No Place Like Home
by Catlin O'Connor

They've been here for almost three months now, and summer vacation is almost over. Dawn wonders when they'll be going home -- wherever that is, now -- but more than that, she wonders when they'll be leaving Europe.

Sure, she's seen a lot of things she never thought she'd see, at least this soon, but she thinks that if she has to see another ancient anything, she'll scream. There's only so much history and culture a person can take before they just have to bail. Okay, so maybe she should be a little more tolerant, seeing as Buffy saved the world and all, but hello, it's her life too, and she doesn't want to spend it traipsing around searching for slayers and convincing them to join the fight.

At this point, Dawn is gladder than glad that she isn't one of the Chosen, because despite her lacking the title, she at least gets to decide what she wants to do with her life. Speaking of... she can see her sister talking in that earnest way of hers to one of their newest 'recruits'. Sucker, Dawn thinks, but keeps her smirk to herself; she needs Buffy to be supportive, not pissed off.

With that in mind, she waits until Buffy has finished telling the girl the pitfalls of the job, watches as the girl blanches and swallows. Dawn sighs and leans against the wall of the room they've rented for the night while Buffy scrambles to find the good parts in what she does, but, other than boning vamps, Dawn doesn't think there are any.

It doesn't look like the conversation will be ending any time soon, so slips into the hallway and spends the time plotting the best ways to convince her sister that she needs to get back home, to America, where people speak the kind of English Dawn understands.

She is still smiling at the thought of returning home when Buffy walks out of the room, running a hand tiredly through her hair.

She looks like she has a headache of note, and Dawn could almost feel guilty for complicating things even more for her sister, but... this is too important to set aside.

"Buffy?" she says, touching her sister's shoulder. "Can I talk to you a minute?"

"Oh, God, Dawn, I'm sorry. I promised to spend some time with you today, but we had to find, um -- Pilar? -- and then clocks kind of went all Invisible Man on me, and-"

"Buffy," Dawn interrupts what sounds like the beginning of a lengthy and remorse-filled speech, "that's not it. I mean, okay, the lack of quality time rates high on the suck-scale, but I'll survive, which sort of leads me to what I wanted to talk to you about. I..." A deep breath to draw in some courage, and she continues, "I want to go home. Back to the US."

Buffy raises a sceptical brow. "And that'll lead to quality time- spending, how?"

"So not my point." Dawn resists, just barely, the urge to stamp her foot, and instead tries for calm. "The thing is, you don't have time for me here, not really, and I have nothing to do but wait for you in dingy little hotel rooms and try to remember how to ask for the bathroom in Russian, or Portuguese or whatever language is currently on the playlist."

Buffy's lips twist a little and her eyebrows slant down; she looks upset, and Dawn softens her tone to say, "Buffy, you know I love you, and this has been fun, a total adventure," a polite lie, but one she thinks she'd be forgiven for if God could see Buffy's face right now, "but I want to go home. I want to go back to people I get, I. want to go back to school. Hey, I might even try cheerleading again."

Buffy's eyebrows twitch up again, "Cheerleading? You? This from the girl who burned my cheerleading uniform after tryouts. And note the emphasis on 'my'."

She kind of has a point there, but the only reason Dawn burned it was because it totally had a stigma attached to it after what had happened - words like 'spectacular failure' come to mind - and it's not like Buffy was using it, anyway. So much so that mom had packed it in the attic under Dawn's ballet shoes and a packet of old Readers Digest magazines that no-one had ever bothered to throw away. The memories of her mother hauling boxes and complaining about the amount of junk they'd managed to collect makes her eyes sting. She can tell by the far-away look in her sister's eyes that Buffy's remembering the same thing, or something similar, at least, and she clears her throat to give Buffy a little time to compose herself before she begins talking again. "The thing is, I want to go to college someday, I want to be somebody important, like you are, but this isn't... my calling. I want to finish high school and go to college and do something great." She hesitates, not entirely sure how to explain something so vital. She decides to go for short and simple, the lowest common denominator. "I want to be normal."

Buffy's eyes soften and she says, quietly, "I always wanted that for you."

Dawn's throat feels clogged and achy, and she feels a sudden, sharp pang of fear: if Buffy agrees, this is life changing, separating. There'd be, like, an entire ocean between them! But... home, school, her life... she can't forget the importance of that, either. So she says nothing, focussing instead on the excitement of returning to the familiar, the mundane pleasure of having a daily routine again.

"I-" Buffy pauses, briefly. "But there isn't anywhere for you to go. Sunnydale is a crater, the gang is here with me, and Dad..."

