Chapter 1: Homecoming
Disclaimer: As you probably already know these characters and concepts don't belong to me, I'm just borrowing them for a while (without permission) and I promise to put them back where I found them once I'm done playing with them... oh, yes, and I'm not making any money out of this.
Summary: AU set in season 3. Buffy returns to Sunnydale but some things have changed since she ran away.
AU roadmap: Okay let's see, seasons one and two basically happened according to canon so I guess all you really need to know is that this story begins during Buffy's party in "Dead Man's Party" but there are no zombies here, just a bunch of loud kids and Giles was merely delayed in traffic. There are some things that will differ slightly from canon before that but those will be explained later. Anything that took place after that may or may not happen in this universe so canon after that should *NOT* be taken for granted and even those events that do happen may deviate slightly from the official timeline.
POV will be primarily Giles's though it may switch to Buffy's (or maybe even other characters') in those scenes in which Giles is not there.
Warning: Chances are you are *NOT* going to like this. Parts of this fic are going to be disturbing to say the least and those bits are not going to be swept under the rug. If you want Buffy to always land on her feet no matter what, look elsewhere (and *NO*, that doesn't necessarily mean that this fic will have an unhappy ending, just that things may get fairly rough at times). This story is rated as PG-13 because it's not descriptive enough to warrant a higher rating but subject-wise some parts of it may actually come close to R.
Now on to the story.
Friends & Foes
Chapter 1: Homecoming
I was delayed getting here. Sometimes I wonder how a town this small can possibly have such an uncontrollable traffic problem but then again, with people driving whenever they have to go to the convenience store that is located less than half a block away, maybe I shouldn't be so surprised by it. It's like some of these people have entirely forgotten that they actually have legs.
As soon as I walk into Buffy's house I know there's a problem. The party is in full swing, totally out of control and an unmitigated disaster as far as I can tell. I knew it was a bad idea, this was not what Buffy needed. What she needed was a chance to get her bearings, to get reacquainted with those closest to her, to be made feel welcome by those she cares about. I search the room, looking for her but she's nowhere to be found, that doesn't bode well. I look for Willow and then for Joyce but I can't find them either. I spot Xander and Cordelia, oblivious as usual to everything that is going on around them and Oz is playing with his band. I wonder whether I should go upstairs but before I can make up my mind I see Buffy storming down the stairs with Willow and Joyce hot on her heels. They are obviously arguing over something and I know it's going to be bad when I hear Joyce say "don't you leave this house, young lady!"
It was loud enough to cause Xander and Cordelia to let go of each other and I cringe for Buffy's sake. This is not the time or place for this but I can see that Joyce is beyond caring as she grabs her by the elbow and screams "that's it! You and I are going to have a talk."
All eyes turn to them and there's nothing I can do as Buffy all but begs her mother to stop. Joyce simply doesn't care and she tells her that much, it's like she can't even see her despair. All her worry, all the fear she's endured during the summer comes pouring out of her, directed at her daughter... and Buffy's friends seem to be ready to join the fray.
I am shocked to learn that Joyce actually kicked Buffy out of the house. I knew they had fought, I knew that learning Buffy's secret had been difficult for her mother but she never told me the awful words she had hurled at her own daughter.
I look around, worried now not just for Buffy's well being but also because of what may be said in anger. There are secrets in this room, secrets that must be protected. A part of me is relieved to see most of the 'guests' retreat as fast as they can and I hope it will be fast enough. I see Buffy too is aware of their presence and she is mortified by it, though for an entirely different reason. She challenges one boy who is standing by the dip and that causes the others to clear out even faster... then my eyes land on an older woman I have never seen before. She's staying put and I know right away she's a friend of Joyce's. That's not good, she shouldn't be here for this but there's nothing I can do about it. This is not my house and my hands are tied.
I'm relieved to see that all the kids are gone but my relief is short lived as I hear Xander launch the first volley, accusing Buffy of being selfish. I understand where he's coming from --I too was hurt by her disappearance, I won't deny that-- but I know her well enough to realize that she must have had her reasons, to know that I owe her at least a chance to let her explain. I can see she's not going to get it, not now.
She tries to get them to back down but they are not listening. Her so-called-friends are going on and on about how much they needed her and how she wasn't there for them, how she let them all down after she was forced to kill the demon that wore the face of the man she loved. I am sickened when Cordelia mockingly describes what she perceives to be Buffy's life and Willow, the one I had hoped would have understood, is as unforgiving as the rest of them.
They haven't registered my presence yet, not really, they are all too wrapped up in their own rage and I know there's nothing I can say without making it worse so I just take my place behind Buffy and I rest my hand on her shoulder, giving her my silent support, letting her know she's not alone. That seems to calm her down, at least a little, and I'm relieved by that, seeing how she was on the verge of losing control, of reacting physically to Xander's stupid provocation. I may have gotten her to step back from the brink but that won't help unless I can get *THEM* to stop. One look at their faces tells me that it is hopeless and I know things are bound to get worse before they get better.
I glare at Joyce's friend who is still here, gawking at the scene in morbid fascination. I wish she would just take the hint and leave. This is not the place for her but I realize almost immediately that she is not going anywhere. I know the type, a busybody who gets off on other people's misery. I can see the glee in her eyes. As far as she's concerned this is entertainment.
The room falls silent for a moment but I can still feel the tension continuing to mount and I know something is about to give. It's like we are in the eye of the storm and I suddenly have the sinking feeling that, what ever it is that is coming, I'm *REALLY* not going to like it.
Before I know it Joyce is back on the offensive. I too am shocked by the knowledge that Buffy was about to run again, but I wonder what could possibly have happened in these past few hours to make her feel so unwelcome that she feels she can't stay here. I can see that we are looking at an incomplete picture, there's something we are still missing... something that just doesn't add up. It's not just that they are making Buffy feel unwelcome, though they are doing a wonderful job at that, it goes deeper than that.
It's taken me a very long time but by now I know Buffy well enough to see past her front and her defensive deceptions. She may be fooling them with her anger but she's not fooling me. She's more afraid than anything else right now and I can tell she is hiding something. I can feel her anguish rolling off of her in waves and I steel myself for the blow I know is coming. Whatever it is that's causing her this pain, it goes beyond her mother and her friends. I know she won't be able to hold on for much longer... in fact I'm surprised she's made it this far... and yet they keep adding fuel to the fire with their accusations and their demands, not caring about the damage they are doing with their words. I almost laugh out loud when I hear Joyce selfishly accuse her daughter of being selfish. My sympathy for the woman is diminishing rapidly now. For months we've worked together trying to find Buffy, trying to get her to come home. All this time she kept from me the secret of what she'd said, she blamed me when she was just as guilty and now... now she is pushing her away again.
And then it happens. Buffy snaps, doing the only thing she can to make them stop, shocking them all into silence with the words I *HADN'T* wanted to hear but had been dreading nonetheless... words that still reverberate in the sudden quiet that follows in their wake:
"No, you just expect me to come home and go back to being your sweet little girl, the one who doesn't know what it's like to have to spread her legs for a twenty, and I can't do it! I don't know how to *BE* her any more!"