exactly how it never was
by Elizabeth

So now you're back in Sunnydale and damned if you didn't miss the place one fucking bit. It's almost exactly the same, all cookie-cutter houses and people waiting for you to screw up. It's the kind of welcome you expected.

B isn't the same. She's changed. Not that you thought she wouldn't--actually, ok, you did. You thought she'd be exactly the same but she's the one truly new thing in this town. The evil doesn't count. It's always there; different name, different face, same old thrill kill fight. Same old story.

B's thinner, sharper. A razor's edge. Everyone still loves her anyway. The vamp who wanted her, the one you broke because he was there and you could--and you remember calling him on his want for her, the pained hot look in his eyes, the joy you felt at ripping him open--he's still around. Still wanting her.


You've got yourself an uneasy peace thing going with B. She's still all about the saving the world, and so yeah, now you understand. It feels ok. You talk a little, shop stuff mostly--planning, training, where all the little girls waiting to be you should sleep. The kids are ok, you guess. Stupid, mostly, but they've got balls, some of 'em, and that's something. The one you like best is B's baby sis, all sass and brass and what Buffy maybe could have been if she hadn't been born with that stick up her ass.

But yeah, you're here, and there are moments when you remember that once you thought B was ok, just needed to get with the program, get down with herself and enjoy being what neither of you ever had a choice about being.

Those moments? There aren't all that many of them. The rest of the time she's the same priss you were always happy to leave behind. And there are some things--places, moments--that you don't ever discuss. Angel is mentioned but only in passing, her eyes meeting yours with a challenge. I don't ever forget what's mine.

Except, you think, for the times when she does. When she did. But you don't say it. You want to, but you don't. This is what change is, growing up or whatever. You wait and think and let yourself quiet. Force yourself to, sometimes. Most times. It sucks ass. That's life.

And so yeah, the world is ending and evil is coming and it's just like it always was in Sunnydale.

At least it's better than prison.

Most of the time.


There's a name you wait for her to say, another piece of shattered history between you, but she doesn't. At first you think she's saving it for some B-appointed time, for a moment of the kind of righteous fury that only she's able to summon up, but it never happens. Between the vampires she held someone else, someone you once held too. You wait more, but she never once says his name.


The thing about B is that she's always been real good at forgetting.


Not you. Forgetting ain't your thing. You remember everything, crystal clear and gleaming. And he was your last, Riley was, the last fuck before you reached the end of your rope and chose a cell to sit in. In the night, that one night, he moved around a lot, continually shifting and rolling, finally settling with one arm thrown over you and pulling you close. You tried to push him off but he held on and stopped moving. When he murmured her name you pictured her face, pinched and trapped and in your skin forever. It calmed you right down and you slept.

In the morning you stole one of his shirts. You looked at him, peacefully sleeping. You didn't know people really did stuff like that, slept easy and wanted someone wrapped in their arms all night long. You looked at him again. He was still sleeping. You left. You didn't tell him Buffy was always real good at forgetting. You guessed he'd learn that all on his own.


Riley was vanilla all the way, big and blond and boring. You'd been there, done that ages ago, the long slow make love thing boring you bitter. But you smiled and spread because you fit into her skin just fine and he was what she loved. You knew B would guess what you'd do and you wanted her to feel it, that sharp tear of loss. He was just the ride taking you there. As far as rides went, it wasn't a bad way to go.

But he looked at you. Her. He watched, never turned away, just kept looking like there was nothing else he wanted to see. You waited but he was where he wanted to be and wasn't afraid to show it. That was new. You came--and that's what you'd gone for, to feel what she did, to wear her neat tidy Buffy life and tear it into pieces and then leave it all behind --and it wasn't a gliding rush fall, wasn't even a moment of gleeful revenge. It wasn't anything like that at all. It sucked, shivery terror, and he held you. He just kept holding you. You hated him, hated her, wanted to kill. Wanted to run away.

You did run. You pushed him off, away, and he caught you, pulled you into his arms. You still remember that. His face, open and confused, hurt. Scared he was going to be pushed away. So sure he'd done something wrong. Like Buffy was made to be broken. You bet he never saw what was coming until it was over, probably tried to fight being B's left-behind and ended up dust in the road anyway.

He wanted to hold her and you let him. You left but first you stayed.


Wood is a moment, a new one. A hot one. Not really a surprise but pretty damn great when it happens all the same. He's easy on the eyes and great in the sack. But here's the thing. He looks at you, really looks at you. You don't like it and you like it and before you would have---before it wouldn't have mattered for shit. But this isn't before, it's now, and everything's different, even you. So there's you and there's Wood and he won't give up on you and worse, isn't afraid to tell you so. He wants to hold you.

He reminds you, a little, of someone you never knew at all.


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