Title: The Summers of Our Discontent
Author: Gaeriel Mallory
Disclaimer: Buffy and all related characters are the property of Josh Whedon and Mutant Enemy. X-men is the property of Marvel Comics.
Summary: After her mother's death, Dawn gets sent to the school where her cousin teaches.
Continuity: Buffy - Everything up to Joyce's death. After that, it's AU. X-men - A weird blending of various elements from the movie and the comics. Based mainly on the movie, however. The only real noticable change from the movies is that Jean and Scott are married.
* * * * * * * * * *
Buffy Summers stared at her father in shock. “What?!?”
Hank Summers looked at her eldest daughter. “I’m sorry, Buffy. I know how much you two love each other, but face it. You’re only twenty, barely an adult yourself. How can you take care of Dawn?”
She glared at her father. “I’ve been taking care of her just fine! You don’t need to ship her off to some boarding school all the way across the country.”
“Buffy, there is no way that you can take care of a fourteen year old. You’re still in college for God’s sake. And I’m away all the time on business. Look, this is for the best. Your cousin teaches at the school as at least she’ll have family.”
“I’m her family.” Her chin clenched. More family than you ever were
, she thought spitefully.
“And I’m her father. You’re only her sister.”
Mentally, Buffy snorted. Right, *only* her sister who moonlights as the Slayer and who is the one person keeping her safe.
“I won’t let you do this. Sunnydale is Dawn’s home. All her friends are here; you can’t just take her away!”
Hank shook his head. “Buffy, I wish there was another way, but this is for the best. Look, Scott and his wife are flying in tonight. Try to be civil, at least, please?”
She got up from her seat without answering her father and walked out of the house. She had to talk to Giles.
* * *
Dawn jumped up from her seat on Giles’ couch. “No! I’m not leaving!”
The former Watcher took off his glasses and sighed as he rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Dawn, he is your father, and therefore has legal guardianship over you.”
“I’m not even real! I don’t exist, remember? I don’t have a father!”
Buffy walked over and hugged her sister. “Everything is going to be all right. I won’t let them take you away from me.” She looked down at Dawn’s tear-streaked face. “If I have to, I’ll follow you to that school in New York.”
Giles bit back an exclamation at the thought of the Slayer leaving the Hellmouth undefended. “There is another thing to consider.” When the two Summers sisters looked at him, he added, “Glory.”
Buffy’s lips tightened at the mention of the insane hell goddess. “What about her?”
“She’s after the Key. It might be safer for Dawn if there was a continent between the two.”
“You mean you’re just going to let Dawn be taken away from me? Whatever happened to protecting her? How can I protect her when I’m here and she’s in New York?” Buffy glared at Giles.
“You can protect her by defeating Glory once and for all. Once she’s dead, then Dawn can come back here. But so long as Dawn is in Sunnydale, there is the chance that Glory will realize just what form the Key is in.”
“Stop talking about me like I’m not here! But oh wait, that’s right. I’m not real, am I?” Dawn ran out of the apartment, slamming the door behind her.
* * *
Scott Summers exited the rental car and looked over at his wife, Jean Grey. She smiled at him. “Nervous?”
“I haven’t seen them in years. And the fact that I’m here for their mother’s funeral and then to take one of them away…I wouldn’t be surprised if they hate me.”
Jean hugged him with one arm as they walked up the pathway to the house. “They won’t hate you. Resent you, possibly, for what you’re going to do, but they’ll get over it. They’re only children.”
“Buffy’s not a child.”
“But she is young. She’ll learn that you mean well.” She kissed him on the cheek. “If anything, she’ll probably be more mad at her father than at you. After all, this wasn’t your idea.”
He sighed as he rang the doorbell. “I hope you’re right. And I hope that Dawn can adjust to what the Institute really is.”
The door opened at a dark haired man looked out. “Scott? Is that you? I thought you weren’t coming until tonight!”
“We caught an earlier flight. Uncle Hank,” Scott hugged his uncle. “It’s been a long time.”
Hank opened the door wider. “Come in! Where are your bags?”
“In the car. We were planning on getting a hotel--”
His uncle cut him off. “Nonsense. You’re staying here. You’re family, after all.”
Buffy walked in from the other room talking on the phone. “Yeah, Cordy. There’s plenty of room here. It’ll be a tight squeeze but Dawn and I can share.” Seeing the two newcomers, her face turned expressionless and she turned around and walked back into the kitchen. “Ok, I’ll see all of you tonight then.”
Scott and Jean exchanged glances. “Are you sure, Uncle Hank? I mean, this is Buffy’s house and it sounds like she’s having people stay here too. It would be no trouble…”
Hank cut him off again. “You’re family. Buffy’s friends can stay here or somewhere else, but there’s no way I’m letting my nephew get a room in those cheap motels they have in this town.”
“I don’t want to intrude…”
“You won’t. I’ll help you get your bags.” Hank Summers than walked out the door leaving Scott and Jean to follow.
* * *
Dawn found Spike getting drunk at his crypt. “Spike?” She gently tapped him on the shoulder.
He rolled bloodshot eyes at her. “Oh, it’s you. What do you want?”
She looked at the vampire. “Are you all right?”
Spike looked at his flask in disgust. “No, little bit, I’m not all right. Tomorrow, my friend is going to be buried.” He took a long drag from the flask.
