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She, Stronghold

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It was really weird to be fucking Angel's son. Or, former son. Or whatever.

Fortunately, Connor was really hot. And he really didn't look like Angel at all.

Plus, he was human. And he knew about normal life and wacky night-living, weapons-expert, vampire-strength kind of life all at the same time.

So, yeah, Connor was pretty cool all on his own.

But. He was Angel's son. And it's not like she never *thought* about that while they were in bed.

Sex had a lot to do with memories for both of them. Which was strange, since they'd met each other for the first time just a year ago and Angel was already dead.

He died a real human man with a beating heart, she'd been told. He was human just short of 2 months and then he'd gotten himself killed. Buffy hadn't even heard the news about shanshu before he was gone. Connor showed up later, after he graduated college and was searching for a way to utilize his inborn skills. He was Giles' pet recruit for a whole year before they even realized the truth about his heritage.

It'd be nice if she could say she'd been interested in him before all that came out, but it didn't happen that way. At the time she was dating The Immortal. Though of course to her he was just Frank. Frank knew or "knew of" both Angel and Spike, and as the story went they'd never even remotely gotten along--but what else is new--so it seemed like she was moving on, but. But. It's almost like she's come full circle now.


Buffy was running a drill with the girls and Giles brought Connor in. "This is Buffy," he introduced her. "The Slayer."

Connor stood quietly surveying them as a group. "Aren't they all slayers?"

Buffy smiled slightly at the sentiment and promptly ignored him.

"Yes, well, Buffy's..."

"The original," Buffy concluded, with a sigh.

Connor's manner was unimpressed, which ordinarily would have earned her interest, but that day Buffy felt more than usually jaded. The girls were having the same old problem: the instincts were there but not the wisdom to use them.

"You look frustrated," Connor said.

Buffy looked at him. "Slaying shouldn't be the job of little girls." She shot a glance at Giles. "Don't say it, Giles."

Giles cleared his throat. "I thought you might perhaps use Connor in some of your training. For demonstration, or he might perhaps be of help when you patrol."

She wasn't particularly interested in the idea. She didn't know Connor, and she wasn't eager to get to know his work habits.

2 months later, Giles came to her and explained the whole ridiculous story, as he'd discovered it.

Buffy was too stunned and sorry, at first, to be angry. After all, this meant Connor was the remnant of a legacy. That seemed to make it worse somehow, like more was gone.

Later, it was like Connor was too zen to accept anger. She'd been with angry men, many of them, and Connor described in detail the many ways in which he'd *been* psychotic. He explained how he was okay with his life now, and then proceeded to show her in battle that he was still kind of crazy. She liked that about him. In many ways, he was a better version of his father.

Even better, he wasn't an actual vampire. Next to that, being so much younger seemed like small pittance.

"B," he says now, rolling over in bed. "Let's take the girls to the south side and clear that nest today."

Without opening her eyes, Buffy hmms.

"I take that as a yes."

Buffy smiles. "I know."

He's been through everything (and worse) she has, and then he's been through nothing. His familiy supports him, but they're *not* his family.

They have everything in common, as well as nothing. It makes perfect sense, except when it doesn't.


"Connor, Buffy? Could one of you give us a hand over here?"

Buffy shoots Connor a look and he reacts, breaks the hold she has around his neck, and walks toward the kids in a group on a gym mat across the room. Dawn leaves the group as he approaches them, because she's weirded out by his relationship with big sis. Buffy shrugs and Dawn rolls her eyes back at her.

What, about my life, Buffy thinks, *isn't* freaky.

"He likes it," Dawn says, stopping. Dawn's grown into a cute girl. She experimented for about 2 seconds with lesbianism--probably the result of being surrounded with fit female bodies almost 24 hours a day, but Buffy likes to hold it over Willow's head. When she started to attract the attention of Europe's local boys, though, was when Buffy started to feel worried. And old. Good thing slayers have no history of mid-life crises, or she'd be prime for pointed teasing.

"He likes the freaky," Dawn repeats, like it's an idea she just came up with.

They watch together, Connor teaching the young potentials how to throw overhand without losing speed.

"He actually came looking. For the freaky."

Buffy smiles slightly. "He's surprisingly well-adjusted, for a man of his age who was denied his rights, personality, and history twice in a short period."

