Author's Chapter Notes:
Disclaimer: Joss Whedon, ME, WB, Fox are the sole owners of all involved with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. Thanks to Joss he allows us to play in his sandbox. I derive no compensation for these flights of fancy. The story concept is my "creation" as is all dialogue not in any original story script.

They were all dead now. Buried round the globe, their lives reduced to names, dates and a few terse words to sum up the total of what they had been and what they had accomplished.

Only she remained and she knew she was fading quickly.

The dream also remained. The dream that at times drove her mad and at other times saved her sanity.

They were all gone now, those who always believed they knew best, at least where her life was concerned. The ones whose love for her kept love from her until all love had died as well.

There was no one to stop her now, to say it would be wrong.

She looked at the world she had existed in for far too long, sterile and lonely, and decided any other world had to be better. Any world with him in it.

Chapter 1

Buffy wasn’t too sure what to think of this Tara girl who had suddenly become a part of their group. She wasn’t too sure what to think about Willow’s sudden epiphany that she was gay. Epiphany. Big word for a big event. In all the years Buffy had known Willow there had been no hint she was gay. She had crushed on Xander for years and then fallen hard for Oz. Now she was totally convinced that Tara was the love of her life.

Tara was nice enough girl; it wasn’t that. It also wasn’t any anti-gay feeling on Buffy’s part. It was just weird; that was all. Oz had come back only to leave again after being rescued from the Initiative. Willow had clearly chosen her new love, her girlfriend, and the gang was just going to have to accept it.

Well, Buffy could easily slip that little adjustment into the "Egyptian vacation" file and do the deep denial she was so very practiced at. There were more pressing matters with that monster Adam on the loose.

So lost in thought was Buffy that she didn’t see the old woman in her path and nearly collided with her. "Oh, God! I’m so sorry, ma’am! I didn’t see you. Are you all right?"

The old woman smiled at Buffy and let out a chuckle. "Oh, I’m not nearly as fragile as I may look. Still mend quickly, just never the heart. Never the heart."

Buffy was a bit spooked by the words and the woman herself. There was something vaguely familiar about this elderly lady. She looked a bit like Buffy’s great-grandma back in Illinois. Of course that lady had been dead for many, many years and this was no ghost.

"Well, as long as you’re okay," Buffy started to walk around the old woman only to find her elbow caught in the surprisingly strong grip of the woman’s gnarled fingers.

"We need to have a little talk, smug Buffy," the old one said. "I know things you need to know. Important things. Life changing things. They’re no old wives’ tales either." She let out a brittle, unnerving laugh at that and Buffy was seriously in the land of squigdom.

The last thing Buffy wanted was some nut job of a senior citizen adding more weirdness to her life. Aside from the whole Adam mess and regular slayage issues, Buffy was finally trying to build a nice normal life on the side.

Riley was almost the stereotypical, all-American dream boyfriend: solid, strong, smart and best of all, normal. True, he had badly disappointed her by not recognizing it was Faith in her body during the whole body swap thing, but Buffy finally admitted to herself that the whole situation had been beyond anything she should have expected Riley to anticipate. Nice, normal Riley couldn’t be expected to think of bodyjackings. It was amazing enough that he understood the whole idea of demons and vamps and slayers.

Everyone liked Riley. Well, okay, Giles liked the fact Riley was human. He hadn’t been as pleased that Riley had been so close to the late Maggie Walsh. Her Watcher had also commented on the unseemliness of a teacher’s assistant, one who helped grade Buffy’s work, dating a student.

Her mom hadn’t said anything about Riley one way or the other, but Buffy knew that anyone would make her mom happy after Angel. Mom hadn’t actually met Riley yet, but the news that he was human and a nice college boy with a military background boded well for her ready acceptance. Riley dateage was peachy, in a nutshell.

"Yes," Buffy tried to convince herself, "Angel chose to help Faith. It really is over." That hurt so badly. Angel was supposed to be on her side always. They were supposed to BE always, even if they couldn’t be together. He had come into town and decided he didn’t like Riley but told Buffy to leave L.A., even though Faith had taken Buffy’s body and tried to destroy her life! Yes, Riley was a much saner choice.

