~~~ ~~~ ~~~
Anya left before my mom came home again. We talked for two hours, trying to figure out what to do. Since she was all demony again, she was taken care of in ways that were apparently too complicated to explain. In short, she still had an apartment and imaginary funds to do normal human things with. She could make up whatever she needed, though Anya didn’t like the ‘fake money’. She wanted to find out if she could get her real money again.
In addition to tracking down her lost income, Anya was going to see what else she could find out about what Halfrek did. If she could, she’d see if it could be undone, but she didn’t hold out hope. Anya was also going to see if she could find Tara and Spike, and more about Giles.
It bothered me a little that she hadn’t looked for Tara before, but I guess they were never that close. Not really. I wondered if Anya really felt close to anyone beside Xander, and how she felt with being stuck with just me.
I wasn’t sure how I felt with being stuck with Anya. She was familiar, which was good, but she was also the least familial of everyone who had taken care of me when Mom and Buffy were gone.
I missed Tara and hoped Anya could find her soon. Not that she’d know who I was, but I’d feel better if I knew she existed. After all, I already negated Willow. I don’t know what I would do if Tara was gone too.
When Anya left, I rinsed out the trashcan then turned on the computer on my desk. It seemed that this reality had a World Wide Web like the last one, and I wanted to make sure Willow was really gone. A few newspaper searches later showed that Shelia Rosenberg died after being eviscerated by a wereleopard. Ew. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything other than a werewolf, and technically I never actually met Oz.
I remembered him, of course, but I never saw him all wolfy and caged up. Werewolves here weren’t caged up. They had societies and everything, called packs. And it wasn’t just the wolves. Cats of all sorts, birds, even snakes.
Halfrek really went all out.
If I saw her again I’d have to sucker punch her. This was too much. Not only were there all sorts of wereanimals, but the vampires were all sorts of wrong. Though, I guess that was my fault. The world was now populated with thousands of Dracula wannabes. Why couldn’t I learn to keep my mouth shut?
I sighed and turned off the monitor.
I’d read the journals, surfed a bit, and maybe now I should go read the newspapers. I shuffled down the stairs again and went to dig the newspaper out of the recycling bin.
There was a picture of a tiny, black haired woman on the front, something about vampire executioners having to be licensed now, not just as bounty hunters, in most parts of the country. California was debating a similar bill in the legislature. The vampire hunter on the front page was all smiles, part of the first group to be formally licensed and not just bounty hunters. Much younger than I would have expected, it seemed that whatever reality we were in the Powers That Be wanted young women to go kill vampires. The lady couldn’t be more than 22 or so, nearly Buffy’s age. She looked so proud, but there was something darker in her eyes.
It reminded me of Willow when she was having a bad day.
I turned the page quickly. More articles on supernatural crimes, though not as many as I would have expected. I guess if the extraordinary was everyday, people would forget to comment on it.
I opened the fridge and poked around for some pickles. The brand name label looked different, colored with yellow and blue as opposed to black.
I wondered just how much work these reality altering things took. Such detail, such small changes. Did it have all to do with Halfrek like I had thought, or was some of it me? We always thought being the Key was gone after Glory was destroyed, but a lot of that was wanting it to be gone.
If it was gone then we didn’t have to worry about me anymore. If it wasn’t gone, well, I think Buffy would have fallen apart even more when she came back.
I looked at the pictures on the fridge, bright happy ones of Mom and Buffy and me at the beach, all squinting in the sun. Buffy’s hair was blowing in the ocean breeze and Mom looked carefree. She looked like she had before she found out Buffy was the Slayer and nightmares were real.
Maybe if the nightmares were always real, then things weren’t so bad.
I looked at more pictures- some of me when I was younger, finger paints smeared all over my face, eating a jalapeno and banana sandwich, making sandcastles with empty coffee cans. All ordinary things, all fake things. What’s new?
