Ch. 61 My Sister’s Keeper
A/N: Episode incorporates “Real Me”
“Can I have the milk?”
Dawn Summers heaved a disgruntled sigh when her older sister completely ignored her, taking the milk for herself and setting it by her bowl.
“I’m glad you came by for breakfast,” Joyce said as she poured her coffee, drawing a loving smile.
Dawn reached across the counter and snatched up the bowl and milk Buffy had claimed. Buffy turned from the fridge to see her bowl gone and sighed. She went back to the cabinet to get another one. Dawn dumped the last of the milk over her cereal and happily dove in for a bite.
“What are you doing today hon?”
Buffy shook out cereal in her bowl and picked up the milk.
“Giles is coming by to....”
Buffy paused when a single drop of milk leaked from the carton. She stared into Dawn’s back with a heavily irritated frown. Buffy rolled her eyes and sighed in exasperation.
“Giles is picking me up and then we’re going to pick up some supplies at the magic shop downtown. Part of my new training.”
Joyce sipped from her coffee and drew a pleasant smile.
“That sounds nice.”
Buffy lit up with a bright smile.
“Actually, yeah, I’m looking forward to.....”
“You won’t mind taking Dawn after wards to get her supplies for school then,” Joyce cut in.
Buffy drifted out of her smile and frowned as Dawn shined her annoyance.
“But mom!” Dawn protested. “You and I were supposed to go, we were gonna have mother daughter shopping bonding time.”
“Yes, sweetie, but with this new showing at the gallery, I’m swamped with preparations. It would be very helpful if Buffy could just take you to get your supplies,” Joyce reasoned.
Joyce strolled out of the kitchen with Buffy hot on her heels.
“Um, mom, the thing is.....”
Dawn stormed after her mother as Joyce picked up her bag.
“It’s just a really quick trip,” Buffy stated. “To the MAGIC SHOP mom. There aren’t any pencils or notebooks or rulers. So you see, we can’t take Dawn cuz there’s nothing there she needs.”
Dawn moped at her mother.
“It’s not like I’m going to Hogwarts.”
Buffy flashed an odd look at her sister.
“Hello, Harry Potter?” Dawn pointed. “Would it kill you to read a book?”
Dawn rolled her eyes.
“If you are going to be in that area, then I wouldn’t think Mr. Giles would have a
problem making the trip to the department store when you finish your errand.”
“Uh, I think he will have a problem,” Buffy replied. “Giles and I are having Watcher-Slayer bonding time, not Watcher, Slayer and Slayer’s sister time. You do remember how Dawn rudely interrupted my training session the other day?”
“I wasn’t being rude,” Dawn moped.
Buffy snapped her eyes on Dawn.
“You WERE rude, on purpose!”
Joyce heaved a sigh as the two siblings glared at each other.
“Sweetie, I understand your new training thing is important to you.....”
When the doorbell rang, Joyce pivoted toward the door to answer it.
“I just would really appreciate it if you could help me out,” she finished.
As the two siblings seethed at each other, Joyce swung the door open and drew a wide, maternal smile when she saw Dean standing on the porch.
“Dean, thank goodness you’re here.”
Dean swept his eyes to Buffy and Dawn both carrying heavy scowls. He cracked an amused smirk.
“Uh oh, what are we fighting about this time?”
The sisters simply crossed their arms and deepened their scowls.
“Do you think you could take Dawn on an errand, since Buffy is too busy?”
Buffy balked with offense.
“Mom! Dean is not Dawn’s taxi!” she moaned.
Dean glanced at Joyce and then nodded toward Buffy.
“Yeah, I’m just her taxi,” Dean said dryly.
“I just thought since Dean is here, he could help us out since you’re so busy,” Joyce reasoned.
Buffy heaved a sigh as Joyce disappeared upstairs. Dean watched the silence of the two sisters before he heaved his own sigh.
“So what’s going on?”
Buffy wandered up to Dean, dipping her head on his shoulder.
“My life,” she groaned as she wrapped her arms around him.
Dawn rolled her eyes as her sister snuggled with Dean before they started kissing.Ick, she’s kissing Dean again, which is really gross considering he’s been like our big brother.....he’s here for the weekend which means Buffy won’t be around because they’re off getting busy. She doesn’t think I know about sex but I read, I watch TV, I know.
Buffy let out a contented sigh, her foul mood quickly dissipating as she pulled away from Dean and smiled up at him.
“I thought you weren’t going with us?”
Dean shrugged as he tightened his arms around Buffy.
“I have to go into town for dad anyway, so I figured, I’d stop in see if you needed a ride.”
“Giles is picking me up soon,” she said. “But you can ride with us.”
“In the Citreon, are you serious?”
Buffy shook her head. “No, Giles mentioned something about getting some new wheels. He sounded very excited about driving.”
“Huh, I wonder what he upgraded to, an Edsel?”
Dawn frowned in confusion as Dean chuckled deeply. Dawn rolled her eyes and huffed.Sometimes I really don’t get his humor. Then again I don’t understand my sister’s relationship with Dean. She had a huge crush on him when she was my age but he was always teasing her and seemed like he couldn’t stand her and now he’s kissing her ass.
Dean used to pull on my pigtails and call me “little sun” I guess cuz my name is Dawn. Now it’s “little D”. I hate that nickname but Dean joked about how that wasn’t half as bad as the nicknames he gave my sister when they were growing up. Whatever.
Buffy parted from Dean and pivoted toward the kitchen. Dean glanced at Dawn and smiled.
“Hey little D.”
Dawn rolled her eyes as Dean wandered over to her. Dean thinks he’s so cool but I know how to make him nervous. It usually is just one word I say that shakes him up
“Are you and Buffy gonna have sex later?” she asked bluntly.
Dean faded out of his casual smile and flashed a sheepish expression. He forced out a chuckle and waved his hand.
“Funny kid. We’re just gonna grab a bite, watch movies or something.”They both think I’m stupid. Dean is gone two or three weeks at a time and as soon as he shows up here, he takes my sister away. I know what they’re doing.
Dawn rolled her eyes and went into the kitchen as Buffy passed her clutching a bagel in a napkin. She ushered Dean to the couch and then settled in his lap.
“So how’d it go yesterday with Mr. Miyagi?”
