Buffy smiled as she sat on the barge, the slightly tangy and salty scent of the canals smoothed over her senses and settled onto her skin like a second blanket. The first was the golden tan provided by backpacking across Europe.
Her coffee tasted slightly bitter, thick with the peculiar Dutch combination of spices and coffee grounds and altogether amazing.
It’s funny how fast you can get used to different things in life, Buffy’s never been much for introspection but being where she is- sitting on a barge in Amsterdam and sipping scalding coffee while tourists gawk at the beautiful architecture and take her picture while probably thinking to themselves of her as a local, it’s just another reminder of how fast life can move and the different directions it can take you.
She gave a wave to a particularly enthusiastic frat boy as he almost overbalanced and fell into the water, the driver of the boat- a mustachioed dark haired man, a local for sure, glared at her for provoking the ‘dumb Americans’. Buffy grinned a little self consciously.
The breeze skimmed across her skin, raising the downy hairs on her hands and roughing up the tumbles of blonde hair she had now cut to her shoulders. She liked shorter haired Buffy, this was a Buffy full of confidence, joie de vivre and a boundless optimism.
This was a Buffy that came to life on her twenty sixth birthday.
After the singing, the cutting of the cake and the crying at Lindsey’s beautiful song- Carlisle and Esme had presented her with round trip first class tickets between Seattle and Paris, a Eurorail pass, a cheque for five thousand dollars and the key to their house. Every person in the house had contributed to her present, everyone giving in what they could.
Buffy felt humbled because everyone that she loved was helping her realize her dream of travel.
She had stared transfixed at them while they explained that it was time for her to follow her dream, she was so young and for once- she didn’t have to shoulder all the responsibility around her. She had her aunt and uncle to help her.
They told her that Principal Green had agreed to grant her a leave of absence from work and that her thesis supervisor had agreed to her taking a mini-sabbatical.
They told her that since Dawn was practically living at the house already, it would just be a small matter of her moving her stuff into the bedroom adjoining Alice’s. And the best thing was, her little sister; beautiful, intelligent and fiercely protective Dawnie had told her to go.
And so Buffy had, taking advantage of the lower fares in the middle of winter- she had spent two weeks packing up her old house and moving everything Dawn would need for the next five months into the Cullen home. Charlie had agreed to look after her boarded up home, a smiling Willow holding his hand demurely by his side all the while.
She had spent her last days in Forks for a good long while with her family, enjoying the closeness they had built together for the miracle it was.
Because Buffy had never expected to find a love so warm and all encompassing after Sunnydale, the Cullen family had come as a shock to her. They had crawled inside her walls, slammed open her defenses and broken every denial of their kinship that she might have volunteered.
Buffy had found her place with them, she worked with kids at Forks High and came home to her loud, exuberantly noisy, many times lewd and mismatched family.
She didn’t know whether it was the effect of Willow’s spell making the slayer line go through Faith now, but it had been a good long while since she had the old bloodlust assuage her senses. True, she still slayed as needed- but the need for a fight, the feeling of violence humming under her skin until it exploded into a spectacular firework of pain was gone.
Buffy would never be free of being the Slayer, but her supernatural identity had stopped dominating her life.
In the four and a half months since she left Forks; she had travelled to France, Germany, Belgium, Austria, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Switzerland. She had spent at least a couple of weeks in each country, travelling the spots and reveling in the feeling of foreignness.
Shorter haired Buffy loved traveling on her own, she loved the feeling of relying only on yourself, the hordes of strangers she had turned into friends and casual acquaintances along her travels, the feasts she had eaten, the pictures she had taken- and the dreams she had dreamed under a different sky every month.
In the four and a half months since she left Forks, Buffy had finally discovered herself.
And if she was pressed to admit, she *really* liked the person she had uncovered underneath the layers of responsibility, guilt, burdens, hurt and old emotions.
Shorter haired Buffy was new, clean, fresh.
Shorter haired Buffy was a vagabond.
She smiled for what felt like a zillionth time since she had embarked on her trip and pulled out her laptop.
Buffy had kept in constant contact with her family, detailed updates on where she had been and uploaded pictures tracking her movements on a virtual map that Dawn had put up on the Cullen Family website she and Jazz had created. Each and every member of the now extended clan had access to everybody’s updates, they could comment on each others pictures, post community messages and write private letters geared to individuals.
She clicked on Spike’s link, William Cullen was enrolled as a Master’s student at the University of Washington- studying the French Revolution and assisting a professor in a History of the Industrial Revolution Seminar. He was getting glowing reviews from all the undergrads- it had helped of course that he lived through the Industrial Revolution and had felt the passion for his subject. Buffy smirked, of course it didn’t hinder any that he was extremely good looking and had a British accent. She knew how girls and some boys felt about those British accents.
Charles Gunn was slowly but steadily moving up within the ranks of the construction company, he was gunning for the foreman position and had a pretty good chance of getting that promotion before the summer’s end.
