Chapter 14: A New Direction in Life
A/N: Buffy's almost done with Sunnydale!
Warning: none that I can think of.
Thanks to my betas: nightshadowlife, ktweaver and AerynSpeedleCaine.
Disclaimer: BtVS characters belong to Joss Whedon / Mutant Enemy. CSI: Miami characters belong to Anthony E. Zuiker, Carol Mendelsohn, Ann Donahue and CBS. Diagnosis Murder characters belong to Joyce Burditt and CBS. I claim no rights to any copyrighted material. Please do not copy or take this story without my permission.
Outside a hotel
A second later, Buffy added enthusiastically, "That is so cool! I mean, you told me about vampires and that I was some kind of hero, but wow! It's totally different to see it!"
"Can you get excited after we dust these creeps?" Faith bit out while she ducked a punch. She was actually amused at the blonde Slayer's attitude, but now wasn't the time.
Buffy blushed in embarrassment. "Oops, okay."
Oz moved in front of the remaining 'civilians' to protect them with his modified supersoaker. Instead of a single stream, it sprayed a steady mist of holy water at the vampires. Meanwhile, Buffy remembered the items in her purse that Giles gave her to protect herself in the hospital. She handed the stakes, crosses and holy water to her family.
Nodding his thanks to his friend, Oz played the role of informant to the others. "Use the crosses and holy water to keep them away, but if you need to, the stake goes through the heart with as much force as you can manage."
Fortunately, the civilians didn't have to lift a finger because Faith and Horatio did a commendable job protecting them. Buffy stumbled over what to do a couple times, but when a vampire got too close to her neck, the Slayer within her took over, killing her enemies with frightening efficiency.
Mark blinked in amazement at the action. Turning to his nephew, he asked, "Does this have anything to do with that freakishness Joyce was complaining about earlier?"
An equally stunned Hank stuttered, "Yes, but having seen it firsthand, I'll have to revise my previous thoughts on the subject. I thought she was delusional or something. Why didn't I let her try to prove it to me?" he asked, berating himself.
"I wouldn't be so hard on yourself, cuz," Steve cut in before Hank's thoughts could get too harsh. "If this is any indication of what she was dealing with, it wouldn't have been a good idea for her to try and prove it. Chances are you would have ended up dead."
"Or worse," Oz added over his shoulder. At their blank looks, he explained, "A vamp could have turned you, then Buffy would have to kill a vamp with the face of somebody she loved." He didn't mention that Buffy had to do that a few months earlier.
Several more minutes of fighting and all the vamps were dusted. Without an enemy to worry about, the group stood there, staring at each other, wondering what came next. Finally Horatio took charge and said in a commanding voice, "We should get inside where it's safer. Then we can worry about explanations."
Despite it going against his character, Oz couldn't stop himself from teasing Buffy, "Even without your memory, you still can't keep your secret identity for very long."
Since she still had no memory, Buffy looked worried. "Will Giles be angry with me?"
"He shouldn't. It's not as if this was your fault or anything. If he's angry that your family found out because we had to save their lives, he's a prick and you shouldn't worry what he thinks," Faith said dismissively as she flung her arm over B's shoulders.
"We should ask him and D to come explain," Oz suggested.
Faith pulled out her cell and hit number 2 on her speed dial. When her Watcher picked up, she relayed what happened and asked for brainiac assistance.
Diane's gut reaction was to wipe the memories of the evening from the civilian's minds, but unfortunately, since it involved Rupert's Slayer and her family, it was up to him. She repeated her conversation with Faith and they left for the hotel soon after.
About two hours later…
After listening to the Watchers explain Faith and Buffy's life, Calleigh was openly crying and the men looked grim.
Hank was horrified, though. "I failed you!" he choked brokenly, kneeling in front of the girl he considered his daughter – DNA evidence notwithstanding. "Your life was a living hell, and you couldn't even count on me to believe you when you tried to tell me."
Buffy looked bewildered at his behavior. Sure she understood that there was something unhappy that happened between them, but without the details or the emotional baggage that went with those details, she wasn't sure if she should forgive him or not. What did he do to her? Or not do? She glanced over at her Watcher for help, only to see him smiling sadly at the father/daughter tableau.
