Title: 'Til I Met You
Disclaimer: I certainly don't own any of the BtVS or AtS characters, those belong to Joss Whedon et al. I don't own any of the 7th Heaven characters either. Those belong to Brenda Hampton et al.
Author's Notes: This fic is a result of a turn of a 7th Heaven Lyric wheel. The wheel consists of a bunch of people who really really hate what 7H has become, just so you don't think we're a bunch of freaks. At the time I wrote this I wanted to surprise them with the cross-over. It's also mainly from a 7th Heaven perspective. Hope you like it, and the lyrics for the song sent to me are at the bottom.
If you don't know about 7th Heaven, there's really not much to know. It's a crappy "family" show about
a minister and his many obnoxious children, shrew of a wife, and multiple hangers-on. At one point it was a decent little show, but now it's just utter crap and I certainly hope nobody watching actually thinks it portrays a good, normal family.'Til I Met You
Annie hurriedly chopped vegetables and tossed them into her casserole. One hour ago, her husband, the Reverend Eric Camden, had called to say he was bringing home guests. Six guests to be exact. She didn't get much information from Eric other than their van had broken down on the highway, and they had nowhere to go.
Of course, being the good Christian family that they were, Eric and Annie immediately opened their home to them, and offered to let the travelers stay for as long as it took for their van to be repaired. Annie heard Eric pull up in the family van, and glanced out the kitchen window. Her hand stopped in midair.
She looked at the group of people getting out of the van, and began to wonder if she had made the right choice. They certainly seemed to be a rag tag bunch. There was a blonde who looked like she hadn't eaten in ages, a redhead and brunette that seemed entirely too close, a boy who had something that may very well have been a gang insignia on his face, and another young girl who seemed entirely too young to be hanging around these people.
Annie couldn't see the sixth person, but she couldn't imagine how they could be any better than the others. Shaking her head, she turned back to her casserole. Several minutes later, the back door opened, and Annie heard the most fabulous sound she had ever heard in her life. One of the six people her husband had brought home was English. Annie had been a fan of the English accent for as long as she could remember, and now she had an Englishman in her kitchen!
"Reverend Camden, I really don't feel right imposing on your family like this,"
"Oh it's no problem at all!" Annie said whirling around to greet the speaker. She almost fell over. Standing in her kitchen was the most handsome man Annie Camden had ever seen (Next to her husband of course). He was tall with beautiful, intelligent looking eyes behind wire-rimmed glasses. His hair was beginning to gray, but Annie thought it a very respectable look for the man.
"I'm Annie Camden," she said with a grin plastered to her face. "It's a pleasure to have you in our home!"
"Yes well, thank you, Mrs. Camden. We do appreciate it, but I can't help but feel like we should be paying you something," the man said.
"No no no no, you just make yourself at home, Mr...."
"Oh, I'm terribly sorry," he said, extending his hand. "Rupert Giles."
Lucy sat at the dinner table in utter awe of the six strangers around her. Not only did they come from Sunnydale, a town which had been demolished after the mother of all earthquakes, but two of the girls (Buffy and Dawn) were orphans-their mother a tragic victim of cancer. Xander, the boy Annie at first thought to be a gang member, was an unfortunate young man, blinded in one eye while escaping his doomed town. Those three were the types of tortured souls Lucy was used to her family taking in, and the other three (Willow, Kennedy, and Mr. Giles) were so nice to stand by their friends. She directed a warm smile at Kevin, her husband. She hoped that one day the two of them would have a nice house and be able to give assistance to people in need.
Once introductions had been made, the table had fallen oddly silent, and one of the six guests looked more than a little uncomfortable. Eric was the first to notice. "Xander," he said, "I don't mean to be rude, but is everything all right? You look a little lost." Xander took a gulp of his water before looking at the minister. "I'm fine, it's just that I haven't had much luck with preachers lately. No offense," he said with a slightly pained smile.
"None taken," Eric said. "I saw news footage of what was left of Sunnydale. It looked pretty bad. If any of you need to talk about it, I'm here."
"Thank you Reverend Camden, that's very generous of you," Giles said quickly trying to change the subject.
"You know, Lucy is going to school to be a minister too," Kevin said before anyone else had a chance to speak. "You can talk to her too, right Luce?"
This was the last thing Lucy had expected, and when she finally found her voice, all she could squeak out was "Yeah, people can talk to me. I'm a good listener..."
"I sense a 'but' coming on," Kevin said, his eyes narrowing. "What's wrong?" Lucy felt her stomach sink. She had been having certain feelings, but she wanted the chance to talk to her dad about them first. She knew that would never happen. She could tell from the look in Kevin's eyes that he wanted to know, and he wanted to know now.
Taking a breath, Lucy began. "It's nothing really. I've just...I've just been feeling kind of restless lately and...and I was thinking a might take a semester off to try and you know-" The sound of silverware clattering onto plates was deafening. "You were thinking of doing WHAT?" Kevin said. Lucy looked around the table. He looked angry, Annie looked horrified, and Eric looked shocked. Everyone else was looking in any direction other than the four of them. "I was thinking of taking a break to get my bearings," Lucy began again.
"Luce, we discussed this when we were planning the wedding. You're not dropping out of school."
"I don't plan on dropping out, Kevin. I just need-"
"You NEED to stay in school. You know once you leave you'll never go back. I'm not letting you destroy your life," Kevin said with an air finality.
"You're apparently not letting me run it, either," Lucy said with an anger she didn't even know she was capable of feeling. In one fluid motion she slammed her napkin down on the table and rose from her seat. "I'm going for a walk," she said before anyone could comment.
Once again, the table was silent. Finally, Willow, the young red head, broke the ice. "So...uh...what sort of plans do the rest of you have?" She said with a nervous laugh.
After a few more moments of silence, Simon filled the void with "I think I'm going to be an accountant...or some other type of financial advisor..."
After dinner, sleeping arrangements were made and Lucy's outburst was forgotten. Eric, Annie, Kevin and the six newcomers retired to the living room. "So," Eric began, "what's in Cleveland?"
Before anyone could answer, Lucy came bursting through the front door, blood trickling from a cut on her cheek. Everyone in the room leapt to their feet, concern clearly etched on their faces. "Lucy, what happened??" Kevin asked, reaching his wife in two long strides.
"Two guys jumped out of the bushes," she began, near tears. Dawn offered to call the police, but Kevin quickly rebuked the idea. "Don't bother, I am the police," he said. "Who did this to you?" he demanded. "Who were they? What'd they look like??"
"Kevin, I don't know!" Lucy said bursting into tears. "They were big and strong and everything happened so fast...I think they had on masks on...I just don't know..."
"Good Lord," Giles said, moving towards the crying girl, a knowledgeable look already on his face. "How did you escape?"
