the bunny warren v. Faith

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Summers Away from Home

Author: Mikelesq
Concept: Buffy spends the summer before college in L.A., and sees her father, Cordelia...and, of course, a gang of vampires. Set between seasons 3 and 4.
Rating: PG-13.
Feedback: Please.
Legal disclaimers: "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" characters and situations are owned by Joss Whedon and the producers of the show. The story is entirely fiction. Distribute if you like.

Prologue


"Dad, this is Willow."

"A pleasure to meet you, Mr. Summers," Willow said, putting down her overnight bag and reaching to shake Hank Summers' hand.

"I've heard so much about you," Hank said. "It's nice to finally meet you in person."

A voice over the PA system announced:

"Flight 443 from Sunnydale and continuing to Spokane has arrived at Gate Fourteen. Passengers embarking on Flight 443 for Spokane should proceed to Gate Fourteen with their boarding passes. Boarding will begin in approximately ten minutes."

"We should get out of the way," Hank said.

"I've got to go to the restroom," Willow said. "I'll meet you at baggage claim."

"Alright," Hank said. "It's straight down the escalators. Buffy and I will wait for you there."

Willow walked to the ladies room while Hank and Buffy proceeded toward the escalators.

"Thanks for letting Willow come along," Buffy said.

"No problem," Hank replied. "There's plenty of room. Besides, she can keep you company while I'm at work."

"Yeah," Buffy said. "I figured we'd hit the malls during the day. I know you're not going to miss the shopping sprees."

Actually, he would.

"I can still get some time off, if you want," Hank said. "I have another six days of vacation left for the year. I'm sure my boss wouldn't mind if...."

"Oh, don't worry about it," Buffy said. "It's only a week."

I know, Hank thought. It used to be the whole summer. Last summer no one knew where she was. It turned out she was in L.A. the whole time. She'd never even called. When she decided to go home, she went back to Sunnydale. Directly back. He had to hear over the phone from Joyce that Buffy had been found. A local call from L.A. would have been thirty-five cents. It had been a long time since Hank Summers had been to a bus station, but he was pretty sure they still had pay phones.

This year, it was a week. "You know," Hank said, "you can stay longer. I mean, if your friend needs to get back, we can change your flight and...."

"Nah," Buffy said. "I really do have to get back. You know, college stuff. A lot to prepare for."

"Yeah, I remember," Hank said, although most of what he remembered involved summer parties. "So, did you reply to UCLA?"

"Well, I didn't say yes," Buffy said. "And they said I had until May 31st to say yes, so I guess that's the same as saying no."

"So you've made up your mind?"

"Pretty much," Buffy said. "I know UC Sunnydale doesn't have the same name recognition as UCLA, but it's still a good school. Besides, I've got a lot keeping me in Sunnydale. All my friends are there. And there's mom. I mean, I'm going to live in the dorm, but I think mom would like me close. She's not used to living alone."

And she'll never get used to it, Hank thought. You never do.


Part I.


"So, who's hungry?"

"I'm fine," Willow said, dropping her purse on the couch. "I ate on the plane. They gave us sandwiches. Well, they said they were sandwiches. There was bread involved."

"I'm really not hungry either," Buffy said. "We should probably just unpack."

"That's fine," Hank said. "Um, I'm just going to go into the den to check my office e-mail. The condo pool is open, if you kids...I mean, if you young ladies want to go for a swim later."

"O.K.," Buffy said, taking her bags toward the spare bedroom. Willow followed.

Hank paused for a moment, then walked to his den.

"Your dad seems nice," Willow said as they entered the bedroom.

"Yeah," Buffy said, dropping her suitcase on the bed. "He's O.K. I haven't seen him much this year. Our weekend visits got a little off track. Every time we had one scheduled, either the Mayor was up to something, or it was some other demon."

"Yeah," Willow agreed, even though she remembered quite a few weekends that Buffy could easily have...well, that was none of her business.

"Hey, girls," Hank called, entering the room. "I was thinking. There's a really good Thai food place that just opened around the corner. Anyone interested?"

"That sounds good," Willow said.

"Great," Hank said. "Tomorrow night I figured we could barbeque, like we used to back at the house. I've got a hibachi set up on the balcony that should do the job."

