Disclaimer: None of them are mine. Not a one.
A/N: I wrote a sequel! I'm pretty surprised by myself. (It could also be a prequel, or they could be happening at about the same time. It doesn't really matter.)
If you haven't read "Those Things"… that doesn't really matter. It'd be nice if you did, though.
No Dawn/Connor if you wondered. Just family stuff and some Spuffel polyfi.
The lion's jaws clamp closed around the gazelle's neck. The smaller animal crumples under the force, its legs still kicking futilely in its death spasms as the lion rips into it. A spray of blood coats the big cat's face and chest while its meal spills its innards out across the savannah floor.
Buffy hurries to snap off the television in disgust, smacking it against the side nearly hard enough to topple it onto the floor after a few moments of being unable to quickly locate the clicker.
"Huh?" Connor's head rises up from the couch cushions and solves the mystery of the missing remote; the imprint of the buttons a bright red across his right cheek.
"That's so sad." Buffy pouts at the TV, feeling thoroughly betrayed after all their fun memories they'd shared together. "And also gross. And wrong."
"Huh?" Connor repeats, bleary eyes and adequately confused.
Spike fixes the slayer with an equally nonplussed expression from where he stands beside the sofa. "More gross than what we've been up to, luv?" He hoists up her bloodied scythe as evidence.
"That," says Buffy, "that was a Separvo demon. They kill people. That lion just ate a poor little Bambi."
"That'd be an impala, pet."
Connor covers a yawn with one hand and manages a fully upright position. "Sorry. I've got that whole college insomnia thing going. Trying to sleep when I can."
"So you watch nature's solution to the horror movie?"
Connor shrugs. "Big cats make me sleepy."
Spike turns a little to look down at him, his head tilted in a question. Still standing between them and the television, Buffy frowns at him, a small crease appearing on her forehead between her eyebrows.
"I dunno," Connor says. He stands slowly, languidly, and stretches. His spine pops when he rolls his shoulders. "They just do. I never finished The Lion King." And with that, he shuffles down the hall, yawning as he goes, bound for the futon couch in the office.
Spike and Buffy exchange a look of mild bewilderment before the sound of the shower shutting off reminds them that the shower had been on in the first place. Spike leaves Buffy's scythe with his crossbow, set against the wall beside the front door, and follows her to their bedroom.
The zipper on the side of Buffy's boots catches and she works at it to free her feet. She sits on the edge of the bed, rubbing at the bottom of her heel with a bit of a pout. It's a hard lesson to learn, and one that never sticks. Pretty shoes don't equal slaying shoes.
The bedroom door clicks shut under Spike's hand. He slinks over to her, bracing an arm on either side of her body and leaning in.
Angel is accompanied out of the master bathroom with a heavy cloud of steam. His hand holds in place the towel that is stretched around his abdomen. "Hey."
"Hey," says Buffy in a tone that shows that, while tired and a little achey in the feet, she's very obviously pleased at seeing the vampire. After all, they'd been apart for almost five hours. "Did you kill anything?"
After a glance toward the bedroom door, Angel removes the towel from around his waist and uses it to dry his hair. "Thraxis demon," he says. "It was gross."
"Aw," says Buffy. "Poor Angel." She squirms to free herself from Spike just enough to pat the bedspread. "We'll clean you up," she offers with her best seductive face. It fails a little, because she's kinda really tired, but it works a little also, because Spike's watching her and pretty much any face works on Spike. He growls in her ear.
Angel falls across the bed with a thump, sending Buffy bouncing so that her forehead smacks against Spike's chin. He pulls away from her automatically and Buffy leans backwards until her head rests on Angel's stomach. "Or, also, we could have sleeping," she suggests. She shuts her eyes.
Angel's hand comes up and brushes against her arm, stroking gently.
"Oi," Spike complains. "C'mon." He grabs the mattress and gives it a few good shakes, rattling the occupants against each other. "It's not even four yet." He growls at them.
Buffy's foot pokes him in the stomach and Angel growls in return, a low warning rumble like a dog best left undisturbed. Reluctantly, Spike tosses his coat over the bureau in the corner, or tries to at least; it ends up on the floor instead. He crawls into the bed after the others, curling in close and nuzzling into Buffy's hair. She pats his arm sleepily.
Spike purrs as he falls asleep.
