The drive to Lake Sunnydale was silent. Jack couldn’t help but think he wouldn’t have a job or a girlfriend when he returned; he was less than friendly with Tess after she turned down his request for leave citing the fact that he didn’t write down a reason for the leave. And Zoe was just nervous about seeing her sisters again after so long.
“Well this is it.” Jack stated as he pulled up behind another car that was parked alongside the road. It looked like what had been the main road into Sunnydale had been blocked off awhile ago and all that remained was a path cut though tall weeds. “Come on, it’s almost time.” He climbed out of his jeep and started down the path once Zoe joined him. Soon the sound of talking and the moving of water could be heard and he froze. His thoughts turned towards his oldest sister and guilt swelled up inside of him. He’d never see her again. Never.
Zoe nudged her father to try and get him moving again and it worked. “We all make mistakes, I’m sure Aunt Joyce knew that.” She spoke to him quietly as she fell into step beside him; the path was just wide enough for two people to walk side by side. Within moments they found themselves standing on the banks of a wide spanning lake. “I can’t believe this used to be a city.” She whispered to no one in particular not noticing the curious glances her and her father were getting from the only group standing close to the waters edge.
“Ah but I can assure you that it was; a city that is.” A man with short brown hair and an eye patch said as he broke away from his group to greet the strangers. “Xander Harris.” He introduced as he held out a hand to Jack.
Blinking Jack tore his eyes away from the calm lake to shake the offered hand. “Jack Carter and this is my daughter Zoe.” He released the hand and noted that the man was younger than he looked.
Xander eyed them trying to place the names or faces but came up blank. “I don’t recall seeing you at any of the other memorials. You lose family here?”
“Yeah, we didn’t know until now. They just identified….” Zoe trailed off with a shiver. The water was so calm, peaceful, it was hard to imagine that the final resting place of hundreds maybe even thousands was just below the surface.
“Yeah, remains are still floating to the surface even after six years. They have yet to identify my parents and last I heard they had a back log of bones to try and I.D. It’s going to take years for some families to get their closure.” Xander told them honestly.
“I thought I hadn’t heard from Joyce because she still wasn’t talking to me. I never thought in a million years….” Jack trailed off and refocused on the water.
Xander froze. “Joyce? That wouldn’t be Joyce Summers, would it?” It wasn’t possible. Buffy would have told them if they had family out there. And if not her then surely Dawn.
Zoe nodded her head. “You knew Aunt Joyce?” She questioned. If he knew Aunt Joyce then he had to know Buffy and Dawn. “Do you know Buffy and Dawn? Are they here?”
“Hold that thought.” Xander turned and headed back to his group at a quickened pace. He pulled the oldest member, a man with graying hair and glasses, to the side and began an animated conversation with him that included gestures in Jack and Zoe’s direction. After a moment he returned to the newcomers. “You're Buffy and Dawn’s Uncle? They never mentioned you.”
Jack knew the older man was now staring at them and before he had a chance to speak a voice off to his right beat him to it.
“He isn’t our Uncle, Xander. He’s our father.” Buffy Summers appeared from the path followed by her sister. “Hello Jack, it’s been a long time.”
Dawn sidled up to her sister. “I told you they’d show. You so owe me twenty bucks!” She grinned when her sister shot her a dirty look. “I’ll just add it to your tab.” Her attention then zeroed in on Zoe. “Goddess, you look like a mini Buffy! The world is ending for sure.”
“Yes, too long.” Jack reached out a hand and tucked a strand of honey blonde hair behind Buffy’s ear. “You look so much like your mother.” He whispered, thickly.
Buffy gave her father a watery smile. “You gonna stay for the ceremony?” She asked once the father-daughter moment passed.
“We want to pay our respects to Aunt Joyce.” Zoe spoke up seeing that her father was fighting back tears. “And we were hoping that we could talk to you two afterward? If that’s okay?” She couldn’t keep the hopefulness out of her voice.
“Wouldn’t miss it.” Dawn said with a grin as she grabbed her little sister by the arm and pulled her towards the already assembled group of Scoobies.
Xander was still in shock from Buffy’s revelation. Their father? What about Hank? Why hadn’t Buffy mentioned Jack before? Or that fact that she had another much younger sister? Too many questions without any answers.
“Your father?” He managed to choke out. “Since when?” Open mouth insert foot.
Jack cleared his throat and quickly wiped his eyes. “Since always.” He answered, honestly. “I just haven’t been a very good one.” It was clear that the Xander boy was a friend of his daughters and he was willing to bet the same was true for the entire group standing by the edge of the lake.
“Explanations are for later, Xander.” Buffy’s voice held no room for argument. “Now is for the ones we lost.” She slipped her hand into Jack’s and lead him to the group of Scoobies. Now was the time to remember. There would be time later for everything else.