Lucy swallowed and took a deep breath, trying desperately to regain her composure. "I...I'm not sure. One of them grabbed my neck...but he let go...and...I ran. I ran so fast and I didn't look back..." The memory was far to fresh for Lucy, and she broke into tears for the second time. As Kevin guided Lucy to her parents, who pulled her into a tight embrace, the Scooby Gang was able to see a small golden cross hanging around her neck..
Annie and Eric lead Lucy to the kitchen. "Stay here, I'm going after them," Kevin barked as he put on his jacket and headed for the door. Xander was the first to react. Stepping between Kevin and the front door, he held out his hand. "Hang on Mr. PsychoControllingGuy," he deadpanned. "You don't know what's out there."
"What did you call me?" Kevin said, but before he could do anything else, he felt a hand on his shoulder, turning him around. His eyes finally focused on the tiny blonde-Buffy. "Hey, save the Alpha-Male act for later," she said hotly. "He's right. You don't know what's out there."
"As a matter of fact, I do" Kevin said, nostrils flaring. "We've been getting reports of gang members leaking south from LA-"
"Let me guess," Buffy interrupted, "Gang members on PCP?"
Kevin narrowed his eyes and glared at Buffy. "I don't know who you are," he said slowly, "but if you don't get out of my way right now, I'll have you arrested for interfering with police business."
Kennedy jumped to her feet. "You can't do that!" She said as Willow rose to join her.
"Buffy, Kennedy that's enough," Giles said before turning to Kevin. "Of course, you're right, Officer Kinkirk. You should be out there, just...be careful."
As Kevcin closed the door behind him, both Slayers turned turned to Giles. "Before you say anything," he said with his hands out in front of him, "think of what two vampires could accomplish while we stand here arguing with that brute. Kennedy, you should do a quick sweep of the town. A place this size, vamps wouldn't have to go far to find people."
"Alright. My first solo-mission..."
"Willow, maybe you should go with her," Giles added.
"Giles!" Buffy said "I've been a slayer a lot longer than she has!"
"Buffy, I need you here..."
Lucy sat alone in the kitchen. After her wound was attended to, she told her parents that she just wanted to be alone, and they had left to check on the other children, but not before giving her hugs and reassurance that everything would be better in the morning.
Lucy, for the most part, ignored them.
She heard Kevin drive away. She thought about chasing him, but she knew it wouldn't do any good. If she listened carefully, she could almost hear what the others were saying in the living room. She could have swore she heard words like "vampire" and "slayer" but that made no sense, and she'd never swear. Surely she was just shook up from the attack. She tried to concentrate on other things. Happier things. Her mind, however, kept wandering back to that evening.
The kitchen doors opened, and Mr. Giles, Buffy, and Xander stepped through. "Miss Camden, we need to speak with you," Giles said softly.
"I don't really feel-"
"They were fast, yes?" He continued, ignoring her protest.
"Yeah, they were pretty fast," Lucy said, easily giving in to the man's queries about her attackers.
"And how is it that you managed to outrun them?"
"Adrenaline, I guess," Lucy said, confused.
"I see," Giles muttered as he walked away from her. "Tell me, are you left-handed or right?" he said over his shoulder, almost absentmindedly.
"Right. Why?" Lucy asked. Before the one worded question was even out of her mouth, Buffy positioned her self on Lucy's left side, with her hand inches from Lucy's face. "Wh-what's going on?" Lucy said, looking around the room. Mr. Giles still had his back to her, and Xander stood silently in the corner. Just what had happened to his eye? "What are you guys-" Lucy's right hand immediately went to her face, seemingly on it's own accord. "What..." it took her brain a minute to process what had just happened. In her hand, the blade centimeters from her face, was a long, pearl-handled dagger.
"Did you just throw a knife at my head?" She asked, anger beginning to rise in her.
"Well...yes, I'm terribly sorry, but-"
"You're SORRY?? You threw a knife at my head..."
"I said the same thing..." Buffy said almost lazily.
"I had to test you...."
"TEST ME?" Lucy said, advancing towards him.
"Okay, why don't I take our happy little dagger," Xander said with a nervous, half hearted chuckle. Lucy whirled to face him, the dagger still clutched firmly in her hand. Suddenly she felt a small, yet strong, arm around her shoulder, and the knife was plucked from her hand. Buffy guided her back to her chair and sat her down. "What do you feel?" Giles asked.
"Well, you know, right now I'm pretty much just angry," Lucy spat out.
"Of course you're angry, a crazy english guy just threw a knife at your head," Buffy said, ignoring Giles' look of objection at being called crazy. "What else do you feel?"
"What else should I-" there it was. She finally felt it deep inside of her. A spark of something that hadn't been nurtured in years. A flame that had almost died out. She felt power.
"You see?" Giles asked. "Why we had to test you?"
"Mr. Giles, I still don't understand," Lucy said shakily, her anger turned to confusion.
"First, let me assure you that the "Mister" is unnecessary," he said with a smile. "Second," he said walking closer to Lucy. "You, Lucy Camden, are very special. You are one of many girls chosen to rid the world of evil. To fight the fight against vampires, demons, and other mystical beings."
"Vamp-what?" Lucy said before shaking her head. "You know, don't tell me. This is crazy talk. There are no such things as vampires, and the only demons we fight are the ones inside ourselves. Those ones that wan't us to drink, do drugs, and...other stuff. THOSE are the demons I'M supposed to fight," Lucy said, standing up. She quickly walked out the door, leaving the others standing in the kitchen.
Lucy had made it halfway across the yard when she stopped. The moon shone bright in the sky, but somehow, it looked different. Everything about the night seemed different. Soon she felt an odd sensation on her face. It wasn't painful. It was like a warm, tingling feeling on her cheek. She brought her hand to her face, and pulled off the band-aid that had been applied by her mother less than an hour ago. Touching the spot were she should have felt a painful cut, she felt only smooth skin. There wasn't even a scab or dried blood on her face. It was almost as if the ordeal had never happened. It had, though. The wound could fade into nothingness, but her memory of it couldn't. As much as she wanted to deny the entire evening, she knew she couldn't. She knew she couldn't erase the feeling that those three people in her mother's kitchen were right.
Cautiously, she re-opened the back door, and walked into the kitchen. The three occupants looked up from their conversation. "What happens now?" she asked.
Giles stood and offered her his chair. "Well," he said, "That really depends on you. While the rest of you were playing houseguest," he said, continuing, his conversation with Xander and Buffy. "I got a phone call from Wood and Faith. They and the rest where able to catch a flight into Cleveland, and it appears that there is a vacant church once used a catholic school very near their Hellmouth. I've contacted Wesley and a few of my other contacts from what's left of the Council, and there's interest in starting a school, unnofficial of course-"
"Cool. Like a 'Giles' School for Gifted Youngsters' sort of thing," Xander said with the first real smile Lucy had seen him give.
"Giles, how exactly would this work," Buffy inquired, ignoring Xander's quip.
