CHAPTER THREE – Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Note: A lot of the first section comes directly from Becoming, Part II
For more months than she could stand to count even silently to herself, her personal nightmare all day and every night was always the same; she and Angelus, the non-cursed version of her first love, sword-fighting deep within the mansion. Events had spiraled completely out of control... Jenny dead; Giles tortured, possibly most probably maimed for life. It was breaking her heart, but there was no coming back from all that he had done.
That moment that she had had drilled into her head through all the years of training; that split second where your opponent lets an opening reveal itself that finally comes around... well, it came around. Angelus had been the hardest of persons to fight. Hell, Angel had helped train her in a lot of the sessions she had worked on with Giles. For whatever reason, she was able to strike out, the blade he carried clanging harshly to the floor.
She lifted her sword to dispatch Angelus, but something, yet again, something held her back when it happened... no longer Angelus... Angel was suddenly gazing back at her. Her heart wanted to crack and fall to dust like the vampires she usually faced as she listened to her former lover gasp loudly and groan in obvious pain. His eyes glowed bright red for a near instant before falling dark.
She watched dispassionately as he collapsed to the floor, like a marionette with its strings cut... only the sounds of his crying echoing in the open room. After what seemed an eternity, Angel – Angelus no more – finally lifted his blood tear-streaked face to hers
"Buffy?" He sobbed. "What's going on? Where are we? I-I don't remember."
No matter how hard she tried, the memory ran the same each time, her body refusing to do anything less than what she did that night. Lowering her sword, she carefully stepped closer. "Angel?"
The scene in her mind jumps. Suddenly she is crying into the love of her life's shoulder, her arms wrapped tightly around him. She tries to ignore Acathla rumbling behind him. How did he not hear? Against her will, she opens her eyes again as the statue's face contorts... his eyes glowing crimson while the mouth opens grotesquely. A swirling vortex to Hell opens, small at first, but growing steadily in size and emanating a deep, red glow.
It is always the same... letting go of Angel and looking up into his face.
"Shh." She ran her hand along his back as she reveled in the ability to touch him again... one last time before there would never be a chance again. Inside, she was dying within the memory, yet again. Unable to stop herself, she lied to him again... "Don't worry about it."
She brushed her fingers over his lips and across his cheek, laying her hand on his cheek and kissing him softly. "I love you."
"I love you."
"Close your eyes." She whispered to him... How she wished she could close her own eyes.
Oh, that he trusted her. Why did he close his eyes? Right. Love. Tears trail down her face, then and now, as the memory of their lips touching fort he last time. Ever. All that is really left of the horror is drawing back her sword and thrusting it into his chest.
Betrayal. That's what his eyes show when they whip open to look at her. She had convinced herself at one point in time that they showed surprise and pain, but it was betrayal.
She is forced to squint her eyes against the sudden burst of white light that exploded outwards from her lover's chest, the sword acting as a central focus for the swirling inter-dimensional nuclear bomb that was set to explode. Buffy watched helplessly as the vortex seemingly grew outwards, the fear that it had not been stopped... her heart ripped from her chest... all for naught.
"Buffy..." She almost cried at the horror in his voice.
There was really no way to adequately describe the rise of power that filled the huge room in the castle. It was like all of the hair on her body seemed to want to stand on end, the pressure inside of her head causing each ear to want to pop... the smell of ozone filling her nostrils. Powerful, world-changing magicks swirled as the energy continued to rise higher and higher until...
Angel was gone.
The hideous stone statue of Acathla stood vigilant over the Slayer, the sword driven deep into the stone, resolute and firm, unyielding and quiet in the horrible secret he held once more.
Angel was gone.
And the tears finally fell down her cheeks... both then and now.
Time heals all wounds.
That was what my Mom said to me the night my father left us, me feeling alone and lost in my bedroom, crying my heart out that the only security I had left in the world was Gordo, my stuffed pig. Everything else was ashes… Merrick dead, my Calling and my Destiny forced down my throat like a typical date rape after the prom... my Daddy was leaving, too.
My Mom held me and rocked me and told me that it would get better, that we'd be better. A new life starting tomorrow.
A brand new day.
Its been over a year since she threw me out of the house. Nineteen months, if you want to be anal about it. Tara would smile that smile of hers at me and would probably be able to give me the months, weeks, days, minutes and possibly even the seconds, depending on how snarky she was gonna be about it. Tara, my salvation. I was on a downward flushing spiral of Super Bowl halftime proportions working that dead end job, just existing within the pain of my failure. I'd failed as a Slayer… a student. As a daughter. As a friend and as a girlfriend. As a lover. As a person. As Buffy.
