Title: The Daughter
Summary: Buffy’s daughter watches her mother reconnect with an old friend and accidentally discovers a few of her mother’s long-held secrets.
Warnings: As you might guess from the summary, there is reference to Buffy/Other in the distant past.
I jotted this off rather quickly to meet the deadline, and it took on a bit of a life of its own. I hope it’s still readable. It’s a lot different than things I’ve written before. Feedback would be very much appreciated.
Mom is fingering all the clothes in her closet, pulling shirts out and shoving them back in, and generally acting like someone my age getting ready for a date. This should probably be freaking me out more than it is. But honestly I’m so curious for any crumb of this story that I can’t get upset about her getting all girly about how she and Spike are going to be in the same room for the first time in twenty years.
The first time she ever mentioned Spike to me was a couple of years ago, before I got called, when I was having one of those fits about how much I hate living in the middle of nowhere and started demanding to know why she’d moved to such a god forsaken hole
as Langdon, Montana in the first place. Her face went all far off and then she said, “I think it was Spike. I think Spike convinced me.”
I’m starting to understand that she didn’t mean Spike the guy. She meant Spike the event, Spike the story. The story that I’m dying to know. But when I tried to ask her what that meant, Aunt Willow came in and Mom practically ran out of the room.
Sometimes it’s awkward trying to explain to people that Aunt Willow isn’t my aunt, but that she and my mom aren’t like that even though everyone knows Aunt Willow is gay and that my mother hasn’t dated anyone since Dad died. No matter what I tell people, there are still folks who think Willow is just a big ho who runs around on my mom.
I didn’t like Willow coming here eight years ago and I still wish she’d leave. I know she didn’t really run my brother and his wife off, but it feels that way. Bobby and Anita came to live with us after Dad died. Everyone got to pretend it was Mom doing them a favor, giving them somewhere to live while they got on their feet since they were fresh out of university, but really they were looking after her.
Bobby’s why Mom met Dad in the first place. He’s crazy smart and his SAT scores came across Mom’s desk at the school. Being a good little counselor, she set up a meeting with Dad, and they fell in love. I mean, I’m sure there’s more to it, but that’s what I know. When Bobby moved out for school, Mom moved in, became Mrs. Cartwright, and about a year later I was born.
“I haven’t done this in a while,” she apologizes, looking beyond embarrassed. She rubs one hand over her stomach with a little frown and finally yanks a blouse off its hanger,
which is my cue to leave.
Like I said, Mom hasn’t dated since Dad was killed in a car wreck on their anniversary. She did get a little obsessed with being in shape after that, and I heard my best friend’s parents talking about how she was trying to hook a new man. But knowing all the stuff I know now, I don’t think it was that at all. I think that somewhere in my Mom’s mind, she’s convinced that if she had been at full slayer strength, she could have somehow, like, ninja kicked the other truck away before it crushed them into a tree.
Downstairs, Willow is scowling at the teakettle like she’s going to boil it with the heat of her anger. Maybe she is.
“Mom’s really nervous,” I say, trying to break the tension. “It’s cute.”
Willow is not amused. She frowns harder. “I don’t see why you had to stir up this particular hornet’s nest.”
“It wasn’t my idea!” I remind her, deciding that I’m much better off waiting for sunset up in another room.
It wasn’t my idea. I didn’t even know there was an idea to have on the subject until much later.
After I got called, Mom and I had a great big heart-to-heart that explained a lot of things and made me really proud of her and also mad that she’d been keeping this big secret all this time. I was also really glad when I got to the school that my name was Cartwright and not Summers, so nobody knew I was the daughter of The Last Lone Slayer. Frankly,
being from Montana is enough baggage to carry around.
I’m used to it, you know. I’ve been to summer camps and competitions and stuff
before. I know people will ask me dumb questions because they’ve confused Montana with Afghanistan or seem to think that somehow it’s still 1883 here or something. But I know how to handle that crap; I wouldn’t know what to say if people started asking me a bunch of stuff about Mom. It was hard enough trying not to look like a slack-jawed
fool in history class when they started lecturing about Mom’s past. And Aunt Willow’s. And Uncle Xander’s. And all these other people I’ve known for fourteen years without ever guessing that they used to fight demons on a daily basis.
I was minding my own business, cuddled up with my tea and books in the library, getting
ready for my midterms, when Mr. Pratt came in and sat across the table from me. I could feel people in the room turning to stare at us, but frankly I was too rattled to pay much attention to anyone else. See, Mr. Pratt is sort of a big deal, being a vampire
who trains slayers and all, so of course a bunch of the girls find him ‘deeply fascinating’ and there’s a lot of debate over whether to call him Mr. Pratt or Spike and whether he’s dangerous scary or dangerous sexy.
