An hour later, Buffy was lying on her back in the soft grass growing on top of the shoreline hill she was currently occupying, head propped up on the small rock she’d found, and blankly staring outwards at the ocean crashing against the rocks before the road a hundred feet below. She’d now recovered from her headlong dash earlier, of running for miles through the remote, uninhabited woodland of the Maine forest in a rare opportunity to let out her Slayer spirit in full daylight. For once, there wasn’t any risk of ordinary people around to see and marvel at the small woman sprinting faster than humanly possible, hurdling massive boulders without the slightest strain, and effortlessly leaping over thirty-foot-wide creeks.
Her flight hadn’t been completely heedless, no matter how this might have seemed to Buffy. A rarely-used part of the woman’s mind had instinctively guided her loping body into following an immense half-circle which in the end had led the blonde back to the ocean hills on the other side of where she’d started, with the beach cottage further down in its small cove a few hundred yards on her right. Buffy glanced over to gaze at the place where she’d decided to stay, and her stomach then loudly produced an impolite growl. Apparently whatever emotional upsets in her life were presently happening, a Slayer still had to eat.
Buffy absently shoved her hand into her front pants pocket, and she pulled out her cellphone, eyeing this with some doubt. It would be the simplest thing ever to just call up Willow Rosenberg and ask for a small favor from her friend. The witch probably wouldn’t mind at all doing a little mojo from the Slayer school in Cleveland, finishing with magically sending some Chinese take-out from Buffy’s favorite restaurant to where the Slayer was resting on the Maine hill. However, there were a few little flaws in that plan.
For one thing, using the Red Witch’s matchless might for something so trivial as fast-food delivery was rather like hacking into the National Security Agency’s most powerful supercomputer controlling this intelligence agency’s ultimate secrets which safeguarded America, just so that you could then play Spider Solitaire on it. Besides, Willow had long ago made it very clear to the rest of the rebuilt Council, that contrary to the Disney movie ‘Aladdin’, she wasn’t some kind of supernatural object who only needed to be rubbed and asked for three wishes in order to produce the necessary spells or enchantments necessary to save the day. Any magic of hers, ranging from minor to major castings, came at an actual cost to the Wiccan, and it was solely her decision on how she’d use her powers to assist any Council member.
And yes, that definitely
included the time a while back when a drunken Faith visiting Cleveland and obviously having a helluva good time somewhere else in the city had called up Willow at two in the morning. The brunette Slayer boozily ordered from the barely-awake witch the following: three dozen meat-lover’s pizzas, extra cheese, and “--make ‘em all pipin’ hot, ‘cause the fun’s just startin’ here!”
Afterwards, Willow absolutely refused to confess exactly what she’d then done with her magic before going back to sleep. Not even to a curious Xander, when the one-eyed Sunnydale survivor confronted her over that subject in the Joyce Summers Foundation cafeteria the next day. Staring after the witch giggling to herself while she strolled away from the confused man, Xander had glanced around the busy room filled with Slayers, Watchers, and other staff members at their meals. He’d then spotted Faith seated alone at one of the tables and picking at her lunch salad. Walking over to join this sour-faced woman, Xander noticed that the Slayer was leaning forward on her chair, perched at the edge of the seat as if it was too uncomfortable for Faith to otherwise sit down.
The instant Xander stopped at her side, Faith glared at him. Just as the man was opening his mouth to ask just what the hell had happened last night, he was interrupted by a very irked feminine growl, “Shut it, boytoy. It’s bad enough that I learned to never do that again, what with yer kiddiegarten pal havin’ one wicked sense of humor, even after bein’ yanked outta dreamtime. Party ended right then an’ there when Red sent over just what I asked for, includin’ the meat-lover part!”
Pausing in her grumpy tirade to wincingly rub her aching rear with its several bandaged punctures under her jeans which were proving to be remarkably resistant to Slayer healing, Faith then glumly confided to a gaping Xander, “First time I ever seen pizza with fangs.”
In her spot atop the Maine hill while staring out to sea, Buffy’s lips idly twitched at remembering the whole hilarious story told to her much later by Xander. However, the blonde was seriously considering calling up Willow anyway, since this hungry woman was confident that the witch wouldn’t do anything like that to Buffy. During everything since Sunnydale, even with the occasional rocky patches in their relationship, there was still a firm, deep friendship between the two women.