"I don't think this is right," says Angel. "It just doesn't seem…" he struggles for a synonym but comes up empty-handed, "…right," he finishes lamely.
"It's right," Dawn assures him, but her nose is so stuffy that the words hold little resemblance to their true forms. "Trust me."
He does, and he holds the thermometer in her ear, as strange a place as that may be. But, then, Angel is fully aware that he's an old man. Half of the things that come from his housemates' mouths seem bizarre to him.
Dawn groans a little and shoves the palms of her hands into her eye sockets. The sound of her struggling to breathe is the only noise in the room.
"When's Buffy getting back?" she asks, voice strained by her sore throat.
"Soon," guesses Angel. He has no clue and the more time he spends in Dawn's bedroom, the more he misses that garage full of fancy cars with their specially-designed deathproof windows. This should be Buffy's job, staying here. Dawn's her sister, and Angel's the one who actually knows how to drive.
The thermometer beeps shrilly and Angel takes it away for examination.
He reads the verdict aloud. "A hundred and three."
Dawn whimpers and flops back, falling against the mattress and hugging a pillow to her chest. "Kill me now," she pleads.
"I don't think Buffy would like that."
The teen cracks open one eye and studies him curiously. "You know about jokes?" she asks, as though her entire world view has been shaken. Then she quickly shuts her eye again and lifts her hand to ward away the meagre sunlight in the room.
The east-facing window has its curtains drawn, and what little sunlight actually reaches into the room isn't even enough to hurt Angel where he sits on the edge of Dawn's bed. But Dawn shies away from the light like it's out to get her and even a pillow over her face doesn't seem to provide sufficient darkness to lessen the pounding in her skull. Plus, then she has an even harder time breathing than she does now.
Dawn lifts her head, despite the fact that it doubles the ache in her neck and makes her brain feel like its swimming around in her skull. "Can I go sleep in your bed?"
"Um…" says Angel, because he honestly can't come up with a better response to the question.
"Not with you in it!" Dawn hurriedly exclaims, her scratchy voice rising in disgust. "Ew."
Angel isn't sure how offended or relieved he should be. "Well, Spike's in there," he points out instead. "We tried to wake him up earlier but…"
Spike sleeps like the dead. It's a bad joke that they've all made at least once and that they've all been very relieved to not hear recently.
"Is he naked?"
Dawn manages to make it to her feet. Angel's hand hovers around her side when she sways but she succeeds in remaining upright without him having to actually touch her. "I'm gonna go sleep in your bed then."
The trip down the hall is a long one, even though the only things standing between them and the wonderful promise of darkness are the linen closet and the office that occasionally pretends to be a guest bedroom.
Dawn crawls gratefully into the cool linen sheets her sister had vacated a few hours earlier. She heaves a sigh and her sweat-damp Pepperdine tee-shirt clings to her skin as she does.
As deep a sleeper as Spike may be, he still senses the warm—overly warm—body that has just joined him in his bed. Even in his unconscious he reaches out, puts an arm around Dawn. In protection, in comfort. He curls himself around her. Or tries, at any rate. She's a little too tall and he's a little too small for the position he seems to be unconsciously going for.
Dawn sighs a snuffly sigh and snuggles up against him anyway.
When Angel had tried to help her down the hallway she'd cited her personal space bubble.
He leaves them be and heads out to the living room, picking up the newspaper sitting just inside the front door where Buffy had probably kicked it on her way out earlier. He skims several uninteresting articles, skips the columns, takes a quick look at yesterday's sports scores, and is just flipping to the obituaries when Buffy comes in.
"Hey," she says. She leans over, arms loaded, and kisses the side of his forehead. "I got way too many brands of flu medicine, and one of those fifty piece McNuggets. And, like, all the mustard they had in McDonalds. The guy taking orders stared at me."
She smiles. He smiles back at her.
"Is Dawnie asleep?"
"I think so," says Angel. "She's in our bed. With Spike." He watches her reaction, mostly to see if she's surprised by this.
Buffy doesn't seem to be surprised, though. She just nods. "I'll go put these in the fridge, then," is all she says.
Angel never tried to be close to Spike. In fact, he actively tried to exclude Spike from the majority of his life. But there he was, always. Angel never tried to be close to Dawn, and as a result, he isn't close to her. They live together, they spent hours of the day in one another's company, but they aren't close. And there's a small part of Angel that is always disappointed by the knowledge that Dawn is a part of Buffy's, and Spike's, life that he can't seem to touch.