Dawn glares at her. "You're quoting Giles to me about Connor?"

Buffy goes on parroting, "Not to mention losing his father, his true father, a man he likely never had a chance to understand."

Dawn snorts. "I get the idea, sheesh." She walks away, throwing over her shoulder the comment, "Come home for dinner and I'll even cook something."

Dawn says it feels way incestuous when the three of them eat together.


They argued about *him*, once. Buffy said he never wanted to be a hero and Connor said being a hero was the only thing that made him stay good. It was a strange conversation. Neither of them thought the other was wrong.

He never really knew Spike ...but she thinks they would have gotten along. As for Dawn, well, it's not the first time her sister's had a crush on one of her boyfriends--not that she'll admit to it.

It is, on the other hand, the first time the boy has belonged more by rights with Dawn than with her.

Dawn worked with Giles and Willow when they began restoring the Council's archives. Willow had most of Giles' resources online by that time, and around the time Will felt ready to set off on some kind of wiccan expedition to Africa, Dawn had taken over the office work almost entirely. In the meantime, Buffy cleared Kennedy for field work and inadvertently set the two of them on a path back to their former relationship. They took off together, separately, but last she heard they were together as girlfriends.

This seemed to make Dawn think she was a lesbian, for reasons known only to her. She started hanging out with a red-head in Buffy's class named Molly. Molly was loosely-defined friends with Connor, who happened to mention to Dawn that he'd once seen vamp-proof glass in an office building in L.A.

Dawn hauled Connor in to tell Giles about it, who was thrilled with the concept and Connor's knowledge about the design. Connor was vaguely reluctant to get involved with the leadership, ostensibly because he felt more equipped as "the brawn" but really because he wasn't ready to be found out. Dawn talked him into it, one way or another, and they worked long, late hours--the two of them, heads bent over paper patterns and diagrams, long brunette hair mingling in the light thrown over the cluttered desk. Probably. Buffy was never involved in this thus she never actually saw it; she had a very determined method of staying away from the office.

According to Dawn, Connor was utterly uninterested in her feminine wiles. So she turned to Molly, and that's the point where Buffy shuts down the narrative. Dawn, in her own words, "got over" the girl-on-girl action after a few months of this. And she gave up her designs on Connor, too, apparently, though Buffy remembers now that Dawn mentioned his name a few times too frequently to be casual, way back before Buffy had known him by more than a name.

Buffy hadn't bothered playing hard to get, of course, because she's years beyond all that. Once she'd worked with Connor a few times, seen how he moved (fantastic) and how fast he responded, that was it. He was her new favorite patrol buddy, and then her fuck buddy not much afterward.


"Oh that's just lovely, thank you. I was trying to eat." Dawn is laughing from the kitchen when Buffy arrives home. "Guess I'm done now."

"No, come on," Connor's voice now reaches her just inside the doorway. "It was a great kill. You gotta admit."

"It sounds like a *messy* kill. That doesn't mean great."

"It was," Buffy says, as she joins them. She smiles warily at the two. She doesn't usually find them talking. "Messy, that is."

Dawn snorts. She picks up her sandwich and watches Buffy over it, leaning with one hip against the counter.

"Not great?" Connor smiles back, sliding one arm around her waist. He touches his nose to Buffy's shoulder. "Here I thought you were impressed."

"She was just sucking up," Dawn snarks. Buffy raises an eyebrow at her, though Connor doesn't look over.

Buffy asks, "Were you waiting for me?"

Connor shrugs. "You want to get something to eat? Apparently we don't need to stay in." He shoots a significant look Dawn's way. Dawn smiles sweetly through another bite of peanut butter & jelly.

"Yeah, okay," Buffy says. "You can have the house tonight, Dawnie."

Dawn shrugs. "What else is new?"


"You and Dawn have a strange relationship."

Buffy eyes him over the alfredo and chicken parmigiana and her glass of red wine. "It's our relationship to have," she says lightly. But of course backing down isn't Connor's thing. Her best "danger, danger Will Robinson" tone, the one that can make the trainees brace themselves for the raging storm? he never so much as acknowledges it. She always forgets how much it pisses her off.

Connor leans back in his chair, so cool. "You've obviously stayed in close proximity for a reason," he muses. "Yet you constantly go your separate ways. How often do you talk to her, really? I never see you carry on a conversation outside of sometimes vamp related."

