by Abby Albrecht
Copyright 1998

I'd like to thank Amy for encouraging me to write it and Dianne, Tina and Dawn for beta-ing it. Thank you!!!!!

The song is 'Drive' from the Cars album "Heartbeat City".

Giles was rambling again, which was okay since Buffy wasn't listening. The few times she had tried to listen to his lectures lately he sounded like the teacher from the Peanuts' cartoon, so she just gave up. It was easier that way.

If she didn't listen to him, she didn't think about work.

And, if she didn't think about work, she didn't think about him.

It all came back to him... Eventually. Everything did. Even watching the movie "Babe" reminded her of Mr. Gordo and the way he clutched the pig when she snuck through her window.

He was the only one who seemed calm about her destiny. Giles and Willow and everyone else were more supportive than she felt she deserved some times, but they still treated her as if she was on a pedestal -- as if she could handle anything. And that scared her.

She needed him. He watched out for her. He warned her when he thought she was getting in over her head. He followed her into danger when she didn't listen to his warnings.

She smiled slightly, remembering all the times she joked about him being Mystic Guy and always warning her to "beware." Her eyes filled with tears seconds later as realization sunk in once again that Mystic Guy was gone.

Clearing his throat gently, Giles looked around the library table at Willow, Xander and Buffy.

Buffy could tell he was trying to avoid noticing her tears, but he wasn't doing a very good job. She sniffled once and put on her Happy Student face before anyone else could notice.

"As I was saying," Giles stated firmly, trying to get Buffy's mind back, "We've become a little lax in keeping the Slayer issue a secret. We really must attempt to provide a more suitable cover so that our activities arouse less suspicion."

"So, you want us to act more like ourselves and less like demon stalkers?" Xander asked.

"In your case... No. For everyone else, yes."

"What do you mean, in my case? " Xander asked defensively.

"Just go to class like a normal student, and we'll discuss your case later," the librarian said as he wandered back to his office, ending the conversation before any more rebuttals could be thought of.

Buffy really didn't feel like going to class, but it beat moping around the library. At least in class she wouldn't think about how it felt to have his arms around her. And how it felt knowing he was protecting her.

She followed her buds to English class, vowing every step of the way that she would stop thinking about him. And spending every step of the way thinking of nothing but him.

The whole "act more like teens... except for Xander" kick that Giles was on carried through the whole day into the night. When Buffy had shown up for her workout that afternoon Giles sent her and Willow to the mall. And moments before she was going to go on her evening rounds Willow and Xander arrived at her house bearing backpacks full of homework.

She knew it was his way of diverting her attention from what had to be done sooner or later. She knew this, and appreciated it.

Buffy knew she would have to face the monster he had become sooner or later. But right now she wasn't ready. And in part of her heart she never truly wanted to be ready. The more responsible part knew she had to, and soon before what he had become could hurt more people. That part wasn't strong enough to guide her yet, though.

How she wished she was a kid again, where the Bad Things in life could be banished away with cootie spray and a hug from a friend.

The hug she needed the most wasn't going to come ever again. The attention Willow, Xander and even Cordelia were giving her helped... But they weren't the same.

He had been the one she turned to whenever all seemed lost. She knew he was there whenever she needed him -- unquestioning... Only caring that she was okay.

Whenever she had a bad dream, he was able to make it go away with a smile... Even the times she didn't want to see him, he was there. But, He wasn't going to make this bad dream go away. Not this time. No matter how hard she wished he would appear in her window.

She kicked her friends out at 10, giving up on the teen thing for at least that night. It wasn't as if she hadn't tried. But when they moved on to math and angles of incidents all she could see was his name. And every time she tried to write down a formula she ended up writing his name.

Buffy needed to stop pretending. She wasn't a normal teen anymore, and never would be again. No matter what she tried -- going to dances, hanging out at the mall, going to the Bronze -- she would never see the world with the innocence that most teens saw it.

It was time to face facts and go on with life. As soon as she was sure Willow and Xander were gone, she climbed out her window and walked.

The direction didn't really matter. She just had to walk... Had to hunt... Had to feel useful.

It was fine for Giles to try to get her to forget her life for a while, but he didn't understand. The more she tried to not think about him, the more she thought only about him.

Losing herself in the hunt was the only choice. Now to just find some vampires...

Without thinking, she ended up in the alley where she first met him. It was dirtier than that time -- soggy, empty cardboard boxes lay everywhere soaking up the pools of water left by the last rainstorm.

She wandered through the mess, touching a wall here, a pipe there... So lost in her memories that the outside world ceased to exist. Here was the place he first showed he cared. Where he gave her the cross for protection.

It wasn't until the ice-cold hand touched her shoulder that she woke up from her reverie. Buffy turned quickly, reaching instinctively for the stake that only she knew where she hid.

Breathing a small sigh of relief that it wasn't him, she ducked quickly away from the hand that was still holding her.

Whoever this vampire once was, he sure was ugly. "What?" the demon mocked. "You aren't interested in a little foreplay? You sure seemed to be when you were all close and cuddly with my friend Ang--"

Before he could finish saying the name he was dust. Buffy brushed his remains from her clothes and said, "You don't have the right to say his name."

A hollow echoing laughter met that remark. Instinctively she knew what he had become was nearby. She also knew this wasn't the time or the place. She had many other vampires to keep her busy... And she just wasn't ready... Yet.

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