TITLE: Stay Together For The Kids
AUTHOR: Goddess Isa
EMAIL: goddessisa@aol.com
SUMMARY: An idea of what life may have been like for the new Slayer and little Dawnie when Joyce and Hank were splitting up
SPOILER: S5 basically
RATING: TV-PG
DISTRIBUTION: http://planetslaythis.homestead.com - Want it? Just email me the URL I love to see my own work
DISCLAIMER: Joss owns the characters. Blech. The song belongs to Blink-182. They kick ass, for guys who aren't a boy band :)
AUTHOR'S NOTES: I saw the video today and all of the sudden, had to write this. Hope you enjoy it.
AUTHOR'S NOTES 2: I love this song. It's so frigging true.
12/12/01



//It's hard to wake up
When the shades have been pulled shut
This house is haunted
It's so pathetic
It makes no sense at all\\


"Do you think they're done?" Dawn asked in a small voice.

It was well after midnight, well past Dawn's bedtime. Buffy should've been in bed herself, or at least on her final patrol sweep of the night.

"Buffy?" Dawn whispered.

Buffy shut her eyes tight and wrapped the blanket she'd been playing with around her and Dawn's shoulders. It should've taken a lot more than her parents fighting to bring down the Slayer, but somehow, that was scarier than any vampire.

The linen closet was the only "room" that felt safe, the only room where darkness was a friend. Surrounded by unwrapped Christmas gifts and blankets and pillows and towels, they were protected.

"You think I'm an idiot?" Joyce suddenly yelled.

The protection, unfortunately, wasn't fool-proof.

"I guess not," Dawn said in a small voice. "Buffy?" she asked again.

"Yeah?"

"Did Mom mean that?" her voice was trembling. "Earlier. About them getting a d--"

"No," Buffy said flatly. She wanted to spare Dawn from having to say it, and spare herself from hearing it. "No. She's just angry, that's all."

But inside, Buffy wondered. Wouldn't it be easier for all of them if they did just split up? Wouldn't it make life simpler for Dawnie? She was ten years old, her ears should've been filled with music and laughter and silly jokes whispered at basketball practice. Not screaming and yelling from the moment she walked into the house at night until morning when she got up for school.

"Don't call me names," Hank said. "I'm not the one who always wants to change."

"No, of course not!" Joyce shouted back. "God forbid you change! God forbid you make things easier for somebody else!"

How much longer could they go on like this? Buffy asked herself. How many more nights would there be screaming?


//I'm ripe with things to say
The words rot and fall away
If a stupid poem could fix this home
I'd read it every day\\


Dawn opened one eye, then the other. Sunlight was peeking in through the tiny closet's window. Dawn slid out from under the blanket, careful not to disturb Buffy, who was snoring softly.

Creeping through the house like a scared little animal, Dawn checked out her parents' room first. Her mother was asleep in the bed, alone.

Again.

Dawn rubbed her eyes and carefully shut the door, then walked into the living room where she found Hank.

He was on the couch, as usual, his mouth open as he snored. The TV was still on, ESPN News or something.

Dawn turned the set off and went back to her mother's room. She got in bed beside Joyce, closing her eyes and finally enjoying peaceful sleep. She was close to being late for school, but she didn't care. She just wanted a few moments of true, relaxing sleep before something woke her father up, causing the fights to start all over again.

Not ten minutes had passed before Dawn was woken by the scream of her father from below.

"Joyce!" he screamed. "Get your lazy ass up! I'm gonna be late for work, and the girls are late for school, not that you care. You'd let their lives go to Hell if I wasn't there to push you."


//So here's your holiday
Hope you enjoy it this time
You gave it all away
It was mine
So when you're dead and gone
Will you remember this night, twenty years
Now lost
It's not right\\


"Some Christmas," Buffy muttered. She was patrolling, alone. Dawn was asleep at her friend Lila's house for the night, so Buffy could trust that she was safe. She didn't like Lila—the girl was as stuck up as you could possibly be at ten years old—but she was nice to Dawn, sometimes, and there would be no screaming and yelling at her house. Only laughter and goodies, baked by the maids and servants taking care of Lila while her parents toured Paris or Milan or something.

Christmas lights flickered off and on all around Buffy as she searched for demons in the residential area she lived in. She was still new to the whole ass-kicking thing. It was very exhausting.

