A/N: I want to thank everyone for reading and for all the wonderful comments I've received. I appreciate them all. I had a lot of fun writing this story and the comments just helped me along. There is no sequel planned right now but in the future, who knows? Maybe I'll write one someday. This chapter is a lot shorter than the others, mainly because it's just to wrap up loose ends. I hope you enjoy.
Disclaimer: Nope. Still not mine.
The Summers of Our Discontent: Part IV
By Gaeriel Mallory
She scrubbed frantically at her hands. She felt tears well up in her eyes and she awkwardly wiped them away with her sleeve while still keeping her hands under the running water.
Ben's eyes staring up at her…
She squirted more liquid soap into her hands and scrubbed harder.
The body falling on the ground, limp…
She sniffed and turned the facet handle to the left, making the water run hotter.
Scrub scrub scrub.
The blood had been everywhere. There had been a great pool of it on the grass and spreading onto the asphalt of the driveway. It had stained her clothes and covered her hands.
She scrubbed harder. The water that spilled from her hands had stopped being tinged pink a long time ago but she still scrubbed.
* * *
Scott sat next to Jean's bedside. She was sleeping peacefully, her red hair spread around her face on the pillow. She was a little paler than usual but other than that looked normal. He grasped one of her hands in his own.
She stirred gently, murmuring before settling down again. He watched over her, content just to be by her. He sported a bandage around his head from where Glory had knocked him into the tree. Jubilee had been knocked unconscious but they had found her and she was currently residing in the medical bay downstairs.
Scott smiled a bit when he thought of Hank taking care of his patients down there. Along with Jubilee, Willow and Tara were also down there, as well as Xavier and Ororo.
The two witches and the Professor had suffered the same backlash as Jean had when the spell was completed. Willow and Tara had woken up briefly and had swallowed several painkillers before drifting back to unconsciousness. Xavier had been a little more stubborn, holding onto awareness with tooth and nail until Hank had slipped him a sedative.
As for Ororo…
Scott frowned thinking about his teammate and friend. The weather witch had suffered the greatest injury out of all of them. Thankfully, the spell had kicked in before Glory had been able to do any permanent damage to her. Her throat was severely bruised and she had strict orders from Hank not to overexert herself or talk for a few days but she will recover.
Overall, they had been lucky. No one had died and everyone had gotten through the battle still in one piece. Physically, anyway. Scott's thoughts turned towards his two cousins. Buff had been horrified when Glory's other form had been someone she had known and befriended back in Sunnydale. After telling Dawn and Spike of the outcome of the battle, she had locked herself in the bathroom and had not come out since.
The hand he held in his twitched and Scott sat up. Holding his breath, he watched intently as Jean's eyelids fluttered and her green eyes stared up at him. "Hi," she whispered.
He felt his lips curl up on their own violation. "Hi," he whispered back. He reached out a hand and smoothed back her hair. "How are you feeling?"
Jean smiled back. "Tired. A little sore. Hungry."
"Well, which do you want to remedy first?"
She reached up and stroked his cheek. "How about some food, handsome?"
He got up. "Your wish is my command," he said teasingly. He heard her laughter behind him as he left the room.
He walked down the hall and paused as he noticed the sound of running water. He looked at the closed bathroom door. She still can't be in there, can she? He knocked. "Buffy? Are you all right?"
There was no answer so he knocked again. "Buffy?" He sighed when the only sound he heard on the other side was water running. "Buffy, open the door this instant. Open it or I'm going to break it down."
He heard the squeak as the facet turned and the water stopped. He waited and the door slowly opened. Buffy's tear streaked face greeted him. She had not changed and her clothes covered in blood. Scott reached out towards her. "Hey, are you all right?"
She looked away, hugging herself. It was then that he noticed her hands. They were red from rubbing and the heat from the water. He gently held one. "Want to talk about it?" he asked softly.
She shook her head silently.
"Say something, Buffy. Anything. Talk to me."
She looked up at him, her eyes red. "I killed him," she whispered. Her whole body shuddered and then tears started rolling down her cheeks. "I killed him." Scott reached out and hugged her.
"Hey, it's going to be all right," he murmured. The two sank towards the ground and he supported her as she sobbed into his shirt. He leaned back against the wall and just let her cry, whispering useless platitudes to her and stroking her hair.
