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Buffy stared out the back window of her car as the city of Sunnydale faded into the distance. She tried to feel anything at the sight, but there was just a dull deadness in the center of her being. She glanced over at her father, who was driving, and saw him glancing her way in concern. She just looked down at her feet. Sunnydale was supposed to be a new start. She had decided that after Hemery High she was going to give up being the Slayer. The stuff she had gone through, what had happened to Merrick, the problems with the police after burning down the high school gym, that was enough, she had had enough. Of course just because she had, didn't mean the Watchers Council had, as she found out her first day of school when the school librarian turned out to be her new Watcher. She had tried to tell him she had quit, but then a vamp dead body had showed up.
It had been all right for a couple of weeks, she'd met Willow, Xander and Angel and he was…., she stopped, she wasn't going to think about Angel right now. After a couple of minutes of staring out at the window she started thinking again. She'd just found out Angel was a vampire and had come home and found him over her mother's body. She was too upset and she missed the throw so he had escaped. When it was clear she couldn't do anything for her mother, she had taken off after the vampire that she thought was going to be her boyfriend. She was about to stake him when another blonde vampire had shown up and started egging him on. When Angel refused to fight back she realized that he hadn't killed her mother. The blonde had lasted less then ten seconds against the enraged Slayer.
The next week had been a blur. Her father was in Sunnydale the next afternoon and after making arrangements for Joyce's funeral he had started talking about moving back to LA. Buffy still don't know where Giles had found him, but a psychologist had contacted her dad and in the middle of grief counseling her had somehow convinced him that Buffy would be better off finishing of this year at Sunnydale High, rather than transferring yet again. So she had been able to stay. To be almost killed five or six more times, to be killed by the Master deep underground. To be revived by Xander and Angel, to kill the Master by throwing him through the sky light at the school library. To watch in sick horror as the demon was being sucked back into the closing Hellmouth one of its tentacles looping around Giles’ neck and twisting his head backwards, and getting back down the steps to were Angel and Xander were fighting just in time to see Angel being staked by one of the vampires they were fighting. She had managed to save Xander, but not before he had a leg broken. She still couldn’t remember much of the rest of the night. The next thing she clearly remembered was being in her fathers arms. He had waited up, hoping to be able to share some happy memories with her from the dance he thought she had been going to. Instead she had collapsed into his arms and cried, for Giles, and for Angel, and what might have been.
The next morning had come the announcement of Giles death, not how he died, just that he had. With the discovery of the bodies in the Audio/Visual Lab the day before, Hank Summers had decided that he was getting his daughter out of this town. He had started looking for jobs out of California, thinking that a true change of scenery was what his daughter really needed. It took a month or so but he had been picked up by the US Air Force for a supervisor’s position at NORAD Headquarters at Cheyenne Mountain. Buffy didn't care, she had slept walked through the weeks after the fight with the Master. Xander and Willow had been really worried about Buffy. She was starting to get stand offish, and she was actively trying to discourage them from helping her. Neither was quite sure what to make of it, but Ms. Calendar, who had sort of taken over the Giles slot in the group, advised them to give Buffy some space, as she clearly had some stuff to work out.
The trip to Colorado was spent largely in silence. Questions from Hank were answered in monosyllabic grunts. When they pulled into their new house Buffy barely looked at it, she was much more concerned with the boxes on the curb of the house next door. She remembered how Giles had popped up in Sunnydale the first day in school and she didn’t put it past them to move a watcher in next door to her. Well if whoever lived there was one it didn’t matter, Buffy was done being the Slayer. She’d paid too high a price for her to give anything else. She’d died, her mom had died, Giles had died, Angel had…. died. They could find someone else to go out and kill vampires. Hell, it wasn’t that hard. The movers had set the furniture up, so all Buffy had to do was make up her bed and collapse into it. Her dreams that night were strange, they didn’t involve vampires or demons; instead it was about some big metal ring.
Hank didn’t have to be into work until Monday, four days away, so he suggested to Buffy that they get to know Colorado Springs a little better. Buffy really didn’t want to, but she thought that if she didn’t her dad might start thinking about committing her again, and that was the last thing that she wanted, so she agreed.
The day was nice, Colorado Springs was beautiful, they really didn’t stop anywhere, aside from the store for some food, but Hank pointed out some spots that he thought would be neat to check out. Buffy nodded vaguely in agreement. She was more interested in setting up a patrol route. She was serious about being done with being the Slayer, but she also knew that the Slayer wasn’t done with her. If she didn’t sneak out a couple of times a week she knew she’d never be able to sleep the other nights. Pulling in to their driveway they saw a woman, as short as Buffy, with auburn hair, done up in a bun, dressed in a grey sweatshirt that had ‘Air Force’, emblazoned across the chest and a pair of jeans, adding a couple of more boxes to the pile Buffy had noticed last night. Seeing Hank and Buffy climbing out of their SUV she smiled and said, “Hello neighbors!”
