by s.a.

Buffy can't remember ever spending the summer in Sunnydale.

The first summer after she moved here, she went back to LA to visit her dad, dragging Dawn with her. It kinda sucked, especially when she had the Master on her mind the whole time and Dawn buzzing around like the most annoying fruit fly on the planet. Even the greatest shoe sales didn't manage to quell the damn nightmares, and talking for hours about stuff that didn't matter with her old friends from Hemery just didn't cut after an apocalypse and dying. MTV was her best friend.

The second summer, she was back in LA, but not with her dad. That was a hard one, she remembers, because not only was she grieving for Angel, she had cut herself off from her family too. Buffy remembers thinking that she didn't want to come back to Sunnydale. It was only because of- well, because of Anne (that's her name now, isn't it?) that she did. She's not really sure if she regrets that decision or not.

The third summer ... well, the third summer, it was back to LA again. She was stuck in her dad's apartment for two months, watching TV and trying to keep Dawn from bugging the crap out of her. More retail therapy; even less time spent with Dad. She got back just in time for registration at UCSD, with Dawn whining the whole way home because she didn't get to see the dolphins that year. What a headache.

The fourth summer. They were supposed to go back to LA, to visit Dad, but Joyce decided to swoop in and take everyone to visit her family in Minnesota. Buffy can't remember ever meeting as much family as she did that summer. All the aunts, grandparents, cousins, everyone she never saw before all wanted to know how she was, if she liked college, what classes she was taking, if she was dating anyone. The worst part, and Buffy cringes at the memory, was when her Great-Aunt Ermine came up to her and asked her if she'd had sex yet. That was a conversation that, unfortunately, was seared in her memory. Luckily they escaped the clutches of familial relations just in time to catch the tail end of the beach season in Sunnydale.

The fifth summer - doesn't really count. Because she wasn't exactly around for the fifth summer. Though I suppose, Buffy thinks morbidly, I was actually in Sunnydale. I just wasn't ... active.

She lets her mind race ahead of that to get to this summer. The sixth summer. And she is in Sunnydale, at long last. Of course, there's no one around.

Well, except Dawn. And Anya. It feels ... weird, being in this town when all the kids are out of school. It's definitely a new experience, even for Dawn. Buffy isn't used to the round of questions Dawn pelts at her - "Can I go to the beach party?" "Can I go biking with Vicki?" "Can I go hang at the Espresso Pump?"

For the most part, Buffy has been trying to be lenient with Dawn. She remembers all too well the nights of sneaking out of her window. She keeps meaning to check Dawn's room for possible exits ... but then she figures that she has to trust Dawn sometime.

This, she reminds herself, I'm saying about Sunnydale's Favorite Hostage.

As for herself... Well. Buffy's keeping busy with the art gallery, of all places. Who would've thought Buffy Summers, college dropout and former disgruntled employee of the Doublemeat Palace, would end up working at her mother's art gallery. Talk about surprise; when one of the trustees knocked on her door, she had been certain she'd done something wrong. Instead, Mrs. Granger had offered her a job. Local Art Director.

Buffy accepted. Of course. Mrs. Granger said it was the least she could do, what with Joyce being the reason the gallery had done so well.

New, much much higher paying job meant money. Money meant restabilizing the equity in the house, which they are in no danger of losing now, and a pair of leather boots on sale for twenty dollars.

Life, as they say, is good.

Especially considering she spends as much time as she can at the Magic Box, training and reading, of all things. She finds that if she beats into the heavy bag enough, she can forget about Giles going back to England, taking whoever Willow is with him, and Xander to boot. She can forget Spike, and him leaving without a word. She can forget everything, as long as she pounds hard and fast into that damn solid bag.

That is, until she put a little too much oomph into her one-two, and the bag broke the molded plaster as it fell, narrowly missing her new mesh purse. Anya was Not Pleased. But it was replaced easily enough, as everything in the shop had been - from the freaky mummy claw to the orange vulture guts. Sunnydale has excellent insurance. Soon Buffy is back to taking her aggression out on the heavy bag, with slightly more restraint.

It's nice, the summer lull. She had forgotten how quiet it got in the summer, as if the demons are just as hot as the humans and don't want to risk heatstroke by staying out for too long. Sure, at night, there are a couple of new vamps, but nothing a small wave and Mr. Pointy couldn't fix. The worst part is getting the dust mixed in with her sweat. Blech.

Despite all odds, Anya has become a part of their lives. Not in the "this is Xander's girlfriend, we must be nice" way. More of a "party at the Bronze and then come home and play Uno" kind of way. There is an unspoken agreement between Buffy and Anya; Buffy turns her head and minds the shop when Anya disappears for a few days; Anya won't go patrolling with Buffy. It works out well, for the most part. Seems like even another apocalypse couldn't break the bond the Scoobies had with denial. Not that Buffy is complaining; it's hard to find a good Uno partner.

So, all in all, Buffy is okay with summer in Sunnydale. No death, no apocalypses, apocalypti, apoca-whatever. There's fresh lemonade, a new job, and half prices on iced mochas. Plus, summer shoe sales and Uno.

Yep. Buffy definitely prefers summers in Sunnydale.


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