Author's Note: *slinks out of hiding, ready to run* Hi everyone. I am so sorry for the incredible lateness on this chapter. I really don't have any good excuse. I've been trying to finish my Narnia story Between Families so that I could devote myself to this full time, but that didn't work out, and I realized that you have all been so incredibly patient with me – I just had to sit down and get this chapter written. This has probably been one of the most difficult chapters to write to date, so I hope that you enjoy it.
Thanks to richierich for being the 385th reviewer on this site , and to Arkaedia for being the 585th reviewer at Twisting the Hellmouth. Also, welcome to my new reviewers: DementedLeaf, Jason123456, jon58840, oceanluvr, MirandaAnnMcGonagall, and anyone else I may have missed. It's great to see that you're enjoying this story, and I hope to see you on the review boards again! Thanks for giving my story a chance!
Chapter Forty-Five: Stinging Words
"Words can sting like anything, but silence breaks the heart."
- Phyllis McGinley
Charles watched his daughter leave for her patrol and couldn't stifle a surge of worry as the door closed behind her. No matter what Mr. Giles said about her Slayer powers, what she was doing seemed like nothing more than his daughter going out and looking for trouble. She might have the best motives – saving lives – but she was going out and essentially looking for a fight. It wasn't safe – it wasn't healthy! – and he couldn't help but worry about her. When he sent Logan and Storm out, he did so with good information, as well as good motives – and he never deliberately sent the children into danger. With Storm and Logan, he tried above all not to send them into a dangerous situation unless there was absolutely no choice, and he always gave them the option to decline. His daughter had not had the opportunity to decline the choice to become the Slayer.
"Buffy will be fine," Joyce said calmly. "She does this every night – usually twice a night, actually. She may come home with bruises, but she'll be fine."
"How are you so blasé about this?" Charles asked. "Elizabeth is hunting vampires," he shook his head, "and I can't believe I'm actually saying that. She could die anytime she goes out on one of these patrols, and –"
"I have faith in Buffy," Joyce interrupted him, her voice tight. "I worry about her every time she goes out but she is good at what she does. I also trust Angel. He won't let anything happen to her. He would die before he let Buffy get hurt." She fixed him with a serious look. "Nothing is going to stop Buffy from doing her duty, and if you really do care about her and want to be part of her life, you have to accept that this is who she is. God knows it was easier before I learned about all of this, but I don't have a choice. This is Buffy's fate."
"I've never believed in fate," Charles said softly. He still wasn't sure if he could believe what 'Lizzie' had said in his dream. The idea that the fate of the world was on his daughter's shoulders was difficult to believe. How could one person impact the lives of six billion people? But at the same time, if his conversation with Lizzie had been just a dream, why would he dream something so outrageous?
"You'll need to start believing," Joyce replied. "Even after I found out about the Slaying, I was convinced that it would just stop if Buffy got away from Sunnydale. But Mr. Giles explained to me that vampires are everywhere, and that she would never stop being the Slayer."
He needed to start believing – those had been Lizzie's words as well. The idea of fate, though…it was so ephemeral, so subjective. How could someone as scientific as he was come to believe in something so illogical? Of course, Lizzie had liked to argue that it was fate that they had met and fallen in love – that they had been destined for each other. While that was a romantic notion, and one he'd occasionally enjoyed teasing her about, he wasn't convinced.
Perhaps it was time to change the subject. "Joyce, I understand that you don't trust me, or my motivations. What can I do to convince you that I am sincere, and that this isn't a trick?" A weighty subject, perhaps, but he needed to start looking for answers.
She sighed softly. "I don't know. For eighteen years, Buffy has been my daughter. Then I found out that she's the Slayer, then you show up claiming that she's your daughter, and she's telepathic. I don't know what to think or feel anymore."
Charles didn't know what he could say to that. Most of the time, his students seemed to believe that he had all the answers. But he'd made his own share of mistakes – allowing his relationships with Susan, Moira, and Lizzie's parents to suffer not the least of them. It was true, to an extent, that his telepathy gave him a greater insight into what people were thinking, but telepathy didn't automatically confer wisdom. He'd studied people a great deal once he'd realized that he was telepathic, trying to understand and control his powers. The accident that had crippled him, followed by the long months of recovery and physical therapy had refined his patience and his emotional control even further. But he didn't have all the answers to life's questions.
Maybe he simply needed to face her doubts head on, in a way that would allow her to draw her own conclusions about who he was – not just a faceless man who was trying to steal her child, but to understand who Charles Xavier was, and what kind of a person he was.
