Chapter 1: Prologue
1998, summer, LA. That's where she met him, the kind of cocksure son of a bitch that made some small part of her stand at attention and take notice. The way he'd swaggered into the dinner where she'd been slinging burgers, grinning like he just bought the world and wanted you to ask him how. He'd told her his name was John Bonham, like she believed that for a second. But she was lonely, scared, and just a little bit desperate so she'd taken his offer of a roll in the hay. She was fine with it, hell she'd even enjoyed it.
Till three months later her period stopped. She gave birth to Dawn two months before she'd taken down the mayor on graduation day. Or at least that's how she remembered it, how the monks constructed it all in her head. She wasn't even sure if he was real. If there was some guy out there with ash blond hair, big green eyes, and bowed legs driving around in some tank of a black car. Maybe there was. Maybe he was a tax accountant in Ohio who didn't even share the same memory she had of how her daughter was conceived. Maybe he did. There were a lot of maybe's in her life since she found out about Dawn, since she looked into her baby's scared blue eyes and watched her flick in and out of existence. A lot of if's and when's racing through her head constantly. Since before she jumped, since after they brought her back. And Dawn, beautiful, bright Dawn standing scared on the stairs, clutching a bear that looked much too large for her, her other tiny hand clutching desperately to Spike's leather duster as he tried to calm her, calm both of them, his eyes scared and as bright blue as her daughter's. She wondered, as he patched up her hands that night, if maybe the monks had made Spike her father instead of the man in her head, but it didn't fit, not then and not later. Either way, he cared for Dawn, and that was more then she ever thought her daughter would get out of life. Even if he was a vampire.
All of this a constantly running stream of thought in her head as she watched the people she used to consider friends, before the betrayals, before the doubts that ate away at every happy memory she'd ever had in Sunnydale. Every time Willow waved her hand. Every time Xander turned his eyes. Every time Giles looked at her with disappointment in his eyes. Some nights she would lay awake, listening to her daughter breath and wonder if life could have been different. If she hadn't been the slayer, if her mom hadn't died. If Dawn wasn't her daughter. But she was, and it was Dawn she had to think about, Dawn she had to protect. Sunnydale wasn't safe, not for either of them, and the sooner she rectified the problem the better.
Chapter 2: Runaway
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
The house was quiet, something Buffy was too grateful for to put into words. Then again it was almost four o'clock in the morning, late even by her standards. Willow and Tara had gone to bed hours ago, slipping away to the room Buffy still thought of as her mother's. Tara had paused for just a moment as she'd wished her goodnight, a look passing over her eyes for a split second before she'd nodded, a small sad smile on her face. Buffy had wondered if she knew what was going to happen next, had supported it in a way even. Either way she'd held her breath till she'd heard the soft click of their door. Then came the waiting, setting fully clothed on top of her bed, hands twitching towards her closet. As soon as her clock turned three-thirty she began to move, quietly, maneuvering around the boards that she knew creaked. The bags where easy to shoulder, packed tightly with everything she wished to take with her, everything that really meant something to her. Dawn lay on her bed, curled up in the small patchwork blanket her mother had made once she'd gotten over the shock of the pregnancy, clutching tightly to her bear. There were times, few and far between but still there, when Buffy was grateful that she had been called, this was once of them as she carefully picked up the sleeping child, cradling her against her shoulder.
The stairs had always made the slightest noise, but now they seemed to scream with every careful step she took, like a protest to her leaving. She held her breath till she reached the bottom, fear rising in her chest at every slight sound that came from above. Slipping out the front door was both the easiest and hardest part, sadness rising in her chest as she thought about leaving the place she had thought of as home since she was fifteen. Revello Drive was dark and quiet, the kind of still that only came in those last few hours before dawn. She didn't have to wait under the tree long, the low rumbling of an approaching car cut through the stillness like a knife, Buffy jerking her head to look in the direction of the noise. She'd only ever seen the car twice before, but the memory paled in comparison to the imposing mass of it heading straight towards her. The engine died swiftly as it came to a stop at the curb, the door creaking slightly as the driver stepped out of the car, platinum hair gleaming in the distant glow of the street light.
"Slayer." was the only greeting he gave before grabbing her bags and shoving them in the back next to a surprisingly new looking car seat. They stood there in silence for a moment, Dawn slowly stirring from her slumber. "Buffy."
