Word Count: 2,634
Buffy parked the SUV in the garage, closing the door automatically behind her. She wasn’t at all surprised that the door leading from the garage to the laundry room opened before she could even get out.
“You really are okay?”
“Yes, Dawn, I told you I was,” she said, going to the rear of the vehicle to ensure everything from her patrol had been put away properly. She didn’t like using it for both patrols and a mom vehicle, so it was a good thing that she and Steve had both had a car. Hers had been paid for by the Council so it was a little nicer than his, but until she got a slayer here who could actually do the job she was stuck driving Steve’s for everyday use.
“You are not! You were bitten? Buffy?”
“Mommy?” Sierra’s voice came from behind Dawn. Buffy closed the tailgate right away.
“Hey, Pumpkin, how was your special day with Auntie Dawn?”
“It was nice, but I missed you.”
She scooped up her daughter, hugging her tight and kissing her cheek. “And Mommy missed you, too. In fact, I bet Mommy missed you more.”
“I missed you this much,” she said, spreading her arms out as wide as they could go. “Well, then I guess we’re even. Go on inside, Mommy will be right behind you.”
“I’ll tell you once they are all asleep, but I promise you I’m fine.”
“Just get me some gauze and stuff while I check on Marcus.”
“He’s working on homework in his room.”
“Good. Thank you. For everything. I know it goes above and beyond.”
“It doesn’t go above and beyond anything. It’s why I’m here.”
“Still. Thank you. You didn’t sign up for all-day duty with three kids.”
“Well, it was really only one since the other two are in school all day. And Cat was great. We watched PBS Kids and stuff.”
“You sure you’re all right?”
“Positive,” she said. “I’ll meet you in my room in a minute.”
“Actually, make it the kitchen. Break open a bottle of wine. I think I need it tonight.”
Buffy wasn’t a huge drinker when she actively slayed. A glass or two didn’t impair her too badly, but she just never knew when something was going to come knocking on her door. So, she liked to keep clearheaded all of the time.
She pushed the sleeves down on her shirt, hoping to cover most of the bite wound there. Her hair did the trick for the one at her neck. At least she hoped. Both were still very raw, the one at her wrist by far the worse of the two. Buffy knew by tomorrow they would be much better. In a couple of days it’d be as if it never happened.
“Marcus,” she said, knocking on his door. “Can Mommy come in?”
“Yeah,” he said.
She could tell from his voice that he was on the top bunk of his bed.
“Hey, whatcha doing up there?”
“Oh. Okay. I’m sorry I wasn’t here to get you to or from school today.”
“It’s okay. Aunt Dawn did it.”
“Yeah, I know. I like doing it.”
“I know,” he said, and sounded mostly sincere. Most importantly, he didn’t sound put out by the idea that his mom still liked seeing him off to school.
“I’m going to talk to Aunt Dawn for a while, but I wanted you to know I’m home in case you were waiting up for me. You get ready for bed.”
“Okay,” he said.
She knew that was the closest he would get to admitting he was in fact waiting for her. She was sure he didn’t miss out on the fact that his dad worked nights much like Buffy was these days. So, whether he admitted it or not, it had to be on his mind. A lack of denial was a good clue that was the case. She walked to his bed, stepped on the rungs of the bottom bed and stretched up to kiss him.
“Good night, honey. I love you.”
“Love you, too,” he said. She knew he’d wait a bit to get ready for bed, but he’d do it as soon as he heard Sierra was done in there.
After checking on Sierra and finally Cat, she made her way downstairs where Dawn waited. First aid supplies and wine ready to go.
Her wrist bandaged up and neck tended to (it wasn’t bad enough to need bandaging) Dawn filled Buffy in on the day while Buffy ate dinner.
“I never knew you could cook,” Buffy said.
“Yeah, because basing your knowledge of my houseaunt skills on the last time we lived together is so valid.”
“Wow, I was just saying. It’s not something that comes up in conversations. You know? I know you’re not a kid anymore, Dawn.”
“I know. It’s just sometimes.”
“It feels like we’re still there, doesn’t it?”
“Yes. And knowing that one day I’m going to …”
“Stop it,” she said, glancing at the stairs. All was quiet up there, but she was putting off talk about Slayer business until she knew for certain all of the little monkeys were down for the night.