Dawn reached over and took the flask from him. “This isn’t the answer.”
“You’ve been hanging around your do-gooder sis too long,” he complained but he made no move to reclaim the container. He stared at the stone wall for a long time, not talking. Finally, he spoke up. “How are you holding up?”
Dawn played with the flask in her hands. “I’ve been better. Dad wants to send me to some school in New York. Doesn’t think Buffy can take care of me.”
“Why can’t the bloke take care of you himself?”
She snorted. “Dad? Yeah right. Having a daughter around will just cut into his time to chase women.”
“Sounds like a real winner, your pop.”
“Oh yeah. He’s father of the year.” Dawn felt a tear slid down her cheek. “I don’t want to leave.”
“Why not?” Spike looked at her. “Seems to me that at least you’ll be safe from Glory.”
Dawn threw the flask against the wall. Spike started. “Hey, watch that! I’ve had that for fifty years!”
“I’m sick and tired of people trying to tell me what I should do to stay safe! What about what I want? All everyone seems to care about is that I’m some stupid Key and that if Glory gets me, the world goes to hell.” She whirled around and shouted, “It’s not fair!”
Spike gently enveloped her in a hug. “I know it’s not fair, nibblet. But sometimes, that’s the way it is.” He held her as she cried into his leather jacket. He stared mournfully into space. “That’s just the way it is,” he repeated.
* * *
“Buffy, where’s Dawn?”
She glared at her father. “What? Now you care about your daughter? Too bad you’re shipping her off to New York so that you don’t have to think about her again.”
“Buffy, please don’t do this,” Hank begged.
“Don’t do what? Don’t tell you what a terrible father you’ve been? Don’t make you realize that you don’t even remember that you have children most of the time? Or maybe don’t make you feel guilty that the only reason you’re here visiting is because Mom is dead and her funeral’s tomorrow! What the hell don’t you want me to do?” Her voice had been rising and her hands clenched into fists. She jumped when she felt a hand on her shoulder. She whirled around, grabbed the hand and slammed Scott into the wall.
When she realized what she had done, she let him go. “Don’t sneak up on me,” she warned him before pushing past Jean to leave the kitchen.
Scott rubbed his shoulder and winced. “That’s some daughter you have there.” He adjusted his red-tinted glasses.
Hank sighed and shook his head. “She’s right. I’m a terrible father.”
Jean spoke up. “Buffy was angry and she lashed out. She has gone through so much and there’s so much frustration in her.”
“Doesn’t make her any less right.” Hank sat down at the island in the middle of the kitchen and put his head on his hands. “Where did I go wrong?”
“I can’t answer that for you, Mr. Summers. Only you can.” Jean took her husband’s hand and led him out of the room, leaving Hank alone with his thoughts.
* * *
Night had fallen and Buffy was itching to go out and kill something. She had to wait for Angel and Cordelia to arrive, though, before she could patrol. She was worried about Dawn; she still had not come home yet. Sunnydale was not a town you wanted to be out in after dark.
The doorbell rang and she got up to answer it. When she saw Xander, Willlow, Anya, and Tara on the other side, she nearly cried. Xander hugged her. “Thought we’d come and give you some moral support when Deadboy gets here.”
“Thanks, guys. This means a lot.”
Willow smiled. “We’re friends. This is what we do. ‘Sides, I want to see just how much Cordelia’s changed first hand. I wouldn’t believe it otherwise.”
Buffy gave a watery chuckle as they moved to the living room. She had just sat down when she heard the door open again. “Anyone home?” Giles’ voice called out.
“In here,” she answered. He walked into the room and took a seat next to Buffy on the couch.
“So, I take it that everyone had the same idea?”
Anya nodded. “Yup. Moral support for Buffy so that when she sees her old boyfriend who she turned evil when they had sex and then sent to hell…”
Xander broke in. “Anya…tact, remember?”
Buffy smiled a little. “It’s all right, Xander,” she said, even though Anya’s words had just increased her nervousness.
Scott poked his head into the room. “Hi! You must be Buffy’s friends,” he said cheerfully. When Buffy made no move to introduce him, he walked into the room. “I’m her cousin Scott.”
Giles shook his hand. “It’s a pleasure. Rupert Giles.” The others added their own introductions as Buffy studiously ignored her cousin.
Finally, Giles sighed at her. “Buffy? Are you all right? Aren’t you going to say something to Scott?”
She looked up and started to open her mouth when the doorbell rang again. “That must be Angel.” She ran out of the room.
Scott looked after her. “It’s all right,” he told Giles. “Thanks for trying.”
The Watcher shook his head. “She should at least be civil to you.”
“I can’t say that she has much cause to be. To her, I’m the embodiment of all that she has gone through these past few months with her mother. She lost Aunt Joyce, and now here I am to take Dawn away from her too.”
Xander coughed. “Yeah, about that…Do you really have to? I mean, we love Dawnie. We can take care of her real good here.”
Scott shook his head ruefully. “It’s not my decision. It’s Uncle Hank’s.”
Buffy reentered the room followed by three people: two men and a woman. “I think you know everyone here except for Tara,” she told them. The blond witch waved shyly at the trio. “Tara, this is Angel, Cordelia, and Wesley.”
Giles cleared his throat and stared pointedly at her. Buffy sighed and waved in Scott’s general direction. “And that’s my cousin Scott.”
