“And then Buffy’s pants fell down and she showed everybody her. . .”
“Ok, Dawn. That’s enough of that story,” Buffy interrupted as they walked down a fancy street eating fancy ice creams.
“I was just getting to the good part,” Dawn whined, pouting in a way that reminded Buffy of her own pout just a little too much.
“I’m sure Tru is bored hearing tales of my childhood now. Let’s change the subject, or possibly. . .you can keep quiet for the remaining time you’re attached to my side.”
“Would it be wrong of me to say I was enjoying the stories?” Tru asked with a chuckle as they meandered up to a large shop window displaying all kinds of electronic paraphernalia and funky gadgetry. “It’s nice hearing about you.”
Buffy instantly felt guilty, wishing she could tell Tru all about her life - every aspect. But she couldn’t do that. She had to be careful about what she said, and Dawn knew that all too well; Buffy had warned her about it before they’d come back to pick up Tru. She guessed a few harmless tales about her youth before the slaying, before Sunnydale, and before Faith wouldn’t do much harm, but Dawn was obviously purposefully trying to embarrass her.
Well two could play at that game.
“At least I was allowed to be alone by the time I was your age,” Buffy quipped with a grin. “And I don’t think I tried to set fire to the house once, unlike you.”
“Hey, that was an accident,” Dawn grumbled, her pout making Buffy grin even more; though trying to grin and eat an ice-cream was proving to be a tad difficult. “Those waffles were like super combustible.”
“Sure, and they just threw themselves over the garden fence too I guess,” Buffy pushed, glancing over to see Tru’s eyes smiling as she tried not to let on she was finding this funny.
“They were on fire!” Dawn protested. “I had to get them outta the house.”
Tru looked back and forth between Buffy and Dawn, a small smile making her look even more beautiful as Dawn grew ever more irritated with Buffy’s smug grin.
“She got grounded for a month,” Buffy told Tru.
“For an accident?” Tru asked, obviously finding that a little harsh.
“Not for ‘accidentally’ setting fire to the waffles while she was too busy painting her toenails to notice, but for throwing them into the neighbours’ yard when they were still on fire.”
Dawn pouted harder and looked away from Buffy. They’d argued about this and many other things far too often for it to be considered fun for Dawn, but Buffy didn’t care. She’d just had to go through nearly two hours of Dawn being whiny, and Dawn wanting Buffy to buy her things, and Dawn trying to make her look silly in front of Tru. Payback was a warm snugly feeling that Buffy adored.
“She almost gave Mrs Houston a heart attack, and ruined her new lawn,” Buffy continued. “And that’s why she’s not allowed to stay at home alone; she’s an arsonist, among other evil things.”
Dawn narrowed her eyes and Buffy knew she’d pushed a little too far.
“Yeah, let’s talk about arson and evil things,” Dawn suggested, her own smug grin making Buffy’s cower away.
Tru chuckled and shook her head as Buffy pushed Dawn ahead of them so they could start walking back to the gallery.
“Let’s not,” Buffy said gruffly.
Her fingers dug into Dawn’s shoulder in warning, and though Dawn flinched she didn’t give Buffy away. She knew she’d be in so much trouble if she let slip that Buffy was a slayer, and that vampires and demons were real, and that Buffy was a lying bitch that was just using Tru because she couldn’t deal with – or control – Faith.
To be fair, Buffy doubted Dawn would actually use those words, but she knew that’s what she was, and she knew that’s what she was doing – at least in some part.
“Time to take you back to mom,” Buffy said, leaving no room for argument, though apparently Dawn wasn’t aware of that assumption.
“Well I’m not staying there if she’s not done with her meeting,” Dawn grumbled. “If you make me, I’ll introduce her to Tru.”
Buffy felt her jaw clench and her palms start to sweat but she wasn’t about to go into full on panic mode. She knew Dawn was capable of being a brat, even if it made Buffy’s life hell, but she seriously doubted she’d go telling their mom about Tru. That would be one betrayal of trust that even Dawn wouldn’t dare approach.
“And I’ll introduce your favourite nail polish to your favourite clothes,” Buffy warned. “Now give us some peace, and walk ahead so nobody thinks you’re with us.”
