Summary: Snapshots of several different times of Buffy's life.
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Spoilers and/or Warnings: spoilers for all seven seasons, no warnings
Original story: Who Am I by hils
Notes: Much thanks to lilacsigil for the wonderful and speedy beta! And Bruce Springsteen for the remix title.
Slayer, comma, The (the face you know remix)
I am a daughter
Fifteen was not a great year for Buffy. She'd had her hair cut at the new place Lucy and Frida had been raving about, but hers didn't turn out quite like theirs. It was...short, and prone to sticking up in places and made her face look too round. She couldn't stand to look at herself in the mirror. Hats were in, weren't they? Yes, Buffy decided, hats were in. She grabbed the only one she could find, a too-stiff baseball cap with the logo of the museum her mom worked at, and put it on. She made a face at her reflection, and took off the cap. "Argh." A magic spell for more hair would be useful about now. But not in unwanted places because she spent enough time shaving and plucking as it was.
"Buffy? Are you up?" Her dad knocked on the door before stepping inside. "I'll see you in a couple days, okay, kid?"
Buffy hugged him. "Have a good trip. Bring me back something."
"Anything for my favourite daughter."
"I'm your only daughter." Buffy rolled her eyes. They did this every time he went away.
She followed him down the stairs where her mom was waiting. She averted her eyes as her parents said their good-byes -- how were they so awkward?
"Sunday morning pancakes?" Joyce asked, shutting the front door softly.
"It's Wednesday. And I'm going to be late for school."
Her mom's face did that thing that made Buffy feel guilty, and it was always worse when her dad wasn't around, even as Joyce smiled and said, "Later, then?"
"Sure, mom." She tried to sound as enthusiastic about it as possible. "Don't make too many, though? Cheerleader tryouts are next week."
I am a sister
Buffy frowned at the batter. It was sort of starting to spontaneously bubble, which she didn't think was supposed to happen until it hit a hot griddle.
"Here," said Dawn, "I'll make the pancakes."
"I know how to make pancakes," Buffy protested, but handed over the bowl anyway. "Mom used to..."
"Yeah, I remember." Dawn made a face. "God, Buffy, what did you put in here? I hope this doesn't kill the fishes. Or make fish monsters." She dumped the contents down the sink and began creating more batter from scratch.
"Very funny. I was following the recipe."
"For Willow's protection spells?"
"Ah," Buffy peered around Dawn to look at the sheets of paper. "Oh. I must have mixed them up half-way through."
Buffy left Dawn to her mixing and went through the mail. Bills in one pile, fliers with coupons they could use in another, and everything else in the trash pile. They rarely got personal snail mail for that to have its own category. The previous system of not sorting the mail resulted missed bills and late fees and phone calls Buffy would rather not have to make again.
Dawn expertly flipped a pancake in the pan.
"When did you learn how to do that?"
Dawn grinned. "We all have our superpowers." Dawn flipped it again, the show-off, and the next ones too, until she had a large stack of edible goodness. They both sat at the counter to eat, rather than set the table. "Why'd you start trying to cook today?"
Buffy handed her sister the syrup without needing to be asked and watched in fascination as Dawn drowned her pancakes. "Everyone should know how to make pancakes," she answered. "It comes in a box! With directions! I just wanted..."
"Yeah, because you take direction so well," said Dawn, when Buffy's voice trailed off.
"I should be able to cook you dinner--"
"Or something. Is all." Buffy cut her pancake into little bitty pieces.
"Hey, you save the world, I make pancakes. It's cool." Dawn pushed the syrup back to Buffy. "But if you don't eat yours, I might cry." Buffy let her skepticism show. "Or pull your hair."
"Pancakes for dinner, huh? I guess it's a time-honoured Summers family tradition." Buffy took a bite. "Not bad."
"I know, right? Should we save some for the others or eat them all now?"
Buffy listened to her sister chatter in their quiet kitchen as the sun fell below the horizon, giving way to darkness and the things that went bump in the night.
I am a friend
The streets of Sunnydale were empty of people. Not that many chose to wander around graveyards at night, but even the usual after-work and teenage haunts Buffy passed as she travelled between cemeteries seemed quieter tonight. She'd hung around the graveyards for a while, but only came across two vampires, both easily dispatched and barely deserving of a quip. There was no one around to hear it anyway.
Buffy cut across the neighbour's lawn and let herself into her house. She tiptoed up the stairs and silently checked to make sure Dawn and Willow were where they were supposed to be. She never relaxed until she'd made sure they were all right. By the time she crawled into bed, the sky was already starting to lighten. Her eye fell on an old photograph of her, Willow and Xander, the three of them smiling at nothing in particular, except maybe the joy of each other's company. It had somehow survived all these years, sitting on her night stand where she had hidden her stakes and holy water from her mom. She turned the frame face down and counted herself off to sleep.
