Telling


by L.A. Ward


************************************************

I thought once how Theocritus had sung
Of the sweet years, the dear and wished-for years,
Who each one in a gracious hand appears
To bear a gift for mortals, old or young:
And, as I mused it in his antique tongue,
I saw, in gradual vision through my tears,
The sweet, sad years, the melancholy years,
Those of my own life, who by turns had flung
A shadow across me. Straightway I was 'ware,
So weeping, how a mystic Shape did move
Behind me, and drew me backward by the hair:
And a voice said in mastery, while I strove,--
'Guess now who holds thee?'--'Death,' I said. But, there,
The silver answer rang,--' Not Death, but Love.'

                 I - Sonnets from the Portuguese
                 Elizabeth Barrett Browning

*************************************************

There was a scuff on the toe of her shoe. Buffy wondered
where she had gotten a scuff on the toe of her shoe. Then
she wondered why she was staring at her shoe. 

When she glanced at the two people watching her,  Buffy
remembered why she was staring at her shoes.  She was a
freak--a big, whopping, undead freak.  Well maybe not so big
and not whopping at the moment, but she was definitely
undead. . .although not in the way she usually used the word.  
No, Buffy was undead in the 'been there, done that, but not
dead any more, non-vampire' way.  The impossible sort of
way...which brought her back to the whole 'freak' thing. 

She had been dead for four months. Four. Count them 
And now she wasn't. If that didn't have the letters
F-R-E-A-K written all over it, then nothing ever would.

Seconds ticked by, becoming minutes; then lots of
minutes smooshed together as Buffy remained painfully
aware of the man and woman watching her.  Hello!  Had
no one taught them it was rude to stare at the freak?

Finally the woman with the sweet Southern accent asked,
"Would you like a Coke while you wait?"

Buffy shook her head. "No. Thanks for the offer though."

The man asked, "How about blood?"

"What?"

"Red stuff.  O positive.  AB negative."

"I know what blood is. Why are you offering it to me?"
Because I'm a freak, Buffy thought.  I'm a freak and it
shows.  I should go downtown and find a shop where they
can tattoo it on my forehead.

The woman with the improbable name of Fred nervously
explained,  "Gunn's just being polite. Everyone's got different
tastes and you might like a Coke or...or..."

"Pig's blood with Weetabix?"   Buffy wasn't at all surprised
when Gunn made a face.

He groaned. "That's just nasty."

"Having seen the combo, gotta agree with you, but
you're the one offering it as a main course."

"Hell no, I'm not." Gunn's Nikes squeaked as he
started across the marble floor. "I'm trying to find out
if you're a vampire."

"Why would you think I'm a vampire?"

Gunn--who was quite handsome in a tall, dark skinned,
dark eyed, nicely muscled sort of way--crossed the
Hyperion Hotel's lobby to sit in a leather upholstered
chair.  He looked almost as sulky as Angel usually did. 
No wonder they were friends.

Buffy approached him.  "Am I giving off vampy vibes or
something?  I know I don't look like a vamp--at least not
your normal game faced vamp, but..." She touched her face. 
"Am I pale?"  Some not very pleasant voice in her head
snapped, Oh yeah, Buffy, being dead for four months was
great for your complexion.

Gunn shrugged.  "Seen enough vamps to know they don't
all look alike."  His gaze settled on Buffy. "But you've
got the look of an Angel vamp."

"Huh?" 

"Blonde and petite, pretty little face that just might be
deadly.  Just Angel's type. Plus you showed up saying
you're an old friend."  Gunn turned his head toward
Fred. "Cordy warn you that when someone from Angel's
past shows up they're usually trying to kill us?" 

Fred shook her head. "I don't remember her mentioning
that."

"Well they are."  He glared at Buffy.  "And I'm really
not in the mood to be killed."

"I'm not trying to kill you."

"That's what they all say. Then something happens and
cute little blondie turns into bitch bent on destruction. 
First Darla--"

"Darla's dead."

"Then Harm--and if I didn't mention it before, the
name is a perfect fit."

"Harmony has been here?"

Gunn frowned and...oh yeah, he looked intimidating
when he frowned. "You know her?"

"More than I would like," Buffy was quick to block the
mental image of the last time she had seen Harmony. 
She really didn't want to trip down that memory lane.

Gunn scratched his head.  "What is it with Angel and
blonde psychobitches?  I know we're in LA  but, does it
*always* have to be a blonde? And I won't even touch the
vampire thing since he is one.  I'm just saying it would be
easier on his friends if he'd stick to the living."