"You know nothing about me and my sister," Buffy says dismissively.

He's watching her calmly. "I know what you've told me. And I know what I see. That's all I lay claim to."

She shoots a glare at him. "I don't want to talk about it."

"That seems to be your usual M.O. actually," he says, and drops it.

The thing about arguing with Connor is, they can even do it in the middle of the naughty thing. Because Connor's red flag system is the most *sensitive* ever, and he just won't live with anything remotely close to denial. He has to bring it up, a lot like somebody else Buffy once fucked around with, but there's no disparity this time. With Connor, she fights...and she fucks, and it all happens together.

So it's not a surprise when he brings it up again later. "It's about me, isn't it? What is it you're afraid of?"

Buffy's concentration quivers and she falls back to the bed. "What? Huh?"

"I mean Dawn. Something's making you lash out. Very passive-agressively, but just the same."

"Connor! I don't want to talk about my sister right now."

He snorts. "Please. That is no excuse."

"We're having sex!"

He grins down at her. "I noticed that."

Buffy smacks at his shoulder. "I think she might have had a crush on you, though."

He rolls his eyes. "As if it even matters. And why guess? You should just ask her. I don't want to know though," he adds quickly. "Please keep it between you. I so want nothing to do with it."

She sighs. "Are we done yet with this topic?"

"Hey, it's not my topic."

"You brought it up!" She interupts.

"I just like to kill some demons and slay the dragons and I don't want your thing getting in the way of our fun."

She rolls her eyes and smiles. "Yeah, right."

"You do make it pretty damn fun, after all." He matches her smile, and gets back down to business.


Dawn's laughter cuts short everytime she walks in the room. It used to be, she got louder. It was how she tried to tell her big sister she wasn't interested in her input.

Buffy doesn't remember when Dawn stopped demanding her independence and just started living it. If she thinks about it too long she suspects it was that interlude where Buffy and leadership went separate ways.

Dawn is curled up in a big lambswool sweater under a blanket, her hands cupping an enormous purple mug of hot chocolate. It's quite obvious she was in the midst of some sort of probably intellectual conversation. Connor is perched, cross-legged on the desk. "Giles just stepped out," Dawn remarks.

Connor looks up at Buffy and raises an eyebrow. He's trying to indicate something or other. Buffy looks disinterested. "My slayer sense says hot chocolate."

Connor slides gracefully off the desk. "I'll get some for you." He presses up against Buffy on his way out the door and it makes her shiver. "Slay the monsters in here while I'm gone," he murmurs.

"Thanks, it's cold out there," she responds.


"I think it's over. I'm going to break up with him."

Dawn grunts, a study in totally not caring.


"I don't believe you," she says after a pause. "You don't really think he'd let you go anyway." She rolls her head dramatically and straightens up from the paper she is reading over breakfast. "He's not just another boyfriend who will let you run away. He knows fear too well. Why don't you *just* admit it."

Buffy breaks up with him anyway. And Dawn was wrong. He *doesn't* argue.

But Dawn turns more friendly than cautious toward her. They go shopping together. It's been such a long time since they went out together. Buffy spends her free time getting to know Dawn's work. She keeps expecting one of them to comment that Connor and Dawn might as well try being together, but every time she sees Connor in training or the halls, he just smiles like he's the one who's waiting.


"Don't tell Buffy."

"Ah ha!" Buffy exclaims when she hears the words. "I so knew you were keeping something from me."

Dawn rolls her eyes around her head and gives Buffy the look that a slayer *only* has to take from her baby sister. "Geez, pathetically needy much? Are you *eavesdropping*?"

"I wasn't eavesdropping, I just *happened* to walk around the corner at the right moment. It's not like I was searching your room for your diary or something."

"What are we, in junior high?"

Buffy makes a very mature face at her. "Come on, what's the big secret? Huh?" She looks at Dawn's companion Jenna, one of the graduating slayers.

Jenna smiles slightly. "Don't even ask, B."

"Faith and Connor call her B," Dawn remarks, with a note of reprimand in her lowered voice. "Buffy, I think there is something seriously wrong with you."

"Is not!" Buffy protests without thinking. "Are you dating somebody?"

Dawn makes an indignant noise.

