Mary stared down at her ticket for a minute as she sat down in the airport lounge. It was filled with seedy individuals like the man who had his wife and three kids, but was dressed like he had walked out of a bad eighties movie. He was most definitely not getting a view of her back anytime soon. The neon lights showed her dark rimmed eyes swelling up with tears as she realized that this was it, and she was really going this time.
Mary's father had known for a while she had a problem with an addiction. What kind of addiction was the thing he did not know. What he did know about was phone calls from teachers about slipping grades and missed classes. Booze was the easiest explanation. Convenient. Easy to fake. How does one explain to their father that they're doing witchcraft, and that it should be killing you? she thought morosely. That last spell. She shuddered and shook her head. The thought of the contorted body of the last monster that had appeared out of no where, and stabbed her before running away, made her her heart beat drop. She swallowed down the bile rising in her throat.
This would not have been a problem if she had just come out of the closet like she had planned to in high school. She had simply turned to the dark arts to get her mind off of anything, everything. The irony was not lost on her. Practicing witchcraft to forget about her attraction to girls. Sins piled on top of sins. The girls doing it were friendly and didn't ask questions. She smiled with irony of him throwing her back into basketball after he found out she had problems. Then again it wouldn't be any worse if I decided to tell him some of the things that we really did after practice during basketball. She gave herself a mental kick in the shin, That's not giving him credit and that was there before all this, he loves me even though I do all this stupid shit. However, what her father did not know would not kill him, or the rest of the Camden clan. She had a bitter taste in her mouth from all the vomiting she had done that morning. Her hair had smelled like it, and she was trying to repress the urge to go into the bathroom and start again.
"Flight 181, All sections prepare for boarding." She sighed through her full lips and walked her way up to the terminal. As she settled into her seat she tried to relax into the comfy chair. At least she could hope for sleep on this flight. It would be a welcome relief from the nightmares of white light, dark boxes, and a red haired witch whose eyes were black.
"Stop jiggling it!" Tara cried in desperation. Tara looked at Willow reprovingly as she proceeded to turn the heat too high under the stubborn eggs, which refused to cook at any acceptable rate. Willow gave her an ear to ear grin as she flipped the eggs over the extremely hot frying pan.
"If you would just give it to me to do it would-!" Tara's sentence was cut off by a heated kiss that broke her train of thought. All she could see was red hair and smooth skin. The only taste she knew was strawberry and a hint of cinnamon. Her hands found themselves all over Willow, in her hair, on her breasts, tracing the line of her jaw. In fact, she wasn't even sure if there had been a train at all, maybe it had been a boat, or one of those air floaty things... what were they called again?
The smell of burnt eggs permeated the kitchen at the Summer's home. The two feverishly making out women jumped apart as Buffy walked into the room. Buffy's nose crinkled at the smoke. She had come walking down the hall ready to go to work dressed in her best Double Meat uniform.
"Did you guys burn-?"
"The eggs were being difficult, refusing to cook" Willow said much to the amusement of Tara, whose immediate thought went to 'sassy eggs', "and we were trying to fix them and then they kind of burnt." The girls shared a smile, which was not lost on the Slayer.
Buffy walked out of her house after grabbing a Nutrigrain bar, and sending Dawn off to school, with a kind of wry smile on her face. I want what they have; she mused, thinking of her best friend and her girlfriend. It wasn't just the sex she wanted, because she had that with Spike. She wanted the closeness. The cuddling, the loving looks, looking at the sunset, and egg jokes. She sighed a gusty sigh as she got into work. Maybe after this double shift she could finally get some sleep. Maybe tonight there would be no nightmares about addiction, arcane forces taking over her life, or of being sent somewhere where she had no friends and just some elder relatives. maybe tonight would be a night when she could visit her made up family. It was always the same one older brother, two younger sisters and three younger brothers. The dream parents were so patient. They always seemed so sad, but also good.
Maybe tonight she would not dream about Willow doing magic. That was the thing that scared her most of all. The nightmares when her best friend turned her eyes black.