Buffy heaved an exasperated sigh. “It was going great, totally one with myself but then.....”
She threw her eyes toward the living room.
“Dawn rudely brought me back to Earth, ya know? Sometimes I could just wring her neck.”
“I heard that!” Dawn roared from the living room.
Buffy growled in her throat.
“Little sisters,” she groaned.
A few minutes later, Buffy and Dean strolled out of the house with Dawn grumbling behind them. Giles pulled up to the curb in a cherry red sports coupe, the top rolled down.
“Wow, Giles, nice car,” Buffy praised.
Dean listened to the sound of the engine as Giles shined a silly grin.
“It is, isn’t it?”
“Needs a tune up,” Dean said flatly.
Buffy shot her eyes to Dean with a disapproving pout.
“What? I can’t lie when it comes to cars.”
“It is a new purchase,” Giles moaned.
“Yeah, well, sounds like it’s been given quite a few test drives,” Dean assessed.
Buffy and Dean climbed into the back as Dawn settled in the passenger seat.
“I was not aware you’d be joining us,” Giles stated as he eyed Dean.
“Well, sorry to crash your book party but alas, dad needs me to pick up a grimoire he ordered a couple months ago.”
“Ah, how is Johnny these days?”
Dean drew incredulous eyes at the nickname.
“Uh, busy as always.”
Dawn tuned every one out as she reached over to the stereo console and started fiddling with the radio, scrolling through snippets of stations. Giles flashed his annoyance.
“I would prefer you not to play with the console,” Giles said politely.
Dawn released a deep sigh as Giles deepened his annoyance. She sat back in her seat and crossed her arms.
“See Dean, if you could say that instead of ‘touch the radio, you die!’ I wouldn’t intentionally fight you on it,” Buffy pointed.
Now Dean rolled his eyes and shook his head as Giles veered the car toward downtown. Buffy removed a sheet of paper from her purse and began to review it.
“This is quite some list you have for me, are you sure we’re not buying like the library?”
“We are encroaching upon a whole new world now,” Giles stated. “I regret to acknowledge that I have not acquired all the resources we will need in this journey. Are you completely committed Buffy?”
“Roger that Giles,” Buffy said with a smile. “This girl ready for anything.”
Giles drew a smile as he shifted gears, causing the car to emit a grating sound. Dean grimaced and threw a scolding glare at Giles.
“Jesus Giles, what did this car ever do to you?”
Dean sunk his eyes and shook his head. Dawn rolled her eyes.The way Dean goes on and on about cars, you would think he loves them more than anything, like he would marry a car if he could. I heard him once call his car ‘his baby’ like it was an actual person, a girl or something. Maybe that’s why Buffy constantly tries to get on his nerves when they are in the car, cuz it tries to take attention away from her. My sister always has to be the center of attention. Who knows if any of them are aware that I’m sitting here.
“I am not yet comfortable with automatic transmissions,” Giles lamented as he tried shifting gears again.
“Oh god,” Dean groaned as he covered his ears. “Take your hand off the stick man!”
“I feel useless just having to sit and do nothing,” Giles moaned. “I do not think this is going to work for me....”
Dean widened his eyes as he watched Giles reaching for the shift. He slapped Giles’ hand and glared at him.
“You are going to drive this car into the ground Giles! After Crash Barbie here, you are the second worst driver I know.”
Buffy crooked her eyebrows at Dean. “Uh hello Mr. One Hundred Miles an Hour.”
“Hey, at least when I drive, it’s like gliding over butter.....not wrangling metal. Sorry
Giles but YOU do not deserve a sweet car like this, maybe it is better for you to just let her go.”
Giles stared at Dean, contemplating his advice for a moment.
“You’re supporting Giles in dumping his new car?” Buffy asked.
“If he can’t handle her, he shouldn’t have her,” Dean reasoned sincerely.
“Still....” Buffy started.
Giles flashed a resentful look at the car. “I did feel.....enchanted when I saw it, vibrant color and sleek look.”
“Slutty little coupe,” Buffy teased.
Giles heaved a sigh. “I suppose it was an impulse buy. I have been so unwound lately that I must have been looking for something to....”
“Stroke your ego?” Buffy finished, shooting a glance over at Dean.
“Maybe, since I am acting as your Watcher now, again, it would be appropriate to exude some measure of respect.”
Buffy and Dean shot their eyes to Giles and moped.
“Seriously?” they both asked in unison.
Giles drew a peevish frown. “Yes, quite. There is much work ahead for us, so there really will be time to waste on trivial, petty....”
“Look, Willow and Tara are over there,” Dawn said as she pointed out her window.
Giles brightened with a goofy grin and quickly maneuvered through traffic.
“We must get their attention! I must them show them my new wheels,” he roared.
Giles pounded on the horn as he veered the car along the sidewalk. Willow and Tara turned their heads as Giles turned off the engine.
“Woah, nice ride,” Willow said.
Giles, Dawn, Buffy and Dean hopped out of the car.
“It is very nice Giles,” Tara remarked.
Giles widened his grin.
“Yes, yes it is, thank you,” he cheered. “It’s perfect for me really.”
“It needs a tune up and probably a new transmission now since Giles couldn’t keep his hands off his stick,” Dean groaned.
After a moment of odd looks from the group, Buffy shifted subjects.
“Where you off too?”
“The Magic Box,” Willow imparted. “One of my back orders just came in today.”
Dawn emerged from behind her sister and waved at Willow.
Willow smiled and hugged Dawn.
“Hey Dawnie!”Now Willow is the coolest person in the whole world. Not only does she like school and studying as much as I do but she and her friend Tara are practicing witches. They’re always getting together and doing cool spells, that’s way more awesome than slaying a vampire. I told mom I want to be just like Willow and she sent me to my room. I think witchcraft freaks her out or something. Hello, your daughter is the Slayer, that’s freaky.
As Buffy and Willow conversed, Dawn faded behind the group.
“No! You can’t bail on Drama!” Willow moaned. “That was our thing!”
“I’m sorry Will but Giles.....”
Giles balked as he perched on the curb.
“I am standing right here,” he snapped.
Willow made her case as the group ambled up to the Magic Box. Tara peered inside the front window.
“Um, it doesn’t look open,” she said softly.
Giles frowned as he peeked through the dark window.
“It is the middle of the day,” he said. “That is very strange.”
