She'd grown up with stories about the man.
Oh sure, when you're four years old and history is about what you had for lunch that day, the stories hadn't meant more than one exasperated Joyce Summers yelling at her mother not to get her daughters any more excited when they're supposed to be going to bed. Which Dawn could have told her mother was not actually the fault of the stories but of the fact Grandma was visiting and could we pretty please stay up late to talk to her more, please please please?!
But hindsight is twenty-twenty and Dawn had never breathed a word about the excitement at having Grandma there keeping her up WAY past her bedtime.
The point was, she'd grown up with the stories. About how the geekiest, scrawniest man-boy Grandma had ever seen had saved the world from an insane Nazi.
And got really hot in the process.
Though to be fair, Grandma never mentioned that part in the stories. Dawn found out about that when they studied Captain America in history and she saw all the videos.
Dawn was pretty sure Buffy had never connected Grandma's stories with the videos she no doubt saw in High School. Otherwise, everyone would have known the woman in the picture in his compass was their Grandma Peggy.
The first time she met Captain America face to face was...an experience. Grandma Peggy had been gone for several years by that point, having passed away just before Buffy had been Called. She'd been buried in New York, in a small cemetery near where Steve Rogers had grown up. Dawn was pretty sure it was the same cemetery his mother was buried in, actually.
After Sunnydale, everyone needed space and, well, time to themselves. Xander headed for Africa, Giles and Andrew to England, Faith and Robin to Cleveland, and Willow and Kennedy to Brazil. Buffy promised Giles she and Dawn would be in Rome by the end of summer, but they needed a quick break, to get back to normal, just the two of them. Things were still strained enough between them that Giles had agreed with little hesitation.
Hence the road trip to New York and Dawn's innocent little suggestion their fourth day in the recuperating city:
“We should visit Grandma.”
Green-wood was a nice cemetery, well-kept, and from the way Buffy'd relaxed when they stepped through, no vampires were anywhere in the vicinity.
Which made sense, as it was the middle of the day. Not even they were so far gone as to visit at night on patrol.
Both of them had flowers and Buffy had a small cross she'd bought in a tiny town in Kansas. Buffy had planned to put it in their soon to be new apartment but after agreeing to go to the cemetery today, Buffy had apparently found better use of the thing.
It didn't take them long to find the right plot, the main office had a nice and organized directory. As they approached the headstone, however, they both slowed down.
There was a group of people already there.
Technically, they were in three groups. A dark-skinned man (with an eye-patch) and a woman who practically screamed military stood to one side. On the other, were two dark-haired men (one of whom looked REALLY familiar), a guy with light brown hair and really nice biceps, a tall man with shoulder length blonde hair, and four women, two redheads and two brunettes. One of the redheads, the lighter-toned one, was hand in hand with the guy Dawn was pretty sure she should recognize, and the smaller brunette woman (who was obviously older than the other dark-haired woman) was leaning into the tall blonde guy, who had a protective arm around her as he kept his gaze forward.
Then there was the third group, which wasn't really a group so much as a sole man standing in front of Grandma's grave. The groups behind him were a respectable distance away, but near enough it was obvious they were there as moral support. He was tall, obviously buff, in khaki pants and a white button down with a tie. She couldn't see his face, but his hair was dark blonde and Dawn was pretty sure she knew exactly who he was. Hadn't she seen the news footage with everyone else? Didn't she know Captain America had somehow come back?
Buffy and she stopped nearby, waiting patiently for him to finish. She saw most of the group eye them a moment before most obviously dismissed them. It was the guy with the eye-patch that caught her attention, though, as his good eye widened and she could have swore she saw recognition there. She glanced at Buffy but her sister was focused on the guy at the grave, brow furrowed. She snorted mentally; apparently history class hadn't been a total loss for her sister.
“Do we know him?” Buffy asked lowly, not taking her eyes off the man as he finally knelt by the gave, gently putting down the bouquet of red roses in his hand.
“Sort of,” Dawn muttered back, taking care to keep an eye on the group she was almost certain were the Avengers. “It's Grandma's ex-boyfriend.”
Buffy gave her an odd look but Dawn barely noticed, she was too busy smirking at the light-haired guy with the arms who'd snorted a laugh before freezing up. He looked over, catching her eye, and she couldn't help but smirk at him. Oh yeah, that's right, I know exactly who you are Hawkeye. Just cause I can't hear you and you think you're outside hearing distance doesn't mean I think you can't hear us.
He gave her an odd look, like he could tell exactly what was going through her head. She felt her cheeks burn because, for all she knew, he could. She very pointedly turned to look up at her sister. “You gonna go say hi or should I?”
Buffy opened her mouth a moment but the decision was taken out of their hands when the Captain finally noticed them and stood up. Dawn sighed. “Never mind.”