"Wait a second," Lucy interrupted. "I still don't understand what's going on here. Schools, councils, HELLMOUTHS, could somebody PLEASE explain to me what's going on," she said, exasperated.
"Alright," Giles said, turning his attention back to Lucy, "You understand now, that those things we spoke of earlier are indeed real," he said slowly.
"Yes," she said. "It seems crazy....but I believe you,"
"Good. Now, simply put, there are these...supernatural anomolies...spread throughout the world called Hellmouths, and evil is drawn to them. Sometimes, evil even comes from them. It's a slayer's job, your job now, to fight that evil and keep the world safe."
"H-How do I do that?"
"Well Lucy, you're not alone. There are many other girls like you. We're trying to create a bit of a school where you could go to train and learn to use your new abilities and what they mean for your life."
"Wait a second. You want me to leave my home, and my family, and my HUSBAND, to trot off to some school in Cleveland and live on a...on a...on a HELLMOUTH and fight things??" Before Lucy or anyone else could say another word, the door opened, and Willow and Kennedy stepped through, triumphant looks on their faces.
"Two vamps, hiding out behind some pizza place,"
"Yeah, I think that was it, we bagged 'em. It was fun," Kennedy said. "Except now I'm all dirty. I'm gonna take a shower before turning in," she said, looking blatantly at the red-head before going up the stairs.
"You know, it is a messy job, what with the turning to dust and all that," Willow babbled. "Yeah, messy and I think I'm gonna go and-goodnight everybody!" Willow said racing up the steps. There was something odd about the two of them, Lucy thought.
"Did you see Kevin!" she called out after therm.
Willow poked her head back down, "No, I didn't. But that's a good thing, right Giles," she said reassuringly before climbing the steps again.
"He'll be okay," Xander said, patting Lucy on the shoulder.
"Yes," Giles continued, "Vampires are extroardinarily fast. It's highly unlikely that he was able to catch up to them."
Lucy nodded her head, and looked at the guests. "I'm sorry I was so rude," she said quietly.
"Not at all," Giles insisted, "This was a lot of information to take in all at once. We should have spread it out a bit."
"Still, I could have been nicer. We'll talk more about this tomorrow." A small yawn escaped Lucy's mouth. "Where are you all sleeping?" she asked, always amazed at how many people seemed to fit into the house at any given time.
"Sofa sleeper in the twins' room," Xander said, stretching.
"I have the couch in your father's office."
"Dawn and I are in the attic with..."
"Ruthie," Lucy finished for her. "That puts Kennedy and Willow in the Hello Kitty room."
"The-The 'Hello Kitty Room'" Giles said with an eyebrow raised.
"It's a long story," Lucy said. Apparently that explanation suited everyone as Xander, Buffy, and Giles slowly left the kitchen, ready for sleep. Lucy didn't leave. She wasn't really tired yet, and the idea of sitting alone in the garage apartment wasn't at all appealing. She was alone in the kitchen, yes, but the house wasn't empty, and that was comforting.
Slowly, she turned things over in her head. Lucy felt like she was 6 years old, and instead of being told that there was no closet monster, and the boogeyman really wasn't under her bed, she was being told that all of that and more existed and was right outside her home. It was enough to set anyone off balance.
"You're going with them, aren't you?" A voice said behind her.
Startled, Lucy turned around. "Ruthie? What-"
"Don't you know by now that the staircase is like a tunnel of sound? How long have you been living here? Now I repeat, you're going with them, aren't you?"
"What makes you say that?" Lucy asked.
"Oh please, I know what everybody here is going to do tomorrow and for the rest of their lives. How could you be thinking about going with them, Lucy, those people are crazy!" Ruthie said frantically. "They've brainwashed you, I'm telling daddy!"
"Ruthie wait!" Ruthie turned around, anger evident on her tiny face. "I don't know what I'm going to do. If you think you need to tell dad, fine, but at least give ME the opportunity to decide what I'm going to do."
"Fine, I won't tell dad, butbutbut, you're going to run off and leave me just like Mary did! I hate you!" Ruthie half-shouted before stomping up the steps. Lucy sunk back down into her chair. After a while, she heard a car pull into the driveway, and when she looked out the window, she saw Kevin making his way to their apartment. He looked so tired.
Glancing at the clock, Lucy was surprised to see that it was almost four in the morning. She thought about following Kevin up to bed, but she just wasn't ready to leave the comfort of her parents' house. She replayed both the conversations with Giles and Ruthie looking for clues as to which direction she should choose. It seemed like whatever she did would be the wrong thing. Doing the only thing she knew to do, Lucy walked to the couch in the living room where she had decided to sleep, knelt down, and prayed.
Lucy awoke five hours later to the smell of fresh bacon and coffee cake. She was quite hungry given the ordeal she had faced the night before. She pushed open the door, and found the kitchen more alive with activity than it had been since Matt and Mary moved away. Her dad was gone, no doubt off to the church for another day's work, but Ruthie was sitting at the counter eating coffeecake while carrying on a conversation with Dawn Summers, the only one of the visitors who was even remotely her age. Simon was there as well, apparently having one of his "rebellious" days. He was ignoring the coffee cake and bacon, instead choosing to have a bowl of cereal while gazing fixedly at Dawn.
In the other half the kitchen, Annie was dilligently keeping plates and glasses full. "Mr. Giles, you're out of coffee cake again!" Annie exclaimed while cutting a huge piece off of one of the three pans of homemade cake, and sliding it onto his plate. "This was my grandmother's recipe, she used to make it all the time when I was a little girl."
"Yes, well it is quite exquisite," Giles said with a polite smile, but when Annie turned back to the stove he immediately thrust the plate into Xander's hand, and rolled his eyes as the boy enthusiastically crammed the entire piece of cake into his mouth.
A small giggle escaped Lucy's lips and Xander immediately looked up. "Oh hey, Lucy. How's it going?" He asked, spraying a few crumbs into the air.
"I'm fine, Xander," Lucy said as she made he way to the fridge, and pulled out a small carton of orange juice.
"Lucy, I saw you on the couch this morning, did Kevin get back okay?" Annie asked, somehow able to convey concern while simultaneously pouring batter into a pan and flipping bacon on the stove.
"Yeah," Lucy said, opening her juice, "he got back this morning, but I'm pretty sure he was still in one of his moods, so I thought I'd stay here."
The rest of the guests made their way downstairs, and Lucy and the rest of the Camdens greeted them accordingly. Once everyone had had their fill, Aninie packed away the leftover food, and the polite conversation began to die down. "Mrs. Camden, what are your two kids doing?" Buffy said, pointing out the window to Sam and David, who were sitting on the ground, digging holes, and whispering amongst themselves.
"Oh," Annie said, looking out the window, "They're playing Jack and the Beanstalk."