After checking in on the kids and assuring herself they were snug in their beds, sleeping soundly she met Dawn in her bedroom. The baby monitor would tip her off if anyone got up, because she’d left the door to Cat’s room ajar. So, it should pick up any sound in the hallway.
“First of all, you can’t freak out.”
“Okay,” Dawn said, though Buffy knew she would anyway.
She told her everything. It was an odd thing for her, to be in a place in her life where things dealing with Angel weren’t tricky. Oh, she imagined they still could be, but as far as feeling the need to hold back or hide things. Nope, not this time.
“So, you just dropped him off?”
“What was I supposed to do? We exchanged numbers and stuff, but I doubt I’ll ever use it. For all I know, now that he knows for sure a slayer is in town, he’ll move onto the next troubled spot.”
“Well, do you want him to go?”
“I don’t know and I don’t have any say over what he does anyway, Dawn. I only spent about an hour with him when he was awake.”
“But, Buffy, if he knows.”
“I’m not going to tell him.”
“Why not? It was the main reason he left you. Thinking he’d outlive you.”
“I know, but I’m not ready, Dawn. Even if this is The Powers That Be at work, I’m not ready.”
“You’re never going to be ready if you don’t try!”
“I know, but I need to try at my own pace. Baby steps. I need to, you know, date, find out who this Buffy is.”
“And you can’t do that with him?”
“Maybe I can, but I don’t want to use him or settle either. It was tempting today. We were alone, and I realized as he was on top of me that it’d been so long since I’ve had that kind of closeness. I mean, Cat was only three months old, I’d been cleared medically and all but with a baby and two kids who in the heck had time for sex?”
“I understand, and you have nothing to feel guilty about. Steve knew you loved him.”
“Oh, I know. It’s not as if we did nothing after Cat was born.”
“It’s a big step, Dawn. Dating. Sex. I need to make sure that I’m not settling just because of what I know about myself. I don’t want to force myself into a relationship that’s not meant to be. And so soon.”
“It is. For me,” she said. “I realized tonight,” she said, feeling the tears that had threatened to fall earlier at the motel with Angel start again. “I miss it. Having someone. That one person I know I can always be close to. There’s so much more to intimacy than just sex. I never knew that before Steve. Not really. Not the way I learned it with him anyway.”
“I know,” Dawn said, hugging her. Buffy took her offered comfort and for the first time in she didn’t know how long, she cried on Dawn’s shoulder.
Neither sister spoke. Buffy wasn’t sure how much time had gone by, but she knew it was a while. Dawn didn’t seem to mind and that made Buffy love her even more. She kissed her, smiling at the shocked look on her sister’s face.
“I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
“I need to call Giles in the morning.”
“Because Tasha is just not getting it. Not like she should. And before you say it, I’m not being judgmental or expecting too much. She would have gotten killed tonight if I wasn’t with her.”
“You had help.”
“Not every day, and I didn’t need it to survive a routine patrol. I don’t mind helping, you know that, but I’m slaying way more than I should be. I’m thirty-two, even if I don’t look or feel it. I want to be here with my kids, I don’t want to miss out on things.”
“It was one day, Buffy.”
“It was one day too many.”
“You could ask Angel.”
“I’m not going to ask Angel to babysit a slayer so that I don’t have to.”
“No, that’s not what I meant. I’m guessing her problem is the fighting. The slaying.”
“Well, yeah. I mean, she’s gotten down where to find them. And if it’s an easy staking, like a newly risen vamp, she does all right. But when they fight back and are tough she just doesn’t know what to do.”
“Well, Angel is a vampire.”
“I’m aware of that.”
“And he does know how to fight.”
“Not just like a good guy either. He knows how to fight like a vampire.”
“I am aware of this.”
“So, maybe he’d help you train her. You’re not a vampire, Buffy, and no matter how much you try to fight like one in your sparring sessions, you don’t have the mindset.”
“And you think Angel would?”
“You two didn’t hold back with one another.”
“That was because we knew one another’s abilities.”
“He’d learn hers.”
Buffy leaned back against the headboard of Dawn’s bed and sipped on the glass of wine.
“I mean, he’s here so why not use him.”
