Telling


by L.A. Ward



"So how did this happen?"  Gunn's question snapped Buffy
back to the present, the Hyperion hotel/L.A. present. He
scratched his ear. "I mean, I get the whole resurrection
spell thing..."  He paused. "Actually, I don't get the
wwhole resurrection spell thing.  Care to explain?"

Buffy wished she could. "It's complicated. Will did it."

Angel's brows drew down over his eyes in a concentrated
frown.  "Willow brought you back?"

Buffy nodded as Gunn pressed, "If the redhead can do
that...Look, death doesn't come with a rewind button.
It can't be that easy.  If it was, no one would die."

"It wasn't that easy."  Buffy sighed and looked away. 
"I don't have answers. I don't understand it. I wish I
did,  but I don't."

"So you're saying we should ask the witch."

"I don't think even Willow understands what happened. 
She said it was like the time she re-souled Angel. Something
else took over. Something that wasn't her." Buffy shrugged.
"Willow tried to explain but she once tried to explain Chem II,
and I didn't understand that either. What I did understand was
the only reason the spell worked was because I didn't die in
a mortal way."

Angel interrupted. "I thought you fell from a tower."

"I did, but it wasn't the fall that killed me."

Angel's face was unreadable, still and fixed. "Then
how did you die?"

Buffy's brows rose. "Don't you know?"

Angel didn't answer so Gunn answered instead. "Your
friend, Willow, she just said it was a fight. An apocalypse."

"That's all she said?"

"She was pretty upset. And after that so was--" Gunn
glanced at Angel. "It didn't seem like the time for long
winded explanations. Usually dead means dead. 
Doesn't matter how."

"How?" Angel asked, and still his face was like
carved stone.

Buffy searched for a way to explain. "It was an apocalypse.
A  hellgod named Glory wanted to open the gates of
hell. . ."

Because, you know, that's what hellgods did with gates
to hell. Familiar story, actually.  We did this a few
years ago.  You remember don't you, Angel?

Shut up, evil voice, Buffy commanded. Just shut up.
It wasn't the same thing.

No, Glory just wanted to go home. Angelus specifically
wanted to take the whole world with him.

I *said* shut up!  I could live without turning into
schizophrenic Buffy, you know.

"How?" Angel asked again.

What did she look like?  Exposition woman? Speech
making was *so* not her job. Buffy left speeches to Giles
or Spike or even Anya who could pop out with some really
strange ones because she had a vast and varied knowledge
of all things demony. But Buffy? Explaining things was
not listed under the Slayer job description. Beating
things up? That she could do.

Besides explaining the Glory mess meant explaining
things like The Key and Dawn and memories that weren't
real.  No wonder Willow had avoided going into specifics.
No wonder that even before she had died, Buffy hadn't
explained things to Angel. . .even on the night when he
had sat with her beside her mother's grave.

Dawn and Angel were two things that didn't go together,
mainly because Angelus had terrorized Dawn during his
not quite sane and very evil phase. Oh, Buffy knew none
of the "Angelus kidnapped Dawn" thing actually happened.
Angelus hadn't *really* slipped into her home and
dragged her little sister to the mansion on the edge of
town. Angel hadn't really left Dawn 'playing dolls'
with Drusilla, which anyone who knew Drusilla knew
must have been a horrifying experience. Those memories
were Monk manufactured just like the one saying Spike
had produced an unharmed but mightily pissed off Dawn
as evidence of his desire for a truce with the Slayer.

"See, Slayer, lil' Sis all in one neat non-bloody
package. Now, no staking, right?"

Sometimes Buffy wondered about the way events had
actually unfolded--you know, without the whole 'Dawn
being inserted' part, but somehow Buffy thought the
Monks had kept fairly close to actual events. 

Giles had once offered the theory that the Monks hadn't
made any memories at all, that they--meaning herself,
the Scoobs, and even Dawn--had made their own memories.
The monks had simply cast a spell around Dawn so that
anyone presented with her had to reconcile Dawn's
existence.  Real memories shifted to accommodate Dawn
...or something like that. Buffy was often a bit vague
when it came to magic, but Giles had made his point.
Whatever the differences between truth and fiction, the
thoughts, feelings, and motivations had remained roughly
the same.

In any event, Dawn was not Angel's biggest fan.  She
probably placed fourth in the  'who cannot tolerate Angel'
contest, somewhere behind Spike, Xander, and Giles (though
not necessarily in that order).  Maybe fifth if Riley counted.

