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House of Cards

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Summary: Pull one card out, and everything falls. For Buffy, it all started the night her mother walked into that London pub all those years ago. Yet Another Real Family fic.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Harry Potter > General(Past Donor)akatFR131030,9752517530,5764 Aug 1313 Apr 14No

What dreams may come

A/N: Once again, a big thanks for all the reviews and to AllenPitt, Bluejello, Lisette, and redtree for the recs! It makes me absolutely giddy knowing that there is still so much love for BtVS/HP crosses, even though both fandoms have been around for awhile.


+++

Sunnydale, 1996

As rematches went, this wasn’t Buffy’s best. Sure, she had gotten a few good blows in, but so had the Master; she had the claw marks to prove it. To make things worse, the kick she had just levelled at his back hadn’t caught him off guard like she had hoped. In fact, the opposite happened; it gave him the perfect opportunity to attack, which of course, he took, grabbing her by the throat before she could even think to block it.

Buffy’s first instinct was to take a step back and put some space in between them so she could break his hold. When she tried, however, her heel immediately hit something solid.

The skylight, she realized. She must have been closer to it than she thought, so close that even the tiniest step back would send her crashing through the glass to the library below.

That meant that she was trapped. She was trapped and his hand was starting to tighten around her throat.

As his claws dug painfully into her neck, cutting off her air, Buffy couldn’t help but remember a similar situation, one she had been in less than fifteen minutes ago when she had been in his lair.

There was one very important difference, though.

She wasn’t helpless like she had been then, so frozen with fear that she couldn’t move a single muscle, even when he sank his fangs into her. This time she was just pissed.

Seriously, the Master had already killed her once. There was no way in hell she was going to let him do it again. It didn’t matter that he currently had the upper hand, both literally and figuratively. This fight was far from over. She simply refused to accept otherwise.

She had to move fast, though, as breathing was really starting to become an issue.

Because of her position, her eyes immediately looked downward through the skylight, scanning the area below for something, anything, that she could use to end this once and for all.

At first, to her immense disappointment, all she could see was creature at the center of the Hellmouth; obviously that wasn’t going to help her out at all. Then one of its many tentacles moved, and she saw it; a jagged piece of table lying next to the beast, angled up toward her in just the right way.

Still, Buffy hesitated. It was extremely risky. If she missed, the Master would be down in library, right where her friends were, where he would be out of her reach. On the other hand, she didn’t really have much choice. She also only had a few more seconds left at best, as breathing was really starting to become an issue.

No, she had to do it, despite the risks. It was her only option. She just couldn’t allow herself to miss.

Her mind made up, she snapped her attention back to the Master, who apparently decided it was time to gloat over his impending victory.

“Where are your jibes now? Will you laugh when my Hell is on earth?” he sneered.

Buffy felt her lips twitch in amusement. Did he have a surprise in store for him.

With a surge of adrenaline, she grabbed the Master by the throat and hoisted him a few inches off the ground, relishing the way his eyes widened in shock and pain.

“You’re so amped about Hell? Go there,” she replied. Then she flipped him over her shoulder and hurled him through the skylight. As the shards of broken glass began to pelt the beast below, intensifying its already ear-splitting screams, she grimaced. “And while you’re at it, take your friend with you.”

She held her breath as he fell, willing him to land on the table. She continued to do so even when he hit the intended target dead on, the jagged piece of wood impaled him through the chest as his mouth opened in a silent scream. Only when his body began to disintegrate, leaving nothing behind but his bones, did she finally feel like she could breathe again.

Instead of feeling a sense of satisfaction, however, Buffy felt anything but. Luckily for her, there were still vamps and a gigantic monster below.

Buffy turned her focus to the thing coming out of the Hellmouth almost eagerly, more than happy to work out the rest of her issues on it. Before she could so much as count the number of heads on the monster, however, it let out another high-pitched shriek and disappeared back into the floor.

That was all it took to make the remaining vampires in the room high tail it out of there. They practically climbed over each other in their dash for the nearest exit. As the double doors slammed open, Buffy could’ve sworn she saw the Anointed One standing on the other side in the hallway, his small, white face twisted in rage, before he ran away with the others.

Then they were gone. It was over. The day had been saved. And she had never felt worse. Now that the thrill of the fight was gone, she was left with nothing but her anger, along with a million other emotions roiling around in her.

“Buffy?”

Startled, Buffy whirled around, her fist partially raised. It took her a moment to realize that she was at Spring Fling in the Bronze and not on the rooftop of the school, that they had left the library almost an hour ago and she had just been daydreaming.

She hastily lowered her fist and plastered a fake smile on her face, willing Giles to lose that slightly alarmed expression he had on his face.

“What’s up?”

Giles studied her for another beat before clearing his throat. “I’m going back to the library to take of… certain matters there,” he explained.

Buffy felt the tension coil low in her gut. She knew that someone had to clean up the mess they had left in the library – just like she knew Giles shouldn’t go back there alone. Yet, to her complete and utter frustration, she couldn’t bring herself to say that she would go with him.

