: I hold no rights over copyrighted material. All Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Doctor Who characters are the property of their original creators. Ria, Seo, Mark, Mindy, and the various demons featured in this work, however, are mine.
The only thing worse than being perception-filter-style ignored for a year… was the moment the perception-filter stopped working.
… not only was Dawn's life going to hell.
Hell could see her.
"Dawn, why did you do that?" Xander shouted at her, through her earpiece, as she high-tailed it away from the cluster of demons that she'd just walked into the middle of. "It's broad daylight!"
Yeah, which would have been easy with the perception filter.
She'd just forgotten it wasn't working, anymore.
"I was trying to overhear what they were saying about the Arengor of Tertestus!" Dawn shouted back at Xander. Zipped down a blind alley. "I think they might have found it!"
A scream, from behind her, and Dawn glanced over her shoulder — to find Ria and a group of Slayers descending onto the demon group, hacking and slashing. The Slayers had this down to a science, now. Traditional Demons didn't stand a chance.
Ria stared at Dawn. A little shocked.
Dawn was just as shocked.
"What are you
doing here?" they both cried.
"I was following the plan," Ria said. Shot Dawn a funny look. "Remember? Feeding them a false location for the Arengor of Tertestus, so we could corner them and take them out?"
"What?" cried Dawn. She immediately felt about ten times stupider. "When did you guys decide that?"
"At the last planning meeting," said Ria. "On Monday. Weren't you there?"
Because, as it turned out, Michael —Ria's personal secretary — had forgotten that Dawn existed, again. And left her out.
"I'm sorry," said Michael, when Dawn confronted him about it, back at the Institute. "It's just… sometimes it feels like you're never here."
Which was, as it turned out, exactly the same excuse Dawn's boyfriend, Hank, made, when she went home and caught him in bed with another woman.
"How can you expect my needs to be satisfied when you're never around?" Hank asked her.
That was a line to end any relationship.
Dawn threw him out.
Sat down on her couch, head in her hands. Here she was. Being marginalized out of her job. With no more boyfriend. Her regular friends had basically forgotten her existence. And her best friend — the one who hadn't
forgotten her — was about to get married.
For the first time since she left Sunnydale… Dawn felt truly alone.
"…but I passed the tests!" Seo complained, as she left her ship. She turned on her mother. "I thought if I passed the tests, that gave me the right to run around time and space, by myself, as a fully qualified Time Lady." She grimaced. Then whispered, "And don't tell my father I'm calling myself a Time Lady, or he'll kill me."
Buffy came out of the ship, hands massaging her temples. "Yeah, that's if you'd aced the tests and been very obviously responsible and non-trouble-makery," she sighed. "But since that's obviously not the case, you need… supervision."
"Then I'll take Alison."
Seo crossed her arms. "But… that's not fair!" she whined. "What's the point in traveling around time and space when you have to do it with your mom?! That's not cool! That's just… weird."
Buffy gave a slow nod. "So hanging out with me on Earth is cool," she clarified, "but hanging out with me in time and space is… not cool?"
Buffy sighed. Yeah. Okay. Whatever, Seo.
Seo looked off into the distance, a frown on her face. Then her eyes lit up. "Oh! Can I take Jack? Traveling with Jack would be cool!"
For a few moments Buffy couldn't speak.
"What?!" Buffy shouted. She waved her hands in the air. "Are you seriously saying that Jack's cooler than I am?!"
Seo cringed. "Well… um…" She shrugged. "A bit."
"I'm a legendary Vampire-Slayer-apocalypse-preventer!" Buffy said. "That's very cool!"
"It's… Earth-style cool," Seo said.
Buffy had no idea what that meant.
"Yeah, well… you can't take Jack," Buffy decided. "Because Jack will make you take Ianto, and there's no way I'm going to let you… be… constantly exposed to the kinds of things they'd be getting up to in your ship."
Seo looked on at Buffy, totally blankly. "What does Jack like doing with Ianto?"
"And on that note," said Buffy, shutting the door to Seo's ship, "it's time for a wedding."
"If it were me," said Amanda, wielding the wedding bouquet, "I'd just do something like…" She somersaulted across the ground, then launched into a flip-kick, thrusting the bouquet downwards as if it were a weapon. "Right down his throat!"
Mindy sighed, grabbing the bouquet from Amanda. "Not if it's a Trotosort demon," she said, waving it, pointedly. "Their mouths are in weird places. You'd have to be more like this!"
She dove into a series of low kick high punch things, jamming the flowers down low in an instant where her invisible adversary's guard was down.
The flowers were yanked from her hand by the most recent passer-by.
"Or," said Ria, with an admonishing gaze, "you could save the heroics for the battlefield, and not practice during the preparations for a wedding celebration."
Mindy and Amanda both looked a little shame-faced.
"And anyways," Ria said, "you don't shove a wedding bouquet into a Trotosort Demon's mouth
"Of course not," came a voice from down the hall. "Trotosort demon? They're all with the hay-fever. Shove a bouquet at its nose, and you can take him out while he's sneezing his head off." A shudder. "Except the battlefield becomes a pretty nasty snotfest. That wasn't one of my better days."
They all turned around. Ria's face lighting up in a delighted smile, as she turned to greet her latest guests.
"Buffy, Seo," she said, strolling over. "You came!" She stopped, just in front of them. "When I heard you were time traveling, I'd pretty much written you both off."
Whatever witty retort Buffy had to this died on her lips, as she saw Ria, again. Ria, with her arm in a sling, nasty burn-marks all across the left side of her body, and a scar running down the right side of her face.
Ria seemed to notice, too.
"Saxon," Ria explained, with a sigh. She shook her head. "Suppose I'm lucky to be alive. President Winters wasn't."
Seo went very still.
Buffy recovered herself. Planting a smile on her face. "It's barely noticeable," she said. "You look totally great. I mean, if you just—"
"I know what I look like," Ria cut in, an edge to her voice. She took a deep breath, her eyes meeting Buffy's. "The scarring… is permanent. Everyone says so." She gestured at her face. "Some 'blushing bride' I turned out to be."
Buffy faltered. Not sure what to say to this.
"Amazing, huh?" said Ria. "Toclafane were only around for a few minutes. Invasion was foiled before it even started." She gave a half shrug. "And it's still done all this to me. Ruined everything."
Buffy nodded. Gravely. "It's… not just you," she said. "You should talk to the Jones family, back in London. I have no idea what the Master did to them, in the few hours before he got stopped, but they're seriously traumatized."
And then there was Seo, who'd been acting weird even by her standards.
Buffy was worried about her.
"Funny how, sometimes, the easy-to-stop invasions can be even worse than the impossible-to-stop ones," Ria agreed.
Seo sprung forwards, a delighted beam on her face that seemed completely out of place with the conversation. "Is Aunt Dawn around?" she cried. "I call her Aunt Dawn, now. Because Mom said I couldn't call her 'the Good Dawn' and me 'the Evil Dawn'. I should find Aunt Dawn. That'd be brilliant, to catch up with Aunt Dawn. Don't you think?"
Then ran off.
Buffy looked after her. Worry creasing her face.
"Actually, while Seo's away," Ria told Buffy, leading her towards her office with her good arm, "there is
something I wanted to talk to you about. In private."