* * *
Giles surveyed the gates and sighed. "I'm afraid that these may be a lost cause."
The man standing beside him grunted in agreement. "How did you say this happened again?" He stuck his pencil behind his ear and flipped through the papers on his clipboard.
"Oh, well, one of the students here was driving home. He wasn't really paying attention and didn't notice that the gates were closed."
The man winced. "Ouch. The kid all right?"
"Oh yes. He's fine. The same cannot be said for either the car or the gates I'm afraid."
"Yeah. Well, that's kids for ya." He ripped a piece of paper and handed it to Giles. "Here's the estimate. If you want, I can get some guys here first thing tomorrow to fix it."
Giles accepted the slip with a sigh. He really wished that there was someone else who could have done this but all of the other teachers except for Hank—who could not exactly have met with the repairman without a lot of raised eyebrows—were either in the medical bay or sporting bandages. He looked at the figure written on the paper and blanched. "This is rather…high, isn't it?"
The man shrugged. "This is specialty work. Automatic gates that open remotely are expensive to install and they sure as hell ain't cheap to fix. Not to mention that the metal is warped and will have to be welded back into shape in some places…You should be happy that I even came over this late at all but Charles Xavier is a good customer." He shrugged again. "So, what do you say pal? Take it or leave it?"
Giles sighed. "Take it, I suppose."
* * *
Jean slowly got out of bed. She had waited patiently for her husband to return but after fifteen minutes, there was still no sign of him. She reached for her robe and put it on over the shorts and t-shirt she had woken up in. She then walked to the door and opened it. Turning into the hall, she yawned, stretching her back.
She was so looking forwards to going back to bed. But first some food…
She shuffled down the hall, stopping when she rounded the corner and found Scott sitting against the wall, Buffy in his arms. From what she could see, Buffy was crying and Scott was comforting her.Poor child…
She headed over towards the two of them and gently touched Buffy's shoulder. When the Slayer turned wet eyes towards her, she smiled softly. "Let's get you to bed," she suggested.
Buffy only nodded and allowed Scott and Jean to help her up and steer her towards her room.
* * *
Dawn and Spike sat in the kitchen. She stared into her cup of hot chocolate, watching the steam rise up into the air. She still could not believe it. She had seen the body, had recognized the face, but somehow, it was still surreal.
Glory could not have been Ben.
Ben had been kind to her when she visited the hospital. He had comforted her during the entire ordeal with her mother and the brain tumor.
Glory…Glory had been pure evil and insane. The two could not have been the same person.
Spike sipped his chocolate and looked over at her. "It helps to talk about it, little bit. Your mother taught me that."
She sighed and with one finger traced the rim of the mug. "I don't know," she told the vampire. "What should I be feeling? Should I be happy that Glory is finally gone? Or should I be upset because for her to die, a friend had to be killed?"
Spike studied the girl he had befriended. "I can't tell you that. You have to figure that out for yourself. But just imagine what the Slayer is going through right now. She knew this Ben chap too and she was the one who killed him." He frowned. "I wonder what the Watcher's Council will have to say about that, what with their 'thou shalt not kill humans' thing."
Dawn shrugged. "I don't care what the Council thinks. They no longer have any hold on Buffy and can't do anything to her."
"Don't be too sure about that, Dawnie. The Council is a lot more powerful than any of us wants to believe. It's only been luck that they've decided not to go after Buffy."
"And cowardice." Dawn smiled a little. "They don't know what to do with her. They've never had a Slayer like her before. She's independent and brash and they can't control her."
"And they can't get rid of her because of all the good that she does. She's the most powerful Slayer in over a century."
"That's true." Dawn frowned down at her mug and lifted it up to her lips. "I just hope that she can get through this."
* * *
Buffy tossed and turned in her sleep.
Death is your gift… The spirit of the first Slayer haunted her dreams, beckoning her. You are alone. You will always be alone.
No! Buffy screamed. I refuse to believe that.
Death… The first Slayer held out a katana and Buffy took it. Death is your gift. She looked at Buffy, expectation in her eyes.
Against her will, Buffy started going through a drill with the katana, moving fluidly from one position to another. The blade sliced through the air, an extension of her body. She turned, holding the katana against herself. She felt her arm extend and the pressure of impact. The blade kept moving even as she screamed at her body to stop.
