Happy 2014! I have been writing fanfiction for 14 years. I feel very old sometimes. That being said, this year is my ten year anniversary with Twisting the Hellmouth. Let's make it a writing/reviewing party. So, here's a chapter. Your turn! :) Disclaimer:
I don’t claim ownership of any intellectual property pertaining to Buffy or Stargate. Fourteen years of writing variations of that has gotten old.“How do I know you're the real Daniel?”
“Yeah, ok.” –Jack and Daniel
Daniel was working really, really hard to control the slight tremor in his hand as he reached to ring the doorbell of the Summers residence. It was hot and sunny on the morning of their third day in Sunnydale, and though Jack was being a good friend and not mentioning it, the older man wasn’t a big fan of humidity or shitty motel rooms, and they’d had their ample share of both.
Also, Sam had called Jack fourteen times in the last twenty-four hours. Jack had answered the first six before he had pretended to go through a tunnel and hung up. That had lasted about three minutes before Sam had figured out the ruse and continued her cellular harassment. She hadn’t quite put together that Jack and Daniel were together, but their blonde friend definitely had sleuthed out that something
was up. Although Sam wasn’t likely to panic and report them to General Hammond immediately, she was likely to do something obtrusively nosy, like track the GPS on their phones. Either way, Jack had been a paragon of sainthood, and was not likely to let Daniel forget the fact anytime soon.
Daniel was more grateful than he could ever say that Jack, bitching and all, was with him though. He didn’t know if he would have had the courage to finally ring the bell to Joyce’s house… to Buffy and Dawn’s house otherwise.
They waited, cooling their heels, and Daniel resisted running his hands through his hair. He’d been due for a cut before they left Colorado Springs and his hair was definitely longer than he was used to nowadays.
“If you fidget anymore I swear you’ll walk back to the Mountain,” Jack murmured as muffled shouts and the faint sound of running feet echoed out to them from the house.
Daniel was trying to must a suitably pithy comeback to the older man as Buffy yanked the door open, looking disheveled yet absurdly happy to see him. “Hi! Morning!” she said a little breathlessly, obviously just out of bed despite it being almost 11 am.
“Good morning,” Daniel finally managed, after Jack not so unobtrusively kicked him in the back of his leg. “I’m not sure… are we early? You said 11?”
Buffy grinned at his polite confusion and the moment of distracted happiness transformed the fragile lines of grief on her face into something warmer and infinitely more approachable. She looked like a girl that liked to laugh, and Daniel felt his own face warm with an answering smile. “We tend to keep late hours around here, but we’re just starting brunch.” She stepped aside and Daniel ducked into the house before being followed by Jack.
The first impression Daniel felt was that Summers house was solidly middle-classed in a slightly outdated way. Not rundown by any means, but his own house in Colorado Springs, even with all his archaeological clutter, was much more modern. Much less lived in. Buffy gave him a moment to get his bearings. To note the well-worn rug in the dining room, with the mismatched chairs. To step into the living room, with the curious lack of a couch.
The mantle over the fireplace was brimming with pictures. Most of them featured Joyce, holding either Buffy of Dawn to her. All three of them were blonde when they were younger, though Dawn’s hair ran to ashy brunette as she aged. None of them particularly resembled the other, but he could see the architecture of Joyce in her children. The fine focus of Buffy’s brow. Dawn’s stubborn chin.
In the older photos he could see more of the family resemblance to himself as well, especially in the shape of their eyes. Joyce looked like his long-lost sister here, in these photos where she was surrounded by her children, beaming with pride. It was humbling in a way, to think he might have a place here, one day.
That Buffy and Dawn shared his flesh and blood. That their bones told strangers that the three of them belonged together, even in the most tenuous of ways. Daniel treasured his friends, his time traveling the universe like some far-flung sailor on a mythical, star skipping Argonaut. His life would have so little meaning with Stargate Command. But that didn’t mean his worth, his sense of self, only had to be measured by the time he spent in uniform.
