Summary: Buffy robbed a bank in Season 8? What could possibly lead her to do such a thing? Set during the summer after Chosen.
Spoilers: None, except you know that bank? Yeah, Buffy robbed it.
Word count: 2,151
A/N: When Dawn left for college was never made clear in the time between Season 7 and 8. For the purpose of this story, Dawn's going to college in the fall after Chosen.
“When are you coming back?” Buffy asked, scrunching her shoulder up to hold the phone to her ear while she rifled through the mail. Bill. Bill. More bills. Notice of badness. Final warning. Gulp. Of course, the ones she needed to read first were the last ones she wanted to open.
“Soon. I’m gonna swing by Tunisia. The coven in Devon thinks there are a couple of Slayers who might be up for the slayage-y fun,” Xander said.
“How soon is soon ‘cause…” Buffy’s voice trailed off, staring at the bills. A loud crashing noise upstairs shook the ceiling. Specks of poorly spackled paint fell on the dusty floor. The dusty floor she’d just swept half an hour ago. “Have you heard from Giles? Or Willow?”
She imagined him shaking his head while answering, “Sorry, Buff.”
“How’d it go in Egypt? Did any of the girls wanna sign up for saving the world?” She tried sounding upbeat and positive, though she expected him to say no. None of them wanted to fight demons and die young. She knew that feeling. The only thing that had kept pulling her back in was the knowledge that if she didn’t slay, no one else would. Her being the only one had meant she didn’t have a choice. These girls did have a choice. That was kinda the problem.
“Yeah, about that. I’m thinking I need to refine my pitch. See, I’ve got them jazzed about the glory and kicking ass and being a superhero part. But I kinda lose them when they start to ask me about a salary and health benefits. Then their eyes go all wide with the terror when they hear how dangerous it is and start to get an inkling of the imminent death without the promise of life insurance, well…”
“Xander, we don’t have the money-”
“I know,” he said quietly. “I’ll keep trying.”
“Call me when you get to Tunisia.”
Buffy hung up the phone and carried the mail over to the plastic fold-up table they pretended worked as a kitchen dinette set. She sat in the black metal folding chair and spread the mail on the table top. She stared at it. Dawn bustled into the kitchen, banging cabinets open and shut before standing in front of the open refrigerator for a long minute. She slammed it shut, turned towards Buffy with arms crossed, and said, “There’s nothing to eat.”
“Dawn, there’s plenty to eat. There’s canned soup and noodles and-”
“Buffy, that soup is gross. It’s like…yuck. And if I have to eat one more bag of Ramen noodles I’m gonna go crazy.” Dawn sat down at the table, sighing. “I miss pizza. And anchovies on pizza. And pineapple. Pineapple was good.”
Buffy bent her head. “I’m sorry, Dawnie. We just - we have to budget. Travel expenses are…well, expensive and Xander’s working on finding all these new Slayers. Helping them. Bringing them here. So we can teach them about their destiny. Their power. It means we have to cut back on things like-”
“Like eating? You think I don’t notice that you’re not eating? We’ll make sandwiches or soup or those cheap instant mashed potatoes and you’ll take a bite and then give the rest away to some other girl moaning about how hungry she is.” Dawn reached forward and tapped the bills marked in red. “Buffy, this isn’t working. I dunno how to fix it, but we need to fix it. This is bad. Worse than bad. Bad was like two rest-stops back.”
“You excited for school to start up? UC-Berkeley, wow. Check you out, college girl,” Buffy said, a too bright smile on her face.
“Yeah, excited,” Dawn said half-heartedly. “Thank god for financial aid, huh?”
Buffy let her smile waver a bit, her eyes sad. “I’ll miss you. You know that, right? But I’m so proud of you.”
Then the lights went out. The girls upstairs started yelling in confusion. Buffy could hear their feet stomping down the steps as they headed towards the kitchen. Someone screamed like a little girl. Probably Andrew.