"Spike." she cut him off, gently swaying in hopes of lulling the drowsy toddler back to sleep. "Thank you." He stopped his nervous twitching for a moment, an almost smile curling at the edges of his lips. "I mean it, thank you. What you're doing for me, for Dawn-"
"Anything." Buffy went dead still, her startled green eyes swerving up to stare in his equally wide blue ones. Coughing needlessly he shoved his hands into his duster pockets and looked away. "For the niblit I mean. Do anything for her." Staring at the vampire Buffy felt her breath catch in her throat at the honesty she saw in his eyes. Swallowing hard she forced herself to nod. The moment was gone in a flash, Spike opening up the backdoor in offering, his eyes once again guarded. "Best get going. Sun'll be up before you know it. Maps in the front seat, wad of cash in the glove box, 'long with everything else you'll need." Buffy felt herself nod more so then actually think about doing so, her body on autopilot, the shock of what she was actually doing finally setting in. As she moved forward Spike held up a hand, his eyes hooded. "Can I...Can I jus' say goodbye? To lilbit. Might never see her again." Not trusting herself to speak past the knot that suddenly sprung up in her throat she instead turned towards her daughter, Dawn's eyes open sleepily.
Smiling Buffy ran a gentle hand over her back. "Hey sleepyhead." she whispered. Turning slightly so that Dawn could see Spike, Buffy held Dawn's hand up in a waving gesture. "Say bye to Daddy." Buffy watched as Spike closed his eyes tightly for a moment before leaning in to press a kiss against her daughter's forehead, pretending not to hear the breathy 'I love you' before he pulled away. His eyes spoke volumes as he helped her put Dawn into the car seat, before stepping back so that Buffy could climb into the drivers seat. They didn't speak, Buffy saying all that she needed to with a gentle brush of her fingertips across the back of his hand.
The sound of the engine roared in her ears, silencing anything else that could be imparted between them through the open window, but Buffy had said all that needed to be said. Spike stood on the curb, lit cigarette in the corner of his mouth as she pulled off, his stance guarded, his still shadow becoming hazy in the rear view mirror as Revello drive slowly crept by. If she cried when she looked in that mirror and no longer saw his shadow she never told anyone. There were just somethings that were too painful to ever share.
Ok, so the end of this didn't go exactly to plan, but what in life ever does? I have the next five chapters of this all plotted out, so hopefully it won't take me long to have them done and up. In any case, read and enjoy.
Chapter 3: If you're going through hell
Wow this is a long chapter. Anyway I have a good chunk of this already mapped out, all I need is the time to actually take care of it and write it. That being said I hope everyone enjoys.
Broken Bow Nebraska, Spring 2002
The Getaway Motel was possibly the worst possible name for a shady roadside motel in the middle of Nebraska, but it certainly wasn't the worst place Buffy had crashed in the last five months. That being said it also wasn't the best, all things considered, but there was just enough room for herself and Dawn, and free doughnuts in the morning which was one less thing she had to worry about paying for. With any luck the small detour wouldn't take that long anyway.
Of all the people she'd expected to somehow track her down once she'd run Cordelia Chase certainly hadn't been one of them. Buffy had almost hung up the phone on her, but something about the desperation she'd heard in Cordelia's voice had made her stop and reconsider. In the grand scheme of things the three hour detour down into Nebraska hadn't really been that big of a deal, it just meant that she wouldn't get to Maine for a few more days, and really the only thing that waited for her there was a job Spike had lined up for her before they'd lost touch, again.
Pacing the small hotel room Buffy played absently with her zippo, well, Spike's but he had left it along with a half pack of cigarette on the dashboard. She hadn't been tempted to light up one of those yet, but fidgeting with the lighter at least gave her something to do with her hands other then kill things. Cordelia had been explicit in her instructions, that they would meet at 4 o'clock at the sleepy roadside hotel Buffy had been shacked up in for almost two days, that she was supposed to stay in room 14, and make sure that she parked the car close enough to run to but not close enough to be associated with the room they were staying in. Something about the way she'd said that, about how they would have exactly fifteen minutes, and to already have the car packed and ready to go, almost made Buffy think it was a trap. Buffy scoffed as she slumped into the only chair in the room, eyes darting between her napping daughter and the clock that just flashed three forty-five. She couldn't trust anyone now, not after what her 'friends' had done, not after Giles had abandoned Dawn. Still she sat and waited, the soft clicking on the zippo keeping her grounded.
At exactly four o'one a knock, urgent but muted, resounded through the room. Checking through the peephole before opening the door Buffy gave a sigh of relief once the door was closed and latched behind them both. The first thing she noticed was how much older Cordelia looked compared to the last time they had seen each other, dark circles under her eyes, faint creases around her mouth. Buffy was sure she didn't look much better, but twenty-two shouldn't ever look as old as they did. A soft whimpering drew her out of her thoughts, her eyes instantly going to Dawn, only to see her still sleeping peacefully on the bed. Cordelia's soft humming drew her eyes back, and for the first time she noticed the small bundle cradled in the other woman's arms. “His name's Connor.” Cordelia whispered, her gaze meeting Buffy's as she allowed a tear to escape. “Please.”
“What have you gotten yourself into, Cordy?” Buffy breathed out as continued to stare at the baby, Connor, as he slowly woke up.