The most obvious place to start, of course, was with her suspicions about his telepathic abilities. "Joyce, I know you are suspicious of me because I have the ability to manipulate memories – but I don't use that power unless I have no other choice."
"You could have tricked Buffy into believing that she was your daughter," Joyce said. "You could have done something to make the test show what you wanted it to."
"I could have, you're right," he agreed. "It wouldn't even have been difficult. But I wouldn't. Joyce, I have a great deal of power – not just the strength of my telepathy, but social and political power as well. My family goes back a very long time, and I have a great deal of wealth. I am very much respected in Bayville, and even without my telepathy, I could probably win an election for any office I wanted to run for. But I made a decision not to use that power. It is a slippery slope once you first use that kind of power for personal gain. What I want is peace between people – but that kind of peace isn't worth anything unless it is earned. I could force my will on others, but what would that prove?"
Joyce looked thoughtful as she considered his question. "That people can be manipulated, or that we can only act like sheep being herded to someone else's will, I suppose."
"And if someone had an ability to block my powers, or something happened to me and people realized what I had done, it would only make things worse," Charles added. "Losing my daughter was one of the worst experiences of my life, especially since it came so soon after the death of my wife. If Elizabeth – Buffy - wasn't my daughter, why would I risk trying to manipulate her falsely? Her telepathy gives her a natural defense against any sort of meddling of that nature, even untrained. If I had manipulated her like that and she found out, what would it gain me? For that matter, how could claiming her as mine if she wasn't help me? It wouldn't bring my daughter back."
Joyce fell silent, obviously considering his words. Charles took the opportunity to press his advantage. "Joyce, I may have omitted the real reason for my original visit, but I have never lied to you, or to Elizabeth, and I never will. All I want is to know my child, and to know why she was taken away from me."
Buffy looked up at Angel, surprised. Reflexively, he had scooped the woman up when she collapsed and now held her cradled in his strong arms. "Who is she?" Buffy wondered.
Angel shook his head. "I don't know. What do you want to do, Buffy? She seemed to recognize you."
"She called me Lizzie. That was my mom's name, at least according to my dad." Buffy took another step closer and studied the woman they'd rescued.
"Do you think your father will know her?" Angel asked.
"Maybe. Let's go back to my house. Even if my dad doesn't know her, we can't leave her out here to become demon chow," Buffy said. But to herself, she was wondering who the woman was. Could she have known her birth mother? Did she know her father? Why else would she have called her Lizzie? Her father had said that she resembled her mother, but could they be similar enough to be that easily mistaken?
Together, with Angel carrying the woman, they headed back down the street, crossing back through Restful Peace for the fastest route back to Buffy's house. The police in Sunnydale might be corrupt, ignorant, or just plain stupid, but even they would be obligated to do something if they saw Angel carrying an unconscious woman down the street, in the opposite direction from the hospital.
It only took a few minutes for them to reach the cemetery, and with Buffy taking the lead, they hurried among the graves and mausoleums until they reached the gate closest to Revello Drive. Fortunately, because it was still early, there didn't seem to be any vamps out. But Buffy knew that could also have something to do with the Ascension. Overconfident the Mayor might be, but she also knew that he wasn't stupid. He would want to have the Sunnydale vampires working for him, so he would find ways to feed them without them going on a killing spree. That was what the Master had done leading up to the incident with the Anointed One, after all.
From the gate, it only took another three minutes at their fast walk to reach Buffy's house. Buffy quickly unlocked the front door and held it open so that Angel could enter with his burden. The woman hadn't shown any sign of stirring during the walk, so Buffy gestured Angel towards the living room, which she noticed was empty. "Put her on the couch, Angel," Buffy directed. "Mom? Dad?"
"Buffy? What's going on?" Joyce emerged from the kitchen, followed closely by Charles, both of them holding steaming cups of tea.
Buffy shrugged. "I'm not sure. Angel and I rescued this lady from a vamp, but then she fainted when we were checking on her. We couldn't leave her in the street. The odd thing is, before she passed out, she called me Lizzie."
"Lizzie? Why would she – Susan?" Her father had moved past them as Buffy was speaking, only to stop dead in the doorway as he got his first look at the woman Angel had placed on the sofa.
Buffy moved to stand next to her father. "You know her?"
"Is she all right?" Her father moved closer to the sofa without answering her question and gently touched the woman's cheek before he looked up at Angel.
"She wasn't bitten," Angel assured him. "Other than that, I'm not sure. She said something about being light-headed, right before she passed out."