That one day, his photo wouldn’t be on his nieces’ mantel, as silent testament to something more
He started at the slight touch on his elbow and looked over to see Buffy’s wan smile. The spark of lively warmth was muted again, and Daniel was momentarily ashamed that he had forgotten, even for an instant, how raw it felt in the days after you lost a loved one. “I’m sorry,” he said compulsively as he throat tightened.
Anguish flashed hot and wild in Buffy’s gaze before she shook her head, a mute refusal to acknowledge his regret. He’d only met her twice but Daniel was starting to see that his oldest niece had her own masks she showed the world. Her own ways of measuring herself to some standard invisible to the naked eye. Had it been any other week, any other person knocking on her door, he wondered how much of Buffy Summers he and Jack would have really
“Let’s go have breakfast,” she said instead of answering him. And he would have hesitated, would have paused, but one of his only living relatives grabbed his hand and dragged him towards the kitchen.
Dawn watched Jack O’Neill out of the corner of her eye as she dried off dishes and he expertly flipped the pancakes she had previously been doing her damndest to set on fire. He was watching her back, but much less subtly. His gaze was frank in its evaluation and Dawn felt herself warming to the older man. She was tired of being looked at like she was broken, and Jack looked at her like she was potentially something dangerous.
It was a nice change of pace.
“So, gummy bears in pancakes. Is this what all the cool kids eat nowadays?”
Dawn nodded forcefully as she began to put away her small stack of dishes. “Absolutely. Gummy bears. Also broccoli, but we didn’t have any. Buffy hasn’t had time to go to the store since…” She swallowed sudden hot tears away and continued, as if her grief hadn’t just stolen to her throat and threatened to choke her. “We don’t have a lot of food. But you’d be surprised what you can do with odds and ends.” At Jack’s patently disbelieving stare Dawn grinned. “I make a killer jello pasta.”
The older man shuddered. “Emphasis on the killer part, I’m sure.”
Done with the dishes she smiled and cautiously moved to sit on one of the barstools next to the kitchen island as Jack worked. She waited until he turned back to the frying pan to sneak one of the pancakes off the cooling stack on the plate in front of her. The gummy bears shone like stained glass in between the expertly crisped pancake batter and Dawn inhaled the scent of processed sugar and Bisquick as she held the warm pancake to her face.
It was part of an ongoing debate between sisters whether or not a “real” Dawn would have had such… unique food preferences. Had she been born of flesh and blood instead of forced into a body made from parts of the Slayer, would she have wanted gummy bear pancakes for breakfast? Buffy couched it in nicer terms of course. It upset Buffy when she referred to herself as a mistake. An aberration. To wonder if she put creamed cheese on pizza because a giant ball of green energy didn’t know how to be a real girl. Like a Pinocchio doll whose tastes grew weirder as her humanity was examined, looking for some evidence, any evidence, that her life was something other than a placeholder to the main event.
Would anyone care that she liked cinnamon on her eggs after Glory gutted her like a trout? Would anyone remember that she liked drawing sunsets after Buffy had to sacrifice her like some fattened lamb?
“So what do you think they’re doing in there?” Dawn asked conversationally as she nodded towards the living room, even as her heart pounded staccato at her literal existential angst. She was fervently glad that Jack had come trotting in when he smelled smoke, leaving Buffy and Daniel behind. Dawn wasn’t sure how she felt about being not quite real. She was too sure how she felt about burying her Mom just days before and was definitely not sure how it felt to be the magically created construct of a dead woman with a long-lost uncle. It was weird even for Sunnydale standards, which were pretty low to begin with.
Jack shrugged as he stirred some more gummy bears into the remaining batter. “Do you have any chocolate chips to add to this?” He waited as Dawn jumped off her stool and scurried to the pantry to fetch the remainder of a bag that had escaped Buffy’s post-slaying chocolate cravings by being stashed behind a box of Grape Nuts. Jack added in the chocolate before pouring a few new pancakes onto the pan. “Well,” he replied slowly, “if the last time they met was anything to go off of, likely a whole lot of feelings and concerns about whether or not it is okay to hug. Also, possibly robots.”
Dawn scowled as she climbed back on the barstool. “Yeah, Buffy mentioned that.”