“I-” her voice broke off in a quiet sob. “He's Angel's. There was a prophecy. Isn't there always?” her bitter laugh caused Buffy's chest to tighten, her fists clutching at her sides. “There are people out there that want to get their hands on him. Angel... Angel's gone, Wes is gone. I didn't know who else to go to. Sunnydale isn't safe, I know that. There's no one else that can keep him safe. Please Buffy.”
Buffy opened her mouth several times, only to finally shut it and give a small resigned nod as she held out her arms. “Mommy?” Cradling Connor Buffy moved and knelt next to the bed, forcing a smile onto her face.
“Hey sleepyhead. Meet your new brother, Connor.” Dawn looked as him in curiosity for a second before holding out her arms. Instead of handing over the baby like Buffy was sure she wanted she pulled Dawn into a hug, holding both of them closely. Looking over her shoulder she saw the raw look in Cordelia's eyes, but she also saw the hope. Pulling back she laid a hand on Dawn's cheek. “Come on baby, we've got to go.” Grabbing her the last bag she clutched her daughter's hand and headed for the door. Stopping next to Cordelia she let go of Dawn's hand long enough to give the other woman a hug. “I'll keep him safe. Can you hold them back?”
Cordelia smiled ruthlessly, raising her hand to show the glowing light that surrounded it. “You bet your ass I will. Go, you don't have long.” Nodding Buffy grabbed Dawns hand again and rushed towards the car, her heart already bounding even before she saw the ominous black cloud heading their way. Screeching tires as she pulled out of the parking lot all she saw in her review mirror were flashes of light and shadow.
She drove for thirteen hours with out ever leaving the state of Nebraska, using every tip of miss direction she had ever learned. It was close to sunrise when she finally started to look for a place to pull off for the night. It was too dangerous to find a hotel, and she'd circled back close enough to Broken Bow that there was too much of a risk. She almost sighed from relief when she saw a gravel road up ahead. Killing the lights before she pulled off she was a little surprised to see what looked like a bar at the end of the gravel. Killing the engine she contemplated keeping moving, but she could barely keep her eyes open. Deciding that a few hours of sleep would give her more then enough time to get out of here long before the place opened up again she slide out of her seat belt and balled up her coat as a pillow. With any luck things would turn around in the morning.
The sharp tap of something hard against her window was not how she expected to be awakened. Forcing her eyes open Buffy noticed two things, the sun was almost half way through the sky, and the thing that had been tapping against the window was the barrel of a shot gun. Keeping herself calm she rolled down the window before lifting both hands in the air. “Take what ever you want, just please don't hurt my kids.” her voice was steadier then she felt but it didn't seem to effect the person holding the gun. Buffy tried to squint to see who it was but their features were masked by shadows, and the sun was directly behind their head. Hearing the faint click of a bullet entering the chamber she forced herself to swallow if only to keep from throwing up. A shot from outside the car distracted the person holding the gun. Taking the moment to her advantage Buffy quickly grabbed the barrel of the gun, forcing the but up into the face of its holding before quickly opening the door, throwing them off balance. Using speed she hadn't in almost a year she was out of the car and had the gun in hand, cracking open the barrel and removing the cartridges from inside only to toss them as hard over her shoulder as possible.
A strangled groan drew her eyes to the ground only to see a teenage girl sprawled out on the ground, blood running down her face from her nose. “Jesus, you're young!” slipped out of her mouth before she could help it. It was true though, the blond in front of her looked all of fifteen, and far too skinny to look like a real threat.
“Joanna Beth!” Buffy turned her gaze towards the door of the bar to see an older woman sprint towards them. As the woman knelt next to the girl, Joanna Beth apparently, a shrill cry came from the back of the car, quickly followed by a distraught 'Mommy'.
Quickly moving around to the back of the car she removed Connor from his car seat, gently rocking him back and forth. “It's ok baby, it's ok. Dawny, can you be a big girl and get me Connor's bottle?” Dawn nodded moving from her own car seat to remove a prepared bottle from the diaper bag. “Thank you sweetheart. Come on.” Still gently rocking her son, which was still no ends of weird, she walked back to the front of the car and slid onto the hood, taking the bottle from her daughter before she climbed up on the hood beside her. Not glancing up from feeding Connor Buffy spoke. “Sorry about busting your nose, kid. I'm not used to waking up with a gun pointed at me with my kids in the car with me.”
“She should know better.” the older woman reprimanded, her town equal parts motherly reprimand and exasperated.
Buffy gave a little snort as she continued to rock Connor. “She got distracted and left herself open. Gun's not going to do her much good if she can't keep a hold of it.” Buffy supplied before finally looking over that them. The girl seemed impressed, but her mother held a more guarded look. Smart woman, it never paid to open up to early, just to be on the safe side. “Name's Buffy by the way.”