"Umm…that's okay?" Buffy hesitantly offered. "It's a hard thing to accept – even with hard evidence. Or at least that's what I've been told. And if Joyce is right, it isn't even your problem anyway. Since you aren't my dad, you can walk away," she said with a shrug.
Hank gripped her chin firmly so he could make her look him in the eyes. "Like I told her, it doesn't matter if a hundred lawyers and doctors tell me otherwise, I will always think of you as my baby girl – even if you don't think of me as your father," he added with a hint of sadness, letting his hands fall.
Buffy cocked her head to the side and asked curiously, "Why didn't you fight for me then?"
"I did, but the judge didn't like single fathers as much as she liked single mothers, so she gave custody to Joyce," Hank replied bitterly. "Once you two moved here, she kept giving me excuses why you couldn't come to LA for our visitation weekends. When we did get together, you seemed angry with me, so I started to believe what she said about you not wanting me in your life anymore."
Giles coughed slightly, then decided to interject what little he knew about the situation, "I didn't get many details, but from my understanding, Joyce did the opposite with Buffy; told her that it was you who wanted nothing to do with Buffy after the divorce."
Looking hopefully at his daughter, Hank pleaded, "Does this mean we have another chance? Can you forgive me, Buffy?"
Feeling torn, Buffy wasn't sure what she should say, so she opted for the truth, "I want to…honestly, I do." She threw up her hands in frustration and cried out, "Ugh, this is so hard! If I could remember things, I wouldn't feel so lost. Right now the people I feel safest with are Calleigh and Giles. After them, Uncle Mark. I don't mean to hurt you by saying that, but-"
"You can't help how you feel, sweetie. As long as there's a chance for us somewhere down the road, that's enough for me," Hank said, hiding the hurt he felt. "Listen, tonight's been hard on all of us; why don't you and your friends go to your room?"
"Thank you for understanding." She cautiously leaned over to give him a brief hug which he gratefully returned.
Once she left the room, Hank turned to Calleigh and inquired, "Would you consider taking her in? Obviously she can't stay with Joyce – especially after everything that was said tonight." He repeated the conversation that happened in the house while she and Mark were trying to comfort Buffy in the car.
"Of course I'll take her!" Calleigh exclaimed, slightly offended that he even needed to ask.
Hank nodded his head in relief, "Good. I'd rather not upset Buffy any more than necessary by forcing her to stay with somebody she isn't comfortable with…no matter how much I would love to have her with me."
"And I will go wherever Buffy goes," Giles commented immediately, then explained his reasoning, "Even if she doesn't remember the supernatural, she still needs her Watcher to train her. Despite the evidence now that it would have been a good idea, I never interfered with Joyce's parenting; I won't do it with Miss Duquesne – unless I get the impression she is hurting Buffy like Joyce did. That's assuming Buffy tells me."
Before anyone could object to Rupert's declaration, Diane cut in, "It really is best for a Slayer to have a Watcher. Even with her memory loss, Buffy feels a connection to Rupert – that probably would be frowned upon by the Council if they found out – and if another Watcher tried to take his place, it would probably do more harm than good. I assure you that if I thought there was even the slightest chance of a romantic attachment between them before she was an adult or her memory returned, I would personally see that he was replaced. The only affection between them is friendship or perhaps family."
"Not sure if that makes me feel better or not," Hank said, glaring at the Watcher for a moment. Truthfully, he was relieved that the man who so casually said he would move across the country wasn't doing so in order to- Hank couldn't finish that thought without feeling the urge to strangle Rupert Giles. He trusted Calleigh to protect Buffy from any predatory men.
"So, if Buffy agrees, we'll get custody of Buffy legally changed to Calleigh. If her memory returns, we can reconsider the issue later. I would like to visit her, though," Hank requested.
Calleigh shot him that offended look again; as if she would try to keep them apart! "I'm glad to hear it. It bothered me that your relationship with Buffy fell apart after the divorce. You seemed so close before that – at least from what I could remember."
A/N: Next…Time for some travel plans and a not-so-heartbreaking goodbye scene.