Note: This is my first attempt at 'serious' writing, the setting is post Season 7 Buffy and pre-season 1 OC, there will be some plot elements from season 1 of the OC (although there will be some significant divergences, should be apparent in a few chapters). The story's title comes from a song by Opeth.
Disclaimer: I do not own Buffy or The OC
Dawn sat in the front seat of the car, gazing out of the window, after spending the last fifteen months in Rome; she’d forgotten how much she’d missed the sunshine and palm trees of California. She bent down to fiddle with the air conditioning’s vents, trying to direct more of the flow into her path. Willow mumbled something from the driver’s seat, which Dawn didn’t quite hear.
“Sorry what did you say?”
“I asked if you wanted me to turn the AC up a bit.”
“Yeah if you don’t mind, I’m not used to all this heat yet.”
Willow briefly glanced at the dashboard, adjusted the AC controls then returned her attention back to the road in front. Willow had barely spoken more then a dozen words to her since they had met at LAX. That was ok though, it reminded Dawn of the silence when Buffy had marched her onto the flight, direct passage, Rome to LA. Truth be told Dawn was not looking forward to the conversation they would inevitably be having.
“How’s the temperature now?” Willow asked.
“Much better thanks.” replied Dawn.
After another few minutes of silence Dawn finally spoke up “When did you get the car?”
She had been dying to ask since the airport car park. It was a sporty 2-door car, Dawn didn’t really know car makes or models but it had looked damn cool, it was painted a bright red, the kind of color that was built for calling attention to itself. Willow was a pretty conservative driver but Dawn was willing to bet that if she’d ever loosen up, the car would have some real performance in it. It wasn’t the sort of car Dawn had pictured for Willow in a million years.
“I’ve had it about nine months, its something isn’t it” Willow replied. “Kennedy wanted a convertible, but I had to draw the line somewhere.”
“Ah” Dawn replied, now it made sense, she should have seen it before, the car screamed Kennedy.
“I was a bit wary at first, but I have to admit, its great fun to drive.”
“So are you and Kennedy still, you know…” Dawn was fishing for information; she hadn’t really kept in touch with any of the old Sunnydale people.
“We broke up six months ago.”
“Oh, I’m sorry” Dawn replied automatically.
“We both agreed it was for the best, things wouldn’t have worked out anyway, what with me taking this new job and Kennedy being needed in Cleveland. Besides, we’d been drifting apart a while before that. We’re still on good terms, we talk every now and then.”
“No one new then?”
“Well I bet the car helps with the ladies.” Dawn said in a teasing manner.
Willow chuckled, “I’ve missed you Dawn.”
“Yeah me too” Dawn replied, surprising herself with the honesty, now that she thought about it, she had missed Willow.
Dawn inwardly sighed, if Willow wasn’t going to bring it up she’d have to, biting the bullet Dawn spoke up “So when are we, you know going to have the conversation.”
Willow sighed, “I was kind of hoping we wouldn’t have to.” Willow gave Dawn a long look before returning her attention to the road.
“Look, I’m not your parents and I’m not your sister” she raised her hand from the wheel to cut off Dawn’s reply. “But I do care about you.” She paused “What I’m saying is that I trust you, I know things in Rome got out of your control and mistakes were made. But I’m trusting you Dawn, you’re 17 years old, not a kid anymore, almost an adult and I’m trusting you with some adult responsibilities, to look after yourself and to make the right decisions. I’m going to be here for you and I’m going to be looking out for you, like your sister asked me too, but Dawnie, what happens next is up to you.” Willow paused again briefly, “Look at it this way, think of this as a chance for a fresh start, you can leave all that stuff behind you and start again with a clean slate.”
Dawn nodded and choked back a lump in her throat, she felt like a huge weight had just been lifted off of her chest, she’d been expecting a huge lecture, she was expecting to hear how disappointed Willow was in her, maybe even yelling like she had gotten from Buffy, instead she had gotten this. “Thank you Willow,” she replied meekly, “I’ll try not to let you down.”
“Don’t worry about me Dawn, try not to let yourself down.” Willow said taking her hand off of the wheel to give Dawn a gentle pat on the head. “Your a good kid Dawnie, things will turn out ok you’ll see.”
“How much did Buffy tell you, you know about what happened?” Dawn asked nervously.
“Enough, she told me enough, if you ever want to talk about it, anything specific I’ll be here to listen,” There was a brief pause “I’m going to be honest with you for a second, I want you to know, just because Buffy sent you away to be here with me, that doesn’t mean that Buffy doesn’t love you and care for you, she does. It just that, and I think we both know this already, when it comes to dealing with, you know, things like this, Buffy’s never been really good at it, she can be a real robot sometimes, it’s just like back in Sunnydale, when she used to shut everyone out. Just give her some time, to process all this ok.”
