"What's with the brooding, Dawnster?"
"Xander!" Squealing, Dawn got off her room's wide and comfy window seat and run over to him.
Xander, who had been leaning against the doorframe, watching her brood before he had spoken up, pushed himself off, ready to engulf Dawn in a big hug. And just in time too. Because less than a second later his arms were full of Dawn.
"Yup." Xander pulled Dawn away from him to give her a good once-over. "Finished business early and thought I'd reward myself with a somewhat longer vacation."
Dawn raised her eyebrows as she pulled him over to her window, pushing him into the cushions before sitting down herself. "It's cold, foggy and rainy outside. That's so not holiday-like!"
"I know." Xander grinned, making Dawn feeling all warm and homey. "But I've spend the last four month travelling with different Bedouin tribes through the Sahara Desert – this is the perfect vacation spot after that! Besides, I happen to have a couple of friends in the area."
"You do?" Dawn furrowed her eyebrows. "Wonder who that might be..."
Lunging forward, Xander pulled Dawn over and started to tickle her mercilessly. "Sometimes I wonder too!"
Laughing hard, Dawn tried to get Xander to stop. But she just never seemed to have enough air to say something, anything. Evading him didn't work either, the confines of her beloved window seat not giving her enough wriggling space.
Dawn nodded, taking several deep breaths after Xander let go of her. "You win."
Grinning smugly, Xander nodded. "I know."
Falling against his side, Dawn entangled her fingers with his, resting her head on his shoulder.
After several minutes of silence, Xander asked quietly, "So what's up, Dawnster? You never struck me as the brooding kind."
Lifting their entangled hands up, Dawn took her time to study every single finger. "I messed up big time?"
"So? We all do from time to time. Then we go in and fix it again."
Sighing, Dawn shook her head. "Not this time. I'm so stupid!"
Xander figured the best course of action would be to keep his mouth shut. So he did just that, looking out the window to pass the time.
"Hey! You're supposed to say I'm not!"
Chuckling, Xander kissed the tip of her nose as she looked at him with angry eyes. "I know, but this worked so much better. Now, what exactly did you do to mess up?"
Slapping his arm, causing Xander to chuckle again, Dawn eventually settled back against his shoulder. "Well, one moment I warn Giles not to mention any of the Big Bads we've faced to our mom and the next I tell her Buffy died several times already! How stupid is that?"
"Dawn-scale or Xander-scale?"
Dawn slapped his arm again. "I'm serious!"
Sighing, Xander squeezed her hand. "I know. So your mom – wait, your your
mom? She knows about the Key?"
"And accepted you as her daughter too?"
Again, Dawn nodded. "Yes."
"And she's been trained by G-Man, for a while anyway. My guess is that deep down she already suspected bad things had happened to Buffy before. I mean, she knows enough about the life of a Slayer for that, doesn't she? You might have brought it to the surface earlier than either Buffy or your mom had wanted, but they would have had to talk about it at some point anyway."
"No buts. Xander has spoken and Xander's word is law. Now go and bring me food, woman."
Unable to stop herself, Dawn chuckled at his antics. They've never failed – and hopefully never would fail – to make her feel better.
Across a big puddle of water, some simply called the Atlantic Ocean, mother and daughter were sitting on a couch, each of them lost deep in thought that couldn't be more different.
Buffy trying to figure out where she would move to next. And if she would be able to finish her qualification first.
Lisa trying to grasp the very concept of her dead daughter sitting in front of her, very much alive and breathing.
Buffy remembering all the little moments she had been given with her newfound mom in the short time they had together.
Lisa failing miserably in trying to feel guilty for Buffy having been brought back from death by her friends. Even though being ripped out of heaven having caused Buffy so much pain and misery.
Buffy watching Lisa from under half-closed eyelids, trying to burn every little feature, perfect or not, into her memory. Fearing it was the last chance for her to do so.
Lisa watching Buffy from under half-closed eyelids, feeling unbelievably proud of everything her daughter was, of everything her daughter had achieved despite dire circumstances.
Not so far away, the other half of The Chosen Two
was having difficulties of her own. Well, not difficulties per se, but she'd just learned something rather interesting and was pondering on it.
Meanwhile, House was nursing his beer as he watched Faith's reaction to his own thoughts. "You know, a conversation usually involves two people speaking," he snarled when the silence became too depressing.
"Ah, thought I had missed something," Faith said, a small smile playing across her lips. "So, watcha gonna do about your assumption?"