"Cool," Buffy said. "We should be home from the mall around six."

"Perfect," Hank said.


Part II.


"Do you think Oz will like it?"

"Are you kidding?" Buffy asked, tossing her soda cup into a garbage can in the food court. "He'll love it. What there is of it, anyway."

"It just feels, well, weird," Willow said, looking down at the small Victoria's Secret bag in her hands.

"It's supposed to feel weird," Buffy said. "But once you get used to the lace...."

"That's not what I mean, and you know it," Willow said, trying to suppress a giggle. "I'm just not used to...well, you know."

"So you and Oz are basking in the carnal, huh?"

"Well," Willow replied, "let's just say that his van may need a new set of shocks before the end of the summer."

"Oh, my," Buffy said, fanning herself with her open hand.

"You don't mind me talking about this stuff, do you?"

"Well, I'd prefer you skip the Polaroids, if at all possible."

"I'm serious," Willow said. "I mean, if it bothers you...what with Angel leaving and all....."

"Willow, don't be silly," Buffy said. "I want you to feel like you can share this stuff. And I'm OK, really."

"You don't have to be," Willow said. "OK, I mean."

"Well, I am," Buffy said. "Pretty much."

"I'm just saying...hey, is that who I think it is?"

Buffy followed Willow's eyes and looked through the clear glass window at the front of one of the mall's clothing stores. A young woman was straightening sweaters on a display table.

"Cordelia," Buffy said. "Yeah, it is her. Gainfully employed. Go figure."

"I heard she left town after what happened with her parents," Willow said. "I guess she wound up working here."

"At the mall," Buffy observed. "Again, go figure."

"Should we go and say something?"

"I don't know," Buffy said. "Seeing us like this, seeing her like this. It would probably make her feel awkward, uncomfortable, ashamed...yeah, let's go."

"Buffy, c'mon," Willow said. "I mean, Cordelia may have had her moments, but you can't help but feel a little sorry for...oh!"

Cordelia looked up from the table and saw Willow and Buffy standing on the other side of the glass. They half-waived politely. Cordelia bit her bottom lip, then motioned for them to come in. Buffy and Willow walked through the entrance and approached Cordelia.

"Hey," Willow said.

"Hey back," Cordelia said.

"So how's it going?" Buffy asked.

"Good," Cordelia said as convincingly as she could. "Real good. Couldn't be better."

"That's...great," Willow said.

"Oh, don't hand me that," Cordelia said.

"What?"

"You know," Cordelia said. "I know what you're thinking. Spoiled little rich girl is getting what she had coming."

"I wasn't...," Willow started.

"Well, I'll have you know that things are going perfectly," Cordelia interrupted. "Do you see that Hickory Farms down there? Katie Holmes worked there for six months before she got discovered. And the Orange Julius? Two words. Freddie. Prinze."

"Junior," Buffy added. "That's three."

"This mall is one of the hottest places to work if you're on the brink of discovery," Cordelia continued. "Usually you have to be a Juliard grad just to get an interview at Chik-Fil-A, but I got into women's clothing the day I showed up. So tell that to all your friends back in Sunnydale."

"Cordelia," a woman's voice called. A middle-aged woman (who's name tag indicated she was 'Charlotte,' and that she was an assistant manager) walked up behind Cordy. "I hope you're not socializing."

"Oh, Mrs. Jessup," Cordelia said. "I was just, um...."

"Helping me pick out a sweater," Buffy interjected. "I normally don't wear sweaters. In July. In California. But this nice saleswoman pointed out that cotton breathes."

"Well," Charlotte said, "please continue."

Charlotte turned and walked toward the shoe display.

"Thanks," Cordelia said. "Of course, you realize you have to buy one now."

"Excuse me," Buffy said. "It's July. In California."

"Cotton breathes," Cordelia replied. "So, what brings you to L.A.?"

"Visiting my dad," Buffy explained.

"That's nice," Cordelia said. "I forgot you used to live in...hey, watch it!"

A trio of teenaged boys walked past Cordelia. One of them had pinched her. They responded to her protest with smiles and leers, then shuffled out of the store.

"Ugh, the public," Cordelia said. "I wish security would just throw them out already."

"The public?" Willow asked.