As Mary walked off the bus and into the terminal she groaned mentally at the late hour. 1:13-Now I have to get all my luggage and shit- damn. Damn it all. The flight had been exhausting, she had gotten no sleep and her nerves were on the fuzzy side of frazzled from the kids who had been sitting next to her. They had thankfully been on a different bus going to some town south of LA.
The bus driver had a weird vibe about him, was bald, overweight, and looked like he had a very odd skin condition. He had seemed nice enough and she had to admit she liked him better than the guy with the wife and kids at the airport. To top it all off she couldn't stop thinking about home and how she could never go back, not with how bad her addiction was getting. She didn't know anyone who could help either. General addiction treatment was her best bet.
Now she was standing in some strange bus stop in the middle of Oregon, and she still had to get her bags off of the bus, despite her problems.
She turned around to see that all the baggage had been unloaded onto the neatly kept platform. She gazed down the long road to see the bus drive away into the night. She rummaged through her dingy backpack and donned her denim jacket over her plaid shirt, purely for looks. It seemed unusually warm for Oregon, and definitely not jacket weather. It had been a security blanket of late, and she wanted to feel as secure as she could. Now she looked up at the stop name printed in yellow letters on a white sign. Sunnydale, CA. She glanced at her bus ticket. Back at the sign, and then the ticket.
Panic rose in her throat and her eyes widened as she realized, DAMN IT! I got on the wrong bus! Following her first instinct she strode over to the nearest pay phone, which was covered in an oily cleaning substance. Shoving a quarter into the slot, Mary frantically dialed home. She laughed at herself and hung up the phone before it even rang. Like they'd believe me if I told them I got on the wrong bus, she thought bitterly as she remembered her father's angry rant the day before she had left the house. No they'd tell me that it was just part of me being defiant and… she didn't even finish her angry thought as she picked up the phone book and flipping through it searching for a hotel. When she came along one that was cheap enough, she grabbed her suitcase and backpack and started walking down the poorly lit road. Maybe she could start a new life here, get off her magic kicks and have a few good swings at this "gay thing" before the magic consumed her. And from what she had read, it would.
"Finally, release! I can't believe…Oh God…I've been waiting for this all day!" said Buffy in satisfied tone as the vamp dissolved into many little dust particles as Mr. Pointy found a home. She smiled at the physical exuberance she felt. The double shift had been grueling, and she had to admit that the first kill of the night was always the best. It was what made her feel invigorated after standing in the "Double-not-really-Meat-Palace" as Dawn now liked to call it. Her patrols had been odd lately, with no major fluctuations in the population, either up or down. She furrowed her brow and glanced around for either Willow or Tara, whom had both volunteered to patrol with her.
"I got it! I got it!" Willow yelled as she ran after a vamp in tight jeans and a halter top with her holy garlic water spray-bottle. "He's mine!" she shrieked as she ran after him, spraying holy-garlic water fanatically. Buffy could do nothing but laugh at her friend's antics. For all that Willow acted like a goof, Buffy had to admit that she was a cute goof. Stop it kidding yourself, you had your chance. She sighed. You had a chance with Faith too, and look what happened there. She shook her head dismissively. Nothing she could really do about it now. Faith was definitely in jail. A blinding white light and a hint of oregano in the air suggested that Tara was close by with her balls of sunshine. Buffy rushed over towards the light and found a very peculiar scene.
Tara had done the spell, however one of the dustees had not, well, dusted. She had become a "master" of nun-chucks in her spare time, and the girl must have caught a stray blow. The poor brunette girl had been knocked unconscious, and was splayed on the ground like a rag doll.
"I honestly thought she was a v-v-vamp! I didn't mean to hurt h-her!" Tara was completely abashed at hitting a real person. Buffy looked at her sympathetically and smiled.
"I'm sure she'll be fine Tara, " she pointed at the girl's cheek, "Look, not even bruising yet." Willow strolled up to the two as they continued to examine their new friend.
"Hey guys, what's with the sleepyhead? I mean she is sleeping isn't she, she's not dead because I mean that would be so sad and we don't even know her, and where is she from-I'm babbling?" Willow asked in a very long run on sentence.