We exchanged some extremely awkward small talk, before he pointed out, “I knew your mum years ago.”
“I know,” I said, knowing I was blushing and feeling really stupid about it.
“Right, history class,” he growled out with happy eyes. He really has amazing
eyes. Not that I was staring into them or anything.
So I laughed and told him that, no, Mom had mentioned him once or twice since he was the one who talked her into moving to Montana. Which was pretty much the moment that I figured out this was not the correct interpretation of Mom’s remarks. Because his face might be a little hard to read, but anyone watching us probably thought that I had just suggested that he talked my mom into drowning babies for kicks or something.
Then he pulled himself together and pushed this envelope across the table at me. It
was white and perfect, looking almost like it had been ironed. And it had Mom’s maiden name inscribed across it in small script. “I was hoping you could take this to your mother when you go home next week.”
I stared at it for awhile, looking at the writing. I tried to figure out how to put my question. “Okay, but Aunt Willow or me will have to read it to her, if that’s okay, unless you used a Braille machine for the letter.” I was going to explain how I was only asking because he’s used pen on the envelope, but he was already standing.
“I’m well aware of the situation,” he snapped before storming off.
And I was left sitting there with my cold tea and everyone staring at me.
He made it up to me though. He took me around for a cup of coffee off campus, which really got people talking. And he told me if I ever wanted any help training for my physicals, that I should let him know. It did give me a serious coolness boost, but I refused to tell anyone what was going on.
Of course, I didn’t really know what was going on either.
It happened seven years ago. Mom going blind, I mean. It just happened one day. She read me a story, tucked me in, kissed me on the forehead and when I woke up she was stumbling around her bedroom, panicking and trying to find the phone.
She looks really good now, though, when she comes down the stairs, all fresh and spring time like the air outside. Just in time too, because as Willow lays out some cookies
that seem in danger of being immolated by her gaze, there’s that thudding sound that always accompanies a teleportation charm. The doorbell rings. I start to go to the door, but Willow grabs my shoulder in a death grip and pulls me back, so Mom opens it instead.
“Spike. Come in.”
He carefully takes Mom’s hand, looking a little stunned. “Buffy, you… you look… you haven’t changed a bit.”
“Isn’t that supposed to be my line?” Mom laughs, but I can tell she’s nervous.
Spike cringes a bit and ducks his head. And it suddenly occurs to me that maybe he didn’t always look like this, with the scars all over his face and arms and who knows where else. Mom, on the other hand, probably doesn’t look much different than he remembers.
Aunt Willow tried to fix Mom’s eyes.
Mom says Willow does that kind of thing a lot, trying to fix things. Mom used to say this when the two of them would have harsh whispered arguments that often ended with I’m her mother, and I said no when Willow had some of her more creative ideas about helping me with social problems at school. Somehow Mom always knew I
was listening, even if I didn’t think she knew I was there. I don’t know if that’s a slayer thing or a mom thing.
Anyway, Willow tried to do something to regenerate the nerves in Mom’s eyes, but it
didn’t work. You wouldn’t know Mom was blind from looking at her eyes. You wouldn’t know she was in her forties either. Willow’s spell didn’t reverse the curse that made Mom blind or fix the nerves. But it did make the fine lines on her face smooth out and her hair start coming in honey-colored.
It wasn’t a total loss vision-wise though. Mom can see light and dark now, and make out
shapes. She said it’s like always seeing through sheets hanging on the clothesline. No colors though.
Willow keeps dragging me, all the way out to the back porch. Outside, she lights one of those not-cigarettes she smokes sometimes and grimaces at the rising moon. “Aunt Will?”
She sighs. “Sorry, I’m really being a witch, I know,” she says. “Bad memories.”
“You don’t like Spike.”
“No. But he’s not really the star of the bad memories.” She offers me a drag off of whatever the heck is rolled up in her paper tonight, but I think about my mother and my teacher who can both smell like hound dogs and wave her off. For all I know it’s, like, oregano and daisies or something, but why take a chance? The last time I smoked with Aunt Willow over fall break, I spent the night clinging to my sheets afraid to dream because she got tossed and showed me how Uncle Xander died.
Let’s put it this way: I would have told the Council to kiss my ass and retired to Bumpkinville too.
There’s soft laughing from the other side of the door and Willow makes a face,
stubs out her smoke, and pouts a little. “I think I’ll go to Sonal’s and get some dinner. You okay with the two of them?”