"Assumption?" House snorted, taking a long, long sip of his beer. "It's a fact."
"But she doesn't know?" Faith asked curiously. House nodded. "Then how can you be sure?"
Rolling his eyes, House got up to get another beer. "I'm a genius, remember?"
Chuckling, Faith held her hands up in defeat. "Okay, then watcha gonna do with your knowledge
? Wait till she figures it out herself? And how do you know she doesn't know in the first place?"
House shrugged his shoulders and slumped onto the couch again. "She doesn't. And I was … distracted
or I would have figured it out a while ago."
"Illegal maternity tests?" Faith asked casually.
"Yep," House replied just as casually. "Another beer?" he added, holding up one of the two bottles he'd just gotten from the fridge.
Having a long sip of her own beer, Faith quirked her eyebrows. "Paternity test next?"
Smirking, House shook his head, and waved that idea off. "Naw, that's for boring people. Figured we'd start with a pregnancy test first."
Eyes opening comically wide, Faith all but squealed, "WE? What do ya mean by we
House waved his hand in Faith's general direction. "You're staying with Buffy. Cuddy is over often enough. She'll have to pee at some point."
"And then what? I'll rush in after her, telling her not to mind me as I just need to check something in the john while she's peeing?"
"Just a thought." Grinning, House waggled his eyebrows. "How about those knives of yours?"
"You've got at least two knives on you right now. You could accidentally nick her finger with one or something. Stop the bleeding, bring me the tissue."
"You're nuts," Faith said as she shook her head. "Besides, I'd have to go past Buffy first … and let's just say that's a big
House stuck out his lower lip, pouting at Faith – who just rolled her eyes. "Jeez. Just go and tell her. Ask her to take a test. Or …"
Seeing the proverbial wheels turn in Faith's head, House sat up and leaned forward. "Or what
Frowning, Faith wondered if she should or shouldn't act on something Buffy had told her a couple of month ago. Mischief won out in the end. "Any idea how far along she is?"
"About three month," House replied quickly. Too quickly.
But Faith decided to let it go. For now. "It might work."
"What might work, oh supposedly wise one?"
Faith leaned forward as well, motioning for House to lean ever closer. When their noses were almost touching, Faith smirked. "That'd be telling. But I might be able to test your little theory…"
Dawn chewed on her fingernails as she watched Xander eat his third sandwich.
"Huh?" Dawn asked as Xander's question interrupted her train of thoughts. "What what
"You look worried. It makes enjoying my little snack difficult."
?" Dawn looked at him with wide eyes. "You're joking, right?"
"Uh, hello! Xander here, remember?" He replied in mock-hurt. "But seriously, you are still worried about Buffy and your mom, aren't you?"
Dawn sighed before she slowly nodded.
"Okay." Xander stuffed the last bit of the sandwich into his mouth before leaning over the table and grabbing Dawn's cell phone.
Gradually, the silence in the living room became more and more depressing to Buffy. Why didn't her mom say anything? Should she just get up and leave to never come back?
Lisa couldn't believe her luck. Not only was her daughter, who by any means should be dead, alive but she was also going to give her a grandchild. True, she felt a bit young for going down that particular road, but in the end that didn't really matter. In truth she couldn't wait to hold that new life in her own arms.
Buffy sighed unnoticeably as she came to her decision. It was time to leave. Only her phone wasn't quite cooperating as it started to ring just as she was ready to quietly sneak out.
"What?" she said not too friendly.
"Hey Buf. Don't do anything stupid, okay?"
"Huh? Xander?" Frowning, Buffy got up and walked out of the room.
"The one and only. Now don't throw away something great just 'cause you think
you know what your mom's thinking."
"But she hasn't said anything since I told her most stuff about my life," Buffy said, sounding defeated.
Xander sighed, rolling his eyes at Dawn. "Stop the mental self-flagellation. Now isn't the time." Then he went on to tell her what he'd told Dawn earlier. That Lisa had known about the dangers of being the Slayer for a long time. They all knew how thorough Giles liked to be, after all. And that there was no way she hadn't suspected how difficult Buffy's life must have been. True, hearing rather than just suspecting it might be hard at first, but going by what Giles and Dawn had told him about Lisa, he was sure she wouldn't run away.
"Now go and make up. I want to finish my snack," Xander finished on a much lighter note.
"Huh?" Buffy stopped her pacing and looked at the phone in confusion, even though Xander couldn't see her.
