Chapter One: In Media Res
~ Willow. Listen to him. I don’t want to fight you anymore. ~
~ You’ve been my best friend my whole life. World gonna end…where else would I want to be? ~
~ There’s so much I want to show you. ~
~ Very well. We will return… your soul. ~
- Ten Years Later -
Something big was going down. In Sunnydale, of course, just his bloody luck. Now they were going to have to go back there, and neither one of them was really looking forward to it. Things had gone as well as could be expected last time. They’d both made their peace, as best they could, with the rest of the gang years ago, but he doubted their return would be well received. Nope, no welcome wagon for them, no ‘good to have you back’ song and dance. Fine with him. He didn’t give a buggering fuck what any of them thought anymore, but she would. She’d hide it well, put on her best ‘ass kicking bad girl’ face, and unleash that cutting sarcasm of hers, but inside she’d be suffering. Of that he was sure; inside she’d be a seething mass of bitterness and hurt. She’d never really gotten over their rejection.
It still filled him with the desire to do bodily harm, the way they’d dismissed her after what she’d done for them. He guessed some things could never be forgiven. He’d given up long ago on the idea that those wankers would let bygones be bygones, but for some reason she still held out hope. Silly girl; she was better off without them.
They really should be heading out; their orders had been clear. Funny. Him, of all people, taking orders from them. But things were different now, and he did what had to be done. Things like walking into a town that held only bad memories for him and working with people that hated him, all in an attempt to save the world. Oh bloody well. It was his job now after all, and he had to admit he was bloody brilliant at it. Really, it was the only thing he had going for him. Well, the job and her. A bleedin’ miracle she was; he’d never understood why she’d chosen him. He turned away from the window, watching her sleep for a moment. She looked so peaceful lying there. Rare thing, that. Shame to disturb her.
He sat next to her on the bed, pushing her hair back off her face and placing a gentle kiss on her shoulder.
“Time to go, luv. No rest for the wicked.” She rolled over slightly, opening one eye to peer up at him. Then she shoved him unceremoniously off the bed.
“Fuck off, Spike. I’m too tired; wake me up in the morning.” She tried to pull the pillow over her head, but he yanked it away from her and jerked the covers off the bed.
“’Fraid not, pet. Orders were for an evening departure.” She stared at him mutinously, and he knew she was giving serious consideration to staking him. He gave her a smirk and a quick kiss before heading into the hallway. “You get dressed; I’ll start the car.” He was almost to the stairs when he heard her at the bedroom door.
“Spike?” He paused but didn’t turn around.
“Do we have to go back there?” He nodded.
“Yeh sweet, we do. Big trouble brewing.”
“I hate this shit.” He threw her a sympathetic look over his shoulder.
“Me, too, Faith. Me, too.”
The dreams never went away. Even years after his death she still woke up in a cold sweat, crying herself to sleep afterwards. Everyone had blamed her - they had made that abundantly clear – and so she had left, striking out for a place she could call home. A place as far away from Sunnydale as she could get. But she could never outrun the guilt, and every new place she went just caused the emptiness to grow.
There was no home, not anymore, and she would never belong anywhere ever again. She’d tried time after time to leave this world behind, forget her pain in a haze of pills and alcohol, a simple slash of a blade across her wrist, but it never worked. They always managed to bring her back, the doctors patting themselves on the back over the “miracle” they’d performed. She laughed, a dry, brittle sound that scraped along her throat like sandpaper. Not even hell would have her.
She wondered at the irony. He’d managed to survive her attack on him in the Magic Box that day so long ago when grief and rage had caused her to turn her back on her friends. Then, when he had finally healed and things were getting back to normal, a simple mistake had ended it all. All her new hopes, all her new dreams, and the friends she had finally regained had turned their backs on her forever. And she didn’t blame them in the least. Really, who could blame them for hating the person who had killed Giles? After all, she did. She hated herself more than they ever could.
His head was pounding as he grabbed a beer from the fridge. He took a swig and glanced at the clock. 7 AM. Time to get ready for work. He drained the bottle and tossed it in the trash as he headed back into the bedroom. He stopped short at the sight of the woman sprawled across his bed; he’d forgotten she was still here. Cindy? Mindy? What was her name? He shook his head. He didn’t really care; he’d picked her up last night because she bore a slight resemblance to Anya. Of course, that idea had been the result of alcohol and loneliness. Sober, he realized she didn’t look much like Anya at all. She’d gotten the job done though, guess that counted for something. Grasping her arm, he gave her a little shake.
“Hey, wake up.” She stirred slightly, and her eyes fluttered open. She smiled, reaching out for him.
“Hey there, you.” He brushed her hands away and moved back a step.
“You need to leave.”
“What?” she asked, her smile disappearing.
“I have to get ready for work so, uh,” he gestured towards the door. “You need to go.” He gathered up her clothes and tossed them to her, watching as she quickly pulled them on. When she was dressed he rushed her down the hall and opened the door. She stepped through and turned to face him.
“Can I see you again sometime?” she asked with a hopeful smile. He reached out and stroked a hand tenderly down her cheek before replying,
“No.” Then he shut the door in her face and headed in to take a shower.
“I just thought -”
“Well, you thought wrong,” Dawn interrupted, her irritation coming through loud and clear. Buffy’s hand tightened on the phone. “Things aren’t okay between us, and I’m not going to pretend they are.”
“I need you here.”
“Well, that would be a first then, wouldn’t it?” Silence. “Look, I’ll come out there for a couple weeks, and we’ll deal with this. But I’m not staying with you and I’m not going to act like this is some grand family reunion. We both know the truth.”
“And don’t give me the sad voice either! The way things are with us, that’s not my fault. You made your choice a long time ago.”
“I know. I’m sorry.” Dawn sighed, her voice softening,
“I’m sorry, too. Look, this is… it’s hard, but I can’t go back to the way things were. Not after…”
“I know, I know,” Buffy rushed to agree. “Just… I’ll see you when you get here.” They said an awkward goodbye and then hung up. Buffy wiped the tears from her eyes, annoyed at the sign of weakness. She’d been alone for a long time; she really should be used to it by now.
Author's Note: The story title - 'Memento Mori' - means "a reminder of mortality, esp. death's-head" or translated literally - Remember that you must die. The chapter title - 'In Media Res' - means "in or into the middle of a narrative or plot", literally, into the midst of things.