I pushed the pictures around under the magnets looking for more clues to my life. Under one particularly smashing one of Buffy in a tiara looking like the prom queen she always wanted to be, I found another picture. It was of a party, with people smiling and laughing. Above the crowd was a sign that said “Congratulations On Your Engagement!!” Underneath it my mother was hugging a tall man with a bright white smile.
My mother was engaged?
~~~ ~~~ ~~~
When Mom came home I met her at the door. She smiled that frazzled-mom smile and handed me a bag from the drugstore.
“Here you go. It’s got your prescriptions in it as well as toilet paper for your bathroom. Go ahead and take it upstairs and come down for dinner. What do you say to hamburgers and tater tots?”
What did I need prescriptions for? I didn’t need them before the ‘w’ word. She handed me the bag, but I couldn’t get a good look at her hand. If she was engaged she’d have a ring, right?
She was already headed to the kitchen and I was tempted to just dump the bag on the stairs and leave it. But mom hated that and I didn’t want to make her mad on the first day with her around again. I dashed up the stairs and back again, sliding to a stop in the kitchen.
The refrigerator was open with Mom bending down to fish things from the crisper. Her left hand was wrapped around the door handle, but there was no ring on the ring finger. How odd. Did that mean it wasn’t her engagement party?
She began telling me all about the new show, the problems with finding just the right light to accentuate the fertility statues without making them look too obscene, that sort of thing. I listened halfheartedly, still trying to check out her other hand. Nothing.
If it wasn’t Mom, who was it? And how did I ask?
“So, um, what’s the plan for the weekend? Do you have anything planned for Friday or Saturday night?” Those were date nights, and if she had a date, wouldn’t it be then?
“No, not that I know of. Want to go to a movie?” She unwrapped some ground beef and formed it into patties.
“Uh, sure. Whatever is playing is fine by me.” I frowned. That didn’t go where I thought it would. I tried again. “I was looking through the pictures on the fridge. That was a fun party, the engagement one, wasn’t it?”
Mom gave me a funny look as she washed her hands. “You weren’t there Dawnie. You had one of your episodes and had to miss your sister’s party. Buffy was furious.”
“Are you sure you’re feeling better?” She laid the back of her hand on my forehead. It felt divine. “When Riley and Buffy got engaged last month you were dealing with a whole troop of recently deceased football players.”
I couldn’t help a strangled cough. My sister was engaged. As a junior in college. Okay, things were officially freaky. While it was nice to see her happy again, this was getting ridiculous. Did Halfrek even know Buffy and Riley? Or was this some sort of massive cosmic joke?
Wait, Mom mentioned deceased football players. I wondered if this was related to the Haley Joel Osmond issue I read about in my journals. “Right. Those football players were a pain, weren’t they?”
My mom gave me another strange look and added dried onions to the pan, worry flickering across her face. “Their bus crashed less than a mile from your school. Their recently departed souls came streaming into your math class and wouldn’t leave you alone. You eventually had to leave and go to Catherine’s house to get them banished from your sight. It gave you a migraine that lasted three days and was so intense we had to take you to the hospital. I would say, yes, they were a pain.”
I frowned. That would be what the medications were for then. This ‘I see dead people’ thing was sounding less and less fun. About as much fun as Buffy getting engaged. Will surreal wonders never cease? I tried to be nonchalant when I asked, “So, when’s the wedding again?”
“When Buffy graduates, of course. No daughter of mine will be married in college.” Mom sighed. “I just wish she didn’t push the issue. I think Riley will make a fine son-in-law, but sometimes I want Buffy to stay a little girl longer. Though, at least she’s doing a degree that will result in a real job when she’s done. I’m not sure I’d want to be a high school guidance counselor, but it’s what she’s dying to do.”
Buffy a high school counselor? That’s just wrong. She’s about as qualified to do that as I am to juggle trout. Not going to happen.
This new life was taking some getting used to. But there were perks. A happy Buffy. A healthy Mom. But was it worth the price?