She completed the turn with her head being the last part of her body to face her target. No!
Her mother stared at her, holding the blade that had entered itself into her gut. Blood spilled from the wound over her hands. Joyce looked at her daughter, horror and disbelief in her eyes. Buffy?
Buffy let go of the katana as if it had burned her. No! she screamed. She looked at her hands and saw them covered in blood. No, she whispered. She felt liquid run down her cheeks and she caught them in her hands. She saw that they were not tears but drops of blood. No. She scrubbed at her hands, trying to cleanse herself. Come off, she begged. Please come off.
No matter how much she scrubbed, her hands remained bloody. She looked again at Joyce who was still regarding her with pain in her eyes.
"No!" Buffy sat up in bed, trembling uncontrollably. She thought back over her dream. Well, certainly don't need Freud to tell me what that meant. She got out of bed and noticed that someone, probably Jean, had changed her clothes into a pair of clean sweat pants and a t-shirt. Funny, she did not remember that. Walking over to the dresser, she looked at herself in the mirror above it.
"Death is my gift," she whispered to herself. "No," she said louder. "I refuse to believe it. Mom's death is not my fault. I did not kill her. And with Ben, well, there was no other choice. Glory had to die. It was as simple as that. She was going to bring hell on earth. And the only way to kill her was to kill her vulnerable form, and that just happened through some quirk of fate to have been Ben. That's all. There was nothing I could have done."
She stared at herself some more and sighed, slumping her shoulders and leaning against the dresser. "So why do I feel so guilty?" she asked herself softly.
* * *
Willow and Tara had woken up and had been very vocal in their need for food. Hank had finally thrown his hands up and directed the two witches to the kitchen. "But right back to bed for the both of you after you eat," he had ordered.
The two made their way upstairs and found the kitchen already occupied. Scott was sitting at the kitchen table watching somewhat bemusedly as Jean practically inhaled an enormous sandwich. She spotted the two of them and waved them in, pointing at the counter which was covered with everything that could possibly be used to make a sandwich. "Help yourself," she called out before she took another bite.
Willow and Tara had just sat down with two rather thick sandwiches when the Professor rolled in. "Ah," he said. "It seems that I was not the only one in the hankering for a late night snack."
"It's the magic," Tara explained.
"So Dawn explained to me. I am afraid I was not sufficiently sympathetic at the time, now that I have an idea of what she was going through." He made himself a sandwich that rivaled that of the two witches' combined.
He took a large bite of it and sighed in contentment. "I must say, for my first foray into the world of the supernatural, it was not much different from using my mutant powers. It was only more…"
"Intense I think is the word you're looking for, Professor."
He nodded. "Yes. Thank you, Jean."
Willow smiled. "Well, from what I can tell, mutant abilities are a lot like magic. The only difference is that you are born with them while magic can be learned. It's only that mutations are somewhat limiting in their scope."
"Quite." Xavier looked fascinated. "I wonder if Cerebo would pick up on you using magic…"
Scott laughed. "Oh no. I recognize that look. I suggest the two of you run while you can before he uses you as lab rats."
Xavier looked a bit affronted. "Really, Scott. One would think that you would hold your mentor in higher regard." The twinkle in his eye gave him away though, and all five of them laughed.
* * *
The halls were deserted. Well, it is the middle of the night, Buffy thought to herself. After waking up from her dream, she found that she could not fall asleep again. So in the tradition of the many Slayers before her who suffered from insomnia or had something on their minds, she had decided to work out.
She had the entire gym to herself. She noticed with some regret that the punching bag still had the hole in it from before. Too bad. I really could hit something. Her eyes lit up however when she spotted the giant trampoline in the corner. For the first time since Giles had told her that Glory was on her way, she smiled.
God, she thought as she climbed up. When was the last time I was on one of these?
Sixth grade, her mind supplied. Her grandmother had given her a trip to gymnastics camp for her birthday. Even at that young an age, she had still excelled. Those skills had come in handy when she tried out for the cheerleading squad in high school. And later, as well, when she found that agility and acrobatics can get you out of a tight spot when dealing with demons.