"Right. Stick to dating the living. That's what I keep
telling myself. It's a bloody mantra."  Buffy slapped
her hand over her mouth. 

What the hell? Where had that come from?  A Spikism.
Why had she uttered a Spikism?  This was bad. This
was very bad. Whole heaping gobs of bad. 

Buffy started again. "First off, I'm not a psychobitch,
at least not until you piss me off which--hey, I'm half
way there. Second of all, Harmony is a Spike ex, not
an Angel ex. And third of all, Darla is dead."

Gunn snorted. "Oh yeah, in a 'not very' vampire way."

"No, in a permanent dusty way. Has been for years."

"Not the last time I checked."

Buffy blinked.  "What do you mean?"

"I mean not too long ago Darla and her crazy girlfriend
Dru went on a lawyer luncheon catered by Angel.  Then
little Harm thought we were her ticket into a mass
murdering cult.  Now, if it's all the same to you, can
we skip the 'let's play nice' phase and go straight to
the killing?  It'll save time."

"No one is killing anyone tonight."

Gunn rubbed his eyelids as if they pained him. "Don't
say you're another vampire we're not supposed to kill
because I'm sick of those--"

"Here." Buffy held out her arm.  "Check.  Pulse and
everything." She waited as he checked, and Buffy didn't
blame Gunn for checking. In the last couple of days
she'd  checked her own pulse a couple hundred times.

Gunn let go of her hand.  "Okay, so you're among
the living."

"So I'm told." Buffy sank onto the sofa.  "Look, it's
like I told you, I'm here to see Angel. Nothing more."

"And I told you he isn't here."

"He'll be back though."  Fred's smile was soft and shy.
"He should be back real soon. And...um... I'm sure he'll
be happy to see an old friend."

Even Gunn's features lightened. "Especially if you aren't
trying to kill us."

Buffy forced herself to return their smiles. "Right.
No killing. Promise."  Her smile faded because that's what
false smiles did. They faded. They disappeared. They
ceased to matter and became distant, hazy memories...sort
of like long lost friends.

Why am I here? Buffy asked herself.  Why am I sitting
here talking to strangers when I could be home with Dawn? 
She wanted to be home with Dawn. She *should* be home
with Dawn.  Instead here she sat in L.A.

Why? 

Oh yeah, because Angel deserved to be told in person
that she was back from the dead. It wasn't like she could
simply call and say, "Hey, Angel, good news. I'm not
dead.  What's going on with you?" No, Buffy needed
to see him.

Buffy sighed and leaned her head against the sofa.  The
problem was she *wasn't* seeing Angel. She was sitting in
a hotel lobby talking to people she had never before met;
and these people, these strangers, were Angel's friends. She
was supposed to make polite small talk. She was supposed
reassure Fred and Gunn she had no interest in killing them.
She *wasn't* supposed to be tapping her foot and glaring
at them impatiently...that part just came naturally.

Okay, so Fred and Gunn were Angel's friends.  Why had she
never heard of them? After all Angel's life and her life...

Buffy sighed.  Angel's life and here life were completely
separate things even before she died.

Bad thought.  Bad, bad thought. Throw it away and never
think it again. Besides, not knowing Angel's friends
didn't mean she *couldn't* know Angel's friends.  All it
would take was a little effort.  A little time and patience. 

Quick.  Make friends.  Be approachable.  Act interested. 

"How long have you known Angel?" she asked.

Gunn shrugged. "Going on two years."

That long?

Buffy looked over at Fred who answered more vaguely, "Oh,
um...it's sort of hard to say. I mean, time is relative, and with
the differences in the way time flows in this dimension versus
the way it flows in other dimensions." Fred paused. "Well, a
few days in Pylea might be weeks here--"

Buffy's eyebrows rose. "You're from another dimension?"

"Yes." Fred nervously played with her hair. "That is,
no. Actually, I'm from this dimension, but for a while
I lived in another one."  She took a deep breath and
announced,  "Three months."

"You lived in another dimension for three months?"

"No, I lived in another dimension for five years. I've
known Angel for three months."

Okay, headache now, Buffy thought.  A Willow supersize
Tylenol bottle headache.

Maybe she *should* have called before showing up on
Angel's doorstep. After all, that was the reason telephones
had been invented...to, you know, tell people things--not that
she and Angel had used it very much since they had parted
ways.

Buffy straightened her spine and tried very hard to
shake off her feelings of. . .well she wasn't quite sure
what she felt, but she tried to shake it off anyway.
Besides, the fact she and Angel weren't giving AT&T, MCI,
or Sprint much business didn't mean a thing. Not a damn
thing.  Some things, some relationships simply had to be
handled face to face.