Turning back to the L.A. trio, she remarked, “Hope you don’t mind sleeping on the floor. My dad decided to have some unexpected houseguests.”
Angel glanced over at Scott. “No, it’s fine, Buffy. Don’t worry about it.”
“Yeah, well, the funeral’s tomorrow night so there’s no problem with anyone attending. I had to pull a few strings, but it worked out. You can just grab your bags and I’ll show you to your rooms.” She walked up the stairs and after smiling at everyone, the three followed.
Almost immediately, Buffy returned downstairs wearing a leather jacket. “I’m going out,” she called into the living room.
Scott frowned. “This late?” he asked her.
She smirked. “It’s a small town. What could happen?” She then walked out the front door.
* * *
Spike had insisted on walking Dawn home. She tried to be annoyed at his overprotectiveness, but in reality, she enjoyed his company. They walked in silence through the darkened streets. Finally stopping in front of the Summers house, Spike turned to the girl. “Do you want me to come in with you, pet?”
Dawn fidgeted a bit. “Would you? I don’t know if I can face Buffy and Giles after what I said to them.”
The vampire laid a hand on her shoulder. “Not to worry, love. It will all come out right in the end.”
Dawn opened the door and opened it quietly. She heard voices in the other room; she recognized those of the Scoobies and she headed into the living room. Angel was sitting on the floor but he jumped up when he saw her. “Dawn!” He hugged her before looking down at her face. “How are you doing?”
She shrugged. “Been better.”
Angel looked past her. “Spike.” His voice was carefully neutral.
“Poofster.” Spike mock saluted him. The souled vampire only glared in return.
“Where’s Buffy?” Dawn looked around for her sister.
“She went out.” Scott frowned as he took in the disreputable looking man who had come in with his younger cousin. “And you are?”
“Spike to you, four-eyes.” The vampire sneered. Dawn hit him lightly before turning to her cousin. “Hey, Scott.”
Spike cleared his throat. “Well, I can see that everyone here is settled in so I’ll just head out. Maybe I’ll run into Buffy and help her kill something.” He disappeared out the door. Behind him, he heard Scott ask, “Kill something?”
* * *
The vampire got up off the ground and growled at her. “Yeah, come on. I’ve had a really bad day and beating you to a bloody pulp is making me feel better.” Buffy kicked the vampire in the head. “Releasing my frustrations and anger out on the undead population of Sunnydale. My psych professor would have said that I had unresolved issues.” She staked him and he turned to dust. “Too bad she’s dead.”
Putting her stake back into the pocket of her jacket, she continued down the street. She thought about what Giles had said earlier, about how Dawn would be safe in New York. She’s still my sister, and I was given a duty to protect her.
She kicked a rock that was lying on the ground and it shot up into the air and landed on the roof of a nearby building. Maybe the best way to protect her is to get her away from here,
, a nagging part of her mind whispered. Have you thought that maybe Giles was right? So long as she’s here and near you, she will always be in danger, simply because of who you are.Shut up
, she told the voice.
The voice, however, persisted. As long as Dawn’s here, she’s a liability. You’ll always be watching out for her. She deserves a normal life.
What had happened to her chance of a normal life? It had gone away when she was fifteen and Merrick had found her and put a stake into her hand. “This is your destiny,” he had told her. “You cannot renounce it. It will always be a part of you.”
Buffy hugged herself. There will be no more completely carefree nights for her. No giggling with friends over cute guys or spending hours on the phone talking about nothing. No--normal was not for Buffy Summers.
But maybe she could give Dawn a chance at it. She headed for the butcher’s. She’ll pick up some blood for Angel before heading home.
* * *
Scott and Jean were sitting out on the front steps when Buffy got back home. “You know, you really should stay indoors at night,” she told them.
Her cousin looked up at her. “I thought you said this was a small town. ‘What can happen,’ remember?”
She shrugged as she gracefully sat down on the walkway, putting the bag with the container of pig’s blood down beside her. “So I might have exaggerated.” She felt the wooden stake in her pocket poke into her side and she adjusted her jacket. “About earlier, I want to apologize about how I acted.”
Jean looked at her with bright green eyes. “We’re here to take your sister away from you. It’s only natural that you would be ambivalent towards us.”
“And it sure didn’t help that Uncle Hank invited us to stay here, in your home, without talking to you first.”
Buffy shrugged again and looked at the ground. “It’s not your fault. I’ve been really stressed out lately over everything and…well…it’s still no excuse. Bottom line, I was rude to you and I’m sorry.”
Scott nodded. “Apology accepted. Now, I think you should head back inside before Angel kills your father. Uncle Hank hasn’t exactly been the most polite to your friends.”
Buffy picked up the bag again and got up. Smiling slightly, she said, “I suppose I should. He is my dad, like it or not.” She headed inside.
Jean reached over and put an arm around Scott’s waist. “What are you thinking about, honey?”
“About the unfairness of life. They have a deadbeat for a father and their mother just died; and now they’re going to be separated. It’s just not right.” He shook his head, causing a lock of hair to fall over his glasses.
She reached out and tucked the hair back into place. “The same could be said of you. Both your parents died and you were shuffled around from orphanage to foster home to orphanage when you were younger. You were separated from your bother. And then you discovered you could shoot beams out of your eyes. It seems to me that you’ve gone through just as much if not more than Buffy and Dawn. They’ll survive. You did, and your experiences helped form the man I fell in love with.” She kissed his cheek.