"You know. . .that joke about. . .how a. . .a best friend will - urk, slime! - help you bury. . .a body?" Willow staggered beneath the weight of a dead fungus demon, a little out of breath.
Buffy gripped the horns tightly. The slime stains were never going to come out of her clothes. Thankfully it'd stopped secreting slime after she killed it, but none of them had thought to bring towels. "What about it?"
"I don't think they meant it so literally," Xander managed to wheeze. He had the left leg, Willow had the right one, and they were following Buffy's lead through a cemetery.
Buffy stopped. "What are you saying? You don't want to help?"
"Oh, thank god." Xander let go of the demon. Willow followed suit and it fell to the ground with a thud.
"Yes, let's take a break," said Willow, rolling her shoulders.
"It's not that we don't want to help," Xander began. He looked at Willow.
"It's that lately...you've been all slay and no play?" Willow pushed her long hair out of her face and smiled cautiously at Buffy. "I mean, I know Giles has you training pretty hard, but I hear there's this great band that's going to be at the Bronze tomorrow night..."
Buffy grinned. "You don't have to ask me twice!" She poked the demon with the toe of her pointy shoes. "We should probably bury this first, though."
It was the crack of noon when Buffy opened her eyes to the sunlight streaming in through her bedroom windows. No nightmares, last night, or prophecies of her own impending death. Just a dream, or maybe a memory - she wasn't sure anymore - unsettling in its brightness.
She and Willow passed one another in the hallway without saying a word. Hardly even looked at one another. Funny how living in the same house did not bring them closer like she once thought it would. There were things she ought to say, or ask, or maybe apologize for... but she hardly knew where to begin. This careful bubble of silence they'd built around the fractures in their friendship was due to burst soon, just...not today. She had to get through today first.
I am a lover.
"So, Spike, huh?"
Buffy glanced over at Robin in surprise. He'd insisted on taking the wheel from Giles, after the second bathroom break, and was driving through the night. They all wanted to get further away from the crater that was Sunnydale before stopping for any length of time. She'd ended up sitting near the front. The bus was quiet, though not everyone was asleep, but it was easy enough to pretend this was a private conversation in the dark.
"Faith told me what he did," he continued. "Closing the Hellmouth."
Buffy nodded. It was as close to an understanding as they were going to get, she thought, and was even more surprised when he kept talking.
"I'm not...unhappy that he's dead," he said slowly, "but he did save the world..."
"And that counts for something?"
"I told him I loved him, you know, and he didn't believe me." Buffy had caught Robin's over-sharing mood. "I mean, he did it on his own. I didn't ask him or anything."
"It's okay," said Robin. "You don't have to explain."
Buffy sighed. "I have terrible taste in men. No, actually, I have okay taste in men, except for Parker, the weasel, but I tend to get them killed, you know? Except for Riley. Well, maybe two out of four isn't bad."
"You really, really don't have to explain." Robin tapped a finger on the steering wheel.
"I think I'm swearing off men. Cookie dough, that's me." At Robin's lack of response, Buffy muttered, "Sorry, I'm really tired."
"We've got-" he checked the gas gauge "-about another three hours before we have to stop. You could take a nap."
"Is this your way of telling me to get lost?"
Robin said, meeting her eyes briefly, before turning his attention back to the road. "It's not that I mind the company, but--"
"You'd rather I switch seats with Faith?"
"Hey, Buffy." She looked back at him, and he said, "I'm sorry for your loss."
"Me too," Buffy said, mostly to herself. "More than he'll ever know."
I am Buffy.
"I'm Buffy." She pointed to herself, feeling slightly ridiculous and self-conscious. It had been a long time since she'd had to introduce herself. "But most of you already know that." She and the gang were in the basement of a church, facing a room full of just-activated slayers they'd rounded up en route to Cleveland. They'd found one at a mall in Phoenix, which Buffy thought justified that slight detour (and her new shoes), despite Giles' protestations.
"The bus leaves tomorrow morning at 8. You guys know the drill. And, uh, if you're new and don't... If you want to stay with us - fight the forces of evil, be heroes-" she quailed a bit inside at using that word, but Giles said they had to sell this slayering gig, "we'll see you there. If not, stay out of trouble and you won't see us again." She pasted on a smile at the end. Dawn gave her the thumbs-up sign. Buffy was working on keeping her speeches short, but she tended to go on when she was nervous.
"Not bad." Faith stood in the back, hands in her pockets.
