The Windy City
The Scoobies and Giles continued to call since I refused to answer the door. Giles equally reprimanded and encouraged me to take some time to mourn, before finally getting around to telling me that closing Glory's portal had permanently closed the Hellmouth. Thank you, Dawnie. I could hear him cleaning his glasses over the phone as he cursed having to talk into an infernal machine. My watcher hated having to step into the twenty-first century.
Willow's messages were full of peppy "atta girls, yay with the slaying, missing yous", all babbled together with updates on Tara's slow recovery from Glory sucking her brain out and Willow putting it back with magic. She spoke so fast I had to push replay several times to decipher it, and I had always prided myself as an expert on Willow babble. Must have been my preoccupation with Dawnie being gone and finding out the Council murdered my mother. Her last message surprised me, since Giles hadn't mentioned it in his calls. Giles was taking her and Tara to Devon. He knew about a Coven there that could help with Tara's healing and teach Willow how to better control her magic.
I laughed when I listened to Anya's calls. She told me she didn't understand why Xander and everyone else wouldn't leave me alone, although she had been looking forward to the post-apocalypse party because she was bringing the dip. Xander always wanted to hang out with her and Willow, but Anya fully understood why Buffy wanted some alone time. She didn't understand why she didn't want more of it, and how she didn't get sick of having them around all the time. She knew she was tired of always hanging around them, but that was what Xander wanted and she was afraid if she didn't go along, then Buffy or Willow might change their mind about not wanting her Xander and she would lose her orgasm partner. Beside, she found even though she hadn't been human for that long, she loved him.
Xander's calls finally allowed the tears to come back full force. His soft voice came over the line as he told me how much he missed my mom and thanked me for sharing her. He knew I was hurting and asked me to let him help share the pain. He reminded me that I would always be his hero, not because I beat up the bad guys, but because I fought for those who couldn't.
The final call was from someone I thought I'd never hear from again. Deep, soothing base tones came across the recording. It took me back to the time when I was safe, cherished and loved.
"Princess, are you there. Please, baby-girl pick up the phone. It's Daddy. I know I've been out of touch for quite a while, even I had no idea so much time had gone by. I'm so sorry, Buffy." His voice cracked over the line as he tried to say the words. "Joyce was a wonderful woman, much too good for me. Please, call me. I'm back in the states and my number is the same. Buffy, I want a chance to make things right between us, if you'll let me. There's a lot I need to tell you about where I've been and why I've been unreachable. Honey, give me a chance; give us a chance. I'm living in Chicago. Call me back and let's talk. Maybe you'd consider coming here, getting away might do you some good. I love you, princess, forever and a day. Don't ever forget that."
Forever and a day. It was what we'd say whenever he put me to bed at night. I loved my mom, but like so many little girls I was daddy's little princess. I thought he could do no wrong. He could leap tall buildings like Superman and fight sea monsters like Aquaman. My daddy was my hero and when he stopped calling and coming for our weekends, he broke my heart like no boy ever could. When Angel walked away after graduation, he finished what my father had started. I'm not sure I trusted anyone except my mom afterward.
That's how I ended up in Chicago walking the streets alone at night. Turns out my dad lived uptown in an apartment our entire house in Sunnydale could fit in. We talked for hours after I arrived and although we hadn't worked everything out, we were on our way to reconciling. His job had sent him traveling to each of their global offices. He had to learn the operations before moving onto the next office. His personal mail seemed to follow him like a lost puppy, catching up to him roughly six months to a year later. Some locations were so remote he didn't even forward his mail but simply had the office hold it. His lawyer had died during this time and his instructions regarding his whereabouts, contact information and child support got lost during the messy legal battle for the lawyer's business holdings.
When Hank…Dad, came back to the states, he found an office piled with months of mail that took seemingly forever to wade through, only to find his ex-wife dead and his daughter uncared for or told how to reach him. Everyone knew how protective Joyce Summers' was when it came to their daughter. They hadn't seen fury until they saw Hank lose his temper when he found out someone was mistreating Buffy. The staff swore the lights dimmed and the windows in the building shook. People walked as though on eggshells, around the office for days afraid they might set off his temper.
Probably the worst part was realizing Dad also had no memories of Dawn. I ignorantly thought he would remember her since they shared the same blood connection we did. The monk's spell connected Mom through my bloodline and physical location, with Dad out of the picture for so long; the spell didn't seem to affect him. I wondered if he had visited during her short life, whether the spell would have taken affect like some fail-safe, and if so, would he remember her now she's gone. I'd never know. Stupid monks.