The intercom on top of the refrigerator kicks on with a voice, making them all jump. Buffy censors a few unhappy insults in her head at whichever one of them came up with the brilliant intercom idea. "We need a slayer patrol on West 7th Street. Buffy, please respond immediately if you're available."

Connor's voice nearly cuts off the end of Giles'. "I'll cover it. I'm with a team."

"Hey," Buffy says, lunging for the button. "I've got it!"

"Come along," Connor replies briefly. She can fill in the snort at her expense afterward.

"I'll come," Dawn says unexpectedly, walking toward the door. "We should talk."

"Actually I'm kind of hungry and I'm sure Connor can handle it--"

"Whatever," Dawn throws over her shoulder, and keeps walking until disappears from sight. Buffy gets a jumpy feeling about what Dawn and Connor might get up to, and decides, after all, she never turns down a good fight.

"I had a feeling," is what Connor says when she joins them, just as they're leaving. He hands Buffy a newly improved rapid-fire. "Hi, Dawn." He smiles at *her*. "What's your pleasure?"

"Umm..." Dawn eyes the weapon selection with relish. It's been awhile, Buffy realizes, since she's been on the same team that Dawn is. "I think maybe one of these, and oh, one of those...and throw in one of *these* babies for good measure." She's grinning and Connor is helping her load up, the two of them playing around like it's a candy run or something.

Buffy decides she isn't irritated. She decides she's professional. She's been working on that professional thing, a little. "We know what the sitch is?" asks Buffy. She could really use somebody to put the smackdown on.


The slayer classes wore colors to differentiate. It was a practical choice, and nobody meant it as a bias or a status symbol beyond the obvious connotations. Or anyway, that's what Giles said when the trouble started a few months back.

Slayers are unpredictable and ungrateful by nature, Buffy figures. Even though Giles and Willow spent about a million hours and, like, way more effort than it needed to design skill levels for the slayer trainees, a bunch of them decided there weren't enough rules already. "I just don't get it," Buffy sighs. She trailed Dawn and Connor into the office after they grounded a bunch of them to their apartments. "Why do they want *more* rules? That's so not the slayer way."

"That's not precisely what they're protesting, Buffy," Giles says, sighing and wiping his glasss. "They believe the class asssessments are too subjective."

"Um?" Buffy shakes her head.

"They think we're playing favorites," said Willow's voice.

"Willow!" Buffy brightens. She pops into the chair at the computer. "How are you?"

"I'm good, Buffy." Willow grins in the little window on screen. "You could e-mail."

"Yeah, why e-mail when I can *think* about e-mailing?"

"Buffy, Willow, perhaps we could discuss the issue."

"Right," Willow says, going all business-like in the picture. "The class lists are all on the computer. But we've been over them completely. I don't know what to do besides give up the color bands or form some kind of panel of judges, except where would we find some kind of authority on slayer training? Between us we have the most experience of anybody living."

"Right, well." Giles shakes his head, standing over Buffy's shoulder.

"We've been through all this," Buffy complains. "Didn't solve anything then, either."

"Buffy, it's just that they don't seem to *trust* us anymore."

Buffy suddenly feels uncomfortable and decides to get up and away from the computer. "Well we've been through all that before, too, haven't we."

"I know, and it wasn't all your fault then either, Buff," Willow says gently.

"To be honest," Giles says slowly, "I thought that when Buffy broke up with Connor, that might solve the problem--or rather, part of the problem that lead to the problem."


"I see his point," Connor offers from near the doorway.

Buffy glares at him. He smiles like he enjoys it.

Giles shrugs, slightly sheepish. "Well, Buffy, it's just that our little group is so selective. Connor being so much younger than you--"

"He's not *that* much younger!"

"--And with so many of the girls, erhm, perhaps motivated to excell in their training more out of aesthetic interest..."

"He means because they have a crush on him."

"Yes, and, Buffy, as the most senior slayer, you're not only an icon and a role model to these girls--"

"Pressure much, Giles?"

"You're also a source of competition. The two of you, dating, has a tendency to foster jealousy in the girls and that could, potentially, contribute to a feeling of general discontent and neglect."

Buffy looks away from them. Right, and everything would be *so* much better if Dawn was the lucky girlfriend everybody liked anyway. So what else is new. She tilts her head to see where Connor's looking. His eyes rest on her, in that eerie way that reminds her of what Spike used to do. She learned to appreciate that *after* she'd lost him.