"How do you know her?" Buffy asked.
"I met her the same time I met your mother, Elizabeth. She was your mother's best friend and partner. They were almost like sisters, they were so close. Her name is Doctor Susan McGee." He shook his head. "I don't know what she could possibly be doing in Sunnydale, though. She's supposed to be in Bayville. She has a clinic there, the one she and Lizzie opened together after they finished medical school."
He hesitated for a moment. "She's also your godmother."
All three of them stared at him.
"My – godmother?" It was Buffy who found her voice first. She tore her gaze away from her father and studied the woman more closely.
"Why would she have called Buffy Lizzie?" Joyce asked.
"Eliz –" Charles paused for a moment. "Buffy looks almost exactly like her mother – my wife, that is. My reaction the first time I saw a picture of her was much the same. Susan hasn't seen Buffy since she was five months old – the shock must have been incredible." He maneuvered his wheelchair around the coffee table to the end of the couch where Susan's head was resting on a throw pillow and gently placed his palm on her forehead, closing his eyes for a moment.
Angel, Joyce, and Buffy watched as a frown crossed his face before he opened his eyes. "She's fine, as far as I can tell."
"What did you just do?" Joyce asked uncertainly.
"A mental probe. I touched her mind with my telepathy, trying to get some sense of what was wrong."
"How?" Buffy asked.
Charles sat back slightly in his chair, pulling his hand away from Susan's forehead and resting it on the arm of the chair. "A telepath can sense mental patterns – it's an unconscious ability that allows us to focus on one particular mind," he explained. "Different mental states feel differently to a telepath. With practice, a telepath can distinguish between those who are mentally ill, under the control of someone else, drugged, or unconscious." He looked down at Susan. "She is unconscious, but her subconscious mind is active enough. She should wake up in a few minutes. What I don't understand is what she's doing here."
"Couldn't you find out, or talk to her with your powers?" Angel queried.
"I could," Charles agreed. "But Susan doesn't know about mutants, or that I'm telepathic, and I don't intend to tell her. The fewer people who know of our existence for the moment, the better. Eventually, people will find out of course, but it's my hope that mutants will be able to introduce ourselves as friends, in complete control of our powers. Your mother knew, Elizabeth, and Moira knows because she assists me in my research sometimes, but Susan never knew."
"Personal experience? Keeping secrets from family doesn't really work," Buffy pointed out.
"Yet, you were going to keep a secret from me," Charles reminded her.
"Not forever. Just until I was sure I could trust you."
"Perhaps, but –" Charles paused as Susan moaned softly. "She's coming to." He leaned over her a bit so that she could see his face. "Susan? Are you all right?"
"Hmm?" Susan murmured. Her hand drifted up slightly before it settled back at her side as her eyes opened a fraction only to blink closed at the light. "W-what happened?"
"You're all right, Susan. You just fainted," Charles soothed her, keeping his voice pitched low and soft. "Elizabeth, could we turn off some of the lights?"
"Sure." Buffy moved around the room and extinguished most of the lights, leaving one across the room on her mom's desk turned on, and one out in the foyer on. She returned to stand in the doorway, slightly behind Angel and her mom, watching as her father turned his attention back to Susan.
"It's all right, Susan. You can open your eyes now."
Slowly, her brown eyes opened, blinked, then stayed open and focused on what was around her. They settled on Charles, who was still leaning over her slightly, and then narrowed with anger.
"You bastard," she hissed softly.
Buffy bristled at the insult to her father, but he seemed to sense it, because before she could retort, she heard his "voice" in her mind. It's all right, Elizabeth. Susan has a right to be angry with me. I hurt her very badly a long time ago, and this conversation is long past due. Would you, Angel, and Joyce mind waiting in another room for a few minutes so we can talk?
Are you sure? she replied the same way, via the link that he had set up and that she had accepted automatically, without even thinking about it. If she hadn't been so interested in what was going on with this woman, she would have been more surprised at how easily this telepathic communication with her father was becoming.
I'm sure, Elizabeth. Trust me. Susan might be angry, but she won't hurt me.
She hesitated for another second before she nodded. She tapped Angel and her mom on the shoulder and indicated that they should follow her to the kitchen when they turned to look at her. Just as they left the room, she could hear her father speaking to Susan.
"I'm sorry, Susan."
"Sorry? Sorry doesn't even begin to cover it, you selfish, egomaniacal bastard. After everything I've done for you, everything we suffered together, you have only proven, time and again, how little you care about anyone except yourself."
