Formerly Known as Sunnydale
Disclaimer: All characters and events are owned by the genius of a man that is Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy and whoever else has rights to them, i.e. not me. The song that Buffy makes reference to is Chantal Kreviazuk's Weight of the World, meaning I don't own it. Also, I don't own any Baskin Robbins' ice cream flavours, mentioned in the fic or otherwise.
Chapter 6 – Buffy
How does someone describe nothingness? The absence of something, something nonexistent, or something that's empty? That's what all her senses were screaming at her right now. Something was missing. Something very important no longer seemed to exist. It was missing. Gone, never to come back. Poof.
Not Sunnydale. Yes, it was gone, blown to smithereens, but that wasn't the problem.
Sound. Sound was missing. It was there… and at the same time, part of it was missing.
Buffy Summers was experiencing a very strange sensation while standing on the edge of the crater. Not vertigo, it wasn't dizzying exactly, it was more like a serene calmness. She was drifting just under the surface of the water.
She could hear everything around her and hear absolutely nothing at the same time. All at once, sound and the lack of sound blended together to a simple, gentle hum in the back of her mind. It was a bizarre feeling, but not altogether a bad one. And the water analogy was a good one; it really was as if she were swimming underwater. She could hear people talking above the surface, but she could also hear the rush of the water and hear all the sounds the water was blocking out. The sounds around her were blurring, becoming cloudy and murky.
The concept of sound had taken on a whole new meaning for Buffy. It was extraordinary but also very confusing. She tried to focus solely on the voices of the people standing next to her, the voices of her friends and family as they discussed their possible options for the future, but her ears didn't seem to like the restriction. They were trying, and succeeding, to hear everything around her all at the same time. Her ears were focusing on all the sounds surrounding her as if trying to fill the gap left by the sounds that were missing.
Being forced to look at all the destruction before them had put her mind on hold. The scene she was seeing hadn't completely registered in her brain yet, so while her mind desperately tried to catch up, her ears seemed to go into overdrive. It was peaceful and calming, being able to hear everything around her, but it was off somehow. Paired with hearing usual sounds she could hear nothing, she could hear the absence of sound, and it seemed out of place.
Behind her Buffy could hear the newbie Slayers milling around the bus. Some were excited, chatting about the battle that had just transpired. They were discussing who had killed what and how many and comparing weapons and fighting techniques. Some of the girls were being humble and quiet when questioned how many vamps they'd dusted, and some were being boastful and over exaggerating. All this and more Buffy could hear. Her ears told her that the more timed girls were wondering where they would go and what would happen to them now that the battle was over, would they have to go home, or could they stay with Buffy and the others? Nervous and unsure, some were even checking to make sure none of the über-vamps had survived the cave-in of the school and followed them here to the drop-off of the cliff.
A select few even seemed unfazed by the whole thing and were trying to decide if it would be appropriate to ask if they could go try and find a fast-food place and grab a bite to eat. Typical Slayers. Forever trying to take in enough food to make up for the energy they burnt off while slaying vamps.
Mostly though, they were talking about their newfound powers. They were bona-fide Slayers now and had been victorious in their first official battle as such. There was no questioning the excitement floating in the air around them. Buffy remembered that, the jazzy feeling of accomplishment she would get after they beat the current Big Bad. The adrenalin would be filtering out of their systems pretty soon, but they'd still be energized for the next few hours. Bouncing off the bus seats and chattering their pretty little heads off. The sombre mood of death was still there, but now that the battle was over, it was becoming harder for them to contain their excitement.
Besides the talking, Buffy could hear the pain some of the new Slayers were in. Some of them were trying to be discrete about the fact that they were badly hurt. The injured ones were still on the bus, and Buffy could hear them letting out a curse or sucking in a sharp breath through clenched teeth as their wounds were cleaned and bandaged. Others, rightly so, weren't so discrete and were crying out in pain as their injuries were looked at. But even the ones who were seriously hurt were buzzing with energy and Buffy could feel it. The Slayer connection she had only truly shared with Faith was now bonding her to the other girls around her. Their excitement was weaving its way to her, making her almost dizzy with it.
