'd be too wiped out to yell."
"Well, you guessed right," Buffy said, snorting tiredly. "But don't press your luck."
Kennedy took the hint, and Buffy watched as the other Slayer moved back down the aisle to the seat she shared with Willow. The tired witch stirred in her seat as Kennedy sat back down, then shifted to lean her head on Kennedy's shoulder, dark and red hair mingling together. She was still no Tara-- Kennedy had always seemed so abrasive and immature by comparison to the maternal witch-- but Buffy supposed it was about time she got used to her, too. Now that they'd both survived the First.
Now that Kennedy had proven herself capable of maturity, too. What was it about tragedy that always seemed to either bond people closer together, or drive them away?
Or both. Buffy turned her cheek back to the window, staring back out at the landscape for a long moment, then shook her head and stood. Dawn had picked a seat behind Andrew, chatting with him as the miles rolled past; Buffy crossed the aisle to settle next to her, shamelessly butting in on their conversation.
"Hey, you," she said, reaching out to brush at the perennially loose lock of hair in front of Dawn's ear.
"Hey. Cut it out," Dawn replied, batting at Buffy's hand-- though she was smiling as she said it.
Thoughts full of family lost, family found, and regrets too late to undo, Buffy smiled wanly back. "So," she said, gathering herself. "I've been thinking some more about what we're gonna do next...."