Taking Hold of the Future:
...Two Steps Back


It felt as though the hurt would never stop. For the days after Angel dropped his little bombshell, Buffy struggled keep going, to keep breathing, to not curl up and die inside because Angel was leaving her for real. She couldn't believe that after everything that they had been through, everything they'd talked about and decided, he had just given up and was really going to leave her. When he'd shown up at the prom the night before, they hadn't spoken much, just clung to each other, silently agreeing to keep those few moments separate from their problems. And Buffy felt her heart breaking again when Angel slipped back into the shadows after the last dance; the pain in his eyes was clear, but he didn't say a word to her. So the next day, Buffy wallowed in misery, took Giles up in his offer of ice cream, and let Willow try to make Angel the bad guy again. And none of it helped.

The next afternoon Buffy paced in her bedroom, tears welling in her eyes as she desperately tried to get a hold of her emotions. She had to patrol that evening, and if she went out in this emotional state she would be asking to get killed. The Slayer took a deep breath, and forced the hurt away, but a new feeling was welling up to take its place. Something was rolling through her stomach, making her body tense, the fine hairs on her arms stand on end. Buffy couldn't identify the feeling, but she now felt strong enough to go out and *not* get killed, so she started packing up her slaying bag, wanting to make a sweep before meeting Willow and Xander at the Bronze and then seriously hitting the cemeteries.

Buffy was ready to go, and halfway down the stairs when her mother stopped her. Joyce had pretty much kept out of Buffy's way for the last several days, and while Buffy was grateful she was also confused. Usually, Joyce wanted her to share when she was upset, especially now that she new her daughter was the slayer. But the past several days, Joyce had let Buffy alone, almost as if she knew Buffy didn't need a lecture, or that comforting wouldn't help. Now however, Buffy was wary of what her mother wanted; had she decided that enough was enough, and it was time to share all?

"This came for you in the mail," Joyce said simply, holding out a postcard. "Who do you know in New York?" she asked, indicating the picture of the Statue of Liberty on the front. Joyce had a pretty good idea what was causing Buffy's mood; apparently Angel had taken her words to heart. She hated to see Buffy hurting, but was sure that this would be better for her in the long run, so Joyce had stayed out of Buffy's way to let her get over Angel. She didn't want to hinder Buffy's healing after all. Still, Joyce was curious, and felt pretty sure that the question wouldn't lead to her daughter bursting into tears again, as Buffy had at the mention of any subject even slightly related to Angel the past several days. Joyce was right, but the response she got wasn't what she expected either.

Buffy stared at the postcard in her mother's hand for a moment, another wave of that nameless emotion rolling through her. The only ...being ...she knew from New York was Whistler, and Whistler never meant good news. Her hand was shaking as she took the card from her mother, ignoring Joyce's question. She read the brief message and tensed all over, her eyes starting to gleam. For a moment Joyce thought she was going to start crying again, but when Buffy looked up and tossed the card down, she realized she'd been mistaken. Buffy straightened her shoulders, finally pulling them out of the near perpetual slump they's been in since Angel dumped her. "A nasty little demon, Mom," Buffy practically growled. "Don't wait up, I'll be late." Buffy was practically quivered as she ran out the door, embracing the emotion she now recognized. Pure unadulterated rage rolled through her body again as she set out, not to patrol, but to beat some sense into a particularly thick headed vampire.

Joyce watched her daughter stalk out the door in confusion. Buffy had been in a towering rage, so much so that Joyce almost felt sorry for the vampires that were out that night. Unable to resist, she scanned the short note, wondering what has set Buffy off. The note was short, and made little sense.


Hey Kid,

Told ya it wouldn't be easy. It's the right thing, for the wrong reasons. Remember, look for the lie.



Joyce shook her head at the confusing little note. What was in there that had set Buffy off like that? Joyce shook her head again as she moved to close the door behind Buffy, muttering under her breath, "She is the strangest girl."