Gift From The Past
Buffy’s mind wanders back over the last three days as she dodges puddles scattering the road. She pauses and looks up at the still dark sky. She lets out a loud sigh and moves down the street.
Riley paces back and forth as the others sit watching.
Riley: Maybe she got lost. I can drive over and pick her up.
Willow: She will be here. Just relax.
Xander: I’m with Riley. She said 30 minutes and it has been…..
He stares at the kitchen clock.
Anya: Thirty-five minutes.
Riley: See she is late.
They all turn as the door opens.
Willow and Xander reach her first and encapsulate her in their arms. Her eyes look past her dearest friends and into her Giles’ tender gaze. They release her and she moves into her mentor’s embrace.
Giles: Welcome home.
Buffy: Thank you.
She steps back and is confronted by a stiff Anya. They hug awkwardly and release.
Willow: Are you okay?
Buffy: Just peachy.
Xander: Where were you? I mean when were you?
Buffy looks at Giles standing beside her pleadingly.
Giles: Why don’t we save all the questions until later. Can I get you something to eat? Or some tea?
Buffy: Tea would be nice.
He moves to the kitchen and she notices Riley for the first time.
Riley moves closer and slips his arms around her small frame. She closes her eyes as tears threaten. He lets her go and tilts her face up with his hand.
Riley: Were you hurt?
Buffy: No. I’m okay.
She moves over to the counter and looks into the kitchen.
Giles: Yes, Buffy?
Buffy: Is there anything I need to know?
Giles: It was Ethan. Appears he was hired to get you out of the way to keep you from interfering in a mating ritual..
Buffy: So is it too late?
Giles: No. Riley sent his men over there tonight and it is taken care of.
He hands her a cup of hot tea. She sips it slowly as Giles watches.
Willow: I am sorry it took us so long to rescue you. I can not imagine how scared you had to be. It had to be awful.
Buffy looks down at the tea and sets it on the counter. She buttons her coat.
Buffy: I better do a patrol. It ‘s been three days.
She moves quickly out the door as the others watch. Riley moves after her.
Willow: She looks okay. Doesn’t she?
Xander: No Will, she doesn’t.
Anya: I agree. She needs to tell us what happened. We are her friends. We must help her.
Giles: She is not ready. When she is, we will all be here.
Willow: And if we push…..
Xander: I guess this is like when the master killed her.
Giles: Exactly. We just need to give her time and space.
Tara: B..but R..ri..llley.
Giles: I know.
He reaches out and grabs her arm stopping her.
Riley: What are you doing?
Buffy: Patrolling. What does it look like?
Riley: Buffy, you need to stop and talk to me. You need to tell me what happened. Where you were.
Buffy: Riley, I don’t want to talk about it. I just want to patrol.
Riley: You can’t wish it away.
Buffy: Who said I am? I am just trying to do my job.
She turns and walks on. He moves beside her and silently joins the hunt.
Two weeks later.
Willow: Date with Riley?
Buffy: I guess.
Willow: Where are you going?
Buffy: Not sure. He said dress casual.
Hearing a knock, Willow moves to answer it.
Willow: Hi, Riley.
Riley: Hello Willow. Buffy.
Buffy: So you want to tell me where we are going?
Riley: It’s a surprise.
He holds out his hand and she takes it and follows him out of the room.
Willow: I won’t wait up.
Riley leads her down the stairs and to his car. He opens her door and once she is seated he climbs in and drives off. She stares out the window as the sunny countryside flashes by.
Riley: You okay?
He glances over at her once more as he pulls up onto the small bluff over looking the ocean. She climbs out and looks over the Pacific.
Buffy: This is nice.
She turns to watch him spread a large blanket out.
Riley: You want to sit?
She smiles and drops onto the colorful cloth. He walks from the car and sets down a large basket. She quickly looks back over the ocean.
Riley: I know you are not a drinker, so I got sparkly grape juice. I hope that is okay.
Buffy nods as she continues to watch the rolling surf.