He looked at her. “Have you been looking into their heads? Do you know what they really think of me?”
She shook her head. “It would be betraying their trust.” She got up and dusted off the seat of her pants. “You coming back inside?”
“In a minute. I want to think a bit.”
She smiled as she opened the door. “Don’t stay out too late.” She went inside and shut the door behind her.
* * *
Spike wandered the streets, taking a sip from his metal flask every few steps. “You hate me, don’t you?” he asked the Powers that Be. “I’ve been alive for two hundred years, and in that time, I’ve found one person who treated me like I was normal. One! And then you take her away.” He took another gulp and let the brandy slide down his throat, savoring the fiery path it left in its wake.
“Why?” he screamed at the sky. “Is this punishment for all that I’ve done over the centuries?” He kicked a mailbox and it broke into two.
“Because if it is, then you’re punishing the wrong people. The Slayer doesn’t deserve this! She’s on your bloody side! And Dawn! It’s not fair to her. She just found out that she’s not even real! Well screw you! All of you! You can take your sodding Powers and stick them up your ass!”
The vampire lay on the ground and put his head in his hands, sobbing.
“Hey, buddy, are you all right?” A hand gently shook his shoulder. Spike looked up and blinked blurrily. His vision swam for a moment before focusing onto the worried face of Scott Summers.
“Hey, four-eyes,” he said before letting his face fall onto the ground again. He heard Scott sigh and felt the other man help him up.
“Come on. Let’s get you inside.”
The vampire looked around him and saw that he had somehow ended up on Buffy’s street again. The mailbox he had killed had belonged to one of her neighbors. “Oh shit,” he muttered. “She’s going to kill me.”
“Who’s going to kill you?” Scott asked as he half-carried Spike towards the Summers house.
“Buffy.” Spike said. “Has this little thing against me breaking stuff.”
Scott chuckled. “Do you break a lot of stuff?”
“Oh sure; it’s fun. But Buffy always stops me; bloody Slayer.”
“Oh, yeah. Sure. The Chosen One. The one girl in each generation blah blah blah. Basically, the biggest party pooper in existence.”
“Sure.” Scott shook his head and laughed under his breath. People sure say the strangest things when they’re drunk.
“I mean, she never lets me kill anybody.” Spike snorted. “Right. She shacks up with the Scourge of Europe who has a higher body count than me yet kicks my ass when I even think about biting one insignificant person. Course, now with the bloody chip in my head, that’s not too much of a problem anymore.” His voice turned mournful. “But she still takes this perverse pleasure in hitting me any chance she gets.”
“The Slayer?” Scott maneuvered the inebriated vampire up the front steps.
“Yeah. Poor Slayer…After all that’s happened to her…” his voice trailed off and Scott realized that the other man had passed out.
“Great.” He turned the doorknob and shoved open the door. “A little help here?” he called into the house.
Buffy walked down the stairs and her face twisted into a look of disgust when she saw Spike. “Wonderful. He managed to drink himself into a stupor.”
“Um, Buffy, what do you want to do with him? He’s kinda heavy.” Scott struggled to keep a hold of Spike.
She took a hold of his other side and led Scott into the living room. “Just dump him on the couch,” she told her cousin. She then glared at the unconscious form draped over the sofa. “I can handle it from here.”
“Are you sure? Why don’t you go back to your friends upstairs and I can get him tucked in.”
She shook her head. “I’ll do it.”
Scott shrugged and went upstairs to the guest bedroom where he and Jean were staying. He walked past Dawn’s room and saw it full of Buffy’s friends. They were talking and sharing stories. He smiled and shook his head as he opened the door to his room. What I wouldn’t give to have a normal life like that, just for a moment.
* * *
After Scott went upstairs, she easily picked up the vampire and carried him into the basement. “I should leave you to get fried by the sun, you know,” she told him as she dumped him onto the air mattress that she had put out for Angel, who would now have to find another place to sleep.
She took off his jacket and his boots and laid a blanket over him. She looked down at him for a moment before smiling sadly. “I think you’re taking Mom’s death the hardest. Guess you do have a heart after all, Spike.”
She then headed back upstairs.
* * *
The next morning, Giles came over in order to cook breakfast for everyone. Buffy’s skills lay more in staking vampires, not cooking. He juggled the bag of groceries as he hunted for the key that Buffy had given him. Opening the back door, he was surprised to see Scott Summers and Jean Grey moving around the kitchen. Appetizing smells wafted through the air to where he stood.
“Oh, hello.” He stammered as he put the groceries on the island. “It seems that you had the same idea as I did.”
Scott flashed him a grin. “Pull up a chair. You can cut up vegetables for the omelets.”
Giles nodded as he took out a cutting board and knife. He set them down at the island and started unpacking the paper bag. Selecting a tomato from his early morning grocery trip, he started chopping.
One by one, people drifted downstairs to find the source of the smells that had wakened them from sleep. When Buffy walked in, she smiled at Giles before walking over and hugging her cousin. “Thanks, Scott,” she told him as she accepted an omelet. The Watcher nodded in approval as he observed the easy manner between the two. It seemed that they had patched things up between them.
Cordelia sauntered into the kitchen, still yawning. “He’s cute and he cooks,” she commented. “You’re one lucky woman,” she told Jean as she took a seat at the table. The red-haired woman just smiled and kissed her husband on the cheek.