“Hi,” he said as he approached. He looked back at the headstone before turning to her. “Are you...I mean...Peggy Carter?”
“Peggy Thomas,” Dawn corrected gently and yeah, he was totally who she thought he was. “Carter was her maiden name.”
“Grandma's maiden name was Carter?” Buffy asked, surprised.
“Seriously?” Dawn demanded, hands going to her hips. “Do you not pay attention at all?”
“I pay attention!” Buffy exclaimed. She made a disbelieving sound and her sister shifted uncomfortably. “When I want to.”
Dawn shook her head before turning back to Steve, holding out a hand. “Dawn Summers,” she introduced herself. “The airhead is my older sister Buffy.” She ignored the affronted sound said blonde made. “We're Peggy's granddaughters. You're Steve, aren't you?”
“You...you know who I am?”
“Grandma told stories,” she agreed. “Heavily edited, I'm sure, but....”
“Wait a sec!” Buffy said, eying Steve in surprise. “You're...Grandma's Steve? I thought he was some scrawny kid she made up to make me feel better about being all awkward when I was ten?”
This time, Dawn really did face-palm.
“That's it,” she decided. “We get to Rome and I am forcing you to read a history book.”
There was a muffled snort from the direction of the group, who'd been slowly inching towards them as they spoke. Dawn ignored the superheroes and, wow, this was her life. She shook her head, turning to look up at the man who could have, if he hadn't disappeared for sixty years, been her grandfather. Grandma had been pretty clear on how much she'd loved him.
“So...how are you?” she asked, grinning up at him in a way she knew could be incredibly irritating. Buffy huffed, obviously disliking being out of the loop. His lips quirked as he looked between them.
“You really are Peggy's granddaughters, aren't you?” he said, sounding awed and nostalgic and just a teensy bit angsty. She brightened and would have probably squealed like a schoolgirl at being compared favorably to her favorite old person in the world but Buffy just had to but in.
“How did you know Grandma again?” she demanded, arms crossing. Dawn let out a huff of her own.
“I told you, he was her ex-boyfriend.”
The two of them ignored the way his eyes widened and he took a step back in surprise.
“Okay, grandma? Was not a cougar!” Buffy hissed. Dawn's eyes narrowed and out of the corner of them, she saw Steve take another step back, an odd expression on his face.
“Well, technically, he was younger than her,” she started but Buffy cut her off before she could finish.
“Yeah, by like a couple decades!”
“Buffy, he's not as young as he looks!”
Her sister scoffed. “Oh, right, like you're about to tell me he was born in 1942 or something!”
“No, that's when he went missing,” Dawn pinched the bridge of her nose as she heard more stiffled laughs come from the peanut gallery. “Buffy, did you pay attention at all during World War II history?”
“Of course I did, I got an A!”
“Does the name Captain America ring a bell then?”
“Well, duh,” Buffy agreed, looking confused. “He was this totally awesome super-solder guy the US...government...made...”
Dawn watched as she looked up at Steve, eyes wide, and shook her head with a smirk. “Cue lightbulb,” she couldn't help but quip. This time, the peanut gallery didn't even attempt to stifle their laughter.
“Oh my god!”
“Oh my God!”
Dawn sighed, grabbing her sisters arm as Steve was getting somewhat alarmed by the blonde's reaction. “C'mon Buffy,” she said, tugging her past Steve. She gave him an apologetic grin before turning to focus on her sister. “Let's go visit Grandma.”
“Grandma,” Dawn replied firmly, forcing her sister after her. Buffy stumbled over to the ground by the tombstone, the roses in her hand lax as she plopped down, still staring back at Steve in disbelief. The group didn't seem like they were leaving anytime soon so Dawn turned to the grave.
“Hi Grandma,” she murmured, knowing at least one of the Avengers would probably hear her. “Its me. And Buffy. Who's freaking out, but what else is new, right?”
It was a mark of Buffy's shock that Dawn didn't get hit for that crack. Dawn sighed. “I hope you're happy, that mom's with you. I hope you're proud of us, of what we accomplished. What we've done. The good things, anyway. I really hope you didn't see the bad.”
She winced at the very idea of Grandma watching her klepto stage. If the old woman had still been alive, it would not have ended well.
“Apparently the World found your hero again. I think its about time. We need him, the world--”
That was about as far as she got because Buffy chose that time to come out of her semi-shocked state to suddenly glare at the headstone.
“Grandma you lied!” she hissed, just loud enough the watching Avengers would be able to hear. “He's not scrawny, he's a hottie!”
Dawn hung her head as that was apparently as much as the Avengers and Co could take and they all cracked up laughing.
“Ladies and gentlemen, my sister.”