Catherine felt like every minute was a week. There’d been no word from Buffy or Warrick since Warrick had called to ask if she could arrange to have the security feeds covering the service entrance play video from earlier when they arrived. He’d had the idea that if Daniel had left that camera live, there was probably a reason for it.
She turned to find the security manager at her side.
“We’ve just been informed we can restore all security feeds to normal at the Tangiers. The situation is under control and security is clearing the room.”
Catherine stared at her phone, willing it to ring.
“Ma’am? There’s more- Mr. Braun is requesting your presence upstairs.”
She nodded curtly.
“Thanks for your help.”
“No problem. It’s a relief that everything turned out ok,” the man replied.
She could tell by the look on his face that he still felt there was cleanup and tightening of security procedures to be done, but the situation was no longer urgent. She almost felt sorry for his team- they were going to be working hard tonight.It would still be nice if anyone called to tell me everyone’s all right.
She made her way back to the restaurant, where Sam was waiting. Her mother and Lindsey were at the table with them. Lindsey looked immensely relieved to see her and launched herself at her for a hug.
“Mom! You’re ok!”
Catherine was happy to hug her daughter, letting out some of the stress she was still feeling.
“Relax, Mugs. They’ll be here shortly,” Sam told her.
It still felt like an age before she saw three people in the doorway. Warrick didn’t come in, he just waved to her and headed out. She realized he still had to work tonight. She’d have to catch up with him later and thank him.
Buffy, this time with Dawn at her side, made her way over to the table. Dawn had a distinct pout on her face. As they got closer, Catherine could hear what seemed to be a running complaint.
“I still can’t believe I missed it. And I bet no one else got it on camera.”
Sam shook his head.
“Dawn, this is a casino,” he told her. “There are cameras all over the place.”
Dawn looked up, and a big grin spread over her face as she realized that there was a security camera that hadn’t been there before. From the angle it was positioned, there was no way Buffy’s reaction wouldn’t have been captured.
“You are the best dad ever.”
“I do what I can,” he said modestly.
Dawn looked around.
“Lindsey! I thought you weren’t going to be here!”
Lindsey had to hug Dawn too, of course, to reassure herself that Dawn really was ok.
“She had plans, although she seriously considered ditching her friends for this,” Catherine told her. “But once the drama started, Sam brought her and mom here where security could keep an eye on them. You can show her the video later, brat.”
“I’m not a brat!” Dawn protested.
“Yes, you are,” replied Catherine and Buffy in unison.
Dawn and Lindsey both giggled as the two women realized what they’d just done. It broke any lingering tension between the three sisters as the Summers girls sat down.
“Girls, this is Catherine’s mother, Lily Flynn,” Sam introduced them.
“You can call me Lily, dear,” Catherine’s mother told Buffy. “Dawn already does. I’m Nana to Lindsey, of course.”
“And you’re Lindsey?” Buffy asked, turning to the girl who had ended up between her and Dawn.
“Yep, and you’re my aunt Buffy!” Lindsey exclaimed, leaning over to hug her.
Buffy looked slightly shellshocked in the face of the teenager’s enthusiasm. Dawn grinned widely.
“No trouble at the Tangiers, Buffy?” Sam asked.
Buffy shook her head.
“Daniel wasn’t expecting us to steal his trick. He apparently had some awesome facial recognition software that was supposed to warn him when I got there.”
“The whole running from you the other night was solely to get you into position so he’d have a good comparison shot. Otherwise he wouldn’t have bothered.”
“I want to know why you cooperated with him, Dawn,” Catherine began. “If magic can make you walk with your kidnapper like that without even trying to get free-“
“No magic involved,” Dawn replied. “When we got to the Tangiers, I was a little groggy from being knocked out here in the Rampart, and I wasn’t sure I’d make it if I tried to escape, so it was better at that point to just play along.”
“Knocked out?” Catherine asked. “You looked fine in the video I saw.”