“Ellen.” the older woman supplied as she helped the girl up off of the ground. “And this is my daughter, Joanna.” Joanna gave a stilted wave as she tried to wipe dried blood off her face.
“Sorry about crashing in your parking lot. At least I assume this is your's.” Ellen nodded, her eyes softening a little as Connor let go of the bottle and gave a yawn. Feeling a tug on her shirt sleeve to turned to Dawn who looked at her with wide eyes. Digging around in her pocket she pulled out a bag of skittles, handing them over for her daughter to inhale. “Well then the sorry stands.”
Ellen seemed to look her over for a minute before sighing. “I bet that eldest of your's could use some real food, why don't you come inside.”
Buffy didn't move for a second, suddenly self conscience. “We don't have a lot of money.” she finally forced out, which was the truth. The cash was dwindling, and it didn't seem right to use either of her fakes cards here.
Ellen just shrugged, her eyes lighting up a bit. “We'll work something out.” Nodding Buffy grabbed Dawn's hand and followed.
The inside of the bar was homey in a dirty, Midwestern kind of way, and she could already see a few tough looking guys in the corner cleaning guns. Joanna looked back at her with a wide smile of her face as she made a large sweeping motion with her arms. “Welcome to the Roadhouse.” Forcing a small smile of her own Buffy pushed forward, a feeling that something big was about to happen over taking her. Shrugging her shoulders she forced herself not to worry about it. If there was one with she'd learned over the years it was how to roll with the punches.
Chapter 4: Sometimes the Future's the past
The Roadhouse, Summer 2002
Fifteen miles outside of Broken Bow, Nebraska isn't exactly where Buffy envisioned herself ending up when she'd climbed into Spike's... her DeSoto a little over half a year earlier. The Roadhouse wasn't home, Buffy honestly didn't think she'd ever have a place that met that description again, but she felt safe there, accepted. Ellen's invitation for food had extended into a place to crash for the night, a lesson on how to be at the other end of a shotgun, and eventually an indefinite home base.
“You sure you weren't a hunter before?” Ellen asked as Buffy knocked over another series of cans.
“Beginner’s luck.” she replied, lifting the sawed-off and taking aim. “Everybody's good at something. School, fixing cars, cooking, bowling.” She wrinkled up her nose slightly before shifting her stance. “I'm not sure who would be proud of being good at bowling though.” Taking a deep breath she pulled the trigger twice, knocking the last of the cans from their perch on the fence.
Shaking her head Ellen smiled before holding out a revolver. “Well it's been a few years since I've seen anybody take to guns like you do. What was it you used to do again?” Buffy took the offered gun, checking the chamber before taking aim again.
“College drop out. When I was younger I was a cheerleader though. Wanted to grow up Dorthy Hamill before that.” Straitening herself she sighed, closed her eyes, and took out the row of glass bottles from the ledge of the shed.
Ellen let out a low whistle as Buffy handed her back the revolver. “Damn good for a kid that wanted to be a figure skater.” Shrugging Buffy made her way towards the backdoor of the road house. Before she could step through Ellen laid a hand on her shoulder. “You sure you wanna be doing this?”
Biting back a sigh Buffy nodded. “Cordy died getting Connor to me. I'm not going to let that just go.” It was the excuse she'd been using since Ellen told her about hunting. In all honesty she wasn't sure if Cordy was dead, but from the light show she'd seen and Angelus on the loose again it wasn't completely unthinkable. She felt kind of bad using the baby she now readily thought of as her son for an excuse but it was better then telling the truth. Killing things was what she knew, and it was better to be one of dozens of hunters instead of the Slayer. Ellen's hand didn't leave her arm though, her eyes growing dim.
“I accepted you into my home. Hell, I've taken a shine to those kids of yours. I don't like being lied to.” her voice was soft but firm as she spoke, just the edge of a threat there. Buffy almost protested, denied all of the accusations, but she knew that if there was a person in this world she could trust with this, it was probably Ellen Harvelle.
“Not here.” was all she said. Ellen nodded, leading her through the back and into the kitchen. Nobody usually ordered food so it was the one place in the Roadhouse that was more often then not quiet and not likely to have anybody walking through anytime soon. Setting the guns on the table Ellen grabbed a few glasses from the rack, stopping at a cabinet to pull a bottle of scotch from the back. Pouring two glasses she set one in front of Buffy before taking her own seat. Gulping down half the glass Buffy focused on the burn for a moment before heaving a sigh. “What do you know about the Slayer?”
As it would turn out Ellen knew a lot, maybe more then Buffy did in the end, hunter's collecting all of the information that had been hidden by the council over the last few centuries. “It's just an older hunter's tale though. Everything I've ever heard said the bloodlines died out centuries ago.” Buffy could tell from the crinkle in her brow that Ellen had no idea what she had been hinting at, what she had been trying to say with out saying it.