So here she was, face to Angel's absence while Fred and
Gunn sat staring at her.

Buffy hated it.  She hated making small talk.  She hated
waiting.  She hating feeling weird and out of place.  She felt
weird enough without any help from incredibly awkward
situations.

Just once it would be nice if awkward moments could be
avoided. Come to think of it, avoiding awkward moments
should go on her 'to do' list.  Near the top.  More than once.
It was just that no matter how hard Buffy tried, sooner or
later--wham!--she ran straight into one. . .and she had
definitely gone splat this time.

Nope, this was not shaping into the joyous reunion
Buffy would have planned if she could have.  In her head
Angel would have been waiting for her and he would have
been so happy to see her--not Angelus happy, but happy
enough to make the trip to L.A. worthwhile. Instead he
was out doing whatever it is he did. 

It would be horribly unfair to blame Angel for that. He'd
had no way of knowing she would show up. Angel thought
she was dead!

Okay, so it wouldn't have followed the script of a romantic
movie, Buffy could have called and given Angel some warning.
It would have been easier than sitting here waiting for him to
show up.  Then again, if there was an easy way and a hard
way to do something, Buffy took the hard one.  It was a curse. 

Buffy looked longingly at the coffee table and wondered
whether banging her head against it would be any more
painful than the silence or the conversation that
had preceded it.

"Is Cordy around?" she asked, and the look of impatience
crossing Gunn's face reminded Buffy she'd asked the
question a dozen times in the last half hour.  "What about
Wesley?"

"They're out."   Gunn actually looked like he might be
grinding his teeth.

Okay, I know I'm being annoying, but...but what?

These people weren't her friends. They weren't even her
acquaintances. They had no reason to tolerate her moods
or be understanding about her disorientation. They didn't
know she had been dead for four months. Gunn and Fred
were Angel's friends, not hers. . .and again Buffy wondered
how that could be. How could the people closest to Angel
be people whose names she had never even heard?  For that
matter Buffy hadn't known Angel owned a hotel. And she
certainly hadn't known Darla was back from the dead. 
Buffy would have remembered *that.*

Buffy tilted her head slightly to one side. "How did Darla
come back?" 

"Resurrection spell." Gunn sounded bored, like the
answer was obvious or mundane or something. 

"Oh.  One of those."  Buffy tried to sound as blasé
about it.  She really did, except to her own ears she
sounded like a big, bad liar.  Coming back from the
dead *was* a big deal, a very big deal. She knew these
things. She'd done it . .but apparently so had Darla--a
few times.

Well, maybe I'm not such a freak after all, Buffy
consoled herself. If Gunn could be sanguine about
resurrection spells, maybe she could too.

She waited.

Nope.  Wasn't working.  Buffy remained more than slightly
wigged.

So what now? 

At the moment battling a horde of vampires sounded easier
than sitting in the Hyperion's lobby making small talk.  It
would have been easier than gazing into Angel's face as
he stood in the doorway looking more pale than usual,
looking like he had seen a ghost, looking  *worse* than if
he had seen a ghost. . .looking like he was looking at her now.

Buffy rose to her feet and Angel whispered her name. Just
her name and nothing more, just "Buffy. . .?"

Buffy couldn't speak so she gave a watery smile. She
wanted to say, "Yeah, it's me. Here in the not quite so
dead flesh."  But she couldn't make the words come out. 

Suddenly Angel's face hardened and Buffy wondered why. 

"Are you a vampire?" he asked.

Buffy glanced around in confusion. "Why does everyone
keep asking that?"

"You were dead and now you're not.  That usually means
vampire."

Buffy was dumbstruck.  How could Angel--*Angel*--ask
what she was? How could he not sense it when--

Stop.  Don't go there,  Buffy warned herself.  Do *not*
go there.  Not even close.

"She's not a vamp," Gunn reassured.  "Checked her
credentials.  Living, breathing, pulse pounding--" He
stopped mid-sentence and looked at her with an expression
of shock.  "Did he say your name was Buffy?"

"Yes."

"You were dead," Gunn accused.

"So I've been told."

"And now you're not."

"Looks like."

"How?"

Buffy gave a weak smile.  "Resurrection spell."

Gunn seemed to weigh the comment for a moment then
smiled. "Well thank God. Now homeboy there can give
it a rest." 

Buffy glanced at Angel. He still hadn't moved. He
looked so disbelieving, so scared of accepting the
miracle standing in front of him.

"I'm here," Buffy whispered. 