Susan didn't know where these words were coming from, because it certainly wasn't what she had intended to say to Charles when she saw him. But she had to admit to herself that in a way, it felt good to rail at him for the sixteen years of emotional hell he'd put her through. This wasn't even just about Elizabeth anymore – it was about everything that she'd gone through after he pushed her away.
She saw his bright blue eyes darken with pain, but she didn't let up. She needed to get this out before he started trying to make excuses. "I thought we were friends, Charles, but you obviously have changed from the man I once knew. I don't know what your feelings might have been, but I considered you to be my friend. I was Lizzie's best friend. The night she died, when we realized that we couldn't save her, even though she was unconscious, I swore to her that I would look out for you and your daughter. I swore it, Charles. For sixteen years I've had to hear about you from Moira. You have no idea what kind of hell you put me through, knowing that I couldn't keep my promise! I lost my best friend when Lizzie died, but I also lost you. You shut me out, and you didn't say anything for sixteen damn years. You were as good as dead to me! Then I had to find out from Moira that you had found Elizabeth! I'm her godmother – did that even cross your mind?"
She had to stop for breath. She was so angry that she was shaking, but more than that she was disappointed. Charles took advantage of her pause for breath to speak.
"Susan, no matter what you think, I do understand. I was feeling the same things as you." He paused for a moment, before he continued. "Lizzie was everything to me. Losing her hurt – you know that, because you saw me at her funeral." When she started to retort, he held up his hand. "I knew what you had promised Lizzie – I could tell by the way you were always there, looking out for us."
He paused for a moment and his eyes, already filled with pain from her attack, became even more so. "When the police gave up on Elizabeth…I shut everyone out, including Moira. Losing Lizzie almost destroyed me; losing Elizabeth shattered my heart and mind. The only way I could cope was by isolating myself. I buried myself in my work, because my only goal was to figure out a way to find my daughter again." He met her angry gaze squarely. "I always intended to tell you that I had found her, Susan. I wasn't keeping it a secret to keep her away from you. You're one of the few connections she has left to her mother, and I would never have dreamed of keeping the two of you apart."
"Then why did I have to learn about it from Moira?" Susan asked her tone hurt and bitter.
"If I'd had a choice, I wouldn't have told Moira either," Charles admitted. "I wanted to tell both of you in person. I didn't think it was something that should be done over the phone, but…telling Moira the way I did was necessary, because I had to explain to her what I was doing out here. If I had even thought for one moment that she would call you and break the news, I would have called you immediately. When I called you a few days ago, I wanted to meet you for coffee so that I could tell you in person."
Susan started to speak, but then closed her mouth as she thought about what he was saying.
"Susan, I reached out to Moira mostly because she refused to be shut out of my life. I know you were only respecting my grief and my privacy, but you know Moira and her Scottish stubbornness. And…you were Lizzie's friend. Every time I looked at you, it made me think of the way the two of you were inseparable. Seeing you alone, without Lizzie…it broke my heart every single time all over again. Then…well, I reached out to her because I needed her help on my research. I've told her very little about what I've been going through, emotionally. It's been almost all business between us for the last sixteen years." He leveled a sincere look at her, his gaze piercing her like a lance. "I know I hurt you, Susan. I know I made mistakes when I pushed you, James, and Rachel out of my life. I've never been good at sharing my feelings with anyone except Lizzie. All I can do is beg your forgiveness and promise to try to do better in the future."
"Buffy, are you all right?" Joyce asked as they stepped into the kitchen and Buffy sank down onto one of the stools at the island.
Buffy didn't answer at first, only dropped her head to rest on the countertop, her eyes closed.
"Buffy?" Angel asked, reaching out to touch her shoulder.
Buffy sighed. "I really, really hate the PTB's," she muttered. "Why the hell can't they ease up on the curveballs and find some other game to play besides "Let's screw with Buffy's head"?
Angel rubbed her back. "I don't know, Buffy. I would have thought that you would like the idea of having more family."
Buffy raised her head and looked at Angel imploringly. "Normally I would, but why can't they let me get through the Mayor's damned Ascension first?" She looked between the vampire and her mother with pleading eyes. "I'm only eighteen. Just because I'm the Slayer doesn't mean that I know how to handle everything."
The tone in her voice got through to her as Angel continued to rub her back. "Damn. I sound like a brat now, don't I?"