Buffy was relieved that she didn’t have an English accent. Of course, just because all of the watchers that she had met had been British, it didn’t mean there couldn’t be American ones. Hank on the other hand smiled and held out his hand. “Hank Summers, this is my daughter Buffy.”
“Janet Fraiser,” the diminutive woman replied as she took his hand and shook it. Turning to Buffy she said, “Hello Buffy, happy to meet you,” and held out her hand.
Buffy ignored it and grunted, “Yeah, what ever,” she turned without taking the offered hand and ran into the house.
Hank shook his head, “I’m sorry for my daughter, she’s had a tough time of it recently. She’s normally a lot more forthcoming than that.”
“Well.” Janet replied in a cautious voice, “Hopefully I’ll get to meet the real Buffy soon.”
“Yeah, I hope so too,” Hank said as he turned to follow his daughter into the house.
Janet remained staring at the next door neighbor’s house for a couple of seconds. She was a military doctor; she knew a case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder when she saw it. She’d love to know what a 17 year old could have been involved with that would create one.
Hank found Buffy in her room, clutching Mr. Gordo, her stuffed pig, with tears leaking down her cheeks. Before he could say anything though she said, “I’m sorry Dad; things have just got to me. I’ll go over in a little bit and apologize.”
Hank smiled, “I understand baby.” He said as he sat down next to her. He reached out and pulled her into a hug, “I know you are. You don’t have to though, if you don’t want to. Give it some time.”
Buffy leaned into her father, drawing strength and warmth from him. While part of her couldn’t forgive him for committing her after she discovered she was the Slayer, part of her really understood why he had done it, and another part just wanted to be safe in the arms of her father. So, the part that didn’t want to trust him was outnumbered. They stayed that way for about fifteen minutes, and then Hank said, “Listen, I really have to start dinner, that is if you want to eat tonight.”
Buffy smiled and followed him out of the room, “No time like the present to go apologize, plus I have an excuse to not to stay too long,” she reasoned as she headed out the front door. She didn’t get a chance to though as she got to the top of the steps she saw the next door neighbor running to her SUV and tearing off down the street. Buffy frowned; there were few professions that required that kind of speed. Shrugging turned around to see if father needed any help with dinner.
Before she went back in she decided to look over the boxes that Janet had deposited on the sidewalk for trash day. Checking out the boxes she saw that there were a fair number of boxes that had US Air Force on them as well as a bunch of numbers, the couple that had words listing what had been in them originally seemed to be medical things, so Buffy assumed that Janet Fraiser either had ‘Dr.’ in front of her name, or ‘RN’ after it. Returning back inside she went into the kitchen to help her dad with dinner. “I think that Janet is a medical person. She just tore out off down the street, plus a lot of the boxes she was throwing out had that kind of logo on them.”
“I think she’s in the Air Force too. So maybe I’ll run into her on base,” Hank said, almost wistfully. Buffy looked at him sharply. Yeah, she knew that he and mom had been divorced, and mom was dead. She still didn’t really want to think about her dad dating someone, especially, when she couldn’t be sure that the person in question wasn’t her new Watcher.
Monday came and her dad had to go to work. Buffy, who wasn’t do to start school for another month, decided to check the city out a little more carefully than they had done the day they had arrived. The city was a lot larger than Sunnydale, though dinky compared to LA, it still had a lot more of the chain stores that used to be so important to Buffy before she had been called. Buffy figured that given time she would come out of her funk and such things might become important again, or so she hoped.
She got back to the house before Hank got back from work. She saw that Doctor, Nurse, Fraiser was still not back from wherever she had gone. Buffy went up to her room, she’d chosen it because of the large tree growing outside the window, and pulled her weapons chest out of the closet. She checked to make sure she had stakes and holy water as she planned to make another sweep through the city after her father fell asleep. She might have quit being The Slayer, but she couldn’t stop being a Slayer. Immediately after the fight that had seen Angel and Giles killed she had little problem falling asleep and she’d sleep eight or ten hours a night, lately though she had been sleeping less and less. She suspected that whatever the Slayer actually was it had given her the extra sleep to help her heal. Obviously it was starting to get impatient. She thought it would be disappointed though if it wanted some vamp action. The only thing she had felt funny today was as she walked by the entrance to Cheyenne Mountain where her dad worked. She’d felt something odd for a couple of minutes coming from the mountain, but it had gone away and not repeated itself.
“Buffy! I’m home,” her dad called as he came in the door. Buffy frowned; the cheerful greeting sounded a little forced.
She hopped out of bed and headed downstairs. She caught up with her dad as he was hanging his coat up. She hugged him and asked, “What has you so cheery?”
He turned around and asked, “What? I can’t be happy to see my only child at the end of a long workday?”
Buffy smirked, “Well yeah, but I think there might be something more to it than that.”
“Never could fool your mother with than one either.” Then he could kick himself for the reference.