Giles tugged on the door as the group filed inside to see the shop in a complete state of disarray, books were strewn on the floor, jars were smashed and shattered and a few pieces of furniture had been upended. As the gang took in the destruction, Dean glanced at Giles with an apprehensive look.
“Okay, I’ll see your ‘strange’ and raise you a ‘bad’.”
Giles called out to the shopkeeper as the group moved further inside. Willow was ahead of the group as she looked around.
“It’s possible this was hit after......whoops!”
Willow caught her foot on something and tumbled to the floor. Tara rushed to her side.
“I’m okay, my foot got caught on.....”
Willow widened her eyes when she saw a dead body buried in the rubble.
“Uh.....that!” she cried. “It’s Mr. Bogarty!”
Willow scrambled away from the body as Tara clutched her to her feet. Buffy, Dean and Giles moved fast toward the rubble. In one quick stride, Dean stepped over a pile of books and crouched over the body.
“What happened to him?” Dawn asked.
Buffy widened her eyes and whipped around to get to Dawn as she tried to push through the group. Buffy blocked her view and pointed to the door.
“I need you to wait outside,” she said sternly.
“What? Why? I want to know what’s going on.”
“No,” Buffy stated sharply.
Buffy snatched Dawn by the arm and ushered her out of the shop.
“You’re hurting me Buffy!”
Buffy dropped Dawn’s arm and sighed.
“Look, just stay out here until I come and get you.”
“Because....I’m older and I said so!” Buffy barked as she went back inside and shut the door.
Buffy shuffled back to the group and took in the looks of dread.
Dean nodded as he stepped away from the body.
“I’d bet at least three by the looks of that dinner plate there,” he said.
“So a new late night bloodsucking club is in town?” Buffy mused as she examined the body.
Willow emerged from the back of the shop clutching a binder.
“Okay, I’ve done a little inventory check, mainly books.”
Buffy peered over Willow’s shoulder and then pulled out her checklist of supplies.
“Oh,” she moaned. “I needed that one. Is there more stock in the back?”
Giles joined Willow and politely took the binder from her. He drew a peevish frown as he flipped through the pages. Buffy wandered over to Dean who was picking through some of the destruction.
“We must not make light of this Buffy,” Giles stressed. “Whoever these vampires are, it is clear they were after information about you, to study you, looking for your vulnerabilities, trying to.....bloody hell!”
Buffy and Dean turned anxiously to Giles.
“What did you find?” they asked in unison.
Giles tapped on a page in the binder.
“I never realized how profitable this shop was!”
Buffy and Willow shared a look of wonder as Dean simply blinked with disbelief.
“This is extraordinary!” Giles cheered. “High profit margin, overhead is low, out of state orders on a daily basis, even....out of country! The clientele is immensely abundant. This shop is.....”
“A big black box of death,” Buffy finished.
Giles shifted his eyes to Buffy.
“Sorry? Oh.....I do realize that but......”
Dean hitched a hand up, trying to get back to the point.
“We’ll leave you to your buying spree, but me and Wonder Woman are gonna figure out who these new vamps are.”
“Yes, that would be wise,” Giles stated.
Willow glanced out the shop window.
“Uh Buffy, I think you’re forgetting one important thing.”
Buffy looked around the shop, completely clueless.
“She’s about yay big,” Willow said. “Goes by the name Dawn.”
Buffy glanced with recognition out the window and sighed.
“Ugh, baby sister watch,” she groaned. “Well, I can’t take her with me so I’ll just have to take her home and then head out.”
“Or, I’ll go look for the lair,” Dean offered.
“You? By yourself?”
Dean frowned with offense.
“Yeah, I do have experience in this.”
Buffy gasped with relief when a thought rippled through her mind.
“Yeah, you do! You can watch Dawn while I go out and look for the lair.”
Dean deepened his offended look.
“Scuse me? You want ME to watch after YOUR sister?”
Dean shook his head in dismay.
“Someone has to watch her or I’ll hear it from mom later,” Buffy moaned.
“Yeah, YOU can watch her,” Dean stated. “She’s YOUR sister. You’re not pawning her off on me.”
“I’m not pawning her off on you, I just meant, you can make sure she doesn’t get in trouble.”
As Buffy and Dean went back and forth in their debate, Giles rambled on about the financial benefits of the magic shop.
“It seems something is missing from here,” Giles said.
Buffy and Dean suddenly stopped arguing and shifted their attention to Giles. They noticed Giles looking into a broken glass cabinet full of porcelain figurines, crystal balls and various other items.
“What’s missing?” Buffy asked as she moved to the cabinet.
“A relic of great power I would assume,” Giles replied.
“Or something that could unleash a great power?” Dean posed as he too moved over to take a closer look. “So what are we talking, voodoo charm, pagan sacrifice tool....”
“Looks like an import from Thailand, one ceramic unicorn ten inches, valued at twelve ninety five,” Willow imparted as she glanced at the binder.
Buffy, Dean and Giles shared collective looks of bewilderment.
“A unicorn?” Buffy clarified.
Dean shined an incredulous look as he stared into the glass case.
“Vampires who dig unicorns?”
He shook his head as he tried to absorb the revelation.
“Next you’re gonna tell me werewolves are hot for rainbows!”
Dean shook his head again as the ridiculous thought rolled through his head.
“Yes, what kind of ungodly evil could even fancy such a deplorable piece of display?” Giles asked as he drew a frown.
Willow, Giles, Buffy and Dean drew their own conclusions briefly before shaking them off.
“Well, I for one am looking forward to dusting these unicorn loving vampires just for the sake of being lame,” Dean said emphatically.
As he stepped over piles of books, Dean swung his eyes back to Willow.
“Say, did you happen to see an order for uh.....Bert Aframian?”
Giles drew a curious look as Willow padded to the back office. When she returned a few minutes later, she had a big text in her arms.
“Here ya go, ‘Bert’,” she said.
Dean took the text from her and clutched it under his arm.
After walking out of the magic shop, Buffy found Tara and Dawn playing a round of thumb wrestling.
“Come on Dawn, let’s go,” Buffy replied.
After one block, Buffy and Dawn started bickering, throwing glares at each other as Dean was wedged between them.
“Mom said you had to take me to get supplies, you’re gonna get in trouble,” Dawn said snidely.