"That's a load of crap," Connor says, and steps away from the wall. "Sure, I mean, it all makes sense. But that doesn't make it right."

Giles hesitates, than speaks quickly, "I agree, Connor, which is why I didn't speak against it before. But at this point the situation seems to have resolved itself naturally. Hasn't it?"

Connor sort of raises his eyebrows and blinks in a way that says he thinks not without actually saying anything.

Giles looks suspicious. His gaze pans slowly from Connor to Buffy and back to Dawn. Dawn looks disgusted. "Buffy, you are so dumb."

"Geez, Dawn."

"I'm serious. Giles is right, everybody totally looks up to you. It's just they think you don't like them or something."

"What! I *like* them." Buffy reconsiders. "Well, they're kind of a pain in the butt sometimes, but this is probably like the best job I never knew I wanted."

She catches Connor smiling at her out of the corner of her eye. "What?" she snaps.

He shrugs. "Perhaps if they didn't think we were so easy to separate..."

She feels a little surprise catch at her throat. "Are you suggesting we get back together?" Then she nearly slaps herself and suggests, "Or did you mean us as a group. You meant the group, didn't you."

He just stands there looking at her affectionately and shakes his head.

"Um, hello?" Willow says from the computer. "I didn't catch that last part. Dawnie, what's going on?"

"Connor's trying to convince Buffy he loves her," Dawn's replies, and it falls like a bomb. But maybe just to Buffy it did, because two seconds later her world opens back up to more than just Dawn and everybody else is looking at her. Waiting on her.

Buffy opens her mouth and doesn't know what to say.

"I know this is really selfish, but could you guys maybe cluster a little closer to the computer?" Willow requests, tinnily, and then says something else that sounds like "fucking New Zealand."

Giles clears his throat. "Dawn, perhaps you--"

"No, wait a minute," Buffy interrupts finally. "Dawn, what the hell?" She looks at Dawn and Dawn suddenly falls back, uncertain, and bites her lower lip. "What were you and Jenna talking about earlier?"


"You said we needed to talk!"

Dawn straightens up in astonishment and looks around. "*Now*?"

"When else?"

"No, no way, Buffy. You're insane. Like I *want* to discuss my love life with you when you can't keep your own--"

"What love life?"

Connor speaks. "Jack, the author from the coffeehouse."

Dawn's head jerks to stare at Connor. "You know?"

Connor looks casual. "I get around."

"Jack?" Willow repeats. "The author? From the coffeehouse? Ooh! He was cute! You go, Dawnie!"

"*Jack*?" Buffy repeats. "And why have I never met him?"

"Oh dear," Giles sighs.

Dawn gives her an irritated look. "Because you'd scare him away, why do you *think*."

"You could double date!" Willow inserts enthusiastically. "Except that Buffy and Connor broke up and Buffy doesn't have a boyfriend and I'll be quiet now sorry."

"This isn't a very productive meeting," Giles says.

"We're doing alright, Giles." Connor and Giles exchange a weird look. Then Giles just nods and walks over to the other desk where all his books are spread out.

Buffy throws up her hands. "You know what, give me a stake and I can get the job done. You guys are going to have to figure out the shrink stuff. Can I go?"

"That might be best," Giles replies without looking up.

"Bye, Buff," comes from the computer.

"You and I will talk later." Buffy points at Dawn. She rolls her eyes in response.

"Buffy," Connor says, tailing her to the exit. She pauses automatically and glances back at him. He extends his hand. She sighs and then grabs it, holding on to him as he matches her stride out the door. They don't have to talk about where they're headed as they walk down to the gym. There's a nice padded sparring ring just begging to be broken in.


She decides that if Dawn doesn't want him, she might as well keep him. After all, Angel isn't there to freak out about it and she's sure not giving him up for the idiot trainee slayers.

Not that she isn't gonna do her best to prepare them for their super important work and then send them out into the world to fight bad guys. Because once they're through training, somebody else has to keep track of them. It's a great system. She and Connor can always fight about the Christmas card list later.

It could be worse. She could be dating another vampire, or stressing over a secret lover, or pining after her sister's boyfriend.

Or she could not even know who she loves, at all.

The End