“Where’s Angel?” Jean asked as she looked around the crowded kitchen. The vampire was the only one missing.
Wesley took a sip of his coffee. “He’s still sleeping. I’m afraid that he’s more of a night person than a day person.”
Scott poured more egg into the frying pan. “I’ll just make an omelet for him then. He can reheat it whenever he gets up.”
Buffy shook her head. “You’d just be wasting food. He won’t eat it.”
“Why not?” Scott looked over at his cousin, brushing hair away from his glasses.
“Um…well, he has a weak stomach. He has a mostly liquid diet.” Buffy mentally kicked herself. Smooth, Summers. Real smooth.
Scott shrugged. “Anyone want more?” he asked as he expertly flipped the egg over.
“I’ll take it.” Hank Summers held out his plate. He looked over at his eldest daughter. “Buffy, I hate to do this to you, but I’m going to have to leave just after the funeral tonight. There’s this big merger that is going down and I need to be in Greece by tomorrow.”
Buffy’s lips tightened and her hand clenched around her fork, warping the metal. “Running away again, Dad? Don’t worry; we’ve gotten used to it.” She slammed the fork down onto the counter and went over the refrigerator and pulled out a paper bag. “I’ll just give Angel his breakfast,” she informed the room at large before marching out of the room.
Hank shook his head. “I did it again, didn’t I?” He sighed and got up. “I think I’ll take a walk.” He opened the back door and left.
Awkward silence fell over the room. Dawn had been conspicuously silent throughout breakfast. She had toyed with her food and for the most part, her omelet lay untouched on her plate. Cordelia, who was sitting next to the girl, reached out and hugged her with one arm. “Come on, Dawnie. You’ve got to eat.”
Dawn put a bite into the mouth and chewed and swallowed. She then put down her fork and got up. “I’m done. I’m going to see how Spike’s doing.” She looked to Giles in question and the Brit just pointed towards the basement door. She smiled shakily and went downstairs.
“Poor child,” Jean commented as she stared after Dawn. “She’s gone through so much.”
Giles, Cordelia, and Wesley looked at each other. A common thought ran through their minds: She has no idea.
* * *
Jean and Scott had insisted on doing the dishes. They figured that the others would need some time to prepare for the funeral, both mentally and emotionally in addition to physically. Of the group, they had been the two who had known Joyce the least.
Jean frowned when she picked up the fork that Buffy had used. “Scott, look at this.”
He felt his eyes widen when he took in the damaged utensil. He took the fork from his wife and tried to bend it and failed. “How?”
“Could Buffy be a mutant?” Jean asked.
He shook his head in puzzlement. “I don’t know. There was never any sign of this when she was growing up, but then, I haven’t seen her in years. I suppose it’s possible…”
“You’re going to have to talk to her. If she is, Xavier’s Institute may be the best place for her.” She added gently, “At least she’ll be with her sister.”
He smiled slightly, still studying the fork. “There is that,” he murmured. He had been feeling guilty about having to split up Buffy and Dawn. “But Buffy’s an adult. She has a life here. She may not want to leave.”
“You’ll never know if you don’t ask her.” Jean took the fork back from Scott and tossed it in the trashcan. “Now, are you going to finish washing those dishes?”
* * *
Shortly before nightfall, Spike emerged from the basement, holding his head. He moaned at the light from the lamps and closed his eyes. “Someone stop the ringing.”
Buffy shoved a mug and a bottle of painkillers at him. She scowled at him. “Here. We’re going to be leaving soon. Try and make yourself presentable.”
The vampire glowered at the animal blood in the mug. He finally sighed and downed the red liquid followed by two aspirin.
Scott and Jean descended the stairs dressed soberly in black. “Ready?” the red head asked as she checked the contents of her purse.
Angel emerged from the living room and for a moment, Buffy stared at him, struck at his handsomeness. After a moment, she mentally shook herself. Not for you, Slayer. Never for you again
, she thought with regret. She checked to make sure she had several stakes on her person. The funeral was being held at night—and the trouble she had gone through to make that happen!—and there was always a chance of undead party crashers. It was part of the price of living on a Hellmouth.
The Scoobies were waiting outside, their features gloomy. Buffy hugged each one. “Thanks for coming,” she whispered.
The group headed for the cemetery.
* * *
Hank Summers watched as the coffin was lowered into the ground. He did not understand why his daughter had been so adamant about holding the interment after dark; cemeteries were creepy enough during the daytime, but at night?
He felt a wave of regret. He had tried to be a good husband and father. He had failed, miserably. Perhaps he had not deserved to succeed. Was not meant to. For a moment, he wondered what his life would have been like if there had been no divorce. Would he have been happy?
He would never know now.
* * *
Spike felt as if his long-dead heart had been ripped from his chest. Joyce had been his one true friend. When he had come back to Sunnydale after Dru had left him, Joyce had been there to comfort him. She had let him talk and talk over cups of hot cocoa.
He blinked, trying to hide back his tears. Joyce Summers--mother of the Slayer, friends with a vampire. There’s irony for you.
Life’s a bitch.
* * *
Giles wiped tears from his eyes. He and Joyce had not always been on the best of terms, especially after she had found out about Buffy being the Slayer. However, they had always shared a common kinship in their relationship with Buffy. He was the closest thing that she had to a father.I promise I’ll take care of her
, he vowed. I swear this.