With a glare, Dawn took a moment to weigh up her options before turning and walking ahead, obviously deciding that arguing with Buffy was a never ending circle that could only drive them both insane. And besides, Buffy knew that Dawn had some sense at least; if she ever wanted to spend time with Buffy again she’d learn when to back down and let Buffy have her way.
“You two almost make me wish I had a sister,” Tru said as Dawn meandered in front and Buffy took the opportunity to walk as close to Tru as she could without tripping her up.
The comment – and the wistful way in which Tru had made it - caused Buffy’s heart to sink. She almost wished she could tell Tru that she did have a sister, and that everything could be good even though she’d been lying, and that it didn’t matter that they were identical; she’d still want to be with Tru. It didn’t matter.
But it did matter and she couldn’t say any of those things let alone think them without her conscience mocking her and yelling profanities.
“It sucks a lot of the time,” Buffy responded quietly, the back of her hand brushing against Tru’s and making her want to grab it and hold on.
Tru bumped her shoulder into her playfully and smiled.
“I bet you secretly love having a little sister,” Tru chuckled. “I get the feeling you’re the protective type.”
Buffy gave Tru a puzzled look and didn’t notice until their fingers were entwined that Tru had taken hold of her hand. She was sneaky as well as perceptive apparently.
“Why do you think that?” Buffy asked, trying not to feel like they were being stared at as they held hands.
“Just a feeling,” Tru answered, her smile making Buffy’s stomach flutter and her hand hold her tight so she didn’t float away.
Buffy gave a shy smile back, choosing not to continue the conversation. Protection was what she did, even where Dawn was concerned. It was in her nature, whether she wanted it to be or not. She was supposed to be the ‘good guy’, the guardian between evil and the rest of the world. She was supposed to be just, honest and kind.
She wasn’t supposed to be doing what she was doing; deceiving and betraying.
All those good deeds seemed rather pointless if she was so readily able to continue the charade so elaborately cast. Her perspective was smudged; the details overlooked in her hunger to be loved, and it was too late to turn back now.
“I’d better go drop her off with mom,” Buffy said, the sadness in her voice barely disguised.
Buffy let go of Tru’s hand reluctantly and began to speed up her pace to catch up with Dawn, turning back to look into Tru’s eyes before getting too far.
“I’ll introduce you to mom soon,” Buffy told her, feeling guilty on more levels than she could grasp.
“No rush,” Tru responded with a kind shrug and that smile that melted Buffy all the way through – or nearly all.
“But I will,” Buffy assured, completely clueless as to how and when, and what the reaction would be.
Tru nodded this time and caught up with Buffy.
“Whenever you’re ready,” she said softly, leaning in and brushing her lips over Buffy’s before she could stop her.
Public displays of affection were going to take some getting used to, and she could hear Dawn snickering behind her. Still, she kissed back for more time than she thought was prudent; letting Tru’s soft lips make her tingle and yearn to be back in her apartment, on her bed.
A vulgar wolf-whistle from not too far away broke them apart and Buffy duly blushed, though she found strength in Tru’s brown eyes as they kept locked on her own, silently telling her not to feel ashamed. It was easier said than done, but she would try. For Tru.
“Anytime now would be good, Buffy,” Dawn called from behind her. “You can les out later, on your own where I don’t have to watch and feel like barfing.”
Narrowing her eyes, Buffy spun around ready to share a few profanities with her sister, but she could see in the small lilt of Dawn’s lips that she didn’t mean it. She was just being annoying, as usual.
“Next time, I’m buying you a muzzle,” Buffy warned, grinning through the threat. “And we’ll take you to the park and lose you.”
“Yeah, yeah, now move your stumpy legs quicker, I’m getting bored.”
Dawn set off, leaving Buffy with no choice but to follow so she could see her back to the gallery safely. Losing her along the way really wasn’t an option, as much as she’d have liked it to be.
“I’ll be back in a little while,” Buffy told Tru, giving her a small wave as Tru found a spot on a bench and watched them go.
After a few glances back towards her girlfriend as they walked their way to the gallery, Dawn punched Buffy in the arm.
