Chapter 1: The Message
“Dawn!” Buffy yelled, standing at the foot of the stairs with her arms crossed over her chest, looking quite sourly. She hated this, she really did. It was always the same. Every morning she would stand there and wait for her sister to show up. But said sister was, as usual, late and she couldn’t explain why. It had all started two or three months ago.
After she had come back a bit more than one year ago, Buffy wanted to spend as much time with Dawn as possible, went with her to the Bronze, took her out for slaying with the rest of the Scoobies as often as her sister wanted to come with them - also to see how good she really was – and much other sister-stuff.
She wanted to use the time that they had, because even though she knew she had gotten much stronger since her death there were still demons somewhere out there who were stronger. Sure she had ties to the world, but that hadn’t kept her from dying the other two times and more importantly at that time Buffy had felt bad about the whole ‘I-almost-killed-my-sister-and-friends-stuff’ and wanted to make it up to her – to them.
This all had started to sink in a few weeks after everything had been over and the Saiyajins had left this dimension to go home. It took them a bit, but as time passed her friends could finally convince her that they held no grudge against her – that everything had been the Council’s doing. But she soon noticed that Dawn was tired every morning she got up so Buffy restricted slaying or going out with her to the weekends or early evenings.
Life had her back. Spike had moved in at 1630 Revello Drive, they both found a job after the Council had given Spike, err William, a complete personal record including High School and College diploma and Buffy a plausible explanation as to why she hadn’t been in Sunnydale for six months, leaving her sister in care of her friends and Giles. She even had again time to continue studying. She had agreed with her boss that in the morning she could go to College and in the afternoon, evening or night go to work. Everything was perfect – almost.
Just a few seconds later she finally saw her sister coming down the stairs, dressed in a pair of light blue jeans and a tight dark green top. “Jeez, Buffy… I’m already here…”
“But that doesn’t change anything at the fact that you’re late again. Xander will arrive any second and you didn’t have any breakfast,” Buffy told her.
As if on cue the front door opened and Xander stepped inside. “Good morning… Dawn, are you ready to go?”
“Sure,” the younger Summers woman smiled. “Don’t worry, Buffy. I’ll buy something at school and tomorrow I’ll try to get up on time. Bye!” Waving at her sister, she walked past Xander to the car.
“Don’t be so hard on her, Buff… She’s a typical teenager,” Xander said smiling. “Well, gotta go now! See ya!”
After Xander was also gone, Buffy closed the door and leaned against it. She sighed and almost jumped up, when she heard a voice next to her. “You know, Harris is right. The Bit is a typical teenager.”
“I know…” Buffy looked up and saw her boyfriend standing next to her, sweat glistening on his face. He was dressed in a pair of sweatpants and a T-shirt and wore a towel around his neck. “What are you doing here?”
“I live here.”
She groaned. “You know what I mean. Have you already finished your morning work-out?”
“Yeah. I thought that since you don’t have classes this morning and I also have to start later today we could have some time for us…” He bent down to kiss her, but Buffy moved her head away.
“I’m sorry, Spike… I can’t. Not today,” she whispered.
“Okay, Buffy… Tell me what’s wrong?” He lifted his hand up to her chin and forced her to look into his eyes. “What’s going on? Is it the Nibblet?”
She nodded and lowered her eyes, breaking the eye contact. “It’s nothing… Just… Social Services called yesterday. They want to meet me this morning to talk to me. I don’t even know what they want to talk to me about. It’s probably nothing.”
“I think you’re right. They have been quiet for all those last months and probably just want to do one of their regular checks. Don’t worry pet. It’s going to be alright.”
“I hope so…” She leaned forward so that their foreheads touched. “Just don’t tell Dawn about it, okay? I don’t want to worry her.”
“Sure… I have her in PE this afternoon, but I won’t tell her anything.” He kissed her on the forehead and then held her at arm lengths. “And now put a smile on your face and show those people there what a true Summers woman is.”
“Wait a minute… Can you please repeat that?” Buffy asked dumbfounded. She was sitting in an office in front of a middle-aged plump red haired woman, wearing a nametag saying that the woman’s name was Ms. Kroger.
“Well, Miss Summers, it’s true. The school reported to us that Dawn is slacking off in school. They say that she is almost permanently tired and even falls asleep during class,” Ms. Kroger told her.
“But… I mean she is a typical teenager… Things like that happen. So what? She dozed off one or two times in school and you want to tell me that I don’t take enough care of her?” Buffy shook her head. “Of course I’ve noticed that she has problems getting up in the mornings, but I’m sure that other kids of her age have the same problems.”
“I’m sorry to tell you, but this ‘dozing off’ as you call it hasn’t just happened once. This has happened quite often in the last two months. Do you let her stay up late at night?”
“Yes, I mean… No… Just at weekends. When she has school the next day one of my friends or I take care that she gets to bed in time,” Buffy explained.
“I see.” Ms. Kroger took some notes and then turned back at Buffy. “You or one of your friends… The same friends who have been taking care of Dawn while you were ‘gone’?”
