Disclaimer: I own neither Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, nor Supernatural. They belong to Whedon and Kripke respectively. No money is made off this story. But The Box is mine. Remember that!
A/N: I have repeatedly been asked about where the Scoobies are and what happened for them to split from Buffy, or maybe the other way round. This is my attempt at an explanation. Unbetaed and set after Star, Cross and Dirt.
+Bridge the Gap
Buffy stared at the box sitting in front of her crossed legs on the cheap flower-pattern motel bedspread.
Hooker sheets. She scrunched up her nose but it wasn’t really more than a reflex after over three years on the road. She had the money to afford real hotels (Council credit cards. Gotta love them.), sure, but with proper rooming came proper people and they asked questions when you were dressed like FBI one day, like a hooker on the next and came in busted and bloody as hell the night after that.
Now, in the few short days she’d traveled with the Winchesters, she’d learned that motels had their own charm, instead of just being functional and cheap. Dean had dragged them to a Wild West motel, one with an underwater theme that meant she’d spent all night in a staring contest with a starfish, and another one in the most lurid shade of orange this side of crazy.
This one, for once, was relatively normal. Except for the butt ugly bedspread, of course. Which she was pointedly not looking at. Nope, her entire focus was on the box.
She’d managed to stare the starfish down, no problem, but the box always resisted.
The boys were out investigating what was shaping up to be a simple salt’n’burn – not something she’d ever dealt with before Sunnydale had fallen, but by now as routine as see vampire, stake vampire – pretending to be cops. Since cops tended to work in teams of two, she was staying in and staring at The Box.
It wasn’t that she disliked the box or anything. It contained her few things of worth. Pictures, notes, letters, her real identification and papers. Things that couldn’t be replaced. All nice and compact in one box to take and run with, in case of an emergency.
Gosh, she’d gotten to be a paranoid bitch, hadn’t she?
Her journal was in that box when she wasn’t writing in it. This morning Sam had returned it to her with a sheepish expression after she’d frantically taken her car apart looking for it. Apparently, he’d never actually returned it after the Nightmare commotion.
She’d added the rest of the hunt to it, leaving out as much detail as was feasible, what with the coma and the nightmares and the really not wanting to remember, thanks a lot. She still had several dozen – if not more – nightmare scenarios stuck in her head that weren’t hers. The girl that kept falling off the bridge, the boy in the dark, the mother watching her children get slaughtered. Not her dreams, but real as hell.
The fear was real, too, because it had once belonged to the people that had become the nightmares.
And underneath it all, the whisper, the dark stain of the Nightmare that had left its taint on her soul, her body. A part of it was still there, somewhere. Not a conscious part, not anything that would take her over and try to end the world, but a craving, a dark tittering of laughter at the back of her mind when people suffered inside her head.
Sometimes she wondered if she was really awake.
Most of the time, she knew she was. Dean had promised the first time she’d woken in a cold sweat. She still didn’t sleep all that much, though.
So she wasn’t all that sad about being left behind for the afternoon. She’d caught up her journal, gotten in a long shower without anyone banging on the door, telling her to leave some hot water for them, damn it, and now she had the time to sit and stare at the box that contained the few things that were left of the Scoobies and all those memories brought with them.
She needed to do this, every now and then. The staring.
She regretted her fight with them, the one about leaving. But she wasn’t taking anything back. She’d promised herself at the edge of the sinkhole, with Spike’s wobbly goodbye smirk still firmly in mind, to not bend anymore.
And still she’d played their game for a year. She’d done the desk job, the training, the board rooms. She’d done the safe jobs, the normal jobs. Because that was what Dawn deserved, what Willow had brought her back for, what Giles wanted for her.
What her Mom would have wanted.
Not what she wanted though.
Not what she needed
. Willow brought her back from heaven and eventually the screaming agony faded, but the numbness remained and it didn’t go away unless she had something to punch, or be punched by. Violence made the slayer in her roar and it was better than being empty.
The other part, the other other
inside her didn’t appreciate the violence as much, but it was a soldier as well. Sword of fire. She snorted and picked up a picture of her and Willow and Xander. The old crew.
The original Scoobies.
Willow’s anger at her announcement to leave her had been the most selfish, Buffy figured. Willow had fucked up and knew it and making Buffy safe, making her normal, had been her way to trying to make up for what she’d taken away from her friend.
And when Buffy had rejected her words had been thrown around and in the end, the slayer had simply walked out. Enough was enough. Giles had been much the same. She’d didn’t need him anymore as a teacher and it made him feel useless and he did have a history of getting into a bottle when he felt unneeded and then all his British reserve faded rather quickly and what was left was an angry old man.
Who made mistakes. Just like Willow. Just like her. She always apologized. Neither of them did. Cookies, yes, Willow made cookies. There weren’t any cookies in the world that were yummy enough to apologize for dragging your best friend out of heaven and into agony, for making you forget who you are, for trying to kill you, for kicking you out of your home.