Buffy rolled her eyes.
“It’s not my fault I told her I couldn’t take you,” Buffy remarked with an annoyed look.
As the girls went on and on, Dean shifted his eyes briefly at each sister before he heaved a sigh. When the arguing escalated, Dawn huffed loudly and stormed a few steps away to mope.
“Get over here!” Buffy barked.
“Dawn, I mean it!”
“I don’t care!”
Dawn stuck her tongue out as Buffy growled in her throat. Dean let out another sigh as he interrupted.
“Uh, I hate to break up this chatty party but uh, I’m gonna go......away....I mean, look for these new vamps.”
Dean pushed off the curb but felt the sharp tug of his arm being yanked back. Buffy glared up at him in deep exasperation.
“Dean, you can’t just walk away,” she stated. “You have to walk Dawn home with me.”
Dean glanced at moping Dawn and then aggravated Buffy. He drew a reluctant pout.
“Do I hafta?”
Buffy crossed her arms and glared up at him.
“Oh fine. But I’m playing the radio.”
Dean tapped on the side of his head.
“The one in here,” he said. “And I’m keeping a couple paces ahead so don’t kill each other.”
Dean pushed off the curb again as Dawn reluctantly left with Buffy.
Once they were back at the house, Dawn stormed upstairs to her room and slammed her door as Joyce came out of the kitchen.
“What is going on?”
Joyce looked at Buffy expectantly. Feeling the awkward silence building, Dean cleared his throat and fished out his cell phone.
“Uh, I’ll be......in the car.”
Dean bounded out of the door leaving Buffy alone to deal with her mother.
A short time later, Dean sucked in a breath as he swept back through the door of the Summers’ house. When he didn’t hear any high pitched arguing, he let out a brief sigh of relief as he edged toward the foot of the stairs.
“Anyone home or......dying?!” he called.
He looked around the living area for any signs of fighting or hair pulling. When he heard the sounds of footsteps above him and then Buffy trudging down the stairs, he released another sigh.
“You didn’t.....strangle your sister or anything, did you?”
Buffy rolled her eyes as she headed for the kitchen.
“No, but I wanted to.”
“Oh, well that’s good. So, what’s the scoop? We’re losing daylight and I’m all packed up for some vamp dusting.”
“Xander is gonna watch Dawn while we patrol.”
Buffy cracked a soft drink can open and eyed Dean curiously.
“You don’t think Xander can handle Dawn?”
“No, it’s not that.....it’s just.....”
Dean snickered softly as he leaned on the counter.
“What? What’s so funny?”
“Uh, nothing,” Dean said dismissively.
After packing for patrol, Buffy headed down the hall when she heard the doorbell chiming. She flew down the stairs, yanked Dean from the kitchen and dragged him toward the door where Xander was chatting with her mom and Dawn.
“Okay, we’re off,” Buffy said. “Be back late bye!”
Dean waved a hand after stuffing his mouth with a muffin as Buffy ushered him out the door.
As the sun faded into the horizon, Buffy and Dean patrolled through a cemetery, searching the grounds for the new band of vampires in town. While Dean scoped the dark pockets between the mausoleums and the rest of his surroundings with thorough, cautious eyes, Buffy drifted deeper into an incessant rambling about her mother’s scolding speech.
“.....so mom goes on and on about how she’s counting on me to look after Dawn cuz I’m her big sister and that I need to make sure she doesn’t see the bad stuff I do......she gives me a big speech about how Dawn is fragile and seeing a dead body would shatter her world, but she DIDN’T see the dead body......maybe his feet but.....the point is, she coddles Dawn and she doesn’t coddle me!”
Dean paused in his step as the all too familiar rant resonated through his mind. He leaned against a large marble head stone as Buffy took a breath before continuing.
“It’s like she doesn’t see me as her daughter anymore,” she moaned. “No, to her, I’m the Slayer, I fight demons and get a pat on the back, but Dawn, SHE gets milk and cookies and a kiss goodnight by mom but she’s my mom too! Do I get that too? No, it’s just ‘take your sister with you Buffy’, ‘make sure your sister doesn’t see anything bad Buffy’, ‘I’m counting on you to protect her Buffy’......”
Dean drifted deeper into the parallels of his own life as Buffy blew out an exasperated sigh.
“....why is it my job now? I mean, I have to keep this town and the world safe, I have enough things to worry about but mom doesn’t care, she says it’s still my responsibility to watch after Dawn! I’m beginning to think mom loves her more than me, that she’s the star child in the family but she’s the baby, I was her first born and.....”
Buffy halted her mad ramblings when she noticed Dean looking off in the cemetery. She flashed an annoyed glare.
“And you haven’t listened to a word I’ve said!” she snapped.
Buffy frowned with offense when Dean still didn’t respond. She stepped in front of him and poked a finger in his chest several times.
“Hello? Care to come back to Earth and actually listen to me?!”
After a brief moment, Dean snapped out of his daze and met her glowering eyes.
“I heard you,” he acknowledged softly.
“You have a funny way of showing it,” she groaned. “So?”
“Aren’t you going to weigh in with a wise crack?”
“I thought you were venting,” he pointed.
“I was but.....it’s not like you to be so.....unresponsive.”
Buffy lifted out of her own grievances and studied Dean for a long minute.
“Don’t tell me you’re on Dawn’s side,” she moaned.
“You’re siding with mom then?”
As her eyebrows furrowed with frustration, Buffy absorbed the flash of vulnerability passing through his sights. She blew out a deep breath as her mind spun with wonder.
“What’s going on with you?” she asked.
Dean shifted in his stance as he propped his hands over the headstone.
“Look, just give your mom a break.”
Buffy soaked in the deep flare of pain and resentment in his eyes and softened her expression.
“Because if you want cookies and milk at the end of the night, your mom would jump hoops to give it to you if you just ASK her,” he stated.
“Your mom is awesome Buffy, I really hope you appreciate having her in your life and everything she does to show how much she cares.....not all of us.......”
Dean stopped as the pain flared up in his eyes. He averted his eyes from hers, drawing his sights to the ground. She watched his hands gripping the headstone tightly, the slow, deep breath he heaved in the air and her heart splintered with guilt.
Buffy tucked herself between his legs and cupped his face, drawing his eyes back to hers. She shaded with a rueful expression.
