This Time Around
Chapter Five - You Don't Know Jack

written by Rainne

She had decided to take a shower, and much later she would decide that it was that decision which possibly changed the outcome of the whole huge mess. She felt filthy somehow, and so she went into the huge bathroom to remedy that. One long, hot shower later, smelling of vanilla and tropical flowers, she wrapped herself in a fluffy towel and went into the closet, hoping to find some clothing that she'd be able to fit into. She wondered if anyone had noticed that her future self had apparently taken a hiatus from eating.

She eventually located some jeans of larger sizes tucked away in a drawer and pulled one out, sighing gratefully, only to be surprised when three spiral notebooks fell out of the unfolding garment. "What?"

Buffy knelt, picking up the battered notebooks, and examined them. Each of them had a set of dates written on the cover and she easily recognized her own handwriting. 04/05/05-07/28/05; 07/30/05-09/12/05; 09/15/05-12/01/05. She flipped open the cover of one of them and discovered that at some point in the future she must have taken up journaling, because here before her lay an incredibly detailed diary of her own future life. But why was only this brief time span represented?

She looked at the open drawer. It was the bottom drawer in this shelf, and it was full of clothes that were obviously never worn. She began to dig through it. Then she began digging through the rest of the drawers and seeking between hanging items as well. Before long, she had assembled an entire set of journals dating from July first of 2004 all the way up through April twenty-ninth of 2007. She hurriedly dressed and then carried the notebooks into the bedroom, laying them on the bed and then looking around. "Where would it be?"

Her future self had obviously gone to a great deal of trouble to hide those journals. She would not leave the one she was currently working on out where the girl called Dawn could easily find it. Buffy lifted the mattress and checked under it, then checked all the drawers in the desk and the dresser. None of these places yielded a spiral-bound notebook. She looked around carefully, examining everything she saw with the eyes of a Slayer. Then her eye fell on the huge framed mirror which hung on the wall directly across from the French doors. It would be far too heavy for the girl Dawn to move.

First taking the precaution to lock the door to the hallway, Buffy moved across the room and lifted the mirror from the wall. Sure enough, there was a tack in the back of the frame and a notebook dangled from that tack by the spiral. Buffy took that notebook down as well and replaced the mirror, then moved to the bed and put the newest notebook on the bottom of the pile. Then she picked up the first notebook and opened it, beginning to read.

July 1, 2004
Salvator Mundi International Hospital
Psych Ward

I don't know why they brought me here. It's not like they want me around. I kinda figured I'd be doing them a favor if I just checked out. But they still can't let me die. First they drag me out of Heaven and now they drag me to the psych ward. Figures. Not the first time. Mom and Dad stuck me in a psych ward before. Before Sunnydale. Before everything. They thought I was nuts. I am nuts. That's why they don't want me around. Why would they? They don't want to be around psycho Buffy.

Poor psycho Buffy. We should have left her dead because she hasn't been right in her head since we dragged her out of Heaven and made her dig her way out of her own grave. I just don't understand why she wasn't more grateful. Sure she thought she was done, but who cares what she thought or what she wanted, right?


The doctor wants me to keep this journal. She promised that I don't have to show it to anyone so I guess it's okay to talk about Slayer stuff in it. Not that it matters. If they make me show it and they see the Slayer stuff they'll just keep me locked up here longer. But they're gonna keep me here as long as I keep telling them that I want to be dead, anyway, and that's not gonna change any time soon, no matter how many drugs they give me.

Buffy stared at the page, unable to believe the depth of despair pouring off the stark page. Then she thought about the man downstairs masquerading as Giles and thought that maybe she could believe it, too. She flipped the page, continuing to read entry upon entry in her own writing about how she had died to save the life of a younger sister she never had, and how her so-called friends had dragged her back from the dead, and the way they had behaved toward her afterward. She could see a small change, a trend toward lighter words and tones as therapy and medication helped the writer of the words somewhat, but there was still a depth of agony there which was not to be believed.