So I became Anne. I liked Anne… well… eventually. Really, I guess, Tara liked Anne. Loves Anne. That made being Anne wonderful. And life became all Sound of Music-y. There were hills. There was music.
So my mother was right, in a wrong kinda way. Wounds did heal. And time gave me Tara. Ergo. Time healed all wounds.
But I miss my Mom.
That's the real reason I'm back in Sunnydale. Tara probably knows… she knows me so well. She'll make such good teacher or doctor or shrink-type person. Maybe a counselor. She helps so much, its hard to believe that she can love me like she does, and that she lets me love her the way I do. Who knew I could be gay? Yep. Gay… but I think its that Anne is gay. A lesbian. Buffy was good and straight, not that you can't be gay and good, but… you know… maybe I don't mean good but rather perfect. Buffy tried to be perfect. Anne just wants to be good. Yeah, I like the way that sounds. Anne is good.
Wow. How's that for a self-realizing type of thingie? An empathy or something.
That was a joke. Get it? An empiphany versus empathy? Nevermind...
Tara woulda laughed at that…
But, yeah. Back in the ol' homestead or whatever. I so am in awe of Lilah and Auntie Kate. Who knew that living in Los Angeles and being a lesbian with a witch like Tara could lead to a group of friends like I have. Like we have. A cop that has taken us under her wing, adopting us both as the younger sisters that she didn't have but always wanted. And Lilah, a lawyer that wants to make us happy.
I know, right? A lawyer on our side. I'd say that I'd never make a bad remark or joke about lawyers ever again, but Lilah knows more of them than I could ever hope to know and loves making Tara and I giggle over them, no matter how bad they might be.
But with Lilah and Kate, no secrets. Sure, I tried to hide what I was… the Slayer, not gay… and live normally. Lilah answered that one best, well, best after Tara. Why be normal? Truth is that whether you involve the supernatural stuff into the world or not, the fact remains that no one is Joe Normal. That guy living across the hall? Secretly looks at kiddie porn. The sweet old lady you met at the grocery? She works as a dominatrix on the weekends. And your Sunday School teacher? Kills pets in the neighborhood and has them all buried in the basement. According to some hush-hush stuff Lilah told us about some of the clients her firm helps out, its really the demons and other non-human guys that try to be normal.
I miss them. Kate was great… please ignore the rhyme... she even helped me get my GED under my assumed name. Yeah, Anne Jones. Jones came from Fred Jones of Scooby Doo fame. Always liked that ascot. Only Freddie could pull that off. Hilary can so kiss my tattooed ass thinking Shaggy is all that. Into grunge much? So, high school taken care of and, with a cop that looked the other way as she was pulling in favors, I was gainfully employed at my bar and Tara at the book place, though she needed no help to get her job. Nobody can resist Tara. And then Lilah pulling off the greatest offer since Jesus' impromptu picnic of fish and bread; Tara and I can go to college. I don't know what we woulda done without them.
Sure, there were complications. Nothing's ever free, but for pain and heartache. If you want stuff, you gotta work at it. So, who cares that Wolfram and Hart wanted their very own Slayer on the payroll? Maybe I mighta cared before I sent Angel, my Angel, to Hell. But there's a new Slayer in town and she can deal with the pro bono work and the guilt and the worry. Me? I'd sell my blood and shave off my green hair if it'd make Tara happy.
And how bad can it be? Lilah has been great and if they need me to help them out AND I get paid for it, all the better. Sure, I was worried a bit at first. No one wants to be taken advantage of, but I reread that contract… and other than all of the parts I didn't understand, they were very on the up and up. I can do it. And after I explained it all to Tara, she offered to help. And besides, they don't even really want us to do much at all… just go to school and live our lives.
My world finally seemed on track. In love with and loved by Miss Maclay. Employed with some mulah in the bank, not to mention our emergency cash in the Raisin Bran box. Scholarship for UCS. Shoulda known that there were more rainies in the sky.
I'd worked through so much pain, so much self-loathing and guilt over killing Angel. Destroying the man that I loved so much… only to learn that he was back, though why I was surprised when nothing ever stays dead or whatever in my life. Sure, Merrick was still gone… Kendra, too. Miss Calendar not coming back. So much death all around me, you'd think it was all I had to offer. My gift. But it was a lucky break with Tara that led to so much changing in our lives.
I don't even really remember what we were all doing… a late movie maybe, but Kate asked if we minded her swinging by an investigator's office to drop off a file he'd requested. Only by the grace of the Goddess Tara's constantly talking about did I offer to wait in the car. Tara and Kate were involved in an argument about something and Tara went to go in with her. Angel Security and Investigations.