“Yes, the same friends. Uhm, you know that when I was gone it was something I had to do. I never planned on leaving – at least not that sudden – but my job didn’t leave me a choice. Leaving Dawn was the hardest thing I had to do, especially after the death of our mother.”
“I see,” she just said again and wrote something down in her notebook.
“Please, you have to understand… I love Dawn and I would never do anything that could harm her in any way,” Buffy almost whispered.
“Miss Summers, I don’t doubt that you love your sister. I doubt that you’re qualified of being able to replace a parent. With your job and college you just don’t have enough time to raise her in a proper way. According to our records you often let your friends look after her, while you’re doing just god knows what. If that doesn’t change…”
“But…” she wanted to contradict, but a severe look of Ms. Kroger shut her up. Buffy lowered her head, the words she said next sounded defeated. “I understand…”
Kick. Punch. Punch.
She had failed.
No, not as Slayer – as sister, as responsible adult.
Roundhouse kick. Punch.
She had failed Dawn. They didn’t say it, but she knew that it was just a matter of time until they’d take her away. Pull her out of the only family she had ever known.
No matter what she would do from now on, she couldn’t repair the damage she had already caused. They were breathing down her neck, waiting for her to make one wrong move. From now on she could just do one thing – trying to buy as much time as possible before the inevitable would happen. Before she would lose her sister.
Panting hard, she stopped the punching bag with her hands and leaned with her forehead against it. No, she wouldn’t cry. Not now, not here, not ever. She had to be strong, strong to survive the next days and maybe even weeks – depending on how long they would have to wait until they decided that there was a better place for Dawn. She was desperate. Why was life always so hard on her? Why couldn’t she have one moment without having to worry about anything? She had given her life for the one of her sister and now they want to tear them apart! This was just not fair!
She drew her arm back and with one last punch her fist embedded itself in the punching back. The pure force of her Slayer strength tore the from the previous beating already strained chains and let the bag fly a few meters.
The clapping of hands echoed through the otherwise empty gym, letting Buffy jump around startled. In the entrance stood a tall man with short black hair, wearing a blue police uniform. “Not bad, Summers,” he said in an arrogant voice.
Buffy sighed exasperated, not wanting to deal with him now. “What do you want, Eric?”
“I’m here to tell you that you’re late for work and that the chief is already more than a bit pissed. He wants to talk to you right away,” he told her smirking.
Her eyes quickly drifted to the clock at the wall and she started to curse. He was right. She was late. Almost an hour already! How could she let herself go like this? Throwing one last look to the remnants of the punching bag, she stormed past this Eric and went into the changing room.
“Tsk, tsk… I think someone is in for a double shift today…” Eric whispered, when Buffy was out of earshot.
About half an hour later Buffy was sitting at a desk in the office, now, like almost everyone else in there wearing a blue uniform. She just got out of the chief’s office and now had to make a call. She picked up the receiver and dialed a well-known number. “Yes, hello? This is Buffy Summers here. I would like to speak to William Ferrington… Okay, I wait.” She waited for a few seconds, the whole time nervously tapping with her fingers on the desk, until she finally heard the voice on the other end of the line she so desperately needed to hear. “Hey Spike, it’s me… Yes, I’m okay… I’m sorry, but I don’t have time right now to talk about this. I’m just calling to let you know that I have to work longer tonight… Yeah, that would be great… No, Dawn should stay at home. It’s a school’s night. The best is you call one of the others, who could stay with her… I know that she isn’t a small girl anymore… Please Spike, just do it, okay?” She sighed. “Thanks… So, I really gotta work now… I love you, too. Bye.” Putting the receiver back on its handle she took a deep breath, leaned back in the chair and closed her eyes. Of course Spike wanted to know about the appointment with Ms. Kroger, but she wasn’t ready yet. She didn’t want to, but she knew that she had to tell them, all of them, eventually. She just needed some time. Just some time…
“Hey Summers!” She opened her eyes, when she heard the voice again she absolutely didn’t want to hear and saw Eric standing directly in front of her. “You don’t have time to sleep. Our patrol car is waiting.”
Biting her lips to keep herself from giving him a smart-ass comeback, she followed him outside. Why had she of all people here in the station gotten him
as partner? He was the only officer with whom she had problems, so why this arrogant asshole? She sometimes even silently wished that one of the creatures of the night would seek him out as its next victim – just to make herself feel better of course, when she was again pissed at him. She would of course save him, if a demon ever attacked him. She was the Chosen One and as Chosen One it was her job to protect the innocents. And besides, it wouldn’t go well with her conscience if she let some demon kill her partner. He was a good cop after all…
When Spike put the receiver back on its handle, he silently wondered what had been wrong with Buffy. Even though she didn’t say anything, he knew from the sound of her voice when something was bothering her. He instantly got a bad feeling about the meeting with one of the social workers. What if the meeting hadn’t gone as planned?
He shook his head. It was probably just the fact that she had to work longer than expected today. He knew that Buffy liked her job, no matter what she said or how often she complained about it or about her partner, this Eric-guy, but she hated it, when something unexpected happened and she had to stay longer.