“Okay, use is the wrong word. You know he’d help.”
“Yeah,” she said. She didn’t know for sure he’d help, but she couldn’t see him saying no either. Unless he held a grudge against her for stuff that had happened ten years ago, which didn’t seem to be the case. She ran her fingertips along the bite at her neck. She hadn’t dwelled on it earlier, not wanting to but she’d heard full well what he’d said before biting her there. She wasn’t sure what he’d done, if anything, but she imagined he’d be willing to take one for the home team of good guys if she asked.
“I’ll think about it. I still want to call Giles, though. I have to tell him about Angel being here, and if I do decide to go with this idea he needs to know that, too.”
“It is a good idea.”
“It’s not a bad idea, because you’re right. No matter how hard I try, I don’t have the mindset of a vamp. I’m a defensive player more than an offensive player. And clearly what I’m teaching her, or trying to anyway, just isn’t good enough. Or enough period.”
“I’m sure you do fine, Buffy. She just may be one of the ones who can’t have a territory on her own.”
“Maybe. I still don’t know why Giles sent her here when there are more slayers experienced with fieldwork out there.”
“Maybe he was testing you.”
“Seeing if you were ready.”
“Well, you said you think he’s going to send someone to Sunnydale.”
“No! And he knows the answer would be no. I will not under any circumstances expose my kids to that kind of life. I’m here to help, that’s it. Once Tasha, or whoever the slayer of this hellmouth ends up being, is ready I’m done.”
“Giles knows I will always be here to help. The Council will always have my contact information for the rest of forever in case of emergencies, but I am not active. I have three human beings that I’m responsible for raising and seeing to it that they become normal adults.”
“Just pointing out, it is possible. Xander’s normal, Willow’s normal.”
“I’m not doing it. What are you? Gathering information for him?”
“No, I just realize it’s a possibility. I mean, who better to have guard the mouth of hell than a slayer who will live as long as the vamps who want to open it. That way no one will ever forget.”
“I don’t have to be active to stop people from forgetting, Dawn. I couldn’t let The Council forget anyway. I will think about talking to Angel. He would probably say yes.”
“Yeah, yeah,” she said, taking another sip of her wine.
“Does it hurt?”
“What?” she asked.
“Your wrist and neck.”
“Oh, yeah. I mean, in a weird way. The wrist is worse. It aches and all. I kind of like it.”
“Not him biting me. I did what I had to do. Being able to feel pain. Sometimes I wonder what this immortality means for me beyond the obvious. I get that I’ll live forever, but does that mean I’m no longer human?”
“Of course you are.”
“I wasn’t human to begin with. Not entirely. Slayers have just enough demon blood mixed in to activate the slayer magic. I get that, but to feel pain. Well, it means I’m still as human as I ever was.”
“No, I get it. Well, I don’t really. I mean, why me? Why now? Why do I get to be the slayer that re-writes watcher journals again and again?”
“Obviously, there’s a reason.”
“I guess. I wish I was clued in as to what it is,” Buffy said.
“Where would the fun in that be?”
“Right. And, of course, you think that Angel being here has something to do with it.”
“No, but I think he deserves to know.”
“We’ll see. For all I know he’s got a wife or girlfriend.”
“I doubt it, Buffy, if he kissed you.”
“You kiss people you love, it doesn’t always mean anything.”
“For you two?”
She shrugged. Dawn had a point. There was very little between Buffy and Angel that meant nothing. They just weren’t wired that way. Spike had it right all along. They were never just friends, couldn’t be.
“That was then,” she said.
“What?” Dawn asked.
“Nothing, just thinking. I think I’m going to get ready for bed.”
“Thanks for talking.”
“Thanks for telling me everything,” Dawn said, sounding so sincere Buffy almost started crying again.
“I’m glad you were here for me to tell.”
“I do love you. Those aren’t just words.”
“I know, Buffy, I do. Me, too.”
“Goodnight then,” she said, making her way to the kitchen to drop off her wineglass before heading upstairs for the night. Dawn’s idea of asking Angel to help with Tasha was a solid one. She wasn’t sure she was ready to be around Angel again, but she’d have to put her personal feelings aside for what was best for her slayer if she wanted to get off full-time patrol duty anytime soon.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com