Maybe he saw something in her face, because he quickly shook his head.

“I can do it on my own,” he said. “Stay here. Enjoy the rest of the night.”

Buffy shook her head, though the movement felt sharp and jerky to her. “What if there are any vamps hanging around?”

Instead of answering, Giles gave her a long, steady look, one that made her squirm uncomfortably.

Just then, Angel stepped in.

“I’ll go, too. I can do a few sweeps, make sure the rest of the night is a quiet one.”

Buffy looked over at Angel, both grateful for his offer and upset by it.

He had been acting weird ever since they had arrived at the Bronze; she had honestly thought he was going to drop kick Xander across the floor when they had first arrived and Xander had offered to go with her to get some drinks. He had kept his distance from her ever since, staying on the fringes of the group.

The worst part was, although a case of misplaced jealousy over Xander wasn’t out of the question, she didn’t think that was the reason behind his strange behavior.

It was because of her.

Because even though she tried to talk and laugh and have a good time, she felt… different, removed from the whole situation, physically, emotionally, the whole enchilada. It was only getting worse as the night went on, too.

While Willow and Xander hadn’t seemed to notice her strange behavior – or if they did, they didn’t show it, probably thinking getting her mind off things would be the best – she thought that maybe Angel had known something was up. This only confirmed it.

“Okay,” she said slowly, tamping down the guilt she felt. “Thank you.”

Angel held her gaze for a moment before nodding and turning away. Giles soon followed.

The next hour or so passed by in a haze for Buffy. She only pretended to listen to what Willow was saying, nodding at what she thought was the appropriate times, and she flat out refused Xander when he tried to coax her onto the dance floor.

Even though she knew it wasn’t fair, part of her resented them for not asking her how she was doing; even as she acknowledged that she didn’t want to talk about it at all.

Deciding that she didn’t want to inflict her bad mood on them anymore, especially when she herself didn’t know what she wanted, Buffy finally bailed, citing some residual achiness from the fight with the Master. Though they didn’t try to talk her out of it, Willow hugged her especially hard before she left and she practically had to restrain Xander from coming with.

That alone almost convinced her to stay. Yet, at the same time, she couldn’t get out of there fast enough. She definitely felt a sense of relief when she finally stepped out of the Bronze and took a lungful of fresh air.

It wasn’t until she actually began walking that she questioned the wisdom of her decision, for now that she was finally alone with no distractions, the weight of the day was really sinking in, making the walk home seem to stretch on forever. It didn’t help that she jumped at every sound, every shadow. So help her, she almost impaled an owl that swooped low over her unexpectedly.

By the time she saw her house, all she wanted to do was crawl into bed and pull the covers over her head.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be. Her mom must have been waiting up for her, because as soon as she reached the top of the stairs, the door to the master bedroom opened and her mom stepped out, looking safe and warm and comforting in her fluffy bathrobe.

“How was it, sweetie?”

Her question chilled Buffy to the bone, and it was all she could do not to vomit.

“It was a night I’ll never forget,” she replied.

Her mom smiled and walked over to her. “I know you didn’t want to go, but you did. I’m so proud of you, Buffy,” she said, kissing Buffy on the cheek. “I love you.”

Tears pricked behind Buffy’s eyes, but she refused to let them fall. “I love you, too, mom.”

She managed to choke out a good night before she fled to her room.

Xander had pulled her out of the water. He had saved her life. So why did it still feel like she was drowning?


+++

She was dying. She was dying, and there was nothing she could to stop it. Even worse, she was dying with the knowledge that her death had singlehandedly brought on the apocalypse.

As she began to slip into unconsciousness, she wondered what she could have done differently. Maybe she could have taken the offensive long before this and made Angel take her down to the Master’s lair. Or maybe she could have saved the Anointed One instead of worrying about her date with Owen.

Then again, maybe neither would have worked. But… she should have tried, if only to save that boy. The thought of how he must have felt when he had been attacked hurt her as much as the Master’s bite did.

Her last thought before she died was the way his small, cold hand felt in hers as he led her to the Master’s lair...

With a strangled gasp, Buffy bolted upright in her bed, her breath coming in huge, heaving pants.

She needed air. Frantically, she scrambled out of bed and threw her window open with so much force, she could hear the frame creak and groan, though honestly, she could’ve cared less if she had brought the whole house down. It wasn’t until she managed to take a few deep breaths that she began to calm down.

That was when she spotted Angel standing on the sidewalk below, looking up at her with a strange expression. She felt heartbeat picked up again – and not in the good way.

She raced out her door and down the stairs as quietly as she could. By the time she wrenched the front door open, Angel was standing at the bottom of stairs.

“What’s going on? Is everything okay?” she asked in a near panic as she joined him. “Is Giles—”

Angel quickly nodded. “Everything is fine,” he assured her. “Giles is home, safe and sound. He asked me to patrol the area. I was just about to head home, but I…I wanted to make sure you’re okay first.”