Riley: I got chicken and potato salad. I wanted to get strawberries but it is not the right time of year. We will have to settle for apples.
Buffy stands up and walks to the edge of the bluff. Riley walks up behind her and places his hand on her shoulder.
Riley: What are you thinking about?
Buffy: Nothing really. I was just wondering if the ocean looks the same everywhere.
Riley: Probably does. Now why don’t we sit and eat.
She nods and follows him back to the blanket.
Riley: I don’t know what more I can do. She just seems closed off. She says all the right things and smiles at all the right times but she just seems like…..
Xander: She’s just going through the motions?
Giles: We just have to be patient. She will talk to us when she is ready.
Xander: Well at least she didn’t run away this time.
Riley: Run away? When did she runaway?
Willow: Not important.
Xander: Couple of years ago. After she had to kill..
Willow (interrupts): A demon to stop a portal to hell from opening.
Riley: And she ran away.
Willow: For a couple months. But she came back.
Giles: Where is she now?
Riley: Patrolling. As soon as we got back from the picnic, she said she was going……….alone.
Willow: Don’t t take it personally. It is not just you she is shutting out.
Riley: I know, but I thought we were getting so close.
Willow: And you will again. Just give her time to deal with her issues. Whatever they are.
She looks around and they all nod.
Three more weeks later
Willow watches as Buffy lies on her bed doing homework.
Willow: Wanna go get sugared up on mochas.
Buffy: No thanks.
Willow: Come on. It will be fun. You. Me. Mochas. Warm sweet and full of caffeine.
Buffy: If you want to go, I will go with you. I just am trying to cut out the caffeine.
Willow: You and no caffeine? Is there an apocalypse you forgot to tell me about?
Buffy: No. Just trying to be more healthy.
She climbs off the bed.
Buffy: Let’s go.
They walk out and Buffy smiles.
Buffy: Willow, I missed you.
Buffy: When I was gone. I missed you. I missed all of you.
Willow: Oh. You want to talk about it?
Buffy: No. I just wanted you to know I missed you.
One more week later
Xander: It has been six weeks and she still has not talked.
Willow: She is better. She and Riley are going out patrolling together again. She told me she is even glad he is with her.
Giles: Well, I am still concerned but I agree she seems to be improving.
Xander: But eventually she will have to face it.
Giles: And she will and when she does we will have to be ready.
Willow: Well I will keep watching. I just keep waiting for the damn to break.
Xander: I just hope it is not in the middle of a fight to the death.
Willow: She will be okay.
Two days later
Buffy climbs slowly out of bed and slips on her robe and slippers before quietly leaving the room. As the catch clicks in place, Willow opens one eye and glares at the clock. She closes her eyes and rolls over trying to retrieve that last half hour of precious sleep. She relaxes but her mind is besieged by thoughts of papers and lectures. She sighs and rolls back over begging her brain to stop.
After long minutes of trying to push away thoughts of school, Willow begins to relax and succumb to the gentle lull of her pillow. Her slumber is soon denied as her eyes open and she again looks at the offensive clock. Only five more minutes before it blares its trumpet of time. She glances across the room and takes in the empty bed. Feelings of concern mask her face as she gets up and puts on her fuzzy robe and even fuzzier slippers.
As she tightens the belt around her middle she steps out into the hall. Her quiet footsteps move down the hall and into the bathroom. She glances around at the empty space.
She looks around and then glances under the one closed stall door. The familiar pink pig faces stare back at her. She lightly taps.
Willow: Buffy? Are you okay? Are you sick? Buffy?
She hears the latch release and the door gaps open. She looks in at her friend. Her robe is cluthed tight around her small form. Her knuckles are white as her small hand grips a small paper bag.
Willow: Buffy? Are you okay?
Buffy looks up into her face and slowly stands. She hands her the paper bag and moves toward the mirrors. As Buffy stares at her reflection, Willow opens the bag and pulls out the crushed box inside. She slowly recognizes the name, “Early Answer”. She looks up to watch Buffy wipe the silent tears from her eyes with the cuff of her robe.