“Um, Buffy. Was one of those bills marked final notice for the power company?”
Buffy carried a candle upstairs to her room, careful not to wake the few girls who were sleeping in the upper level of the two-story house. Dawn and a few others were downstairs giggling and telling ghost stories by candlelight. The sleeping arrangements were doled out based on seniority. Law of the jungle. The first to arrive slept on the lumpy mattress beds which may or may not include a box set underneath for support. Next step down was the ratty couch in the living room which was sometimes better than sleeping on the air mattresses until they got a leak and halfway through the night, you weren’t sleeping on air anymore. Then came the sleeping bags and for the newest girls – blankets on the floor. Buffy shared a bed upstairs with Dawn. Once Dawn left, she’d probably let another girl sleep there.
She shut her bedroom door behind her and walked to the closet. Opening it, she pulled a metal box out from behind her cluttered shoes in the back corner. She set the candle down on the floor and opened the box. There it was. The money she’d been saving for Dawn’s plane ticket back to California so she could go to school. That and a little extra for new clothes, school supplies, personal items – whatever wasn’t covered by her scholarship. Thank god Dawnie was gifted and had gotten a scholarship.
A broken sob escaped her too tight chest. Tears streamed down her face. She counted the money again. It was enough to get a month’s worth of groceries to feed a houseful of thirty young women and pay off the bills that had gone past due. It was maybe enough. Young women. Girls. Some of the Slayers who’d come to train with her were still just girls. Teenagers. Barely adults. Most of them had never worked jobs before and the few who had – well, minimum wage wasn’t called minimum for nothing.
Every girl that Xander found was another mouth to feed, another plane ticket to buy. Another girl who needed weapons. Their days were filled with training and finishing their education through home schooling, their nights with slaying. They didn’t have time for a job to contribute to the pool. They deserved better than this. She’d told their families that they would be changing the world, making it a better place. That their daughters would be heroes.
She’d never felt less heroic in her life. She closed the box, locking it and pushing it back behind the pile of shoes. She’d buy Dawn’s plane ticket tomorrow and she’d deposit the rest of the money into her sister’s student account.
She couldn’t take away her sister’s chance at having a future. She wouldn’t. She’d die first.
Buffy heard yelling when she stepped onto the porch. She was so not in the mood for yelling. Dawn was on her way to UC-Berkeley and what Buffy wanted most was to curl up in her soon-to-not-be-hers lumpy bed and mope for ten minutes. Maybe twenty.
“Cease and desist! You can’t just give up! This is the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Our courage is being tested. But, oh no, it will not defeat us. For we are mightier than the mightiest might and-”
“Shut up, Andrew!” three Slayers yelled in perfect harmony.
Buffy shoved the door open, surprised to find a dozen girls carrying duffle bags and luggage down into the living room. She crossed her arms. “What’s going on?”
The oldest Slayer of the bunch, Shana, who was seventeen going on eighteen, answered, “Look. The power’s been off for three days now. You keep saying you’re gonna fix it, but you don’t. We can’t live like this. So we’re going home. All of us,” she finished, her voice raised to include all the other Slayers.
“Just give me a chance. I’ll fix this, I just need-”
“That’s all we’ve been doing here,” Shana interrupted. “Giving you chances. We’re tired of not having electricity and sleeping on the floor and those stupid Ramen noodles. We’re tired of it!”
Shana shoved past Buffy and walked out the door. The girls followed her.
“Wait!” Buffy called. “Just…wait…” Standing in the open doorway, she watched the girls march away from Slayer headquarters. Or what she liked to call The Place Where Dreams Die.
Andrew walked up behind her and sighed. “It’s a sad day in the Slayer neighborhood.”
Buffy and Andrew were slumped on the couch when the lights came back on.
Andrew jumped to his feet. “Hey, power’s back! Lights, camera, action!”
“Yeah, I convinced them to give me another thirty days. Well, I kinda lied. I might have mentioned a terminal illness,” Buffy said. The room looked more empty now that the lights were back on.