The guests looked confused, and Annie was apparently oblivious to everything except the dishes that she was meticulously scrubbing. "Mom and Dad have started reading them bedtime stories," Lucy explained. "They really like 'Jack and the Beanstalk' so Mom got them some sweetpeas to plant. I've seen them in bloom, and they're really pretty."
"They are," Willow agreed. "They're all viny and flowery. They're beautiful."
"Until they climb all over everything else and strangle the life out of it," Dawn added quietly. The whole room stopped to stare. "What?" She said louder, "We studied it in Biology."
"I took Biology last year," Simon added.
"Good for you," Dawn said, sliding her chair a little farther away from the leering teen.
"Lucy," Annie finally said, "Why don't you take our guests out and show them the Promenade?"
Hey, that's a good idea," Lucy answered. "It's a little early, but the library should be opening soon."
"You have a library!" Giles exclaimed.
"This library is completely useless," Giles said walking back to the table where Lucy, Buffy, Willow, Xander and Dawn were sitting. "They have nothing on demonology, vampirism, magic of any kind, and that woman over there looked at me like I had sprouted horns, and cloven feet when I merely suggested the idea of inter-library loans!" The library was obviously a bust.
Lucy's list of places to show seemed more and more pathetic with each step. As they were just ending their trip around the promenade, Lucy stopped in her tracks. "Eddie!" She exclaimed, running over to an old man sitting alone on the sidewalk next to an easel and other art tools. "How'd things go in L.A.?"
"Why Lucy Camden," the man said with a smile, "it's a pleasure to see you again. Things didn't go quite like I'd hoped, although, I thank your father for the bus ticket. I didn't find my son. Apparently he left that firm he was working at."
"Oh Eddie," Lucy said with remorse. "I'm sorry. I know you were hoping to work things out with him."
"It's alright," he said. "I'm just happy he's not at that job anymore. Looking at that place, it's no wonder people say lawyers are evil. Anyway, now I'm back here, selling my paintings. To tell the truth I'm glad to be back. And who might your friends be?"
Lucy introduced everybody, and began to walk away, when Buffy started pawing through the stack of Eddie's paintings. She moved past the landscapes and happy Glenoak couples before pulling out one canvas. "How much for this one," she said numbly.
Eddie looked at the painting in her hands, and dark expression appeared on his face. "That one," he said with a growl, "whatever you think it's worth. Did it in LA. Frankly, I'll be glad to be rid of it." Buffy reached into her purse, handed the man a twenty and continued down the street.
"A Revormas demon," Giles noted, looking over Buffy's shoulder. "I'm amazed he was able to get that close." Lucy looked at the painting and was amazed as well. The canvas was nearly filled with a huge scaly...thing. Lucy couldn't even find the words to describe it, it was that hideous and unnatural.
"What's a Revormas demon?" Xander said, practically reading Lucy's mind.
"It eats people," Giles said distractedly, still staring at the painting.
"Big deal. It's not like we haven't seen demons who-"
"In two bites," Giles added. "This is really a very good rendition. Most people miss the fifth leg-"
"Giles!" Buffy said, clearly annoyed, "It's Angel!" Giles and Lucy took closer looks at the painting and noticed a man in a billowing black coat holding an axe was in the lefthand corner.
"Hm. So it is," he said, removing his glasses, and shining the lenses with a small cloth.
"Wait, wait, wait," Lucy interrupted. "Angel? Re-Whatever demons? What?"
"Oh," Willow said crestfallen, "We keep forgetting that you're new. Why don't we get something to eat, and we can start explaining things."
The group managed to find a secluded table at Pete's Pizza and began to tell their story to Lucy. They told her all about Sunnydale, and how it had really fallen when the Hellmouth closed, not because of an earthquake. Lucy also got a crash course in Vampires 101 from the Giles. She even learned the the redhead was a witch. At first the thought scared her, but they assured her that witchcraft wasn't really about sacrificing babies and satanic worshipping and stuff.
Conversation came to an abrupt hault when the waiter arrived with their food. As had occurred several times at the Camden house, the table became silent. Once again, Willow was the first one to speak. "Have you seen Kevin since he got back?" She asked.
"Yeah, I took him some leftover coffeecake this morning..."
"Kevin, I brought you some breakfast," Lucy said, opening the curtains of their studio garage apartment, bathing the room in light.
"That's nice," Kevin mumbled pulling the blankets over his head. "Leave it on the table, and I'll get to it later."
"Did you see the guys who attacked me?" Lucy asked.
"No. Couldn't find them."
Relief washed over Lucy's face. If he didn't find them, they couldn't have hurt him. "Well then what took you so long?" she asked.
"I went by the station to fill out the paperwork, YOU'RE paperwork I might add, and it took awhile. And, since I was there so late, they put me on the graveyard shift for tonite..." he said accusingly, as if it were all Lucy's fault.
"Well doesn't he sound like a ball of sunshine," Willow commented dryly.
"Why do you let him treat you like that?" Xander asked
"Treat me like what?" Lucy asked earnestly. "Like his wife? He's my husband, I'm his wife, and we love each other. That's all that matters," she stated matter-of-factly. She could tell by the looks on everyone else's faces that they were about ready to launch into some big speech about how mean Kevin treated her. She'd heard it before. Some new parishoner at the church had stopped once to comment, but together Lucy, Annie and Kevin set her straight. She hadn't been back since. Lucy didn't want to get into that argument with these people. They were a little weird, but she kind of liked them. "Maybe we should just go," she said, hoping that would end the discussion.
The group arrived at the Camden house just before dusk, and Annie was standing angrily on the porch. Silently fuming, she ushered everyone inside and into the living room where the rest of the Camdens sat, waiting. Ruthie had a look of triumph on her face, and Lucy knew this couldn't be good.
Annie shut the parlor doors and stood behind Ruthie's chair. "I have been informed," she said tartly, "that you people are trying to convince my daughter of...of...of things that can't possibly exist."
"Now just a minute," Buffy said, arms crossed.
"I am speaking, and when I'm talking, you are not, are we clear little girl?" Annie said angrily
"EXCUSE ME?" Buffy began, but was quieted by Giles' hand on her shoulder. Lucy looked at them, and she could almost see a whole conversation play out in their eyes. Lucy looked at her own father, searching his eyes for some hidden message, but all she found was a look of regret.
Annie began again. "The mechanic called this afternoon. They finished your van. I want you six out of my house tonight!"
"I don't think that's the best course of action," Eric said, rising from his seat. "I can imagine the trauma you all went through after the earthquake, and I want to help-"
"EricIwantthemoutofmyhouse!!!" Annie yelled, a look of rage on her face. Eric sat back down, clearly chastised.
"You think we're all crazy, don't you," Dawn said, unable to keep silent. "You can't all feel that way! Simon! You don't think we're crazy do you?" Simon made a few noncommittal noises before walking to the window, unable to look at anyone.
"Of course we think you're crazy! What else would we think!" Annie screeched.
