Dedication: This is in honor of my friend Jen who is way too practical for her own good. And also, after envisioning the conversation about Wesley, I had to get this written down. Enjoy!
Buffy stood bathed in the warm mid-afternoon sunlight, a soft smile filled with peace and hope gracing her battered face as she silently contemplated the possibilities of Faith's comment and Dawn's question. Gazing down into the gigantic crater of what used to be Sunnydale, she acknowledged to herself the true significance of what they had done today. The burden of slaying was no longer hers alone to carry and that truth made for a wonderful world of possibilities. Instead of trying to be so hard like other girls, there were now other girls out there like her, allowing her to joyfully, if somewhat hesitantly, eschew the title of 'Chosen One.' Now she was one of many instead of "one girl in all the world." 'The handbook is *definitely* gonna need to be rewritten,' Buffy thought giddily.
A sudden twinge in her gut and a small wave of dizziness from blood loss quickly pulled her out of her ponderings, a sharp reminder to Buffy that there were injuries to tend to and immediate plans to be made. Turning back around to face the small group clustered directly behind her, she gathered her strength for the others and began to make some decisions.
"First thing we'll need to do is find the closest hospital. We've lost enough friends today. Don't want to lose any more," she stated purposefully, relegating the deep sorrow for those who had died for another time.
"Agreed," Giles replied, adding in a concerned fatherly tone, "Including you," indicating with a nod of his head to the bloodstains on her blouse and jeans.
" a sword run though me not really as much fun as I thought it might be," she joked lightly, her comment earning a grimace all around.
"And then what?" piped in Dawn as she moved a step closer to her sister, worried that Buffy's injury might be worse than she let on.
Buffy grabbed her sister's hand in reassurance and answered, "Then shelter, food, rest. I figure we can work out all that stuff once we reach the hospital."
Smacking his palms together, Xander said, "Well that sounds like a plan. Should we round the troops up and get 'em back on the big, yellow 'yea we're going on a post-apocalypse field trip to the hospital' bus?"
Buffy chuckled at the 'Xander-speak' and was about to reply when Faith interrupted.
"I got'n idea," she tossed out. When no one said anything, but just looked at her to continue, she supplied, "Wellllllll," dragging our the "l" in hesitation, "I happen to know a certain someone whose ex-honey just happens to own a huge, honkin' hotel in L.A. - individual bathrooms included..."
At the dubious expressions crossing the faces of the various Scoobies, Faith held out her palms in front of her to forestall the coming objections and rushed out, "Look, I'm just sayin' Angel's got this big hotel. We need somewhere to stay. I don't know about you, but I left my Amex at home so unless Willow can magic us up some cash our options seem kinda limited."
Glancing around at the others, after listening to Faith's suggestions, Buffy shrugged her shoulders and said, "She does have a point. It would make things easier. Plus, I do need to let him know the whole second front thing is now kinda moot."
"Also," Willow laughingly added, "Can you just picture the look on his face when twenty plus slayers show-up on his front door step?"
"Hmmm - now that might just be worth the price of having to bunk with Brood Boy," Xander confessed a little too gleefully.
"And Ooooo -," Buffy cried excitedly, "What about Wesley? Can you imagine the look on his face when we all come charging in? Mr. Prime and Proper himself could barely handle Faith and I. Can't imagine what he'd do with all of us."
A mischievously happy air crossed her countenance at that thought, but before she could indulge it further Buffy caught the look exchanged between Willow and Faith.
"What?" she questioned, seeing the quasi-expressions of hesitancy on both their faces.
"Well B - Wesley - he -," Faith began in a hedging tone of voice, "Well, he's changed - a lot."
"Yeah," Willow echoed.
"Changed? How?" Buffy inquired in a voice that intoned just how much she doubted that Wesley could have actually changed.
"Ummm - what would you say Red, he's -?"
Pausing her gaze on the brunette slayer for a moment, Willow snapped her head back to Buffy and succinctly stated, "Hot."
"Yup! Hot," the younger slayer confirmed.
"Oh yeah - as in 'five o'clock stubble, can handle a weapon, seen the dark side' sexy," Faith finished.
The rest of the gang just stood there in shocked silence as they listened to Willow and Faith describe the transformed former Watcher, disbelief evident in all of their eyes.
Finally, Buffy practically shouted, "Willow!"
"Whaaaaat?" the redhead asked defensively, leaning slightly away from her best friend in defiance, "Not blind."
Buffy just rolled her eyes in response and huffed out a contemplative, "huh?"
"Sexy? Really?" Xander asked the two women a tad jealously, wondering how the uptight former Watcher who once pathetically drooled over an eighteen year old Cordelia Chase could wind up drool worthy himself.
"Definitely," Faith replied.
Silence reigned again as Buffy, Giles, Xander and Dawn tried to wrap their minds around the concept that the words 'hot' and 'sexy' could be used to describe Wesley Wyndam Price. Shaking himself out of that rather derailing train of thought first, Giles moved to bring the discussion back into focus and commented, "Right then. It does seem like Angel's place might be the best solution for now. At least until we figure out our next couple of steps."
Sighing, Buffy responded, "Yeah it does. Simples things up - at least for the moment."
"Oh and Oooooo," Dawn gasped, "Separate bathrooms!"
At her words a dazed look appeared in everyone's eyes at the thought of not having to share a bathroom with anyone, let alone twenty-plus teenage girls. Realizing that that notion cinched the deal, Buffy directed, "Well, L.A. it is then I guess."
"Right," Xander agreed and then stepped towards Willow to guide her back to the bus, noticing that she was still rather worn out and shaky from the earlier spell.
Taking an initiative of her own, Dawn squeezed her sister's hand and then moved off towards the bus as well to gather up the girls who had wandered off and to inform them of the plans made. Giles and Faith followed right behind the younger Summers, the slayer wanting to see how Robin was fairing and the Watcher to check-up on the rest of the injured.
Buffy watched them for a moment before turning back around to face the remains of the place that had been her home for the last six and a half years. Sliding a few steps closer to the edge, she moved her gaze across the horizon slowly scanning the sunken ruins of a town that had appeared to be filled with brightness and light, but had actually secretly housed an ever-present darkness. She had literally been to Hell and Heaven and back because of that town. She had lost love ones, lovers and herself because of the work required of her there. But in the end she gained more than she lost and while she and the others might walk away with no tangible proof - pictures and mementos lost in the rubble - they would always have the memories they hold dear in their hearts and minds.
iGood-bye Jessie, Good-bye Jenny, Good-bye Mom, Good-bye Tara, Good-bye Anya, Good-bye Spikei
And in that release, Buffy Summers turned and walked away from the former town of Sunnydale, California and towards the one thing she never thought she would ever have -a future.