“Could have been a spell, or could have just been some clever video editing,” she said. “Hard to say, seeing as Daniel’s the only person other than Willow I’ve ever seen blend magic and technology that way. But I definitely have a lump on my head that says I got knocked out.”
Seeing Sam’s look, she added, “Don’t worry, Dad. There have been worse injuries in my past. And I learned my lesson- next time, whip out my phone and call Buffy as soon as I spot a vampire instead of wasting time trying to get out into the light.”
“Into the light?” Lily asked, confused.
“Sunlight sets vampires on fire, and fire kills vampires. It’s a great natural control on the vamp population,” Dawn explained. “Sadly, casino floors are sunlight deficient, meaning vampires are free to hang out there as long they don’t encounter the sun on the way in or out.”
Catherine didn’t need to ask how Daniel had gotten out without encountering sunlight. She could think of several possibilities.
“So what happens now?” Lindsey asked, glancing around at the adults.
“We order dinner, I hope,” Buffy replied, picking up her menu. “I’m starving.”
Dawn rolled her eyes.
“She’s always like this post-Slayage. Not that she did the slaying tonight!”
Catherine raised a practiced eyebrow.
“You’re right, she really has the mom thing down,” Buffy commented, eliciting a delighted snicker from Lindsey. “But yeah, Dawnie’s the one who staked Daniel. She wisely waited until there was a distraction and a backup before she did, though. She won’t be giving Lindsey any bad ideas about trying to take on vampires alone.”
“I learned from the best,” Dawn chirped. “Oh, hey, look, cheese!”
“No distractions, Dawn. How do I explain to my boss that a real vampire- who my littlest sister killed tonight- is responsible for the string of bizarre, unexplained murders we’ve had lately?”
Dawn pouted, clearly considering the cheese selection higher priority than a defunct vampire.
“Oh, don’t worry about that,” Buffy told Catherine. “I talked to Warrick and then called Willow. Between what Warrick already knows and what we cooked up tonight, you guys should be able to wrap it up pretty nicely for your supervisors. Except for maybe that one in the desert. Some things may just have to remain a mystery.”---
Warrick arrived at work to find Nick already in the locker room.
“Heard from Catherine at all this evening?” he asked. “She was supposed to be having dinner with her sisters.”
Warrick couldn’t help but shake his head. Nick really had no idea.
“Yeah, I ran into them on my way in.”
“That’s great. I was worried. She and Buffy didn’t really seem to hit it off.”
“I guess they got over it. It looked like they were having a good time when I left them. Ask her about it tomorrow.”
“Hey, how is that vampire case coming? Was Buffy any help?”
Warrick could barely keep from laughing at his friend’s innocent question.
“She was a big help, actually. I need to compare notes with you and Catherine, but I think we’ll clear it up.”Actually, I think we’ll come up with one hell of a story, but with just a little help from the Tangiers staff and one of Buffy’s friends, it’ll have an ending that will work for those who don't know about vampires.
As if on cue, Grissom stuck his head in.
“Nick, Warrick, fire at the Tangiers. Fortunately, it was in a service area and was brought under control quickly, but the fire suppression system was faulty and didn’t kick in immediately like it should have. Two rooms were severely damaged, and they suspect there may be at least one casualty - they can’t account for one of their computer techs.”
“Sounds messy. Guess the vampire will have to wait,” Nick sighed.
Warrick deliberately changed slower than normal, letting Nick finish first and run to the break room to grab a coffee while he finished. He waited until Nick was out of earshot before he gave in to the urge to laugh.---
Catherine ended up letting Lindsey spend the night with Dawn at the Rampart. They left the two teens in Dawn’s suite under the supervision of Catherine’s mother, the three of them chortling madly at the video of Buffy finding out she and Catherine were sisters. Lily had been let in on the joke and found it as amusing as Sam did.
Catherine, Sam, and Buffy gathered in Sam’s office to work out a slightly more serious answer to her question from earlier.
“Buffy, Catherine tells me that checking up on you and talking to Dawn, she found out that you don’t really have a settled place to live or a steady job right now,” Sam began.
