Dragonlots aka Dana Bell
"Here's the deed to the house," the lawyer handed yet another form to her.
Buffy blinked, trying not to think of anything but the current task. She didn't want to think about the house she and Dawn would live in without the steadying influence of her mother, now dead and buried in the Sunnydale cemetery.
She glanced at the blurry paperwork spread out before her. Copies of the banking statement and an extra checkbook, keys to the deposit box with copies of her birth certificate and other documents, the extra mortgage her mom had taken out to put her through college, a goal she could not longer pursue.
There was a pause and she looked up at the brown suited attorney. "The last item here," he sounded puzzled. "Is an address to a bank in San Francisco and a set of keys." He pushed the items across the dull oak desk at her.
The slayer took them with a questioning gaze. He shook his head. "I have no idea," he said. "Are there any questions, Miss Summers?"
"No." Not that she could think of any at the moment. She felt overwhelmed.
"My business card is attached to the house deed, in the event you think of something later." He rose and extended his hand. "I'm sorry for your loss."
"Thank you." She shook his hand in return and scooped everything up into a large bag she'd brought from home. Maybe later she'd go through the paperwork and figure out how well off, or not, she and her sister were. If she could just shake the feeling of surreal.
Heading for home she squinted at the sunlight. She was used to prowling the town's streets by night, as were the demons she killed. Daytime was a bit of an alien concept to her.
Back at home she unlocked the door and dumped the bag on a convenient end table. "Dawn!" she called.
Her younger sister appeared at the head of stairs. She still wasn't dressed even though it was early afternoon. Red rimmed brown eyes stared down at her.
"Hungry?" Buffy asked. She herself didn't have any appetite, but she needed to keep up her strength and knew Dawn should as well.
"We have anything good to eat?" her sister asked following her into the compact kitchen.
"Let's see," she opened a cupboard and studied the contents. Her mother had always made it seem so easy. Now, she wished she'd taken more time to learn to cook. And to spend the time with her mom, time now gone forever.
"How about pizza?" Dawn sounded wistful.
"I'm not sure about money yet." She grabbed a can of soup, opened it and tossed in on the stove. "See if you can find the bread."
In less than fifteen minutes they were sitting at the island eating soup and sandwiches. At least she'd managed to feed them one meal. Hopefully, she could do it again. And again. And again.
"What'd the lawyer say?"
"Just gave me a bunch of legal stuff." She sipped the hot soup and made a face. Maybe she'd overcooked it.
Dawn pushed her bowl away and finished off her sandwich. "I'm goin' to watch TV."
"Put your bowl in the dishwasher first."
Her sister complied and left. Buffy stared at her food and made herself finish at the least the sandwich. It wasn't very good either.
Weeks later, Buffy finally found the courage to dump out the contents of the bag on the dining room table. Dawn was at school and the rest of her friends at the Magic Shop researching the latest menace. It gave her a few minutes to herself. Enough time to sort through a few remnants of her mother's life.
The deed to the house and a couple of items would need to go back to the safe deposit box. She should have done that right away. She'd make it a quick stop on her way to the shop. Others would go into a desk in the living room. Some she'd just throw out, as they weren't needed anymore.
But the last item had her puzzled. It had the address to a bank and a set of keys. How curious. She picked up her cell phone and dialed the number.
"Hello?" An automated voice came on and began listing options. How she hated the machine age! Give her a person on the other end to help! She waded through the ponderous selections and finally reached someone in customer service.
"How can I help you?"
"My name is Buffy Summers and it seems my mother had a safe deposit box there."
"One moment, please."
There was a pause and then another voice came on the phone. "Hello, Miss Summers. How can I assist you today?"
She wasn't sure what to make of the switch. "My mother died a few weeks ago."
"Thank you." She swallowed the lump in her throat. She didn't need to cry right now. "In the stuff I got from her lawyer." Buffy took a deep breath. "Well, I found the address to this bank and I have a set of keys."
"I see." Vaguely she could hear computer keys clicking in the background. "I have her name and address on file. Where are you calling from?"
"Thank you. Yes. We have a safe deposit box here under your mother's name."
"Any idea what's in it?" Okay, maybe a silly question, but she just couldn't figure out why her mother had documents stored so far from home.
"I'm sorry. I don't have that information."
"Worth a try," she muttered.
"Our clients don't entrust us with that," the voice explained.
"Thanks. I'll see if I can make a trip there and find out for myself."
"Our hours are Monday through Friday seven AM to six PM. Saturdays eight to noon."
"Good day and thank you for banking with us." The line went dead.
"Whatever." She stared at the keys for a moment. "Whatever are you hiding, mom?"
The day they arrived in San Francisco it was foggy, damp, and cold. Buffy huddled inside her jacket and hustled Dawn into the bank. It had the typical business like atmosphere with white floors and matching walls, the institution's logo splashed in bold bright letters.
She marched up to the service desk. "I need to get into a safe deposit box."
"Name, please?" The clerk looked and sounded bored.