Topping off the glasses again Buffy sighed, leaning back in her chair. “I'm not sure about the demon aspect, but I can tell you one thing for sure, the bloodlines are definitely still there.” Downing her glass again she set it on the table, enjoying the slow burn of the alcohol as it made it's way through her system. She'd never really been one for alcohol, especially after the whole cave!Buffy thing from freshman year, but over the last six months she'd slowly developed a taste for it, if only because it was a pretty good distraction. Sighing she slouched back in her a mixture of panic and relief fluttering through her chest at the thought of what she was going to say next. “I was called when I was fifteen years old.”
Silence fell around them, thick and heavy like a wet blanket. “Well goddamn.” was all Ellen muttered before downing another shot. “That why you on the run?”
Buffy shrugged, waving off Ellen's offer for another shot. “Yes and no.” she hedged. It was the truth really, being the slayer had caused her to leave Sunnydale, but not directly. “I met some people when I was a teenager. Friends, I guess. Anyway, they got pulled in to my crazy life, the demons, magic, vampires. Some of them got hooked on the darkness they found there. Escape from their normal little lives. I ran to keep Dawnie safe. Connor didn't come into play till right before I ended up here.”
Ellen nodded, her face passive but her eyes were no where near as hard as they had been when they'd first set down at the table. “So you wanna take up hunting instead? Way I figure it, you got out.”
Buffy shrugged again, absently playing with the frayed edge of her shirt sleeve. “All I really know how to do is stop the things that are out there.” Ellen stayed quiet for a moment before getting up and disappearing out into the bar area. In the silence of the kitchen Buffy wasn't really sure if she wanted to laugh or cry, the one person she'd convinced herself to at least partially trust had just walked away. She was already going through a mental checklist of what she'd have to do in order to get away quick when Ellen returned, a thick manilla folder in hand.
Dropping it in front of Buffy, Ellen retook her seat. “There've been some disappearances up near Jeffery City in Wyoming. Looks life vampires, so it should be right up your alley. Should only take a few days, so the kids can stay here.” Nodding Buffy grabbed the folder and headed towards the room she'd been staying in. She couldn't get her old life back, but it was about time she started a new one.
Chapter 5: The Broken Road
Sorry for not updating sooner but I've recently had to do away with my high speed at home which means contending with weekly trips to the near by coffee shop. Anyway because of this I don't know how long it's going to take between updates, but I'll try to do it as often as possible.
The Roadhouse November, 2002
Six hunts. Four months. Stretching out in the front seat of the DeSoto Buffy rubbed the back of her neck and glanced towards the Roadhouse. She hadn't been back in almost three weeks, Dawn and Connor were probably both confused as to where she had been. Biting back a groan she grabbed her bag from the passenger seat and eased out from behind the wheel. She was halfway to the door when the sudden cry of “Mommy!” came from her right. Turning she saw a blur of brown and green racing towards her. Dropping to her knees she pulled her daughter into her arms.
“Hey, baby.” she breathed out against her hair, holding her closely. Glancing up she saw Jo standing a few feet away, Connor perched on her left hip as she sent a grin in Buffy's direction. Picking up Dawn Buffy made her way over, her step lethargic. The shapeshifter she'd just bagged had done more damage then she was willing to admit, and even with her slayer healing is would be a few weeks at the earliest before she was ready to hit the road again. Forcing a smile she dropped a kiss to Connor's forehead. “Hey there, baby-boy. Being good?” He grinned, babbling animatedly as he waved his hands towards her. Turning her gaze to the teen that held her son she kept the smile on her face. “Thanks for taking care of them Jo.”
Jo just shrugged, bouncing Connor slightly. “We had fun, didn't we, Connor?” Connor looked at her for a moment before turning back to babble more to his mother, obviously in agreement. Laughing, Buffy shook her head before nodding towards the Roadhouse. Jo nodded, her smile looking a bit strained now.
Setting Dawn down of the ground Buffy knelt in front of her. “Dawnie, I have to go talk to Ellen now, but we'll have dinner together, alright?” Some of the brightness seemed to dim but Dawn nodded, grabbing on to Jo's pant leg. Rising to her feet again she turned towards Jo. “I have something I need to talk to your Mom about. Can you just watch them for a little bit longer.”
“Sure.” Jo replied, her smile never once wavering. That was the kind of thing that would make her a good hunter someday, being able to tuck it all inside and put on the convincing front. “Come on guys, let's go play on the swing.” Walking towards the door Buffy's stride faltered when she heard her daughter chirp out an “Ok, Aunt Jo.” Pushing forward she told herself that she would think about it later, that she couldn't feel the little ding in her heart that her daughter was forming ties that she had no guarantee she could keep. She hadn't been able to keep any of the others after all.
Ellen was behind the bar when she walked through the door, wiping down the counter. Nodding to her, Buffy plopped down on a bar stool. “We need to talk.” Ellen looked up at her before nodding.