Anyway, explaining Glory, the Key, the monumentally
unsuccessful big 'fraidy runaway, her brain freeze, and
the last terrible night was just too much. Buffy couldn't
do it so she talked about her swan dive into the portal
and a life force drain.  

Stripping the Glory saga of its detail (and any mentions
of Spike because Buffy was *so* not up to explaining that)
made it a very short action feature. Big fight. Big loss. 
Dead. Crying and self recriminations to follow. Only now
the crying was over and here she stood all not dead.

Angel still didn't look happy. 

No, that wasn't quite fair.  He had looked glad that
she was there, it was just there was something else
shadowed his face. It was dark and sad and kind of
broody.

Angel swallowed and said in a choked, raspy voice,
"I'm sorry."

Huh?  Then Buffy said it out loud.  "Huh?"  She felt fuzzy
headed and confused.  "What do you have to be sorry
about? I'm here."

Angel shook his head.  "But I wasn't there. I wasn't there
and you needed me."

"What? No. I mean--"  What did she mean?  Suddenly
Buffy thought she had to find the words, the *right*
words. "There's nothing you could have done. No
way you could have changed things."

"You don't know that."

"Yes, I do. It ended the way it had to.  I was the only
one who could have closed the portal.  It had to be me." 
Or Dawn, but that would require the whole 'Key' explanation
again, and Buffy had deliberately skipped it the first time.
At Angel's questioning glance Buffy added lamely, "There
was a prophecy. . .sort of."

Angel still looked pained even as he turned away. Why did
he turn away?

"Maybe I could have changed things." His voice was low and
deep. "Maybe I was supposed to be there."  Angel glanced at
Buffy over his shoulder. "I could have done things the others
couldn't.  Xander, Willow, Giles--they aren't fighters."

"You couldn't have changed things."  And you couldn't
have done anything Spike didn't do, Buffy thought but
didn't say it--not because it wasn't true but because she
couldn't say it out loud...not to Angel. Buffy stood at a
loss for words wanting to help Angel, to stop Angel from
brooding and feeling guilty but not having a clue how to do
so.

Gunn stood and crossed the room.  "You can't keep
doing this to yourself," he told Angel sternly.  "She just
told you that you couldn't have changed things."

Angel opened his mouth to speak but Gunn stopped him.
"No.  I've tried saying this before but you weren't listening. 
Now you're gonna listen. You couldn't be two places at once
any more than I could.  Remember just before our trip to
demonland one of my old crew died."

Angel looked stricken. "Gunn, I'm sorry."

"No, don't be sorry.  That's not the point.  For a long
time I thought I should have been with the guys when
it all down.  They asked me to go with them but I chose to
go out kicking demon butt with you and English.  Now, I don't
know how much of a difference I might have made with my old
crew, but I'd like to think I made a difference for us."

Gunn faced Buffy.  "Now correct me if I'm wrong, but
you didn't ask for Brood Boy's help, now didjya?"

Buffy hated to meet Angel's eyes.  She hated that he
felt guilty, and she hated saying, "No.  I didn't ask."

"And you don't really think he could have made much
difference in the whole hellbitch battle."

All Buffy could do was shake her head.  No.  Angel
couldn't have changed what had happened.  *Nothing*
could have changed what happened.  Death had been
her gift.

That seemed to be enough for Angel's friend.  "Now see,
we can sit here all night wondering what you might have
done with blondie," Gunn told Angel.  "We'll never know. 
But obviously she really didn't need you to save the
world because this world is still here.  And now she's
here.  If you ask me things turned out okay in the end." 

Angel looked frustrated and angry.  "That's not the
point."

"Isn't it? No offense."  Gunn tilted his head toward Buffy. 
"I'm sure blondie here is a great girl, but I happen to think
that Cordy and Fred rate pretty high on the great people
scale. Buffy is standing here without any help from you,
but Cordy and Fred wouldn't be.  Besides--" 

When Gunn stood face to face with Buffy he towered over
her.  He was one big guy.   He asked, "You  didn't fight
alone, did you?   You had backup, right?"

Buffy felt Angel's gaze on her. "No, I wasn't alone,"
she admitted, then with more conviction because she
felt Angel needed to hear it to assuage some of his
unnecessary guilt.  "I wasn't alone, Angel.  It wasn't
by myself.  I had help. I had. . ."  Buffy took a deep
breath.  "Everyone fought with me.  It was a team effort."