Next to her, she could hear her friends discussing their formidable future. Everyone was a little directionless right now; they were unsure of what to do and the seemed to be waiting for her to say something. She was the leader after all, she was expected to, you know, lead, at a time like this. Buy Buffy was just as lost as they were, was just as baffled as they were by the canyon before them. She listened as they spoke about what had been destroyed in the battle, what they were going to do with the new Slayers, and where they were going to go now that Sunnydale was gone. Laced in with the words being spoken Buffy could hear the fear, sadness, excitement, and anticipation in their voices.
All around her the voices of the people she knew and cared for were mixing, coming together in a rich blend of sound. Like bizarre ingredients being thrown in the blender when Dawn was experimenting with cooking again, voices, new and familiar, seemed to float through the air and come to a stop before Buffy, letting her hear them all at once. The blender wasn't turned on yet, it wasn't spinning the voices into an endless and confusing cycle, the sounds were just being poured in, preparing for the dizziness that was sure to ensue.
But the sounds didn't stop there; there were also things she couldn't hear.
Buffy couldn't hear the hum of cars on the road, the sound of children laughing, birds calling, dogs barking, or people talking as they walked down the street. She couldn't hear school bells sounding, babies crying, or phones ringing. She couldn't hear car alarms blaring, motorcycles humming, or even the jingle that signalled the ice cream truck.
Those sounds had slowly been disappearing as The First began its assault on the town, fading away as more and more people left for someplace safer. It was only now however, that Buffy actually register the missing noises. She had been to busy trying to protect the Potentials to take the time to actually listen as Sunnydale turned into a ghost town around her. But now she was listening, and realized that all the sounds that had identified this place as Sunnydale, California weren't there anymore.
What was left in their place was a rather large, ugly hole in the ground.
That was what was bothering Buffy. Not the fact that her home had vanished for good, but that what was left in its place was completely silent, totally lacking in sound. It was weird, hearing the voices of the people around her but nothing after that; hearing absolutely nothing in the distance. She pushed her senses, reaching out as far as she could, but there was nothing to hear. The desert, the highway, and the crater around them made no inkling of sound. So aside from their small group on the edge of the crater, there was no noise; the world was a TV on mute.
As her friends continued to discuss their options, Buffy felt her mind begin to wonder. It had given up trying to process what she was seeing, and now was just drifting off on its own. Little things popped into her head, random memories and images of what was gone forever. The image of the great tree in the front yard, a memory of Dawn making breakfast the first day of summer after Buffy had graduated high school, unpacking her things from numerous boxes the day they moved in. The painting her mother had brought back from the gallery she worked at – the one with the little red and blue smudges, the memory of the first time Xander and Willow had come over to work on a school project, even the precious memory of standing on the hill with Angel as snow fell for the first time in Sunnydale; these and many more recollections of her old life drifted through her mind.
Her home was destroyed, and yet… she actually wasn't that upset about it. Sure, the house, her belongings, the whole town, it had all gone poof, but she couldn't bring herself to feel that depressed. To her, those things were no longer important.
That was all that mattered. Those were the words that passively floated through her head over and over again – they won. So what if the place was abandoned, so what the town had vanished, so what if everything they had known was buried under the rubble of collapsed homes. They beat The First. They beat the freaking First Evil. To Buffy, those lost materials possessions had been just that, material possessions: supplies, equipment, things they'd spent money on; they could all be replaced. She was alive. Most of her friends were alive. And they had won, plain and simple. If she wasn't stuck in this numb state, Buffy knew she'd be jumping and cheering right about now. They won.