"If you’re through wool gathering, we need to go somewhere quiet and talk. There are things you must hear before it’s too late, before you miss too much." The old lady was still there, still with her hand on Buffy’s elbow.

Buffy rolled her eyes and decided that the easiest way to get rid of the old bat was to go somewhere safe and public and let her rattle out whatever story she wanted to tell and then move on. Buffy wasn’t Faith; she couldn’t just knock the nursing home escapee to the ground yet she sure wasn’t going anywhere secluded with the nut case either.

"Okay. You’ve got about ten minutes before I need to go meet my friends. Hope you can talk fast. There’s a bench over there by the commons," Buffy offered.

Chapter 2

‘God, Was I really that annoying?! Those eye rolls must have driven everyone to want to smack me a good one!’ The old lady shook her head in amazement. She kept hold of Buffy and headed straight for the bench, moving much faster than she looked capable of doing.

"Wow, those must be some vitamins they give you in the home," Buffy snarked.

"You know all those quips you’re so self satisfied doling out? Not so clever as you think, girl. You’ve a sharp tongue and you leave lash marks on those you claim to love, or secretly love. Not very kind at all," the old lady admonished.

"Do you know me?" Buffy was filled with the certainty that this woman knew her far better than she possibly could. "Are we related or something?"

"Oh, yes," the woman stated firmly, "Very much so. You must promise to hear me out though. I can prove who I am in good time, but the tale is the most important thing, since you are far too busy to hear important life changing information at a leisurely pace. You place far too much importance on pleasing your friends, dear."

"Okay, go on. You have my undivided attention. Tale tell away." Buffy gestured with a flourish of a hand.

"Oh, no. I know you far better than that. I want your real attention, not an attempt to pacify a strange old lady before moving onto more important things." The woman had steel in her green eyes, pinning Buffy in place with her glance.

"Okay, you got me. Please, tell me this important information. I swear that I’ll listen." Buffy found herself oddly intrigued by this woman and eager to hear her story.

"I think I shall tell it as if it were a story. Not a fairy tale, for there is no happily ever after. This story is filled with regret, missed chances, epic love, deep denials and character flaws. There are no real villains in this story, merely misguided individuals and a girl with all the courage in the world except when it came to her heart." The old woman had a faraway look on her face as she began.


"There was a brave and honorable girl who wanted very badly to be loved. She had many disappointments from those who should have been ones she could rely upon. Her parents divorced when she was at a critical juncture in her life. She had just discovered that what was fantasy to most people was to be her reality from then on and that the literal fate of the world rested upon her young shoulders. Needless to say, she was not able to turn to her parents with this information. Their disbelief of the things she had already shared led them to send her to a psychiatrist until she got back to what they saw as reality.

The father ceased to be a father soon after the divorce, disappearing from her life to all intents and purposes. He doesn’t factor in at all, actually. It was as if he ceased to exist. The girl, as most young people in this position do, blamed herself for the divorce and her father’s leaving. She and her mother never really spoke of him with any depth and she didn’t try to explain her frightening world to her mother either.

She met a mysterious older man, a man who looked as if he had stepped out of her dreams, a man who understood her world even better than she did. He gave hints of truth, hints of passion, hints of forever and then, like the wind, he would be gone. He took a place in her heart that no one else could fill; she wouldn’t allow it. He was enshrined there as the perfect love, the incomparable one that all others were compared to, to their detriment. He was flawless in her mind and memory. No evil in him, he was her shining hero, hers always yet never really hers at all.

In time, after heartbreak that rivaled that of Juliet, the man left her as well. The pattern was beginning to set for her. Those she loved and trusted would go, leaving her with pieces of herself scattered at her feet. Another pattern was also begun, one where bad things were done to her in her supposed best interest Somehow even then she knew that wasn’t really the reason. She knew that there were selfish reasons for the abandonments as well. Still she could assign no blame to this man, her first love. She was still but a child really and knew no better.

She had great friends. They suffered at her side, fought battles that they did not have to fight. They had courage and love that was real and true. They had seen the hurt this first love had caused the girl and came to many wrong conclusions based on what they had witnessed. These friends were as family to the girl. She would gladly die for them. As it was, she ended up living for them instead in more ways than one. One should never sacrifice one’s life in this way. It does no favor to anyone.

