***For Moira’s Birthday. Sorry for the delay.***
It was a lovely day in the neighbourhood, and young Dawn Summers was perched on the kitchen counter trying to discreetly spy on her next-door neighbour. I had come down the stairs at about ten o’clock, not bad for a Saturday morning. Buffy, I knew, was still upstairs sleeping, and she deserved it. The Slayer had been having a particularly rough time at slaying lately, what with the appearance of an undead biker gang that had made an attempt for domination of the Hellmouth. The effort had come to naught, because Buffy reduced all of them to ashes. However, the Slayer was still exhausted from the action. She had trailed into the house at some time after four in the morning, taken a shower, and promptly crashed into bed. No one would be trying to wake her up before twelve, if that at all.
But her younger sister had no doubt been up for some time. I allowed myself a small smile as I entered the kitchen and spied her by the window. She was hunched up against the side of it, tentatively pulling back the curtains as she peered out at the house next to them. Dawn’s interest in the young man next door was quickly becoming a big joke at the Summers house. She was up at the early hours, trying in vain to catch a glimpse of the elusive man next door. Apparently the new guy was a bit of a recluse. I hadn’t seen him myself just yet, but from what Dawn tells me (and she’s usually quite eager to tell me a lot) he was very handsome. Something about brown hair and sparkling eyes to die for. Tall, dark, and handsome-usually a recipe for disaster, especially in this town, but Dawn insisted that he was different. Buffy also mentioned something about him seeming perfectly harmless, but that didn’t prove anything. Sometimes the most harmless looking individuals can be the most deadly.
I stood there, watching Dawn doing her surveillance before I decided that it was perhaps better if I revealed myself. I shifted from foot to foot, finally coughing slightly to get her attention. The sudden noise startled her. She spun around, her eyes wide and her face slightly flushed. An embarrassed look crossed her face when she realized that she had been caught, once more, being decidedly stalkerish.
“Oh, hey Willow,” Dawn greeted me with a nervous laugh. “How’s it going?”
I just smiled at the girl, looking pointedly at the window. She followed my gaze and her face reddened even more than before.
“Yeah, about that,” she giggled half-heartedly. “Um, I just thought that I saw something . . . Oh hell, I was spying on the cutie. You know that, I know that, so let’s just get over it. Besides, the handsome dolt hasn’t the common sense to show his adorable face. “
I nodded, the smile still on my face. I turned away from the window and made my way over the stove. I started pulling out pans and other utensils before turning my attention to the refrigerator. I had the choice of making pancakes or making omelettes. I scrunched up my nose and tried to decide. I came up with nothing. Both foods had their own merits, and it would take about the same amount of time to make them. What to do?
Dawn came to stand behind me and looked into the fridge. “Can we have pancakes?” she asked, and effectively bringing the breakfast dilemma to an end. I nodded and began to pull out the ingredients needed. Dawn went off in search of pancake mix while I assembled everything on the kitchen isle counter. Dawn brought the mix and we both went silently about our task. Within fifteen minutes, I was standing by the oven flipping pancakes. Dawn had retaken her perch by the window and was still on the lookout for cute neighbour boy.
The smell of pancakes started to fill the kitchen and spread throughout the house. As soon as the pancakes were on the plates, I could hear some stumbling and commotion coming from upstairs and knew that Buffy, though tired, could not withstand the allure of pancakes. I set the table, mindful to set another place for Buffy, and motioned for Dawn to join me. She gave up her perch reluctantly. She was having no luck with Tall-Dark, and she probably felt that her morning had been wasted.
We dug into our breakfasts, the silence comforting instead of heavy, as it had been in the past. How many times over the summer did we all sit at this table, all unable to say the things that we all burned to say? How often did Xander and Buffy looked pained as they watched me eat in silence? The guilty looks and the sadness just hung up in the air, no one able to touch it. It had seemed like they would never be comfortable around each other ever again, but then it had somehow gotten more bearable. It was slow and painful, but the silence became something comfortable, not like this heavy shroud hanging over our heads. Things had still been left unsaid, and that couldn’t carry on forever. Sooner or later, they would have to be said, hearts would be broken again, and everything would finally be laid out for everyone to see. But when that time comes, they would be strong enough to handle it.