"I honestly can't say Wills, but she has kick ass choice in clothing, " Buffy commented as she noted the girl's denim jacket, plaid shirt, and hip hugger jeans combo. They actually weren't clothes to write home about, but the girl herself…
"We should get her to safety. She isn't safe here." Tara interjected into the middle of Buffy's thought. With that statement, patrol was called quits for the night. Buffy hefted the athletic brunette into the back seat of Tara's Explorer. (Although Willow and Tara always laughed and got this funny look about them when they said the name of the car.) The ride home was filled with nothing but worry for Buffy. She had no idea why this one person's well being meant so much to her. She was a stranger. A hot, alluring, brunette stranger. I do like brown hair, Buffy thought absentmindedly. As the car drove into the driveway of the Summers' household Buffy tore her eyes away from the mystery girls features. Buffy carried the girl into the living room and laid her down on the couch gingerly. Tara walked over with a damp cloth and put it to the girl's brow, her own two furrowed in concern. Buffy took it from her and gave her a push towards Will, who looked like she was going to pop under the current circumstances.
"You will call me if anything gets worse right?" Tara asked worriedly as Willow tugged on her sleeve with no abandon. Buffy simply nodded her head.
"You seem to have things under control. We're gonna go-"
"Read." Tara said quickly, and gave Willow a sultry look. Buffy rolled her eyes.
"Yeah. OK. Is that what they are calling it these days?" Willow shared a blush and shy smile with Tara as she dragged the still concerned girl out of the room. "No go on ahead, I mean I'll be-" the door to the girl's room slammed shut "- fine." I should stay down here until she wakes up, Buffy thought. Then her eyes widened and she smiled ear to ear at an even better prospect. She gathered the still knocked out girl up in her arms and walked up the stairs to her room. She then laid the no name wonder under the covers. She pulled over her chair and wondered out loud "I wonder what your name is? Where are you from? I hope you're as nice as you look." She mumbled the last part as she fell into a dreamless sleep, with no nightmares of anything horrendous.
Tara heaved a sigh as she sat down on the bed. Tears streamed down her face as the reality of the night sank in.
"Is-is-is-is she go-go-going to be OK? I-I-I-I mean sh-sh-" Willow silenced her with a comforting kiss. She took hold of Tara and held her impossibly close as she sat on their bed.
"Hey baby, it's all right, she'll be fine." Willow looked into her girlfriend's azure gems that she modestly called 'eyes' as Tara continued to sniffle. "You did nothing wrong. She was probably lucky you hit her in the head, she might have gotten killed if she had run into the woods. You know how easy it is to pick up a vamp in the middle of the night, you're knocking her unconscious probably saved her life!" Tara looked up from the wet spot she had created in Willow's shirt and smiled.
"But it's not so much that I hi-hit her, I could have-"Tara didn't even want to finish the sentence. Willow held her close as the tears welled up inside and spilled out. She had known this fear, this pain. It had happened to her, to Buffy. The knowledge that killing was not only possible, but that is happened by accident all the time. Tara's hyperventilated sobs gave way to normal breathing. It would take time, but that was time they had, and would always have together.
As Mary groggily came to, she held her head in her hands finding a bump right above her hairline. It felt like someone had been using it for a snare drum in a marching band on the fourth of July. She sat up noticing her fully clothed state, in unfamiliar surroundings. The room was nice, very tasteful. The New Kid on the Block posters dated it a little bit, but a full sized bed had a bedspread that was white with embroidered flowers. It was something her mother would have picked out for her room. Maybe she had died and gone to heaven. She jumped a little as she looked next to her to find a stunning blonde girl sleeping in an oversized chair. She was actually a young woman, and the more Mary looked at her, the more difficult she found it to stop examining the curve of her waistline, the cuteness of her nose, and fullness of her-
"Hey you're up! How are you feeling?" Mary looked up to meet a pair of eager green eyes, attached to a pretty redhead standing in the open doorway.