Jazz and Alice were preparing to go do the travel thing like her. Apparently she had started a theme because their link showed their ever increasing travel itinerary, Buffy giggled as she saw that Alice had been marking all the best demon bars in Europe. Lorne was gladly conversing with them from wherever it was his travels had taken him, and he was awesome about recommending good demon sanctuaries to visit.
Buffy had been adamant that whatever bars they chose have anti-violence wards woven into them. So much so that she had spent some of her travels checking them out for herself.
She never interfered with the slayers posted in Europe by the Council, but had quietly and efficiently checked out the situation and helped out behind the scenes when she could. She still didn’t want to show up on their radar and she knew that if they had ever met her, they would probably never recognize her as Buffy Summers- one of the Chosen, a legend, a fighter, a warrior. They would probably see a happy twenty something woman with a large smile and a friendly demeanor.
Now that Willow was a semi-permanent fixture in the Cullen home, she had magicked some amulets for all the vampires in the family to wear so that they wouldn’t sparkle in the sun. They’d still be pale as hell, but they could now go out into the bright sunlight without acting like makeshift disco-balls.
Willow was working in the herbal shop in town, she had become a co-manager along with Leah Clearwater who used to be Jake’s packmate when he ran with Sam. She and Charlie were dating, slowly but surely indoctrinating the man into the world of the supernatural. He was taking things well, as long as they didn’t spring everything on him but fed him little pieces of information at a time- Charlie could definitely deal with the weirder side to life.
She clicked on Jake’s link next, his page was connected to Dawn’s and the pack’s. He was graduating this year, he planned to go into wildlife preservation. He and Dawn were deliriously happy with each other, though never mushy the love between them was clear even in cyberspace. They’d post jokes on each others’ pages, links that would stir their individual interests.
Buffy opened the file Jake had sent her, he had taken it as a matter of personal interest to keep her music library constantly updated. The guy had excellent taste in music and she loved to debate the merits of different bands with him. He would send her the up and coming bands from North America and she would send him obscure music from Europe. They had a good thing going.
Dawn had recently taken to uploading her sketches onto her site, they looked beautiful. Buffy still had the painting her sister had done for her birthday with her, she carted it around to different hotel rooms, always propping up the sunniest side of the room. It warmed the blonde’s heart to see the sun’s rays wash over her mom’s face, it felt like Joyce was there with her.
Quil and Embry were getting ready for their senior year of high school. Quil’s page was full of random questionnaires and notes on the most random things. Even when his voice couldn’t be heard, the pack loudmouth was still talking as much as he could.
Embry had opened himself up, he had a kind, sensitive nature and it was hard for him to figure out what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. Still, everybody supported his search to find himself. Buffy snorted, she wouldn’t be surprised if Embry would be the next vagabond to go traipsing across the world in search of a deeper meaning to life.
Buffy cooed as she opened Rosie’s page, little Kailey’s pictures were everywhere. Rose and Emmett looked ecstatic with their daughter, they took pictures to commemorate everything she did. Buffy chuckled as she opened yet another picture gallery of Kailey just crawling around, a widely grinning Rose bouncing her baby in half the shots and a smirking Emmett holding his daughter above his head with pride.
It had taken some very creative lawyering from Lindsey and a couple of intricate spells from Willow, but Rose and Emmett Cullen were a twenty five year old couple from Forks Washington who had adopted their one year old daughter Kailey Leanne Cullen three months ago.
Kai was beautiful, all dark curls and mocha skin with sparkling hazel eyes. She was extremely well behaved too, Rose’s gushing updates on her baby’s almost non-existent temper were the stuff of legends within the family. Of course nobody would dare make fun of her super-mama like behavior to Rose’s face, she was still the Ice Queen when she wanted to be and no one wanted a pissed off Rosalie planning their demise. Rose was the epitome of a protective mama bear.
Emmett was an awesome dad, he was laid back and funny and didn’t take things too seriously. Unless someone tried to mess his with new family that is. Buffy couldn’t wait to see what would happen when Kai would start dating and the impressive baseball bats Emmett was sure to threaten the boys with. But then again, with Kai’s numerous uncles and all of them of the scarily overprotective variety- chances were that Emmett wouldn’t even have to go brandishing a bat to scare off poor Kailey’s boyfriends.
She sent off a quick message to Rose about how fast Kai was growing and clicked on the next page.
Edward and Bella’s smiling faces filled up the screen. Bella was grinning widely and Edward had one of his implacably amused faces on but they were definitely happy. They had decided to go for the long engagement, after graduation they would be traveling to Arizona to meet Renee and Phil. They were currently contemplating their college options but both would probably be staying in Washington, they didn’t have any reason to move away after all.
Buffy quickly commented on Bella’s new hairdo, giving the younger girl a virtual thumbs up for deciding to change things up a bit. Bella had really come out of her shell and it amused Buffy all the little ways she could see her little sister’s influence on the new Bella.
An instant message from Lindsey popped up, ‘You look beautiful this morning.’
Buffy grinned, she had been corresponding regularly with the Texan since he left the week before her birthday.