Angel wrapped his arms around her from behind and pulled her upright to lean backward against his chest. "I know it's hard, Buffy. You've been bearing up under everything incredibly well, given the circumstances. I don't think there are many others who could handle things with the courage and will that you've shown."
"Thanks, Angel," she whispered. She looked over at Joyce, who – almost by habit, was putting together a tray of tea and coffee. "Mom, are you okay with…everything?"
"It is a lot to take in, dear," Joyce said, pausing in her task. "I'm still trying to get used to the idea that you are telepathic, let alone that Professor Xavier is your father and something tampered with my memories. Now you have a godmother?"
Elizabeth? Her father's voice was in her head before she could reply.
Yeah, Dad? she replied.
Susan would like to meet you, when you're ready to come out here. I've explained things to her and she's not angry and more reasonable than she was a few minutes ago.
Buffy bit her lip in sudden fear, wondering if her father had told her about the Slaying. True, he hadn't confided in his students or Doctor McTaggert, but to make up for whatever he had done that had made her godmother so angry? Dad…you didn't…? I mean, you didn't say anything to her about my being the Slayer?
Of course not, Elizabeth. I haven't told Susan anything about my being telepathic, or about my students and their gifts. Why would I tell her about your special powers? Her father's voice was reassuring. Please, come out and meet her. She cares about you a great deal.
Buffy bit her lip. All right. We'll be out in a minute. She broke the communication link with her father and sighed. Then she gently extracted herself from Angel's embrace.
"Buffy?" Angel asked, releasing her so she could get back to her feet. "What's going on?"
"My dad's calling," she replied. Slipping past Angel, she headed for the door, sensing Angel fall into step behind her. The vampire had always been protective of her – it was one of the things she loved most about him, because he made her feel safe when normally she was one who had to save others.
"I must say, that is one thing about telepathy that I would like," Joyce said, a teasing tone entering her voice. "At least you can't ever claim that you don't hear him calling you."
"Mom!" Buffy moaned, good-naturedly, before she was forced to laugh, Angel and Joyce joining in. As the laughter faded, Buffy straightened and took a deep breath. "Well, here goes nothing."
She left the kitchen and headed into the living room. Her godmother was sitting upright on the sofa now, her father in his wheelchair near her, but there was still an uncomfortable distance and silence between them. Obviously, things still were not all right, although neither of them appeared to be physically harmed.
Susan looked up at her entrance and slowly, as if in a dream, rose to her feet. Her dark brown eyes were wide and intense as she studied Buffy's face.
For her part, Buffy studied her godmother in return. She was attractive, with thick wavy brown hair that fell to her shoulders, and her eyes were flecked with green, although it was hard to tell that, given the way they were beginning to tear up. She was tall – almost 5'10", Buffy guessed, and it made her feel even more petite than she already was at 5'2".
"My name is Buffy," she corrected. She didn't mind her father calling her Elizabeth, but she didn't want everyone to start calling her that, particularly her friends or complete strangers. She had been "Buffy" for so long, Elizabeth didn't sound or feel natural to her yet, despite the fact that it was her full name.
Susan frowned at that, but didn't comment on it. Instead, she changed the topic. "You look so much like your mother."
"So I've heard," Buffy said neutrally. This was incredibly awkward. What was she supposed to say to this woman? Hi, it's nice to meet you? Glad I was able to save you from being vampire chow? Speaking of which, what was her godmother doing wandering Sunnydale's streets at night?
Susan reached out, as if to touch Buffy's face, but Buffy flinched away. She was not comfortable enough with the situation to welcome the touch. She was still trying to find a degree of comfort with her father, their spontaneous hugs notwithstanding. Accepting a touch from a woman who was a complete stranger?
Not gonna happen.
Susan looked hurt as her touch was rejected. Buffy only hoped that her godmother wouldn't make the mistake of thinking that they could instantly become friends or family, just because she looked like Lizzie Xavier. "Forgive me for asking, but…why are you here?"
"I –" Susan hesitated. What could she say? I came out here to tell off your father for leaving me in the dark? She had a feeling that wouldn't go over well with Elizabeth.
Her goddaughter raised an eyebrow, just as a tall, blonde woman came in carrying a tray of tea and coffee. "Is everything all right?" the woman asked.
"Yeah, Mom. Everything's fine." Elizabeth replied. "Do you need any help?"
"I'm fine, thank you, Buffy." The woman placed her tray on the coffee table. Susan couldn't help the anger that welled up inside her as she heard her goddaughter refer to this woman as "Mom". Lizzie is her mother!
