"Dawn! Are you ready for school yet? Xander's here!" Buffy called up the large wooden staircase, wondering what it must have been like for Joyce when she was sixteen. Every day, Dawn seemed to be getting later for school.
"Dawn!" Buffy called again, starting to get annoyed.
"Yes! I'm coming, geesh. You'll let me slay vampires but you won't let me be late for school once in a while" Dawn rolled her eyes, obviously avoiding the fact that she was late nearly every day of the week. Her auburn hair bounced as she made her way down the stairs.
"Oh, so you'd like to sling burgers at the Doublemeat Palace for the rest of your life then?"
Dawn, immediately understanding what Buffy was implying, gave a disgusted face. "Okay, I'll go to school. Do you have to remind me of that every day?"
"Call it sisterly love. Now, here's your lunch money. Don't spend it all on magazines again" Buffy instructed her sister. All day, every day the Slayer switched from being the fun-loving sister to the responsible mother figure. It could get confusing sometimes, and annoying for Dawn.
As she saw Dawn about to protest, perhaps ask for more money, Buffy raised her eyebrows, giving the 'do you want to come patrolling tonight or not' look, and Dawn quieted. "Hey-y Dawnster! What's happening? Ready for a ride in the Xander-mobile?" Dawn simply smiled at Xander's usual antics as he approached the Summers' home. She rolled her eyes playfully, said good-bye to her sister and followed Xander to his car. It was times like these that her crush on him sprung up again.
Buffy smiled as the two made it into Xander's car. It was nice to see Dawn smiling and laughing, even if it wasn't with people her own age. For the longest time it had been so hard for Buffy to raise Dawn. Her teen sister was always so rebellious, she didn't seem to want to go along with having the same person as a sister and a mother. Whenever Buffy tried to make Dawn understand, she simply became more confused, more angry and resentful toward Buffy. It took being trapped in a twenty-foot deep hole, desperate emotionally, for the truth to come out between them. And since then, things had gotten better. At least, they were better within Buffy and Dawn's relationship.
The rest of the Scoobies, however, weren't doing as well.
Willow was a wreck, though it was to be expected of course. Buffy couldn't imagine anyone going through what Willow did in a span of two days, and returning from it all as their normal self. Buffy and the others had simply done what they could to cushion the blow of returning from her raging vengeance, and returning to the real world where pain was not blinded by magick.
Xander was still torn with Anya. They had gotten so close to reuniting during the impending Apocalypse, but all that hope had been shattered quite quickly. Neither Xander nor Anya knew what to do; they called each other occasionally, spoke one or two words and then hung up the phone again. It hurt so much and yet it seemed to be the only way to handle things.
Sticking her hands in her back pockets, Buffy let out a long stream of air, her cheeks puffing slightly as she did so. This was her first day off in nearly two weeks, and she didn't have the slightest idea on how to spend it.
The house could use a good cleaning, she thought idly. With the morning sun pouring in on the quaint little home, Buffy suddenly noticed every speck of dust, every smudge on the windows. It was a depressing revelation she wasn't quite ready to face. After all, who spent their day off just doing more work?
In the silence, Buffy's mind wandered back to the recently departed Dawn. Guessing that it had been around 8:15 when she and Xander left, Dawn would probably make it to school on time if Xander drove fast enough (but safely of course). And so, all thoughts of Dawn's school day were set aside for now.
Buffy was on the verge of brainstorming more things to do with her day of freedom when a soft creaking penetrated her train of thought. Changing her gaze from the floor to the stairs, she saw Willow timidly descending, hand plastered to the banner, skin pale, and hair ungroomed. She was wearing her cute pink pyjamas with the flowers and smiley faces.
"Hey, Will" Buffy's voice was tender yet confident. She and the other Scoobies had come to the decision that it would be a good idea to treat Willow with a form of compassion mixed with everyday actions and dialogue. Xander, in his one moment of brilliance, had described it as a sort of respective compassion. Dawn and Buffy hadn't been too surprised that he was able to lend so many helping hands when it came to Willow. His presence was a regular thing in the Summers' home now, and the sisters welcomed whatever he had to offer.
"Hi Buffy" Willow returned the gentle smile Buffy had given her, though she was obviously not in the mood for talking, as usual. Buffy understood, but thought she might just ask simple questions, as if she and the girl were casual acquaintances.
"How are you doing today? Could I make you some breakfast? I've learned how to make a mean toast with butter" Buffy's smile turned to more of a grin, not flattering her ability in the kitchen, wondering if she could rejuvenate a spark of Willow. Once in a while she caught Willow smiling, and it was a nice sight.
"No, um, that's okay. I-I think I might just get a glass of orange juice and go back to bed" Willow was now at the bottom of the stairs, arms crossed casually, and face downcast. Willow's having another bad day… not that her other days are usually amazing… but she's getting better at least…. She's not stuttering as much… Buffy thought, not noticing that Willow had started toward the kitchen. She didn't follow right away, deciding the red-haired girl should have a little bit of space.
"You sure you don't want anything to eat? We could spend the day together if you wanted. I don't have a shift at the Doublemeat for once, so we'd have the whole day to do whatever you wanted" Buffy said as she stepped into the kitchen, noticing the rather odd static posture Willow had. Her hand was currently clutching the orange juice as the container hovered over her glass. "Will…? Willow…?" Buffy asked timidly, approaching her friend.