It did feel weird though. She could see the others reflecting on what was once Sunnydale. She could see the pain in their eyes as the realization that they would never be able to go home again caught up with them. But Buffy didn't feel the same. She felt detached from her friends somehow, separated from them. She knew she should be upset, devastated even, but she wasn't. She was just… calm. The storm was over, the rainbow was coming out, and the sea was tranquil and still around her. That's what she was.
They won. And on top of that, they weren't alone and never would be again. The idea of the Scooby Gang being just a small group of friends trying to keep their town safe had gone out the window with Sunnydale. Now there were Slayers, plural. Not one Slayer, not two, but many. Now there were multiple girls Chosen to defend the world. She and Faith together had been powerful, but existing as the sole Slayer at the same they had been an accident; there was only supposed to be one. But now… Willow's spell had changed that. Now, they had an army.
An army of small, frightened, untrained, teenaged girls with superpowers, but it was still an army. The Scooby Gang wasn't alone in the fight against the forces of darkness anymore. And that was an amazing feeling.
For so long Buffy and her friends had carried the weight of the world on their shoulders. Now though, they could share the burden, pass on their knowledge, and teach these new girls how to fight evil and how to win doing it. These new Slayers could take over.
She was finally free of the dual gift and burden of being the Chosen One, free to be Buffy. She didn't have to be "Save the World Slayer" Buffy anymore. She could be "Plain and Normal" Buffy, the one she had been striving to be for so long.
And standing there, looking out over the mess and ruins of Sunnydale, Buffy realized who that was. After years of wondering and searching, she had finally discovered who Normal Buffy was.
The new Slayers could take over, yes, but Buffy wasn't going to disappear and fade into the background, not by a long shot. She was going to stay right there, on the front lines, kicking major demon ass alongside anyone willing to fight. She finally realized that "Normal" Buffy was "Slayer" Buffy. She'd spent so much time complaining about how she could never be a normal girl or have a normal life, when in fact this was normal. For her, the days where she wasn't out staking vampires were the abnormal ones. Evenings when she wasn't able to go out and patrol the cemeteries felt strange and unfulfilling. This was her Calling. She could never be anything but the Slayer.
And she was okay with that, because as of right now there were others to help. If she wanted to she could take a vacation for a few days, have some relaxation and downtime all to herself. And she wouldn't feel guilty about it, wouldn't feel like she was abandoning her job as the Slayer, because she wasn't the only one destined to save the world anymore. Once properly trained, there would be other Slayers to help, other Slayers to share the load. Together.
It felt amazing to know that she finally had that. Buffy and her small group of friends had been alone for so long, it was nice to simply stand there and breathe for once. It felt good to be able to pause for a minute from all the on-going action in her life. She didn't need to mourn over the loss of Sunnydale, because that was just a small piece of the big picture. It was the one missing bit of cardboard of a thousand-piece puzzle; it wasn't there, but they didn't need it because they could still tell what the bigger picture was. They'd lost something, but they'd gained so much more.
Absently, the lyrics to a song came to mind. Buffy couldn't remember the name of the singer or the name of the song. They were merely a few words that described her situation perfectly, I used to carry the weight of the world, and now all I wanna do is spread my wings and fly.
Fly. Spread her wings and fly. There was blue sky stretching to infinity around her, and she wanted to fly in it. She wanted to bask in the sunlight and float on the light breeze. The blue sky was calling her, drawing her in. She wanted to relax in the calm she was feeling right now. Finally, she could take a big, deep breath and slow down. She could let herself unwind, because the world was still there, would still be there tomorrow, and for now, that was all that mattered.
"Yeah, Buffy. What are we gonna do now?"
The blonde Slayer smiled slightly at her sister's question. It didn't matter to her what they did, as long as they were in it together and no longer alone in the fight. Buffy didn't care where they went or who made the decisions. At the moment, she was just along for the ride.
