Disclaimer: Joss, ME, FOX. It's all yours. I make nothing.
OW-OW-OW. Water. Hot. Temperature? Burning. Hafta...off...before...crispy...
Whew. ‘Kay, hasta be silver somewhere in the house...
"Hiding in there won’t make today go any faster. And don’t blame me when the water bill’s due," Nina says to me from the other side of the shower curtain. "This was your idea, remember?" Like I'd forget. "Suck it up already."
"I asked you to move in, why?" I slide the curtain to my left, step out of the shower and, hi nudity. She's got the towel that was sitting on the toilet she flushed, and as I step into her, she wraps it around both of us. S' a big towel. "Oh. Yeah." Much, much contact. “But you’re gonna--“
“Not till 8:03. Anything else you wanna try?”
Wolf nights? Like tonight, because I don't so much plan great? Still hate ‘em. That she's gotta feel what she feels, caged in our soundproofed garage because beach houses don’t like basements...hate it. But, mornings before and after? On the air mattress I keep there? They're kinda...uh, well, there's no shortage of frisky.
"Power napping?” I answer. “For the next, twelve to fourteen hours? You-you could wake me up when it's over." She rolls her eyes at me.
“Sorry, you’re on the grill. I don’t.” Nina’s foot is real close to put down. “At least not for a while.”
“Me neither,” I say, and our mouths just about... “But hey, you could smell when food’s done.”
Oh. That's exactly why it's been a while. Nevermi--
She kisses me just to shut me up. “Your idea.”
Why am I having everybody over for a barbeque? Why?
“You said she’s definitely bringing it, right?” Buffy calls to me from the kitchen.
Jill made nacho dip. It’s good. But not that good.
I wish Buffy would relax. There’s no reason to get this freaked out. C’mon, if we survived telling my sister and my niece we were moving in together...
Compared to, “Hey, I’m a werewolf”? Wound up pretty painless. Jill said she saw the signs a long time ago. Amanda giggled.
“Yeah. You can stop asking,” I call back to her.
“Sorry. Again.” I can almost picture the look on her face. “It’s like a sickness. I’m sick.”
“Well, at least you didn’t catch something worse.” That? That’s my problem--I always crack. If I didn’t, maybe she would stop.
I get why she’s like this. If there’s no barbeque, there’s no way she can mess it up. None of her friends, our friends, have been here yet, and she wants everything perfect. Me too. Why I’m finally cleaning my studio. It was a spare bedroom once. We redid it, took everything out.
Pulled up the carpet, left the hardwood floor...and as long as I remember to keep the window open, I don’t pass out. The only thing I can’t have in here is a kiln, which is probably smart. Anyway...
What I think Buffy’s worried about most? What if it *is*? Perfect, I mean. She honestly feels guilty about being happy. Xander, Willow, Faith...Giles...they’re all across the world, fighting, and she lives on a beach in San Diego. She doesn't think she does enough, and that they secretly hate her for it.
Been trying to change her mind, ‘cause that’s...stupid.
She takes the local slayers out, trains them...she still saves people. Still a hero. She’s not the Leader though, and she feels like she should be. Like they expect her to be, since she’s the one who decided to make an army. But they don’t. They’re just glad she’s living her life.
Me? I’m glad I’m in it.
Okay, cover the canvas--because my work sucks, and if anybody sees it, they’ll realize how obvious that is--and this room’s done. Do I go in the kitchen? I probably should. She could need help. Or maybe I could slip her a...nah, it’s fine.
When I get there, she’s staring at a bowl at the counter. “Uh...that the potato salad?” I ask.
“Keep thinking it’s not ‘salad’-y enough...is it? Tell me the truth.”
I’m crazy. I know this. But now my sister’s here, all the way from another country, just so she can remind me I am. Out loud. Repeatedly. Yay.
“You’re crazy,” Dawn says (did you think I was kidding?), dumping the ice I asked her to pick up into the cooler. “You told her she’s crazy, right?” She asks my girlfriend as we all stand out on the deck.