“That we do.” Tossing the rag on her bar she nodded towards the kitchen. “Ash! Watch the bar.” Not waiting for a response from the man currently napping on the pool table she headed into the kitchen, Buffy right behind her. They'd barely stepped through the door when Ellen pivoted sharply to look at her. “Look, I got no right to tell anybody what to do, but you've got two kids, youngins' at that! Do you know how many times in the last few months I've had to assure your daughter you weren't dead? To lie and say that a'course Mommy'll be home soon?” Buffy felt shame heat up the back of her neck. She'd known she had been gone more often then not, but it had been the same way when she'd been patrolling in Sunnydale, dealing with what ever big bad had decided to make the Hellmouth its home. The only difference with hunting was that she wasn't here to tuck Dawn in every night.
“I know.” she said, her voice soft and complacent. “That's part of what I wanted to talk to you about.” The other part, well the other part was so much bigger then that. Dawn had turned three the previous spring, would be turning four in a matter of months. With every year that passed Buffy began to wonder if whatever the Key was had left her daughter when they'd managed to kill Glory. The worry that there was so much more to her daughter then she knew, especially with her father still being a mystery. Buffy could only guess who the monks had used, and with each passing hunt even more frightening options were brought to her attention. She needed to know, and the easiest way was on the road, hunting down every lead that she could get her hands on. Rubbing her hands over her face, Buffy slid into one of the chairs. “There's something I have to tell you about Dawn. The reason I've been on the road so much.” As Ellen sunk into the seat across from her Buffy took a deep breath, before letting everything spill out.
Dinner wasn't a big thing, just the six of them crowded around the small table in the kitchen, passing simple dishes of pasta and salad around between the four adults, the kids happily munching of pits of bread and cut up chicken. Jo and Ash didn't seem to feel the tension in the room, or if they did they blatantly ignored it in favor of bickering, and in Buffy's opinion flirting, with one another. She felt raw after the conversation she'd had with Ellen, every dirty secret she'd kept locked down for almost five years spilling out in one long rambling stream of speech. All of her worries, about Dawn, Connor, herself, seemed like a weight that had been hanging around her neck, and while the weight wasn't gone, the burden of it somehow seemed less now that someone else knew. Ellen had held her as she'd cried, sobbing out about the possibilities of who Dawn's father could actually be, soothing her fears only slightly pointing out that the man she remembered sounded much more like a hunter as opposed to the things that went bump in the night. Buffy had quieted after some time, lost, and no less confused than she had been in the beginning. Still, Ellen had comforted her more with knowledge, with names of hunters who could help her.
“Gran'ma!” cut through the air, Buffy's head whipping towards her daughter as the toddler held her arms out expectantly towards Ellen. Buffy closed her eyes tightly, unable to keep the tidal wave of emotions from crashing into her completely. It was just one more thing she would soon be denying her daughter, more family and ties that would be soon severed beyond repair. Ellen for her part seemed to be the picture of calm as she gently picked Dawn up from her booster chair, soothing her slightly as the young girl began to babble in a way Buffy hadn't heard her do in almost a year. She caught words, pain, help, bad, none of which made any sense. Rocking the girl slightly she walked over to Buffy handing her, her daughter before leaving the room. Buffy was lost for a second before she felt Dawn's small hand rest on her cheek, drawing her eyes to her. Dawn was crying silently, her blue eyes sad in a way Buffy never wanted to see there.
Ellen breezed through the kitchen door a moment later, shoulders stiff. “Joanna, put the kids to bed. Ash clean up. Then back here.” her voice left no room for reproach, even as Buffy tightened her arms around her daughter. Reluctantly she let her go to Jo, who quickly left the kitchen, soothing both the children as she went. “Buffy.” Turning her gaze towards the woman she could almost think of as a surrogate mother she saw everything written over her face. Ellen knew what was wrong, and very soon all of them would as well.
Ten minutes saw them all at the table again, beers before the three oldest, Jo nursing what looked like a soft drink of some kind, faces solemn. “You know what's going on.” Buffy spoke first, looking at Ellen as the woman took a long drink from her beer.
“I have an idea.” she countered. “Ash, grab that computer of yours.” He did, pulling up windows, tying away for a moment before turning the screen for the three women to see. “While you were on the road I had Ash do some digging. There's more to Dawn then just being the Key, Buffy.” Ellen gave Ash a nod, before sliding back into her seat, suddenly looking very tired.