Like what is my other option, go eat dinner with you and special lady friend number two? I tell her I’ll be fine and hunker down on the porch steps with the cat, watching the stars come out, enjoying not having to run out into the night and fight things. And also missing it. It was just a week ago that I was stomping graveyards every night.
A car pulls up and before long I can smell something way better than Willow’s
cookies through the back door. When I decided to wander on back into the kitchen, Mom is carefully opening a bottle of wine and telling Spike where the cutlery is. She asks me to serve, and I plate the steaks and sides. It isn’t hard to tell which one she means for the
vampire at the table.
“Christ, that smells amazing.”
“It was probably alive this morning,” she explains, carefully pouring the wine.
“Nice of them to deliver.”
“Well, they’re my cows,” Mom tells him. “So they want to keep me happy.”
His eyebrows go all crazy and Mom tells him about Dad’s family and all the land and cattle they own, as I try to sneak away.
“Are you going to join us?” he asks, catching me.
“I’ll just eat upstairs, if that’s okay?”
Mom nods, then gives me a funny smile. “Don’t worry. It will fade.”
She grins. “The urge, sweetie. There will be plenty of monsters to fight when you get back to England. Enjoy the time off.”
“Right.” I grab a Coke and head for the stairs.
“Does it really fade?” I hear Spike ask.
Mom’s answer is soft, and full of things I don’t normally hear in Mom’s voice. “Never.”
My steak is amazing. I miss this kind of food in England. For my birthday Mom shipped me frozen ones and Connie and I grilled them on her little balcony. When I got back from fall break, with a printed letter from Mom back to Spike, I found I’d been moved to a different suite on Connie’s floor. I don’t know if Spike did it because he thought I’d like Connie or if Great-Uncle Giles did it because he knew I was having trouble fitting in. My occasional dinners with him might have had something to do with that, because no one knows we’re family — sorta, and he usually only spends time with the real problem kids.
Anyway, Connie was a slayer but she’s retired now, which probably has something
to do with her totally mangled right leg. Her little girl lives in the dorm mom suite with her and she’s like our floor mascot. Connie is deeply grateful that her little girl is not a slayer, to an extent that’s actually kinda hard to hear. I wonder if Mom wanted me to be
normal too. Then again Connie’s kid is also a werewolf, so ‘normal’ is a bit of a stretch.
Connie was one of the Potentials that Mom and Willow woke up. She’s the one who filled me in on a little of the back-story about Mom and Spike, warning me that it was just rumor. She was only in Sunnydale for a few days before the big battle, but she said they were close and that the other girls said they were lovers. I don’t know if the letters they’ve been trading are love letters or not, and I’m dying to know.
Downstairs, they are still talking. Well, I think they’re arguing actually, but quietly. I can hear them through the vent in the bathroom, even though I probably shouldn’t be listening. Okay, I totally shouldn’t be listening.
“I’m not coming back, Spike. My life is here now.”
“In the dark, in the middle of nowhere, with Willow turning more sour every day.”
“Well, take Willow back into the fold then, if you’re so worried about her.”
“It’s not Willow I’m worried about.”
“Your letters said-”
“Spike, I’m fine. I like being retired, okay.”
“Does seem to agree with you,” he gives in.
I guess Spike is going to come over every night. It doesn’t take me long to decide I’m not going to spend every night of my spring break stuck in the house with them. I go with Willow to Sonal’s. I go bowling with some of my middle school pals who were my BFFs just nine months ago. Now I don’t really know what to say to them about England or my
boarding school or what I’m studying there or if I miss them.
Despite myself, I still hear bits of what Mom and Spike are saying. They seem to just be having the same argument over an over, springing up in the middle of otherwise pleasant conversation, like it’s just ongoing.
Tonight she was talking about my brother’s kids and then Spike’s all ‘Buffy’ and she’s all ‘I’m not going back’ like that’s what they were talking about the whole time.
“Would be good for you,” he tells her.
Mom makes a ‘whatever’ face. “She doesn’t need her mother hanging over her shoulder, Spike.”
“So don’t come to the school. Just come to London. Don’t live on the campus. You could be my guest.”
Something about the look on Mom’s face makes me feel wobbly. This whole thing isn’t as cute as I once thought it was. In the morning I gulp down my breakfast with a big fake smile she can’t even see and tell her I’m going to port myself back to school.
“I thought Spike could take you back after dinner,” she says quietly. So I give her a big hug because I don’t want to argue. I tell her I’ve got a bunch of stuff I want to do and get rested up for the time change and lots of crap like that.