"Well," a vampire came out of the shadows and smiled at her with his gross teeth. "What do you know? Santa brought me something this year after all. Guess I was a good little boy."

"Not really," Buffy said, kneeing him in the balls. "But Santa said you're welcome to visit the traitor elfs in Hell."

While hw as down, Buffy kicked his head around a few times, and when he reached for her neck, she snapped his wrist back, breaking it.

"See?" she asked, pushing him to the ground and using her knee to hold him down. His chin scraped against the pavement as she reached for her stake.

"I'm the gift," Buffy gently pierced his skin with the wood, then pulled back, "That keeps on giving."

She beat him down for another minute or two, then she grew bored and drove the stake through his chest. She brushed the dust off her arms and smiled at the small pile of vampire that would soon be blown away and forgotten.

"I kick ass," she announced.

"Yes, in a sloppy, schoddy kind of way," Merrick said, coming out of the same shadows as the vampire had. Buffy momentarily wondered if maybe Merrick had sent him to fight with her.

She rolled her eyes and said, "What are you doing here?"

"Looking for you. I tried checking your house first, but there were people inside screaming and throwing things. I don't believe they were demons."

"It wasn't demons, Merrick. I wish it had been."


//Their anger hurts my ears
Been running strong for seven years
Rather than fix the problems
They never solve them
It makes no sense at all\\


"We could make it homey," Buffy suggested as brightly as she could. They were in the closet again, a small checkerboard between them. Buffy had built a fortress outta blankets and pillows for them to play in, and Dawn had suggested flashlights. They sat, trying to enjoy their game, but their minds were elsewhere.

"I am not gonna sit here and let you ruin our daughter's lives!" Joyce was saying.

"I win," Dawn announced glumly.

"So go!" Hank shouted back. "Run! Take them to your precious, artsy little town where nothing can hurt them. But don't come crying to me when one's pregnant and the other's pierced so much, she can't get through airport security."

"My daughters aren't going to wind up pregnant," Joyce said.

"Wanna play again?" Dawn asked. Buffy nodded.

"How's that?" Hank asked. "You think the girls are better than you are?"

"Red or black?" Buffy questioned.

"White," Dawn whispered. "Miss Carlita says it's the color of peace."


//I see them every day
We get along, so why can't they?
If this is what he wants
And this is what she wants
Then why is there so much pain?\\


"Where's Daddy again?" Dawn asked.

Buffy placed a piece of pizza in front of her sister and sighed. "He went to Santa Monica for work. Right Mom?"

"Huh?" Joyce looked up from the candleabra she'd been staring at. "Oh. No. No pepperoni for me. Cheese is fine."

Buffy and Dawn exchanged a look.

"Do you like your sweaters, Mom?" Dawn asked hopefully. "Buffy and I picked them out ourselves."

"I'm not thirsty girls," she answered glumly.

"Is something wrong?" Dawn asked. "We're having pizza on Christmas, and you're being all weird."

Joyce sighed. "I have something to tell you girls."

Buffy reached under the table and took Dawn's hands in hers. She knew what was coming.

"Your father and I are getting a divorce."


//So here's your holiday
Hope you enjoy it this time
You gave it all away
It was mine
So when you're dead and gone
Will you remember this night
Twenty years now lost
It's not right\\


"Sunnydale," Buffy said cheerfully. She wrapped one of Dawn's ballet figurines in tissue paper and placed it in the box she was packing. "That sounds good, right?" she asked. "Bad things can't happen in the sun."

"Thanks, Buffy," Dawn said.

"For?"

"For packing my stuff, and for trying to help make moving not suck."

"Shhh, don't let Mom hear you say that, she'll think I'm a bad influence," Buffy hushed. "And it doesn't have t suck."

Buffy had been telling Dawn that since Christmas. That moving wouldn't have to suck, that they could make this great. She'd almost started to believe it herself.

Almost.

"It might though," Dawn pointed out.

"And it might not," Buffy said. "There could be hotties everywhere in Sunnydale."

"Boys," Dawn wrinkled her nose. "Blech."

"Just wait," Buffy said, laughing. "You'll wake up one day and be madly in love with some boy. A boy that lives in Sunnydale, where we are going to love living."

And if we don't love it, Buffy thought, I can always come back here and not be the Slayer. Merrick's death has made me free.

Finally, I'm free.