“Will you quit it?” Dawn asked. “It’s embarrassing.”
“I’m not doing anything,” Buffy responded with a whine.
“Sure, you’re not doing anything,” Dawn mocked. “But you are, and it’s making you look like a total goober. I mean desperate much?”
“What?” Buffy asked, oblivious as she took another glance back.
“She’s gonna dump you for being all needy and clingy.”
“I’m so not needy or clingy,” Buffy protested strongly. “I’m just. . .I mean she’s just so. . .oh God, I’m officially a goober.”
“Yup, she’s made you gay and gooberific.”
“I’m not gay!” Buffy insisted a little too loudly, lowering her head as some passers by glared her way. “I’m something in-between - and no you don’t need to find a joke in that.”
“I’m not,” Dawn said, sounding far from truthful. “If you’re happy then. . .well, I don’t care either way, just as long as you don’t start dressing all butch. I like borrowing your clothes. Your non-butch clothes.”
“I don’t have any butch clothes,” Buffy pointed out.
“And let’s just keep it that way,” Dawn said with a pat on Buffy’s shoulder.
Rolling her eyes and being thankful that their day together was almost done, Buffy pushed open the door to the gallery. She shouted for her mom and shoved Dawn a little ahead of her in her keenness to get away.
“Have a good day?” Joyce asked as she met with her daughters, giving Dawn a quick once over, probably to check that Buffy had brought her back in one piece.
“Just great,” Buffy answered unenthusiastically.
“Best day ever,” Dawn agreed, just as unenthusiastically. “Wish I could stay.”
“Well you can do it more often then,” Joyce said with a knowing smile. “But it’s time to go home now.”
She thanked Buffy and gave her a little gratitude in the way of cash that would pay for dinner. She also promised to give her more warning next time Dawn needed a chaperone. Buffy insisted there really shouldn’t ever be a next time, ever, but Joyce just laughed and gave her daughter a kiss on the cheek before making her way into the gallery office to collect her things.
“No coming back with a shaved head,” Dawn said sarcastically. “Or with tattoos. Mom would definitely start asking questions.”
“When she starts asking questions I’ll tell her the truth. In fact I’ll tell before then, if I can work out how to explain Tru being Faith’s sister,” she said. “That might be a little difficult.”
“And I don’t need you making it harder,” Buffy quickly pointed out.
“I’m not gonna say anything to her,” Dawn insisted. “She’s bound to start wondering why you keep coming up to LA though. She’s worried you’re getting back with Angel.”
“Ugh! I really don’t like her thinking that,” Buffy said with a sigh. “I’ll come up with something.”
“Well you’d better do it soon, or work out how to explain Tru, or maybe. . .you should just flee the country and leave all your clothes to me.”
“Or maybe I could shove you into that giant shrub over there and tell mom you were eaten by a demon.”
“Funny,” Dawn sneered.
“Ok girls, time to go,” Joyce said, breaking them apart as she strode past to the exit. “Dawn, don’t dawdle, and stand straight.”
Buffy chuckled as Dawn stuck her tongue out at her mother’s back, taking her time to follow as if she really didn’t actually want to leave.
“Maybe you shouldn’t tell mom,” Dawn said quietly as she slowly made her way out to the car with Buffy beside her.
“Why? You think she’d freak out?”
“I just. . .maybe you should wait,” Dawn continued, practically muttering. “Until you’re with Faith.”
“Until I’m. . .with Faith?” Buffy asked in surprise. “What do you mean? I can’t be with Faith, I have a girlfriend and I. . .”
“I know, and Tru’s pretty cool, but she’s not Faith,” Dawn said, doing her best not to look at Buffy. “You’re supposed to be with Faith.”
Buffy stopped walking as the door to the gallery swung shut behind her. She watched with her mouth slightly agape as Dawn just shrugged and got into Joyce’s car; the words hanging between them. She wanted to ask Dawn why she thought that, though the stark obviousness was unavoidable, and the echo of the sentiment rumbled through her in a way she was growing used to.
“Just think about it,” Dawn called from the car window as her mom waved goodbye obliviously and pulled away.