The older man choked and shot her a patently disbelieving look. “Exactly how much did Buffy tell you?”
She stared back, feeling a bit foolish as she slowly worked through her somewhat tired memories from the other night. “That Spike made some sort of robotic Buffy…” Which didn’t make a whole lot of sense, because whenever they hung out and watched TV Spike spent an inordinate amount of time complaining about her Big Sis as he tended to call her. So why would Spike have… “Oh. Eww. EWW.” Dawn could feel herself blushing bright red. “She may have left some basic information out.” Thank god.
The Colonel flipped one of the new pancakes so high it almost hit the ceiling. Dawn clapped, reluctantly admiring, when he caught it back in the pan, even as she tried to imagine the mechanics between undead flesh and, well, robot parts. Tried and failed. Really, Spike could do better. So could Buffy. “Don’t let Buffy see you do that, she’ll kidnap you and make you cook breakfast three meals a day.”
“Don’t let Buffy see what?”
Dawn froze as Buffy entered the kitchen, followed closely by a stranger who had to be their uncle. Jack O’Neill snorted as Buffy looked between the two of them, clearly confused as to how Dawn had conned an Air Force Colonel into making pancakes. With gummy bears. And chocolate chips.
Daniel stepped out from behind Buffy, looking sheepish and somewhat cautious as he stared at her, hope blurring his features softer. Dawn slid off the stool and stood, hands clenched at her sides as she stared back. Jack muttered the word “Feelings,” under his breath but otherwise didn’t interrupt as Dawn slowly stepped towards Daniel. Her uncle was taller than her, but not by much. It was odd, to see echoes of her face on a man’s. Neither she nor Buffy had ever looked much like their Dad.
He smiled slightly down at her, face a younger, more earnest version of their mother. “Hi Dawn, I’m Daniel, and it is really, really good to meet you.” She looked at him, lip trembling as she cataloged the improbable and undeniable ties of blood between them as her mother laid cold in a grave, and burst into tears.
“So, I know this sounds crazy but, I think it could be a good crazy, you know, like kids running with blunted scissors and cats and dogs living together.” Buffy paused in her rambling rush as Dawn, still red-eyed from her surprise tears, urgently shook her head, indicating that her older sister should shut the hell up. Which made sense, because Daniel had been looking a bit shell shocked since he had arrived and found Spike boinking a robotic version of his long-lost niece in a cemetery. He was looking significantly more concerned now that Buffy had proposed a nice family reunion far away from Sunnyhell.
Say, in Colorado Springs. Far away from a certain hell god’s countdown to making a Dawn-kebob. At Daniel’s house.
Jack was looking slightly less shell shocked and a helluva lot more suspicious, in that wrinkly forehead way Riley used to get, when he figured out there were a few secrets he was being left out of.
Willow had done some significant digging in the thirty-six hours since Buffy had first met Daniel and Jack. Willow still wasn’t fully on board with the fleeing the Hellmouth Express train to Colorado, and Xander had dug in his heels with adamant disapproval, but after a lot of fairly illegal sleuthing and an informal magic-based DNA test, Willow was coming around. They were all fairly nervous about Daniel’s ties to the U.S. military, but even though deep-space radar telemetry was a pretty obvious cover story, it wasn’t necessarily one that set off any alarm bells. As far as they could tell, Daniel and Jack spent an inordinate amount of time at a research center in Cheyenne Mountain.
Really, as long as they weren’t dissecting humanoid shaped balls of green energy or Chosen Ones, Buffy was pretty okay with whatever her uncle was doing for work. It wasn’t like she could judge- she killed demons for a living and didn’t even get hazard pay. To that end, she didn’t get paid at all.
Really, as long as Glory couldn’t kill Dawn whenever the mood struck the demented hell god, Buffy would be a lot happier.
Plus, Daniel had kind eyes. She kind of wanted a chance to get to know her uncle before they all died some terrible and gruesome death. And Jack said Colorado Springs had okay malls. With Starbucks. So, that was of the good.