“Right. So psychic kids. That's what sunshine is.” Clicking into a new window Buffy saw the word Key blazed across the top of the page. “Not that weird, but you see this Key thing, it has to be a psychic that houses it. Not low level either, powerful. Which means bloodlines.” Buffy's eyes scanned over the page, catching words about rituals, and portals. “This isn't just a way to one dimension. The key is old, really old. Like in the beginning there was old. It's the only way to go to any dimension.” he explained, flipping through pages too fast for Buffy to fully read what was there. “Best I can tell, these Monks that sent her to you? They had bigger plans then just keeping it out of the hands of one relatively low level God. Don't have an idea what that is but the last month or so she's been starting to show signs of being psychic. There are a lot of people that would like to get their hands on that kind of power.”
Buffy sunk back, eyes hollow as her mind went over the information. Swallowing past the sudden knot that was forming in her throat she nodded. “We can't stay here. If she's in one place...”
“It's easier to find her.” Ellen finished, sadness suddenly working it's way into her tone. “Road ain't no place for kids, but if the choice came down to it, yea, the road is a safer place.” Digging into her pocket Ellen pulled out a slip of paper. “Bobby Singer. He knows a lot about stuff most hunters never even hear of. Go to him.” Nodding, Buffy took the piece of paper as she stood. She was almost surprised as Ellen pulled her into a hug, leaning in close to her ear. “This place'll always be here for you and those kids.” Buffy hugged her back for a moment before she let go, leaving the kitchen while her limbs still had the strength to carry her.
By morning the Roadhouse would be three states away, her kids napping quietly in the back seat as the landscape changed, open plans giving way to trees and rolling hills. Squaring her shoulders she headed the car in the opposite direction of South Dakota. There might be answers there, but there was a Selkie in West Memphis, Arkansas, and a full box of ammo in her trunk. She'd head that way after, she just needed some time to clear her head, to wrap her own mind around the large folder Ash had handed her as she'd left. She would save her daughter, one way or another, but any which way, she was doing it on her own terms.
This took me so long to write and honestly I'm no sure if I like it, but I've prolonged posting this enough. Anyway, enjoy.
Baton Rogue, LA Spring 2003
She felt so stupid, back pressed against a wall, chest heaving as she tried to catch her breath. The Rugaru she was hunting was smart, but the other hunter that was trailing it was even smarter, and twice a vicious. It was her own fault, she zigged when she should have zagged, it happens, but now she had to get out of town fast. Dawn and Connor were holed up in the motel, safe and content, at least for now, but there was no guarantee with another, unknown, player on the board. Ignoring the sharp pain in her shoulder she pushed off from the wall, only to find her pathway blocked. Sliding her finger onto the trigger she waited, eyes sharp as the features of a man came into focus. “What are you doing here?” broke through the still of the alley, his voice gruff like he'd been smoking a pack a day for a decade.
“Me?” she feigned innocence, even going as far as batting her eyelashes. “I'm walking home, sir. Shortcut.” she let her right wrist twist just slightly, just enough to get off a shot if she needed to. She watched as his eyes bore into her before he turned, stalking away.
“If you know what's good for you, you'll get out of town.” drifted towards her as he bleed back into the shadows.
“No shite.” tucking her gun into the back of her jeans she turned in the opposite direction. She'd get out of town alright, and quick. This wasn't the only hunt in the tri-state and she'd much rather be anywhere but within fifty miles of that man. Nobody got in John Winchester's way, and fuck if she was going to be the first.
University of Nebraska, Omaha
2 months later
Every hunter had a right of passage, and Omaha was starting to look like Buffy's. Normally she avoided the more outlandish stories that filtered down to her, leave that mess to the hunters more experienced or stupid in her opinion. Still there was some small part of her that couldn't pass up this particular story, after all it's not every day a food critic chokes to death on a piece of deep fried rat while a local football star's stomach explodes from eating pop rocks and coke. Just odd enough to draw interest, even if they were blatant urban legends, too blatant really. So she'd pulled into town three weeks prior, holed up in one of the seedy little motels that were slowly becoming homey, and started digging, only to find nothing. Two unexplainable, freak accidents, end of story. Till the third death. Two college frat boys known for hazing driven off the road by a phantom driver.
She probably would have figured it out sooner if every possible thing to go wrong hadn't happened in the three weeks since she blew into town. Flat tiers, misplaced books, even an unfortunate meeting of Dawn's juice cup and her notes. In the end she'd sucked it up and called Ellen, only to have the other woman laugh into the phone. “Sounds like you got a trickster on your hands.” Annoying, difficult to kill, but all and all not an impossible fete, once all of the pieces where in place.