“I’m sorry I just went off like that,” she said. “You know exactly how I feel and I.....I shouldn’t even complain.”
Buffy let out a heavy sigh.
“It’s just......sometimes it just gets to be too much you know? I mean, every day we get up, we fight the evil and hope to live another day. But Dawn....”
Buffy rolled her eyes and groaned in her throat as she fell back into her rant.
“She gets to do whatever she wants – I don’t ever get a break. She can be a kid, my little sister who thinks the world is against her, she gets all the hugs she wants from mom, all the coddling, she doesn’t know how lucky she is and....sometimes that makes me so mad because I want to be a kid too.....I want all of that again....”
Dean felt the last wall of his tolerance breaking away as he suddenly lashed out with resentment, glowering deeply at Buffy.
“Stop, just stop it. You had fifteen years to be a kid, I had FOUR,” he barked. “So just STOP bitching about your life and DEAL WITH IT, okay?!”
Buffy gasped with shock and hurt as Dean drifted over to headstone and kicked at the grass. He let out a long breath to stave off his aggravation as Buffy stewed with emotion.
“Let’s just find this damn lair,” he grumbled as he pushed through the cemetery.
After kicking through several crypts, caves and abandoned cabins, Buffy and Dean made their way back to town. Buffy watched Dean as he brooded deeply, staying ahead of her as much as possible and avoiding meeting her eyes. As they reached the clearing of the cemetery, Dean picked up his pace and pushed toward his car parked along the street. Buffy moped the longer he ignored her. By the time she climbed into the passenger seat of the running car, the silence had grown painful. With the familiar classic rock station blasting through the speakers, Buffy stared at Dean as his expression was completely distant. She opened her mouth to try and smooth over the immense rough patch that had been stirred up between them. Seeing the lines of tension gathering deeper around his eyes, Buffy heaved a sigh and closed her mouth.
The quick drive back to the house passed with no conversation. Buffy noticed that Dean hadn’t even drummed his hands on the steering wheel the way he usually did to his favorite songs. Buffy felt her eyes water and her lips shaking with remorse at her unintentional rambling about her mom and sister. She knew how Dean felt about his mom and she had often tried to coax him into reminiscing about her, but despite their years of friendship, he never said much about Mary. She couldn’t imagine how deep the ache in his heart ran whenever he thought about his mother.
When Dean pulled the car to the curb, Buffy heaved a sigh as she tried to reach out to him. Dean got out too quickly and moved down the walkway, pausing to wait for her. Seeing the impatience and frustration flooding his face, Buffy hurriedly climbed out of the car and ambled toward the front door.
Xander and Anya pulled the door open as soon as Buffy and Dean stepped onto the porch.
“Thank god you’re back,” Xander replied anxiously.
“What is it?” Buffy asked as her face knitted with concern.
A short time later in the kitchen, after Xander relayed the details of Harmony’s attack, he waited expectantly for the wrath of the Slayer. When Buffy absorbed the revelation, she remained still before suddenly bursting into hysterics.
“You’re joking right?” she snorted.
Buffy folded over and continued laughing.
“You.....sure.....it was Har....mony?! With her....minions?!”
Buffy laughed deeper, longer as Xander and Anya regarded her with serious expressions. After fading into the background for awhile, Dean shifted his eyes to Xander.
“Harmony, she was tight with Cordy’s click back in the day right?”
Xander nodded before staring back at Buffy, who transitioned into another bout of laughter.
“You know, I had a laugh fest too when I found out......”
Buffy wiped the tears of amusement from her eyes and tried to contain herself.
“Sorry, I was.....minions!” she snorted.
Buffy ripped with laughter as Xander blew out an impatient breath.
“And Lucky Charms are magically delicious,” Xander replied dryly. “Look Buffy, there is something we should be concerned about.......”
Buffy wiped more tears from her eyes and shook her head.
“Right, right, sorry, it’s just....I can’t seem to stop laughing and I.....I’m getting that pain in my side now!”
Buffy sucked in several breaths as Xander gulped with dread.
“Okay, okay, I’m good, now....what should we be concerned about?”
Xander shifted nervously in his stance.
“Uh, you see, she dropped by here looking to um, well, kill you very badly.”
Buffy snorted and broke into more laughter.
“Kkkkill me?!” she roared. “Oh, oh that’s priceless!”
Dean cocked his head, gradually drawing out of his foul mood. He looked off as he dwelled on a thought. He exuded a very small crack of amusement.
“Okay, I have to admit, a Cordette in a designer dress with fangs and fang boy minions, kind of funny.....”
Buffy squeaked with acknowledgment as she wiped yet more tears from her eyes. Dean absorbed Xander’s intense anxiety and Anya’s dry expression.
“Well, say we give this an actual thought,” Dean posed. “These fangs did gank the magic shop owner. So, maybe they’re not completely harmless, they’re just........lame unicorn loving vampires.”
Dean found himself cracking a smile as he pictured a bunch of fangs clutching unicorns. Anya flashed a dry look as the kitchen pealed with Buffy’s incessant laughter.
“Well, now that they can come into your house, they can do all the harm they want.”
Buffy abruptly burst from her mirthful mood and shaded with concern.
Xander gulped and intervened.
“I meant to get to that part,” he said shakily. “Uh, you see, Harmony sort of um, got invited to come inside.”
“How is that possible? Vampires can only be invited by a resident of the household, and mom and I were out......”
Buffy shifted into a glare of fury as she hopped off the counter.
“I’m gonna kill her,” she groaned. “Dawn! Where are you?!”
As she started to charge out of the kitchen, Xander and Anya chased after her. Xander headed Buffy off, standing in front of her to block her path.
“Buffy, she’s already freaked and, she didn’t know what she was saying at that time. She just kind of....blurted out when we were being taunted,” Xander replied.
Buffy shook her head, not accepting any excuses.
“So that makes it okay?”
“She already feels bad,” Xander said. “Worse than anyone else.”
Buffy rolled her eyes and drew a cynical frown as she charged up the stairs.
“Right, I’m sure she feels SO bad.”
As she steered toward Dawn’s room, she felt a hand on the crook of her arm and looked up to see Dean hovering over her.
“There’s no point in chewing her out,” he reasoned. “Right now, we need to flush out the gang before they drop in for a night cap.”
