Lost and Found Again
A/N: I feel like I need to start this chapter with an apology. I am so sorry it's taken so long to continue this. My only excuse is that I got sidetracked with a combination of RL, pain, and two or three new shows, plus a returned interest in the movie/book "The Outsiders" by S.E. Hinton. Sorry again, and thank you to everyone who waited so patiently.
BTW, this chapter is unbeta'd, as I wanted to get it up before NaNoWriMo starts and I haven't heard back from Gideon yet.England - 1980
Andrew smiled as he read the letter, chuckling occasionally at Aaron's depictions of life back in Virginia. He was glad the new baby hadn't caused their father to start hurting the boy again, but instead had brought Aaron a bit out of his shell.Dear Andrew,
Mom finally had her baby. It's a boy and she named him Sean. He's really red and wrinkly. Mom said we have to take care of him and his head won't always be shaped like that. She said yours was too, but that you grew out of it. Did you really have a head like that?
Mr Jorgensen looked after me all week before Sean was born. He took me to a bar! He's watching me right now because Mom had to take Sean back to the hospital again, and he said that it's only a bar at night, and we only went so I could learn to recognize some of the more friendly types of demons. I told him to stop reading over my shoulder, but he said he wants to check my spelling as I write, even though my teachers keep wanting to move me up a grade like they did you. Did you know that Slime Demons have antlers? I think that's a more prominent feature (I learned those words this week at school) than the slime, so why aren't they called antler demons?
Joe and Chris invited me to play football with them after school sometimes, even if my coin collection is lame. That's even how they said it! "You can play too, sometimes, even if you do have a lame coin collection." You are still planning on sending me English coins, right? Can you go to France and send me one of their coins? Mr Peterson was talking about Francs today, and I think he might let me read ahead in class if I could give him one. Rick McCormack tackled me while we were playing football, and I have this great bruise going down my whole left side! It's purple, and blue, and black, and Dad said he was proud that I didn't run home crying! I think he's finally starting to like me a little. Before he tackled me I caught the football and ran almost all the way to the endzone. Everybody was cheering.
Are you coming home for Christmas? Mom said she's planning this HUGE dinner party, and she wants to invite all of Dad's friends from work, and she said it'll be just like when she was a girl. Remember how I told you in my last letter that Dad got a new job and we moved? The house is a mansion! Sometimes, when I'm home by myself or Mom's busy, I pretend I'm solving mysteries and try to find hidden passages in the house. I think there might be one behind the fireplace in the den, because the walls are farther apart outside than they are inside. I told Mr Jorgensen, and he said that it was probably just because of the fireplace, and I guess he could be right, but the fireplace doesn't take up the whole wall. If you come for Christmas will you help me figure it out? And you can meet Sean!
Mr Jorgensen said Dad'll be here to pick me up soon, so I should end the letter and start working on homework. I'll write to you again soon! Remember, you have to write me at Mr Jorgensen's address if you're going to talk about demons, or else Dad'll yell about fairytales and being too old to believe in that stuff anymore. I hope you're having fun in college, and that England is nice. I miss you. I want you to come home soon.
Andrew wondered to himself if Mr Jorgensen hadn't fed Aaron cake or something before the letter was written. His younger brother's writing was much more scattered than usual, and he sounded a bit younger than Andrew could remember him talking, but at least he was happy. After a year of borderline-depressed letters, it was good to see. He folded the letter and placed it back in the envelope, hiding them both in the third drawer of his dresser. He made a mental note to write back once class was over, if his roommate was still elsewhere when he returned.
He was heading back to his apartment - flat
he mentally corrected himself - when things changed again. Class had been cancelled, for reasons he didn't bother to find out, and Andrew was determined to write back to Aaron before the snoop he lived with returned from yet another pub crawl. He was walking quickly, hands shoved deep in his pockets and facing straight ahead, when he heard a voice call him name.
Andrew paused, just in case the person was calling him, though he doubted it. He hadn't made many female friends in England, and most of them seemed determined to call him 'Andy' for some reason. He began walking again when the woman shouted a name he hadn't heard in years.
"Andrew Wells!" He jerked his head around so quickly that he felt his neck give a twinge in protest, but there she was. He had imagined seeing someone from his past life, hoped to find them some day, but had never dreamed it would be in college. He crossed the street quickly, barely missing a collision with a few cars and unable to care. He felt tears fill his eyes as he took in the young woman in front of him.
Her brown hair was longer than he had ever seen it, pulled back in a braid that ended below her waist, and she was paler than he remembered, but her blue eyes were just as expressive as ever. She was dressed in casual summer clothes, with a thin jacket draped over one arm for the cooler evening.
"Dawnie?" he whispered, questioning if he was really seeing her. She began to grin as she nodded in confirmation. "Dawnie! I thought I would never see you again!" Before he could stop himself, he wrapped both arms around her tightly. He worried that he'd done something wrong when she began to shift around, but she only pulled her arms free to return the hug, wrapping them around his neck.
"We've missed you so much!" she told him. She was laughing and crying in joy, her clear delight at seeing him again warming him.
"We?" he asked, wondering if she had managed to find someone else already.
"The rest of us found each other about ten years ago," she confirmed. He wasn't overly shocked that they were drawn together so soon in this new life; they had practically lived out of each other's pockets for years in their old one. "We... well they
live in Denver, Colorado. Where have you been?"
"Virginia. Dawn I've missed all of you so badly," he admitted. Colorado, he thought. All those years, and all it would have taken was agreeing to go on that ski trip his mother had mentioned back when he was twelve.