"No, those guys," Cordelia said. "Every day they just walk around the mall. Young punks. It's obvious they're not buying anything. I mean, look at their clothes. A mall this upscale would never sell acid wash jeans and nylon jackets."

"Members Only," Buffy said, her eyes fixated on the three boys as they stood outside and made crude comments to the women who passed by.

"Now that's a good idea," Cordelia said. "A mall where you have to be a member to shop."

"No, the jackets," Buffy said. "Remember the 'Members Only' jackets? And the acid wash jeans? From back in the eighties?"

"Dated clothes," Willow said. "That's a classic vampire tell."

"Yeah," Cordelia said. "That would explain the string of murders that have happened in the parking lot every night."

Buffy and Willow turned to face Cordelia.

"Cordelia," Buffy said. "You've noticed a bunch of pale kids walking around the enclosed, artificially lit mall, and there's been a string of murders outside the mall at night, and you didn't make the connection?"

"No, I didn't," Cordelia said. "That's what I moved away from Sunnydale to get away from. And even if I did notice something was up, what was I supposed to do? Tell security that the mall was infested with bloodsucking demons?"

"Well, you could have done something," Willow said. "Oh, yeah," Cordelia said, rolling her eyes. "Maybe I could have found some other demon fighter, and spent yet another three years as a sidekick to a superpowered vigilante. Like I'm really going to put my impending stardom on hold to do THAT again?" "Cordelia," Buffy sighed, "I don't have time to argue with you. Can you get me into the mall after dark?"


Part III.


"So how long is your daughter in town for?"

"A week," Hank replied, throwing a stack of files into his Out Box. "She has to get back to her mother so she can get ready for school."

"Yeah, right," Jackson replied, taking a seat in front of Hank's desk. "I remember all of the 'getting ready' I did before college. Beer and nakedness, mostly."

"Jackson, do you mind? That's my daughter you're talking about."

"Sorry," Jackson said. "Well, at least she still comes around. My kid, shit, at that age I was lucky if I saw him once a month. Well, except for birthdays and Christmas. I was a lot more popular at gift-giving time."

"Yeah, well, I'm not," Hank said. "Christmas? Easter? Nothing. You know, she called me and said she didn't want me to go to her high school graduation?"

"Wow, that's harsh."

"Her mother said it was some kind of a teenage thing," Hank explained. "I mean, Joyce didn't even go to the ceremony."

"Well," Jackson said, "at least the kid's equal about it."

"It's not equal," Hank said. "Joyce gets to see her every day. Me, if it's not a special occasion, I'm pretty much cut out. Buffy used to be thrilled when we had our visits. Now, I get every excuse in the book as to why she can't come."

"She's a teenager," Jackson said. "It's normal. Every kid goes through the phase where they don't want to be around their parents. Their friends are what's important to them. Friendships are the relationships that teach them how to interact in the adult world. It's part of growing up, becoming independent. It's just harder when they're living somewhere else."

"I just feel like I can't win," Hank said. "If I push, then I'm crowding her. If I don't, I'm letting us grow apart."

"Yep," Jackson said. "And you know what? When she's a couple of years older and going through all of the abandonment crap, it's going to be all your fault. My kid, when he was sixteen, he wouldn't speak to me because he had other stuff going on. Now, the way he remembers it, he figures I blew him off, so...he doesn't speak to me."

"Well, it's good to know I have something to look forward to," Hank said wryly. "I guess the best I can do is to be there for her."

"And work on having your own life," Jackson replied.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Have you told her?"

"No, and I'm not going to," Hank said. "It's tough enough as it is. It won't help matters if Buffy knows I'm seeing someone."

"Hank, you've been going out with her for a year. She's invited you to meet her family at Thanksgiving. How long do you think you can keep it a secret?"

"That's not the point," Hank said. "Joyce might be going to visit her sister this Thanksgiving. If I'm not here, and Buffy can't get away from her classes, she'll have nowhere to go."

"Oh, that makes sense," Jackson said sarcastically. "Your ex gets to see your daughter everyday, and Joyce can do whatever she wants. Buffy gets to pick and choose where she goes. And if she doesn't choose you, well, then, you can just sit at home and eat a pot pie. Meanwhile, a beautiful woman who loves you like crazy gets to try and convince her family, and herself, that you're really serious about a relationship. Weren't you the one bitching about fairness?"

