Because here we are again: Sunnydale, CA. The town that’s kicked me in the ass more than anything else in my life. The town that gave me my first taste of the forbidden. The town that gave me the chance to see just how much darkness was in my soul.
An arm slips around my waist, and I remember the one other thing Sunnydale gave me: the only thing that could bring me back.
I just have to keep telling myself B's worth it.
This is my fault.
I can see the fear in Faith’s eyes, however much she tries to hide it. Once, she could hide from me behind them, shut the whole world out. But she can’t do that to someone who shares her bed every night. She can’t do it to someone who holds her as she dreams. She can’t do it to someone who has comforted her as she cried for all the things she'd done.
And she certainly can't do it now she's done the same for me.
Once, our secrets tore us apart. Now, we don’t have any. But there are still things that could break us. Like pain. Like fear. Like rage.
Like coming home.
And now we’re on the porch and I never thought I’d be this close to this house again, and I *really* don’t know that I can deal with this, but B has already knocked and oh Christ we’re actually doing it.
B steps back and slides her arms around me and I can smell the soft musk of her body. Without conscious thought, my own arm slips around her. I can feel the tension in her, and I know that she’s as sacred as me, just better at hiding it.
And I’m glad; so very, very glad; that she’s holding me. Because if she wasn’t, I couldn’t stand here. I couldn’t face what’s coming. And in the back of my mind I know that she's doing it as a symbol, too, because B actually thinks of stuff like that.
And so when Mrs S opens the door, she finds us together.
Mom actually goes *pale* when she sees us.
I mean, it’s something you read about in books all the time, but have never actually seen, right? People going pale with shock, I mean. Well, Mom actually pulls it off, and I guess I can’t really blame her. Out of everyone, she was the person who really *wanted* to believe that I had travelled with Faith against my will. Opening the door to find us in each other's arms must have been a huge shock, even after all the other surprises my life had sprung on her.
"Buffy." She whispers, her voice barely audible. It's not really a greeting; more a gasp of surprise.
"Hi, Mom." I feel Faith's fingers digging into my side and know that there will be bruises there tomorrow, but I can't blame her for being scared. "Can we come in?"
Mom steps aside wordlessly, and Faith and I break our clinch to step inside the cool darkness of the house. After two months in Canada, I'm happy to be out of the California sunshine.
"Does anyone…" Mom trails off uncertainly.
"No." I shake my head, "We didn't tell anyone we were going to come."
"Why did you?"
And that's a very good question, isn't it?
Mrs S is *freaked*. But then, Christ, how can she not be? Her baby girl just turned up on the doorstep, snuggled in the arms of a Grade-A psycho. A Grade-A psycho *chick*, at that.
I don't often think about other people. It's not my nature. I mean; I'd die for B, no questions asked. But other than that, I look out for number one. Even when I was slaying, it was never about duty, it was never about helping people. It was never about any of that stuff. It was about getting them before they got you. It was about being *better* than anyone else. Or at least, that was what it was about for me.
And that was why, in the end, I could walk away from it all. Head off into the depths of Canada and just live my life for me. Sure, slaying's a rush, but I do it on my own terms. End of story.
But Buffy actually buys into all this 'chosen one' stuff.
And *that* is why we're back in Sunnydale.
"It's my fault."
It seems like I've been thinking that; and now saying it; a lot these past few days. It doesn't get any easier with repetition. And it doesn't get any less true.
When I went to Faith two months ago, I thought I was finally ready to put slaying behind me. I'd tried twice before and come back, but third time's the charm, right?
I lasted six weeks before the first nightmare hit. I woke up screaming, clinging to Faith in terror. She held me for hours, afterward, even though I wouldn't; *couldn't*; tell her what I'd seen. I've dreamed every night since then. I've seen them all: Willow, Giles, Mom, Angel, even Faith. One after another they've died in my dreams. Butchered. Savaged. And it has been my hand on the knife, every time.
In school, I never really got history. But there was one thing the teacher said that stuck in my mind. It was a quote, from some famous guy who is probably dead by now: "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.". It said more to me than any lecture about being the 'chosen one' ever could.
And so I'm back in Sunnydale.
Because if I do nothing, evil *will* triumph.
And it will be all my fault.
"It's all my fault." B whispers, and I can see that Mrs S is pulling a total blank.
"You got any soda?" They both look at me like I'm talking another language and I shrug, "I'm thirsty, okay?" Damn, this heart to heart stuff gives me cramps.