* * *
Buffy felt the intense desire to hit something. This could not be happening; this could not be real. Her mother could not be dead. It was all a mistake. She would wake up and there would be Joyce, still alive and happy. It had to be a dream.
It had to.
Because her mother cannot be dead. She was supposed to be there for when she got married. She was supposed to be Grandma for her own children. She was supposed to not die, dammit!I’m supposed to watch over Dawn
, she thought, but who will watch over me?
Her tears fell to the ground.
* * *
Scott watched his eldest cousin out of the corner of his eye. She was biting her lip and clenching her fists, probably unaware she was doing so. Losing a parent is always hard. He knew that firsthand.
But things had turned out all right for him in the end. He had found a new family with the X-men, had fallen in love with Jean. He was happy.
He hoped that one day, Buffy would be happy again, too.
* * *I’m not real, so am I really feeling grief?
Dawn thought. She wasn’t my mother. I don’t have a mother. I’m just some ball of energy…
But balls of energy do not have emotions. They do not laugh, cry, or mourn.
Maybe she was real. She had to hold on to that, because otherwise, she would go insane. So Dawn grieved, and accepted herself.
* * *
Hank looked at his watch. “I’m sorry, but I have to go if I’m going to catch my plane.”
Buffy nodded without really hearing him. She was still staring at the freshly dug grave. How many times had she sat watch over graves, ready to stake newly risen vampires? But there would be no creature breaking out of the coffin and through the dirt from this grave. Only her mother’s body, lying there, slowly decaying.
She vaguely heard everyone bidding her father goodbye. She was lost in thought. When a hand fell on her shoulder, she jumped in shock.
“Buffy,” Giles’ quiet voice said. “We should get going.”
“You guys go ahead.” She looked around at her friends and family. “I’m uh…I feel like taking a walk.”
“Are you sure?” Scott asked as he opened the door to his car.
She nodded and started walking off. “Yeah. Don’t worry. I’ll be fine.”
“I’ll go with you.” Angel started following her but stopped when he saw the look on her face.
“I just want be alone right now. Please.”
The vampire nodded and headed for his car. “You be careful.”
“Always am.” She walked off.
* * *
Scott and Jean had felt the need to take a walk themselves. After they had gotten back to the house, they had left again on foot. After their departure, the rest of the group sat in awkward silence in the living room. Finally, Xander spoke up. “So…anyone for patrol and killing something?”
Giles frowned at him but Angel got up. “Good idea. I’ll go get my axe.” He went upstairs.
Cordelia turned to Wesley. “He brought an axe to a funeral?” She shook her head. “He is in need of some serious--” She doubled over in pain and clutched her head.
Dimly, through her vision, she heard Wesley calling Angel’s name. Images flashed before her eyes and she gasped.
“Alleyway. Redland Street.”
“That’s near the magic shop,” Giles observed.
She ignored him as she fought to speak coherently. “It’s Scott and Jean. Attacked by a big nasty demon with green scales.”
“We’re on it.” Angel ran out the door carrying his axe. Wesley and Spike followed. “Wait for me, Poofster! If you’re going to kill something, I want in.”
Giles stood up as well and began searching for the keys to his car. “Well?” he asked the Scoobies. “Are you coming or not?”
Dawn sat down next to Cordelia whose face was still scrunched up with pain. “I think I’ll stay here and take care of her,” she said quietly.
Giles nodded and he and the others left.
* * *
Buffy was walking along the deserted street lost in her own thoughts. A scream penetrated the night air and she froze before running off in the direction it had come from. The streets blurred as she sprinted, intent on her goal and hoping that she would get there in time. There had been too many instances where she had arrived too late and could only chase after the demon or vampire to keep it from killing again. Sometimes, she could not even do that.
Her footsteps pounded in time with her thoughts. Oh please oh please oh please…
She rounded the corner and saw two figures huddled against the wall of an alleyway. In front of them snarled a demon.
“Hey, tall green and revolting. Why don’t you pick on someone your own size?” She assessed her opponent. Too big for a stake…time for good old fashioned brute force.
The demon stared at her and its tongue flicked out, tasting the air. “Sssslayer,” it hissed.
“Yup, that’s my name. And soon, your name is going to be ‘dead’ so don’t get too cocky.” She leapt up into the air and slammed into its head, driving it to the ground. Not letting it recover, she grabbed a trashcan and smashed it down on it.
She somersaulted backwards and waited for the demon to struggle to its feet before running and jumping up to deliver a two-footed kick to its chest. She tsked. “Come on, I want a challenge here.”
It growled and charged at her, swinging a punch which she ducked easily. She then delivered her own jab to its throat.
Behind her, she heard a car screech to a stop and she groaned. Keep driving, stupid.
She whirled around. “Angel, get back!” The demon took the opportunity and slammed her face first into a wall. By the time she got back to her feet, Angel and Spike had encircled the demon from both sides.
Spike kicked the demon in the back, causing it to stumble towards Angel who raised the axe and cut deeply into its arm. It roared in pain and backhanded Spike into the one of the couple that the demon had originally attacked.
“Scott!” a familiar female voice cried out.