I liked Chicago. It felt alive as opposed to Sunnydale, which couldn't help its underlying cloud of death. What can you expect from a town with over thirty graveyards? Not to mention, it was located on a mystical gateway to Hell. Having Dad back in my life helped lessen the ache in my heart of missing Mom and Dawnie. It didn't help me solve my problem. Giles or the Scoobies couldn't be associated with my current mission. The Council wouldn't get the chance to come at me through my friends, especially if said friends had no idea where I was or what I was doing.
Slaying Big Bads was what I did. I could enter establishments known to demonkind and start with the permanent damage, and not even break a fingernail. Here's the rub, there's this tinsy-whinsy line in the sand Slayers can't cross. Slayers don't hunt humans. I needed highly trained people to help me take down the Council. Those bastards decided to kill my mother just to ensure she didn't distract me from protecting the Key and my fight with Glory! Hello, have they met me? I'm the one who kept the world safe not out of their stupid duty, but for those I love, for my family! And they took her away; they murdered her.
The Council had gone too far this time. They were about to learn their proper place in the Slayer's life. Lost in thought about what I'd like to do to Quentin Travers, I stepped right into the middle of an attempted suck-age.
Geesh, a girl can't even find a decent mugger in Chicago, oh no not me, uh-huh, I had to walk straight into the only vampire I'd seen since my arrival in the Windy City.
"What cha doing?"
I missed my lollipops at times likes this. The vamp turned to snarl at me when his expression changed. He went from bumpy monster to normal, smooth face like no one would notice. Unfortunately, most people ignored it and paid the cost. Its pretty freaksome watching a vampire decide you're a tastier treat than the human du jour
he already has designs on.
This one took a deep breath. His face took on the euphoric look Willow said I got when I drank my first mochachinno in the morning. Slayer's blood was Dom Perignon for the undead, and even some demons. It didn't mean it thrilled me to know I was a walking Godiva chocolate. How would you like if people went ape shit to get at you after just breathing in your scent?
He dropped the body in his grip as he walked toward me. I quickly glanced down, and was happy to see some slight movement on the ground. Good, the person was still alive. Turning my attention back to my present problem, I almost cracked up when he stopped short and started circling me. He wasn't bad looking, with light brown longish hair and light eyes. His medium build gave him an approachable appearance, which could have taken him far if he hadn't crossed my path. He started talking in what I'm sure he thought was a soothing, sexy voice. It probably would have worked on another girl, just not this one.
"You're such a sweet, little thing, and you smell divine. I'll think we'll take this slow, make it last, and then right before the end I'll show how wonderful it can be to live forever. I'll lay the world at your feet, and all you have to do is lay your head on my shoulder. This world will fade away and when you open your eyes, a new and wonderful world will replace it. Come here, beautiful, come to me, be in me." Oh, you have got to be kidding me. Drusilla, the Queen of the Crazy Cows, sired this guy. He definitely needed to die, not to mention he was stupid. What self-respecting vampire doesn't know the difference between normal blood and Slayer blood?
I gave him my best smile and walked closer. My lids dropped down to cover my eyes. I didn't want to give it away as the stake slid into my palm. He reached out to pull me into his embrace.
"Only thing that's going to be in you is, Mr. Pointy."
His expression was a mixture of surprise and anger as he exploded into dust. I admit his offer was tempting. Oh, not the becoming a vampire part, I mean as if. I still had nightmares about becoming a vamp from when Billy's dream became reality back in high school. Some mornings, the instant I woke I rushed to the mirror and sighed when I saw my reflection. No, the letting this world go, leaving it all behind part tempted me more than anyone, except Spike knew, and even he didn't fully understand it. Spike said all Slayers had a death wish. He had it part right. It wasn't that we wanted to die, not really. We just wanted a release, an escape from the death that encompassed our lives. I had achieved some escape by having my friends and family in my life. Still, Slayers didn't get vacations or weekends off. Even when I slept, I thought about the people who died while I wasn't able to be out there to protect them. The burden we carry weighed heavily on our shoulders until the thought of rest sounded heavenly. Some Slayers may have even sought it. Every Slayer, including me will welcome it and send our blessing to the sister who followed us.
The victim groaned and it brought me back to the present. Good thing, I needed to get out of my head, too many dark thoughts going on in there. I leant down to help the person roll over and checked him for serious injuries. Thank goodness, he seemed okay. I slid an arm under his shoulder and pulled him into a seated position. That's when I saw his collar. Crapola.