Daniel opened and closed his mouth a few times, clearly trying to figure out how to reply, and Buffy felt herself start to quail inside. She just needed a bit more time to figure out… something… anything. How do you fight a god?
Daniel swallowed and, with a sharp look from Jack, finally marshalled a response. “It’s not like I don’t want to get to know you both better. I do. I don’t… well, family is in short supply for me. It’s just…” He sighed and ran a hand through sandy-colored hair. “I have work. And I don’t know if it is a good idea for you to disrupt your routine so soon after…”
Buffy tried to swallow the rising tears and terror as Dawn, sitting across from her on a stool at the kitchen island, started to crumple at Daniel’s rejection. Dawn knew what was riding on this. She knew that they were running out of options. Buffy’s voice when she responded was strong though, it had to be. If the Slayer didn’t have any choice about being strong, Dawn’s big sister sure as hell didn’t. “What routine? Mom… Mom has been sick for a while. I haven’t been to the grocery store in a week. I don’t even know how to pay the power bill. I have to figure out what to do with the gallery.” I’ll never see Mom smile again.
She paused for a moment, eyes closed, overwhelmed. “Please,” she whispered, “just for a few days. It would be so nice to get away. To be somewhere else for a bit.” To pretend to be someone else for a bit. Daniel’s niece, instead of Joyce’s daughter. Daniel’s niece instead of the Slayer.
She opened her eyes and met Daniel’s panicked stare. Their uncle looked torn between a deep-seated desire to uproot his entire existence to make room for two young girls, and a perfectly rational concern that he wasn’t quite ready for that kind of commitment. Buffy swallowed, and softly repeated the words that had convinced her to take a chance on Daniel, to bring him, however tentatively, into their lives. “Life is messy, and hard, and full of new things whether you want it to be or not.” Her eyes flickered to Jack who looked reluctantly admiring as she neatly turned the tables on them. “Please Daniel.”
The older man studied her for a moment longer, before smiling. “Okay.”
Spike started as he heard steady steps outside the door to his crypt. The Buffy-bot, who was curled up on the couch with her head in his lap, squealed in half-hearted outrage as he stood up suddenly and reached for the shotgun he kept next to the bookshelf. He wouldn’t be able to do much against kids looking to cause some trouble, but a waved shotgun was usually enough for a human. And he got to use his fists on demons.
He cocked it as the door rattled and then flew open with supernatural strength. He got the bloody thing aimed and started to pull the trigger before psychic pain immobilized him and he fell to a crouch with a muffled curse, his eyes squeezed shut as blasts of pain echoed in his sodden chipped brain before he went dark.
It had to only be seconds after he passed out when he came to. His cold cheek was pressed to the cold floor of his home, and surprisingly warm hands were worriedly patting him. A distant part of his tortured brain registered the stilted chatter of the irate Buffy-bot but he was more concerned with the boots directly in his vision.
“Bloody hell,” Spike moaned as he rocked himself to a sitting position, hands clenched to his temples, hair in disarray. “Pet, sod off,” he muttered to the fluttering hands as he tried to focus more on the intruder over the lingering haze of pain. The sound of a re-pumped shotgun definitely got his attention and he looked up to see the Slayer at his door, his shotgun in self-righteous hands.
Buffy, the real Buffy, looked like some sort of avenging angel, come to hell’s door. She was dressed down, in practical brown boots, jeans, and an oversized army jacket that Riley had likely left behind. Her hair was loose about her shoulders, slightly curling in the humidity of the night, and her eyes blazed green with barely contained fury. The floor lamp he had nicked from a dumpster framed her from behind, a divine halo from Walmart.
Which likely made him the sinner, the fallen star of heaven, with one hell of a migraine. “What are you doing here Slayer?” he managed to ask as he stood, back to her as he tried desperately to cover his confusion, his longing. How did she have so much power over him, even after he had had the physical manifestation of his desire again, and again, and again.