Nina looks like she’s trying to be not on the spot. “In those words?”
I smirk ‘cause I win. Nina knows whose side she has to pretend to be on.
Dawn rolls her eyes and shakes her head. “You so were cooler before you guys started having what I *never* wanna hear you guys having.”
Uh...completely not an issue. But more words keep coming.
“Or when summer’s over, I might hafta forget to be a freshman. Won’t matter that you totally begged.”
That’s just playing dirty. I already bought a “UC San Diego” hat.
“Andrew’s got the apartment, still; I can learn to not care what a huge dweeb he *always* is. And it’s okay that he can’t quit it long enough for me to wanna have a party so people think it’s possible I’m cool.” Poor Dawnie.
The “Andrew” rant I’m expecting doesn’t happen though. “Who-who needs an education, anyway? Marco has a moped...we’ll learn on the streets. Cobblestone is like, automatically cultural.”
Marco? “’Marco’ who now?”
She swallows, then laughs in a sorta nervous way I’m not liking. “Hey, you’re back. That’s...” She coughs. “Can you be ‘Crazy Buffy’ again? I’ll bet she’s awesome once ya get to know her...”
Dawn. Guy. Dawn and a guy, a guy and Dawn. Dawn has a guy. Dawn *had* a guy. Oh god, did she *have* him? What if she did? What do I say? Who do I quietly kill?
“Hey, Dawn? There’s, uh, Pepperjack and pepperoni in the fridge. I was gonna try cutting ‘em up--the pepperoni’s sort of ridiculous--but you wanna, do me a favor maybe?” Is Nina talking?
Am I turning? How come I’m...? Feet moving. It’s Nina. Nina’s making them move. They don’t wanna move. I turn my head back before we get to the steps, and I see Dawn mouthing, “Thankyouthankyouthankyou!” She sees me seeing and runs away.
“Let’s take a walk on the beach, huh?” Nina sounds like it’s a suggestion, but she’s a liar. My girlfriend’s a liar. A big, sometimes a lot furry, worst-ever-at-pretending-she’s-on-my-side, li...nyeh! The burgers and hot dogs!
“They’re still thawing,” she reads my mind. Should that be a good or a bad? “Buffy, you need this; you need a break. Before you actually do turn crazy, and before everyone says I am when I don’t break it off.”
She may be a liar, and maybe there’s fur sometimes, but she can say the semi-sweetest things.
“She’s eighteen,” Nina’s telling me when we’re halfway down the beach.
Like I don’t know how old? That’s the *problem*. The actual breasts and the tall and the how is she made from me?
‘Kay, let’s switch shoes. “If it was Amanda you’d--“
“--rip the little bastard’s arms off.” Well that had a hesitation level of none. Victory? Buffy’s.
I grin. “And I’d help with locking him in. We’d regret it in the morning, though. Probably.”
“What?--oh. Screw the wolf. Wouldn’t need it,” she tells me.
I chuckle and shimmy myself between her legs as we sit on the sand. At the part right before the waves reach. Can feel the breeze off the water.
“But that’s Jill’s territory--I’m just the cool aunt who’ll understand.”
Think I get where she’s leading me. “I should be ‘Understanding, Big Sister Buffy,’ shouldn’t I?”
“You were when you let her stay in Italy on her own. And that worked out okay. She seems like she's doing great.” Dawn really is. “But she isn’t there anymore. Instead she picked...okay, a party school...near her sister. How ‘bout that?”
“Was the begging.” I did, I admit it.
But I’m supposed to be taking a break. Means mostly listening, and the occasional being witty. Keeping thoughts uncomplicated makes for a happy brain. It was pretty exhausted.
“Kidding? You’re her idol.” Her arms hug me like she wants to reassure it’s the truth. Mm. Missed being held. “I went through the same thing. Jill had to be my mom *and* my sister for so long, that our relationship kinda became...we didn’t know what.”