Well, duh! she thought.  Of course she was here. It
wasn't like she was someplace else.  Couldn't she have
thought of something more eloquent-ish?

Angel didn't seem to mind.  He crossed the room with
blurry speed and wrapped Buffy in his arms. Nice arms. 
Strong arms. Familiar arms.

It felt good. 

Angel buried his face in Buffy's hair, breathing in her
scent as his arms tightened around her, enveloping
her, pulling her into the solid wall of his chest,
holding her so tightly that Buffy couldn't breathe.
Oh well. At that moment Buffy really didn't care
about breathing.  She just wanted to be held.  It
felt good to be held.  It was overwhelming.

*This* was of the good, Buffy thought rubbing her
cheek against Angel's silk shirt.  Angel, she thought. 
Angel, I'm here.  I'm here and I'm alive and...and...

And what?  What now? an evil little voice asked.

Go away, voice.  Go far away.  Now I hug him. Now I
remember why I'm so happy to be here and not dead
and in Sunnydale.

Well no.  Actually, she wasn't happy to not be in
Sunnydale.  Sunnydale was home...not that LA was bad.
It just wasn't home.  LA was a nice, and home was...nice. 
It was just that LA was LA and home was...well...*home.*

Buffy! A different, somewhat strident inner voice screamed. 
Focus!  This is Angel.  Angel's arms are around you. Hug
him. Feel him. Love him. Sheesh! How hard is that to
remember?

Angel kissed her forehead as Buffy sank into his embrace. 
She lost herself in him. It was what she had come here
to do. To hold Angel and tell him...tell him...uh...hmmm.
Other than the 'not dead' part, what was she supposed to
tell him?

Buffy didn't know.

Well thank God, Angel wasn't the questioning type.  Not
like other, not so pleasant vampires Buffy could name but
wouldn't.  No, she wouldn't!  Not now that she was in
Angel's arms. Not when this was where she was supposed
to be.  Where she *wanted* to be.  And, yes damnit, she
was happy that Angel seemed quite content to simply hold
her.

It was nice.  Buffy liked--no loved--the way Angel held
her as seconds passed. Minutes passed. Many minutes, and
somewhere along the way the sense of relief passed and
ran headlong into awkward silence followed by the painful
realization that they had stood there so long that there
was no graceful way to separate.  The moment had passed.

Now what?  The evil little voice asked again.

Angel was the first to pull away. 

Wasn't he always?

He pulled back and framed her face with his hands. For
a moment Buffy thought Angel would kiss her.  It was always
good when he kissed her.  It made her ache with unfulfilled
longing--which was a good thing, right? It was unquenched
desire.  Unfulfilled need.  It was the kind of thing that
filled a person up and somehow still left them wanting.
Begging. . .

Angel didn't kiss her. He stepped back.

And now for the questions Buffy thought. Lots of questions.
The who, what, when, where, and why of Journalism 101...not
that Buffy had taken Journalism 101, not that she was sure
they taught a Journalism 101. Hey, she had just come back
from the dead.  It wasn't as easy as it looked!

Angel didn't ask questions.  He just looked at her, watched
her with his dark, unfathomable eyes as he brushed a tear
from her cheek.

And that's a good, Buffy told herself. It's unspoken
communication.  It's silent understanding.  It shows
we're so connected that we don't need words even if,
you know, words would be kind of nice to break up the
teeth grindingly awkward silence.

It was just silence had *not* been the general reaction
to Buffy resurrection. Willow had burst into tears.  Not
nice pretty tears like in the movies but loud, choking,
red nosed tears; and Xander had been much the same just
before they both rushed her for a tag team hug.  Willow
and Xander arms were definitely of the good. 

Anya, who perhaps had seen everything in her thousand plus
years of existence, and had only smiled, nodded and said,
"It's very nice to have you back.  Do you like yellow? I'm
thinking of having my bridesmaids wear yellow. Blondes
usually don't like to wear yellow, but bridesmaids aren't
supposed to like their dresses so that would be okay. You
will be my bridesmaid, right? Have you seen my ring?" Anya
had held out her hand. There had been a diamond ring on it. 

Xander blushed and stammered and mumbled--all things he
would later deny. It was goofy and cute, and Buffy could
tell that despite his embarrassment Xander was quite happy. 
Anya, of course, was ecstatic. She had a mountain of
magazines, clippings and two copies of Martha Stewart's
advice on weddings. Anya had then promptly dragged Xander
to the mall saying they were scheduled to register for
gifts. 

