Ch 7 - Moving Towards Good-bye
It was afternoon and another hot one in Sunnydale. Xander sat at the kitchen counter with a calculator and his list of everything he’d seen wrong at Dawn’s house. It wasn’t pretty.
Buffybot’s fraudulent stipend from the Council barely covered the mortgage payment, meaning that it was off the table for repair funds. Joe had told Xan only an hour before that there was still no immediate work on the horizon. It was possible that he’d be given a subcontract on clearing away the rest of the debris from Glory’s destroyed condo, but he wasn’t sure if he’d have a budget to bring any of the guys back with him. He’d also put out feelers for the rebuilding of Sunnydale High, but as far as anyone knew, they hadn’t even gotten to the stage yet where they had a design firm hired.
Xan blew out a lungful of frustration and stood up, walking away from the mess. He wouldn’t dare give voice to the opinion that Joyce wasn’t very smart when it came to insurance coverage, but it was a fact that she’d left them in a jam. Her life insurance policy was pretty much gone at this point, mostly spent on the monthly utilities and Dawn’s voracious appetite for clothes. Tara could have put her foot down long before now about her tendency to need new jeans or tops all of the time, but what was done was done now.
Pushing the problem away, he grabbed the phone and walked out onto the veranda. With a quick dial, he sat down in the shade and listened to the traffic out on the streets.
“Hey, you,” a familiar voice answered. “If this is an apocalypse warning, I’m totally hanging up.”
“Hey Cord. No ‘end of the world’ news… except for Dawn, maybe, if she doesn’t find the perfect birthday gift for the young teen stud she’s eyeing. Much to Spike’s chagrin, by the way.”
“Well, then as much as I love hearing updates on Sunnydale… the very, very few times that I actually get updated… what in the world are you calling about?”
“Dawn. Next week is the last for her at summer school and I’m hoping you’d spend some time with her.”
“Of course! I promised that girl a facial massage that she’d kill for. When you shipping her up,” Cordelia replied enthusiastically.
“Ah, and therein lies the problem.”
“Let me take a stab in the dark… Spike is being an overprotective ass and is threatening to either abduct her until the new school year, or chasing her up here.”
“Very good,” he laughed. “You get a vision of that?”
“Nope. Just my natural insight into the Scooby dynamics. It didn’t take a psychologist to see his attachment to her. When he was here, and wasn’t getting drunk with Angel on Wes’ scotch, she was all he talked about. If he could still bite, I’d be concerned.”
“Spike and Angel?! Drinking together? Without an ax in sight? I find this hard to accept. Wish I could have seen that.”
“A world of no. It was maudlin, tragic, and they’re both criers. So, if Dawn can’t come up here, and Sunnydale has no spas last I checked, what are we supposed to do?”
“We’re thinking somewhere between. Neutral ground where Angel won’t be and Spike can stop with the jealousy-competitive thing.”
“Hmm…,” Cordelia hummed. In the background, Xan could hear her typing on a keyboard. “Well, we have a three star in Santa Ana… a two star place in Murrietta, which hello? NO. Here’s a three-star place in Huntington Beach… and it has horses! Now, normally, I want you to know, I’d never even consider a three star place… but for Dawnie, I’ll suffer.”
“Either of ‘em should work. Now, I just have to convince a certain man, using the term loosely, to back off a little.”
“I’m carrying holy water. If he becomes a thorn in my side, I’ll sprinkle him.”
“Nice,” Xan snorted.
“Hey, taking care of hard-headed vamps isn’t only a Sunnydale thing, you know. Sometimes you need to be a bit forceful to get the point across. They’re not so good with subtlety. Which works out just fine, since I’m not either,” she said with an obvious grin, even over the phone.
“Then give me a call in the middle of the week and I’ll start the ball rolling over here?”
“Sure thing. Gotta run though, we have a possible demon sighting in the sewers… why is it always the frickin’ sewers?”
“Okay… take care of yourself, Cordy.”
“You guys, too. And tell Dawn if she doesn’t pass, not only is this trip off, but if I have to make a special visit all the way down there, I’m really going to be pissy.”
“Hah, will do,” Xan laughed again and he disconnected. And then, with a groan, he went back to his estimates and tried to find where he could cut the final cost.
Marsha Gannon stood swaying in a daze as she looked over the glass gun cabinet hanging on the wall. She’d woken up barely an hour before and though her head still hurt, the pain was this far off thing that she couldn’t focus on.
Before her, hanging from wood pegs behind the glass, hung a small collection of antique guns that had belonged to her father. He’d been a collector and she’d first learned how to handle and care for them before she’d ever thought of being a cop and carrying her own. The cabinet contained small, yellow recessed lighting casting an amber glow over the metal of the firearms.
The thing from the Hellmouth had spent far, far too long stuck with this woman. Its mounting frustration, however, was finally easing into the far more pleasurable sense of anticipation. She was so very close….
Marsha unlocked the cabinet and reached in to take down one of the displayed weapons. It was warm to her hand and made a soft ‘snickt’ noise as she opened the revolver’s chamber. It was unloaded of course and rather than reach for the bullets immediately as the impatient Wisp wished, she stumbled over to the sofa and sat down heavily.