She tapped a manicured nail on Xander’s chest and smiled. He’d been one hell of a surprise with his silent backing of her. Anya’s death had made him quieter. And harder. He knew all about living through violence nowadays, about fighting because someone had to. It wasn’t fun and games and midnight strolls in the cemetery anymore. Xander was less goofy now and that made her sad, but he understood her better than he ever had before. She was glad for that.
She put the picture down, picked up another of Dawnie in the sunshine, grinning widely in front of some big, old rock in Rome. Happy days.
Dawn had been the only one who had any right to hate Buffy for her decision to leave. It had to hurt, knowing your sister would die for you and live for you, but not with
The mission came first.
The mission always came first.
Robin had taken thirty years to understand that and some days Buffy wasn’t so sure it had sunk in yet. He’d married a slayer, after all. But then she figured things were different for Faith. A slayer yes, but one of many. The third of an army, with only Kendra before her. But Buffy wasn’t like Faith – not because she was better or anything, not anymore, probably never had been – but because she was the last truly chosen girl. The last of the original line.
The mission was hers now and it would die with her. She had to make it count. Faith was the slayer. She was the Guardian.
But Dawn deserved more than that.
Buffy knew she had failed her sister. But what they all didn’t see was that they had failed her, too.
They had all made her what she was, made her the hunter and slayer and killer she was today. Giles with his endless training and lessons, again, again, one more time, Buffy, please, Willow with her magic, her spells and resurrection and Dawn by simply existing, made to make sure Buffy would fight to the death for her.
They’d all shaped her.
And then, suddenly, they’d expected her to switch it off. Just be normal again. That’s what she wanted, right?
But she would never have it, could never have it, could never walk away from this life, this fight, the next kick or punch or scar.
Hence the line drawn in the sand, her on one side, Faith and Robin with her, Xander straddling it, the rest of the Scoobies on the other side.
Blame lay on both sides, she was old enough, mature enough to admit that. She’d been too messed up to care what they felt and they’d been too wrapped up in their own misery to see. Blame all around, everywhere, and plenty for all.
Take a fist full and run with it. She snorted at herself and carefully put Dawn’s picture back in the box, on top of her journal. As a reminder.
Just then, the door opened and Dean came bouncing it, very ostensibly stepping over the salt line to prove he was himself. One of these days she would tell him that she could sense a possessed person most of the time, and with deadly accuracy when she knew the person before they were possessed. One of these days. But not today.
He dropped his jacket on the bed and sat next to her, sighing languidly as he stretched out.
“Where’s Sam?” she asked. It was rare to find one brother without the other; she already knew that after only a week with them.
She nodded and started piling knick knack back into the box to pack away again. He watched in silence for a moment before snatching up the picture of Dawn, too quick for her to protest.
“Your sister?” he wanted to know after inspecting it for a moment.
“That obvious?” she joked weakly.
“Kinda.” He put the picture back and watched as she closed the box before asking, “You not talking to her either?”
Buffy nodded, then shrugged. “When I decided to leave she… didn’t take it well. She was right to.” Another shrug.
“Then why did you?” It was surprising how neutral and gentle the usually brash hunter could sound when he put his mind to it.
“Had to. I was going stir crazy. I just…,” she patted the small of her back where a knife was hidden, even here, even now. “It’s who I am. I couldn’t ignore that like she wanted me to and so…”
“Different ways,” he suggested.
“When Sam went to college, it was the same. Him there, me here, loads of screaming. Dad told him never to come back if he left.”
She flinched, remembering similar words out of her mother’s mouth and how badly they’d hurt. Dean nodded. “Yeah. Like that. We didn’t talk for four years.”
She looked at him, wide eyed. He and Sam, not talking? Not joint at the hip and finishing each others’ thoughts and sentences? Wow.
She said the last bit out loud, getting a laugh out of the man before they both fell silent.
“You should call her,” he eventually told her, sitting back up and standing to dig through his duffle at the foot of the other bed, not looking at her.
Buffy stared at the box, said nothing and knew he was right.
Plenty of blame to go around, or maybe no blame at all. Maybe all it took was one of them getting over themselves and taking the first step. Giles had gone behind her back to kill Spike and never apologized, and Willow had ruined her afterlife, literally. She felt justified in being angry with them but Dawn…
Dawn had been the only one who had apologized for kicking her out of her own home. But more than that, Dawn was her sister.
Siblings mattered, even if you wanted to strangle them and were so mad you couldn’t think straight. Even if they needed to go left and you needed to go right and there was no middle ground.
Sam and Dean were living that every day, different as day and night, but still together. Close enough to make women sigh in disappointment when they asked for a single room.
Siblings mattered and Dawn was her sister and not having her number was no excuse.
An e-mail then.
An e-mail to Dawn.
She nodded to herself and asked, “What’s for dinner?”