Willow: Are you?
Buffy nods, turns, and walks back to their room. Willow trails behind slowly. She enters the room to see Buffy curled up on her bed.
Willow: Buffy? I know you have to be scared. I know I am.
Buffy: I’m not scared.
Willow sits on the bed beside her.
Willow: Well that is good.
They sit in a temporary silence of reflection.
Willow: Does Riley know?
Willow: Have you told Riley?
Buffy: It’s not his. I’ve never slept with him.
Willow thinks back to Parker but quickly realizes it was too long ago.
Buffy: Guess I got quite a little birthday present this year.
Willow: What? Your birthday? Oh lord, when you were gone. Oh dear. You never….
Buffy: I know. It was too personal. I wanted to keep that wonderful dream to myself.
Willow: Wonderful? You were happy? Buffy, where were you?
She nods as tears spring forth again.
Willow: Oh my lord, when?
Willow: 1750? 1750 Galway?
Recognition spreads over her concerned face.
Willow: Angel? You were with Angel?
Buffy: No, I was with Liam. He was Liam.
Silence again descends upon the room. Buffy pulls her robe tighter. Willow touches her arm in comfort.
Willow: Buffy, you are only nineteen. Do you, well do you want it?
She sits up quickly.
Buffy: What are you saying? Of course I want it. I didn’t plan it but I want it.
Willow: And Angel? When are you going to tell him?
Buffy stands up and begins moving around the small space.
Buffy: Tell him? I can’t tell him. He is no longer in my life. That was his decision. Not mine.
Willow: Buffy, you have to tell him. He has a right. And how could you deny him the chance?
Buffy: Willow, what am I suppose to do? Go up to him and say, hey by the way, I screwed your former self and now I’m having his, uh your, kid.
Willow: Maybe find a better word than screw and yes you have to tell him. Do you think he might not remember it?
Buffy: I think if he remembered me from 1750, he would have said something before now. I was just probably one of many.
Willow: You know you are more than that to Angel.
Buffy: I was at one time but I don’t know anymore. Heck you have seen more of him since he left than I have.
Willow: I will go with you. I will be right there beside you the whole time.
Buffy: You would do that?
Willow: You know I will. You go get a shower and I will call Xander. He can drive us to LA.
Buffy: What? You mean now? Today?
Willow: Yes. You need to do it now. Now go get washed and dressed.
Buffy looks petrified but nods. She gathers her towel and soap and heads out. Willow watches her leave before reaching for the phone.
Xander follows Buffy’s directions and turns the corner. He eases over to the curb and shuts off the car.
Xander: So is anyone going to tell me where we are and exactly why we had to come to LA.
Willow: Buffy needs to talk to Angel.
Xander: What? I should have known.
Willow: Xander please behave. I told you this was very important.
Xander: I know but when do I get the rest.
Willow: After we see Angel. We need to talk to him first.
Buffy opens the car door and shoulders her purse slowly before moving to cross the city street. Willow and Xander follow closely behind her. They mount the wide steps. Buffy pauses and Willow takes her hand and pushes open they door. The trio enter the entry hall and Buffy turns to the stenciled door.
Xander: Angel Investigations. He even put his name on the door, like a real business and everything.
Buffy: It is a real business.
Willow nods at the doorknob and Buffy reaches out and slowly turns it. She steps into the office. Her eyes take in the late morning sun flowing through the front window before looking at Cordelia sitting at the desk.
Cordelia: Uh Buffy and uh Willow. Hi. Oh and Xander. What brings you here? I mean not that I am not glad, well actually I’m not. Why are you here?
Buffy: Hello to you too Cordelia. Where’s Angel?
Cordelia: Angel? Are you here to get him all stirred up again because I really can’t let you do that again. I just got him to stop………..
Willow: Cordelia, is he here?
Cordelia: I’m not sure. Why?
Buffy: Cordelia, you know I know he is here.
Willow: You feel him?
Buffy: As usual.