Connie is a little surprised to see me back early. I can tell she was planning to go out, because her daughter’s babysitter is already at the dorm mom apartment. She gives me a long once-over and tell me to come with her. While we walk I start laying it all out about how I think Spike is, like, wooing my Mom and now I wonder if they’ve been secretly
hot for each other all this time. Including the time during which she was married to my dad. Connie listens, but I can tell her head’s really a long way off.
And then we get to the hospital. I start to get jumpy as I follow her down into the basement. A stern woman takes our names and searches us pretty thoroughly. The room we go to is dim and the woman inside doesn’t acknowledge us, just stares at the wall. Connie opens the sack of food she brought with her and tries to get the woman to eat.
“Faith, honey, come on.”
But Faith kicks the food away and lunges at me, screaming about light and noise. It takes both of us to hold her down while she shrieks for help. I think she’s calling for the doctors or something, but Connie is apologizing over and over that she can’t help. Finally Faith goes limp and I finally recognize her sleeping face from our history class.
“What happened to her?” I ask when we get out above ground again.
Connie thumps her bad leg. “There’s only so many ways out of this business.”
I do a lot of thinking about what Connie said, and it occurs to me that They’re not telling us everything — whoever They are. I don’t think Giles really makes the big calls anymore, but I can’t tell who does and no one will really tell me. But the question of what happens if you don’t get clobbered to death by a demon is starting to haunt me. In
fact, I’m thinking about it so hard that I don’t even notice that she’s walked into the library until she says my name.
I look up and she’s moving her head like she could pick my silhouette out of the crowd. Everyone is staring. If she were a normal mom, this wouldn’t be a thing. But thanks to Willow it looks like Buffy-comma-The just stepped out of a library book.
“Um, hi Mom,” I reply, gathering up my stuff. And then everyone’s staring at me.
I hustle her out of there and back to my suite. Where she tells me about how she decided to take Spike up on his invitation and how now she’s staying at his place for a while.
There’s all this stuff I want to ask her about what’s going on with her and Spike and why they stayed away for two decades if they like each other so much and where Dad fits in to all this, but instead I end up blurting out, “Are you blind cause of me?”
Mom’s eyebrows swoop together. “Where did that come from?”
“Of course not,” she scoffs, like this is the silliest thing she’s ever heard. Mom is a bad liar. “Is this about Spike?”
“Not everything is about Spike, Mom!” God, I know. I sound like I’m eight. “I didn’t ask you about your stupid boyfriend.”
“He is not my boyfriend.”
“Are you sure about that?”
Her mouth droops and I settled down a little and sit with her on my bed. She strokes my hair for a while. “No,” she says finally. “I’m not sure what we are.”
“Did you love Dad?” I have to know.
She grabs my hand. “I loved your father very much. Don’t ever doubt that.” She sighs. “I never thought I’d be back here.”
“Why did you leave?” She just shakes her head. “Mom, please.”
“I had to kill someone,” she whispers. Then even quieter. “Again.”
“Like… like an accident?” There’s no way Mom’s a murderer, not on purpose. No way. Unless it was someone evil. Or she lost control of her strength or something.
She shakes her head. “No. Not an accident. But there was no other way.”
“Mom…” I can’t really find words for this.
“I didn’t deserve your father, sweetie. But he’d been a soldier, you know, so he understood some of it. He helped me learn to forgive myself.” She takes a deep breath. “It took Spike twenty years to forgive me.”
That throws me. I didn’t know Mom was a slayer until a year ago. “Dad knew?”
My question seems to shock her out of her mourning. “What? Of course he knew. Most of it.” She shakes her head. “Look, I know you’re busy with school stuff and patrol. But I’d like to get together when you can.”
She’s turned all businesslike and might as well have a neon sign shouting ‘conversation over’ hanging above her head. So I say goodbye and curl up on my bed and wonder which parts Mom left out and who she killed and how much it’s going to suck to have everyone know I’m the daughter of Buffy Summers.
At first it’s really awkward with everyone pretending they don’t know, but after a few days other girls are asking me questions and I’m suddenly really popular. And I think it’s a good thing, because I’m just realizing that keeping this secret is probably why I didn’t make a lot of friends last quarter. I was too busy worrying I’d give myself away.
Things starting getting weird though when the rumors start flying. Mom was scene out to dinner with Spike. Someone saw them sparring in the training room. Someone saw them necking in the library. Someone heard them boinking in his office. Someone saw them having sex against a mausoleum in Kensal Green.