Eighteen years ago, Susan had sworn to make sure that her best friends' – and she included Lizzie and Charles in that description - daughter would grow up knowing how special and amazing her mother was. Of course, no one could have foreseen that Elizabeth would be abducted, but her loss had left Susan feeling hollow inside, as if she had failed her best friend in some way.
The tall woman turned to face her. "I'm Joyce Summers, Buffy's mother. It's nice to meet you."
Susan forced down her anger at the woman's introduction with difficulty. "I'm Doctor Susan McGee."
An awkward silence fell over the room, and no one seemed willing or able to break it. Susan had wanted to confront Charles, but she hadn't planned on confronting her goddaughter at the same time. She also couldn't help but be struck by how similar in appearance Elizabeth was to her best friend – the resemblance was uncanny.
"You still haven't answered my question," Buffy said quietly, but with a note of steel in her tone.
"I – I heard from Moira that you had been found, and I just – I needed to come. I needed to see that it was true," Susan finally managed. She didn't know what else she could say, and the look in her goddaughter's eyes and the tone in her voice was making her even more uncomfortable. There was something very…dangerous about the young woman who stood before her. This was not the tiny infant that she had loved so much, nor was it her best friend. This was a complete stranger, and one who was not happy.
Elizabeth only nodded in response to her answer, but her tone was firm when she finally spoke again. "Now that you have, you need to leave."
"Buffy!" Joyce snapped. "Don't be rude!"
"I'm not being rude. She doesn't need to be here right now, and I have enough to deal with. If and when I come to New York with Dad, I'll be happy to visit with her and try to get to know her better, but this is not the time or the place for a meeting like this."
Susan couldn't believe what she was hearing – or the deep stab of pain that went through her heart at her goddaughter's words. It was true that she had come out here uninvited – but some part of her had hoped for something more. She had never expected…this.
Charles frowned at the deep look of hurt on Susan's face. He reached out to his daughter with his mind. Elizabeth, what is the matter with you? You've hurt your godmother deeply. Susan was your mother's best friend.
I'm not sorry, Dad. She doesn't need to be here, and I refuse to tell her about being the Slayer. You, at least, are somewhat used to odd things because of your students and their abilities. But I have the Ascension to deal with, on top of my last month of high school, my regular patrols, and figuring out these new powers. The very last thing I need to worry about is my godmother's feelings.
Charles didn't have a response for that reasoning. It was true that she did have a lot to deal with, and Susan had shown up completely unnecessarily. Despite his daughter's rudeness, he had to admit that she was right. Now was not the time for Susan to be trying to get to know Elizabeth.
"Come on, Angel. I'll walk you out," Buffy said, reaching out to take her boyfriend's hand. Angel took it and followed Buffy out of the room to the front door.
"Joyce," Charles turned to the other woman. "Would you excuse us for a moment? I need to talk to Susan about a few more things."
"Of course," Joyce replied, picking up the tea and coffee, since it seemed to be apparent that no one was going to have any. She looked over at Susan. "It was nice to meet you, Doctor McGee. I apologize for Buffy's behavior. She's not usually like this."
Susan only nodded quietly. Charles waited until Joyce had left the room before he turned back to Susan. "Susan, I'm glad that you still care enough to have come out here, even if you did come because you were angry with me. I swear, I never intended to keep her from you. There's just so much that I still don't know or understand about Elizabeth's disappearance. But…" He hesitated, hoping that she wouldn't react badly to what he was about to say. "Susan, now is just the wrong time for all of this. You need to go back to Bayville. Elizabeth isn't ready to try to get to know you. She's still getting used to the idea that I'm her father. Adding a godmother on top of everything else…it's just too much, and I don't want to take the chance that I'll lose her."
Susan shook her head. "Charles, I don't understand. Why haven't you contacted the authorities? Your daughter's disappearance is still an open FBI investigation, even if they do consider it a cold case. Someone here must know something!"
"I don't doubt that, Susan. But Elizabeth is eighteen. She's a legal adult, and I can't force her back into my custody. All I can try to do is try to get to know her, and hope I can find out how she got here on my own." He sighed. "Please, Susan. Go home, and I promise I will get Elizabeth to come out to New York somehow, and I'll convince her to meet with you and get to know you. I've already promised Moira the same. Please. Do this for me. I know you don't owe me anything after what I did, but I am asking you to help me not alienate my daughter when I've finally started to connect with her."
Susan hesitated…and then slowly nodded. "All right, Charles. I'll go. But I won't wait forever. There is still too much about this that I don't understand…and I don't trust how neat and pat everything seems to be."