Willow: Cordelia, we really don’t have time to play here. We came to talk to Angel about something very important and we would like to know where he is.
Buffy moves toward the elevator.
Buffy: Is he downstairs?
Cordelia: Yes, I will go get him, if you will just sit down.
Willow: Why don’t you keep Xander company and we can find our way down.
Buffy steps into the open elevator, followed by Willow. Buffy closes the gate and takes a deep breath before hitting the button. They slowly slip from view as Cordelia stands with her hands planted on her hips. She turns and attacks Xander.
Cordelia: Would you like to tell me what is going on?
Xander holds his hands up in defense and is actually glad for a moment that he has no idea.
Angel struggles to concentrate on the normally relaxing Tai Chi movements. He pauses midstream as the sounds of the approaching elevator is heard. As it comes to a thumping stop, he turns and looks over. The gate opens and he shallows hard and blinks as the two young women step off the car.
Angel: Buffy? Willow?
Willow: Hello Angel.
He sweeps his shirt off the back of the chair and slips it on.
Angel: Uh, is something wrong?
Willow: We need to talk to you. It’s kind of important.
He stands buttoning his shirt as Buffy and Willow move farther into the room. Buffy glances around his apartment. Her eyes take in the weapons displayed on one wall and the artwork on another. She smiles at the varied taste of her former lover.
Angel: Have a seat. I, uh, well all I can offer you is tea, or I can go upstairs and get……….nevermind.
Willow: I am fine. Buffy?
Buffy: Me too.
They each sit down and an uncomfortable silence invades every pore of the room. Angel watches as Buffy stares at the walls as if trying to memorize each brick.
Willow: I am sorry, to just drop by like this but this couldn’t wait.
Angel: That is okay. If you drove all the way here, it must be important.
Buffy turns back and looks as Angel’s expectant face. She forces a smile. Angel cocks his brow and she begins to relax at the familiar gesture.
Willow: Deep breath.
Buffy draws in deeply and exhales. She reaches for her large purse and opens it. She extracts the leather tome.
She hands him the book and he glances at the cover.
Angel: Thomas Parnell?
Buffy: Look at the first page.
He opens the front cover and stares at the name inscribed. He runs his fingers over the inked letters. He looks back at Buffy.
Buffy: It’s yours.
Angel: I know. Where did you get this?
Buffy: You gave it to me.
Angel looks at her confused. He slowly begins flipping through the page.
Angel: I never gave you this.
Buffy: Yes you did.
He pauses and removes the sketch wedged between the pages. He leans back as he stares at the image. His hands begin to shake.
Angel looks over at her with tears in his eyes.
Buffy: I’m sorry.
Buffy puts her hand over her mouth. Tears flow down her cheeks.
Angel: But how?
Willow: Ethan Rayne did a spell and sent her back in time.
Willow: Do you remember?
Buffy: So you? Why? How?
Willow: I think she….
Angel: I know what she is asking. I remember Anne.
Angel: I remember her, well you. I remember those three days. How could I forget how you made me feel? I had never felt like that before. When you left I wanted to forget. You left, not a word. All I had was your dress and no answers.
Angel: Buffy I never forgot how Anne made me feel. But over time parts of the memory faded. Until today I couldn’t even tell you the color of her eyes.
Willow: So when you first saw Buffy, you didn’t recognize her?
Angel: No. Not consciously I guess.
Willow: Could it have been why you were drawn to her at first.
Willow: Did you love her?
Angel: It’s okay. Did I love Anne? Yes, I loved her.
Buffy: You did?
Angel: Yes. I can still remember how I felt that morning. I came to the inn ready to take you away.
Angel: Leave Galway. Start new somewhere else………Together.
Buffy starts sobbing and Angel kneels in front of her and pulls her into his arms. She buries her face in his shoulder.
Angel: Shhh Buffy, it is okay. I never hated you.
She looks up at him and he brushes the tears away with his thumb.
Buffy looks over at her friend and pulls back from Angel’s embrace.
Buffy: Angel, there is more.