"MOM!" Lucy yelled, "Could you at least hear what they have to say?"
"I don't need to hear them Lucy! They're crazy, you're not going with them because you have a perfectly good life here, and there are no. such things. as vampires!" The sound of breaking glass filled the room. The source of the sound was a fist through the living room window. The entire room gasped when they saw Simon pulled against the window with a hand clasped firmly around his throat.
"Hey," the person outside said, as they pulled Simon closer, "This the Camden House?" Another figure popped up from the bushes, and gave a look around. "You know, Joe" he said, "I think it is." The one holding Simon let go, and pulled his hand back through the broken window.
Simon fell to the floor, gasping for air, and everyone ran to him. Everyone except Buffy, who made a beeline for the front door. She pulled it open, not at all surprised to see two vampires standing one the other side. "What?" she said, blocking the door, "You thought someone was going to invite you in? Tell me boys," she said confidently "what was the plan? Invade a small town, and call yourselves the new Big Bads?"
"Nah," the one called Joe said with just as much confidence. "Me an my boys were just passing through. Heard this was a good buffet." He glanced in at the other people and then back at Buffy. "Don't look like we were lied to," In one swift movement, he threw a punch at Buffy.
The action caught her off guard, and she went flying across the room. Much to the surprise of the Sunnydale gang, the two vampires walked into the house. For the first time, Lucy got a good look at the creatures she had been told she was destined to fight. Their eyes were deepset, and their brows were protruding and wrinkled at the center. Their mouths, which seemed entirely to small, were filled with sharp, elongated teeth. Joe looked around the room, licking his lips. "Chow time."
Buffy and Kennedy immediately sprang to action, each taking a vamp for themselves. Punching and kicking they tried to herd the vampires back out the front door. Xander looked out the window and paled. "Buff, we got at least 10 more coming this way fast," he shouted
"We need weapons!" she yelled. Normally, 10 to 15 vampires wouldn't be a problem for two slayers, and a witch, but they had no weapons, and an entire family to protect. Buffy saw the Camdens huddled in a corner, clinging to each other. With a final punch, Buffy and Kennedy got the two vampires out of the house, and Buffy slammed and locked the door. "Giles where is everything?" she said desperately as the vampires tried to punch their way through the thick door.
"In the van," he said, trying to detach himself from Annie, who had latched herself to his arm. Kennedy disappeared into the kitchen, and re-emerged with two chairs.
"Mr. Camden, take Giles to the van-"
"No-no, I should stay here with my family. They need me," he protested.
"Your family will be DEAD if we don't get we need, now go!" Buffy shouted over the noise of the kitchen chairs breaking.
"It'll be all right," Giles said, helping Eric to his feet. He quickly caught the makeshift stake tossed to him, and proceeded to the back door.
"While you at it, figure out how they could get in here!" Buffy yelled as one of the vampires finally broke through the door. Grabbing a cross off the wall, Buffy put it on the flailing arm. The vampire's skin smoked and sizzled before the arm was pulled back through the door. Buffy grabbed a shard of door and threw it through the newly made hole. The unmistakeable sound of a vamp turning to dust was heard throughout the living room. Kennedy dispatched of the other in much the same way, and Buffy turned to the rest of the house's occupants.
"Okay Kennedy; Willow, you're with me. We can't just hide out here and wait for them to get to us. Xander and Dawn, stay here and watch over them," she said gesturing to the rest of the Camdens.
"What about Lucy?" Kennedy asked.
"What about Lucy?" Buffy countered. "I can't afford to be watching over a newbie preacher's kid who hasn't had any training! If you want to take her life in your hands fine, but don't expect me to!"
"Come on Luce," Kennedy said holding a stake out to her, "Time to see what you were born to do." Lucy stared at the stake with apprehension. It was really just a leg off the chair. More like a club with a point. Part of her wanted to stay here with her family. Where it was safe, or at least safer than outside. The other part was filled with a morbid curiosity. Was this the answer to those feelings she'd been having? Steeling her nerves, Lucy grabbed the stake, gave one last look to her family, and followed Buffy, Kennedy, and Willow out the door.
The door closed, and Xander heaved a heavy sigh. He felt like a babysitter with 43, 17, 13, and 4 year old charges. Annie and Ruthie seemed to be taking the opportunity for mother-daughter bonding by way of a quiet freak out. Dawn was trying to offer them reassurance. Simon sat silently with his back against the wall; he was much calmer than his mother and sister. The twins were perhaps the most unfazed of all. They were sitting together behind the couch, playing with toy airplanes.
"Hey," Simon said from his place on the floor. Xander walked over to the boy, and sat down next to him. "It's really real, isn't it? That stuff you were telling Lucy about..."
"Yeah," Xander nodded, "It's all real."
Simon cocked his head to one side, and Xander could almost see him taking in the new information and processing it like a computer. "So," he said, "How do we...y'know...know everythings gonna be okay?"
"We don't," Xander answered honestly. "But, as long as things are okay here, we know Buffy and them are doing their jobs. On that note, the power went out. Ruthie let out a small scream and leaped out of her mother's arms. "Okay," Xander said, trying to take control of the room, "I think we should head down to the basement-"
"I"m not going to the basement with you psychos! You probably brought all of this here with you!" Ruthie screeched before racing up the stairs to the second story of the house. Xander began to follow her up the steps, but Dawn grabbed his shoulder.
"I'll go after her Xand. It's been awhile since you were 13, and you're not a girl," she said. "We'll be careful, and when I can get her down we'll meet you in the basement."
Xander nodded at her, and turned back to Annie and Simon. "Alright you guys, lets get-"
"Ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod!!" Annie interrupted, "Where are the twins????"
"They're behind the cou-" Xander began, but when he looked the boys were indeed gone. Annie was hysterically calling for Sam and David, while Xander and Simon looked for them.
The search spread into the kitchen. Xander pulled all the chairs out from under the table, but didn't see anything. Simon looked out the window and the blood immediately rushed from his face. "Oh no," he said. "They're outside!"
"Where!" Xander yelled, looking out the window and cursing his blind side.
"They're watering the damned beans!" Simon called over his shoulder, as he raced outside, focused on bringing his brothers in. Arms pumping, he ran across the yard faster than he'd ever run before. When he reached Sam and David, he grabbed each by the hand, turned to go back inside, and froze. In front of him, no more than 10 feet away stood a man and a woman. Or at least, they used to be a man and woman, now they were something different. Now they were vampires.
"Aw man," the guy said clicking his teeth together, "I hate teenage boys! There so...."
"acidic," the woman finished for him. "Little boys, on the other hand, taste just like cookies" The two vampires laughed and licked their lips as they walked towards the trio. Simon stood in front of the boys and, unable to run, slowly walked backwards.