The sounds of footsteps on the staircase brought our attention away from our food. Buffy came shuffling into the kitchen, blonde hair in a state of disarray and pyjamas heavily wrinkled. She came to stand by the table, pausing to inhale deeply.
“Umm, pancakes,” she murmured with a grin. “Just the best medicine for this Slayer.”
“That’s what you say about chocolate cake,” Dawn reminded her. “And ice cream, and-”
“So what?” Buffy interjected. “I’m not picky about my medication, that’s not a crime. Now shut and pass the syrup.”
I grinned and went back to my pancakes. It was almost like before. Almost.
But not quite.
The Slayer’s sister had a crush on me.
It was funny. Or it would be if it had happened to someone other than me, someone in an entirely different situation than me. But no, it had happened to me, and that made it something other than funny. It wasn’t funny, it was a catastrophe.
The little girl got up early in the morning to catch a glimpse of me. I could see her at the kitchen window, trying to peek into the windows of my house. She was a persistent little creature, and while I was flattered that she thought me worthy of such attention, she was making my job very difficult. Maintaining surveillance on that house became steadily more difficult now that I had to worry about Dawn Summers. Suppose she catches me in the middle of carrying out surveillance and figures out what I’m doing? How long would it take for her to inform her sister, and how long would it be before the Slayer kicked down my door and came roaring into the house? This could only end badly for everyone involved, especially me.
Merlin, this whole assignment was becoming more and more difficult. Why did I agree to it again? Oh right, I had no choice. Well, that’s not true. I could have refused the assignment, tendered my resignation as an Auror, and made my way over to the Chudley Cannons tryouts. But what good would that have done? All my training would have been wasted, and I wouldn’t be any happier because I wasn’t the biggest Cannons fan.
Blast it, she was at it again! That little girl was sitting in her kitchen trying to spy on me! How on earth was I supposed to spy on them if they kept trying to spy on me? That’s not how this was supposed to work! Someone should really tell Miss Summers about that. She was interfering with my work. I can just imagine how my superiors would act if I told them that my position was compromised because the Slayer’s sister thought I was an attractive bloke. I’d be laughed out of the office, if I was lucky.
I sighed and looked down at the local newspaper. What a joke of a rag! Not only did they pointedly ignore the fact that the death count in this town was astronomically high, they reported on perfectly asinine things. Like today, the front page was covered with stories about the repaving of the main street. Apparently some people were put out by the inconvenience of it all, but no one seemed to mind that at least three people had died last night under suspicious circumstances. In a small town like this, any death should have been noticed by all. But no, they acted like it didn’t matter as much as the construction by city hall.
Perhaps it was the Hellmouth. Maybe this was all part of it’s magic. It made people forget that they should be alarmed when their neighbours are brutally murdered. Or maybe that they’ve gotten so used to it that it just wasn’t all that startling any more. It was bloody horrible, whatever it was. I was coming to steadily hate this town with all my heart. Not only was it cursed, it was just painful to live in. How I wanted to reach out and shake everyone in this town. Just shake them and yell at them, “can’t you see the evil? Can’t you see what’s going on around you?”
But I was a restrained individual. I could keep it to myself. If this was how they wanted to live, then who was I to stop them? Besides, I was here on assignment. I had only one thing to do. Now if young Dawn would let up a bit, then I just might be able to do it.
But I wasn’t holding my breath or anything. With my luck, she’ll start showing up at my door with declarations of devotion. Wonder how old Mad-Eye would react to that? He’d probably laugh, Obliviate the girl, and yell at me for allowing my vigilance to slip for a tiny little problem such as this.
I wonder if playing for the Cannons would be nearly as bad as this.