August 14, 2004
Salvator Mundi International Hospital
Psych Ward

Giles came to visit me today. He said he'd been really busy with Council stuff. I tried not to be angry. I would have been angry before, but I tried not to be angry because when I get angry it makes me want to hurt myself again. Dr. Marcelo said I did really well during his visit. It was really good to see him, even though he could only stay for half an hour. He told me that the girls in London are doing really well and everything seems to be running smoothly. I asked him when he thought I would be able to come there, and he said maybe when I was better. But he didn't look at me when he said it.

A new girl was admitted today named Francisca. She's very nice. Her eyes, though, are totally blank…

The entries continued, detailing the writer's daily life in the psych ward of the Italian hospital. Most of the entries were fairly short, as life on the ward tended to be day-in-and-day-out, but on the very infrequent occasions when someone came to visit her, she might go on for pages about a half-hour visit. She was in the hospital for a little over three months, and Giles only came to see her once. By the time Buffy finished reading that first notebook, she was feeling the slowly-stirring first embers of anger.

The words of the journal entries Buffy read detailed a fairly pleasant, if slightly boring, life for the retired Slayer. The sister-who-wasn't went to John Cabot University, had friends, a boyfriend; the Slayer mostly sat around the house and wished that someone would remember that she was alive. The words of the journal entries described an idyllic life of leisure. But Buffy, adept at reading between her own lines, could hear the despair in her own words which no amount of therapy or medication could eradicate. The references to Giles, who had a knack for calling when Buffy was out and who never seemed to be at home when Buffy called; to Willow, who still occasionally took Buffy's calls but with a seeming attitude that Buffy should be grateful for the favor of her continued friendship; to Xander, who called the house to talk only to Dawn; all these things added up in Buffy's mind. The smaller size of the clothes in her closet made sense when she read an entry that mentioned Buffy's lack of appetite or desire to eat.

December 29, 2004
My room
The house in Rome

Dawn is supposed to come home today. She says she went to Spain with her friend Maria from school, but… but when she called yesterday to ask if I had eaten, I think I heard Giles talking in the background.

I didn't say anything… but after she hung up I went in the basement for a long time and screamed.

I didn't cut myself. I was actually kind of proud of myself for that. I didn't cut myself. I have to hold onto that. I'm getting better. I'm not as bad as they say I am. I'm not.

Buffy found herself with tears running down her face. She had spent Christmas alone in this strange city while the sister-that-wasn't went to England and spend Christmas with her Watcher? How was that right?

She continued to read, and the longer she read, the more of a pattern she saw emerging in her future life – a life that she was increasingly determined not to lead. She had died. That much was obvious. Then she had been brought back. At some point between that time and the apocalypse which had destroyed Sunnydale, she and her friends and her Watcher had somehow all become estranged. Her friends declared that it was all her fault; she herself, however, felt that she at least had some right to feel the way she had felt. Had they not done her a huge disservice and then somehow expected her to be grateful? Certainly it seemed that she may have made mistakes, but Buffy felt that by the time these events occurred, these people ought to have known her well enough to know that Buffy Summers was going to make mistakes in her life.

After the final apocalypse, her "friends" had apparently gathered together in secret and held tribunals together and declared her guilty of indefinable war crimes. Declaring themselves judge, jury and executioner, they had sentenced her to live out her life in exile in this beautifully appointed prison in Rome, not even permitted to fulfill her sacred duty any more – for here was an entry in which Dawn caught Buffy leaving for patrol and told her in no uncertain terms that Buffy, who had been the Slayer since the age of fifteen, was no longer allowed to patrol. They had taken away her life and left her with a shell of herself. She, no surprise, had sunk into despair and apparently attempted to end her existence.

But she was not even allowed that escape. Dawn summoned paramedics and had Buffy committed, therapied and medicated. Buffy was treated for depression, anxiety, an eating disorder, and some other mild issues, and released with medication and a biweekly therapist appointment which did her no good, for she could not discuss her true issues with someone who knew nothing of the demon world. Someone named Andrew apparently popped up in Rome from time to time, "checking in" and, Buffy suspected, carrying reports back to Giles about Buffy's behavior. Giles himself popped in about once every six months, said a few words to Buffy and behaved toward her as a chastising parent, and then vanished again. The entries reflected a growing desperation to please him, to do whatever was necessary to end her pain.