He remembered once being told about the career day at the school, where she had been assigned in the law enforcement group. The job as Officer Summers suited her really well, much better than the other job she had for a few weeks, before the Council pulled their strings and got her enrolled at the Sunnydale Police Academy, anyway. For those few weeks she had been the girl behind the desk of Sunnydale’s most famous fast food restaurant – The Doublemeat Palace.
Well, he should go now and tell the Nibblet that Buffy would come home later than planned and that he would go alone on patrol this night. He would most likely be able to catch her in front of her next classroom, or he had to wait until he had her class in PE.
That was also something that he never thought would happen – becoming a teacher at the newly rebuilt Sunnydale High, after the other High School in Sunnydale, the Wilkins High, which had been the replacement for the Sunnydale High during the reconstruction, had been destroyed in an ‘accident’, involving some really nasty demons, which had had the habit to self-destruct, when they got annoyed, a few months ago. The Council thought that this job might ‘fit’ him, especially with the classes he taught – PE and History. And after having thought about it for a few days he came to the conclusion that almost no other living person had the knowledge of history, since he had been there during the most important events in the last hundred or so years and PE, well, no real explanation needed. After becoming human again, he and Angel had kept their vampire abilities like strength and speed and they somehow even got more enhanced with the newly developed humanity. They were now something like male Slayers.
And now here he was, working at the Sunnydale High and teaching History and PE to a whole bunch of teenagers, including the Slayer’s ‘kid’-sister Dawn. Like this he could keep an eye on her and
on the Hellmouth.
“Well then, goodnight Summers! I’ll see ya tomorrow!” Eric said, smirking triumphantly, as he left the police station. Buffy had to fight the urge to say something or to go after him and gave him a beating that would teach him to shut up, but she couldn’t do that. He was still human and Slayer attacking humans equals bad. At least she now didn’t have to deal with him until the next day. She looked at the clock and sighed, hoping that she would be out of there in about two hours, after she had finished the last office stuff she still had to do as some kind of punishment for her tardiness.
Eric had had a really good day so far. He always had a good day, when he managed to get Buffy Summers worked up. It was some kind of vengeance for him to always be outclassed in everything by a girl
, who was more than one head shorter than him. But at the same time he loved to see her like this. Seeing the energy sparkling like that in her, the fire in her eyes, got him turned on and if it weren’t for this boyfriend of hers, he would have already tried to get a good lay with her.
While walking home and musing about his day’s achievements, he never noticed how suddenly a shadow appeared behind him, so he never got the chance to defend himself or even to scream, when a cold hand clasped over his mouth, pulling him away from the street into the bushes. He tried to break free, but the iron grip on his mouth and now also around his hands was too strong.
“Hush,” he heard a soft female voice saying. “When you’re a good boy, mommy won’t hurt you…”
No one heard the muffled scream, when Eric caught a glance of his captor’s golden eyes.
Finally, the last cemetery for today and then he could go back. Buffy must be already home, he hoped. Probably sitting on the couch, snuggled up in a warm blanket and watching some old movie on TV with Faith, who he had been able to convince to watch after Dawn, even though the teenager was more than a bit annoyed, saying the whole time that she didn’t need a babysitter. After the other Slayer had graduated from High School not even one year ago and started College, she had moved out of the Summers’ household into the dorm of the UCS, but spent every so often a night in her old home, for example after a long night of research, when the house in 1630 Revello Drive had been nearer than the campus or when, like now, she stayed with Dawn.
Spike just wanted to turn around to leave the cemetery, when he heard a rustling behind him. He tightened his grip on the stake and jumped around, ready to attack, but stopped dead in his tracks, when he saw, who had caused the noises. “Dru?” he asked stunned.
“Hello William,” Drusilla said softly, stepping nearer. “Isn’t the night beautiful for a hunt?”
“What do you want?” Spike wanted to know, his whole body tensed.
“My sweet William…” She took another step nearer and raised her hand to his face, but Spike didn’t move, when she stroked his cheek, completely entranced by her. “What has become of my dark knight? Your skin, it’s darker,” Her hand moved down to his chest, “Your heart, it’s beating and I can hear, feel the blood pumping through your veins.” She sniffed in the air. “The Slayer, she’s still all over you…”
By the mention of his girlfriend Spike broke out of his trance and shoved Drusilla roughly away from him. He raised the stake again. “Stay back,” he threatened.
“Oh yes, I can see her… in your head, in your heart… You can’t and you don’t want to be changed… You don’t want to be what you once were… But that doesn’t matter anymore…”
“What are you talking about Dru?” he asked suspiciously, not liking at all the way she talked.
“I’m talking about my dark prince… Miss Edith and the stars told me that I will be with him soon… Just one small thing is still standing in the way…” She giggled. “But shhh…”
“Dru, I tell you something. Leave the town and come never back and I’ll let you live… Otherwise…”
“No, you can’t… But you can give your Slayer a message. Tell her I have something she might want back and that she will get it back, when she comes to where you had your first fight… when it’s dark.” She steps again nearer, completely ignoring the stake in her ex-lover’s hand and gave him a light kiss on the lips. “Goodbye my William…”
Spike just stood there motionless, watching how Drusilla walked away and became one with the shadows.