Though, there was one tiny thing thought that came to mind with Dawn's question. Buffy wasn't sure where the thought came from, or even why or how she came up with it, but she wasn't going to dwell on it. For some reason, her subconscious asked for this one simple thing, and she was happy to oblige. Or try to anyway; Buffy wasn't sure where she would be able to find what she was looking for. But hey, they had the whole world in front of them now. Surely they'd find a stop on the way of wherever they were going and to be able to satisfy her unexplained desire.
What Buffy wanted was ice cream. She wanted to sit down and have herself a nice, big bowl of frozen, creamy goodness.
Maybe something simple, like Vanilla or Strawberry. Or maybe she wanted something extra sweet, like Chocolate Mocha or Peanut Butter and Fudge. Or she could try something more extreme, like Pink Bubblegum or Orange Lemon Twist. Or those Rainbow Sherbet flavours always looked neat, with swirls of colour and sprinkles. Or she could simply go with something more traditional, like Pralines and Cream, Toffee and Caramel, Mint Chocolate Chip, Cookies and Cream, Cotton Candy, or Vanilla and Blue Raspberry.
No Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream though, Buffy was certain about that. After the whole awkward analogy-thing with Angel about how she was cookie dough that wasn't finished baking and didn't know what she was going to turn out to be, Buffy was sure that she wouldn't be able to eat any form of cookie dough for a long, long while.
But aside from that, the possibilities were endless. And the more she thought about it, the more she wanted some.
And those possibilities didn't stop with flavour. She hadn't had ice cream in a long time, so if she was going to have some then of course she was going to go all out. Not only would she have to decide on what type of ice cream she would indulge in, but then there was the question of toppings. There was chocolate, hot fudge, caramel or strawberry syrup to drizzle on top. Would she have fluffy whipped cream too, with a maraschino cherry? Candy sprinkles, chocolate chips… or a combination of both? Or there were cookie crumbles, roasted almonds, peanuts, or chocolate shavings.
And where would she put it? Probably the second hardest decision when planning an ice cream treat: "would you like it in a cup or a cone?" And if you pick cone, what kind? A regular, waffle or sugar cone? Too many choices.
It was beginning to hurt her head, thinking about all the decisions that went along with having ice cream. Maybe instead of finding an ice cream parlour she'd be better off in the frozen section of a store, picking the first container that jumped out at her. That would eliminate quite a few of the decisions. Buffy wasn't always great when it came to decisions.
Although, if this were the case, she'd have to be sneaky about it. She didn't want to have to share her cold and tasty treat with any of the newbie Slayers. Or Faith. Faith was notorious for stealing food.
So, decision somewhat made then. Someone else would decide where to go, that part didn't really matter. Giles would probably suggest finding either a hospital to treat the wounded or a motel to stay for the next few days, until they came up with a real plan. And once they were on the road and going somewhere the new Slayers would start complaining about bathroom breaks and wanting to satisfy the munchies. Then they'd have stop at a service station, and Buffy would somehow manage to find herself some money to pay for the aforementioned ice cream. It was a partially-flawed plan, but that was okay. As long as Buffy got her ice cream.
There was no real reason for Buffy's sudden desire for ice cream. Simply put, she hadn't had ice cream in a while and she wanted some. Maybe it was because she felt so happy, so relaxed, and yet so energized after the battle. She was so mentally exhausted that her brain was throwing random thoughts at her because she wasn't sure what she really wanted, and this was the best her brain could come up with.
Buffy was just so happy they had won, that it didn't really matter to her what happened now. She merely wanted one moment of normalness before diving headfirst back into the Slayer life again. She wanted a single moment of calm before they began the difficult task of training the newbie Slayers.
To Buffy, her desire for ice cream was completely rational and justified. Her brain had been in overdrive for so long, that when she suddenly didn't need to be planning how to defeat The First she wasn't quite sure what to think or what she wanted to do. No matter though, they had all the time in the world to figure out what she wanted now that Sunnydale was no more.
For the moment however, she'd follow her own advice. Pause, take a deep breath, and sit down to have some ice cream.