"Uhm… I think I need some aspirin or something, my head kinda hurts a lot." She croaked out through her dry lips. Willow walked over and put a bottle of pills and a glass of water on the nightstand next to the bed. The blonde girl next to her had stirred and was slowly awakening.
"I brought you some Tylenol. I mean well Tara went out and bought it, but I'm here giving it to you." Buffy sat up a little, the noise of conversation rousing her.
"The person who is half-awake in the chair is Buffy. I'm Willow by the way, and Tara is my girlfriend, she lives with me in our room. We're gay type girlfriends!" Willow stopped rambling at the sound of a snicker emitted from Buffy. Mary gave Willow a bemused look as she downed two Tylenol, even thought she had the sneaking suspicion that it would do almost nothing to take the edge off of her steadily growing headache that was threatening to make her nauseated. Buffy stood up as Willow walked into the hallway to try and find Tara. Mary looked Buffy over as her shirt lifted enough so that just the very bottom of her taut tummy showed as she stretched her arms over her head. You could wash clothes on those abs, Mary thought to herself.
"So do you have a name?" Even the pleasant sound of Buffy's voice grated on Mary's pounding temples. She struggled to get a coherent thought out of her mouth.
"Mary. Mary Camden. I don't remember much about last night except I was walking towards a hotel…"
Mary was tired. Her feet dragged as she wearily traipsed along the side of the road. Sunnydale, California. She noted the cemetery and cringed. There seemed to be a lot of them in this town. Lots of cemeteries but only one shitty, cheap hotel. She had always disliked cemeteries. Her stomach flipped a little. Mary suddenly had the uneasy feeling like someone was watching her close by, boring their eyes into the back of her head.
She remembered the time she had caught Ruthie getting cookies from the cupboard at about midnight. It was like an alarm had been was going off in her head, her body had since always felt as though it hummed slightly at the presence of another. Except the monsters she summoned. When she felt them near it was a seismic event.
And at that moment, while she lugged her suitcase and looked down the road, to see a group of guys sauntering over towards her from the cemetery, who were very badly dressed and reeked of cheap cologne. The hum coming off of them at a distance was notable. Her breath quickened, her muscles tensed, and everything slowed down. She gave a hurried glance to a sharp stick nearby. Dropping her suitcase in panic, she picked up the stick and bolted into the cemetery.
The group of guys pounded after her tirelessly, and as she looked back she saw them hemming on her heels. Throwing the stick in desperation she nailed one of them square in the chest, and stopped to gawk in surprise as he dissolved into dust, fangs and all. His buddies hesitated only for a moment. Before Mary could blink they lunged after her again. She ran and ran before she hid behind a tombstone, shaking as she watched the vampires run by. She stood up hesitantly only to see a bright light and a whir of blonde hair.
"-And then I woke up here. Where is here anyway, and how did I get here?"
Buffy took a deep breath and gave Mary a little grin as she did a mental groan. It was going to take a while to explain everything, especially in terms that Mary could deal with.
"Mary, those guys you were running from-"
"The vampires?" Buffy laughed and raised her eyebrows in appreciation of Mary's street knowledge.
"Well that will make this easier." She said as she played with her necklace nervously as she looked at the floor, desperate trying not to let her desire to rip off Mary's clothing get the best of her. "You see I kill vampires, demons, and battle to the death with the occasional hell god."
"Well you do need to be well rounded when it comes to battling the dark forces." Mary chimed in with a cheerful tone, and a sweet smile. "However, there are far too many dark forces in this town than I'd like to deal with right now," she mumbled under her breath, but not quiet enough for Buffy's slayer hearing to not pick up on it. Buffy frowned, but Mary just shrugged it off and stood up, her legs protesting every move. She gave Buffy a full-blown smile, teeth and all. "So uhm…thanks for not leaving me to the minions of hell?"
The two girls meandered down into the kitchen, where Tara was cooking pancakes and talking to Dawn, who was intently focused on the orange she was trying to peel.
"How was I supposed to know that you were going to turn it on. How do you know that CD is even mine?" Dawn argued genuinely in her defense.