Buffy eyed the other woman, but her sarcasm meter didn't go off. "You should try it some time."
"Nu uh," Faith shook her head. "No way. I'll stick to the fighting. Besides, one of us is famous for saving the world. A lot. And one of us is famous for--"
"Saving the world," Buffy interrupted. "Couldn't have done it without you. All of you." Buffy half-turned to include the entire group.
Faith shrugged. "I'm off."
Buffy reached out, but dropped her hand before touching the other slayer. "Will I see you tomorrow?"
"Maybe. Don't wait for me. I'll catch up if I have to."
Buffy followed her outside to the cemetery. Convenient, that. She and Faith had some of their best - or, only, for that matter - conversations at the graveside.
"Well," said Faith, "thanks for the ride."
"I wish I could go with you," Buffy blurted out.
Faith turned around, shook her head. "No, you don't, B. You belong in there, with them. They need you to lead."
"I'm not any good at it."
Faith spread out her hands. "You'll get better. Besides, you've already done the saving-the-world part." Buffy opened her mouth to protest, but Faith wasn't done. "I'm not the long haul type. I'm more, get in, get fighting, get out if you survive and then get gone. But you...you stick around, and that's what they need right now. That's why you're Buffy and I'm not."
"This is a good good-bye for me," Faith said, with a shake of her long dark hair, "for us. Let's leave it that way, okay?"
Buffy took in a deep breath, and nodded on the exhale. "Bye, Faith."
Faith waved in response, without breaking stride, as she walked away.
I am the Slayer.
"In every generation there is a chosen one. She alone will stand against the vampires, the demons and the forces of darkness. She is the Slayer."
Buffy glanced at the assembly gathered outside. "Andrew is doing the 'In every generation' speech again," she said to Xander. "Giles is about to interrupt."
"But it's the highlight of Andrew's day!"
"At least he stopped pretending to read it from his 'Vampyre' book." Dawn placed special emphasis on the pyre, and they all cracked up.
They were having lunch in the kitchen and could see clearly through the large window above the sink to the backyard where the girls trained. Their numbers had nearly tripled by the time they reached Cleveland.
"...no longer the case," Giles was saying. "Each and every one of you now possess this gift. It is an awesome power, but it is imperative that you use it wisely..."
"When he says 'awesome,' it doesn't sound like the way I say it," Xander remarked.
"You don't have the right accent for it," said Dawn. "Also, we're out of milk."
"We could go to the store," suggested Buffy.
"Sure," Buffy found the car keys and her wallet, "you heard them outside. I'm not the Chosen One any more. I don't have to patrol tonight." There were a lot of new slayers eager to test out their skills; it was safer, too, patrolling in groups. The training session was winding down.
"You sound all right about that." Willow handed her a hastily scribbled grocery list and some twenties.
"I don't even have to be here," said Buffy, a thoughtful expression on her face. She held up a catalogue addressed to the previous tenants. It was a brochure for a ten day vacation in Rome. "Italy's nice this time of year, isn't it?"
"Mm hmm," said Willow, reading over Buffy's shoulder.
"There are probably monsters to slay on the other side of the world." Dawn abandoned her quest for milk for something much more interesting. "I mean, you're taking me with you, right?"
"You're serious about this?" Xander said.
"Yeah, I think so. Yes," Buffy said, with more conviction. "I'm not ever going to not be a slayer. I don't think that would work, but I'm not the only slayer. I know this isn't exactly 'normal', but other people go on vacation, don't they? It could even be a working vacation! I'm sure I can fit in some slaying around the sightseeing. Maybe even find new slayers over there?" She looked at her friends. "Do you think Giles would agree?" They were grinning. "What?"
Xander handed her an envelope he'd unearthed from the drawer of plate holders. "From all of us."
"We were waiting for the right time," said Willow. "Didn't want you to think you weren't needed or anything."
"Open it!" Dawn was practically bouncing on her toes.
"Oh," said Buffy. There were ticket vouchers, for her and Dawn, more than enough to pay for a trip to Italy and back. "Thank you, thank you, thank you!"
Giles stepped through the kitchen door and tapped her shoulder. "You've more than earned it. Stay as long as you like."
"Thanks, Giles!" Buffy hugged him too.
She looked at the smiling faces of her friends and family, and wished she had the words to express what she felt. She only hoped that they saw in her everything she couldn't say. Buffy thought they did, if their expressions reflected even half of her heart, at this moment.
And then the moment faded in the wake of several hungry slayers crowding into the warm kitchen. Buffy held onto her excitement, though, and met her sister's eyes. "Dawn! We have to pack!"