"Look, not that I wouldn't love to continue this conversation," Hank said. "But I have to get this paperwork done this afternoon. I'm leaving early to cook dinner."

"Whatever," Jackson said, standing up to leave. "Listen, I'm just looking out for you. It took me forever to get it through my head that I was never going to make my kid come around. I spent way too much time trying to figure out what was wrong with me. Now I'm fifty-three, single, and alone. There's no woman asking me to come to Thanksgiving dinner. I'm just saying." Jackson walked out of the office. Hank sighed, then shook his head and dove into another file. He had a lot to do, and he'd have to be done by five if he wanted to have dinner ready for the girls by six.


Part IV.


"I don't believe this," Cordelia said, climbing into one of the cardboard boxes. "You're in town, what, a day? And already I'm hiding and sneaking and putting myself in danger."

"Cordelia, shut up," Buffy said, climbing into the box with her. "If I could hide out in here and get through the security systems on my own, I would. As it is, we're going to be stuck here together for another couple of hours until the mall closes. It will go by a lot faster if you don't whine."

"You know, you could try being nice to me," Cordy retorted. "I am risking my life, not to mention a really good job that gives a twenty percent employee discount on items not marked down, plus first dibs on all the discontinued accessories before they're returned to the manufacturer for...."

"My god," Buffy interrupted, pulling the top down on the box. "You are so self-absorbed. And loud about it. You think I'm happy here? I'm supposed to be on vacation. My dad is going to freak when Willow tells him I'm not coming home for dinner."

"Oh, that's fine," Cordelia said. "Daddy misses dinner, and it's a tragedy. Cordelia could become dinner to a vampire, well that's just fine and dandy."

"It's different," Buffy shot back. "My father doesn't know...what I do."

"So tell him already," Cordy said. "Your mom was able to handle it. Why can't he?"

"My mom found out," Buffy replied. "I didn't want her to know, and ever since she found out, it's been really hard for her. I don't want to put my dad through it. He's better off not knowing."

"Ugh," Cordelia exclaimed. "That really stinks."

"Excuse me?"

"That's so unfair," Cordelia continued. "You sound just like my father. 'You didn't need to know. I didn't want you to worry about money. I thought it would all work out.' Then all of a sudden out of nowhere the IRS is taking all our stuff, I'm out on the street, and my visits to my father are through plexiglass barriers. My whole life turned upside down, and I never had any warning because HE decided what I could and couldn't handle. When you care about somebody, you take the good with the bad. You have a RIGHT to take the good and the bad. Whether he can handle the truth should be HIS choice, not YOURS."

Buffy swallowed hard. She had faced the demonic possession of her true love, a drowning death in a shallow pool, and a snake the size of a subway train. But she had never faced a prospect as unsettling as this.

Cordelia...Cordelia Chase...sounded...right.


Part V.


"This chicken tastes wonderful, Mr. Summers," Willow said, watching Hank Summers make small circles in his baked beans with his fork. He had no reply. Willow continued:

"Did you make this chicken with sage? Because I think I taste sage. Did you know that the druids used sage as a healing herb? It's true. They'd rub it on...."

"Buffy still hasn't called," Hank interrupted.

"Um, yeah," Willow said. "I mean, when we ran into Cordelia, she insisted on showing Buffy her new apartment. I guess they just lost track of time. You know how it is when us girls start gabbing."

"I don't remember Buffy mentioning a friend named Cordelia," Hank said.

"Oh, I'm not surprised," Willow replied. "They're really not that close."

Hank dropped his fork on the plate, making a loud clank. He never met Willow's eyes.

"I mean, they were friends," Willow quickly added, realizing the significance Hank had placed on her words. "Good friends. Like sisters, actually."

Hank had no reply.

"Um, anyway," Willow said, trying to change the subject. "I remember you mentioned that you checked your office email here. There's a program that I can hack off of Motorola's web site that would automatically send your email as a text message directly to your cell phone. It's not out yet commercially, but I've never been one to allow a little thing like that keep me back."

Hank looked up and saw Willow's uncomfortable expression. He smiled. He'd been behaving horribly. No sense making this girl feel bad. It wasn't her fault that his daughter....

