Characters: Buffy, Joyce, Willow, Xander, Cordelia, Oz, Giles, Pat, and others.
Word Count: 1186
Spoilers: Season 3 episode Dead Man’s Party.
Summary: Buffy has returned home, and her friends are throwing her a Welcome Home party, but she’s not at all sure how welcome she really is.
Written For: Challenge #181: Party at fan_flashworks.
Disclaimer: I don’t own BtVS, or the characters.
Buffy felt as if she’d walked into someone else’s party by mistake, and without being invited. It was supposed to be her Welcome Home party, but she was completely out of her depth, still reeling from everything that had occurred leading up to her leaving Sunnydale in a vain attempt to escape her destiny and all the pain and misery that went with it. But there were some things you couldn’t run from, and being the Slayer was one of them; so here she was, right back where she’d started.
Being away, the change of scenery she’d hoped would help her to put the horrible events of a few months earlier behind her, had only papered over the cracks. Seeing the familiar sights of home just tore them wide open again, like ripping a sticking plaster off a wound that had barely even begun to heal. She felt raw, as though all her nerve-endings and emotions were exposed, grating against the very air itself. Despite being gone for months, now that she was back nothing had really changed, and yet everything was different.
She was that weirdly shaped piece from a jigsaw, the one you can’t figure out where it’s supposed to fit, and when the jigsaw is complete you realise that’s because it was in the wrong box all along. She didn’t fit anymore, wasn’t sure she ever would again. Maybe she never had in the first place and had just been fooling herself. Her own home felt alien and unfamiliar.
Everywhere she looked were people she knew; her closest friends, other kids from school, some she recognised and some she didn’t, Oz’s band, her mom, her mom’s new friend Pat, who Buffy didn’t really know, had barely even met, but felt stifled by anyway… It was all too much.
When she’d cornered her best friend to talk, Willow had seemed a little distant, a little too bright and cheery, sort of brittle and way eager to get back to watching the band. Xander had been almost too wrapped up in Cordy to notice Buffy was even there, and Giles hadn’t shown up although Xander had assured her he’d be there soon.
Buffy drifted from room to room, collecting empty cups, feeling like the hired help, or the waitress she’d been in L.A. For the first time in her life, she really understood what it meant to be alone in a crowd. It was as if she was invisible. The party raged on around her and even in the midst of everything, surrounded by her guests, she was somehow outside with her nose pressed to the glass, looking in and wishing she could be part of the festivities.
Except, she didn’t feel festive, hadn’t wanted a big party in the first place.
Her party. Yeah, right. She wasn’t needed here; they’d all managed just fine without her. Now she had to wonder if anyone had even really wanted her to come back. Her mum’s words, overheard while she was talking to Pat in the kitchen… Buffy hadn’t meant to eavesdrop; she’d just been taking the cups through to be washed, but…
“Having Buffy home, I-I thought it was gonna make it all better, but in some ways, it's almost worse.”
Gee, thanks Mom. Sorry I messed up your life. Again. Guess it’s getting to be a habit.
Nobody even glanced her way as she went upstairs to her room. She’d tried to fit back into her old life, really she had, but it was so hard with everybody looking at her all the time, watching her every move, walking on eggshells around her, waiting to see if she was going to snap like some crazy person. Maybe she was crazy. Maybe coming home was a mistake. Maybe everyone had been better off without her.
Dragging her bag out from under her bed, Buffy went to the closet, pulling out clothes at random and packing them. She’d disappeared once, she could do it again; nobody would miss her much and in time they’d forget about her, get on with their lives. Wallowing in self-pity, she didn’t hear Willow come in.
It wasn’t a fight, a discussion, or even an argument, just a lot of hurt on both sides, and more than a few painful truths. Her mom coming in and getting angry with her didn’t help. Confused and feeling trapped, suffocated, Buffy needed to get away, find some space and clear her head, someplace she could breathe. The last thing she had wanted was to cause a scene and draw attention to herself, but that was what she got; her mom ranting at her in front of everyone, her friends ganging up on her, everyone airing their grievances but nobody listening to her. She’d thought she couldn’t feel any more alone than she already did, but she’d been wrong.
Just when she’d felt for sure things couldn’t possibly get any worse, her party had gotten gate-crashed by zombies, because what says ‘Welcome Home’ better than a horde of the undead trying to kill everyone?
But somewhere during the ensuing fight, something changed, and she felt herself click into place, because this was what she did; battling the monsters, saving the day, doing her best to protect the innocent even though she’d learned long ago that it wasn’t always possible to save everybody. Her mom had lost her new friend, but Buffy thought just maybe she’d gotten her daughter back, along with a better understanding of what it meant to be the mother of the Slayer.
It wasn’t that everything had magically been made perfect again because it hadn’t. Buffy knew that when it came to making things up to her friends she still had a long way to go, but at least now it didn’t feel like an impossible task. The people she loved most in the world still needed her, and she needed them just as much, if not more. Putting herself and her life back together wasn’t something she could do alone, or overnight, but she’d heard it said that the first step was the hardest and she was pretty sure she’d just got past that, so maybe the rest was doable too if she just took it one day at a time.
She looked round at the mess the zombies had made of her home; fixing that was going to take a lot of hard work, but she had a feeling she and her mom wouldn’t be sorting it out alone. There was comfort in knowing there were people they could turn to for a helping hand.
“That was quite the Welcome Home party,” she told her friends ruefully. “But let’s not have to do it again.”
“Well put, Buffy,” Giles said, smiling warmly at her as her friends all nodded. At least that was one thing they could
all agree on.
Buffy smiled back at them, feeling a warmth inside that she hadn’t felt in much too long, the warmth of belonging. Her return had gotten off to a shaky start, but in spite of everything, it was good to be home.