Yeah. Dad. Dawn remembers when they were in Spain two months ago -- before the days began to blur together and it actually had felt like an adventure -- and they'd decided to look up their father. It had taken a little time, but Buffy had managed to track him down to a hacienda in a sleepy village. Once they'd discovered that he'd known their mother had died and done nothing, his words, the charming patter of them, fell on deaf ears. It still makes her sick inside to think of that, how easily he'd shaken off his love for them, how desperate both she and Buffy had been for an explanation, for a reason to forgive him. She says, firmly, "... isn't an option."

Buffy nods, slowly. "Where, then? We don't know anyone else in the US -- well, except Angel, but that's-" she halts, mid-sentence, and her eyes gleam in that supernaturally creative way that Dawn finds a little creepy, sometimes.

Buffy holds up a hand, pivots away. "Give me a couple of hours,"she calls over her shoulder, and Dawn smiles.

Mission accomplished.


Dawn's been in LA for all of a week, maybe, and she loves, loves, loves being able to walk into a restaurant and not have to remember to ask for chips when she wants to order french fries. She also loves the fact that her slightly sun-streaked hair and lightly tanned skin is the post-summer look -- what she doesn't love, is that walls of Angel's hotel are so thin she can hear Angel and Connor arguing, like, all the time.

She hasn't been in LA long, but then, it didn't take a great deal of time to discover that the two of them are always fighting about something or another. And if that isn't bad enough, Angel has gotten waaaaaaaaaaay weirder than he was before. He'd actually asked her at the airport if she remembered that he had a son named Connor. A roll of her eyes seemed to convey the message well enough, because how could she forget two vamps having a baby, especially when Buffy's reaction upon hearing the news a few years ago had been less than stellar. Plus, the whole disappearance and reappearance had been great for in-group gossip and speculation.

So, yeah, Angel? Weirder than weird, that's a given. But she can't figure out Connor's deal. She hasn't seen him for more than, like, a half hour, total, and he's kind of a jerk, and he treats her like she's an idiot -- which nobody does to Dawn Summers and gets away with -- but... there's something there, inside him, and she thinks that if he stands still long enough she may get to see it, and it may not be all that bad.

She overheard something -- well, a few things, really -- on her first night back, and so she knows that Angel put some sort of spell on Connor and once it wore off, he'd lost chunks of memories of what had happened before, but also what had happened during his 'missing' months, whatever that means. Angel doesn't help with the explanations in that area, saying only that the 'family' hadn't really existed in the first place, and that leaving Wolfram and Hart had broken the contract and blah blah blah. None of it means anything to her; it's like assembling a puzzle and not being able to find any pieces that fit, but she's always been good at puzzles, because it's the little things leading up to the big picture that she's good with, and she knows she'll figure it out.

Connor slams Angel's door shut and storms down the passage, and Dawn ducks into her room just in time. She's sitting on the bed, flipping through a magazine when he passes and says, sneeringly, "Nothing better to do with your time?"

"Oh, like you can talk, Mr Pace-around-all-day-and-argue-with-Angel."

He shoots her a sharp look, and the blue of his eyes is like a laser beam, bright and hot and quite capable of slicing her in two. "You were listening?" he asks quietly, and she's reminded of one of those jungle cats she'd seen on the Discovery Channel once, all prowly and dangerous.

"I couldn't exactly help it," she says defensively, "the walls are thin as it is, and the two of you fight louder than WWF wrestlers."

She squeaks when he moves through the door and leans close to her, so close that his hair almost brushes her forehead. Her heart pounds as though she's doing something strenuous, or exciting, and she swallows reflexively when he says, voice vaguely threatening, "Then do the smart thing, and leave."

Her back stiffens at that -- she will not be coerced into doing anything she doesn't want to do, and anyway, it's not like she has anywhere to go, even if she wanted to.

"Oh, that's so not going to happen," she says, deciding to on a little strategy and leaning back on her arms; the position not only gains her a little breathing room, but also serves the purpose of putting her breasts, covered by a slinky blue tanktop, on display for his perusal, and hopefully, distraction.

His eyes flicker down, and she thinks she sees interest leap into them, but then he looks up, straight into her own eyes, and whatever flicker of warmth she might have seen is banked. His lips curl derisively. "I should have known better than to expect you to do something intelligent," he spits the words out like nails, and bam, direct hit.

But she's spent almost sixteen years fighting with Buffy, and she knows how to take a hit and get right back up again.

"Why would I leave?" she asks, sweetly, "And make your life easier?"

She smiles brightly when he glares at her and stalks back out into the hall. When his footsteps fade, so does her smile, and she flops down onto the bed with a scowl.

Argh. Connor. Definitely a jerk.


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