"I see fear on you," the woman said tauntingly in a sing-song voice. "Step aside, and we'll let you live," He did not step aside, insted continuing the slow walk backwards. "I said, 'Step. Aside.' " Simon stopped, stood to his full height and set his jaw, pushing whatever fear he felt to the back of his mind. His expression was one that clearly identified the strong man he would hopefully grow to be. "Alright, fine" the woman said. "Stay there,"
She reached for him, just as Simon heard a voice ring out in the distance.
Lucy stood next to Willow. She didn't do much fighting. Mostly she watched Kennedy and Buffy smoothly slay vampire after vampire. She clutched what was left of her chair leg while the red head seemed to be controlling the elements. Lucy watched as Willow directed a whirlwind of dust at a vampire who thought he could sneak up behind an occupied slayer. Lucy had also seen her create flames out of the embers of a cigarette which burned it's smoker to ash and then call water from the nearby drain to extinguish the flames.
Lucy wasn't completely useless, though. While she didn't feel comfortable with the notion of stabbing something through the heart yet, she was quite keen on beating the things about the head. Such action had reduced her once large piece of wood to a small shard-her very first stake.
For the first time in years Lucy felt alive. She felt like she was doing something worthwile. The vampires were now keeping their distance from her and the Willow. The slayers, they reasoned, were fightable. The witch was not.
Lucy used this to her advantage and took the opportunity to look around. They had managed to push the vampires-and there had been quite a few more than 10-back by a couple of blocks and had almost won the fight. She looked back towards her house though, and saw a sight that chilled her to the bone.
In their backyard, completely defenseless, were her three younger brothers, and they were face to face with two rather large vampires. Fear paralyzed her for only a moment, and then her body took action. "WILLOW!" she called as she pointed towards her brothers. She stayed long enough to know Willow saw the problem, and then took off running. She heard Willow yell something in latin, but Lucy had no time to wonder what it was.
Simon stood his ground as the two creatures made their way towards him. He was scared, but he refused to show it. Suddenly, the vampires stopped, and stared down at their feet. Simon followed their gaze and was surprised to see small vines seemed to have come alive, and were beginning to crawl up the vampires' shoes.
This action was enough to reawaken Simon's body, and he continued to back away from the vampires. They kicked the vines away and resumed their hunt. The vines would not be deterred. They grew stronger and longer, chasing the vamps and creeping up their legs. The vampires tried to kick their way free again, but could not. Reaching down, they tried to rip the vines from their bodies, but the vines only began to climbing up their arms and torsos, binding them together; binding them to the ground. Small, delicate looking flowers in pink and blue were beginning to sprout from the vines, which had woven themselves together forming a strong stalk that held the two demons in place and reached high into the air.
It was then that Lucy reached them. She stopped for a fraction of a second to stare in disbelief at the new plantlife in their yard, and then picked Sam up in her arms, urged Simon to do the same with David, and headed back inside.
All they could hear were the twin's excited cries of "It worked!! It worked!!! Yay!!!!"
As Lucy and her brothers walked inside, she was startled to find the house in total darkness. She could make out the shape of a man standing by the basement door. "Xander," she called out softly, "Is that you?"
"It's me," he said as relief washed over Lucy's face. "Your mom's in the basement. You four should go too."
"What about Ruthie?" Lucy asked.
"She ran upstairs. Dawn's getting her. I'll stay up here until they get back down. It'll be okay," he said reassuringly, but with a sense of urgency. Lucy nodded and went downstairs with her brothers. There they found Annie, sitting on the floor with a flashlight firmly in her grasp. The children ran to their mother and gave her tight hugs. The physical contact seemed to break her free from whatever stupor she had fallen into, and she hugged her young sons with such intensity that they made small mock choking sounds. This brought a smile to everyone's face except Lucy's. To her, each second seemed like minutes, and she eagerly listened for sounds indicating the arrival of Ruthie, Dawn and Xander. She never heard them. What she heard instead was a crash followed by a thud and a loud shrill scream.
The stake, which had never left Lucy's hand, was now grasped even tighter as she ran up the stairs. She was about to fling the door open, when something inside her made her hand stop inches from the doorknob. Instead, she carefully opened the door just a crack, and slipped into the hall.
Silently she made her way to the living room. Just as her eyes were getting accustomed the dark, the power came back on, spreading light throughout the house. Lucy ducked down behind a chair and shut her eyes tightly against the blinding glow. She couldn't shut her ears though. She could hear a man's light laughter and the sounds of someone gasping for breath.
Blinking rapidly, Lucy regained her vision, and looked up over the chair. What she saw made her heart leap into her throat. "KEVIN!" she screamed.
Kevin turned to look at her through the amber eyes that were part of a vampire's visage. In one arm he had Ruthie held tightly behind him, and in the other he was holding Dawn in the air by her throat. He dropped Dawn, who gasped and sputtered before crawling over to Xander, who had apparently been thrown against the wall and knocked out.
Lucy watched as Kevin's features shifted back to those of the man she had married. "Lucy, I caught these two trying to hurt Ruthie," he explained. Lucy looked at Ruthie. Her eyes were squeezed shut, and she was shaking uncontrollably. "Look what they've done to her," Kevin continued. "I knew it was a mistake taking these people in-"
"Lucy he's lying!" Dawn screamed from the background
"YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW THESE PEOPLE" Kevin roared. "Look Lucy," he continued calmly, "They're the ones who have been lying to you. I feel stronger and better than I've ever felt in my life. How can that be bad? Luce, you're my wife and I want you to have that too," Kevin said stretching his hand out to Lucy.
Lucy looked from Kevin to Dawn and Xander (who was beginning to wake) and back to Kevin. A single tear slid down her cheek, as she stood up and walked to her husband.
"Lucy, don't you listen to him," Dawn said, her voice full of anger and tears. "He's not the same guy you married."
"Yes I am,"
"NO. HE'S. NOT." Dawn repeated, literally shaking from all the emotion coursing through her body.
"Yes he is," Lucy said quietly, tears streaming freely down her face. She took Kevin's hand and he gave her that same small smile which she had seen countless times since they're first meeting. "Yes he is," she repeated as he pulled her close. Lucy closed her eyes, said a silent prayer, and took a deep breath. Using the slayer speed and agility that she was just now becoming familiar with, Lucy opened her eyes and pushed her stake deep into Kevin's heart.
Kevin looked down at his chest and then back up at Lucy. His eyes were full of hatred and anger. Lucy shut her eyes against his gaze, and when she opened them, he was gone. Just a pile of dust in the Camden living room. Unable to stop shaking, Lucy dropped her stake, and it landed with a clatter on Kevin's wedding ring, the one thing that hadn't been reduced to ash.
Great sobs erupted from Lucy's body, and she felt like she was about to fall over. Xander, fully awake now, leapt from his spot on the floor, and grabbed Lucy around the waist, slowly lowering the sobbing girl to the ground.
"It's okay. You're alright," Xander said pulling her close to him.