Connor's the only one of them that knows how to sew.
It's kinda weird, except that it isn't because it totally makes sense.
"I started making my own clothes when I was eight," he says in explanation, but he only says it once because Angel responds by getting even more depressed and guilty than usual (which is impressive).
Old habits die hard and even though he doesn't have to hunt for his food, or make his thread from the sinews of demon muscles, it still seems beyond stupid to throw out a sock because your big toe pokes out, or to get upset when a vampire claws a hole through your new shirt.
So he doesn't. He takes the problems as they come to him, and he fights them away with a needle and thread. He fixes up his clothes when they start to look ratty and carries on.
And when Dawn complains that she needs a new SFSU sweatshirt because her sleeves have frayed, he saves them a good forty dollars.
He patches the knee in Buffy's jeans after she trips chasing a Kungai Demon through West Hollywood. He darns the dime-a-dozen, white and grey socks of ambiguous ownership that come through the dryer, because he might as well.
Waste not, want not.
He stitches things up for his roommate, too, when he's in the dorms. And some of his roommate's friends, too. Apparently growing up on Earth doesn't prepare boys for leaving their mothers sides all that well. He doesn't really judge them for it, though, because he never does any clothes mending when he's with the Reillys.
There's a part of Connor that will always be on alert. A part that will never quite settle down completely, or accept that he's really safe, and that the sound around the next corner is pretty much guaranteed to be just another co-ed in the crowd. Quor'toth is always going to be there, haunting him. It doesn't matter what Angel does about it, or how content he is with his new life. But at least there's something he can take from his childhood, the first one, besides a strong swing and good aim. Something he can make real use of.
God knows someone has to be frugal, living with those Summers women.
"You're back!" Dawn announces, as if there was some bizarre way the trio could have missed noticing the fact that they'd just entered their own front door. (Well, technically it isn't Connor's front door, but the point remains.)
"You're it," says Spike. He frees himself from the layer of SAT flashcards that cover him like a bizarre, literarily inclined fungus, stretches a stretch that audibly pop his joints back into place, and shambles off to the kitchen.
Dawn makes a face at his back. "He's such a dick about being the only Scooby to graduate 'university," she applies the mandatory air-quotes in their proper place, coordinating them with an absurd, high-pitched voice, "but he won't even put it to god use."
"Good imitation." Connor nods at her approvingly.
"Probably because he can't actually use whatever education he had for anything but being a dick," Angel suggests from where he still lingers in the doorway, try remove from his shoe the slimy Frophla demon goop that none of them wanted to think about much less have tracked on the floor.
"Hey!" Spike's indignant response is somewhat muffled by both the wall in between the living room and the kitchen and the open refrigerator door.
Buffy gives Angel a light shove that unbalances him from his one-legged stance and forces him to lean his weight against the door. "Play nice," she scolds.
"Yeah," agrees Spike, still muffled. "'least I made it as far as I did. Seein' how some of us are lacking in secondary schooling, even."
Buffy stalks into the kitchen and a knowing look is exchanged between the living room's three remaining occupants.
Connor squirms a little where he stands and recaptures Dawn's attention.
"What?" she asks.
"Guess what." He squirms a little more and does something that slightly resembles a sideways dance, arms wrapped around his shed hoodie, and piques Dawn's curiosity.
"I said what."
Connor imitates an off-tune trumpet fanfare. "Dun-da-da-da!" he announces, shaking his hoodie to the group to reveal what was hidden underneath. "We saved a puppy!"
"That's a puppy?"
Dawn is sceptical, and not without good reason. It looks like a toupee someone threw out because they spilled their coffee on it. It's a mottling of browns and greys and beiges in no pattern discernible to man. Its fur is wiry around the face, sticking out awkwardly, but long enough to be matted everywhere else. Its face gives the impression that it had thought to use its head as a battering ram against the fist of a Chirago demon and its ears are roughly twice the size of its head and stick straight out.
Connor holds the pathetic looking beast up towards his face and Dawn gags. Defying all logic, it actually smells worse than it looks.
"You brought that thing home?" Angel demands, equally disgusted.
"I'll drop it by the SPCA tomorrow, okay? Chill, Dad. It can sleep in the garage or something."
"It's gonna get fleas everywhere!" Dawn exclaims in horror, scooting back on the couch and slightly crushing her flashcards as she does. She wraps her arms defensively over the blue and gold of her UC Davis tank top.