Rubbing the barrel, the trigger, the polished handle made her feel a little better; gave her something other than the persistent headache building in her skull. She remembered her father’s lessons, the way he always stressed safety, but couldn’t keep the excited grin from his face no matter how serious he’d tried to be. He had loved the history surrounding the antique she now caressed, an 1890 Colt Model P. The Solid-Frame Army Colt barrel was 7 and 1/2 inches long and so solid in her hands. It took .45 bullets, a box of which were in the drawers under the display cabinet. It had been expertly cared for and would fire now just as smoothly as it had when it’d been used by the Texas Rangers a hundred years ago. She stood up and walked over to the drawer, unlocking it and pulling out the box of ammunition. Returning to the sofa, she slowly loaded the chamber, savoring the way the bullets seemed custom made to slide gently into the waiting slots.
Modern guns, like her police issued one, could fire off a number of rounds in a shorter span of time than those lawmen of yesteryear could scarcely have imagined, but there was nothing like holding a real piece of the past to fire up the imagination. Marsha put the barrel close to her face and closed her eyes, smelling the faint trace of metal polish and remembered the good times she’d had with her father. She’d always hoped to share his stories and his lessons with a child of her own someday, and maybe she would have, if it wasn’t for Carole Stein’s interference.
She held the loaded gun as gently as a distraught child being comforted by its mother as she drifted into a deep sleep. Her dreams were filled with the sounds of her father’s laugh and the gleam in his eyes as they wandered through touristy ‘old west’ towns. In her dreams she was still a little girl and every time he pointed out a Winchester or Colt and began to tell her who’d used them and how and why, she grinned in rapt attention.
The Wisp smiled too. It had finally won. Marsha just didn’t realize it yet.
Back at Xander’s, he tried to re-work the numbers for the fifth time trying to convince them that the Summers’ home repairs would fit into the budget, despite their stubborn resistance. Joyce’s fire and damage insurance had a hefty five-thousand dollar deductible and they had no idea when the insurance company would be forthcoming with their end of the money… he just hoped that Tara or Willow had contacted Sunnydale Mutual Protection sometime that day. He’d have to remember to mention it.
By coincidence, his phone chose to ring at that moment and on the other end was, in fact, Tara. She didn’t sound very happy.
“Hey Tara,” he said amiably enough. He could suddenly feel his lack of decent sleep, however, as he geared himself up for the next disaster.
“Hi, Xan. I’m just calling to plan a Scooby dinner meeting,” she sighed. “I’m afraid we’re going to have to discuss how we’re going to handle Mrs. Sinclair - that woman,” she said with obvious distaste. Xander had never heard her actually use a negative tone toward someone before and he figured that he wasn’t the only one feeling stressed toward the end of his limit. Tara continued, “It’ll be convenient since Giles needs to talk to us anyway about, well, what I mentioned earlier. I have a bad feeling about that, too.”
“Yeah. Well. I have news, too,” he said with no enthusiasm. “Have you guys gotten in touch with the insurance agency about the damages there?”
“Monday. Rick is going to get us an expedited police report showing us as emphatically not having any criminal activity involved in Warren’s attack on us. We should decide how much we want to press Rick on letting us handle him ourselves, or if we should let the police deal with this one.”
“If Buffy were here, she’d probably kick his ass, but would basically tell us he’s human and that human laws apply.”
“I know,” Tara said with a trace of worry. “But, I’m not sure Willow is going to agree. She’s been talking about having Spike break into one of their homes… Warren or that skinny guy… and stealing something for a locator spell. Xan, I know we have a lot to worry about,” her voice had dropped to near a whisper, “But, I’m concerned about Will. She’s already researching that other dangerous magic I told you about, and well, after Giles you’d think she would at least hesitate to throw spells around lightly, but it’s like it’s her first response anymore. I don’t know… maybe I’m just really pooped….”
“I know how you feel.”
“Oh, listen, Spike had some choice words for me earlier too, before he finally went to bed. You should have said ‘hi’ to him when you came over.”
“He should have been deep asleep by then. And, if he’s giving you attitude I’m going to stake his ass… you got enough to worry about without his crap.”
“I can handle, Spike,” she said. “I’m just sorry that I caused, in a way, this problem between the two of you. But, I want you to know that whatever you decide about, uh, seeing him or not, well, I don’t think there is a wrong answer here. Spike is just going to have to grow up with the rest of us. God, I hope he’s asleep or I’m going to pay for that comment,” she gave a small laugh.
“Vampires aren’t so good with the maturing,” Xan chuckled back. “I’m going to need you and Willow though to do the magic that the two of you do so well. I talked to Cordy about Dawn spending a few days being pampered with her, but there’s no way that can happen if we can’t convince Spike that Dawn’ll be undetectable as not-quite-human.”
“I know. And, we’re close to something. I just need another day or three. Willow’s going to give us a report on Buffybot and what we’ll need to repair her… assuming we’re not totally screwed, and with our luck lately….”
“Hey, hey! You and me are the only ones right now that are keeping our heads together and I’ve already got dibs on being the pessimist. I need you, Tara, to tell me everything is going to be okay.”
After the slightest of hesitations, she responded with an obviously forced light tone, “Everything will work out for our benefit. Could we meet at your place? I have this dread that Mrs. Sinclair is going to pop up on a surprise visit just to make sure that Dawnie isn’t staying here.”
“Sure thing. I’ll order pizzas - it’s easiest. Sixish?”
“Maybe eight would be better. If we don’t include Spike he’s going to feel even worse about the potion’s aftermath on you.”
“Okay. Ask Giles if he could stop for soda or tea or something… my fridge is a bit bare bones right now.”
“See ya, Xan. Try not to stress out too much - I really do believe that we’re reaching the end of the bad luck… we’re due for something to break our way….”
End Ch 7