Buffy looked around the darkened interior of the mansion. Dust, cobwebs and stale air stated clearly that no one had been here in some time. The statue of Acathla was gone, but then, she didn’t expect Giles to leave it where just any big bad could find it and try to open it again. She sighed. Her memories of her loved ones were all that had kept her sane during that time, between the battles and the nightmares and the knowledge that she was willingly merging with one of the most powerful of the Old Ones just to get home. Each days, she deliberately took the time to drag up her fading memories. Of her mother, of Willow or Giles, sometimes even Xander. Lillith really didn’t like Xander. As a ruler, betrayal was not something that she tolerated, at all, and she saw his lies as a betrayal. It had taken 300 years, but Buffy finally made it back home. How long I’ve been gone.
Buffy wondered. I wonder if they even noticed that I was gone. ‘Do you intend to inform them of our return?’
Lillith asked. ‘Willow and Giles, maybe, if they’re still here.’
Buffy answered. ‘I’m not that sure that I want to see Xander, and Mom kicked me out, so I don’t think she wants to see me. The first thing we need to do is find out how long it’s been.’ ‘We do not plan to let the boy’s betrayal go unpunished, do we?’
Lillith asked, outraged. It may have been a small betrayal, but it was a betrayal none-the-less.
Buffy didn’t answer as she caught a clear glimpse of herself for the first time in three centuries. Her eyes were a bright amber color instead of the normal hazel and her pupils were slitted like a cat. With her mouth open in surprise, she could also see that her canines were sharply pointed at the top and bottom of her mouth. Her hair had long ago grown out, revealing the natural dirty blonde color that she hated, but the locks were now streaked with a deep dark red. She looked like someone had poured blood in her hair, like in the movie “Carrie”. Wow.
Was her first thought, then, I can’t go out there like this. ‘You have my power,’
Lillith reminded her. ‘You can alter your form to appear more human if that is your wish.’ ‘How?’ ‘Concentrate on the form you wish to take, then merely see yourself in that form.’
Closing her eyes, she concentrated on what she barely remembered she looked like before she disappeared. When she finally opened her eyes, she was grateful to see hazel orbs staring back at her. Her hair was once again the blonde that she preferred, but she was stark naked. She thought hard, digging up old, forgotten memories, until she remembered that this was Angel’s mansion. He had to have clothes stashed here. She thought about what she would do while she searched. She no longer remembered the layout of the house, so she didn’t know where the master bedroom was. She thought about going to Giles first, but dismissed it. As much as she wanted to see him, she was not ready for the inquisition she’d get. She didn’t know if he knew what had happened, but even if he didn’t, he’d demand to know why she ditched her duty. She’d go see Willow. She knew that Willow would have questions, but her friend would lay off if asked.
She finally found the room. Searching the drawers and closets, she dressed in the large black shirt and black trousers, the sleeves and legs rolled up many times. She had to tighten the trousers with a piece of rope that she found in another one of the drawers that was filled with what looked uncomfortably like really freaky sex toys. Slipping out into the night, she strolled sedately through her hometown. The sights and scents and sounds, even the two vampires that had just started to follow her, were the most wonderful things she could currently imagine.
“Unless you want to be screaming in agony for centuries before you’re dusted, I suggest you find someone else to snack on.” Buffy called out to the vamps behind her. The power in her voice was obvious and, after a slight hesitation, the fledglings turned and ran. There was obviously a new power in town.
Buffy’s lip curled into a smirk as she listened to them run. Reaching into the well of power that had grown deep within her, she sent out a tendril and dusted one of the vamps mid-step, laughing in delight for the first time in longer than she could remember. She made her way automatically to Willow’s house without thought once she reached the main street, absorbing the feel of the town and the essence of the Hellmouth in a way she never had before. Reaching the house, she listened carefully for who was inside.
“Ahh, she’s alone.” Buffy mused.
She knocked on the door. She heard her friend come down the stairs slowly. Her senses tracked the progress to the door, and she smiled nervously when she assumed that Willow was looking through the peephole. Obviously, she was, because the door swung open and the next thing she knew, her arms were full of her babbling best friend.
Buffy put her hand gently over her mouth to quiet her as she cleared her throat. “Yeah, Willow, it’s really me.” Her voice sounded strange to her ears, and it took her a moment to realize that the strangeness of her vision was because of the tears in her eyes.
Willow hugged her fiercely, almost afraid to let go. She had been so worried about her friend. When Xander had come back and told them that she had vanished into the portal along with Angelus, they had been devastated. They didn’t know of she had survived the trip through the portal and, even if she did, Giles had said that the chances that she would survive whatever hell dimension the portal had sent them to was negligible.
“How?” Willow finally asked.
“Not yet, Willow, please.” Buffy whispered. “Soon, but just, not yet. How long?”
“Almost three months.” Willow answered, taking a good look at her friend. Buffy’s eyes looked so tired that Willow’s heart clenched. She nodded and pulled her into the house. “Have you been home yet?”
“Mom kicked me out right before I went to fight Angelus.” Buffy told her. “She told me not to come back.”
“She didn’t mean it, Buffy.” Willow assured her. “She told me so. She came here looking for you the next day after school, hoping that you were staying with me. She told me what happened, and how she freaked out. She almost collapsed completely when we told her what happened. She’s been helping out, with research and such, and using her connections to get us better weapons and such. She’ll be so glad to see you! And so will Giles and, and Xander!”
At the betrayer’s name, Lillith’s anger flared enough to cause Buffy to growl involuntarily. Willow’s head jerked back, startled, and squeaked in surprise at the amber gaze glaring back at her. Buffy closed her eyes and shook her head and, when she opened them again, they were normal once more. “Buffy?”
“I’m sorry, Willow.” She said. “I’ll explain everything tomorrow, I promise. Now, I just want to get a full night’s sleep while I know it’s safe.”
Willow cocked her head at the odd phrase. Safe? In Sunnydale?
“Sure, Buffy.” Willow finally said. “Tomorrow.” ‘You know that she’s a virgin, yes?’
Buffy heard Lillith in her head. ‘And a fledgling mage with untapped depths of power. She would be a tasty and filling treat.’ “No!”
Buffy nixed the thought immediately. “I understand that we need to feed off of power, but there is more than enough here. We will never use anyone that we love, especially Willow!” ‘Be calm.’
Lillith chuckled. ‘It was just a suggestion.’