"The words 'Dawn's Soundtrack' on the CD case was kind of a give away." Tara said amusedly as she flipped a bunny shaped pancake over. Anya had said several times that they were the pancakes of the devil,. Mary smiled to herself as she sat down next to Dawn, who was still intently focused on her orange. It was like being home, only on the hell mouth. Tara turned around and spied Mary sitting next to Dawn.
"H-Hi. Ho-How are you feeling?" Tara asked in a concerned tone as she handed Mary a plate of steaming hot pancakes. Mary shrugged as one corner of her mouth twisted into an unsure expression.
"Let's see-I was attacked by vampires, knocked out, and despite all of that I still manage to get some food and a good night's sleep. I'd like to think that those last two things qualify as a pluses." Dawn laughed a little at the last comment,
"Who says two wrongs can't make a breakfast?" Dawn chuckled at her own comment, "Also be glad you didn't show up on a Tuesday, that's abduction and apocalypse day around here." Tara continued to make bunny pancakes, a small smirk on her face. "Hi I'm Dawn, I'm Buffy's sister."
"My name is Mary Camden. Nice to meet you Dawn."
"So why are you here exactly?" asked the eager teen. Buffy looked over from her seat she had come to rest in. Tara inquisitively craned her neck towards the conversation.
"Well truth be told, I uhm," everyone seemed to be leaning in to hear the answer, "It's stupid really. I got on the wrong bus at LAX and I was looking for a hotel when those vamps jumped me. I should have known better than to be walking by a cemetery at night. If your sister, Willow and Tara hadn't been there, I don't know what would have happened. " Breathe Mary, just breathe. Mary's hands were clenched around her fork as she quietly ate her breakfast. Willow came in bouncily and offered her a cheerful salutation again.
Mary politely answered questions about her family and friends as she got over her initial fear. Buffy seemed very interested in her family. It won't last you know, the voice said, when they find out about your darkness they will send you away, like your father did. Mary screamed internally at the voice to just shut up already. Despite her debate with herself, her head didn't seem to hurt anymore. She went to look in the mirror in the bathroom after breakfast; the place where she had been hit was barely bruised.
This had been happening in the past half-year or so; this speedy healing. Bruises seemed to come and go overnight. The other day after practice she was sure going up for a rebound and catching an elbow she had cracked a rib or two. The next day when she went to the doctor it was fine. Better than fine. She looked away from the mirror and shook her head. Even the enhanced healing couldn't help her with a magic addiction.
"Maybe I can talk to Buffy about it." The girl in the mirror looked unconvinced. She sighed at the thought of telling the strong young woman her weakness. She knew she was attracted to Buffy. God, she couldn't get her out of her mind. Focus you fucking horn dog. You need to get a grip on this or things are going to be really bad. "Maybe she knows something about the healing too. That's what I'll do, I'll ask about the healing and then I'll bring up magic." The plan seemed simple enough, and Mary smiled at her reflection as she thought of what exactly to say to Buffy when she got out of the shower and into borrowed clothes.
"Don't you think it's strange that Mary is walking on her own today? She was out cold last night and this morning she's all 'let's get going'. Weird." Buffy stated as she folded clothes with Willow in the living room.
"I dunno Buff, I mean she seems like a hearty trucker type to me. She did run away from those vamps. Heck she even staked one of 'em." Willow took a sock from Buffy and put it with one of her own stray socks, making a pair. Buffy thought this over for a second. The sheets she was folding were being unruly. Who in this house uses satin sheets? Buffy wondered to herself as she struggled with the slippery material.
"That's why it's so strange. I find it hard to believe that a normal person could hit a vamp at a full run." Buffy said with a puzzled expression. Her thoughts wandered off to Mary. The way her hips swayed when she walked, the beautiful color of her hair, and her full round-
"Tara and I are getting married." Willow blurted out, capsizing Buffy's boat of thought. Buffy's jaw dropped, and had she not already put the satin sheets down she would have had to refold them. Again. "I mean I have the temporary hacking job which will pay for the wedding, and I know we are both still in school but I love her and we really are going to spend the rest of our lives together and we're not really ready to move out of here yet but I'm sure we can work something out with you I mean if it's OK because you just folded our satin sheets?" Willow gasped for breath as she finished spilling everything that had been swirling in her mind for the past fourteen hours. Buffy looked at Willow, a big dumb grin spread across her face, as she stood completely shell-shocked.