Buffy glanced over and cursed inwardly when she saw her cousin crumpled on the ground. She ran and kicked the demon in the head, flipped over, kicked it again before grabbing the axe from Angel’s grasp and slamming the blade deep into its skull. It fell to the ground, the axe imbedded into its brain.
She stood breathing heavily for a few seconds as she tried to control her anger. When Angel laid a hand on her arm however, she snapped. “Don’t touch me! I didn’t ask for you help, you know!” She walked over and knelt over her cousin.
“Buffy…” Angel’s pleading voice called behind her.
“This is my town, and here, you play by my rules. I could have handled that demon just fine by myself. If you and Teedle Dee over there,” she nodded towards Spike who sneered at her, “hadn’t shown up, my cousin wouldn’t be hurt and there wouldn’t have to be a whole lot of awkward explanations to give.” She easily scooped up Scott in her arms and walked towards the mouth of the alley.
Jean stared after her, mouth open in shock. “What was that?”
Spike answered as he searched for a cigarette. “That was a demon, love. And it was looking for a snack.” He lit the cigarette and took a puff. “You were lucky the Slayer showed up when she did.”
Another car pulled up right next to Angel’s black convertible. Giles opened the driver side door and looked out. “What happened?”
“Scott’s hurt. I think Buffy took him to the magic shop.” The Watcher nodded in thanks to Angel and got back into his car. “I’ll meet you there,” he called before driving away.
Angel looked at Jean. “Come on,” he said. “Let’s go see how your husband is doing.”
* * *
When Giles and the Scoobies entered the magic shop, Buffy had already laid her cousin out on the table. She had removed his glasses and was putting a wet washcloth on his forehead. “Are you all right?” Giles asked.
“I’m fine,” she answered curtly.
“Maybe you should let one of us do that.” Xander reached for the washcloth but backed off when she glared at him. “Or not.”
The bells over the door jingled as Angel, Spike, Wesley, and Jean entered the store. Jean saw her husband on the table and ran over. “I’m a doctor,” she told Buffy. The Slayer handed over the washcloth to the other woman.
Giles rubbed his eyes. “Buffy, perhaps it would be best if you went back to the house and calmed down a bit--”
She whirled on him. “Don’t you dare, Giles! I have lost too many people in this stupid fight: Merrick, Ms. Calender, Ford, Kendra…Hell if I’m going to leave and then find out I lost Scott too. So don’t you dare tell me calm down!” Buffy paused before continuing in a softer tone. “Dammit, I’m only twenty.”
Giles reached over and awkwardly hugged her. “Buffy…”
“You know what the worst thing is? The fact that she didn’t die because I was the Slayer. If it was some demon going after her, I could have fought it off and saved her. I can dust vampires in my sleep but I can’t fight a brain tumor.”
He had nothing to say in response to that. He just hugged her tighter and let her bury her face into his shirt.
Scott groaned on the table and stirred. He raised a hand and felt his face, still with his eyes closed. “Glasses,” he croaked.
Jean handed them to him. “They’re right here.” She helped him put them on and then to sit up. He groaned again and buried his head in his hands. “What happened?”
The red haired woman glanced around the room. “I don’t know. I think that perhaps Buffy would be able to explain the best. It seems that our suspicions may have been true.”
“Wait a minute. Suspicions? What the hell do you mean by that?” Buffy wiped the tears from her eyes and glared at Jean.
“You’re a mutant.” Jean’s voice was matter-of-fact.
“Like hell I am!”
Scott said softly, “Buffy, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Both Jean and I are mutants.”
The Slayer glared at her cousin. “I told you, I’m not a--!” She paused and frowned. “Wait a minute. Did you just say you’re a mutant?”
He nodded. “That’s why I have to wear these glasses. Otherwise, I’d be having beams come out of my eyes all the time.”
Xander’s eyebrows rose. “Cool.” Willow elbowed him gently.
Jean frowned. “Buffy, you have to be a mutant. How else could you do the things that you did back in the alley?”
Buffy looked at Giles. “You want to tell them, or should I?”
Giles sighed. “You see, in every generation there is a girl, the Chosen One, who is given the powers to--”
“Oh, come off it.” Spike folded his arms. “Ok, love, it’s like this. Buffy here is a vampire slayer. She was given super-strength and healing by the Powers that Be so that she could be able to take on demons, ghouls, and all those other nasties that go bump in the night.”
“Vampires. Demons.” Jean frowned. “There are no such things.”
“I suppose the thing that attacked you and four-eyes was just a distant cousin of Oscar the Grouch then.” Spike snorted. “Look, fine, don’t believe me? Then explain away this.” He growled and his face transformed into a demonic visage. Glowing yellow eyes peered out from underneath a heavy brow-ridge and his fangs gleamed.
Jean cried out and stepped back, running into the table. Scott stared. “Good lord…”
Spike reverted his face back to normal and smiled smugly.
“You could have warned them,” Buffy said. She turned to the two mutants. “Spike here is a genuine vampire. Only he’s neutered because of some chip that got placed into his head. Can’t hurt humans.” She smirked at the English vamp.
“You can’t bloody well just forget about that, can you?”
“Where’s the fun in that? If I weren’t so mature, I’d dance around you singing, ‘Spike is fixed. Spiked is fixed. Nah nah nah nah nah.’” Xander hopped up and down lightly, waving his arms.
Buffy glowered at him. “Xander.”
He gave her an innocent look and shrugged. “What?”