"How could I have been so blind and stupid!" she wailed, crying into his chest.
"You were in love," Xander replied, but that explanation wasn't enough to ease Lucy's pain. The glare of headlights signaled the return of her dad and Giles, but it didn't mean anything to Lucy. Whatever good feelings she'd had in the street were gone. Now she just felt cold and empty. Not even when Ruthie nuzzled up on Lucy's other side, whispering reassurances in her ear, did Lucy feel anything.
With the weapons in their van, Buffy and Kennedy had been able to dispose of the rest of the vampires in a matter of minutes. It was when everyone returned to the living room that the real battle broke out. Everyone was arguing about what was best for Lucy except for Lucy, Ruthie, and the twins. The twins and Ruthie had been sent up to bed, but Lucy still sat on the floor, unmoving, listening.
"We've all been through so much," Eric would point out, "Losing a member of the family now could be devastating, especially to the twins. Lucy needs to stay here and get back into her old life as best she can. It's going to be hard enough for her what with..." Eric nodded in the direction of the pile of ash that was once his daughter's husband.
"That is precisely why she should come with us," Giles answered. "We have all suffered great losses at the hands of vampires and demons. We know what it feels like, we can help her through it. That and-"
"I don't know why you're all making such a big deal out of this!" Annie suddenly blurted out. "Obviously you people are all on drugs and you slipped something into our water! I KNEW you were a gang member the moment I saw you," Annie said at Xander. "This is impossible and none of it's real!"
"Oh mom would you knock it off!" Simon yelled from his seat next to Dawn. The whole room stopped to stare at him, not expecting such an outburst from the usually sullen teen. "How can you keep pretending this didn't happen! The twins, Ruthie and I could have died tonight! We could have died-and it's not because of them-" he added quickly upon seeing Annie's expression as she raised a finger towards the group from Sunnydale. "THEY'RE the reason we're alive! Them and Lucy."
"Reverend Camden," Giles interjected firmly yet quietly, "Like it or not, your daughter is a slayer. She has a strength, a speed, and a power that she's never realized before. Even if she chooses not to use that gift in the ways that we do, she still needs to understand it and be able to cope with and control it."
"No. No," Eric said, beginning to choke up. "I'm not ready for her to go,"
"And you'll never have to be," Annie said, rising from her seat. "Lucy is going to stay here, go to Crawford, get her degree, and then be another associate pastor at the church! I will NOT lose two daughters!" Lucy felt something inside her stir.
Everyone started talking at once, each with their own idea of what Lucy should do with her life. Eyes closed, she tried to follow the conversations, but in all the mingled voices all she could make out was a flood of "Lucy shoulds."
She could take it no more. With one hand on the ground and one hand on the wall, Lucy rose from her seat. "Hey," she said, trying to get their attention. No one noticed. "HEY," she said again, louder and with more force. Everyone turned to look at her.
"Lucy, honey, you should be resting," Annie said sweetly.
"Well, I don't want to rest. I want to say something," Lucy said with just a touch of anger. "It seems like everyone's been weighing in on what I should do with my life but me, and I just wanted to make a comment."
"What did you want to say sweetie?" Eric asked sincerely.
Lucy paused for a moment to collect her thoughts and took a shaky breath before beginning what may very well have been the most important speech of her life. "While I was over there," she said pointing to the spot on the floor, "I was trying to think of the last time I felt really alive. The last time that I could look at myself in the mirror and say I was doing stuff for me. Because it was what I REALLY wanted, everyone else and their opinions be damned.
It occured to me, that the last time I felt like that was in high school. I was a cheerleader, but I was also a builder for Habitat for Humanity. I had friends that I saw on a regular basis just for the purpose of chatting about school and life. Listen to me, I'm only 20, and I'm already reminiscing about my glory days as a high school student.
I'm only 20, and I look in the mirror, and I don't like what I've become. When I was in high school I was strong. Probably not as strong as her or her or her" Lucy said pointing at Buffy, Willow, and Kennedy, "Or even her," she said pointing at Dawn, "but I was stronger than what I was a week ago."
"For the last two years I've been living my life for other people. I turned into this little person who thought that everybody else knew what was best. I don't want to be that person anymore. Maybe if things had kept going as they were, I never would have noticed. I'd be Kevin's dutiful wife and Dad's right hand at the church, and I'd be absolutely sure that that was how I wanted my life to be.
But then I met you people," she said, giving each of her new friends a smile, "and you turned my world upside down. Beanstalks never grew 20 feet in my backyard and sidewalk artists never drew pictures of demons I can't pronounce and men named Angel 'til I met you guys. I met you, and I realized all the possibilities I was missing out on, because I was following a track that someone else laid down.
I don't know what I'll be doing in a year, or even five months from now, but I know what I have to do right now. This has to be where I start living for me again. Tonight. This is where my life begins. I'm going to go with them. Not because they want me to, but because I want me to. I may end up back here, finishing school at Crawford and working with Dad. I may not. I don't know, but I have to explore this. I have to know what else I can be. I hope you can understand."
Lucy looked at her family members. Simon was sitting on the couch, a small smile on his face. He understood. Lucy looked at him and could tell he wouldn't be making the same mistakes she had. Her father had a thoughtful yet sad expression on his face, but Lucy couldn't tell what he was thinking. Annie looked livid.
"Lucy I will not allow this," she began. "I will not lose you like I lost Mary!" Lucy quickly walked over to her mother, and put her hands on her shoulders.
"Mom, you can't stop me," she said. "You can't stop me, and you're not losing me. You haven't lost Mary either, but that's another story. I love you. I always will, and I'll always be your daughter, but I can't only be your daughter or dad's daughter, or someone's sister or wife. I have to be me." Annie looked dejected, but understanding. Lucy gave her mother a long hug before turning to her father.
"Luce, I'm proud of you," he said pulling her into a hug. "And I'm sorry I didn't see what was happening to you. I should have. From here on out I'll pay more attention, and I'll support you and love you whether you come back here and be in the His service or not."
"Dad, don't you see?" Lucy said with a smile. "Whether I'm here or there, I'll still be doing the Lord's work. Fighting evil and all that. It's just, with them it's much more literal..."
"Ruthie?" Lucy said as she rapped on her sister's bedroom door. When she got no answer, she slowly pushed the door open, and was surpised to see Ruthie sitting up and reading a book.
"You're going with them, aren't you," Ruthie asked without looking up from the pages.
"Yes. I am." Lucy answered.
Ruthie placed a page marker in her book, and laid it on the bedside table. "Good," she said. "You deserve to be happy."
"Look Ruthie, it's just that I need to-"
"Lucy, I heard your whole speech. You don't need to repeat it for my sake." she said wryly. "It was good," she added as an afterthough.
"How did you..."
"Tunnel of sound, remember" Ruthie said with a smile. "Honestly, you'd think you hadn't grown up here..." Lucy ran to her sister and pulled her into a huge hug.