“I already asked Willow to do another uninvited hocus pocus on the house,” Xander imparted. “She’ll be here any minute to work her magic and then va voom, we’re back in ‘no worries’ land. No harm, no foul, you know?”
Buffy fumed as she charged into her bedroom and started pulling all her weapons out.
“That doesn’t take away the fact that she recklessly endangered everyone with her mass ignorance! She knows how it works around here, she knows better than to break the number one rule when vampires are outside, DO NOT invite them in!” she growled. “Come on, I mean, even when Harmony wasn’t a vamp, I still wouldn’t let her in.”
“So Dawn made a mistake but she doesn’t know any better.”
Buffy rolled her eyes.
“She DOES know better,” she said sharply.
“Does she really?”
Buffy snapped her eyes to Dean who was glaring back at her with more resentment.
“Yeah, Dean, she does,” she defended.
“Obviously not,” he said.
Buffy furrowed her brows with offense.
“Are you saying that this is my fault?”
“Well, who the hell do you expect to teach her about the things that go bump in the night huh? Your mom?”
“She just learns, I had to learn!”
“It was your job to learn,” Dean replied curtly.
Dean pushed off the dresser and heaved a sigh as he walked toward Buffy.
“And it’s your job to keep your family safe.”
Buffy balked loudly.
“Oh, so Dawn lets vampires in the house and I have to fix her mistake? I have to protect her from the demons and evil I deal with every day?! I have to show her how to not be stupid around vamps so that all of us don’t end up dead because of HER? She has already dug a BIG hole for herself but no one seems to CARE! No, poor little Dawn is ‘just a kid’ and it doesn’t matter what she does cuz her big sis Buffy will take care of everything for her, right? Well, I’m sick of it. She’s a big girl and she needs to use common sense! I can’t be around all the time to watch her and take care of her. I’ve sacrificed enough of my life!” she barked. “I just can’t sacrifice any more.”
Dean glared down at Buffy with immense disbelief as his eyes went cold.
“Sacrifice,” he grunted. “You’ve sacrificed enough, huh?”
Xander gulped as the tension in the room boiled over. He clutched Anya and discreetly exited.
“You got your friends, your mom, a house, school, hell, summer vacations, you have people who show they give a damn about you so tell me, just what the hell do you know about sacrifice?!”
Dean sharpened his icy look as Buffy was rendered speechless by the borderline hatred in his tone. As tears spurt in her eyes, Dean took a step back from her and clenched his jaw, trying to stave off the wave of fury raging through him.
“You really need to take a step back and look at everything you have,” he snapped. “Because you are so DAMN LUCKY to have it all. I would trade places with you in a heartbeat.....in a goddamn heartbeat.”
When she caught the pain flaring in his eyes, Buffy felt a stream of tears staining her cheeks. When she opened her mouth to respond, Dean cut her off, hitching a hand up. He blew out a deep breath and shook his head pivoting toward the hall.
“Let’s go dust these damn vamps,” he said with forced enthusiasm.
Dean stormed out of the bedroom, leaving Buffy to stew in a mixture of emotions.
A minute later, Dean walked into the kitchen and noticed the back door wide open. Buffy padded down the stairs and wandered in behind him. She immediately noticed the back door as Dean headed toward it.
“I didn’t leave that open,” she said.
As he neared the porch, Dean shaded with dread as Xander bounded into the kitchen. Dean crouched over an unconscious Anya and checked her pulse.
“Dawn wasn’t in her room!” Xander announced. “Hey...what’s going on out here....”
Xander darted outside to join Buffy and Dean. Buffy glanced expectantly at Dean.
“She’s alive,” he said.
“No! Anya!” Xander roared as he rushed over.
Dean helped Xander carry Anya back into the house as she slowly came to. When her eyes fluttered open and shut, Xander hovered over her anxiously. Dean yanked a chair out as Xander settled Anya on it, clutching her tightly.
Anya winced as she took a long breath.
“The vampires,” she said softly. “Got.....”
“Take it easy hon,” Xander soothed.
Anya’s head slumped against the chair as Dean took a closer look.
“She’s bleeding pretty bad,” Dean said to Xander. “She needs to go to the hospital.”
Dean took out his cell phone and dialed the emergency line. As Xander comforted Anya, Dean got on line with the operator.
“Got Dawn,” Anya uttered.
Buffy perched forward when she heard her sister’s name as Dean broke from his phone call to listen in.
“Huh? Who got Dawn?” Buffy asked.
The exertion from talking overwhelmed Anya as she passed out again.
Buffy widened her eyes and gasped with horror.
“No, no,” she cried.
Dean soaked in the dread on Buffy’s face as the operator on the other line repeatedly called to him.
“.....yeah, I’m still here, sorry, 1630 Revello Drive....thanks,” Dean said before hanging up.
He glanced at Xander.
“Ambulance is on its way......”
As Xander clutched Anya, Buffy bolted out the back door. Dean did a double take and the sudden departure before he pushed off after her.
Dean padded his pockets as he caught up to Buffy at the front of the house. She was moving fast and furiously down the block, her eyes rapidly shifting around the street.
“Oh god, this is my fault!” she moaned.
Buffy quickened her pace even more, practically sprinting along the sidewalk. She shifted her rueful eyes to Dean and cracked with more fear.
“What....what if something happens to her? Oh god Dean, what if she ends up dead cuz I was so wrapped up in my own life? What if.....”
Dean halted on the curb and clutched her arms. The lines of heavy aggravation that had hung on his face earlier quickly bled away as he absorbed Buffy’s sheer remorse and dread.
“We need to stay focused,” he soothed. “We’re gonna find Dawn and then we’re gonna waste every single one of those vamps for messing with the Slayer’s sister.”
Buffy sucked in a breath, feeling the warmth of his hands breaking through the numbness swirling through her body. She nodded as her face shifted into her game face.
“We should split up when we get to the cemetery, cover more ground,” she said. “We didn’t check the crypts on the East side.”
Dean widened his eyes and then shook his head in dismay.
“Dammit, why didn’t I think of it before,” he groaned.
“When you want to find a bunch of lame vamps, go to the source of lame vamps,” he posed.
A short while later, Buffy busted the door of Spike’s crypt open and charged in with Dean at her side.