And you'd think that learning that Angel was not only back from Hell and living in the City of Angels… ignore that pun, please, would be the bigger shock. But that would be a world of no's; not only was he here, but Oz was in L.A., too. Just kill me now. But let's add a great heaping spoonful of pain on top of this disaster sundae. My mom was visiting. Mom! With Angel! How did my life get to that point, huh? Needless to say, once Aunt Kate learned that Angel was a vampire, which, of course, led to more questions about my past… insert edited version, who wants to talk about their first time leading to the reemergence of one of the most feared vampires of all time. Yeah, color me not in the happy. That led to major bookage out of there. Suddenly, returning to Sunnydale didn't seem so bad… plus, I had Tara.
And who was looking for Anne, anyway?
Which leads to me now hiding out in mine and Tara's ultra cool new apartment, located and paid for by Lilah and Wolfram and Hart. So, I find that… yeah, I can be bought, and it includes a small swimming pool-sized bathtub and included utilities with cable. Walking distance to the uni, a grocery and the mall. Now, if only my life would forget the fact that my ex-Watcher is my girlfriend's employer… and to add insult to injury I find that Giles married my Mom. Step-daddy Watcher.
There's a horror movie big bad.
That finds me watching Passions and Oprah every day, rather than bar hopping and dirty dancing with my love, or checking out the campus and, Goddess forbid, the many cemeteries around town. Lucky for me she has it in her to know how to tame a stir-crazy Slayer in a self-imposed exile: sex.
Mmm. Sex with Tara. Forget about how beautiful and wonderful she is… and toss aside that she thinks I'm wonderful and that we're in love. And ignore that we're both females in love with one another; lesbians. No, we're talking about how a shy, publicly unassertive Wiccan reached deep down inside of herself and beat the Slayer part down, forced it into submission, and then drove it to the highest height of pleasure.
So… Anne is a good submissive girl. Who knew? And to think, back at the start of mine and Tara's dating, I thought I'd have to lead her around. Now, I find that she is the one holding the leash.
And Anne is happy...
Which means the other shoe is about to drop.
"Ca-can't I at least call her first?" I asked again, my stomach completely in knots, as Mister Giles made the next to last turn before he reached mine and Anne's apartment complex. I waited with abated breath, but this request... much like all of the beggings I'd attempted since he'd practically thrown me into his car, went largely ignored.
Not that I expected much in any other response. Since my bombshell, the former Watcher has verbalized nothing more than a quick call to Anne's mother that he was driving me home and might be late.
Yeah. Not much on the hope that this conversation was gonna be quick... nor to mention how utterly pissed my girlfriend was gonna be.
I hate me sometimes.
"Well?" It took me a moment to realize that we'd stopped.
Mister Giles pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose... his eyes sharp in their gaze.
"Tara. At this point, I do believe all attempts at prolonging this are futile. Please take me to Buffy. To Anne."
There was no way out of it. I nodded in defeat and opened the car door.
The walk up the steps to the corner unit of the complex, the one with the excellent view and the secluded balcony thanks to some conveniently placed trees, felt like the longest walk in my life. I understand the Green Mile so much more now.
As we approached the door, I snuck a glance over to my boss, hoping to gleam some idea of how he was feeling... how this might go. I had barely caught a glimpse of his frown and tightened features before Fate decided to once again prove her bitchiness and decided to make her presence known.
Anne's voice carried to my ears easily. I turned to see our doorway open and Anne standing there holding a full bag of trash... wow. Now she decides to do housework chores. Levity aside, her eye were wider than I'd ever seen them as she stood frozen in place. Turning to look at Mister Giles, I was somewhat evily pleased to see he was as much gobsmacked as my Anne seemed to be.
"Honey, I've brought company home." Anne's look at my poor joke was enough to make me realize that this was gonna be light years beyond awkward.
Finally, one of them spoke, "Hey, Giles. Long time no, ya know?"
"Quite." The former Watcher stated. "Its good to see you... you've been missed."
Neither had moved, but Tara wasn't gonna dare break this... well, whatever it was. Instead, she just watched and waited... and worried.
"New Slayer not up to snuff?"
"What?" Mister Giles really looked confused at Anne's question. Realization came moments later. "Oh. No. I don't care, we don't care about that, Buffy. Anne. Your mother and I, well, we have missed you."
"So, can we move this inside and be all comfy and stuff? Maybe sit?" Tara asked in the resulting silence from her boss' statement.
Her girlfriend finally seemed to catch herself and attempted a smile. "Sure. Giles, why don't you follow Tara inside." She hefted the trash bag she was still carrying. "Let me toss this in the dumpster and I'll be right back."
Tara tried to ignore the chill that ran down her back at the look Anne covertly threw her way as the former Slayer took the stairs down while she gestured for Mister Giles to follow her into the apartment.
