Part 3 : Shade Hills
Took longer than I thought it would, but here you go. Thanks go to churkey for betareading.
SaudadePart 3 - Shade Hills
She was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen in his entire life. And she was his, no doubt about it. You don’t spend the night with a woman that’s not yours, do you? Well, Xander pondered, some men do. But he didn’t, not in the romantic way. Hell, he hadn’t ever spend the night with Cordelia. Or Faith. Then again, Cordelia had never really been his. And Faith... Well... There are just some things you don’t think about too much. Homicidal flings are one; fat women in strings another. Xander shuddered. Adapted scenes from the Nutty Professor briefly passed through his mind. Focus on something else.
He opened his eyes.
There she was, spooned against him. Wearing nothing at all, like him. Beautiful. Attractive. He nuzzled her neck and whispered: “I love you.”
She moaned. “Xander.”
He couldn’t help but smile, hearing that.
“Xander,” she repeated a little louder.
Strange. Was this one of those times where he was hooking up with a demon babe instead of a real babe? He sincerely hoped not. Unless she was a succubus, he asserted. Then he wouldn’t mind.
“Xander!” she was shouting now.
“Yes, dear?” he said, having decided to stay polite.
Hmm. Strange, she’d switched voices now, as if she had a little switch in her mouth that said: “Seductive woman voice” or “teenage girl voice”.
Just to make certain he wasn’t dealing with an apocalypse, he reopened his eyes.
“Dawn?” he uttered in confusion, suddenly realizing he wasn’t in bed with his beautiful woman, but sleeping on Buffy’s couch. Dawn, Buffy’s younger sister, was crouched next to him.
“You’re awake!” she chirped happily.
He nodded regretfully. “I am.”
“Mom’s making breakfast,” Dawn explained.
Suddenly, his morning brightened enormously after its disappointing start. “She is?” he verified. “All right!”
Joyce Summer, the mother everybody should have, was busy at work baking pancakes. Xander’s mouth salivated, his eyes consistently following Joyce’s actions. Take a bit of dough, pour it into a pan, throw the pancake on its other side, slide the finished pancake onto a plate where an entire pile was waiting to be eaten. It was a very fascinating process.
Seated next to him, Dawn messed around with her cutlery. Alternatively, she inserted a knife in between the tines of her fork, ate a spoonful of sugar or cut imaginary slices in her plate with her knife.
“So Xander,” Joyce began, “Buffy told me there was something going on in your family?”
Xander nodded and said: “My grandfather died. My parents don’t want to deal with the paperwork, so I’ll be taking care of everything.”
“And you know what you need to do?” asked Joyce skeptically.
He shrugged. “Somewhat. My parents will help me with the stuff I don’t understand.” Even saying that little white lie felt hollow, as if he were denying the existence of demons all over again.
“Oh,” said Joyce.
“Did you know your grandfather well?” Dawn wanted to know.
“Not really,” admitted Xander. “My parents and grandfather had a falling out when I was little, since then I haven’t seen him. Didn’t even know where he lived.”
“So what do you need to do?” It was Joyce again, in between pancakes.
“The paperwork of the home he stayed at. And the funeral, most likely.”
“Do you want me to go with you?” suggested Buffy. Xander’s head turned towards the entrance of the kitchen. He hadn’t heard her come down the stairs.
“I don’t know,” he replied. “It will probably be boring. And it’s not like I’m the hysterical type.”
Three skeptical gazes turned towards him.
“What?” he exclaimed. “I’m not, am I?”
“Keep on believing that,” condescended Buffy. “So do you want me to go with you? Do the whole crying shoulder thing?"
Xander grimaced just an eeny teeny bit. "I don't know." He caught the slight disappointment flashing through her expression, before it was gone. Did she want to go and do this with him? Why? There wouldn't be any malls in sight. Nor demons. Then again, he acknowledged, it wasn't like their friendship stood or fell because of those two subjects. (Well, demons sometimes did get in the way.) So he changed his mind and said: "Sure, why not. It's not going to be fun." He imagined piles of papers he might have to fill in. "Or simple."
Buffy sent him a wistful smile. "It never gets easier," she said.
"Can I come as well?" asked Dawn suddenly, breaking their moment.
Joyce tutted. "I don't think so, young lady. I told you to clean up your room, didn't I?"
"But mom," the youngest Summer whined.
"There is of course," Joyce said to Buffy, "a problem if you're going with Xander. I have to work, there are some important customers coming today that will either break or make my budget this month."
"So Dawn gets to stay all alone in the house," guessed Xander while he munched on a pancake.
The girl in question glanced first at him, then at her mother and finally at Buffy. "I'm allowed to do that? Stay home alone?"
Buffy and Joyce exchanged glances. Then, Buffy shrugged. "It's daytime and summer," she replied to the unspoken question.
"Then yes, you're allowed," Joyce told her youngest daughter.
" Yes, yes, yes!" Dawn cheered.
"And if you behave yourself," her mother amended, "and your room is clean by the time I'm back, I might consider giving you this privilege in the future."