Gunn nodded. "See. She had help.  But if Cordy hadn't
had us, who would she have had?  That Groosalug guy?"

Angel glowered and scoffed. "That Groosalug guy? Please.
Cordy could do so much better than that.  Besides, he wasn't
all *that* tough.  I beat him didn't I?"  Angel glanced at
Buffy and cleared his throat. "Uh. . .we don't need  to go
into any of that right now."

Gunn shrugged.  "Fine with me as long as it's through
your thick vampire skull that Cordy would have been lost
in that place if we hadn't gone after her, and Fred, here,
would have been stuck in slavery or dead.  Buffy may or
may not have needed you. Cordy and Fred definitely *did.*"

There. It was a simple, straight forward and oh so believable
argument.  Buffy believed it.  It sounded and felt. .. right. 
Things had happened the way they were supposed to have
happened. "Your friend is right," Buffy concurred softly.

"Damn straight, I'm right. I know I'm right and if you
have any doubt, think about this. Those freaky Powers That
Be that send Cordy her visions sent you looking for Fred
not to go have some big fight with your ex-girlfriend." Gunn
paused.  "That didn't come out right."

"I think it came out pretty good," Buffy told him.

Angel's head was bent and he seemed to be thinking.

Buffy approached him.  She touched his arm.  "It's okay,
Angel.  I'm okay. The world's okay. And because of you,
Cordy and Fred are okay too."

Fred nodded.  "I'm definitely okay.  I'm home and they still
have tacos, and I don't have that thing around my neck that
could make my head explode.  That's all good."

Buffy smiled.  "See. Good stuff."

Angel shook his head. "You're letting me off easy, Buffy. 
Again."

"No, I'm not.  I'm just being realistic and pragmatic
and a few other icky things.  You did what you had
to do.  We all do.  There's no blame here. There's no
reason for you to feel guilty.  It's a  guilt free zone." 
And I don't need another guilt ridden vampire running
around, Buffy thought. She had enough problems with Spike
feeling guilty about what had happened.  On the other
hand, Buffy was kind of used to Angel feeling guilty
about stuff. Spike feeling guilty was just way weird.

Focus, Buffy.  Deal with Angel in the here and now. She
looked at him hopefully.  "Are we okay yet?  Please, say
we're okay.  I want that."

Angel gave a small smile.  "If it's what you want."

"Absolutely."

His smile grew and -- wow, it reached all the way to
his eyes. "I'm glad you're back, Buffy."

Buffy released the breath she hadn't even known she
was holding. "Yeah, me too."

"I'm sure everyone is glad you're back."

Oh, they were.  It wasn't exactly an emotion they hid. 
Big smiles.  Big tears.  Group hugs.  Hey, even Angel
had produced a smile.  A small one, but it was a smile
that for once reached his eyes which was very out of
the ordinary. Usually when Buffy looked into Angel's
eyes she came away wondering, "What is he thinking?"

Angel had never been Mr. Availability where his private
thoughts were concerned.  He was the original mystery
man, which was wonderfully intriguing except for the
fact Buffy wasn't Nancy Drew. Buffy fought evil head
on, leaving very little time for mysteries. Plus, she
wasn't exactly emotional insight woman. Look at the
whole "clueless about Riley" catastrophe.

No, the Buffster was not good at reading people, that
was why it was easier when people reacted by...you
know, *reacting.* Take her confrontation with Spike
a few hours ago. There Spike had stood covered in
stinky blue goo as she pronounced him winner of the
demon beheading contest.

Spike had blinked and light had filled his eyes.  No,
seriously, it was like someone had turned on a floodlight
inside him.  Don't ask her how it was possible. First,
Buffy was well aware it wasn't physically possible; and,
second, it wasn't some supernatural light so don't go down
that path. No, it was more like the energy and emotion
that always bubbled inside Spike had exploded into life
and radiated from his eyes--but not in a Xander X-Men
Cyclops way.

"You're here."  Spike's voice had been soft and incredulous.
"You're really here.  And it's the real you." How Spike had
known, Buffy wasn't sure. But he *had* known, and he had
laughed, a mad, delighted, full throated laugh as he jumped on
top of a headstone and howled to the night, "Look out kiddies,
the Slayer is back where she belongs." Gazing at her with
dancing blue eyes he had murmured, "Fanfuckingtastic."


Continued