Buffy for her part took it well; it had been three months since her mom’s death. The tearing grief coupled with unresolved guilt that she couldn’t save her was still there, but as the immediacy faded, the pain was manageable.
“I’m sorry baby,” Hank whispered, “I didn’t think.”
“That’s okay dad,” Buffy replied, “Now, you were saying why you are so chipper getting home from work?”
“We had a scare today; well they called it an unannounced drill. For about ten minutes it looked like we were going to be held at the mountain past quitting time. I didn’t want you to be home alone so I was just really happy when they released us.”
“Do they do that kind of thing a lot? “ She asked.
“Not NORAD,” he replied as he head for the refrigerator to get dinner started. They switched off, one night he would cook, the next Buffy would. She’d offered to cook full time, at least until school started, but Hank didn’t mind, and Buffy ended up helping out during his turn anyway. “There is a group that is working in the lower levels of the Mountain. I really don’t know anything about them, other than they are doing some kind of deep space research. I think they were the source for the drill.”
“Well you’re a supervisor, call up whoever is in charge down there and tell them to knock that kind of stuff off!”
“Right, my child, I’ll do that first thing in the morning,” Hank replied with more than a little sarcasm.
It was three more days before Buffy actually met the next door neighbor. As Buffy was taking trash out, she noticed Janet’s car pull into the driveway. Buffy saw how tired she looked as she climbed out of the SUV. When she opened the trunk and started pulling bags of groceries out Buffy decided to see if she needed any help.
Calling out, “Need a hand?” as she started toward the other woman.
Janet stuck her head around the back of her SUV and seeing who had called. Seeing who it was she smiled and said, “Hello Buffy, sure.”
Buffy hopped the low bushes that divided their properties and jogged over to the other woman. Buffy noticed that Janet was wearing some kind of uniform. This one was blue, dark for the skirt, light for the shirt. Buffy also noticed their was nothing on the sleeves of the uniforms and a couple of silver bars attached to each other by thinner bars on her collars so Buffy thought this meant Janet was an officer of some kind.
Janet handed Buffy a bag then headed for the front door with another. Buffy began, “I’m sorry about the other day, I shouldn’t have blown you off.”
Janet turned as she opened her front door and said, “Don’t worry about it. We all have our off days.”
Buffy followed the other woman in and glanced around at the evidence of an incomplete move in. The dinning room table was cluttered with boxes and there was only one chair in the living room that was cleared. Janet placed her bag on the kitchen table and motioned for Buffy to do the same. As they headed out for the second load Janet asked, “So, where are you from originally?”
“LA, but my dad and mom got divorced and she and I moved to Sunnydale,” Buffy answered, then before Janet could ask any follow ups she went on, “My mom was killed about two months after we got there, a psychologist suggested it would be better for me to remain familiar surroundings and friends, so we stayed. At the end of the school year there was a mass killing in the school, and my dad decided that we were getting out of there and got a job at NORAD and we moved here.”
Janet stopped and stared at the girl. Hank wasn’t understating that his daughter had been through a lot. Janet now knew what had caused the PTSD, in fact Janet was shocked the girl wasn’t worse off. Realizing that she had to say something she said, “I know it’s not much, but I’m sorry for your loss.”
Buffy nodded, the woman was right, it wasn’t much. On the bright side Buffy was pretty sure that this woman wasn’t a Watcher. She would have let Buffy know she was her new Watcher as soon as they were alone if she was. “So, you’re in the Air Force?” Buffy asked.
Janet was happy that she hadn’t set Buffy off with her question. She would like to get a hold of the psychologist that suggested she stay in Sunnydale after her mother died. If he thought that familiar surroundings he should have suggested taking her back to LA. She started walking to retrieve the other couple of bags of groceries she replied, “Yes, I’m Chief Medical Officer for a project at Cheyenne Mountain.”
“My dad works there, he’s a supervisor in supply or something.”
“I work in a different part of the base than him then,” Janet replied as she handed two bags to Buffy.
“Do you work in the Deep Space Thingy underneath the main base?” Buffy asked.
Janet looked at the girl sharply, “How do you know about that?”
Buffy gulped, hoping she hadn’t just got her dad in trouble, “My dad mentioned the other day that there had been a drill and he almost hadn’t made it home. He said he thought that it was you guys that had done it.
Janet relaxed, “Sorry Buffy. The work we do is classified, it’s in Deep Space Radar Telemetry, I can’t talk about it. Well to be truthful, even if it wasn’t, I couldn’t talk about it because I don’t understand it.”
Buffy shrugged, she could deal, it wasn’t as if there wasn’t stuff she couldn’t talk about either.
Once the groceries were inside Janet offered her a soda. Buffy sat at the table sipping it while Janet decided where everything was going. In the end she found she liked the older woman even if she couldn’t be perfectly frank with Buffy. Everyone had secrets, Buffy reasoned, she couldn’t hold it against Janet.