With her hands hanging loosely at her sides and her gaze watching the car pull out into the traffic Buffy whispered, “I never stop thinking about it.”
Meanwhile. . .
The sun eased its way past a wisp of cloud, heating the concrete beneath her feet as she squinted and smiled to herself, her heart fluttering as her skin soaked in the warmth and her blonde hair flowed gently in the soft breeze.
It had been so long – too long – since she’d felt the sun. Barely seeing it through blacked out glass, and feeling the aftermath of its heat on the ground and in the air after dark didn’t compare to this. This light, this heat, this freedom was invigorating and she felt alive. Truly alive. She’d longed for this.
The reasons behind why she had been given this chance – this new beginning – were inconsequential. She hadn’t taken too long to dwell before slipping away at the first opportunity; once the chance to escape had arisen she’d taken it with both hands. Of course, a few people had been hurt in her bid for freedom, but that didn’t matter. It didn’t matter when all she could think about was living; taking this new lease and proving to herself that she could do it right this time. That her place was back amongst the living – kind of.
There was the small question of what was running through her veins, keeping her alive, letting her walk in the sun, but science was never something she understood and she’d stopped listening halfway through the explanation. Wolfram and Hart were a mystery and everything they did was shrouded in it, so what was just another experiment in the grand scheme of things? Their ways and their reasons held no interest.
Darla didn’t much care for law firms and corporate jargon, or the people who’d given her this new life.
She’d left them behind in her haste to explore how her reinvigorated body felt – to walk without worry in the day, laugh without menace and breathe real air into real lungs. It felt almost the same as when she’d been alive before – the real alive, not as a vampire – but it wasn’t the same. She knew it couldn’t be, but it still felt deliciously close to the memory. Close and possibly even better; her memory held no recollection of this strength when she’d lived her first human life. She hadn’t been able to taste the air as she could now, or hear the joy in the leaves so far away that she could barely see them.
She hadn’t felt the pure, unparalleled bliss of knowing she was whole. Knowing that her soul saturated every fibre of her, and every thought. Four hundred years ago she hadn’t felt her soul leave her when she’d been turned; it was already gone, sullied and driven under by her life, her vices, her decadence and dismissive ways. No, this soul felt as new as her body, and it was glorious.
It was too precious to risk in the hands of the corrupt company that had resurrected her. It was too precious to squander. Here was a gift, and she would take it with both hands and soothe some of the tragedy she’d caused, visit some of her past so she could look it in the eye and know she felt sorry for all she’d done and all she hadn’t done. Sorry and hopeful.
It was a new day, a new life, and an old memory had taken her back to Sunnydale.
This was where her years as a vampire had come to an end, and here was where she needed to start her journey back to an existence she’d thrown away the first time. Maybe it was silly, or pointless, or just crazy, but Darla pushed aside her fear and walked through the centre of Sunnydale with her head held high and a determined pound to her refreshed heart.
Each shop she passed she gazed through the windows, each person she smiled at smiled right back, and each step she took filled her with confidence.
With a hearty meal in her stomach and a twinkle in her eye, Darla practically skipped down the street, noticing her old haunts and reminiscing. Wishing she had been kinder to people, less cruel, taken the time to just be rather than just slaughter. It was easy wishing but Darla didn’t really know how to make things right, or if she could just use Angel’s old excuse and blame her cruelty on her lack of a soul at the time. Now that she had a soul she knew his theory was rubbish, however; it wasn’t a lack of soul that made them kill, and it wasn’t regaining it that made them stop.
She had to figure out where her place was, where she belonged; and not as the property of Wolfram and Hart, or Angel, or anything but her own fate.
As she turned a corner and prepared to talk her way into a motel room for the night, Darla’s attention was caught by the neon sign of a bar - The Bronze. She felt a twinge in her chest and raised a hand to it, feeling the weight of guilt press in on her, and the weight of betrayal. Angel had taken her undead life in that place. He’d chosen the slayer over her. He’d fouled everything they’d ever been, and everything she’d ever wanted.
It seemed like a lifetime ago in some respects – and indeed was, technically – but there was pain in her heart where she hadn’t felt it in. . .forever. She didn’t like the feeling and vowed to be better than the animal she’d allowed herself to become. Vowed to make herself proud, anew.