“Yeah, the collapse of Sunnydale made a mess in more ways than one,” Buffy said resignedly. She was so not looking forward to returning to LA, and wondering how much longer she could justify staying in Las Vegas now that the Daniel situation had been dealt with. There were still a few of his minions for her to track down, but that shouldn’t take too long, so even that excuse wouldn't buy her much extra time.
“Just straightening out the legal paperwork has taken months. Insurance still hasn’t paid out on the house, and until they do or until Giles finally liberates the Council accounts from red tape over in Europe, I can’t afford to get a new place. We’ve been living at the Hyperion, which is super crowded but rent-free.”
“I don’t know about Sam,” Catherine said, “But I am positive Lindsey would be thrilled if you two were around here on a more regular basis, and I’d be glad to have you around too.”
“Sam would definitely like to have you around,” he growled, shooting a mock glare at Catherine.
“Buffy, I don’t want to be pushy, but it would be a relief to me if you girls moved closer, where I can actually be a parent and look after Dawn. Don’t make money a factor in your decision. If you want to move here, it will happen regardless of your financial situation.”
Buffy looked from one to the other, dumbfounded.
“Wow. I hadn’t really thought about it… Not that I need to think too hard, because I already know it will take Slayer strength to get Dawn on a plane out of here.”
She paused for a moment, thinking it through. Why not? I’m not the only Slayer in the world anymore, and I can always travel to trouble spots as I’m needed. And Vegas may not have needed a full time Slayer before, but it might now. Who knows what Daniel’s children have been up to while I’ve been chasing him…
She smiled. It would be the closest she’d come to a normal life since she was a sophomore in high school. It sounded great.
“I need to ok it with Giles for my part, but I think we probably will.”---
A week later, Catherine found herself sitting with Buffy on her back patio watching Dawn and Lindsey clown around in the pool with Xander.
Willow and Xander had turned up the day after the kidnapping to bring more of Buffy and Dawn’s clothes. Catherine suspected they’d also wanted to vet the Summers sisters’ newfound relatives and friends. Just in case. After a moment of thought, Catherine had decided she didn’t blame them one bit.
She’d expected Willow would be the more important one in the vetting process, but paying attention to the interaction between Buffy and her two friends, she realized Xander was the one whose opinion the girls were looking to. She’d asked Buffy about it.
Buffy had shrugged.
“Willow’s got her own skills, but Xander’s the one who’s really good at reading people. He’s almost never wrong, and the few exceptions are Angel and Spike, which you can’t really blame him for, cause they’re complicated.”
Catherine gave her a look.
Buffy shook her head.
“It’s two whole nother stories, and both of them take a lot of time. The short version is they’re both vampires I’ve dated.”
Catherine’s jaw dropped.
“I thought you were the vampire slayer
“Don’t go there, Cath. The joke’s old. Trust me, I’ve heard it before.”
Catherine blinked, then tried not to snicker as she realized what Buffy meant.
“Anyway, Xander’s our go-to guy when we let anyone new in. But if he tries to make you do the Scooby dance, tell him you’re the big sister and you’re exempt.”
Catherine shook her head.
“I bet that’s a whole nother story too.”
“What happened to Xander’s eye?”
“That’s… it’s also a long story, and it’s Xander’s to tell if he wants to. Let’s just say he wasn’t running with scissors.”
Catherine gave her a searching look, but Buffy wasn’t going to give. She decided to leave it at that. One eye or not, the boy knew what he was doing when it came to carpentry- he’d happily set about mending the loose leg of the kitchen table, and suggested that if Catherine wanted, he could fix the back door, which kept sticking.
While Xander could be a serious adult when the occasion called for it, he was also the most playful of the three twenty-somethings. Lindsey had been warned by Dawn before she was introduced to him that the eyepatch wasn’t for show and that it was considered rude to sneak up on Xander from his blind side. So she’d been slightly hesitant when Xander joined the girls in the pool, but gotten over it quickly when Xander suggested a cannonball competition. Buffy and Catherine had had to move the deck chairs to a safer distance.