“Honey, we’re home!” Dean cracked. “What’s for dinner?!”
Spike strolled over with a casual look.
“Oh look at this, Barbie and Ken have barged in for an unwanted visit....well bugger off you two cuz....”
Buffy punched Spike hard in the nose, sending him stumbling back onto the ground. He howled in pain and clutched his nose.
“No time for tea and crumpets,” Buffy snapped. “Tell me where to find Harmony.”
Spike got to his feet and shrugged as he started walking away.
“Harmony? I haven’t seen that pain in my ass in.....”
Dean, who was leaning against the coffin, stuck his foot out as Spike walked by. Spike tumbled forward and took a dive. Dean snickered in his throat as Spike picked himself up.
“Whoops, sorry,” he said.
Spike seethed with annoyance as Buffy charged forward and grabbed him by the neck. She wound her fist back, ready to strike.
“Hey, I told you, I don’t know where.....”
Buffy popped him in the nose. Spike moaned in agony as Dean ripped with laughter.
“Damn, I need some popcorn cuz this is a great show,” he cheered.
Buffy heaved an exasperated breath and wound her arm back again.
“Alright, alright!” Spike surrendered.
“Damn,” Dean moaned.
“We used to shack up in a cave, forty meters past the construction site, bordering the north woods.”
Buffy released her grip on Spike. He shined his relief until she abruptly punched him in the nose. Dean blinked in surprise before he burst into laughter.
“Wow, an unexpected encore. Bra-vo!” he said as he continued to laugh.
“I wasn’t lying!” Spike roared as he nursed his wound.
Buffy shrugged as she pivoted toward the door.
“I believed you.”
Spike scowled as he clutched his nose.
“Then why’d ya hit me?”
“Felt like it.”
Basking in Spike’s pathetic state, Dean snorted with more amusement as he followed Buffy toward the door. He perched in the doorway and looked back at Spike, flashing a wide grin.
“Thanks for late night entertainment,” he cracked. “That part where you looked like you were gonna shit your pants - TOTALLY believable!”
Dean chuckled deeply as he headed out the door. Spike rubbed his face and glared into Dean’s back.
“One day Winchester, I’m gonna kill you!” he snarled.
Dean waved a hand dismissively.
“Yeah, yeah,” he said.
After a short trek through the north side of the woods, Buffy and Dean found the mouth of the cave and swiftly crept inside. When they heard echoes of chatter and laughter, Buffy and Dean exchanged looks as they snuck further down the cave.
“......when my sister finds me she’s gonna kill all of you!” Dawn growled.
Buffy and Dean peered around a wall to see a vampire poking Dawn in the shoulder while another vampire had Harmony in a chokehold. As the vampires chortled with laughter, Buffy moved in fast with her mini crossbow.
The vampire taunting Dawn blinked in surprise as he saw the bolt protruding from his chest, seconds before he blew into dust. The remaining vampires whipped around to see the Slayer standing tall under the entrance.
“She wasn’t exaggerating,” she said.
Dawn shined her relief as the three remaining vamps snarled at the Slayer. Dean edged a step out from the doorway and glanced at Dawn.
“You okay kid?”
Dawn nodded shakily as the vamps armed up, ready for battle. Dean shifted his eyes to the two vamps who had taken up a mace and a battle axe. He cocked an eyebrow and beamed his amusement. He looked around and exaggerated a look of wonder.
“Wait, wait, are we in Dungeons and Dragons or something?”
“And you thought my plan sucked,” Harmony spat at the vampire who locked her in a chokehold.
Buffy extracted a stake from her jacket and glanced at her sister.
“Uh Dawn, you don’t want to see this so, don’t look okay?”
Dawn gave a compliant nod and shut her eyes as the vamps cautiously eyed the Slayer. Harmony threw a lock of her hair behind her shoulder and gave a smug smile.
“Buffy, the Slayer, we finally meet,” she taunted.
Buffy rolled her eyes as Harmony took a step toward her.
“Helloooo, we went to high school together, dumb ass.”
Harmony scoffed. “Dumb ass? You just walked into my.....”
The big she-vamp targeted Dean with her mace and rushed him from behind as one of the male vamps took a swing at Buffy with his battle axe.
Dean instinctively swung around a blink before the mace crashed toward his head. He dodged out of the way as the she vamp hissed. Buffy ducked out of the vamp’s axe swing and swiftly stuck him in the heart with her stake. As he blew into dust, she caught the axe in her hand.
The she vamp relentlessly swung her mace at Dean, who dodged and blocked her across the cave. After a moment, he grabbed the handle and tried to best the mace from her grip. As Dean sparred with the she vamp, Buffy twirled the battle axe and glared at Harmony.
“When are you gonna learn Harmony that every thing you do is bad, being head cheerleader, bad, chairing the Homecoming committee, bad, but being a bloodsucking vampire with an evil plan, you totally suck.”
Dawn cracked her eyes open to peek and saw the big male vampire raising a large hammer toward Buffy.
“Buffy, behind you!” she warned.
Buffy shifted her eyes to Dawn and then behind her. In a blink, she saw the hammer slamming into her stomach. She was blown across the cave and crashed into a wall.
“Good job Mort, great....you really surprised her.....” Harmony stammered.
Mort shifted his glare upon Harmony and snarled. She gulped, whipped around and fled. Mort swung around, bringing his hammer toward Buffy again but she swiftly sprung out of the way. As Buffy back flipped across the cave with no stakes in hand, Mort charged toward her with his hammer.
The two began brutally sparring for several minutes. Meanwhile, in another section of the cave, Dean was still fighting the she vamp. She blew him several feet down the passageway. Dean let out a groan as he smashed hard into a wall. As he shook off his daze, the she vamp lunged on top of him and tried tearing at his neck. He wrestled with her, kicking and punching at her as she roared with bloodlust. Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted Buffy’s abandoned stakes a few feet away. He gripped the she vamp and pitched her in a roll across the passageway until he landed discreetly on top of a stake. As the she vamp howled and flailed and pawed at him, Dean padded the ground beneath him, gripped a stake and slipped it between their bodies, shoving the sharp end upward into her chest.
The she vamp’s eyes suddenly sprung wide and drifted down to her chest, to see the long stake protruding out of it. The she vamp stared at Dean in surprise. Dean cracked a smug smile up at the she vamp.