"Susan…someday soon I hope to be able to tell you everything – when I understand more about what happened. Just…trust me for now. I'll keep in closer contact with you, and I'll be back in Bayville next week. I'll come to see you when I get back in town, and I'll try to explain everything that I've learned. Will that satisfy you?"
"For a while, Charles." She rose slowly to her feet. "Please don't let me down again Charles. I'm doing this for Lizzie as much as I am for you. This is the last chance that I can give you."
"Buffy, don't be too hard on your godmother. I think she means well, and if what your father has said about what happened to him in the wake of your kidnapping is true, it seems as if he hurt her very badly. I think she's as much in shock as anyone else," Angel said.
"Maybe, but it doesn't give her a right to come here acting like she owns everything, or that we owe her an explanation," Buffy turned away from Angel and looked out at the yard. It was still early, but not too early for vampires. She felt like she should be out patrolling, but now she was stuck having to deal with this mess.
"You're not wrong about your reasoning, Buffy, but I think you need to try to explain things to her." Angel approached her and gave her a hug. "Go in and talk to her, and then I'll walk her back to her hotel so she doesn't get attacked again. I have to go that way anyway."
"Thanks, Angel. I appreciate it. I just…I can't deal with anything more right now. Until the Ascension is past…I have to keep my focus on that. Then I'll worry about the other surprises that the powers have in store for me." Buffy turned and went back inside the house to find her father still talking quietly with her godmother.
"Angel has offered to walk you back to your hotel."
Her father and godmother looked up at her. Buffy sighed. "He's going that way to go home, and he'll make sure that you get there safely. You don't want to take a chance on being mugged again."
Susan nodded slowly. "I'd appreciate it. I don't know what that man wanted. He just came out of nowhere and grabbed me. If you and your friend hadn't come along…"
"Sunnydale's dangerous at night," Buffy replied. "It looks safe, but you know what they say about looks being deceiving? It's never been truer than in this town." She paused and sighed. "Look, I'm sorry about what I said earlier. I am glad to know about you, and if things were going better, I wouldn't hesitate to try to get to know you too…but this is just not a good time. I have a lot going on right now, what with graduation happening in less than a month. But…provided everything works out the way I want it to, I'm going to try to come to New York after graduation, and I would like to spend some time with you then. Would that be all right?"
Susan smiled. "I would like that, Eliz – Buffy. I would like that a great deal."
"It's settled then," her father added. "Susan…I'll call you in a few days and let you know how things are going, all right?"
When she nodded, Buffy smiled too. "Angel's ready to go whenever you are."
"It was good to meet you, Buffy. I'll look forward to seeing you this summer."
Bayville, New York…
Jean tapped quietly on the attic door. "Storm?" With her powers, she knew that the weather witch was inside, tending to her plants. The skylight on the roof made this room an ideal one for Storm's little conservatory – her little part of Africa here in New York.
She heard Storm approaching the door and a moment later it opened. "Jean? Is something wrong?"
"No, but I did want to talk to you for a minute, if you've got time," Jean replied.
"Certainly," Storm said, opening the door wider and stepping aside to let Jean into her little sanctum. She closed the door behind Jean and moved back over to where her plants were placed near the window. "What can I help you with?" With a wave of her hand, she conjured a small raincloud underneath her hand to water her plants.
"I was actually going to ask you what was wrong," Jean said quietly. "You and Logan have been really tense ever since we found out about the Professor's daughter. And last night…Kurt told me about the woman who showed up looking for the Professor and how angry she seemed."
Storm hesitated with her reply as she directed her tiny raincloud to the next group of plants. "I am a little worried," she finally admitted. "The Professor has pinned many of his hopes on his daughter – he has a chance to reclaim the family that he lost all those years ago. I don't want to see him hurt if they can't work things out. Whatever secret she has – Professor Xavier's kind heart won't allow him to stand aside."
Jean thought back to their mentor's strange behavior in the last week before he had told the rest of the school about his daughter's existence. He had been distant and somewhat detached from them – more than was normal. "He – he hasn't been himself lately," Jean admitted slowly, remembering how unprepared Professor Xavier had been when they had gone to see Buffy at her home.
Jean hadn't known the Professor for very long – less than a year, actually – but she greatly looked up to him. His poise and his control, not just with his telepathy, but in every facet of his life that she had seen, was something that she admired. He had always seemed so strong to her. He didn't let his crippled legs affect any part of his life, and he always held himself with dignity and remained calm, even when he was angry or disappointed. His control had always astounded her, from the moment that she had first met him.