Willow sighed and tugged Xander’s arm. “Why don’t we go back to the house and see how Dawn and Cordelia are doing?”
Anya and Tara looked at each other and then followed the other two out the door.
Jean stared at Spike. “A skin disorder, or a birth defect…” she murmured.
Giles cleared his throat. “I’m afraid not. There are more things out there than modern science are willing to believe in. Vampires and demons are just a few.”
“You mean there are more things?” She stared at the Watcher incredulously.
“Well, there are witches, other dimensions, werewolves, gods…all sorts of things that you would find in a horror novel.”
“Not to mention giant snake men, that alien creature from the moon,” Buffy ticked off, “regular guys trying to bring hell on earth, mummies, and guys made out of bugs. Oh, and robots.” She looked over at Giles. “Why do we keep getting robots? I’m the Vampire Slayer. Robots weren’t in the job description.”
“Neither were covert government projects, but we have had more than our fair share of those as well,” Giles pointed out.
Scott waved his hand. “Um, excuse me? I’m still having a little trouble processing this. So what you’re saying is that Buffy isn’t a mutant, but some sort of savior to the human race?”
“More like the lone knight keeping the barbarian hordes from storming the castle. We’ve averted the apocalypse numerous times and I’m certain we will do so again in the future.”
Buffy nodded. “Yup. Normal day: get up, eat breakfast, save world, kill some demons, and then go to bed.”
“And you’ve been doing this for how long?” Jean had a pained look on her face.
“Since I was Called at fifteen. Same year that I had to burn down the gym at my old school because it was full of vampires, was expelled, went through my parents’ divorce, moved to Sunnydale, and found out that I was now living on the Hellmouth.”
“Hellmouth. Mouth of hell. It’s like Disney world for the demonic race. Just call me Mickey.”
“I see…” Jean shook her head and rubbed her temple. “Why don’t we go back to the house? I think I need some sleep. Maybe when I wake up, this will all just be a bad dream that I’m picking up from Logan or something.”
Giles spoke up. “I can assure you, Mrs. Summers, that this is quite real. I’ve been living this all of my life.”
Scott got down from the table. “Wait until Xavier learns about this.”
His wife helped him stand and walk. “He can handle mutants. I’m sure that he can handle the supernatural. It’s the rest of the team that I’m worried about…”
* * *
“Do I have to go?” Dawn asked again. Everyone had gathered in front of the Summers residence, ready to bid goodbye to Scott, Jean, and Dawn. It was daylight so Angel and Spike had to stay indoors; they had already said their goodbyes. Spike had hugged Dawn hard and told her that she could call him anytime. He’d get a phone hooked up in his crypt or something. She had smiled at that.
Xander lightly punched Dawn on the shoulder. “Come on, kiddo. Lighten up. You’re finally going to get away from this hellhole. Think about it: no more worries about vamps or demons, no more people grabbing you because of who your sister is. And best of all, not psychotic gods trying to get their hands on you.”
She tried to smile. “I’ll be fine.”
Giles awkwardly hugged the girl who had become one of his “children.” “If you ever need anything, don’t hesitate to contact me.”
Willow and Tara both embraced her. “Hey, you’ll love it in New York. There’s plenty of space for you to run around. And there will be other kids for you to hang out with and stuff. You’ll have fun.” Willow smiled reassuringly.
Dawn smiled back. “Yeah. For once, I won’t be the freakiest one around.”
“Well, you aren’t the freakiest one here. You have two witches, an ex-demon, a Slayer…I mean, your best friend is Spike!”
Dawn had to laugh at that one. “Thanks, Willow. I’m going to miss you.”
“Oh,” Willow hugged her hard. “I’m going to miss you too, Dawnie. Don’t forget to write or call or something. I’ve even been working on a scrying spell with Tara so that we can talk to you through mirrors or something.”
“I’d like that.” Dawn turned to Tara. “I’m going to miss you too.” She hugged the blond witch. Tara looked surprised for a moment but then hugged the girl back. “You’ll do fine. You’ll wow all the other kids with your magic skills we taught you.”
Cordelia and Wesley took their turn. Cordelia’s advice to her was, “Try and go into the city sometime. I mean, you’re in the same state! Why not go? They have fabulous clothing stores there and museums and theaters and stuff.”
Wesley had cleared his throat awkwardly before wishing her luck.
Finally, Buffy was the only one that was left. She crouched down so that she was the same height as her sister. “I’m going to miss you, sis.” The two of them hugged. “Never forget that we’re family,” Buffy whispered in her ear. “And family is always there for one another.” They pulled away. “I’m just a short plane ride away. After this whole thing with Glory is over with, I’m going to fight with Dad to get you back here. Sunnydale is your home,” she said vehemently.
“Thank you.” Dawn felt tears running down her cheeks.
“I love you, Dawnie.” The two sisters embraced again.
As Dawn got into the back of the rental car, Scott and Jean made their goodbyes with everyone. “If you ever change your mind,” Jean said, “just give the Institute a call. I’m sure there will be room for a Slayer somewhere.”
Buffy had just smiled.
As the car drove down the road, the entire gang stood looking after it, waving. When it had disappeared from sight, Buffy turned back to face her friends. “Well,” she said. “What are you waiting for? The sooner Glory’s dead, the sooner Dawn comes home.”
Everyone headed inside to plan. They had a hell-goddess to kill.