She gave an experimental hop and grinned outright when she rebounded a foot into the air. She bent her knees and really pushed this time. At the apex of the jump, she twisted so that she spun around and around in all directions. Landing, she laughed and jumped again. To be a kid again. What I wouldn't give.
No demons to kill, no one trying to come after you, no Hellmouth to protect. Yeah, that would be the life.
Grinning, she positioned herself so that she landed in a handstand. Bending her elbows, she launched herself into the air again, cartwheeling in midair.
On her next trip down, she was surprised to see another figure pass her. "Dawn? What are you doing?"
"Same thing you are." She waved as they passed each other again. "Looked like fun so I decided to join in."
Buffy laughed again, letting go of her guilt, if only momentarily. The two sisters played and laughed, each trying to get higher than the other. For the moment, there were no demons, no vampires, no troubles. Just the trampoline, each other, and only the sky to limit them.
* * *
Hank Summers was woken up with the phone ringing. He picked up the receiver. "Hello?" he said, still half asleep. He had gotten back from Greece late last night and had not gotten as much sleep as he wanted to.
"Oh, I'm sorry. Did I wake you? I must have gotten the time difference wrong. This is Charles Xavier. Your daughter Dawn is currently enrolled in my school."
Hank sat up. "Is something wrong with her? Did she do something?"
"It is just that she seems very unhappy here. Mr. Summers, if I may be so bold, I would recommend that Dawn be allowed to return to her old school. She has gotten extremely homesick."
Hank rubbed his eyes. "But it's only been a few days. Maybe if she's given time to adjust she'll find she likes it there."
"It's not only her that I am concerned with. Your other daughter, Buffy, showed up as well, demanding that her sister be returned home. Now, you are their father and I am sure that you feel that you know what is best for them. However, I have been teaching for a very long time and I can see that Dawn does not belong here. I feel that she would be happier back in Sunnydale."
"Wait a minute. Buffy showed up? What is she doing over in New York? She has classes!"
"My point exactly, Mr. Summers. It is obvious that the two love each other dearly and I would hate to have to separate them. I am sure you can understand where I am coming from."
Hank sighed. "But I want what is best for Dawn. Your school, I feel, is just that."
"From what your two daughters have told me, you neglected to ask them of their opinions in the matter. Now, Buffy is perfectly capable of taking care of Dawn herself. She is also old enough. I'm sure that is she were so inclined, she could petition for legal guardianship."
"And I would support her. Mr. Summers, I have very important friends throughout the country. Senators, judges, and the like. I would be perfectly willing to use any means at my disposal to ensure that the two are happy. After all, Scott is like a son to me, so I suppose that makes Buffy and Dawn my nieces."
Hank opened and closed his mouth several times, trying to speak. "I…see," he managed finally. "I suppose I can arrange for Dawn to go back to her old school in Sunnydale…"
"I am so glad. Thank you for your time, Mr. Summers. Good day." The phone clicked, signaling that the other man had hung up.
Hank stared at the receiver in his hand for a few seconds before shaking his head in confusion. What had just happened there? After the first sleepy 'Hello', he had rapidly lost control of the conversation.
* * *
Buffy hugged Scott. "Take care of yourself," she told him.
He smiled down at her, his ruby quartz glasses hiding his eyes. "You too. And you take care of Dawn."
"Don't I always?" She smiled and hugged him again. "Hey, keep in touch this time. I don't want to only have to see you when someone dies."
A little distance off, Logan was saying his goodbyes to Dawn. "Hey, kid, when you get home, give some vampire a punch in the gut for me."
She laughed a bit. "I'll do that," she told him.
"And no more getting into cars with strangers." He waved a finger in her face. "For all you know, they could be homicidal killers. You be careful."
After that, it was Rogue and Jubilee's turn. The two hugged Dawn. "You have my e-mail address, right?" Jubilee asked her. "You drop me a line sometime. Tell us how life is on a Hellmouth."
Rogue shook her head. "Man, I still can't believe it. Demons and vampires. Wow. And here I thought my life couldn't get any stranger."
Dawn smiled. "Believe me. When you get to that mindset, that's when the Powers that Be throw you a curveball. I should know."
The three laughed.
Giles and Xavier were off to the side a bit, watching the group. "So," Giles commented. "It has been an interesting few days."