But even more, he had always seemed so sincere, so devoted to the things and the people that he prized most. Jean hadn't failed to notice the way his every waking moment was dedicated to them and to his ideology that they would be able to introduce themselves as friends when the time finally came. But even in his dedication to them, there had always been something…distant, as if he feared getting too close. Jean had sensed it in his mind when he was teaching her how to use her powers, but she'd never been able to penetrate that part of his mind, because his barriers were too strong. Now, Jean thought she finally knew why and had finally solved the mystery.
After what had happened to his wife and daughter, he would fear losing his X-Men, which was why he was so stringent in training them, why he was careful about what he asked of them. He stayed distant to try to avoid the hurt if something did happen, but he did care – about them, about other mutants who would appear in the future, and about the non-mutants who would be impacted by their existence. It was a delicate emotional balance that Charles Xavier walked every day, and Jean found herself admiring him all the more for his courage after everything that he had been through.
"We still need to stand by him, no matter what our personal fears might be," Storm cautioned her, dismissing the tiny raincloud with a wave of her hand. "I know that all of you have put your trust in the Professor, and now it's our turn to be there for him if he needs us. He's been alone for so very long – the X-Men need, above all else, to be ready to stand beside him throughout anything."
Jean nodded. "We will. I'll make sure that the others know too," the redheaded telepath said firmly. "He's given us so much…it's our turn to give back to him, in whatever way we can."
Storm nodded, just as the communications panel on the wall lit up. "Storm? When you get a sec, come down to the Professor's study. I got somethin' you'll want ta see," Logan's voice was rough and even more feral than normal – it was the tone he used when he was severely annoyed.
Storm walked over to the panel and pressed the button to acknowledge Logan's request. "I'll be down shortly, Logan." She turned back to Jean. "I'm sorry, my dear. It seems that Logan has need of me."
"That's all I needed, Storm," Jean said. "I just…I just wanted to make sure that I wasn't imagining things."
"You weren't, child. We all care about the Professor. All we can do is make sure that we're ready to help him if he needs us." Storm opened the door and stepped out, and Jean followed her. Storm pulled her door shut and together they went downstairs, where they parted ways, Jean to finish her homework and Ororo to head to the Professor's office to see what Logan had found.
She came in, closing the door behind her so that the students would know that they were not to be bothered. Storm was fairly certain that most of them were working on their homework anyway, but there was always the chance that one of them would need something – and since, like the Professor, they tried to always make themselves available to the students, when the Professor's study was closed, it was a signal that they didn't want to be disturbed for anything short of a real emergency.
"What did you find, Logan?" she asked as she noticed Logan sitting behind the Professor's desk, typing something on his computer.
"My contact got back to me," Logan grunted, the growling tone still in his voice. "He sent me the info I requested through the Prof's email account. Come take a look."
Intrigued, Storm rounded the Professor's desk and took a seat in the chair Logan had dragged up so she could study the screen, as he nimbly slid out of the way. With a tap of the key, he brought up the attached information that had come in via the Professor's email.
Ororo frowned as she studied the screen. At first glance, it seemed to just be columns and rows of random numbers. "What is this?"
"Data," Logan snorted. "They're crime stats from other towns that are similar in size to Bayville and Sunnydale. Most of them, far as I can tell, are closer to Bayville. The numbers are fairly low in the major crimes – again, just like Bayville. Out of all of them, not a single one comes close to approaching the rates posted by Sunnydale."
"But there's no explanation?" Ororo asked, her eyes running over the numbers. Now that she knew what to look for, she could see that Logan was right – not that she doubted his conclusions.
"Not really. There's some stuff at the bottom about the police in Sunnydale being corrupt, and a theory of gang violence, but I'm not buyin' it. There's still more to be uncovered here – and now I owe the man a favor. He'll collect when I'm least expectin' it too."
"I think we should call Charles," Ororo said quietly. "He might have found out more from Buffy, or from other people in the town. There's just too much about this that doesn't make sense. And…I'm worried for him."
"For Chuck?" Logan asked. "If there's one thing that he's good at, it's keeping his cool."
"I don't know, Logan. The students know that something isn't right about all of this, and they're going to start questioning things. Charles has pinned all of his hopes on his daughter accepting him and on their ability to forge the relationship that he wants with her. If she rejects him, or if things don't work out the way he wants, I fear that it would shatter him – and if that happens, he'll lose the X-Men, because he just won't care anymore."