Speaking of, the Buffy-bot, clearly unsettled by their unexpected visitor, spared the human version of herself a scowl over his left shoulder as she tried to run her hands over him, checking for wounds. Spike sighed a bit on the inside as he realized that the robot was still wearing a rather negligible negligee and her hair in pigtails. He had thrown on black jeans after a rather enthusiastic session of wake-up sex, but no shirt. Plus, he was fairly certain that the living room still smelled of sweat and sex, especially to a Slayer’s enhanced senses.
“Pet,” he murmured, drawing the Buffy-bot’s attention to him and away from the incensed version of Buffy behind him, loaded shotgun in-hand. “Pet, why don’t you do downstairs for a bit. Freshen up.”
“Put on clothes,” Buffy drawled, voice like ice.
The Buffy-bot gave him a pretty, heart stopping smile, before scowling at the real Buffy again. “I don’t like her. Even with her hair down.”
“Well,” Buffy snapped back, “I don’t like you even with clothes on, but that’s neither here nor there. Get the hell downstairs.” The robot huffed but, with another glance at his shuttered face, trotted off to the bedroom.
Spike took a moment, clenched and unclenched his hands, and turned to face the Slayer with a carefully blank face. She looked a tad less… temperamental now that her robotic body double was out of clear line of sight, not that she wasn’t likely still homicidal. Didn’t take much to work up Summers women to a towering rage.
Joyce had been a sight to see, axe in hand.
“Not to belabor the point by being repetitious, but, Slayer, why the social call? Didn’t figure I’d see you sullying yourself by darkening my steps anytime soon.” Or ever really. They both knew that the Buffy-bot had been a line that Spike had stepped over. It hadn’t been the demon that forced Warren to make the robot, it had been the man.
Somehow, for a Slayer that had already loved a vampire, that made it worse. Not better. He told himself it was the only choice he had left, and sometimes, when the Buffy-bot held her head a certain way, or touched his hand with a slow smile that curled his toes and made something inside of his chest ache a little bit less… sometimes he believed in the copy enough to make losing the real version okay. And it had to be okay. He had lost the real Buffy the first time Drusilla sank her fangs into his neck in a dark London alleyway as poetry echoed in his head. Inspired by your beauty effulgent…
He and the Slayer weren’t star-crossed lovers. He wasn’t the soddin’ Poofster, working to make amends and everyone else miserable with his hulking sulks. They were wrong together and nothing but a robot could bridge that distance.
Buffy glared at him for a moment longer, clearly disgusted by the tableau, before sighing and throwing the gun to him. He caught it and set it down in one smooth motion, not interested in giving the chip another reason to lay the whammy on him. Buffy often moved him to blind rage just by being herself, and he already had a splitting headache.
“Do you love me?”
He stared at her, at the woman who had haunted his dreams, who had ruined the love that had given him purpose for over a hundred years by driving Drusilla out with visions of blonde hair and warm blood… and grew instantly furious. “How dare you ask that!” He kicked the shotgun, heedless of the danger, and strode closer to the Slayer until he was face to face with her. Aside from the slight widening of her eyes she didn’t flinch, though he could almost taste the fear in the air. He leaned closer, close enough that his undead heart felt like it was pounding without a pulse, close enough that he could wrap his long, slender fingers around her neck and squeeze until she was as dead as he was. “I. Ruined. Myself. For. You.”
Ruined his reputation. His eternal love affair. Ruined his livelihood. Emasculated himself on the altar of obsession. It wasn’t love. Love sustained. This, this twisted web of seething feelings was something more. Something worse. You’re beneath me…
“Good,” she whispered, “I’m glad we’re on the same page. I need your help,” Buffy continued softly.
Spike stared at her, furious and bitter, and still so crazed he would lick her boots to touch her. This was more than love. And he hated it. “I hope you die.”
“Dawn needs your help.”
Spike shuddered and stepped away, breath short as he worked to contain himself. “Dawn doesn’t need me.”
And Buffy smiled. Smiled that sad bloody smile that made him want to promise to step into the next dawn just to make her happy. To give her peace. He hated her. He bloody well hated himself as well. “We both need you, and, well… her.”
Buffy shrugged. “We need the Buffy-bot to be me for a while. Preferably with more clothes on though.”Every Slayer ... has a death wish. Even you.