This story is the sequel to I Have Loved You Wrong.(If you haven't read that one, this fic will make the kind of sense that's non).
Chapter 1 of How Much You Really Want was posted as a preview at the end of IHLYW, so I will be posting a new chapter this Sunday. I just wanted to get it all set up so all I have to do on Sunday is submit the post.
Chapter 1: One Last Thing
Buffy carried a cardboard box down the steps of the shelter. After her early morning goodbye, she'd returned to her apartment for quick nap. She had a long drive a head of her and couldn't afford any accidents.
Unfortunately, the memories haunting her sleeping world did not release her easily, or maybe she didn't release them. Either way, she didn't get the early start she'd been hoping for, but at least she got some rest. After filling the jeep with the last of her things, she drove to the shelter: her last stop.
Before picking up a box of pictures, she shared a brief goodbye with Lil and Sunny - keeping tears in check and promising to stay in touch. Looking down at the framed photos of their past, she knew they would keep their promises. They had shared too much together to do otherwise.
Now, they were inside, and she was outside.
There was nothing left to do but leave.
Stepping onto the sidewalk she saw a man approaching looking quite determined.
"What are you doin here? I thought your crew didn't get up before noon." Gunn's chuckle faded when he caught sight of the box. Looking towards her car, he noticed it was completely filled.
"I see you're all packed. I guess I didn't think you'd really go. Seems like you've always been here."
"I know, but it's time. My bags are packed, goodbyes were said, all that's left now is to drive off into something."
"So, this is happening like now."
"No tears big guy." She smiled and continued to her car. "You should get inside and say hi to Lil. Go bring her a smile." When he looked towards the shelter, she opened the trunk and squeezed in her parcel.
He nodded towards the stairs "Can we talk?"
She shut the trunk and sat down beside him. "I got nowhere to be. What's on your mind?"
There was no good way to ease into this, so he decided to blurt. "Don't go."
"Gunn. . ."
"Just hear me out." Reluctantly, she gave him her attention. "I know what you've been doin' here. I didn't like it at first - didn't trust it, but I accepted it. I'm not just talking 'bout the demon-bashing. You've been getting kids off the streets into this place and then out of this place to something more: jobs, homes. My guys takes care of the monsters, but you been takin care of them."
"You take care of them too."
He wasn't interested in her pity. "All I give them is a way to fight back. I understand that some won't want to stop, but the rest already do. You're their way out. You give them a shot at normal."
"Gunn, I'm not their only way out, but I am my son's." Her eyes pleaded with him to understand. "I want him to have the life I never had - one without demons and darkness. He deserves normal too, but he won't have that here."
"You're taking care of your family. I get that. Can you blame me for taking care for mine?" He tried to keep his voice even. "Alana's gone. These kids are the only family I got left. It's my job to look out for them."
She rested her hand on his arm for comfort. "Lilly's not going anywhere, and Angel and his team will still be here too. I'm not the only option." Looking down at her hand, he shook his head.
"You're the only one who cares about those kids as much as I do." Her soothing movements stilled at his words. Feeling her pull away, he covered her hand with his.
"I know I'm askin a lot, maybe too much, but I don't want to lose them - not to death not to anything." He faced her with honest eyes. "I can't do this alone."
Anxiously, she ran her hand through her hair without responding. She knew what he was feeling, the burden he carried . . . two years ago, she carried one similar. In her case, there was no one to ask for help, no one to share her duty with. She did the impossible alone; she saved the world, and it cost her everything.
She thought that was enough, but here Gunn was trying to save his world and needing her to help.
He'd taken his hand away and was just sitting beside her patiently awaiting her answer.
If she promised to stay, what would her life be like? The city held several faces from her past none of whom could be a part of her present as it was now. What other changes would she have to endure? and how would this choice affect her son?
She turned towards Gunn. Her whole soul sensed his desperation.
If he hadn't asked her, she wouldn't have stayed, but now that he had, how could she leave? Looking down the street, she felt a tear creep down. She couldn't leave him alone like this - shouldgering this burden.
Letting out a heavy sigh, she let her posture relax and leaned back on the stairs. Sensing her movement, Gunn looked at her. Her new position told him what he needed to know: she wasn't going anywhere.
Their eyes met, and she knew no matter how hard this decision was, she wouldn't regret it. Her son might not have a normal life, but he'd have a mom he could be proud of who did all she could to spare others pain. Everything else . . . well, she would figure it out.
Taking in her decision, he wanted to apologize or offer thanks, but neither felt right. Instead, he held her gaze for a moment before leaning back himself.
Together they sat and watched the bustle of the street. A few kids were hanging near the stoop joking; no one noticed the heavy conversation between the grownups or the even heavier silence. For them, it was a day like any other; the grownups wanted it to stay that way.
Gunn's presence proved he couldn't do this alone; Buffy's promised he wouldn't have to. She would help him because he needed helping, because these kids deserved it . . . and because deep down, that's just who she was.
Maybe normal was overrated. Maybe she just didn't want it enough. Lately, it was a question she often asked herself: how much did she really want?