He was still trying to take care of family affairs, trying to put his past to rest. It was strange, they hadn’t seen each other in about five months but she felt closer than ever to him, they talked every day about everything.
Buffy now knew more than ever about his family background, she knew about the insurmountable odds Lindsey had to overcome to achieve everything that he had.
She respected the hell out of him for not giving in when times got tough and they did, often.
She respected him for getting over the abject poverty of his upbringing, the abuse his dad heaped on him.
Buffy was patient with Lindsey as she waited for him to come back, she knew that he was searching for his brother who had never quite forgiven him for leaving when he could. Especially because his brother was a twin.
They were planning to meet back in Forks in three weeks for everyone’s respective graduations and Buffy couldn’t wait to see Lindsey and her family again. She had missed them all terribly. Plus there was Faith and Robin’s commitment ceremony in June, they definitely couldn’t miss her sister slayer taking her vows again in front of everyone.
She replied to his IM ‘You flatterer you. How are ya?’
A beep sounded ‘Great, I’m looking at the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen, this morning officially rocks.’
Buffy frowned, what the hell?
‘Should I be worried?’
A shadow fell across her table.
Buffy felt her breath catch, she had been so intent on checking up on her family that she hadn’t noticed anyone approach. She inhaled the air and her heart began beating a bit faster, whoever it was smelled so familiar. Spicy and fresh.
“I wouldn’t worry if I was you,” a voice murmured behind her.
Buffy almost tripped over her laptop as she quickly got off her chair.
Lindsey stood grinning behind her.
Buffy felt like a damn fool but at the sight of him, she definitely felt her knees give a little and she had to support herself by gripping the back of her chair. Her stomach was doing interesting things, butterflies were doing a happy samba at the base of her spine and all she could do was stare at him.
He had changed, that was for sure.
His hair was shorter, blonder, probably burnt out in the harsh Southern sun. His skin was more golden, his eyes seemed almost navy as they searched her over. The tiredness that was so prominent on his face as he had left was gone, replaced by a wry grin. He was wearing a pair of faded blue jeans and a white and black long sleeved tee with a skull motif on the front of it.
“Hey you,” Buffy breathed out.
“Hey,” Lindsey took her hand in his.
He ran a calloused thumb over her palm.
“How’d you get here?” Buffy had only called his home last night. It would have taken him at least fourteen hours to reach her by plane.
Lindsey shrugged, her hand still in his, “I found a shaman.”
Buffy wrinkled her nose, “I thought you said that there was almost no magic doers in Texas or Oklahoma.”
Lindsey nodded, raising his blue eyes to meet her bright green ones “there aren’t. I found him in Mexico.”
“Oh,” Buffy felt a blush working its way onto her cheeks. She was kind of glad that her big J-Lo’esque hat was hiding her face, it wouldn’t do for him to see her blushing like a freshman at their reunion.
He brought her closer to him, with one hand he gently took off the aforementioned hat and laid it on the table beside her coffee and laptop.
“I like the hair,” he ran his fingers through her new locks, “it suits you.”
“Thanks,” she grinned.
He tipped her chin up, looking as serious as she had ever seen him he asked “how do you feel about getting a traveling companion?”
Buffy took another step closer to him, “I have to go back home in three weeks,” she quirked an eyebrow “but getting a travelling companion sounds like just the ticket.”
“Good,” Lindsey smirked and gently kissed her.
Buffy was complete on her own, her travels had made her realize just how strong a person she was within and that she could withstand anything life would throw at her.
But kissing Lindsey McDonald on a barge in Amsterdam and knowing that this was it- well, things couldn’t get much better.
Aro smiled at Marcus, the file in his hand was full of information and pictures of Buffy Summers and her family. The petite blonde was smiling in all her photos, she looked content. Her younger sister was present in almost half her pictures. Aro *almost* felt bad for the plans he had for them. Almost.
“She doesn’t have the support of the Council anymore, it’s just her and Carlisle’s coven now,” Marcus was practically purring as he glanced at their detailed plans.
“Good. We make sure that everything is right and move out after the summer is over. I want Buffy Summers and her family dead by the end of the year,” Aro slammed the file on the Summers girls shut.
A/N: This story is of course deliberately left open for a sequel.
I will come back to this universe, there are avenues I haven't explored, characters I haven't hooked up and people/vampires I haven't killed off yet.
I need to take a break from this and focus on other fics for a while, but I promise that I will come back.
You can definitely expect more family moments, more shippy stuff, more smut, more drama, more fighting and definitely a lot more eye candy scenes.
I'm so glad that you guys liked this story so much, I feel overwhelmed with all the positive feedback that I've received- it's amazing.
At the moment of this posting I have twenty recs for Explains Everything. Thank you so much for them, I never thought that anyone would like this cross enough to review it much less rec it.
A separate thank you to Joyful for advice given and for coming to me when you needed it.
A huge thank you to kevinsamuel who did a fab job with my HP fic. I hope everything's alright on your end, and I hope we have a chance to work together again.
And as always, Christytrekkie is the shiznit when it comes to fanart. I bow to you.