Dawn nodded, wishing she shared Willow’s optimism, Willow hadn’t been in Rome, she hadn’t seen Buffy, Dawn didn’t know if things would ever be right between her and her sister again.
“Thanks Willow for everything. How are things in your life anyway?” Dawn asked uncomfortable with silence but desperate for a topic change.
“Oh well where should I start.” Willow said with a nervous laugh.
“How about with the new job, when did that happen?”
“Oh Buffy didn’t tell you.”
Dawn shook her head “We weren’t talking to each other much, for quite a while.”
“Well it’s a teaching job, at a high school, you’ll be going there, I’m going to be teaching computing, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do, ever since Ms Calendar back in Sunnydale, Harbor’s such a great school, from what I’ve seen anyway, I haven’t started yet, what with it being the summer holidays and everything, but I’ve met some of the other staff and the old teacher briefly, she’s leaving on maternity leave, I’m replacing her. The interview was really tough I thought I’d blown it for sure, I was so nervous and you know me when I get nervous, mega babble-fest, kind of like I’m doing now, though this is excited about new job babble rather then nervous at an interview babble.”
Dawn smiled “I’ve missed Willow babble and congratulations on the job, I had no idea you wanted to get into teaching, I mean how did you even get qualified for that, you do need qualifications right? They don’t just let anyone walk in and teach? Or do they?”
“No you need qualifications” Willow said with a brief laugh “After Sunnydale I re-enrolled at college as a Post-grad, got my teaching qualifications. It’s strange but after everything with the scythe and the hellmouth and all that, I decided I wanted to help more people and teaching’s a great way to help out other kids and really make a difference. Like I said Harbor’s a good school, it’s actually one of the top schools in the state. Dr Kim, that’s the principle and Mrs Murphy, she’s who I’m replacing, well Mrs Murphy in particular, she was really impressed with my programming experience, you know I hold some software patents right?”
Dawn shook her head; she hadn’t known that.
“Oh, my last year of high school, a company wanted to make a program based on some code I’d written, containing a new algorithm. I registered a patent for it and licensed it to them. Brings in some nice money. How do you think I can afford this damn sex symbol on wheels?” Willow said gesturing at the car she was driving with a chuckle.
“Oh I never thought about it.”
“Yeah, I have a few other patents but they don’t really see much use, anyway, I guess what I lacked with all the babble-age, I made up for with the coding, they were really impressed Mrs Murphy told me I was mad for wanting to teach, said I should be running my own dot-com, making my first million, maybe I am mad.” Willow had a huge grin on her face.
“Well a little madness never hurt anyone, you said I’m going to this school as well?”
Willow nodded “When Buffy asked me to take you in, I talked to Dr Kim, she was happy enough with your grades and she got a good reference from Robin Woods, your last principle and agreed to accept you.”
“What about Rome and everything that happened there?” Dawn asked nervously.
“Well I’m afraid the last year isn’t going to count, I explained to her that you and your sister moved around a lot and you never really had a chance to settle at that international school, she was a bit concerned about your performance there, but I’ve assured her there won’t be any issues.”
“So I’m redoing the 10th grade?”
“Yes,” Willow nodded, “You’ll be a bit older then some of your classmates, I hope that’s not going to be too much trouble.”
“No, that’s cool.” There was a pause, “so you don’t still, you know, help the Watchers Council, fight the good fight and all that?”
“Well I can still do magic and I patrol for vampires from time to time, but activity is, you know, much more quiet, it’s not like there’s a hellmouth around here. I still want to help but I don’t want slaying to become my whole life, I think that’s part of why Kennedy and me didn’t work out so well, being a Slayer and all she gets a bit antsy after more then a day or so without staking something, she would have gone mad in a place like this. It’s pretty fortunate I got the job here where I did, the LA branch of the Council is just a car trip away, Giles has assured me I’m on their speed dial, they need any help I’m a phone call away, so I’m still helping out and all but it’s not all I’m doing, you know. So far it’s been quiet, though I have only been here for a week.”
“Oh, I thought you’d been here longer.”
“The interview was a month ago, I moved up last week, I’ve been staying with my Aunt and Uncle, while I was looking for a place to live.”
“Oh you have family up here.”
“My Mom’s brother lives around here, I hadn’t seen him for years. I got in touch with him when I found out about the job. He’s been really great; his wife helped me find the apartment actually. She a real estate developer, or an agent or something real estate anyway, she has a bunch of contacts got me a really nice deal on the apartment, wait till you see it, you’ll love it. Oh I have a cousin too, he’s about your age, a real funny guy, kind of reminds me of Xander.”
“Oh hey, we’re coming up to our new home now” Willow indicated to the sign outside.
‘Welcome to: Newport Beach, Orange County’ it read.