"Dawn's been staring at me for the past ten minutes, worried she'd messed up completely. It started to spoil my appetite," Xander said cheerfully, ignoring the kick Dawn gave him under the table. Sighing, he added quietly, "Buffy, trust me on this, okay?"
Closing her eyes, feeling like she was about to run into a misty wood, not knowing if she'd meet friendlies or baddies, Buffy nodded. "Okay."
"Good." Grinning at Dawn, he handed the phone back to her. "So, now where's the chocolate cake?"
Lisa was pacing up and down her living room. For the first time since Buffy had stopped talking she'd noticed the look of gloom on Buffy's face when her phone had started to ring – and Lisa hadn't liked it one bit. However, before she could do anything about it, Buffy had stood up and left the room. Lisa had stayed on the couch for a couple of minutes but when Buffy hadn't reappeared, she'd gotten up herself.
And had started pacing.
Now, changing direction for the umpteenth time, Lisa suddenly found herself staring at her daughter again.
"Hey," Lisa said as her worried frown quickly turned into a wide smile.
Buffy tentatively returned the smile, nervously shuffling her feet.
"Come here." Lisa opened her arms wide, walked over to Buffy and engulfed her in a big hug. After a while, she leaned back slightly look at her daughter. "Just so you know, I'm not sorry that they brought you back."
After getting comfortable on the couch again, Lisa tilted her head and asked, "What was the long face about? You know, before your cell went off?"
Buffy tugged her feet under her body and gave a lopsided smile. "Case of pregnancy stupidity?"
"Which would be?"
Blushing, Buffy looked at her fingers who decided to walk up and down her tight. "I kinda might've thought you wouldn't want we anymore?"
Lisa's eyes opened almost impossibly wide. "What! Why? That's just ridiculous." Shuffling closer to Buffy, she caught her wandering fingers and squeezed her hand. "I couldn't be prouder of having you as my daughter."
"Thanks." Buffy scrunched up her nose, looking sheepishly at her mom. "Xander might have mentioned something like that too. Told me to stop the self-flagellation and make up."
Grinning, Lisa squeezed Buffy's hand again. "I like him. He sounds like a very sensible young man to me."
Snickering, Buffy shook her head. "Only if he wants to. In this case Dawn feeling guilty for dropping that bomb on you was spoiling his appetite."
"He still knew how you'd react. That tells me he's a pretty good friend."
"I know." Buffy smiled. "Now all the food talk made me hungry too."
Later that evening, just as Buffy was ready to go home, she once became serious as she looked at her mom. "I … I want you to look after this little one if anything should happen to me. Please?"
Lisa looked up in alarm. "Buffy, nothing is going to happen to you."
But her daughter only shook her head in sadness. "Mom, I'm still a Slayer. And not just any Slayer either. Even if I'm semi-retired now, there'll always be some demon or other baddie that'll consider killing me will get them more respect or whatever. I might be the longest living Slayer ever, but that won't change that I've outlived my life expectancy already. Yes, having so many Slayers around might increase our general life expectancy, but it's still rather likely I won't see the little one graduate."
"Buffy." Lisa didn't notice the tears running down her cheeks.
"Mom, I promise I'll do my best to see my baby grow up. It's just … I'd just feel so much better to know he will be taken care of if I didn't make it."
Lisa eventually nodded. "Just don't expect me to keep a room ready 'just in case'
"Deal," Buffy said before yawning widely. "I'll better go before I fall asleep on the couch."
"Nuh huh. Guestroom."
"No buts. I might have to accept losing you because of your calling, but I'm not going to lose you because you fell asleep behind the wheel!" Lisa said sternly. "Guestroom."
Smiling sheepishly, Buffy nodded. "Jammies and a movie first?"
Groaning, Lisa got up and padded barefoot into the kitchen. "You just want more popcorn."
"Nope. But your grandchild does."
House strolled passed Cuddy's office for the third time that morning. Naturally, Cuddy's secretary was getting very nervous by it. House was clearly planning something – only that he wasn't.
He was simply keeping a close eye on Cuddy, seeing if he could pick up any more symptoms. He'd even gone as far as doing his own clinic hours to make his passing of her office less suspicious. He'd see a few patients, then he'd take a break in order to loosen up the muscles in his leg by walking around a bit. Or so he told the nurse on duty.
House almost missed lunch time as his latest patient didn't turn out to have the sniffles, be stupid or hypochondriac. In fact, he'd been to a couple of other free medical services but all they've managed to do was to give him the wrong diagnosis, a couple of useless pills and send him on his way.