Which lead directly to Buffy’s sudden changing her mind over contacting the Wiccan now despite being on good terms with her. Willow would normally be quite willing to magically send over an appetizing meal for Buffy as a favor between comrades, but this redhead would also reasonably want to know why she was doing this in the first place. “Isn’t there somewhere to eat nearby? Come to think of it, where are you and Xan, anyway? Why isn’t he asking for his own munchies? Let me talk to him, Buffy…”
All delivered at full Willow-babble, naturally. Buffy really didn’t want to get into the whole discussion right now with the Sunnydale native about herself and Brandon and his fatal illness. Plus, how she was staying without Xander at the cott--
The approaching sound of a car engine was then heard by Buffy, providing a welcome distraction from her depressed mood. Turning her head to stare down the road to the cottage which twistingly led back into the hills surrounding this small house, Buffy’s first startled thought was that for some reason of his own, Xander had turned back and was returning in their rental car. Standing up to peer at the winding road below her hilltop location, Buffy waited until a car appeared from around the far bend.
Her sudden hopes of an unexpected reunion with her fiancé (who’d still better have a good
reason for this) were promptly dashed at seeing this was an entirely different and unfamiliar vehicle from what Xander had been driving today. Now passing over the gravel road a hundred feet below herself was a battered, blue pickup truck that a puzzled Buffy continued to watch until this car came to stop in front of the beach cottage. The sightlines from her position kept the Slayer from seeing exactly who the driver was, until this person opened their car door and gingerly got out of their beat-up automobile, to next walk towards the house.
Despite being several hundred yards away and further up, the Slayer’s superhuman vision allowed Buffy to recognize this man right away, as the deadpan old guy by his farm mailbox who’d solemnly pulled her leg during their brief encounter just a short while ago. However, at this point, that oldster was clearly in a much happier mood, smiling at Brandon shuffling out through the front door onto the cottage porch. This skeletal man had his own pleased expression on his wasted features, holding out his arms in a welcoming hug….
While a boggled Buffy continued to watch the two men embrace each other on the porch, her emotions were in a complete jumble at this new mystery. *Who the hell is that guy, and why’s he hugging Brandon? Is he some kind of family? A relative your husband never told you about?* Shaking her head in absolute bafflement, the young woman on the hilltop then wondered what exactly to do next, as she observed the pair below disappear from sight into the beach cottage.
Buffy eyed the steep slope of the hill before herself, estimated she could tackle it without the slightest problem. A few downward bounds, and she’d be at the bottom, not a hair out of place, and then a quick jog on the gravel road to the house-- And then what? Burst into the cottage and interrupt the old guy’s visit with Brandon? Why? It all looked perfectly innocent, but Buffy shuddered at the very thought of being caught acting even more rudely than she’d unfortunately managed before, invading Brandon’s privacy.
Sitting back down on the ground, a glum Buffy sighed out loud, until a spur-of-the-moment idea suddenly appeared in her mind. She’d wait for the old guy to leave, however long it took. Then, there’d be a quick sprint over the hilltops, getting ahead of this man’s car in time to run or jump down the slopes to the road, all without being seen. After that, it’d be only natural for Buffy to wave down the oncoming vehicle during her returning stroll in the middle of the road, and have a casual chat with the stopped driver, what with her staying here and wanting to meet with the neighbors. A nice friendly talk between the two of them, while slipping in a few prying questions during this, would do a good job of figuring out the whole situation. Best of all, this would avoid upsetting Brandon any further.
Satisfied with her hasty plan, Buffy leaned back to lie down on the ground, beginning to doze off in an alpha predator’s light sleep which would immediately end when she heard through her slumber the sound of the departing pickup truck. The Slayer also firmly told her grumbling stomach, which was demanding some kind of nourishment at once, to shut the hell up.
“Oh, Brandon,” muttered Ed to himself in a very morose voice while he absently took the familiar road on his way home. “Son, I just wish you’d told me-- Jesus Kayrist!
The elderly man’s right foot hastily stomped on the brake pedal, causing pieces of gravel from the road to fly far and wide as the pickup truck slid to a stop in front of a wide-eyed woman making her own quick sideways leap to safety. His heart hammering like fury, the farmer still clutching the steering wheel frantically peered through the windshield to see if he’d managed to avoid colliding with the young lady that had been standing right in the middle of the road just a second ago.
Buffy wasn’t feeling all too composed herself. She’d cut it a bit fine, even with her Slayer speed, waiting too close past the road curve and not sufficiently considering the approaching car might have a driver both preoccupied with what he’d just learned, and also having his reflexes slowed by age. Coughing at the dust cloud blowing into her face which had been kicked up by the car’s sudden stop, Buffy then leaned forward to rub at her shins. These had been painfully struck by several pebbles thrown up by the car’s skidding wheels. A moment later, she lifted her head at hearing a man’s worried voice that ended in a very familiar and irritating tone of sheer incredulity.