"Aw," Connor pouts for the animal, whose underbite would prevent a similar expression from eliciting anything but more disgust. "He doesn't mean it." Staring at the animal of dubious ancestry for a moment too long sets him into snickers.
"Look at his face," he laughs. Like with a horrible, flaming bus wreck full of nuns and doe-eyed orphans, Dawn can't not look. "He looks like Yoda, if he didn't shave and walked on four legs and lost his dental coverage."
Indeed, the dog's teeth are incredible in their awfulness; spikes of brown and yellow that point in bizarre and seemingly random directions. They do not stay within the animal's mouth and seem to number less than ten.
Connor holds the dog out at arm's length and studies him with an expression of almost comical seriousness. "Maybe I should give him to my sister?" He glances at Dawn. "I saw this face and thought of you."
Dawn can't help it. She cracks up and the sound of her laughter covers the noise of Angel's footsteps as he hurries into the kitchen, abandoning his shoes by the front door.
There are some things he just doesn't want to hear about.
The air holds in it the smells of summertime. Salt and sweat and hot dogs being grilled on the barbeque. Melting popsicles and drying leaves and, a little closer, chlorine and sunscreen.
It had been hot by the time the sun rose and now, a little past noontime, this had not been alleviated. The sun burns hot in the blue, blue sky without a single cloud to hide it and the bright of the outdoors makes even Spike wary of the covered porches and he hides himself away in the living room, settled in front of the television with bare feet and a cold beer.
The wind is dead; there isn't even enough breeze to roil Buffy's stomach by setting off the neighbours' excessive collection of wind chimes. She happily takes full advantage of this, coating her body with protection against the sun and sprawling out in the warmth like a cat. Like a cat that looks really good in a bikini.
The sweat sticks her skin to the slats of the Adirondack and her Diet Coke, settled on the chair's wide arm, drips beads of its own sweat across the palm of her hand. The pages of her magazine cling to her fingers when she tries to turn them.
Under the sounds of the lawnmowers humming and the people chattering loudly and the cars driving by, bound for the beach, the soft splashing sound of Connor swimming laps in the pool is still audible.
When Buffy crushes her Coke can flat in her fist, disappointed at its emptiness, Connor paddles closer to the pool's rim and treads the water. The concrete along the poolside is too hot to lean his elbows on and his arms float unoccupied in the water.
"Are you going to swim?"
Buffy turns the page in her magazine and ogles Witherspoon's shoes. "I don't swim."
"You can't swim?" His tone is slightly incredulous, which isn't completely fair since he never learned to swim in his first life. Quor'toth was somewhat lacking in decent, demon free swimming holes.
Buffy peers at him over the tops of her sunglasses and the pages of her magazine. "I can swim, I just don't. I've drowned, like, three times. One time I died."
Connor grimaces in sympathy and the mild embarrassment that comes from asking people about things they find uncomfortable before the logic of the statement sets in and he frowns. "Why'd you buy a house with a pool then?"
"It was the one for sale." Buffy shrugs.
"Why'd you want to move to the beach?"
"I still like the beach," Buffy defends. "Just not the watery part. I like sunshine part, and the tanning part, and the cute boys part."
"That—that's weird, dude. That's weird."
"You're weird," says Buffy, even though it's just childish. But at least she isn't the one sticking her tongue out in response.
Today is the day of Oregon State, black and an orange that isn't entirely orange anymore because someone had decided Spike was fit for laundry duty.
Once upon a time, Dawn Summers had had a wardrobe as stylish and varied as her sister's. Her closet filled with blouses and sweaters and tops with sequins. But that was a thing of Dawn's pre-college hunt days. Her tour of Caltech had ended in the campus store, and outfits that didn't contain at least one university logo became distant memories.
Spike had, someway, somehow, managed to work a computer well enough to order her a sweatshirt with the Cambridge coat of arms on it. He then had her pose while wearing it before pestering her to send the pictures to Giles.
Over the past few years, Dawn has noticed a recurring tendency in people in which they tend to leave her. And now, the idea of being the person doing the leaving is terrifying.
So she buries herself in the preparations. She hides under a mountain of SAT practice books and AP courses and scholarship applications. She tries on shirts and hoodies and gym shorts and searches, desperately, to find the one that doesn't make her feel like a deserter.