"It's my mother's box. She died. I'm here to," she didn't get a chance to finish.
A young man in a dark business suit appeared. "Hello, Miss Summers. If you'll come with me, please. You have the keys?"
She nodded and followed him to an area where he helped her sign in. He indicated a waiting area. "I'm sorry," he apologized to Dawn. "But the room is small. I think you'll be more comfortable here."
Her sibling glared at him and sulked to a chair. Resentful eyes followed her older sister as Buffy entered a small room filled with boxes and a table that seemed to fill the rest of the expanse.
"Keys?" She handed them to him. He opened a long narrow box and placed it on the table. "If you need anything, I'll be close by." He darted out and left her to examine the contests privately.
With trembling hands she opened the box. Inside she found a picture of two women, both blonde, though her mom was much younger than the other was. They had their arms linked and both wore big smiles. In the background seemed to be an old fashioned house. That was all.
"What?" She turned the drawer over and patted it down to see if she missed anything. There was nothing. "I came all this way for this!"
Picking up the picture again she stared at it. There were no identifying marks. Nothing to tell her where the photo had been taken. Exasperated she opened her purse meaning to stuff it in and forget about it. It was then she noticed an address on the back and a note neatly penned in her mother's handwriting.
If you're here, then I'm either gone from your life for some reason or worse yet, dead. I'm sorry I kept this from you. I was trying to protect you. I know I probably shouldn't have but I couldn't think of anything else to do. I love you. Please, remember that. Go to the address on this picture.
For a long moment she just gazed at it. No explanation, just a simple instruction. Deciding her mother must have had a good reason, she left the vault area and collected her sister. Outside the bank she hailed a cab. They'd come by Greyhound bus to San Francisco and then public transportation to the bank. It was getting late and she wanted to just get to where they needed to go, not have to change buses too many times.
"Where are we going, Buffy?" Dawn slumped into the back seat of the cab.
The slayer gave the address to the driver and sat back herself. "I don't really know. The address on the back of this photo." She gave it to Dawn.
"Who's the other woman?"
"I have no idea."
Houses sailed by and old historic buildings. The cab finally stopped outside a two story red Victorian house. Buffy got out and paid the driver while her sister looked up at the window on the second story.
Buffy turned around. "Yeah." They climbed the steep stairs and she rang the doorbell.
One of the stain glass doors opened. An attractive red head greeted them with a questioning smile. "Can I help you?"
"I'm Buffy Summers. This is my sister Dawn."
Dawn gave the woman a half smile and wave.
"My mom had a safe deposit box and she left this in it." Not knowing what else to do she showed the woman the picture.
She gasped. "Piper! Phoebe!" She motioned the to follow her. "Come in, please."
Inside Buffy noticed the old fashioned furniture and the homey feel of the house. Two other women joined them.
"This is Buffy and her sister Dawn," the red head introduced them. "These are my sisters Piper," the one with long straight brown hair smiled at them, "and Phoebe." The other sister had black hair. "Oh, and I'm Paige. Sorry. Didn't mean to be rude."
"That's okay. We didn't exactly call first."
"They have a picture of our mother."
"What!" The other two said it almost simultaneously.
Piper stepped forward. "Can I see?"
Buffy handed her the picture. Phoebe came up beside her and stared at the photo.
"Who's the other woman?" The dark haired sister asked.
"Our mother, Joyce Summers."
"Any idea how she knew our mother?" Piper's brown eyes met Buffy's blue ones.
"No. We were hoping you could tell us."
"From school maybe?" Paige ventured.
"Doesn't explain the note on the back," Dawn put in, turning it over for the sisters to see.
The three exchanged a puzzled look.
"We could always ask," Phoebe suggested.
"I don't see we have any other choice," Piper agreed. "You can't ask your mom?"
"She's dead." The memory still hurt, but the pain had been slowly fading.
"We definitely have to ask," Paige agreed. "Come with us."
"I don't know if that's a good idea," Phoebe objected.
"Better she hear it from mom, than second hand from us." Piper gave them a smile. "You believe in good witches."
"Our friend Willow is a witch," Dawn said before Buffy could stop her.
"Well, she is."
The three looked relieved.
"At least we don't have to spend time proving it to you." Piper pointed with her head. "Come to the attic with us."
Buffy and her sister went up the carpeted stairs to the attic. The sisters gathered around an old book on a podium. Together they chanted a spell and the woman from the picture appeared.
"Hi, mom," Piper greeted. She showed the ghostly figure the photo. "Do you know what this means?"
The ghost cried out and stepped out of the protective circle. Instantly she became solid. She embraced the two girls.
"Welcome! Welcome home!"
"Don't tell me we have another sister," Piper began.
Her mother gave an odd laugh. "No, Piper." She backed away and looked over the two. "You so look like your mother."
"Who are you and how do you know our mom?" Buffy demanded.
"Why don't you sit down." She indicated an old stuffed couch. Dawn sat but Buffy stood. The three sisters gathered around as well. They all seemed so relaxed with each other that the slayer knew just a moment of envy.
