What You Don't Know Can't Hurt You... Much
Disclaimer: Still don't own Reaper or Buffy.
Set somewhere between Reaper 1x13 'Acid Queen' and 1x15 'Coming to Grips'.
If Willow knew that they had taken her shopping list for herbs to one of the big box stores, she'd probably have an aneurysm on the spot.
In the redhead's defense, herbs grown carefully by hand in some place with a little less concrete and fluorescent lighting did work better for most earth magic, but money was a little tight at the Seattle slayer house. There was still a lot of renovating left on the building and a few more pieces of exercise equipment left to pick up, and materials and machines that can withstand the enthusiastic application of slayer strength were not cheap. Besides, one of the girls, Marissa, loved to relax by working in her mom's flower garden, so once they were planted the herbs would get all the attention they needed.
So Dawn had surprised Xander by suggesting that everyone tag along for his lumber run to the Work Bench, and then promptly dragged him kicking and screaming away from the shiny power tools towards the garden center. Judging by the pouting glares he kept sending her way, he didn't appreciate the bait-and-switch.
"Explain to me again," Xander said as he set down the trays of plants he was carrying, "why it is that I have to carry these while the girls with super strength are wandering around looking at flowers?"
"Woman's prerogative," Dawn answered without looking up from her perusal of the tags on various pots of herbs. "The guy always has to carry everything when girls go shopping."
Xander grumbled and hefted the trays yet again. "Well then I claim guy's prerogative to complain loudly and frequently."
"Can I help you find something?"
Dawn looked up to see a girl roughly their age wearing a blue "Work Bench" apron approaching, smiling at the byplay. "No, I think we're finding everything so far, but thanks."
Just as Dawn was about to turn back to her search, Xander spoke up. "Actually, there is something we'd like to ask." He nudged her in the ribs with his elbow (and you better believe there'd be payback for that later), and indicated the blue apron the employee was wearing.
'Huh, luck's on our side for a change.' She squinted a bit to read the girl's nametag, and said, "...Andi, this may seem like a weird question, but is there a guy who works here, bigger guy, hair kind of sticking up, who might like to run around after hours wearing his Work Bench apron as a cape?"
"Sock," she said without missing a beat. Must not be a new occurrence. At Dawn's questioning look, Andi elaborated, "Bert Wysocki. Sounds like something he'd do." She seemed to sober suddenly, and there was just a hint of suspicion as she asked, "Can I ask why you're wondering about him?"
"Just curious," Xander chimed in from next to me, trying to look as non-threatening as was possible while sporting an eyepatch. "You wouldn't happen to know a couple of his friends, too, would you? I think one of their names was Sean or Sam or something..."
Dawn saw the panic come into her eyes at that last statement, and knew they were onto something. And with the worried glance she threw towards the entrance to the main store, there was a very real chance that the three guys they ran into the other night were actually in the store at this very moment.
Xander apparently had the same thought. Without raising his voice, he said "Claire, main entrance. Patricia, loading dock. Lei'la, Marissa, emergency exits. Minimum necessary force." The girls, who had obviously been listening in despite being halfway across the garden department, dispersed with a speed and stealth that only appeared to disturb Andi even further. Xander turned to Dawn, said, "I'll start sweeping the aisles," and quickly slipped back into the main building.
Leaving Dawn alone with Andi. Who had long ago abandoned subtle suspicion for overt hostility, and now stood there, arms crossed in front of her chest, glaring at Dawn. "Okay, who are you people, and what do you want from them. Are they in trouble?"
Dawn decided there was no reason not to give a mostly honest answer. "No, they aren't in any trouble with us. We just ran into them last night, and have a few questions for them. It's really important."
Andi's confusion and worry didn't abate so much as... shift
. She dropped the glare, opting to stare off at some point on, or maybe behind, the far wall. "What's really going on?" The muted question didn't seem to be directed at Dawn so much as at anyone or anything that could give her an answer.
It wasn't an accusation, or a question, just a flat statement, one that caused Andi's eyes to widen slightly and lock onto Dawn's. "What?"
"I mean," Dawn replied, "that on some level, you know. There might be some details missing, but no matter what, the friends always know that something's going on. Something bad. They disappear at odd times, and come back with cuts and bruises they can't explain. They give all sorts of lame excuses for standing you up or ditching you at a moment's notice, and you accept it, because what else can you do?" Dawn's babbling sped up slightly as she remembered the frustrations of being left out of the loop completely as a kid, of being the last to know that she wasn't 'real'.
"But you watch more closely, because you know something's wrong, and that they're in danger. You just wish they'd let you in on the big secret, that they'd trust you enough to tell you the truth. And instead all you can do is watch, and pray, and help whenever you can, even if it's just by acting normally, maintaining the illusion and pretending not to notice the latest scars."
Andi was silent, obviously lost in thought over whatever it is that's going on with her friends. If Dawn had any real idea herself, she would have told her, just to get that defeated look off her face.
"Just know this," Dawn said softly after a few more moments of quiet. "We really are here to help. We know some of the pieces, but if we can't figure out the bigger picture soon, people are going to get hurt."
Andi thought on this for a moment, then turned towards the door and said, "We had an extra pallet of sponges come in with this week's shipment, so they're probably back in the storeroom playing 'Human Wrecking Ball'." Dawn's confusion over that statement must have showed, because Andi shook her head and said, "Don't ask. Just follow me."
After a minute of walking through the store, Dawn broke the silence. "They'll tell you, you know. Eventually. They probably think they're protecting you by keeping you in the dark, even though it really just makes things worse. And if they don't tell you right away, don't do what I did; reading their diaries is fine, but trying to catch them sneaking around could be really dangerous, especially at night. They're being noble, trying to shield you, they just happen to be doing it in an extremely stupid manner."
With this, they arrived at the storeroom, and Dawn sent a quick text updating Xander before giving Andi one last encouraging smile and stepping through the the doors.
As Andi turned to walk back to the garden center, she mulled over Dawn's parting words. Good intentions mixed with cluelessness. Unbidden, the image of that gorgeous necklace she almost got for her birthday sprang to mind. Yeah, that description fit Sam to a 'T'. It was
comforting to know that she wasn't going crazy, though, when it came to the weird antics of those three lately. She was through waiting, though. If Sam and the others weren't going to come clean, she was just going to have to do a little investigating herself. Dawn had warned her off of spying on the guys, but what she didn't know wouldn't hurt her. 'After all,' Andi thought, purposefully ignoring her ridiculous 'hallucinations' from the crash a couple weeks ago, 'how dangerous could it be?'
A/N: I think Andi's character really got the short end of the stick with the short run that Reaper had. A lot of her potential got eaten up by the necessary "I don't know your secret so I'm mad at you" arc through the first season. I wish I had someone who would work better for empathizing with her, but I think Dawn worked out okay, though feel free to tell me if I'm mistaken.
Do people prefer shorter ficlets, like the first chapter, or longer ones like the last two? I have a list of plot bunnies jotted down that I'm just converting to legible text as I get the inspiration, so I can make an effort one way or the other if people have a preference. I have a hard time thinning out my ideas, so I may just have to start splitting up ideas to more manageable pieces. Still pretty new at this "writing" thing, so I'm more than open to suggestions.