At least that's what had happened from House's point of view. But when he put one and one together and got five, his curiosity took over. He asked a few more question and when the answers became more and more unexpected, he called Foreman and had him admit the patient and do all the initial test.
By the time he was finished and walked past Cuddy's office again, she was gone. Swearing under his breath, he entered the anteroom and stopped in front of her secretary.
"Where're you hiding Cuddy?" he loudly demanded to know.
The secretary cringed at first, but then she took a deep breath and squared her shoulders. "Lunch," she said curtly before going back to work.
Smirking, House turned around and left for the cafeteria. Pulling his cell from his pocket, he pressed a speed-dial button, "See you in a few minutes."
Lisa sighed as she put her tray on the empty table. The queue had been particularly long and her patience particularly short. She'd seen House pass her office several times this morning already and it had started to grate on her nerves. Hence the early lunch. Well, that and she'd woken to a queasy stomach in the middle of the night again and, even though she'd some dry toast for breakfast, hunger had been starting to gnaw mercilessly on her insides.
She closed her eyes in pleasure as her sandwich turned out to be more delicious than she could remember from the last time she'd chosen this particular one. She devoured the rest of it before she opened her eyes again – only find herself staring at none other than Gregory House. Groaning, she closed her eyes again, hoping he was just a trick of her mind.
Putting one hand over his heart and the back of his other hand on his forehead – after tilting his head back slightly – he whispered in mock-despair, "Now you've broken my heart."
"What heart?" she deadpanned as she opened her eyes again. Moving her empty plate aside, she grabbed her salad and started eating.
House didn't answer but played dead. He had his arms hanging loosely on either side of his body, his head drooping to one side and his eyes closed.
Snorting at the motionless and quiet House, she muttered, "Works for me." Leaning over the table, she snatched his apple pie and put it next to her salad.
"Hey!" House protested immediately, "that's theft!"
Lisa didn't even look up as she shrugged her shoulders. "I thought you were dead. Didn't want the perfectly fine dessert go to waste."
House reached over to take his pie back but Lisa was quicker, slapping his fingers when they got too close. "Too late. It's mine now."
"What? Run out of puppy-food at home?"
Lisa shrugged her shoulders and looked up in surprise as she saw Faith walking towards them.
"Mind if I sit down?" Faith asked while pulling a chair over and sitting down next to Lisa.
"Are you meeting with Buffy?"
"Naw, I was just going to take House's bike for a ride," Faith said with a smirk. This wasn't part of their plan, but she figured that as House wanted something from her, she might just as well get something out of it too. And she loved riding his bike almost as much as she did riding her own.
"You are?" House asked in amusement.
"Yep." Pointing at the pies in front of her, she added, "Figured I might just as well have a little snack beforehand."
Lisa, having just sampled House's apple pie, grinned mischievously. Pointing at the similar pie in front of Faith, she said, "This one is well worth it."
"Thief," House mumbled as he put his motorcycle keys on the table, causing Lisa's grin to widen even more. "Shouldn't have played dead."
Huffing, House moved his elbow, accidentally knocking his keys off the table. Swearing, he was about to lean under the table, when Faith put a hand on his arm. "Stop, I'll get it. You'll just use it as an excuse to peak up Lisa's skirt."
"I wouldn't!" House said in mock-shock.
Upon which Lisa just rolled her eyes and replied, "Of course you would."
Meanwhile, Faith who had gotten under the table was smirking at the banter going on above her head. Picking up the keys, she closed her eyes and leaned closer to Cuddy, concentration on her task. It took her a couple of seconds to push all the background noises to the back of her mind, but once she'd managed it, she could suddenly hear the very sound she came here to hear in the first place. Chuckling quietly, she shook her head. By the time she reappeared from under the table, her expression was neutral again.
Ignoring House's questioning look, she showed him his keys before pocketing them and went back to her own pie.
Later, after they'd left the cafeteria again, Faith was brushing House's side as she walked next to him. In the middle of the lobby, she stopped him, stood on her toes and brushed a kiss against his ear, whispering, "You're right. Cuddy's knocked up."
Not waiting for a reply, she turned and, hips swaying seductively, left the hospital – leaving a stunned House behind.
--A/N: I've given Muse a chapter number by which she has to finish … Now I just hope I won't end up with something like Epilogue 1-10 :P! Anyway, thanks again for reviewing – it always helps to keep Muse on track!