If Xander didn't know any better, he'd say Dawn thought she'd won the lottery. And not winning as in cashing in five dollars, but the big bucks. At the same time, a sort of tension seemed to go off Buffy's shoulders. He'd have to remember asking about it later on.
After that decision had been handled, it didn't take long until he was back in his car with Buffy seated next to him. "So where we going?" she asked.
"My place," he replied. "I don't have the address of the place my granddad stayed at, so I have to find it first."
"Oh," she said. "I don't think I've ever been in your house."
He started the car, changed gears, and started driving. "I know," was all he said.
His mother was still asleep when they entered his 'home'. One look at the box next to the front door made him cringe. It was the box where both of his parents put their empty bottles of booze in. There were two bottles of cheap whiskey and one bottle of amaretto more in it. Which was a bit odd: wasn't his dad glad granddad Max had died? And his mother certainly hadn't shown any care. Xander shook his head. He would never understand his parents.
"So this is your place, huh?" Buffy was eyeing the box as well, before exploring the rest of the house she could see. "That wallpaper must be like thirty years old," she observed.
"It's actually pretty new," he commented. "My dad had it changed like six months ago."
"Then why does it look like it's something straight from the seventies?"
"That's because it is," he answered awkwardly. "My dad didn't feel like spending all his money on fancy wallpaper, so he bought a whole bunch of this paper for like fifty cents a roll."
"Wow," she uttered. "That's way with the cheap."
He shifted about uncertainly, not knowing what to say in response to that comment. Truth did that sometimes.
"So do you know where this address thingy is?"
Xander smiled at her briefly, glad for the change in subjects. "Haven't got a clue. Well, I suppose it's somewhere in that closet, all the official stuff is in there." He pointed at the armoire where the phone sat upon.
"You know, I don't think we're going to find it in here," Buffy said ten minutes later. "All I've had so far are bills, official looking letters and this tax stuff that doesn't make sense."
"I'm starting to think so as well," he said. "And I doubt any of the other folders will have the address." They stared at the table of papers, wondering what the next step might be. "It's all the same stuff all over again and again, isn't it?" Xander finally commented.
Buffy nodded. "I don't know how my mom manages it."
"I'm going to have to start doing this from now on," expressed Xander, a horrible realization written all over his face.
Distant rumbles of his mom sporting what would, no doubt, be her billionth hangover made it through ceiling.
"Maybe we should just ask her?" Buffy suggested doubtfully.
He looked at her with his 'who hit your head with a shovel' expression, hopefully conveying his opinion accurately.
She shrugged. "It was just a suggestion," she said.
"My mom wouldn't know where she'd put it," he decided. "If they even had it in the first place."
They went back to staring at the bills, tax thingies and warranties. "Can't you like, call back and ask them for the address."
Xander frowned. Why hadn't he thought of that? "Why haven't I thought of that?" he iterated aloud. "I think I have their phone number somewhere on a paper." In a pocket, he remembered, namely his le- make that right pocket. "Huh," he said.
He looked at her, slightly bewildered. "I had their address all along, here in my pocket."
If looks could kill, Xander would already be a cloud of ash.
Despite the rough start, they made it from Sunnydale to Shade Hills, where Rosemary was located, without much trouble. It was while driving through the city slash town that navigation became a bit uncomfortable. Apparently, the locals had decided, when they were building the city, that they'd adopt the European pattern of streets instead of the good old checkerboard pattern most of the US used. This meant that there was one central square, with buildings having been built in semi-concentric circles around that square. As such, the streets following an entirely random path, flowing between buildings like creeks that sometimes turned into rivers.
"You need to turn to the LEFT, not RIGHT," instructed Buffy with a whiff of irritation.
"Why do I need to do that?" replied Xander. "I can't do that - I mean I couldn't do that!"
"What do you mean you can't?" she wondered, "It was the right street! I saw it!"
He cringed somewhat, remembering why exactly it wasn't wise to have Buffy in your car while you're driving. "Did you see the little plaque there, you know, the one that said: 'Don't drive in here, 'cause you will be fined!'"
"Oh," she commented. "Well, that's something completely different." She paused, then amended her statement with: "but it was the right street".
Fifteen minutes later, they were finally there, parked where visitors should be parked.
It was kind of depressing to realize they were the only ones there.
"Can I be of assistance?" the lady sitting behind the reception desk greeted them.
Xander coughed. "I'm Alexander Harris, I'm here because of Max Harris," he introduced himself.
The woman looked at him blankly for a moment. "A moment, sir, I'm checking our records."
He inclined his head slightly and allowed his gaze to wonder to what Buffy was looking at. There was an old lady standing behind a door that had a small glass window in it, just staring straight ahead of her.
"Spooky," whispered Buffy.
"What do you think is wrong with her?"
"Maybe she's blind?" he wondered. "Or maybe she's just seen one of the other people in here butt naked and is still in shock?"
Buffy grimaced. "I'll just pretend she's blind."
The reception lady cleared her throat, catching his attention again. "Max Harris is in the morgue downstairs. Do you see the black line on the floor?"
He looked and nodded.
"If you follow that line, you'll end up in the morgue."
He exchanged glances with his friend. This place really was kinda creepy.