"Your mother Joyce," the ghost began. "My name is Patty," she added before continuing. "Is my cousin."
"We have cousins?" Piper interjected.
"Yes." Patty smiled at her. "Joyce used to come and stay with us during summer vacations."
"Why didn't she ever tell me?" Buffy wanted to know.
Patty was silent briefly. "I think if she'd had the choice, she would have. I'm impressed she managed to sneak away this photo without my mother finding out."
"What did Grams do?" Phoebe asked, a slightly shocked expression on her face.
"I wasn't around then, but my mother told me she mixed a forgetting potion and gave it to Joyce. That was about the time," she looked at Buffy. "That she met your father."
"But if she was a Haliwell," Piper began.
"Joyce didn't have any powers, though she knew about me and your Grams, and about the book." Patty sighed. "I think my mother was trying to protect our secret. Besides, she didn't like the man Joyce chose."
"Grams doesn't like men at all," Paige put in.
"I know." Patty smiled at Buffy and Dawn. "I'm so glad you found that photo and came here." Eagerly she asked. "Do you have any powers?"
Buffy hesitated before answering. She was very used to keeping her secret. "I'm the slayer."
Several gasps sounded.
"No wonder Joyce didn't have any powers," Patty said, her voice filled with awe. "She had a far greater destiny."
"I've read about the slayer." Paige moved to the book and opened it to a spot. "I had no idea our family produced one."
"It isn't often." Patty joined her.
"Slayer, the Chosen One, a young woman with extraordinary powers to fight against vampires and demons. Often overseen by a Watcher."
"Giles," Buffy supplied.
"One of the Champions of Light. That's it." Paige closed the book.
"How come we've never encountered one before?' Piper wanted to know.
"I've been living in Sunnydale. Usually, there's only one of us at a time."
"It's the Hellmouth," Dawn helpfully supplied.
Patty shuddered. "Poor Joyce." Lightly she put her hand on Buffy's shoulder. "I want you to know your mother is fine and she's with us now."
"Can they call her back like they did you?" Buffy wasn't sure she wanted to know the answer.
"I don't think you really need to see her." Patty smiled, smoothing a bit of hair out of the Slayer's face. "Do you?"
Buffy shook her head. They'd been doing fine for the past few weeks. Almost, they had a normal life, if not for all the vampires and demons.
"I'm so glad you found you're way here." She hugged Buffy again. "I have to go now." Patty stepped back and vanished.
"Cousins," Piper murmured. "Who would have thought."
Phoebe spoke up. "One of these days, we really have to have a talk with Grams."
"But not today." Piper smiled at the two girls. "Where are you staying tonight?"
"I thought maybe we'd go home." Buffy was confused by the question.
Piper gave them a warm smile. "Buffy, Dawn, you are home."
Phoebe and Paige nodded, and suddenly, Buffy felt like she'd found a place to belong. Vaguely she saw the figure of her mother nod before it faded away.
"So," Dawn asked. "What's for dinner?"
"I'm a great cook," Piper offered as they headed downstairs.
Dawn made a face at Buffy before following.
"Reminds me of me when I was younger," Phoebe offered.
"She's a good kid."
"She's going to like it here," Paige assured her.
"I know." Buffy headed to the door. "I need to call Giles and my friends."
"Go ahead." Phoebe and Paige left Buffy alone in the attic.
The Slayer called her Watcher and explained what was going on and where she was.
'Don't stay away too long,' he admonished her.
"We've been offered a home here."
"I want to think about it. Bye." She hung up and headed downstairs. After a wrong turn she ended up in the kitchen. Piper was making dinner and her sisters were hanging out and talking with Dawn.
"They make potions." Dawn pointed at the cupboards.
"Like Willow does."
"Do you like being a Slayer?" Phoebe asked.
"You know you can stay here for as long as you want." Piper paused in cutting vegetables.
"Thank you. But if I stay away too long, the vampires get cocky."
"Tough life isn't it?"
"You'll always have a place here, remember that."
"Now, let's have a dinner as a family should and get to know each other."
Paige added. "And remember, you can always call on us if you need help."
"There isn't much the Charmed Ones can't handle." Phoebe smiled.
Buffy suddenly had the feeling that her life would get much better because of her new magical cousins. "I'll remember. Piper, can you teach me how to cook?"
"Come over here." Her new cousin handed her the knife. "Here's how you cut a vegetable."
A week later Buffy returned to Sunnydale. Dawn had stayed with the sisters.
"Where's Dawn?" Giles demanded.
"With my cousins, the Haliwells."
The Englishman sputtered. "You mean the Charmed Ones."
"Yes." Buffy sat down on his couch. "It's an interesting story and they've offered both of us a home."
"Are you going to accept?"
"Dawn has. I'll visit." She smiled for perhaps the first time since her mother's desk. "I finally have an explanation of why I'm a Slayer and a proud family history. Now," she leaned forward. "What's new and how are we going to defeat it?"