"Wills, you're gonna get married?" Willow nodded.
"You've taken a job?" Willow nodded again.
"These are your satin sheets?" Willow blushed, but nodded. Buffy's eyes watered.
"I am so happy for you, and of course you guys can stay here as long as you need, to figure things out." Willow smiled and hugged Buffy, her heart doing it's little happy-dance. Tara was going to marry her, she didn't have to worry about housing till the end of school at least, and Xander had finally gotten into architectural school. Things were going, and well.
Mary sauntered into the room, her hair not a bit disheveled from going down the stairs. Buffy had to remind herself to breathe and Willow noted that light perspiration was gathering on her best friend's brow. What is that about? Willow thought to herself as she gathered up her laundry and said hello to Mary. Willow climbed the stairs and frowned as she entered her and Tara's room. Why can't I stop thinking about the fact that Buffy looked like she was about to toss her cookies, it's almost like she- Willow smacked herself on the forehead.
"Well hello to the duh-ness of me!" She smiled and shook her head as she thought about how long it was going to take Buffy to realize what was going on.
The sweat from Buffy's palms was getting worse as Mary sat down next to her. The pants Tara had given Mary fit perfectly. Although Buffy was usually not a huge fan of leather, or peasant blouses. However the clothes Mary was wearing looked better than any of the granny sweaters she had seen in the closet.
"We should start talking, as is customary in most cultures." Buffy said softly. The quip elicited a half smile from Mary. Mary took a deep breath.
"Okay. So I've always been really healthy, but for about six months now I've been healing, fast." Buffy frowned a little.
"What do you mean?" Buffy asked. Mary bit her upper lip a little.
"Faster than normal. It's been happening for the past six months or so. I've cracked ribs at basketball practice and had them heal in a few days. I've had bruises come and go in a night." Buffy frowned at the nagging feeling building in her chest.
"So you're telling me you're Wolverine? Do you have spikes that shoot out of your arms?" Buffy joked, trying to ease the mood.
"It's not just that. I can tell when things around me aren't, uh, exactly human. Monsters from other planes of existence. I'm not afraid," Mary took a deep breath before she continued, "I'm just, ready. I get this feeling in the pit of my stomach. I don't know what is going on. I was kind of hoping you would." She paced around the room.
"When did you encounter demons?" Buffy asked, her face controlled. Buffy felt tension in her chest. The pacing brunette was silent.
"I'm addicted to dark magic." Mary said flatly through her tears as she gazed out the front window. Buffy's heart sank. "It's the reason I was going to Oregon." Mary gave a short dry laugh. "Some of the best treatment centers in the country, according to my father."
"Mary we need to-"
"If I stay here, with all this darkness, there is no way I will be able to beat it, and I will never see my family again." Mary interrupted. "I can feel it calling to me even now. Do you know how powerful the pull of this place is?" She turned and faced a stunned Buffy, "Thanks for everything, but I really need to go."
Buffy rose from her spot on the couch and pulled Mary into a hug and let the sobs wrack the brunette's body. Mary let everything from the past two and a half months out in the form of hot wet tears. Her shitty boyfriend, her wonderful and blissfully ignorant family, her basketball career, pretending that she liked guys to please everyone. Gone. As her breathing returned to normal Mary pulled away and wiped her nose with the back of her hand. She gave an aspirated laugh as she sat back down on the couch.
"I'm sorry, I uhm…Thanks." Mary sniffled and wiped her nose on her sleeve. "I'm a little pathetic right now."
"No. No you're not. It's OK." Buffy whispered as she absently stroked the other girls hair, "It's ok." Buffy sat down next to Mary and locked eyes.
"We need to call Giles."