It was only after Xander and Anya had left the magic shop
that Buffy had been told about Giles leaving the country.
He was a Watcher and without Buffy there was no Slayer to
watch.  Willow had also admitted to thinking that after
Buffy's death living in Sunnydale had hurt Giles.  It had
made him feel worse about everything so returning to
London had been good for him. The last time Willow had
spoken to him Giles had sounded...better.

After Buffy had called her Watcher, she was fairly
certain Giles had sounded better still. Oh, he had
questions.  He wasn't happy about Willow playing with
such powerful magics. He had warned  of the terrible,
awful things that could but--thank God--hadn't happened
with her resurrection. He had babbled. . .but in a good
way, in a happy way. And when Buffy had asked him about
London he had talked about the politics within the
Watchers Council, about a haunted house he had been
hired to de-spook, about stopping a blood sacrifice ritual at
the founding of the new Hellfire Club at Cambrige...or had it
been Oxford? Buffy had never been able to tell the two apart,
but it really didn't matter.  Giles had sounded happy, energized,
and busy. Very busy. It was a good thing.

Dawn had simply tackled her. She'd given a loud,
ear piercing teenaged girl shriek and tackled Buffy
like she was a member of N'Sync or something. "Ohmygod!
Ohmygod! Buffy!  Buffy, I missed you."  Tight sqeeeze. 
Bruised rib squeeze. Wonderful squeeze.  Buffy had brushed
her hand across Dawn's hair, feeling the silky texture
and something inside Buffy had clenched.  It just
clenched and hurt and ached in an awesome, happy
sort of way. 

Words had tumbled out of Dawn and out of herself.  Words
and more words. Hours of them. Happiness had ensued and
all was good with the world.

Really.  It was good, but it's a proven fact that
teenagers have short attention spans.  At least
Buffy thought it had been proven.  Honestly, she thought
she had once seen a report about it on CNN, or maybe it
was FOX.  She wasn't sure, but it didn't matter. It was
just that twenty-four hours after her miraculous return
from the dead Dawn had begun behaving as though Buffy had
*never* been dead.  Life went back to normal... or what
passed for normal for an almost orphaned Slayer and
Mystical Glowy Key thing.  Dawn had lit up, laughed,
talked, and made a bee-line for the phone to call her
best friend and schedule a trip to the mall to shop for
school clothes. . .which was great.  It was reassuring. 
Everything just slipped back into place as if nothing
had ever been out of place in the first place.

Ugh! 

Who was she kidding?  It had been anti-climactic,
and it had made Buffy feel out of sync with everyone
around her.  *Their* world was right again.  With
Buffy's return they had been given a free trip to
Happyville where after a few moments for readjustment
they were off to continue with their lives. 

For Buffy it wasn't that easy.

Hello!  Something had happened here.  Something she
couldn't quite process. She had just returned from the
dead for God's sake!  Didn't that mean anything? 

Buffy had brooded about that as Dawn made plans to
spend the night with her friend. Gee, her sister returns
from the dead.  They have this great, tearful, stay up
all night reunion, and the next day Dawn was arranging
sleepovers leaving Buffy alone with nothing to do
but think. She hated thinking.

It was somewhere around that point that Buffy had become
aware of the fact she had touched bases with all Scoobies
but one. . .only he wasn't a Scooby. Not really. Not even
close actually. He was a one time mortal enemy who for
some reason no longer was--an enemy that is. But that
didn't make him a Scooby. . .just something. Buffy
couldn't define what that something might be, but it
was real and it existed and where the hell was he?

Spike had been conspicuous in his absence, mainly because
his absence was so damn rare.  Spike always had a way
of, you know, being around. Constantly.  He was the
ultimate 'thing that would not leave'...so why hadn't
he been around making a nuisance of himself?

It wasn't like his name hadn't been mentioned.  It had.
Willow had said. . .something.  Buffy couldn't pinpoint
what.  Will's words had been quiet and muffled and sort
of vague.  Dawn had mentioned his name several times,
always adding how thrilled he would be. But Buffy hadn't
seen him.  She hadn't spoken to him.  She had been
avoiding the very thought of him. 

Left sitting alone on a Friday night, a person's mind
could wander to unexpected places, and Buffy's had
wandered to a certain annoying vampire named Spike.

When Buffy had found Spike, he had looked like hell.
Hell on earth that is. He had been covered in blue goo.
Icky, stinky blue goo because he had just ripped the
head off a demon and...well, head ripping in general
tended to be messy business.  Spike had then kicked
the headless corpse.

"I think you won," she had drawled.

"Hyeah, but you never know. Some demons are hard to ki--" 
Spike had stopped mid sentence.  He had turned.  A light
had entered his eyes and--


Continued