Their expressions don't change, so I head to the kitchen to check the fridge myself. Almost as soon as I walk out of the room, I hear Joyce start talking again. Figures. They always did prefer to have their little swap-meets without me.
There's no soda, but I find vodka in the ice box and OJ in the fridge. So I mix myself a drink and listen to the conversation in the room next door. I mean, Christ, what does Joyce think I am: deaf or something?
"Are you … and Faith?" I see Mrs S still can't form a complete sentence. The woman is really failing to deal, here.
"I love her." B says simply, and I give her a silent toast. I know there are days she hates my guts. Sometimes I feel the same about her. But love doesn't care about crap like that. We can tear one another to pieces, but nothing can tear us apart.
"Buffy…" Joyce starts, in that I'm-an-adult-and-I-know-what's-best tone of voice that always makes me want to punch her in the nose.
"I love her." B repeats, more firmly this time, and I repress the urge to cheer. In your face, Willow Rosenberg, wherever you are.
"Why are you here?" Mrs S changes tactics. Smart move on her part. I find a cooked chicken in the fridge and tear off a drumstick. Eavesdropping makes me snacky.
"The hellmouth." I snort at B's answer, but not loudly enough for them to hear me. This is B's excuse for us being here. She says if we close the hellmouth, then she'll be able to walk away. It's nonsense, of course. She's here because she can't let go of slaying.
And me? I'm here because I can't let go of her.
"The hellmouth," I say, leaning against the back of the couch and not quite meeting Mom's eyes, "I want to close it."
"The hellmouth?" Sometimes I forget just how much I have kept her in the dark.
"It's the source of evil mystical energy in Sunnydale." I summarise, "if we can close it, this town ought to end up being pretty much like a regular place to live."
"Do you know how to close it?"
And that's the question I've been dreading. The question Faith asked when I first suggested this. The question that I don't have a decent answer for. This sort of deal was always more Willow and Giles' thing. And Willow is in England.
"I was hoping Giles might have some ideas." I hedge, knowing that Faith is almost certainly listening in and feeling smug.
Mom's face goes pale for the second time in half an hour.
And I feel like a giant hand just squeezed all the air out of my body. Oh no. Oh, god, no. Please don't be dead, Giles. Please … don't be dead.
"Honey …" Mom falters, and there's a roaring sound in my head. I want to retch. I want to stop her from telling me. I want to go back to Canada and hide. But I do none of those things, because I can't remember how. I just stand and I listen as my world collapses. "Mr Giles … was killed about three weeks ago. The police said it was gangs, but it was a vampire."
"Did he rise?" I don't want to know. I really don't. But I ask anyway, my voice thick with tears and bile. It's my fault. *All* my fault.
"No. I don't think he was going to, but Xander staked him to be sure."
"Xander?" my voice isn't my own anymore, it does as it wants. "Is he here?"
"No." Mom shakes her head, "He and Anya left town after Mr Giles died. They wanted me to come as well, but I knew I had to stay here, in case you ever came back."
There's no hint of blame in her tone. There doesn't have to be. We both know it is my fault. All my fault.
I sag to the floor, my knees giving way beneath me. Even as I fall, Faith is there, her strong arms holding me close. I knew she would be listening.
For a long time she holds me as I cry. She's had to do that a lot, these past two weeks. But at last I look up at her, and my eyes are dry. I just don't have any more tears. The pain won't go away, but I don't have any more tears.
"We're going to close the hellmouth." I tell her, and my voice is firm.
"Whatever you say, B." she whispers in reply, "We'll stay as long as it takes."
And as simply as that, she accepts it. I can tell from her eyes that she thinks it's crazy, but she backs me all the way.
And I know that it *is* crazy. I know that any day a cop might recognise Faith. I know that the Council will come after us both. I know that our chances of success are next to nil.
But I have to try.
It's the only way to stop the screaming in my mind.
"We're going to close the hellmouth." B tells me, and there is a light in her eyes. It's a light I know. I've seen it before, when I look in the mirror. My heart breaks to see it.
The whole idea is crazy, of course. We shouldn't have come at all, much less stay now that Giles is dead. Damn, I'm actually going to miss him. But I don't say any of that.
"Whatever you say, B. We'll stay as long as it takes."
Fact of it is, B came all the way into my world to find me, and now I gotta go all the way into hers. I know we're on the brink of a cliff, and B is running us right over the edge, but I can't let go of her.
After all, that's what love is.