Title: No Victory Dance

Author: Jedi Buttercup

Rating: T

Category: B:tVS/ID4

Summary: Another way the Slayer might have ended up in Sunnydale. 1000 words.

Disclaimer: The words are mine; the worlds are not. I claim nothing but the plot.

Spoilers: Buffy pre-"Welcome to the Hellmouth" (1.1); Independence Day (1996)

Feedback: It's the coin of the realm.

Notes: Imagine that Buffy's showdown at Hemery High happened (as all her apocalypsi tended to do) in May of 1996, and it just took Joyce six months to straighten things out and find a place to move to (on the show, Buffy transferred to Sunnydale in early 1997). Now recall that ID4 came out in Summer 1996... and add to that that July 2nd of that year was a Tuesday...

"We will not go quietly into the night.
We will not vanish without a fight.
We're going to live on.
We're going to survive.
Today, we celebrate our Independence Day!"

Bill Pullman, ID4

Buffy Summers' parents hadn't reacted well at all to her expulsion from Hemery High, nor her attempt at explaining just why she'd felt it necessary to burn down the school's gym. Their little girl, the popular cheerleader without a serious thought in her head, suddenly claiming she was Chosen to fight demons? Bye bye, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, hello, Buffy the Mental Patient. Even after she'd pretended to be cured and the docs sent her home they'd kept watching her warily out of the corners of their eyes. The only one who'd believed her had been Dawn, and even then, Buffy wasn't sure whether she'd really thought Buffy was telling the truth or if the ten-year-old had just been fascinated with a new source of exciting, gory stories.

The appearance of an enormous metal disk above the city one Tuesday morning a month later was their first real clue that there might have been more to her claims than they'd thought. If aliens were real, then who was to say demons weren't real, as well?

Buffy certainly wasn't making any distinction between them. Merrick hadn't had much time to teach her about the metaphysical aspects of being the One Girl In All The World, but she had a pretty good idea that the creepy-crawly sensation and severe stomach cramps she had felt from the moment the ship arrived were not good signs. It was like a million Lothos-es were hovering just out of reach, and the urge to Slay was a constant surge under her skin.

"I'm not imagining things," Buffy told her mother calmly as she dragged a suitcase out of the hall closet and carried it into her bedroom. With or without her family, preferably with, she intended to get the hell out of Dodge; there was no way she was staying here. "I know you didn't believe me before, and okay, maybe it all sounded a little crazy, but look out the window, Mom! If that's not proof, I don't know what is."

"But the President said to stay calm, they're trying to make contact," Joyce objected, wringing her hands. "Would he stay in the White House if they thought we were in danger?"

"You think he wants to start a panic?" Buffy cut her off, scooping out the contents of her drawers. "Look, Mom, these things aren't from around here. If that ship is any clue, they are a lot more advanced than we are. You think they're going to look down at us and see people they should treat as equals?" She might play dumb in school, but she had learned a few things in her History class about the colonization period, and she'd picked up a lot more about the way the strong treated the weak since her introduction to the demonic underground. Slaves, trespassers, menu items... she had no way of knowing which category the new arrivals would put humans in, but she was willing to bet it would be somewhere on that list.

Joyce had no effective answer for her daughter's caution; it seemed only common sense to get somewhere safer for a little while, then sort out the details when they returned. A call to her husband netted the promise that he'd join them at a hotel up the interstate after work, and another to her assistant at the gallery arranged to close the place up for a few days. Then she packed her bags, collected a few things for her younger daughter, and drove over to pick Dawn up from a slumber party she'd attended the night before. A little family vacation couldn't hurt, anyway; it might be just the thing to patch her failing marriage back together.

One thing led to another, however, and Hank Summers was still caught in downtown traffic when an eerie green light lit up the sky over L.A. and the US Bank tower exploded in an ever-increasing ball of flame. His wife and daughters saw the distant glow from the one-Starbucks town of Sunnydale two hours up the coast where they'd stopped that night, and knew that their world would never be the same.

They waited out the ensuing destruction helplessly over the next 36 hours, not knowing where else to go, as city after city and military base after military base were added to the casualty lists on the emergency radio networks. It was as though the aliens had a list of targets in their heads, rated from most populous or dangerous to least, and were eliminating them in order. Sunnydale might be small, but it was only a matter of time before its name came up. Even the underworld seemed to be in shock; the streets were all utterly quiet when Buffy snuck out to patrol, as if the demons knew their fate would be tied to humanity's this time around.

It all ended the afternoon of July 4th, with a shout of celebration over the radio and a vibrant meteor shower lighting the sky from horizon to horizon. Parts from the destroyed mother ship, the announcer had explained, then played a tape they'd received from someone who had been at Area 51 that morning during a rousing speech the President had given the troops.

The words were very pretty, but the Slayer in Buffy kept her from applauding with everyone else. "Mankind... that word should have new meaning for all of us today," Whitmore said. "We can't be consumed by our petty differences anymore"-- but why should that be true now, when it hadn't been in the past? What about the demonic menace that had lived among them for uncounted generations? And what would happen when the world had to deal with the inevitable survivors from those huge alien ships? Humanity might have won the day, but they had by no means won the war.

She looked out the window at the fireworks and knew that this was not the end of anything.

Good thing she'd thought to bring her sword.