“That was a fun ride but uh, I don’t see this working out so.....”
The she vamp howled and blew into dust. Dean picked himself up and quickly ran back to the antechamber. He blinked in disbelief when he saw the horn of a unicorn jutting out of the huge vamp’s chest. As the vamp exploded away, Buffy let out a long breath before flipping onto her feet.
As they walked into the chamber where Dawn was chained up, Buffy retrieved the battle ax on the ground and moved toward her sister. She flashed an annoyed glare as she hit the chains with her ax.
“You are in SO much trouble,” Buffy groaned.
Dawn rolled her eyes and gave a defiant snort.
“Not as much trouble you’ll be in when I tell mom you killed vampires when I was with you.”
Buffy scoffed as she struck the chains with her ax again. As sparks flew from the chains, Dean stamped his eyes shut and groaned, when the sisters were arguing once again.
“Oh yeah? Well, I’ll just explain I HAD to because you took off AND Anya got hurt because of you.”
After one more strike with the axe, the chains broke completely away. Buffy yanked the chains through the loops and freed Dawn. As the girls continued to bicker, Dean shook his head as he led them out of the cave.
“I’d rather deal with fangs,” he muttered.
On the heels of sweeping through the back door, Buffy, Dawn and Dean barely had time to breath when Joyce walked in through the front of the house. Buffy widened her eyes a blink before Joyce wandered in.
“Hi,” Joyce said as she peeled off her coat. “Sorry I’m home so late. The show was very successful and it ran long. Everything okay here?”
Dawn shifted nervously in her stance as Buffy yanked Dean closer to her and looped an arm around his. She pried a casual smile over her face and nodded.
“Everything is fine as can be,” she said. “We tagged the vamps and then we just hanged and watched a movie, right Dean?”
Buffy tugged on his arm and shot him a conspiratorial look. He pulled his own casual smile over his face and gave a nod.
“Uh yeah, right,” he covered. “I just LOVE hanging with these two. It’s so much.......fun.”
Dean let the forced enthusiasm linger over his face as Joyce glanced at him.
“Oh, well I’m glad you enjoy being with the girls, but I know one should be off to bed.”
Joyce regarded Dawn who shuffled over to her. Dawn kissed her mom on the cheek and eyed Buffy for a moment. The sisters exchanged glances very briefly before Dawn wandered up to her room. As Dawn climbed up the stairs, she heard her sister talking to her mom about the exhibit. Dawn shrugged as she walked to her room.Buffy would have been in a lot more trouble with mom, that’s probably why she kept mum
The next day, Buffy roped Dean into taking her and Dawn to the park. As Dawn sat at a picnic table, scribbling in her journal, Buffy coaxed Dean over to the swing sets.I guess it was kind of cool that she didn’t mention last night to mom and Anya came out fine and even Xander didn’t hold it against me. So in the end, everything worked itself out.
Buffy took in the bewildered look on Dean’s face as she plopped down onto a swing. Dean stared at Buffy, looking over her outfit of overalls, a pink tee shirt and braids.
“What’s with Playground Revisited?”
Buffy shrugged as she pushed off her toes and set a gentle swing.
“I just thought we could have a day of fun.”
“Cuz you want to be a kid huh?”
Buffy pitched her feet in the sand and stopped her swinging. Dean looked off as he gripped the chains of his swing, his feet planted in the sand.
“No, I thought WE could have fun,” she reasoned.
Buffy heaved a sigh as she drew a sorrowful expression.
“I’m sorry I went on and on about how sucky my life is,” she lamented. “I had no right to complain to you and expect sympathy when you’ve had to sacrifice so much.”
Buffy bowed her head as her eyes moistened with guilt. When she looked up, she noticed Dean staring off across the playground.
“You’re a good brother and a good son,” she said. “And I hope your dad and Sam appreciate you for everything you have had to sacrifice because I appreciate you. I appreciate you so much.”
Buffy got up from her swing and stepped over to Dean, settling into his lap.
Dawn rolled her eyes as she glanced at her sister.There she goes again, going about like nothing has changed, like she’s changed. Like that would ever happen.
Dawn rolled her eyes again as Buffy and Dean strolled over to the table. Buffy yanked out two brown paper bags from a backpack. Dean glanced at the bag marked with name in black ink. He glanced at Buffy with disbelief.
“Are you kidding?”
Buffy drew a silly smile.
“What? Mom made lunch for us when I told her what I wanted to do. She thought it was cute.”
Buffy glanced at Dawn as Dean unrolled the top of the bag. When he pulled out a peanut butter and jelly sandwich wrapped in plastic, he eyed Buffy again.
“Oh come on Dean,” Buffy moaned. “Today is about being a kid and that means playgrounds, swings, sack lunches and.......this....”
Buffy dug into her backpack and retrieved a blue baseball cap. She plopped it on Dean’s head and turned the bill backward. He shot her a disapproving look.
“Are you kidding?” he groaned.
“Hey, I got into the whole kid thing, you can too,” Buffy reasoned.
After soaking in her sheer enthusiasm, Dean heaved a sigh and reluctantly kept the cap on. He took a bite of his sandwich as Buffy took hers out of her brown bag.
“Okay, so does that mean that you’re gonna throw up on the merry go round later and that I can bury your My Little Ponies in the sand again?”
Dean sparked with a silly smile as Buffy shaded with a mope.
“Ugh, don’t remind me, I never did find Scootoloo and Toola Roola,” she groaned.
“That’s cuz you didn’t follow the instructions of the ransom note correctly,” Dean pointed as he took a bite of his sandwich.
Buffy scoffed as she ripped open her milk carton.
“It was like five pages long AND one of the conditions was stuffing beetles in my mouth!”
Dean folded over with a long bout of laughter.
“Oh yeah, that’s right!” he roared.
As Dean chuckled a bit longer, Dawn rolled her eyes. Buffy deepened her mope as she glanced at Dawn.
“I’m going to the ladies room,” Buffy said. “Don’t go anywhere.”
Buffy slipped off the bench and wandered away as Dawn scribbled in her journal.Ugh, Buffy still treats me like I’m her stupid kid sister. One day, she’ll know the real story
Dawn huffed as she looked up from her journal to see Dean glancing at her. Yeah, they’ll all know the story