She turned and smiled at him, ignoring the poos attempt at small talk. Throwing her jacket across the back of the couch, her gaze moved about the room.
Whew! No sex toys or obvious items of parental no-no's in sight.
"Would you like to sit?"
He laughed harshly. "I'd like a drink. And an explanation. And a chance to wake up. Maybe not exactly in that order, but..."
"We have some wine. I think there is some beer left, too." She offered.
Mister Giles' head turned slowly towards her, one of those horror movie moments where the killer spots his prey. It took all of her will to stand up to the quiet onslaught that his look seemed to force upon her.
"No. I think alcohol might not be the best option right now." His voice was clipped. "Was Buffy's hair coloured green? Is that supposed to be some type of disguise?" He was almost yelling. "What the bloody Hell is going on?"
"Giles." Anne's voice from the front door... not that there was a back door to the apartment... interrupting any response that Tara mnight have had. "Let's try and keep it civil and..."
"Civil?" He broke in, his gaze now on Anne. "You've been missing for over a year; maybe a year and a half, and you want me to be civil?
"Do you have any idea of what you put all of us through? You mother through? Joyce was ripped apart by your galavanting off to who knows where..."
Tara's interruption seemed to throw him off track just a bit.
"I was in Los Angeles." Anne answered. Tara smiled at how between the two of them, both taking turns to talk to him, answer him, that he was thrown off a bit.
"But we looked there... Angel and , well... Willow before she left."
Anne nodded. "I'm not without resources and friends, Giles."
Tara walked over to wear the other girl was and wrapped her arm around Anne's waist. At Mister Giles' look, she held up her hand and smiled as Anne rested her head on her shoulder. "Witch."
The light visibly dawned in his eyes. "You protected her from scrying?"
Anne nodded. "All sorts of blocking and protecting. A regular football offensive line of stay away."
"B-but, but why, Buffy?" He finally sat down on the recliner that he had been standing in front of. "Why did you run? What happened?"
Tara held her breath as she waited to see how her lover and soul-mate was going to respond. This was so afar from the Master Plan that they were all in a impromptu SNL skit that was ready to either make everyone laugh or everyone leave out the quickest exit, stage right.
"I thought it was all over." Anne answered quietly, her voice barely over a whisper.
"Over? How? What happened, Buffy?"
Her former Watcher's eyebrows rose dramatically. "Pardon?"
"I'm Anne now."
"No." Anne didn't yell, but her tone stood for no argument. "Let's get things started the right way, Giles. I'm Anne now. Buffy is gone, maybe never to return. Please."
Mister Giles nodded slowly. "Okay. Anne. Can you please tell me what happened. Please."
Tara nodded. This was going better than she had hoped. Armageddon one-oh-one bypassed today. Tomorrow hopeful.
Anne sighed loudly, a clear sign that she was trying, but was wary of what allo she should reveal.
"Should I... we... well, what about Mom?" At the British man's look, Tara watched as she elaborated. "This is, yeah, kinda long story. Not much on the looking forward to telling it once... and if it needs telling, then there are a lot more that should hear it."
Mister Giles was nodding. "I understand, Bu-Anne." He caught himself, much to Tara's relief. "But I need to know something. Anything. This is going to be hard on a lot of people, but I deserve... your Mother deserves something now."
The silence seemed to stretch out. Tara, taking pity on both of them, finally decided that she would have to help out...
"Anne, maybe we should go see your Mom now."
At her suggestion, it was like a minature explosion on the mystical plane as Anne's emotional aura burst over her. How could anyone hold so much power and not be corrupted by it?
"What?" Anne spoke just as Mister Giles added, "Splendid."
They both looked at her as Tara nodded. "Anne, we knew that eventually we had to come clean about being back here..." She ignored Anne's stuttering. "And while showing up tonight wasn't ever a part of any plannings, we have to deal with the cards we have."
"I know, but..."
"No 'buts' about it, babe," She smiled at her lover. "Sunday was gonna be the big reveal since there was dinner that I couldn't get out of."
Mister Giles was nodding silently as she continued. "So its time to put on your big girl panties and let's do this."
"Fine." Anne huffed. "So... how do we do this? Just show up on her doorstep like the two of you did to me? That'll be a big success. I'm still amazed at myself that I didn't book after tossing the garbage."
Tara smiled. "You'd never leave me hanging..."
Anne threw her hands up in the air as she stood and began pacing. "I wish..."
Glancing back over to where the Watcher sat silently, Tara arched an eyebrow. "Well... she's your wife, now." At his look, she smiled. "What's the plan?"
Even Anne looked victorious as he lost color in his face, his hand suddenly furiously wiping his glasses. "Oh, dear Lord."