Buffy felt all her breath whoosh out, and she practically collapsed on the bottom step, her head in her hands. After a few beats, she felt Angel sit down next to her.

She took one more deep breath before she looked over at him.

“Thank you for helping tonight, and for coming for me down there,” she said quietly.

If she hadn’t been so used to watching him, to interpreting his every look, trying to find meaning in the mystery, she would have missed it. But she knew him very well. She saw the flicker of guilt in his eyes, even though the rest of his face remained impassive.

“What’s going on, Angel?” she demanded.

But he stayed silent.

Buffy folded her arms across her chest, clearly indicating that she wasn’t going to let this go.

After a very long pause, he sighed.

“Xander didn’t tell you? I thought for sure he would’ve jumped at the chance…” His muttering trailed away as looked down at the ground.

Buffy was getting annoyed. “Tell me what, Angel?”

There was another lengthy pause before he looked up at her, the expression on his face almost pleading. “You have to understand. It was prophesized, Buffy. I didn’t think— I thought—”

At first, Buffy didn’t understand what he was saying. Slowly, though, the pieces fell into place.

He hadn’t come for her. Xander had, and somehow he had managed to drag Angel along.

Abruptly, she got to her feet.

“Buffy,” Angel said, a little desperately.

But she just ignored him and started to walk back up the steps. She had only managed to make it past the first one when Angel reached out and grabbed her hand in an attempt to make her stay.

Buffy pulled her hand away with a strangled gasp. It was cold, just like the Anointed One’s had been when he had led her to the Master’s Lair to her death.

She knew she had overreacted, and sure enough, a hurt look immediately appeared on Angel’s face. Though she felt bad about that, a larger part of her was angry with him, with the entire situation, and she was done with it all.

Before Angel could say another word, she rushed back into her house and shut the door on him. And in her heart of hearts, she knew it was possibly forever.


+++

Angel didn’t leave right away. She could feel it. And she didn’t care. She simply shut her window and turned her back to it, staring at the wall until she finally drifted back to sleep.

It was a restless sleep, though, plagued continually with nightmares. The worst was when she dreamt that the Master was somehow resurrected and stronger than ever. It was almost a relief when she woke up a few hours later, even if it was because there was a strange tapping sound at her window.

Her first thought that it was Angel, and it made her mad. Besides the fact that it was annoyingly creepy, she just didn’t want to deal with him yet.

As she glanced over at the window, however, she noticed two things; the first was that the sun was about to rise any minute now, which meant that it wasn’t Angel. The second was that whatever it was, it had a very small silhouette, one that was definitely not human-shaped; a cat, she thought.

With a sigh, Buffy got out of bed. She half-expected the animal to bolt just at that, but to her disappointment, it didn’t budge. Her patience wearing more than a little thin, she stalked toward the window, intent on shooing the cat away by whatever means necessary.

The only problem was that, as she drew closer, she realized it wasn’t a cat. It was an owl, one that looked suspiciously like the one she had almost staked just a few hours ago. Not only that, but it was staring at her, almost as if it was ticked off that she was taking so long.

Buffy stopped in her tracks, suddenly unsure of what to do. A cat she could handle. But an owl? She wasn’t so sure, especially when said owl was acting as strangely as this one was.

As she tried to figure out what she should do, the owl turned to the side a little and held out its leg, glaring at her the entire time.

Buffy’s eyes widened in surprise.

There was a piece of paper tied to its leg, one that had her name written on it.

What the heck?

Curiosity overwhelming her caution, she closed the distance and opened the window. Clicking its beak in what she could only assume was approval, the owl hopped inside and waited.

Frowning, Buffy started to untie the piece of paper.

“Just so you know, this rates as one of the strangest things I’ve ever done,” she told the bird. “And that’s saying a lot.”

The owl clicked its beak again. This time there was no mistaking it; she could definitely detect a note of disdain in its response.

“So you do this every day then?” she shot back.

In response, the owl turned and flew away, though not before giving her one last look of owlish scorn.

Buffy stared after it for a moment. If she wasn’t mistaken, she had just had an argument with an owl. And she had lost.

Though she suddenly had the urge to throw a stake and show the little feathered jerk just who exactly had the last laugh, she resisted, deciding to focus on the piece of paper in her hand instead.

Her eyebrows shot up in surprise as she looked it over.

It was a note. From Giles. Asking her to come to his place as soon as possible.

Buffy rushed around her room, throwing on clothes as quickly as she could. Then she quickly scribbled a note to her mom, saying that she was going out to breakfast with Willow then shopping, before she bolted out the door.

As she raced toward Giles’ apartment, she tried to figure out what was up. Was this a trap? If it was, Giles was in danger, because that note was written in his handwriting on his personal stationery. If it wasn’t, well, then he had a lot of explaining to do, starting with his secret life as an owl whisperer.

+++

A/N: This was the last jump through time, I swear. The story will settle into this time period from here on in; I make no such promises for the POV, however. :)

Also, the first two lines of dialogue are from Prophecy Girl (as if you didn’t know!).
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