Summary: When investigating a dodgy casino, the last thing Angel Investigations expects to find is the perfect employee. Buffy Summers was once a detective, now on the run, and soon settles into a new life working at the agency. But what happens if her past catches up with her?

Rating/Warnings: M for adult content (sexual/abuse/incest/mental illness) – themes and discussion (nothing actually "on-screen")

Disclaimer: I don't own these characters or situations, just the plot.

Author's note: This is a fantasy fic, by the way. Meaning no slayers, no vampires, no magic.


Always Running

by Alexannah

Prologue: Wrecked

Sunnydale, 1997

The atmosphere in the Summers' house had been tense all week. Buffy was struggling to deal with everything that had happened over the past few days. Dawn was quietly seething at Buffy for being the reason the family had broken up, even if she did not understand why. And Joyce wanted to comfort her girls, but had no idea what she could possibly say to make it all better.

Saturday morning came. Joyce made pancakes and the three of them ate in almost silence. After breakfast, Dawn watched her mother begin to take down the family photos from the living room walls.

"Mom, what are you doing?"

Joyce smiled sadly. "I think it's time we had a new family portrait taken." She hesitated. "Just of the three of us."

"That doesn't mean you have to get rid of all the others!"

"I'm not getting rid of them, I'm putting them into storage in the attic."

"Still, you might as well be burning them. No-one's going to see them up there."

"Dawn, honey, that is rather the point."

Dawn jumped to her feet in anger. "How come I don't get a say in any of this? I'm eleven, not three!"

"Because," her mother snapped, "you're too young to understand and I thank goodness for that fact. Now either go and sulk in your room, or help me down here."

Buffy just stood in the corner and watched as her little sister stormed off upstairs. In a way, she envied Dawn. She had no idea of the horror that had been happening right under her and their parents' noses, no idea of the reason why Buffy spent so many hours a week learning self-defence. Why she had such a desire to see the bad guys where they belonged.

She sighed, and turned on the news.

"… And the two-week-old body has been identified as Mayor Hudson," the news reporter was saying. Buffy stopped breathing. "The police are at this moment I believe viewing security footage from his office at the estimated time of death …"

Buffy zoned out. It was okay. She was okay. She would be fine. They hadn't mentioned any suspects, right?

But if they could recognise her on the footage …

They couldn't. She had been too careful.

"The police have just named a suspect," the reporter said, and Buffy started shaking.

"Honey, are you all right?" Joyce asked. Buffy jumped, having almost forgotten her mother was in the room.

"Yeah, I'm fine. Just trying to watch this."

Buffy heaved a sigh of relief as the reporter continued, "Richard Wilkins III. Hudson's long-standing political rival."

It was okay. No one suspected her.

Wait a minute …

"Mr. Trick," the reporter said to a man on the television. "As Mr. Wilkins' representative, what does he have to say for himself?"

"Representative?" Buffy whispered. "He's no representative!"

"Well," was the reply, "naturally, Mr. Wilkins denies any involvement, and as he told the police, he has several alibis. Mr. Hudson may have been a rival in politics but he was a dear friend to Mr. Wilkins. We are working very closely with the police to find out who committed this ghastly crime."

Buffy jumped up from the sofa and ran upstairs into her room. Once inside, she snapped the door shut and leant against it, gasping for breath.

I've been set up, she realised in horror. Mr. Trick was working for Wilkins all along! They just wanted Hudson out the way!

She was in big trouble. They were bound to find something linking it to her. She had to run for it.

There was no time to think carefully and consider her options. Buffy grabbed a bag and began shoving clothes inside, not even bothering to fold them.

She was gathering up toiletries when Dawn came bursting into the room. "I hate you," she shouted at Buffy. "This is all your fault. I hope you're happy that Dad and – what are you doing?"

"Get out of my way, Dawn." Buffy shoved the last few items into her bag, zipped it up and swung it on her shoulder. "I mean it."

"No!"

The doorbell rang downstairs. Buffy's stomach lurched. It couldn't possibly be the police – could it? "Dawn, get out of the way now or so help me you'll be in the hospital for a month!"

Dawn moved aside so Buffy could leave the room, but it seemed she wasn't going to let her get away that easily. "You've ruined everything," she spat at her sister as Buffy hurried downstairs.

"Buffy, there's a package here for you," Joyce said, at the bottom of the stairs.

"You open it for me," Buffy said, making her way out to the car. Dawn followed.

"We were happy, Buffy! All my friends at school had divorced or single parents but we had it all and now, thanks to you, I've lost half my family!"

"You mean you were happy, Dawn!" Buffy snapped, throwing her bag into the car and walking around to the driver's side. "Have you even considered the fact that I might not have been?"

"That's just selfish!"

"What, because I'd like to not continue my life of living hell? Yeah, I'm really selfish!" Buffy yelled at Dawn. "Now just shut up and let me think!"

She had barely finished her sentence before the house blew up.

Buffy reacted on instinct, grabbing Dawn and pulling her to the ground. The car had mainly sheltered them from the explosion. For a minute or two, they remained frozen, before finally standing and looking at the wreck of their home.

"Mommy," Dawn whispered.

Smoke was pouring from the remains, the front of the house completely gone. It was a sight that would forever be vividly imprinted in Buffy's memory. Later, she would have no idea what went through her mind after the explosion as she searched through the wreckage, calling for her mother, slapping a hysterical Dawn and dragging her into the car, and driving away as fast as she could. Her only coherent thoughts were that it was up to her now, to take Dawn and run; and that nothing would ever be the same.

TBC …