"That it has." Xavier smiled when he saw Ororo try to communicate to Willow and Tara using only gestures. "I must say that you have certainly broadened my view of things. Suddenly, the world seems a whole lot bigger and a whole lot more mysterious."
"I can relate. When you enter magic into the equation, anything seems possible."
Xavier nodded. "Yes. Anything at all."
Over the noise, the announcement was made that flight 745 to Los Angeles was boarding. Buffy hugged Scott one more time before picking up her carry-on. "Well, I guess this is it. Spike's probably all nice and comfy in the luggage hold." She turned to Jean. "You take care of my cousin."
"Oh, I will." Jean linked arms with her husband and leaned against him, a content look on her face. "Have a good flight."
Buffy waved back as she and rest of the Sunnydale crew headed for the boarding gate.
* * *
Dear Buffy and Dawn,
Things are fine here at the Institute, though I must say that your visit has definitely left a mark on us. The number of customers that the occult shop in town, The Whispering Dragon, has increased enormously which has the proprietor happy. Almost all are students here though there are a few teachers as well.
Speaking of which, Ororo has asked me to ask you to send some dried demonsbane in the mail. It seems that the demon who runs the shop is severely overcharging her.
Life is slowly returning to normal. And if there are a few more pencils floating in the air, then so be it. I suppose there are worse things than a healthy interest in magic. At least they aren't doing drugs.
A new student arrived the day after you left. His name is Remy LeBeau and he has the ability to charge things he touches with kinetic energy. Hank was fascinated and must have run dozens of test on him. Be glad that you missed out on the blue ape using you as a lab rat. Remy, or Gambit as he more often called, seems to be fitting in here. He certainly is a charmer and has most of the female students in the palm of his hand. I'm glad that Dawn got out of there when she did or Gambit might have had to deal with a very protective cousin!
We buried Ben. There is a cemetery on the grounds of the school and we put him there. He has a simple gravestone, just his name (First only. You never did say what his last name was.) and the day he died. Maybe in death he is finally free of Glory.
Charles is already talking of having you all come back to visit sometime during the summer. He felt that Buffy would be a more than adequate teacher in self-defense and martial arts. And I get the feeling that he would also like to observe the Slayer some more—determine what it is that makes you different from a mutant. I wouldn't be scared though. It's just that sometimes the scientist in him gets a little carried away. When he and Hank get together sometimes, it's like they're on their own wavelength. And when you add Jean to the mix, it gets downright intimidating.
Jean says hi, by the way, and hopes that everything is well in Sunnydale. She somehow managed to get the Professor to agree to letting the X-men come visit the next time we get a vacation. We're all looking forward to that. Especially Logan. I think he's looking forward to meeting Spike again. On some strange level, the two of them bonded—don't ask me about it. I'm probably just as confused as you. I can just see the two of them, trolling for vamps. Makes me glad that I still have a pulse.
Anyway, that's about all. I'll keep the two of you updated on going-ons here at the Institute. Just doing my part to stay in touch. Love you both; take care.
Buffy finished reading the letter and folded it, carefully slipping it back in the envelope. She noticed that Scott did not mention Ben until the middle of the letter and then quickly changed the subject again. Probably to try and spare her.
She got up from the sofa and walked to stare out the window, letting the afternoon sunlight bathe her. She had finally come to terms with Ben's death. She had lost so many in her fight throughout the years. But she had never directly caused their death herself.
She supposed that some may consider her a murderer but for some reason, her mind refused to associate herself with that word. She was not Faith who had killed and then tried to deny it, trying to act like it had not happened.
It had been the opposite with Buffy. She had stayed up late, replaying the entire scene in her head, unable to fall asleep. Every time she passed the hospital, she felt a pang of guilt. But eventually, the pain lessened. Dawn was still alive. The world was still here. Everything was as it should be.
She would never forget Ben. Never.
But she had spent too much time in the darkness; she wanted to step into the light again. She would never be truly free of the darkness—no, it was too much a part of her. She was still the Slayer after all. But instead of being one or the either—light or dark—she could be both.
Buffy stood at the window, feeling the warmth of the sunlight on her skin. Later, she would have to go and hunt in the darkness again, but for now…for now, she rested. It was enough.