I do not know how many of these are true. When I see Mom on Saturday afternoons for coffee and shopping, she says they’re just getting to know each other again. I cannot bring myself to ask whether she means this in the biblical sense.
She does mention his scars once though, and I tell her she’ll have to ask him about it, although the way she asked the question kinda makes me think he’s not telling her. Anyway, I can tell myself all that means is that she touched his face.
“I’m patrolling again,” she says, like she’s surprised at herself.
“You should be careful,” I warn her, thinking that this is crazy. That a blind person should not be fighting vampires.
“It’s fun,” she protests.
“Well, yeah. So what?”
She laughs. A real, big laugh. “It’s harder to give up than I thought it would be,” she says just before her phone rings.
It takes me a month to get up the courage to go to Giles. Most of the girls have gone on a summer recess, but I’m still here. For one thing, Mom is still shacked up with Spike. Aunt Willow’s here too, doing some sort of intensive study with Giles. So it takes me a while to get him alone.
He’s delighted to see me, of course, and makes me tea and puts out biscuits and generally acts like some sort of fond, doddering old uncle. But I know better than that now.
“Why is Mom blind, and Connie maimed, and Faith crazy?”
He puts down his tea and sighs deeply. “It is the nature of our business, my dear.”
“It’s not because they gave up slaying?” I demand. Because this is my theory. There’s only so many ways out of this business, after all.
He stares at me. “Faith tried to save your uncle Xander,” he explains, “if you know that story. Connie’s tale is particularly gruesome and frankly none of your affair. As for your mother, it is probably not my place to tell you, but I don’t believe she ever would.”
He pulls a small picture album out of one of his many file cabinets. In the photos there is a girl with brown hair and blue eyes who looks a lot like me. “That is your mother’s sister. Dawn.”
Then he tells me this wild story about how she’s not really my mother’s sister. She was just inserted into everyone’s memories. She’s a massive ball of energy forced into human form. Or she was. In a deeply sad voice he informs me that her form eventually became
unstable. “Your mother,” he says solemnly, “made the grave mistake of insisting, within hearing of a particularly vicious trickster demon, that she would give up anything to save Dawn.”
“It took her eyes.”
“Yes. And pressed Dawn into a different form.”
“I don’t remember her. I should remember her.”
Giles holds my hand very gently. “That would be rather complicated.”
I feel like someone just threw me off a building. And like I can’t force breath into my lungs. Which aren’t real anyway. “Does Mom know what I am?”
“Your Aunt Willow discovered the truth by accident.”
I have to go back to my room and lay down after all this. And I stay there in bed for two days. I can’t talk to Connie or Giles or especially Mom. Once I hear her pounding on the door and then Giles tells her to give me some time. He doesn’t tell her that I know, for
which I am incredibly grateful.
Finally I pull myself together and go see Giles again.
“I don’t want to talk about Dawn,” I tell him as soon as he opens the door. “I want to know if there’s a way to fix Mom’s eyes.”
He looks me over carefully and with obvious reluctance pulls a dusty book down from a locked case. He opens it so that a drawing of the ugliest demon I have ever seen stares back at me. “There are entities that can restore lost abilities.”
He points to a line of the delicate print. “Often a tremendous sacrifice is required or excessive trial by combat. Sometimes the afflicted compete, or perhaps a champion fights in her stead. Few survive, and even fewer succeed.” He pours us tea. “Those who fail might, for example, emerge from the experience with severe scarring.”
I stir my tea. The spoon clatters against the cup because my hands are shaking. “She thinks he was mad at her all this time.”
Giles smiles wryly. “Oh, he was. You will find that Spike can be many things at once.”
I run my fingers over the print, skimming the pages while I drink my tea. “Can I borrow this?” I ask finally.
I can feel him restraining himself from saying anything or ripping the book from my hands. Instead he just nods.
I leave Mom a voicemail telling her I’m fine and that I’d love to have dinner with her and Spike when they have time. In the meantime, I hunker down with the book and read everything I can about then entity that managed to defeat one of our best teachers.
They are so pleased to have me at dinner that it is almost painful. And they hold hands a little, which is painful. They’re so happy, and I want them to think I’m happy to, so I don’t tell them anything about Dawn or the demon or my plans.
I mean, I know this is insane. I’m not going to try it any time soon, not until I’ve finished my training. But Mom defeated a pure demon when she was just a little older than me. Maybe I can make it a graduation gift. My final exam. So that when I get my first real assignment, my Mom can see that I was worth it.
I hope I am.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/193366.html