Trouble with pieces is that they never really wanted to fit together for Buffy. She'd set the trap, left a bread trail a mile long, and waited. It was easy and that should have been the first clue that everything was going to blow up in her face before she was even out of the starting gate. She hadn't even made it into the lecture hall when an invisible force threw her against the wall, stake clattering to the floor. Clapping echoed down the hall as a man stepped out of the shadows, smirk playing on his lips as he looked her up and down. “Now, you? Not expecting that at all.” Stuffing his hand in the pockets of his green jacket he sauntered forward, shaking his head. “I've had a lot of people try to take me out over the millennium, but an honest to who-ever slayer? Have to say this is a first.” He gave a small bow, which didn't look quiet as mocking as Buffy thought it should. “And an honor I might add. Lot of people have been were you are, and can I say not a one of them measures up to you. Famous too, even for a slayer.” Buffy struggled trying to free herself from the wall, but what ever was holding her seemed to grow stronger with each movement. The only thought that was running through her head was, shite, I'm going to die. Not an unfamiliar thought, hell she'd even done it a couple of times, but all she could focus on where Dawn and Connor, alone and sleeping in a strange motel room. Biting the inside of her lip she fought back tears and struggled harder.
“Fuck you.” she ground out, ignoring the burning in her muscles from over exertion. She'd fucked up, underestimated the enemy, and now her babies were going to pay for it.
The Trickster just laughed, shaking his head again. “And feisty, too. Guess those stories weren't exaggerating after all, huh, Buffy?” The fight left her in an instant. This wasn't just some monster that had heard stories, connected the dots, this was something deadly and dark that knew who she was. She couldn't breath, couldn't even blink.
Slowly she forced all of it down, the fear, the anger, and gripped tight to the part of her deep inside that made her the slayer, and shrugged, bright, mocking smile on her face. “I don't know, you tell me? Mr. Brave Trickster, tying up the little slayer. What, can't win a fair fight?” Her smirk was met with one of his own, as he clapped almost in delight.
“Now that? That is what I'm talking about. I could rip out your heart in a second, and you still have the balls to bait me.” Stepping back he snapped his fingers, her bindings falling away into nothingness. Holding out his arms in a wide gesture the Trickster smirked. “Big words, but lets see what you've got.”
She pushed off from the wall and grabbed the stake in the length of a heart beat. He faster then her, older then her by far and just as resourceful, each blow she made being blocked as he danced around laughing at her. A well placed kick to her stomach had her stumbling backwards, her hand barely managing to stay curled around the stake. She raised her arm, ready to strike again when she heard a small gasp from the doorway.
Standing there, eyes wide was Dawn, clad in her pajamas. It took a moment for realize that the Trickster had seen her as well, turning slightly to stare at her. Buffy wanted to scream run, hide, stay away from my baby but everything stuck in her throat as Dawn walked forward, not towards her, but the Trickster. She reached out a small hand and moved it through the air, almost as if she was petting something. Turning slightly she gave the Trickster a large smile. “Your wings are really pretty.”
The Trickster seemed to twitch for a moment before looking at her over his shoulder. “You always let your kid tag along on these things?”
Not knowing what to do Buffy shrugged. “What can I say? It was bring your daughter to mortal peril day.” Her remark was met with a bark of laughter. All humor left her when she watched the Trickster take a step forward towards Dawn. Before she could even take a step forward he was knelling in front of Dawn, offering a piece of candy.
She felt a sense of pride when her daughter just shook her head at the offered treat. This seemed to please the Trickster as well, a wide grin crossing his face. “What's your name, sunshine?”
Dawn continued to pet at the air absently. “Dawn.” she replied softly.
The Trickster smiled, truly smiled, the piece of candy disappearing from his hand. “Dawn. That's a pretty name.” Everything in the hall seemed to slow down for a moment, the air growing still and for just a moment Buffy could have sworn she smelt ozone. “You have many gifts, Dawn. You have a family, a future...huh...a destiny.” A bewildered look crossed his face for a moment before it was gone. “Didn't see that coming.” Dawn didn't seem to notice his tone of voice, her eyes still transfixed on the air in front of her.
“Yours are bigger.” she said, finally looking at him. “Do you want to see mine?” The Trickster nodded, and Buffy felt the air shift again, though less noticeably then before. What ever transpired in those few seconds brought another smile to his lips.
“Don't worry, they'll get bigger one day, just like you.” Dropping a kiss to her daughter's temple he stood and headed towards the door. Before he entered the stairwell he turned towards Buffy, meeting her gaze. “Loki. Remember that name, Slayer.”
“You're not going to kill me?” she found herself asking before she could stop it, her wide green eyes staring straight into his.
A small smile played at the corner of his mouth as he shook his head. “Not today, Slayer. Not today.” With out anything further he disappeared from the doorway, literally, like fog disappearing from a mirror.
Rushing forward Buffy pulled her daughter into her arms, holding her closely as she rocked her. She couldn't understand what had transpired between her daughter, and the apparent demigod, and she probably never would. When she had calmed herself and settled Dawn back into her bed she'd asked her, why she hadn't been afraid, why she had walked across town to that lecture hall. “His wings were pretty, Mommy. Like mine.” What that meant Buffy didn't know, but it was another piece of the puzzle, another clue to what had been done to create Dawn. Sighing she dug out the atlas. Maybe it was time to head to South Dakota.