“I didn’t wanna tell her anything, because I had no idea who’d listen to me. Hated it. And since I wasn’t gonna start hating *her*, I...tried to put some space between us for a while. ’Course, I never made it out of California...”
“S’ a long state,” I comment. Wittily. It is.
Her hug gets tighter and she smiles into my neck, but she lets me go leany. “I stayed with friends, got a couple different jobs...still need to show you where I painted this kinda funky mural in Santa Barbara.
“Then all the sudden it was five months later, and I showed up back at the house. It was like...like she was finally looking at me. She saw that I’d taken care of myself, that I’d grown up, that she didn’t need to be Mom. We started remembering how to just, be sisters again. Thank god it worked.”
“That’s what Dawn’s hoping.” Bing goes the cartoon light bulb.
Nina’s right. I haven’t known what to be for Dawn since our mom died. That last year in Sunnydale, training her, we started re-bonding, but then the First and the Potentials shot another swell plan all to hell. For someone who was made from me, I’m clueless who she is.
She wanted to stay in Italy, and maybe when she asked I was distracted by a shiny thing, ‘cause I didn’t fight her on it. Or maybe, subconsciously, I knew it was the right move. How come I can’t be that smart consciously? What...am I talking about?
Oh. How I didn’t get it wrong. Proud of myself? Uh huh. But mum’s the proud. Don’t deserve a giant, ego-filled head yet.
She’s...different now. Mature (example: the actual breasts). Not blind. But boys suck. No, not because I’m woman fond lately. “Boys” as in the datable age group. And the first boy she kissed literally did. Suck. But what would I know about that? Nothing. Nothing whatsoever.
Doesn’t matter. I hafta get past, and be interested and ask if Marco was cute. If he was romantic and where their first kiss was, and give sisterly advice when wanted.
I wanna know who Dawn’s become. Literal closeness'll hopefully help. Maybe I thought being separated by an ocean would make it easier, so we wouldn’t have to come up with awkward stuff to say. Except then I just wished she was here. She’s the only *family* family I have left that I give a damn about.
I’m done overprotecting. Like Nina said, Dawn’s great. She made it on her own. She doesn’t need the Slayer; she needs “Understanding, Big Sister Buffy.” I need her to give me the chance. Because I love her. Her and her trendy clothes that I vow to fit into. That’s why I begged.
And, too many thoughts. Gotta learn to channel Oz.
“You already know what my answer is," I tell Nina. “Dawn just caught me off-guard. Next guy mention, I’ll be fully on, and judgment-less.”
“That’s nice. Now go prove it, baby,” she teases me.
Did she just...? I got pet-named? Where was I when?
Did I just...? All right, I need to get up. Now.
Three months. Three months, and what’s her starving, wishes-she-wanted-to-live-bohemian-because-she-had-no-plan-after-finishing-school, artist girlfriend doing? Mooching off her kindness and already throwing “baby” around. Let’s not forget who decided Boston was our first date. Right. *She’s* crazy.
When I like someone, I tend to like them a lot. Buffy would never admit it creeps her out, ‘cause she’s more afraid of being lonely. We’ve both had relationships turn ugly, and fine, mine don’t even compare, but if ours does, it’ll be my fault. Last thing I want is to ruin...
...is that Amanda? Flying towards us?
“Hi, Aunt Nina!” Amanda greets me, tackling me in a hug.
“Hey, Mandy.” I hug her back. “When’d you get here?”
“Like, umm, five minutes ago,” she answers then looks at my slayer. Whoa, did *that* sound possessive. “Hi, Buffy.”
“Hey, Amanda,” Buffy smiles at her, standing up next to me. “Your mom back at the house?”
“Uh huh,” Amanda nods, and I wish I didn’t know where this was going.
“With dip?” Buffy steps back away from me as she asks the question, so all I can do is shake my head at her. Smart.
“Uh huh.” Amanda’s clueless about what I’ve had to deal with so far today. “And oh yeah, the timer’s beeping. Dawn wanted me to ask if the macaroni and cheese is done, or what.”