Gently, Buffy's hand reached out to Willow's shoulder, as a pair of eyes snapped to meet her own in chaotic surprise. Willow nearly dropped the carton of juice. It was at that moment when Buffy decided it might just be best to let Willow stay in her room for the day. Judging from the girl's state, they would probably be somewhere, shopping perhaps, and Willow would have one of her spells again. Buffy had learned from a few rather awkward experiences that it was best to quit while you're ahead.
"Yeah?" came a tiny voice, unexpectedly shy in response to the way Willow had reacted to Buffy's touch.
Buffy just gave Willow her trademark smile, the one she used to cover up something she had once meant to say, but had decided against at the last minute. "Nothing. I…" Buffy looked back and forth, desperately searching for an impromptu reason for having snapped Willow back to reality. "I was just wondering if we'd need more orange juice soon".
Mechanically, Willow shook the orange juice, needing to move the container despite holding it to come to a decision that it was still quite full. "No… I think we'll be okay," she said again in the soft, miniature voice.
Willow turned around, sliding her kitty slippers along the ground. Watching her from behind, the way Willow was hunched over, her feet barely moving off the floor, her hair flat and dead, Buffy decided that she and the others had to concoct some way of getting Willow outside more.
"See ya, Willow" Buffy called after her, thinking she might have heard a mumbled exiting greeting from the now vacant redhead.
So… Buffy thought idly. She was now left with the decision of cleaning the house, which she knew was a slightly important task, seeing as though the dust bunnies were starting to grow families; or, she could go shopping with money she didn't have and spend the day alone. Either way she would end up feeling totally unfulfilled.
Looking around the kitchen, Buffy suddenly noticed how high the pots and pans in the sink were now stacked. The mud streaks by their back door jumped out at her, and the stove was completely stained. Buffy decided she would have to do what was best for Dawn, and clean their home. Always, what was best for Dawn.
"Well house, looks like it's just you and me" Buffy spoke to no one, having made her final decision about how to spend her free day. Oh well… Buffy thought. It's not like I'm gonna have to go another two or three weeks without a day off. The Doublemeat Palace isn't nearly as busy as it usually is… maybe it will stay that way for a while… Hopeful thoughts streamed through the Slayer's mind as she headed into the living room, deciding she would catch a little television time before putting on her cleaning gloves.
Flopping on the couch, she glanced at the clock on the VCR, which read 8:32. Briefly wondering what kind of shows would be on at this time of day, Buffy simply flicked the television on, casually running through the channels one by one, figuring that sooner or later, she would catch something intriguing.
As she was passing through each station, a scene suddenly caught Buffy's eye, her thumb pausing over the 'channel up' button. The word Passions was scrawled across the screen, overlaying a backdrop of a lighthouse and a church.
Buffy couldn't understand why, but for some reason, this television show was something that held significance to her. It reminded her of something truly passionate, something that was sometimes devoid of love.
As if triggered by the word presently scrawled across the television screen, something began to caress Buffy so gently she could barely feel it at first. It drifted toward her, as if making its way from the kitchen to her living room. But this wasn't something you'd expect to actually originate in a kitchen. There was no taste of chicken or roast beef; there were no vegetables or desserts dancing away in Buffy's senses. Instead, it was as if someone were gently breathing across her collarbone, igniting a full recipe of scents. Something that smelled fresh, as if it had been buried beneath the earth, but was slightly hinted all over with the telltale signs of whiskey and cigarettes, as well as some coppery taste she couldn't quite place. The breath moved along her collarbone, becoming denser and more heated until finally a ring of moisture seemed to envelop her shoulder.
Buffy's eyes fluttered shut as she realised there was a hand placed ever so neatly upon her waist, another one moving through her hair in rhythmic patterns. All the while the musky smell was growing stronger, drowning the Slayer in its tantalizing flavour.
As if being pieced together, a face began to take shape, and without much attempt at recognition, Buffy realised it was Spike whose breath was dangerously walking the tightrope along her collarbone. It was his hand holding her waist in the firm yet placid touch.
Trembles were sent down Buffy's spine as she was lost for a moment in her own living room, imagining that she was with Spike in his crypt, their nightly deeds being carried out once again. Yet an odd and disturbing sound began to replace the sensations pouring over her body.
Screaming was suddenly all Buffy could hear, the sound of her pleading for Spike to stop his advancing upon her. Sharp pains stabbed her in the back as she writhed beneath him, crying out her protest against what he was doing.
Buffy remained in the horrid fantasy until she realised it was only that; a fantasy. Her mind suddenly kicked in and she returned herself to the calm of her living room, finding that her free hand had been gripping the remote control, her breath having grown shaky.
Looking around her peaceful setting, Buffy decided then that it was time to get to her original plan. If she continued watching television, there was no doubt that she would stumble across the show "Passions" again, an event she really didn't look forward to.
The TV gave one final wink before Buffy turned it off, tossing the remote on her chair as she stood up. Breathing one final time, she turned toward the hall closet where the cleaning supplies were kept, ready to give their home a well-needed overhaul.