Homecoming by beanbeans

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Chapter Notes: This is my first post here to the Spuffy Realm! I'm very excited to share this with you all. This story also just won Best AU at the Vampire's Kiss Award Site. :) Hope you all like it.

Chapter 1

Her phone trills five times before the machine picks up.

“Hi, this is Buffy. I’m not in right now, so… you know, do your thing at the beep.”

“Buffy?” Her mother’s voice is thin and reedy over the line. “Sweetheart, are you there?”

She blinks herself awake until she can focus on the handset. Raises it to her ear and mumbles, “Mom? I’m here.”

“Oh, honey, I’m so glad. I’m sorry to wake you, but I wanted to be the one to tell you. Mrs. Price passed away last night. The wake is tomorrow and the funeral is Monday. William is so heartbroken. It would mean a great deal to him if you were there. She was always so fond of you. So, will you? Will you come?”

Her mother’s voice has faded back into the distance. Birds outside her open window are calling to each other with intricate fragments of song. A child’s bike horn dings somewhere down the street. She wipes her clammy hands on her flowered cotton sheets, her skin sticky under the covers.

She thinks of afternoons sitting in his kitchen, Mrs. Price baking while they slugged down juice and slugged each other. Of the way his mother always had on a fresh housecoat over her floral, shin length dresses. The way she smelled like baking bread and cakes when she had hugged her, when William was out of the room.

She knew this was coming, but is still surprised by the wash of memories, the dull pain she feels in her chest at knowing her other “mother” is gone.

“Yes. I’ll be there.” She answers simply, her belly slowly constricting, her eyes filling up.

“Thank you, Buffy. If you could come today, tonight, that would be best. I’ll set up your room, so you can stay here.”

“Okay. Thanks,” she answers quietly. “I’ll see you tonight.”

“Good. I love you, honey.”

“I love you, too, Mom.”

She sets the phone down, staring at nothing.

Fourteen years gone by since she’s seen him. She had walked away and hadn’t looked back, afraid that if she did, she would never escape her orbit around him. He’s always pulled her in, sucked her down and held her fast. Until that August night when she was 18, when she forcibly launched herself from his hold.

It still hurts, every damn day.

There have been many other men who have tried to catch her. But none have measured up. They’ve left her, angry that they could never be enough. They’ve called her cold, called her bitch, and a hundred other names to make up for their inadequacy- for not being him.

She packs a bag slowly, then goes to brush her teeth while a few tears fall. Standing before the mirror, she touches her wet face. Skims her hand over her forehead, to her eyebrow. Remembers tracing the scar on his eyebrow. Those expressive dark slashes that frame his hypnotic blue eyes, colored like an October sky. Eyes to drown in, to disappear inside. Inside his sharp intellect and sharper tongue, with his cutting remarks and thoughtless comments.

And his unexpected kindness. Gestures that would cut her to the quick, leave her feeling like no one else would ever see her like he did. Full of desperate gratitude for every little crumb he tossed her way. Believing that no one would ever know her mind and body like him.

She hopes to hell he’s changed. Because she knows she hasn’t. She loves him still, so much that it chokes her.

She terrified to see him again. But she’ll go, to pay her respects, both to him and to the woman she loved as much as she loves her own mother.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

He’s sitting two rows across from her, legs sprawled wide under his desk, his hands resting limply on his hard thighs. Today Mr. Hanscomb has them watching “Othello” - the film version with Orson Wells- to give them a new appreciation of Shakespeare.

The classroom is too warm, and when the lights go out and the t.v. flickers on, her eyes start to droop.

She hates this. Hates Shakespeare, trying to figure out what the heck it all means. Why can’t they just say what they mean, instead of talking in circles and words she doesn’t know? She’s read the words over and over, but they don’t sink in. It makes her feel stupid, because he gets it, and she doesn’t.

He’s the one who’s stupid, she thinks, with his white hair sticking up sharp as little knife points. Does he think that makes him look tough? His nails painted black and his tee shirt glittering with safety pins, which she’s sure he filched off his Mom’s sewing kit. And that isn’t cool at all.

She watches him, the blue light of the t.v. casting shadows under his cheeks, his pouty mouth twitching.

While she watches he begins mouthing the words along with Orson, silently repeating the lines to himself.

“Yet she wisht that Heaven had made her such a man: she thankt me;
And bade me, if I had a friend that loved her,
I should but teach him how to tell my story,
And that would woo her. Upon this hint I spake.
She loved me for the dangers I had past;
And I loved her that she did pity them.”

The room falls away from her sight. For the first time, she sees how truly brilliant he is. How painfully beautiful. His lips move, shaped by those words, and she finds herself desperately wishing she could be the object of that kind of love from him. She imagines his lips brushing against her ear, whispering his love for her.

Then he turns and sees her watching him. Embarrassed, he narrows his eyes and gives her a tight-lipped smirk, holding up two fingers at her under his desk, out of Mr. Hanscomb’s sight.

She just beams at him. At that, he cocks his head to the side, looking at her like she’s gone insane.

He looks away. She watches him catch Dru’s gaze and purse his lips, blowing her a lush kiss.

When Dru’s face breaks into a slow, delighted smile, Buffy decides she hates her. Nearly as much as she hates him for making her feel so confused.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


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