Look, a story! Sorry this chapter is more plot progress than actual action. I thought about making it long and choppy but decided on short and choppy so Chapter Four can be more cohesive. Thank you all for the reviews thus far! Disclaimer:
Still playing nice with my toys. I don’t own Buffy or Stargate. Timeline:
Buffy and Stargate SG-1 Season 5. Specifically, between the episodes of Forever and Intervention for Buffy Season 5. Chapter Three “Passion is the source of our finest moments; the joy of love, the clarity of hatred, and the ecstasy of grief.” -Angelus
“How’s she doing?”
“How do you think she’s doing? She came home to find her mother dead five days ago and a hell god is still after her sister.” Xander immediately regretted the harsh words as Tara’s face crumpled at his tone. Xander breathed deeply and counted to ten… Just because he sometimes found the new and girl-oriented Willow to be strange and unsettling didn’t mean that Tara deserved a display of his own frayed grief. “I’m sorry. I just… it’s been such a long week.”
That strange half smile touched Tara’s lips sadly as she ducked her head in silent acknowledgement. She didn’t have to ask after Dawn, since Dawn had been spending more time with her and Willow than anyone else. The sisters, too different and yet alike in the ferocity of their grief, had been careful around each other, both brittle with the loss. That brittleness at times demanded a level of absence from their personal spaces, especially after the younger Summers sister had attempted to raise Joyce from the dead.
Tara held up a stack of Tupperware containers as a sort of peace offering. “I brought dinner for everyone.” Everyone meaning Buffy, Giles, and Xander. Willow was back at the apartment, helping Dawn with some biology homework that she had fallen behind on. Anya was at the Magic Shop, dealing with her burgeoning human understanding of sorrow through capitalism.
“Cook?” Tara laughed a little. “Goddess no… I made stir fry noodles and some fried rice. I figured even if it tasted like fast-food Chinese it would at least be home-made fast-food Chinese. Also, without Dawn’s intervention, blessedly lacking in ketchup and jelly.”
Xander smiled wanly and stepped aside in silent invitation.
The house had been quieter in the last five days, and not just because of grief. Joyce’s absence had palpably impacted the energy of the home, leaving it emptier than it should have felt. The sofa’s absence was notable. Tara understood- her mother had died in a hospital, and she had hated hospitals ever since. If her mother had died in her own bed Tara would have had trouble ever touching the sheets, let alone sleeping in the place that had seen her mother’s soul leave her. The couch had been the first thing to go, the morning after the funeral.
“I’ll go get Giles and Buffy. Giles is helping her pack the rest of Joyce’s things.” Xander bounded up the stairs and Tara made herself comfortable in the kitchen. She figured it would take some time to wrestle the three of them back down for dinner so she quietly washed the dishes that had accumulated in the sink before setting out clean plates and utensils on the island.
The phone ringing on the wall surprised her and Tara ignored the first few rings. When no one upstairs or the answering machine didn’t pick up she finally dried her hands on a dish towel and answered on what had to be the fifteenth ring. “Hello, Summer’s residence.” There was a pregnant pause on the other line and Tara frowned. She knew someone was there, she could hear the breathing, so she tried again. “Hello?”
“Um, yes… is this Buffy Summers?”
“No, Buffy is unavailable at this time, can I take a message?”
Tara’s brows knit at the insistent, hopeful, and entirely unfamiliar male voice. “Mr. Summers?” she asked, partially on instinct.
The huff of surprise told her the guess was wrong before the voice replied. “No, no… I just. Can I leave a message to have Buffy call me when she had the chance? My name is Dr. Daniel Jackson.”
“Were you one of Mrs. Summer’s doctors?”
The voice trailed off again in surprise before slowly responding again. “No, no I wasn’t one of Joyce’s doctors. I am calling about a family matter, though Buffy won’t recognize my name. Can I leave a number?”
Tara grabbed a notepad and pen. “Yes…” The voice on the other end rattled off a number with an out of state area code that she didn’t recognize before politely hanging up.
Buffy, Xander, and Giles appeared around the corner. Buffy still looked subdued, her face drawn and wan, but she spared Tara a brief smile of thanks at the sight of Chinese food and clean dishes. “Did you grab the phone?” the Slayer asked as she ladled food onto a waiting plate. It was good her appetite was back- Slayer metabolisms required increased calories, even during times of grief.
“Yes, it was a bit odd but it was someone named Dr. Daniel Jackson calling about a family matter. He said you wouldn’t recognize his name but left a number to call.”
Giles frowned and reached for the slip of paper, humming over the out of state area code. Xander looked over his shoulder. “Do you know anyone in Colorado?”
Buffy shrugged as she dug into the food. “Not yet, but I’ll call later. I should go out patrolling after dinner. Glory has been quiet and since there hasn’t been a sale at Skanks R’Us I’m worried she’s up to something other than teasing her hair.”
“Do you think she’ll call?”
Jack rolled his eyes at his teammate. “No Daniel, I think they’ll make a ritual bonfire and burn your message while dancing naked under the full moon.”
Daniel glared at the older man. “I appreciate your sensitivity in this time of emotional need.”
“Well, if you’re concerned about your emotional needs I wouldn’t touch that bedspread. It looks like it was touched in a naughty place once or twice.”
Daniel grimaced as he glanced around the rundown motel room they had secured for the evening. Sunnydale had some better accommodations but a basketball championship, delayed due to some suspicious deaths earlier in the season, meant that there were slim pickings when their plane landed earlier in the evening.
Despite the drive through the town they hadn’t gotten much of a sense of things. Certainly not enough to explain all of the violence in the town, and the seven cemeteries they had passed on the way from the airport. Even with the cheap hotel, Sunnydale looked like so many other respectably well off small towns. Most of the homes were modest but well-kept and downtown, aside from seriously lacking more than a single visible coffee shop, looked modern and clean.
That being said…
“Jack, do you get a weird feeling from this town? I don’t think I should but…”
“But you’ve been kidnapped on too many alien worlds not to know what it feels like?” Daniel scowled briefly at the older man before nodding slightly. “Well, let’s do what we always do when faced with death and danger. Let’s go check it out.”
“I’m regretting not bringing Carter instead.”
Jack grinned at him as he reached for his wallet. “I might regret it too if I get kidnapped.”