Origin and Season One (Ch. 35)
Character: Buffy Summers
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Word Count: 1695
- Schism -
They explained everything to Willow and Xander in the aftermath, on their way to the nurse's station to pick up an ice pack for Giles. As he'd reached into the freezer, the Watcher had remarked only half-jokingly that he would probably have to start keeping a stock in the library if trends continued, and Buffy had agreed, not quite so jokingly. When he'd suggested on their way out that they take the day off from training, she'd agreed again, her energy burst from before having more or less faded. Willow and Xander suggested a night out at the Bronze to celebrate their success, but Buffy had declined, wanting to get home.
And that's precisely where she'd went, to sleep until dinner. When she'd dragged herself out for patrol, she found nothing during the sweep, and she'd gratefully returned to her bed at just ten past three, passing out almost immediately. Turned out, dying or, almost dying – was pretty tiring.
She was fine by Friday's end.
Now it was Tuesday, and her birthday. She'd spent the weekend shopping and hanging with Willow and Xander, which was when she'd finally gotten around to mentioning her birthday. She'd also told them about her plans with her dad, that because of them she wasn't sure when they should get together.
Both of them had shown up with gifts this morning, “just in case” they didn't end up meeting tonight. She'd been surprised and more than a little grateful, having felt somewhat downhearted on her walk to school, thoughts lost in last year's birthday and everything that had changed since. This year there'd be no big group of friends, no skipping school to spend the day at Disneyland, no gossip-filled sleepover with cake and ice cream. She hadn't been in contact with anyone from her former life in LA since the expulsion, so she hadn't been surprised not to receive any well-wishes from her old friends, but the radio silence still hurt a little.
Willow and Xander had changed that, with their hand-wrapped, brightly colored presents, which they'd made her swear to hold off on opening. Even Giles had been in a giving spirit, though his gifts had lacked both the wrappings and the whimsy: a battered looking crossbow, and the night off from training and patrol. She'd accepted them happily all the same, and he'd even let her fire off a few rounds into an old box.
And she had to give him credit, he'd at least thought to stick a bow on the weapon, right smack on the bolt notch.
Now school was over, and she was making her way out of the building alone, having separated from her friends after class. Her stomach was a nest of butterflies, though she wasn't entirely sure why. When she joined the crowd streaming through the door and spotted her dad's car at the curb, they all seemed to take off, ping-ponging drunkenly around her guts even as some corner of her soul was flooded with relief.
Buffy let out a long breath, heading down the steps. If she was honest with herself, some part of her had been worried her dad wouldn't want to come up to the same county her mother occupied, that he'd put off their plans until the weekend so her mom could drive her down or something, even though she'd heard the message and talked to him about it on the phone a few times. She was glad he'd made it, and seeing him she realized all at once how much she'd missed him. She was smiling by the time she reached the car, and her dad left it to meet her and give her a hug.
“Hey, Dad,” she said, hugging him back, taking care not to crush him. “I'm so glad you made it.”
“Happy birthday, sweetie,” he said into her hair. “I forgot how strong you are.”
“Oh,” she released him, and they smiled at each other. The butterflies had landed, but she was still feeling a little emotional.
“Well, hop in,” he said. “I figure we can catch dinner before the show, at that Italian place you like?”
“Yeah,” she said, and they both made to follow his suggestion. As she was buckling, a thought occurred, and she found herself asking as neutrally as possible, “You, uh, have a good time with mom?” He'd planned to be here several hours ago so he could meet up with her at the gallery, though she hadn't asked why.
“Yeah,” he said, but didn't elaborate as he pulled away from the curb. “Picked up your sister too, took her to the gallery. It seems like she likes it here.”
“Yeah,” she replied, not sure if that was true. “Yeah, we both do.”
“Good.” He reached over and took her hand. “So how does it feel to be sweet sixteen?”
“Well,” she was looking at the hand she wasn't holding, the one that didn't have a ring, “like fifteen, only older, and much more qualified to drive.”
At that he looked at her, forcing her eyes away from his empty finger. “You still have six months.”
“Hey, what's wrong with a little optimism?”
“Hmph,” he exhaled, flicking the turn signal.
They chatted lightly about school and her friends and her birthday and his work as they rolled to and then down the 101. As they talked, it gradually became clear to Buffy how much they'd already missed in each other's lives, even though it hadn't been that long at all since the divorce and the move. It wasn't as if they'd necessarily had long, daily conversations about their lives before, but she could sense a new, uncomfortable distance there, and she wanted it gone. So she decided to talk it away, filling him in on everything in her life she was able to share, though it required omitting almost everything that was important.
When she ran out of things to say, she found herself thinking once again about how much she felt like she was living two lives, like Buffy Summers was someone she'd known a long time but was starting, gradually, to forget, even though she was all most of the people in her life knew.
Talk turned to Dawn and Sunnydale as they started hitting the LA traffic, but it dwindled quickly in the face of the wall of brake lights in front of them. Having grown up in the snarl, Buffy was more or less used to it, and she put her head back in her seat to wait it out. Her thoughts drifted as her dad fed the car a Rolling Stones CD, back to last night's patrol.
For the first time since the Harvest, she'd run into a vamp. He'd been skulking around outside the Sun, coasting no doubt for some hapless, unsuspecting victim on their way from the midnight showing, and after running through several possible approaches, she'd settled on just walking right up to him. The vamp had seemed almost giddy at what he must have considered his great luck, and she'd allowed him to lead her to some dark, secluded corner, a spot he'd no doubt spent the greater part of the night fantasizing about. He barely even seemed to have registered that he'd been duped up until the moment she'd rammed her stake through his heart.
After dusting herself off, she'd left the alley, then found herself stopping in the same place she'd found the vamp, to watch as a trickle of people left the theater. She'd wondered if she seemed as remote and irrelevant to them standing there as the vamp would have, but when someone caught her eye she had walked away, letting the thought go.
Now she was considering it again, as she sat in her dad's car, not talking about any of the things she really wanted to talk about, only acknowledging the half of her life she still wanted to believe was more important but had already been eaten so far away, as she ran her hands along the invisible wall that had been erected between her and her family since the day Merrick had thrust her fate atop her shoulders, and between her and her dad since she'd left New Horizons to find her parents had finally gone the direction she'd feared they would for the past few years. But mostly she felt the schism between Buffy Summers and the Slayer, and it scared her that she could feel it narrowing and filling in, even as the walls grew between her and everyone else.
Maybe the close call had shook her more than she thought. She still hadn't forgotten the sound of that thing screaming in her blood and her ears, and she still hadn't quite convinced herself that it'd been neither real nor alive. And the dream... that hadn't been the first time she'd dreamt her death down in that pit.
Slowly, she rotated a ring on her finger.
That hadn't been the first time she'd seen the Master either. She didn't know why she hadn't talked to Giles about it yet.
Then again, what could he do?
The darkness and distraction flew from her thoughts, peeled away like masking tape, and she realized the car was stopped, and her dad was looking at her oddly.
“Everything alright?” he asked.
“Yeah,” she said, forcing a smile to her lips. “Yeah, I'm great. Are we here?” she looked away, out the window, and she recognized the lot. They were. “I'm starving.”
“Well, let's go then,” he said, popping open his door.
She followed suit, slamming shut the mental cage she'd somehow climbed inside for the past twenty minutes. It was her birthday, damnit, the one day out of the year where she was morally and legally obligated to think of herself and be happy about it. If Giles could give her the day off, then she was obviously going to take it with a smile.