The stupid vampire had tried to kill a priest. I wondered if it was hereditary. Angelus had it bad for nuns. It was why he turned Drusilla. She was a devout Catholic and mere months away from entering the nunnery. You would think vampires would stay away from all things religious, considering their reactions to crosses and holy water. But, what could I say? Angel's demon wasn't the poster boy for sanity. Did he somehow breed it into his childer? It was a wonder Spike came out with the world-view he had. I could only smile when I thought about the former Big Bad, although I'd never call him that to his face, not after everything he did to keep Dawn safe.
Getting back to my latest near victim, I didn't think I could look a priest in the face and give him the lie about gangs on PCP.
"Ugh, what hit me?" the dazed priest muttered.
"Easy, Father, you need to take it slow. If you tell me where your parish is, I'll walk you home or better yet flag down a cab," I answered him softly.
He looked at me and realized he didn't know who I was. I saw his mind start to put the pieces together, playing back what had happened. His eyes searched around for the man who attacked him, then back to me. They settled on me and waited for answers. He didn't say a word, just looked at me with understanding blue eyes, and I knew I was in trouble. Damn, he was good. Oops, I mean, umm dang? Can I go to hell for mentally cursing in front of a priest? I'm not sure what rules apply here. Man, it was simpler in Sunnydale where the people ran away or believed whatever cock-and-bull story I told them. The only priest I've ever talked to was Father O'Shay. He knew what went on in Sunnydale and kept me supplied with holy water.
My shoulders sagged as I realized that once again I had to tell another person the truth about my life. It would be a turning point for me that I would never expect. Perhaps, there was a guardian angel out there looking out for me. I just needed to leave the Hellmouth's influence for him to find me.
Father Paul refused the taxi. He plodded along beside me, never complaining about his throat or the other bruises I could see even in the dim light. Men, it didn't matter whether they wore leather coats or religious frocks, they were the same underneath. They always had to keep up the tough guy act. I carried as much of his weight as I could without him noticing.
We arrived at his parish in the older part of Chicago. He directed me toward a side door that led to his rectory. It was small, neat and cozy. It had clean white walls decorated with an antique cross and beautiful religious paintings. I helped him into an overstuffed easy chair. He sat down with a heavy sigh, closing his eyes and pointing toward the kitchen area off to the right.
"The First Aid kit's under the sink. If you'll fetch it for me, I'll see about putting myself back together. My housekeeper keeps drinks in the fridge, help yourself."
After the necessary male posturing, he allowed me to care for his wounds. We worked in comfortable silence with him handing me what I asked for. I sat back to look at my work. It would do. He needed rest and except for some ugly bruises, nothing would leave permanent scars. None on the outside at least, I couldn't guarantee he'd feel the same after he heard my story. I guess I was about to find out.
"Are you ready to tell me what happened, child?" Father Paul asked, his tone gentle and prodding.
I wondered if he learned that at seminary school or if it was a natural talent.
"It's a long story, Father. Are you sure you're up to hearing it tonight?"
I gave him a hopeful smile. The stern look he gave me must keep those alter boys in line. Sheesh. My hands came up automatically in a defensive gesture.
"Okay, just checking."
He chuckled. It was a nice laugh. The tiny lines around his eyes and the way his lips slipped into a smile without him even realizing it showed he laughed easily and often. His parishioners must love him. It was hard not to like him and I'd just met him.
Several hours later, pausing for potty and tear breaks he heard the full story. I watched him slowly climb to his feet. His hands clasped behind his back in what I assumed was habit as he started to pace. Soft words escaped his lips as he carried on a conversation with God or himself. I'm not sure which option I preferred.
"I know someone who can help you. There might be some people at the Vatican who would be interested in helping as well. But, they might be handier after Nathan's team does what they do best. Would you consider talking to my friend? You probably shouldn't tell Nathan everything you've told me. I'm not sure he could handle knowing the supernatural is real. It's hard enough for him dealing with every day human evil."
His blue eyes twinkled with some inner amusement he wasn't going to share with me.
"Father Paul, are you asking me to lie to your friend?" I asked all mock innocence in my voice, allowing my eyes to go wide for effect.
We smiled at each other in complete conspiratorial understanding. My phone rang breaking the spell. I looked at the number and realized how late it was. My dad was probably ready to call out the National Guard to bring home his wayward child. Funny, how your parents worried about you no matter your age. My father was having trouble understanding his little princess wasn't the spoiled, defenseless cheerleader he remembered. I grew up when he wasn't looking, and he had to come to terms with it.