The icon for this part comes from delectableoomph
Up to part 45 can be found here
Continued from here
‘X’ marked the spot on the computer-generated calendar.
Buffy stepped back and studied her handiwork like it was a Picasso as she placed the red pen on Dawn’s desk. It was the day before the day. No wonder why she was depressed…well, more depressed than usual. She stared at the row of neat, red Xs perfectly crossing the numbered squares. The scarlet letters’ sudden capitulation to white space was jarring in the extreme.
September 20. Four months to the day…
Some hero. A white space in a calendar grid is enough to make her want to crawl under the covers and not come out until next year.
And tomorrow they’re going to do it again, only this time they’re going to get a grail instead of trying to kill the unkillable.
Four months. Four months trying to convince herself they won, but she’s beginning to think that all they managed to do was hold the line. No one is living in shiny happy land, the world still needs Slayers, there are still demons, and there are still Hellmouths.
It’s the plural bit that gets to her.
She spent most of her time in Sunnydale convinced she was the Slayer—emphasis on ‘the’—fighting atop the one and only Hellmouth. Sunnydale falls into a pit of her making taking Spike, Anya, Amanda, and god knows how many stubborn people who refused to leave town with it and she finds out that there are more Hellmouths and they are active.
You’d think someone might’ve mentioned this before, Buffy dropped to the bed and rubbed her face with her hands.
Buffy peaked at the calendar over her fingertips. No wonder why Xander was hiding in his room. He was probably doing the same thing she was: dreading the four-month anniversary of the day when he crawled away from a nonexistent town with only the clothes on his back and a hole in his heart.
And they’re supposed to go get the grail tomorrow? A good idea this isn’t. She’s a corpse waiting to happen and she really doubts that Xander’s going to be all that focused either.
All I need is an earthquake…wait, does Cleveland even get earthquakes? God I hope not, because Buffies and earthquakes equal big badness.
She’s worrying over nothing. She has to be. If someone, anyone were in any real danger, Future Xander would’ve said something.
Of course he would.
How wiggy is this? I’m pining my hopes on time travelers, future Xanders, and a journal I haven’t even seen.
“September 19,” the calendar reminded her.
September 20. She shivered at the thought.
Should she say something? Or should she just shut up?
The bedroom door burst open causing Buffy to leap to her feet and grab the closest thing and throw it. The squeak that accompanied the pillow making contact announced that the intruder was none other than Dawn.
“Geez, jumpy much?” Dawn demanded as she rubbed her forehead. “That hurt.”
“It was a pillow,” Buffy protested.
“A pillow thrown at me with Slayer strength. Keep it up and I’m turning you in.”
“Turning me in? To who?”
“I’m pretty sure there’s an international U.N. treaty against throwing pillows at your sister just because she walked into her own room,” Dawn huffed. “You didn’t get that violent when I read your diary when I was like 11.”
“You did not read my diary.”
Dawn flashed her a wicked grin. “Oooooooh, Angel is sooooo hot. And mysterious. He’s not dorky like all the other boys.”
“Why you little…”
“Too bad his forehead sticks out an inch from his face. He looks like a total caveman or something. Can they do plastic surgery on vampires? Because I don’t want my prom pictures to come out all yucky.”
“I did not write that!” Buffy growled back while Dawn giggled. “And his forehead was like that because of the quality brood time.” She froze. “Oh god, did I just say that?”
“Score!” Dawn did a little victory dance in the doorway.
“I got you to admit that Angel was less than perfect.”
“You did not! Ooooo, you’re such a brat.” Despite herself, Buffy began to giggle in counterpoint to Dawn’s radiant smile. “Where do you learn this stuff?”
“I blame Xander. Totally and completely and forever,” Dawn admitted.
“Remind me to strangle him later.”
“Awwww, c’mon. That wasn’t even the worst insult in the repertoire,” Dawn fake-pouted.
“I don’t want to know.” Buffy flopped onto the edge of the bed. “Is there a reason why you’re here to annoy me? Is it boredom? Don’t you have homework-y things to do? Chores? A bridge to jump off of because all the cool kids are doing it?”
“Homework is done. I paid Susan to do my chores. And jumping off bridges is waaaaaay overrated unless you’re Wile E. Coyote,” Dawn bounced over to sit next to her sister. “Here to tell you the big house meeting’s about to start, so we have to boogie on down and get the 411 and show off our mad apocalyptic-honed planning skillz to Catherine.”
“If you finish that with a ‘yo’ and flash me a gang symbol, I’m sending you to private school.”
“Ooooooo, Catholic School Girl look. Kinky. I’ll be beating college boys off with a stick.”
“What? No boys!”
“That’s it. I’m sending you to military school. You’re beginning to sound like Faith.”
“Take that back,” Dawn said without heat. “At least until I get my listing under 1-900-skank-ho.”
“Awww, c’mon. She’s a one-man woman now.”
“Nuhn-uhn,” Dawn corrected with a grin. “Robin and Faith are totally past tense.”
“What? When?” Buffy sat up.
“Yesterday. You gotta move out from the rock you’ve been living under.”
“I knew it! That’s why Faith was being all weird yesterday.” Buffy felt herself guiltily warming to the gossip. “I sooooo totally called that.”
“But you didn’t get in on the betting pool, so it doesn’t count,” Dawn grinned.
“Betting pool? There was a pool? No one told me.”
“That’s because you and Willow were the ones giving the news reports, so no pool for you,” Dawn airily waved a hand. “You two really need to check and see who’s listening before making with the girly gossip.”
Buffy’s shoulders slumped. “This is worse than home. Is it even possible to keep a secret around here?”
The cheerful expression disappeared from Dawn’s face. “You’d be shocked.” She gave her elder sister a poke in the ribs. “We going or not?”
“Okay, okay. Sheesh.” Buffy stood as she ran her hands down her clothes to make sure she was neat and presentable. “Let’s get it over with.”
As she walked out of the room and into the hall, she mused how Dawn seemed happier since they hit Cleveland, like her life was coming together. Much as Buffy envied Dawn’s ability to thrive despite everything that had been thrown at her, her optimism about life in general was infectious in the extreme. Can I bottle that? Buffy wondered with a chuckle.
She didn’t notice Dawn throwing the calendar a worried look as the younger girl followed her out of the room.