"Alright," Hank finally said. "Show me what you can do."


Part VI.


"Dude, that chick was like, sooooo into me."

"In your dreams," the young vamp replied to his companion, lounging on a chair in the mall's food court. The darkness of the long-since-closed mall didn't hide the look of dismissal on the vamp's face. "Besides, she was like, sooooo not hot. I mean, really. She was all, like, in those baggy overalls. She looked like a farmer."

"That's the style now, you idiots," the third member of the group interjected. "My god, you two are pathetic. We're immortal. We can go anywhere. Do anything. And all you two want to do is hang out at the mall like we're still in high school."

"Dude, chill," the first vamp said. "Don't, like, get an attitude just because you're a senior."

"Quit calling me dude! And quit calling me a senior! That was thirteen years ago! We're not teenagers anymore. God, I don't believe I'm wasting my time with you two. Every day, every night, the same thing. We lurk in the parking lot and feed off whatever stragglers finish shopping last. Then we come back in here, and I have to listen to the two of you yammer on and on until the sun comes up. And then we wander around for another twelve hours while the two of you harass women and bitch at the music store clerk because he hasn't gotten in any new Twisted Sister records. Well, guess what? There aren't any new Twisted Sister records. They're not called records anymore, and there will never be another record, album, tape, disc or any other form of media created by Twisted Sister again! Jesus! I've had it! Something's got to change!"

"I think I can help with that," Buffy said, emerging from the shadows. She hurled a stake into the lounging vamps chest. He turned to dust.

"Whoa," the first vamp said. "That is like, sooooo gnarly."

"She just killed him, you jackass!" the third vamp shouted. "She's the Slayer!"

"Slayer?" the vamp wondered aloud. He turned to Buffy. "Hey, sorry. I loved that record you put out back in eighty-six."

Buffy rolled her eyes and threw another stake into the first vamp's heart. He looked down at the wooden handle protruding from his chest, and as his form began to disintegrate, he meekly said:

"Uh, album?"

The final vampire sprang to his feet. He picked up a chair and threw it at Buffy. She dodged it easily. As he turned to run, Buffy leapt into the air, kicking him between the shoulder blades and sending him sprawling to the ground. As he turned over, he saw Buffy standing over him with her final stake raised in the air.

"Oh, go ahead and do it," the vamp sighed. "I've been stuck in the same pathetic pattern forever. I'm too lazy to change, and all I do is bitch about how hard it is. Just finish it."

Buffy scowled. Cordelia walked up behind her.

"Kind of sad," Cordy said. "I mean, we've all been there."

"Yeah," Buffy muttered.

"At the same time," Cordelia noted, "he does eat people."

"Oh, yeah," Buffy said, coming to her senses and plunging the stake into the vampire's heart.


Epilogue


"Hey, dad."

"Hi," Hank said, not looking up from the TV.

"Sorry I missed dinner," Buffy said. "I got caught up with Cordelia, and, well...."

"I understand. Really. I get it."

"Look, Dad," Buffy said, trying to find the right words. She hadn't had time to think about her words with her mother. It had all happened so fast. And gone so badly. Buffy decided to wait, just a little longer, until it was the right time.

"It's late," Hank said. "You should get some sleep."

"Yeah," Buffy said. "Dad, listen, we have to talk. When I come over for Thanksgiving...."

"I won't be here," Hank interrupted.

Buffy recoiled. "But...I thought...I mean...Mom's going to Aunt Arlene's. I thought...."

"I have plans," Hank said. "There's a woman. We've been dating. I'm going to her house for Thanksgiving. I'll be back that Friday. You can come then. If you want."

"Oh," Buffy said. "Um...OK. That's...fine. I'll just come that Friday."

"If you want," Hank said. "Don't put yourself out."

"Uh, sure. We'll just plan on Friday. I'm...going to get some sleep now."

"Good night," Hank said, picking up the remote control to change the channel.

Buffy turned to go to the guestroom, then stopped and said:

"Um, Dad?"

"Yeah?"

"I...nothing. Good night."

Buffy continued down the hall and closed the bedroom door behind her as she entered. Hank Summers flipped through the channels for another half hour. He half expected Buffy to come out and talk. She didn't. He turned off the TV and went to bed.

THE END


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