Where was I? Oh yes, her friends. The girl also had a teacher, a mentor. In truth this man was more of a father to her than her own missing father. She loved him dearly. He too was placed on a pedestal where his superior knowledge was never really questioned. True, she had in the beginning, in the time of the great love, but after that not really ever again. He WAS authority in her mind. She knew his love for her was sincere and his knowledge vast and so she relied on his judgement more than he would ever have suspected, in spite of her outward rebellions.

In time, he left as well, again for her own good. She was at her weakest, the neediest point in her life, pulled from paradise and put in a position of too much responsibility and yet this man decided she needed yet more responsibility on top of it. She was most likely clinically depressed at that stage and still he left. Now she had the weight of the world and all the burdens of an adult, including parenthood, resting on her tired shoulders.

There was one, only one, who understood her. He knew her better than anyone had ever known her. They had been great enemies, at least superficially. There was a fire between them, though, from the first. He made mistakes, as did she. He struggled to be what he once was with no one to guide the way. In fact, he struggled against the hurtful words and low expectations of those he saw as role models. It was an impossible climb even with help and he had to make it alone. But he did, mostly for her.

He watched her as she suffered and strived, admiring her and always finding a way to be there at her side when she most needed him. He saw the good in her, the kindness, even when it was never directed his way.

For a long while, she didn’t really see him. He had several…traits in common with her first great love, traits she decided made him impossible to care for. She held him to a standard that was not possible to meet, not by a human, much less one who was not quite that. Still, he stayed. He accepted any crumb she offered because his love was pure and real. You must understand he really did know her, good and bad, and loved all of her.

She might have realized his worth in time. She was starting to soon after the father figure left her. She was so terribly frightened though. She knew her friends would not accept him in her life. They had their reasons, some valid, to distrust him. You see, just as the girl could see no bad in her first love, her friends could see no good in this man.

What should have been an epic, adult love story between the two became a hurtful, muddled mess of a relationship. She hurt him beyond belief, every nasty word, every blow as damaging as a stake to a vampire. He in turn hurt her in his ignorance. When he realized that he had indeed hurt her, he went to change himself so he could never harm her again.

What he did was the most amazing act ever to have been done by such as he. By any human for that matter. He didn’t even know the extent of what would happen by achieving what he set out to do. For all he knew, it would be the same as suicide. He left her intending to die, in fact or in character, so that she would be safe from any hurt from him.

As with most things that truly mattered to him, he succeeded. This man was capable of amazing depths of love, self-sacrifice, constancy and loyalty. It is so sad that she didn’t see this soon enough. She wanted someone to love her greatly, someone who would never leave her. She had that in him and on some level she knew yet feared it.

He returned to her, but he was not in his right mind for a while. Even though she had missed him while he was gone as if missing a part of herself, she still feared. The fear increased as his madness underlined her ability to be cruel and her friends became even more vocal in their hatred of the man. In time, he regained his mind but never his self-esteem or security in his perceptions where the girl was concerned.

This man--once proud, confident, secure, and determined--was in many ways a shell of himself. She even publicly chastised him for exactly that and told him she wanted him to be as he had been when she had originally rejected him."

Buffy had been listening to the story raptly. On many levels she knew that this old lady was somehow telling her future to her and her past as well. It felt real and true and yet Buffy understandably wanted to run, to reject what she was hearing.

"I have no idea what you are talking about. Look, maybe you know some things about me and Angel, about me and my folks, but all the rest of this is just bull. I really need to meet Willow…you know, one of those friends who’s like family." Buffy stood to leave.

"Buffy, Slayer…in a few days you will all turn against one another. You will have been manipulated, but the seeds were already there. This will be the last act this man will undertake against you. He wouldn’t have done it had you been willing to help, to guide him to the light. I don’t know how long I have. I think it is a short time. After you defeat Adam, after you have your dreams of the First Slayer, maybe then you will be willing to listen to the important parts I have to tell. I’ll be here. I must be here. My life, your life hangs on it."

You must login (register) to review.