Pickering Place turned out to be in a part of London that matched Buffy’s London – St. James, which looked almost exactly as she remembered it from her time rebuilding the Council. A few of the storefronts were different, but that might just be normal turnover. Some of the shops had been there forever, but others came and went.
“So who are we here to see?” Buffy asked curiously. The car – and, happily, Andrew Hubbard with it – had gone to wait around the corner until they were ready to leave.
To hear Gallowglass talk, that wouldn’t be long. Buffy was of two minds about that.
On the one hand, she was feeling a little overwhelmed by both the prospect of meeting the various creatures of this world- a world where a Slayer was just another creature- and by the hard reality that this world was similar to hers yet not.
She just knew that second part was going to bite her in the ass at some point. Short and sweet might be for the best right now.
On the other hand, she could use friends – or at least allies. Whoever they were here to see, they were people Gallowglass evidently trusted.
“My cousin Marcus,” her companion answered. “Someone other than Hubbard needs to know we’re in town.”
Buffy glanced dubiously from him to the house – if house was the right word. The only people she’d heard refer to buildings like this as ‘house’ all had multiple aristocratic titles. Maybe she’d misread Marcus. It had only been a brief phone conversation, after all.
Gallowglass smirked, almost as if reading her mind.
“Remember, there are fringe benefits to being my kind of vampire,” he murmured as the door flew open.
The blonde in the doorway looked in no way like Gallowglass – in fact, he wouldn’t have been out of place on a beach in California. If it weren’t for the same tickle at her Slayer senses she got from her companion, she would never have suspected he was a vampire.
“You came!” he exclaimed, sounding both surprised and pleased.
“You said I should,” Gallowglass rumbled, sounding annoyed, though Buffy couldn’t tell if it was for the enthusiasm or the surprise in his cousin’s voice.
“Well yes, but I didn’t think you’d actually listen,” the smaller man replied, ushering them into a surprisingly modern looking living room, where a dark haired woman only slightly taller than Buffy was waiting.
Gallowglass snorted, but Buffy could tell that he was still happy to see his relative.
“Buffy, my cousin Marcus and his fiancé Phoebe,” Gallowglass introduced them. “Marcus, Phoebe, Buffy Summers.”
“I feel like you ought to have told me some of their most embarrassing moments to even us up,” Buffy sighed.
The phone conversation she'd previously had with Phoebe had shown her that these people knew pretty much everything there was to know about her life from the age of fifteen to twenty-two. Privacy wasn’t really a thing she had here. It was like one of those dreams where you realize you’ve shown up to an important meeting naked, except that the meeting had lasted for several years of adolescence and young adulthood.
“Telling you all or even most of Marcus’ most embarrassing moments would have taken the entire flight, and you needed the sleep,” Gallowglass shrugged.
Marcus glared, but clearly had no good comeback.
“Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll pick up plenty just attending family gatherings,” she assured Buffy. “Especially if anyone’s in a mood.”
The look she shot at Marcus suggested that was a distinct possibility, or maybe even a probability. Marcus shrugged cheerfully, apparently unconcerned at the prospect.
“Fortunately for me,” Phoebe continued, “my only embarrassing moment was letting Marcus seduce me in a shamefully short time.”
Buffy raised an eyebrow.
She didn’t believe that for a minute, but she couldn't be too mad at the girl. It wasn’t Phoebe’s fault that she’d been a fan of the TV show, or that Buffy's life was fiction here. She really ought to focus on being thankful it had stopped with the collapse of Sunnydale. Growing up was hard enough to do as a normal girl, never mind a Slayer. Having an audience for it…
She was torn between getting the entire show and binge watching, just so she could see what everyone in this world could know about her if they cared to do so, and wanting to never see any of it, on the grounds that she’d already lived it, and that had been hard enough.
Then again, there were some things she wouldn’t mind remembering with a bit more clarity. Mom. Anya. Oz. Rona. Xander before his injuries and his losses. Dawn when she’d still been a bubbly, over enthusiastic teenager like any other. Will before her life became a tightrope walk of control over powers that were potent enough to do exactly what Giles had warned her they could.
She loved them as they were now. But she had also loved them as they were then, and being a Scooby had a hefty price tag.
In all honesty, she wasn’t all that sure she wanted to go back. Maybe it was just wistful thinking, but from the sounds of it, they wouldn't mind if she stayed. And she could have a life here that didn’t take such an awful toll on everyone around her. Vampires here were more like people than demons. Witches might come in good and bad, but it was a human kind of good and bad. Daemons… ok, she hadn’t quite figured them out yet, but then again, she hadn’t met any either.
What was waiting for her back home? A lifetime – a very long, and almost certainly increasingly lonely lifetime thanks to her lack of mortality – of fighting, and of watching people she cared about die, because no matter how good she was at fighting, she wasn’t going to be able to save them all. That wasn’t how it worked, never had been.
Also, going home meant no more Gallowglass, and even after only a few weeks in his company, Buffy was honest enough to admit that would be a problem. She’d miss him. More than she should. She hadn’t figured out yet if it was a ‘this is a guy I could spend my life with’ thing or just a ‘this is a guy I could be friends with my whole life long’ thing, but either way, it wasn’t something she wanted to just walk away from given how rare ‘lifelong’ anything would be in her own dimension.