“Hey, watch where yer goin’, blondie,” somebody grunted as Darla bumped into them, almost toppling over save for the hands now holding her up.
“Sorry,” she stammered, unused to feeling the touch of another – flesh to her flesh. It had been so long.
The hands at her waist remained as the girl she’d bumped into furrowed her brow and gave her a look that could only be placed somewhere between annoyed and animalistic.
“No problem,” the girl said, removing her hands tellingly slowly as Darla enjoyed the faint tickle of them. “Just be careful; you don’t wanna be runnin’ into the wrong kind round here.”
Darla tried not to smile, but failed. This girl was hot, and quite clearly she oozed the kind of sexuality that took pleasure in all things – females included.
“The wrong kind?” she asked innocently; old memories of tried and tested traps. Innocence and naivety used to lure the ones she’d chosen. The special ones. “And you’re not the wrong kind?”
The girl ran a hand though her dark waves of hair, a sexy smirk lingering at the edges of existence as Darla willed it to develop so she could feel the rush. The rush that came with flirtation. With the promise of sex and skin and blood. But it wasn’t her blood she wanted. Not now with the soul keeping her grounded. Not now even though she was still technically a vampire with the same thirsts that needed quenching and the same habits that needed tethering.
“Depends who ya talk to,” the girl finally answered; the hint of something broken within her making Darla instantly want to know more.
“How about you tell me,” Darla suggested.
“I’m not the talking type,” the girl replied with a shrug as she dipped into the pocket on her tight black jeans, fishing out a pack of cigarettes and offering one to Darla.
Darla declined but watched as the girl lit one and took a long drag.
“Can’t believe I almost gave these up,” the girl stated once she’d blown out the smoke.
She looked sad but there was more to her. More to the hardness of her face and the darkness of her eyes. Darla was completely fascinated.
“Have you also given up alcohol?” Darla asked, “because I’m a girl in need of a drink.”
Giving the neon sign of the nearby club a glance, she hoped her hint would hit home. She wasn’t about to waste an opportunity like this, even if she was supposed to be here for other, more altruistic reasons.
The brunette raised an eyebrow as she regarded Darla; her eyes penetrating and her frame strong and almost intimidating. She gazed up and down; taking her time until Darla almost couldn’t stand the scrutiny anymore. Until her skin was buzzing and her sex was clenching in need.
“So how exactly does a vampire get to walk around in the day?” the girl asked once she’d taken her time to scrutinize Darla.
Regarding the girl differently now, Darla smirked. She ran her tongue over canine teeth that would always be sharper, more pronounced than normal, and let herself feel the presence of the brunette.
“You’re the slayer,” Darla stated, letting the delicious sensation of danger trickle down her spine.
“No, I’m Faith, and you didn’t answer my question,” the girl insisted.
“It’s complicated,” Darla said, not knowing how exactly to explain. “So, slayer, how about that drink?”
Faith grinned and Darla saw the twinkle in her eye that came with great confidence and awareness.
“I told you, I’m not the slayer,” Faith reiterated. “And I don’t hang out with vamps. . .except the one, or two, but they’re different.”
“We’re all a little different, honey,” Darla said, stepping closer.
“Some more different than others, huh.”
“You’re not going to let a small thing like me being a vampire and you being a slayer keep us from. . .connecting are you?” Darla asked, looking up at Faith through her eyelashes; relishing the distinctive sensation of flirting with possibility.
Looking Darla up and down once again, Faith chuckled and flicked her cigarette to the floor.
“Guess one drink wouldn’t hurt,” she said. “Why should everybody else get to have all the fun?”
Faith waved her hand, gesturing for Darla to enter the club first.
“We all deserve to have a little fun, Faith,” Darla agreed, slowly making her way past Faith; running her hand over Faith’s stomach as she went. “You might have to remind me how it goes; it’s been a while.”
With a sway of her hips, Darla made her way into The Bronze, shuddering a little as the rush of memory washed over her. Licking her lips as she felt Faith enter close behind.
Coming to Sunnydale had been a good idea.