"I love you so much," she whispered.
"I love you too. And I'm sorry for what I said before. When do you leave?"
"Giles thinks we should leave tonight. Or I guess, this morning," Lucy said glancing at Ruthies clock. "But hey, Mom's dealing as per usual. She's making a huge 'early morning goodbye breakfast' down there. Sooo...if you're not too tired..."
Ruthie jumped out of bed immediately. "Are you kidding! I'll be down in a minute!" she exclaimed.
Lucy smiled at her sister, and then walked over the twins' room. She opened the door and was suprised to find them awake as well. "Hi Lucyyyy," They said together.
"Hey guys, why aren't you sleeping?" Lucy asked quizzically
"We're not sleepyyy," Sam replied.
"Yeah, we're not sleepy, we want to play," David said.
"Well...okay," Lucy said, "but don't you want to eat something first?"
"YUM!" The twins said as they eached leapt out of bed. Lucy took each of them by the hand and began to walk out the door. She was surprised when they stopped by their dressers. "We want to get dressed first," Sam said. "Yeah, dressed," David. Lucy shook her head amazedly. She guessed when the twins fell into a routine, they didn't want to break it. She was just surprised to see it extend to the early morning hours.
She was about ready to open their dresser drawers and pull out clothes, when Ruthie entered the room. "I'll help them. If you don't mind that is. You should probably spend as much time with Mom as possible so she doesn't go COMPLETELY insane," she said with an eyeroll.
Lucy hugged her brothers and patted Ruthie on the shoulder as she walked out the door. She hoped the twins would understand why she had gone. Then again, they didn't seem to notice the absence of Matt or Mary, so maybe everything would be okay.
Lucy walked downstairs and was surprised at the sight that greeted her. The overwhelming abundance of food was enough to turn anyone's head, but what really surprised her was that everyone seemed to be talking to each other. The room was filled the conversations ranging from homework to demons, and it never seemed to end. The silence that had befallen the group a day before seemed but a distant memory.
"Hey Giles," Simon said from his seat, once again next to Dawn (only this time, she was smiling), "I thought you said vampires couldn't come in unless someone invited them. How'd those ones get in last night?" That was a good question, and Lucy very much wanted to know the answer.
"I've been thinking about that," Giles replied. "And I've come up with two possibilities. Either it has something to do with this family's willingness to take in and offer assistance to the needy- perhaps on some metaphysical level your house had turned into a sort of public place where all are welcome- or Kevin invited them in at some point."
"Should we be worried?" Eric asked concernedly.
"I wouldn't be," Buffy said. "Once word gets out that there were three slayers and a witch here, not even the craziest vampires would risk coming here..."
Lucy walked out of her demolished apartment with a bag of clothes in her hand. What had turned into a five minute quest for clothing, turned into a 15 minute wrecking session. Upon entering the apartment she realized that everything in it was a symbol of her old non-life. It was a symbol of, mostly, her time with Kevin. A time she was more than ready to get past.
When she was getting her bag out of the closet she saw the bar that went with Kevin's weight set, and something came over her. In one hand she picked up the bar that, one month ago, had been too heavy for her to carry across the room, and slung it over her shoulder like a baseball bat. Then she began to swing. This swing was for never taking her seriously. That swing was for the smirks he always sent her way. Ignoring her desire for serious conversation. Treating her like a walking hormone. Telling her what she should do. Calling her crazy. Every swing had a reason and when she was done, she felt like a great weight had been lifted. Now her life could truly begin.
She stepped out of the garage, and handed her bag to Xander who was loading everything into the newly repaired van. It was still sort of dark out, but Lucy could clearly make out her family standing beside the van, waiting to say goodbye.
She stopped first next to her father, who pulled her into a tight hug. "You can come home anytime you want to," he whispered into her ear. "We'll always be here."
"I know," Lucy said, fighting back tears. She knew she had to do this, but saying goodbye to everything she'd ever known was hard.
Annie gave Lucy a peck on the cheek and handed her a large parcel wrapped in aluminum foil. "I wrapped up some of the coffee cake from yesterday," she said. "Mr. Giles really seemed to like it..."
"It's just Giles, Mom," Lucy said, supressing a giggle. Simon and the twins all wished her well. She hugged, them, said how much she loved them,and moved on to the last person in line.
"I love you, Ruthie," she said.
"I know. I love you too."
"Promise me that you'll always be strong, and you won't let anyone else run your life for you..."
"Hey Luce, we should really get going," Xander said, walking up beside her. "I don't want to interrupt the big family goodbye, but-"
"It's okay," Lucy said. Her gaze lingered on her family for just a moment, her face a mixture of fear and excitement. Smiling she gave her family a small wave and walked backwards toward the van. "Goodbye everyone!" she called out. "I'll miss you!" Lucy got in the van, shut the door, and they began to pull out of the driveway when Ruthie came running up to them.
"Wait!" she screamed, "Don't leave yet!" Giles stopped the van, and Lucy jumped out.
"What is it?" she asked.
"I almost forgot. Sam and David and I made this for you," she said, handing Lucy a black piece of construction paper that had been folded in half. Lucy went to unfold it, when Ruthie grabbed her arm. "Don't open it yet," she said. "Wait til it's light enough that you can really see it." Ruthie gave her sister one last hug before stepping away from the van.
Lucy got back in the vehicle, and they pulled out the drive, headed for the highway.
"Hey G-Man," Xander called from the backseat, "Can our next stop PLEASE be someplace with a Starbuck's?"
"Yeah," Buffy added, "I'm about ready to go through a caffeine withdrawal or something..."
"Oh for God's sake, you two just had coffee at the Camden's not 15 minutes ago!" Giles said from the driver's seat.
"Yeah, but they didn't have my double mocha latte," Buffy reasoned.
"Or my triple espresso-"
"We all know you drink the hot chocolate, Xand," Willow said, patting him on the head.
"Yeah, okay, but it's really good hot chocolate," Xander said defeatedly.
"You know, God forbid Starbuck's should ever go out of business," Giles uttered. "The earth would be completely doomed."
The van was filled with laughter, and Lucy joined in, excited about the new life she was getting ready to start. The sun was rising ahead of them, filling the van with its warm light. Still smiling at the chatter going on ahead of her, Lucy pulled out the construction paper Ruthie had given her, and unfolded it.
Golden crosses made of glitter ran along the edges of the black paper, forming a border. In the center of the paper there were four simple words done in silver:
The Vampire Slayer
******Greg Brady's Song
Clowns never laughed before
Beanstalks never grew
Ponies never ran before
'Til I met you
Surf never broke before
And artists never drew
Snow never fell before
'Til I met you
My dream came true
My dream came true
The world spins, my life begins
As I met you
Phones never rang before
Wisemen never knew
No one ever loved before
'Til I met you