Title: More Than Long Enough
Rating: General Audience; nothing scary here!
Word Count: 941 -- just a drabble, but it may well have taken on a life of its own...
Author's Note: Takes place Post NFA, so, AU. I would like to extend a big thanks to the mods, and to all those great fic writers who inspire me so! And as usual, I own nothing. I have nothing. Please don't sue!!!
The knock on the door came, as they had been expecting, in the middle of the night. Not that any of the members of the apartment were surprised by knocks on the door in the middle of the night, but this was one they had been predicting would come for months now. The only surprising part was that it had taken as long as it had.
It had only made sense when they moved in that Buffy take the room that was closest to the door: who knew when she would need to be out in less time then it took to pull on a pair of boots? And now that Dawn was actually going to school on a regular basis, (none of them had expected it, but the International School had been the best thing for her: in a class with kids from at least thirty different countries, most of whom had seen some kind of war in their home towns, Dawn fit in. A freak still, maybe, but a freak among other people who knew what it was like to have to fight for your life on a daily basis. And in that multi-cultural classroom, who cared if her other languages were Latin, Ancient Sumerian and -- a leftover from that one horrible summer -- Fyarl) she needed regular sleep, on non-Slaying nights, anyway. So of course Buffy was the one to get up when the tentative tap sounded, around 3 am.
He didn’t know what he had been expecting to find on the other side of the door. He’d thought about it, over and over again, but the daydream always veered quickly into one of two things: she beat him soundly about the head for not having told her he was alive, for doubting her last words to him and for, well, everything he’d promised her that last night and had never delivered on, or she grabbed him and kissed him and pulled him into her bedroom and never never never asked why he didn’t need to be invited in. He hadn’t thought he’d ever get to find out what would really happen, though, not after he and Angel had played at Hardy Boys and he’d seen her dancing again, happy. Like the first time he saw her dancing and happy, and so he’d made it in his mind that he would let that be his defining image of her – a bright blonde thing, lost in the music, strong and beautiful. Somewhat poetic, book-ending her like that, and he’d chewed it over and over again (not brooding, definitely not) and felt at peace with it. But standing here, now, knowing that after all this, after pulling himself out of that alley and hiding since all the fiends of hell were after him, after watching Illyria go down, watching Gunn literally pulled apart and seeing Angel take that damn dragon out with him, he couldn’t even imagine what the next few moments would hold.
It was fair to say though, that the sight of her standing there in a pair of blue plaid cotton pants and matching tank top, holding the door open for him with no look of surprise in her eyes and welcoming him with a soft “It took you long enough”, threw him for a bloody loop.
He followed her into the living room, more than slightly dazed. She turned to face him as he shut the door, hands on her hips and there was the expression that he had seen in the dream where she hit him and then he knew where he was. But again, she threw him off, her words sharp, their meaning anything but.
“How long has it been since you’ve slept? Eaten?” Her eyes took in the hollows of his cheeks, the way his clothes hung on his body and the red rawness of his eyes. He couldn’t have eaten in at least a day, she knew, because with the flight from L.A. and the daylight factor and since he’d have been flying into sunlight how could he have found a butcher? How would he even know where one was? She knew, she’d tracked the nearest ones that had pig’s blood available (and wow had that been a fun conversation to try in beginner’s Italian!), she just didn’t think they were open at three am.
He just shook his head and sank into the easy chair.
“They’ve all gone” he whispered, cradling his head in his hands. “They’ve gone and I should’ve gone too – why didn’t I go?”, and he looked up at her, tears shining in his eyes. “Why didn’t I stay gone?”
She knelt beside him, meaning to give him some comfort, but what was there for her to say? She hadn’t known any of them except for Wesley and Angel. She’d been sorry to hear of Wesley’s death, of course, and Angel – well, if she didn’t know how to mourn for him after all this time, she hadn’t been the angst queen like she thought.
“But you weren’t meant to stay gone. You’re like me now, you know? Died twice, and come back to fight another day. You and me, and Angel too, wherever he is, who else do you know who’s died as many times as us? He just always was ahead of the game, he’s had more practice.”
Her voice was thick with tears, shaky and rough, but the warm hand on his back was rubbing in a strong circle and as she reached her arms around him, giving him respite, he felt the weight fall from his shoulders and as he wept, she held him.