"Wait until I tell the others that I've found you. I'd bet you anything they'll all want to fly out here to see you. Willow tried a locator spell on you every week for nearly three years, but it never worked. It just seemed to make the curtains catch on fire."
"Really? I've been practicing my magic, too, ever since I remembered who I used to be back when I was five. I never performed any hide-me spells, but my neighbor has a bunch of gadgets that he's convinced will hide him from the military 'until it's time', whatever that means. Maybe he's right?"
"Who cares why?" Dawn asked with a laugh. "You're here, I found you, and they'll be so excited. Giles was beginning to get really upset that you hadn't turned up yet. I think he may have been worried that you had been killed or something."
"Giles? Did all of you manage to keep your last names?"
"No. Giles is the only one, but his first name got switched to Robert. He said once that he's honestly not sure which he prefers between it and Rupert."
"Huh. Considering how few people actually call him by his first name, I wouldn't think it would matter too much. What's been going on with you? What are you doing here?"
"Would you like to get dinner with me? We could catch up on everything," Dawn offered, then stopped to consider. "Unless you already had plans. You looked like you were in a bit of a hurry when I saw you."
"I was just returning home to write to my little brother. He'd understand the wait. What about you?"
"You have a little brother? And I just finished my last class of the day. Nothing much to do until my next class, which is..." she trailed off as she dug through her bag, eventually pulling out a slip of paper with a shout of triumph. "Ah, my next class is not until the day after tomorrow."
"Still getting used to your schedule?"
"You know it. Somehow, I found it easier to keep track of the entire household back in our London than it is to just keep track of me alone."
"It was the yearly apocalypse. Nothing is quite so serious in this world, so all of our old study and planning habits are getting rusty."
"True," Dawn agreed. "We've only had to deal with one or two apocalypse attempts since Buffy became the Slayer again, and neither of them were as difficult as anything we used to face. Heck, the Harvest back in Sunnydale was harder, at least according to the others."
"Well then, since neither of us has anything pressing to attend to today, I know a great little place just around the corner. Best food you'll ever find, great prices, and the tables are arranged in a way that, unless someone is actively trying to listen in, we'll have the privacy to talk about anything."Manassas, VA
Aaron held his breath to keep from whimpering in pain. He knew his arm wasn't broken, and Earnest wouldn't accept tears for anything short of broken bones. He was glad he had sent the last letter while everything was still going well - it was hard to lie to Andrew, even in written form. The child curled into a ball, clutching his aching arm to his chest, while his parents argued in the next room.
"Just tell me who he is!" Earnest yelled.
"There isn't any he
!" Jane protested.
"You expect me to believe that I
fathered a child that dark?"
"My mother had dark hair, and your father had brown eyes. Maybe he got it from them."
"If that were the case, don't you think Andrew or Sean would look a little more like him?"
"Earnest, I keep telling you, that's not how genetics work!"
"He's not mine! Tell me who his father is, and this will all be over."
"He is yours! It's not my fault if you can't accept the truth."
"No. I'm done. Believe what you want; I don't care anymore. Now lower your voice before you wake the baby."
As their voices died down Aaron brushed the tears from his cheeks. If his parents didn't care anymore, then neither did he. He had Andrew and Mr Jorgensen, and sometimes Joe, Chris, and Rick. Besides, he only had to stay at most eight more years. Less, if Andrew let him stay with him when the young man finished college. And he had until Christmas break to figure out how to convince Andrew to let him stay.Dawn's Apartment/Flat, England
"And then last year I got an early scholarship. I haven't been back yet, since I couldn't really afford it on my own, but I was hoping to make it out there for Christmas. Aaron's been dropping hints
that he'd like it as well. Of course, the definition of a 'hint' is different for a ten-year-old than it is for someone eighteen or older. Plus, I'd like to meet my newest little brother." Andrew finished his life story, having already heard Dawn's while they ate.
"Nearly a decade between each child... Do your parents just never want to be through raising children?"
"Nah, I think they just figured she was close enough to menopause that birth control wouldn't be necessary any longer. Surprise! What about you? None of you had any brothers and sisters? Aside from you and Buffy, of course."
"I told you that Willow was adopted by her aunt and uncle, so her little cousin is practically her brother, and Giles has a brother that we've never met. Do they count? Xander's still an only child, but at least this time he had loving parents. We all did, really, but we started distancing ourselves after Buffy was Called again."
"To protect them. If they don't know about that stuff-"
"It can still hurt them," Andrew pointed out. "They just won't know why they're being hurt. I left my parents out of the loop because I don't trust them to handle the knowledge well. Besides, I never went out and made a name for myself in that community, so there was no real risk of overlap in the two aspects of my life. You never know, maybe your parents would be able to take it."
"I'll think about it," Dawn promised. "On one condition. You have to give me a really good reason for keeping you a secret from the rest of the group."
"That's easy. I want to see their faces. You can blame it on not believing that they really missed me if you want, but honestly, I just want them to know about me in person. Like it was with you. Does that make sense?"
"I guess," Dawn pouted.
"Tell you what, I'll go with you to visit them for Christmas."
"But what about Aaron?"
"Let me finish. As I was saying, I'll go with you for Christmas, if you can keep it secret that long
, and then visit my family for New Year's Day and the following week."
"I don't know if your brother will ever forgive me for taking you away on Christmas, but otherwise, I like this plan."
"Great. And don't worry, Aaron's not the type to hold a grudge."
A/N 2: Once again, I am so sorry for the long wait. Unfortunately, this next one will be even longer. As started earlier, I've signed up for NaNoWriMo, and I know I won't have enough time to work on both stories after work next month, so I'll see all of you in December, when I'll start working on the remaining six chapters of this story. Thanks again to all of you who are sticking with me and reviewing!