"She's brainwashing herself," Buffy whispered to herself. "Oh, my God. She's brainwashing herself and they know it and they're letting her do it."

By the time she reached the most recent journal, Buffy was furious at her friends for treating her this way, no matter what mistakes she had made, and at herself for allowing it. If they hated her so badly, then why didn't they sever ties with her and move on? And why on Earth was she allowing them to chain her like this? The newest journal had only one entry in it, but it was telling.

April 29, 2007
My Room
The House in Rome

Giles is coming.

He's coming for Dawn, of course, he always does. But he promised to spend some time with me while he's here. I asked him specially and he said he would.

I've been really good. I've been taking my medicine and I've gone to my doctor's appointments and I've even eaten every day this week.

I'm gonna ask him. I haven't asked him in a long time. I'm gonna ask him if I can come home with him. I miss him. I miss him so much, and Xander and Willow, but mostly I miss him. Dawn's graduating. We could leave now. We could go to England and start over and everything be happy now. And I'd be good. I know I would.

Maybe I could tell him I love him. Maybe he would let me.

Buffy closed the final notebook softly. So old habits died hard. He had saved her life once, and had become a god in her eyes, and that had never changed, no matter how much they had gone through. Not even the betrayal of her eighteenth birthday could change that for her; how could something like this? Didn't all the songs say true love never died?

Buffy lay down on the bed, looking at the stack of notebooks through tear-filled eyes. What the hell was she going to do now? She was trapped here in this place with this Giles who was older and angrier and she was even younger now than she had been before, and even a complete personality overhaul had apparently not been enough for him. What was she going to do?

A knocking at the door sometime later woke her from a light doze; she had fallen asleep trying to think of a course of action. Giles spoke from the hallway. "Buffy, may I come in?"

She sat up and straightened her hair quickly. "Yeah," she said softly, and he entered.

His eyes went immediately to the stack of notebooks. "What are those?"

"My journals," she replied, placing a proprietary hand on the top one when he would have reached for it. "I'd rather you didn't," she said softly. "They're kinda… private."

He subsided for the moment. "I'd like you to come downstairs," he said. "We need to talk."

"Yeah, we do," she agreed. "But you need to not throw any more dusty stuff on me. I get enough of that on patrols; I don't need it when I'm sitting on a couch not staking things."

He sighed. "Just come downstairs, Buffy, and don't be difficult."

Her eyes widened, and then suddenly narrowed. "Or what?" she snapped. "You'll go back to England and leave me here all by myself with some girl I don't know who isn't my sister? It seems to be your preferred method for dealing with me when I do something you don't like." She made a slight gesture toward the notebooks.

He looked slightly taken aback. "I beg your pardon?"

"Yeah, well, you should," she responded flatly. "You know something, Giles? Before I read these diaries, I had no idea that you could ever be a complete asshole to me. I found out how wrong I was today. I don't know what you think I did to you, but whatever it is, I've got a clue for you: get over it. Either that, or get lost. But whatever you do, stop stringing her – me – along the way you have been. If you're never gonna forgive her for whatever it is, then fine. But at least have the decency to tell her."

His eyes narrowed in return. "You have no conception of what's gone on," he began.

She cut him off. "You're right," she said, "I don't. Unless you count the fact that I happen to know that she got brought back from the dead and you walked out on her when she needed you. Jesus Christ, Giles! She came back from the dead, and you left her because she was leaning on you too hard? You're my Watcher, Giles! I'm supposed to come to you for help and support! Isn't that what you spent three years in high school training me to do?"

"Yes, and you were determined to assert your independence," he snapped back.

"I'm eighteen, Giles! Of course I was! But just because I'm trying to be independent doesn't mean I don't occasionally need some help! And I would think that if I was just back from the dead, and especially having been dragged out of Heaven and had to dig myself out of my own grave, I might need just a little help and support from the one person I trust more than anyone else in the world!"

She clamped her lips shut then, having revealed more than she intended. She glared at him. "Let me just make one thing clear," she said acidly. "Things are about to change around here."

Read the next chapter: The Healing Process