Three short raps against the door brought her out of her moping. She looked at Andrew, then got up and answered the door. Satsu, Rowena and Leah stood on the porch, their luggage strewn about their feet.
“Hey,” Buffy breathed.
“Can we… can we come in, ma’am?” Satsu asked respectfully.
Buffy stepped back. “Yeah, sure. Come in.”
The girls trudged forward, their luggage banging against their legs. They all ended up in the living room, standing awkwardly. Waiting.
“So what do we do now? Ye have a plan, right?” Leah asked.
“Yeah, I’ve got a plan,” Buffy reassured, her smile not matching her eyes. Her smile dropped at the girls’ skeptical looks. “Okay, not so much a plan. But where there’s a will, there’s a way. Though having Will here would help…”
“We’re back,” Satsu said, her voice confident. “And we’re not leaving. We’re in it for the long haul, ma’am. Just tell us what you need us to do.”
Buffy nodded gratefully, touched. “I’ll get back to you on that.”
“So, you guys wanna watch a movie?” Andrew asked, his eager-beaver attitude a welcome distraction. “Or play Dance Revolution?”
“Ve broke that game last week,” Rowena replied.
“Oooo, how about a Bond marathon? Or Dr Who? I’ve got them all on DVD.”
The girls looked at Buffy, their eyes silent begging her to save them from Andrew's DVD collection.
“Isn’t there something more…recent? And less time travel-y. ‘Cause the time travel makes my head go bendy.”
“Recent, uh, Terminator: the Sarah Connor Chronicles…Nope, has time travel. I did just get Ocean’s 11, 12 and 13 on Blu-ray. Those noobs had it marked the same price as the regular DVDs.”
Buffy nodded eagerly. “Clooney’s good. Brad Pitt’s even better.” She smiled at the girls. “We have a winner.”
Halfway through the movie, the phone rang. Buffy waved away Andrew’s offer to pause the movie and went to the kitchen.
Please don’t be a debt collector. Please don’t be a debt collector. “Hello?”
“Hey, Buff! Good news. We’re headed back and by “we” I mean me and six spankin’ new Slayers. Erm, scratch that. No spanking. They’re underage and that would be wrong.”
Buffy’s smile felt painful. “That’s great! So great. You have no idea how great that is…”
“Yeah, I’m fine. Just…” Buffy thought about telling him they were completely broke, but there wasn’t anything Xander could do from Tunisia. “I miss Dawnie. And you.”
“Miss you, too. I’ll be back in two days, ‘kay?”
Buffy headed back into the living room. She sat on the couch and zoned out. Before she knew it, the final scene was playing and all of the eleven guys on screen were standing at the fountain. The inspiring music played on as they each walked away towards a bright future. Huh. A bright future of food and shelter and enough money to pay for a hospital visit if anyone got hurt on patrol. And world save-age.
“Andrew, do you think it’s possible to break into a casino, or, maybe a bank and really get away with it?”
“No problemo. If you plan it right. There are numerous variables to cover naturally, the first of which-”
“And the insurance would cover the losses?”
Andrew shrugged. “I guess. How come?”
“No reason,” Buffy answered. “Hey, let’s watch the next one. Who can say no to more Clooney? It’ll be entertaining and informative.”
“Informative?” Leah echoed.
“Fun, it’ll be fun! I meant fun,” Buffy covered.
The sequel had barely gotten past the opening credits before the lights went out again. The girls groaned, but quickly gathered and lit the candles they’d been using for the past few days.
Andrew coughed awkwardly. “Oh, power company, you cruel master.” He looked at Buffy. “Guess they didn’t care that you were dying.”
“Yeah, guess not,” Buffy replied. “Doesn’t matter. Listen up, guys. New plan. Andrew, your mission, should you choose to acc-”
She rolled her eyes and continued, “Your mission, everyone’s mission, should they choose to accept…”