Buffy’s about to “Road Runner” down the beach. I move fast, grab her by the back of her jeans, and hold. She isn’t going anywhere. Eat your heart out, Coyote.
“Tell her to set the oven to ‘Warm,’” I tell my niece.
She makes a face. “Did you just grab her butt?”
I wonder if my face is the only one turning red. “*Go*. Quick. But later at the party, I better hear all about what you and Gabby did yesterday.”
She smiles and runs back the way she came, screaming Dawn's name.
“I oughta hurt you,” I say to my girlfriend once Amanda’s almost there, and loosen my grip. “Don’t wanna have to.” Her shoulders slump, and she exhales. I was kind of fishing for a smile there. “It’s a party, Buffy, that’s all.”
I throw my arm around her waist, and we start walking. “Yeah, just *my* party, my idea, and...” Extra pressure, plus I live here, not neutral territory, not a bar. But I want her to know I’m saner than I’m seeming. “...and I’m wigged for no reason. But knowing hasn’t helped.”
It’s a web, a tangled web. I’ll bet she told you. She told you, didn’t she?
“Whatever you think’s gonna..." She sighs. "You know, just wait and see for yourself. I obviously can’t win."
I want her to be right, so much. “How are you sure?”
“Werewolf intuition.” Smart ass. “They wouldn’t care if it was pouring and we only had saltines and I dunno, warm Mountain Dew.” Geew. She...geeeew. That’s EVIL with a capital all the letters. Like hell they wouldn’t. “Oh. Wait. I meant lighter fluid.”
I nod. Emphatically. Yes. Lighter fluid is better.
Her point comes back. “All they’ll care about is getting a couple days together. Like Boston. They’re your friends. After the stuff you’ve been through? They *wanna* see that you have a life. So unless there’s something you aren’t telling me, you're driving yourself insane for nothing.”
Okay, new level of low.
“Neen, the only thing I haven't told enough, is that this? Us? Healthiest relationship ever. Because *we’re* friends. Good friends. I never was with Angel. Or Spike, or even Riley. Couldn’t be both. It’s the ‘Harry Met Sally’ rule.”
It’s in my top five movie list. And also in my top five, “Favorite Excuses Why Dating Pre-Nina Horribly Failed” list.
“Plus, sticking with the healthy, we actually talk. I love that we can; that because of, I’m a better ‘Buffy.’ Came seriously close to canceling today, but you kept me from. Believe it or not,” I point at myself, “‘calm.’ Ya should’ve seen my Thanksgiving,” I say, straight-faced.
I finish with, “When Will asks if I’m happy? There isn’t a ‘but’ after the ‘Yes’ part anymore.”
Walking stops. I know that smile. It’s her, “You made a right move again” smile. Yay. For real this time.
“Wow. You can charm a girl...*really* well,” she compliments my ability to compliment. “Too well. Crap. Do you realize how intimidating it is?" Or not. "Thanks a lot.”
I try to joke, “What? Mean, yeah, you're my first 'Sally,' but, ’Harry,’ ‘Hairy’...not much different.” She could be picking to be sensitive to guilt me, but I still wonder how many points I just lost. “Except you're *tons* prettier than Billy Crystal. Whole hundreds of tons.”
She hasn’t made up her mind. Her eyebrow’s doing an arch. “The wolf? Or me?”
“Uh, both?” Points. I need points back. “The calling me 'baby' thing? I’m charmed. You’re...still going to, right?” For a second she’s got “relieved face,” then--
Just as I’m catching on that she jumped me and knocked me down so that’s why I see clouds, she’s over me, and sky’s gone. Cheater. See how she is? Randomly uber-aggressive?
Embracing an inner-wolf? Think so. I try to look upset.
"Can’t believe I ever told Angel that I wanted to make love on the beach. I think I have sand in my ass. Dunno how that happened,” Nina smirks down at me, and ouch, grittiness in wrong spots. “Probably should check--before anybody else shows up. Come help?”
"Aw, baby, you mean that?" She asks, and we both get up again. “Thanks.”