Willow was inside with Lily, helping with dinner and running through the property listings Sam had sent over for Buffy to look at. Willow had explained that in addition to location, they also had other security considerations when picking out houses. She and Xander were going to go with Buffy when she got as far as viewing the properties.
Willow had also informed Catherine she’d be adding some protection to her house. At Catherine’s puzzled look, Willow had smiled.
“Not security systems like you’re used to. Security like we’re used to. Charms and spells. I’ll be starting by making sure that no vampire has ever gained access to your house, and then running through some standard demon protection charms. We’re going to make sure your house is as safe as Buffy’s.”
Catherine had looked from Buffy to Willow and then nodded. This was a whole new world, but she trusted Buffy and her friends to point her and more importantly Lindsey on a safe path through it.
Glancing at the pool, Catherine shook her head at the sight of Dawn and Lindsey having a splash fight like little kids. The two teens acted more like long-lost sisters than she and Buffy did, and Catherine had a feeling they were going to be inseparable come summer. Buffy had already announced that Dawn could stay at the Rampart while she went back to LA to settle their affairs there and pack up what little they had to ship to Vegas.
“What’s with you and Sam?” Buffy asked curiously, as they watched the splash fight. “There’s definitely some hostility there.”
Catherine froze. She didn’t want to poison Sam’s relationship with her sisters, but she didn’t want to lie either.
“You don’t have to give me the history,” Buffy said quickly, seeing her hesitation. “Cause it’s pretty clear that there is history. I just wondered. He treats your mom well. And it seems like he’s a good dad.”
“What makes you say that?” Catherine asked, stalling for time.
Buffy looked off into the distance. For a second, Catherine thought she wouldn’t answer. When she did, she spoke quietly. Out of the corner of her eye, Catherine noticed Xander detach himself from the splash fight, looking concerned.
“The man I thought was my dad, when he found out about me being the Slayer, he couldn’t get away from me fast enough,” Buffy told her, still not looking at her. “He had me committed, and when that didn’t ‘cure’ me, he left. That’s why he and my mom got divorced. I don’t know if he knew we weren’t his children, but before I was called, it didn’t matter. We were the picture perfect family he wanted. When he found out he couldn’t have that, he was done.”
Catherine was speechless. Dawn and Buffy managed to be so carefree most of the time that she’d never really let it sink in what kind of toll Buffy’s calling took on her family and friends. Even Willow and Xander’s security considerations and careful vetting hadn’t brought it home. She’d kept Sam saying that Buffy should be dead already locked up in her mind where she didn’t have to deal with it. She reached out to hug her sister for the first time. Dawn she’d hugged before, but not Buffy.
“No, it’s ok. I’ve made my peace with it,” Buffy said. But she didn’t attempt to evade the hug.
“That doesn’t make it any less awful,” Catherine told her.
“No, it doesn’t. But it does make for a contrast with Sam. He knew before he even met me that I was the Slayer and he wanted me anyway. He took more interest in me the first day I met him than Hank’s taken in the last eight years of my life. He wants to take care of Dawn, too. And that’s… I need that. I need to know that Dawn will be ok.”
Catherine nodded. Buffy didn’t need to elaborate. Xander and Willow would doubtless have looked after Dawn, but now she had a family that had no ties to the supernatural to make doubly sure she
would be looked after.
“So whatever history you and Sam have, maybe you should consider burying the hatchet. I’m just saying, he seems like he’s doing the best he can. That’s all you can ask for, really.”
“I’ll keep it in mind,” Catherine said.
“Good,” Buffy grinned. Glancing over at Xander, she looked back at Catherine with a look that was pure mischief. “Xander’s looking like he needs backup… you want in on that splash fight they’ve got going? I’m pretty sure we can take them.”
Catherine smiled. She could get used to having sisters, even if it was taking her more effort to get used to being one of Sam’s girls.
“Why not? Let’s get ‘em.”