Prompt #68: Dull

Family Matters, Part One

Buffy gets a call on a Thursday afternoon when she should be teaching slayer calisthenics but is instead playing hooky, eating copious amounts of ice cream directly from the carton and taking full advantage of the empty house. The voice is pleasant, as is the woman behind it. Buffy expects to be asked to buy a magazine subscription, or maybe even some life insurance. Full of sugar and warm happies, she thinks she might even consider the life insurance. She is a slayer, after all. It could come in super handy if she dies. Again.

But it's not her possible death the woman is calling about.

It's her father's.

The woman identifies herself as Monica Summers and says she's been married to Hank for two years. Two years yesterday, to be exact. They were out celebrating their anniversary when they were t-boned in his classic convertible by a drunk driver. Hank's side of the car took the full force of the hit, and the doctors don't think they'll be able to save him.

Monica quickly becomes emotional, her pleasantness slipping away and leaving only her grief behind.

"He's made mistakes," she says between sobs. "He knows how badly he screwed things up with you and your sister. It's like he's frozen. He won't try to make things better because he thinks it's too far gone, but he can't let it go either."

Buffy wants to feel sympathy. She wants to feel grief, or anger, or sadness. Instead she feels a vague, dull nothing. She doesn't want to be shitty to Monica, because honestly, she does seem very nice. Very nice and . . . very young. But still nice, and still genuine in her grief. But the part of Buffy that anguished over her father died back when Sunnydale collapsed into the earth, along with every shred of physical memory of him she'd ever had.

"It's a shame that he never even tried," Buffy says blandly, feeling suddenly tired. She puts the carton of ice cream on the counter, her appetite suddenly gone. "Because when our mom died, we really could have used him. And when I . . ." died, Buffy thinks, but instead says, "had to go away, Dawn was completely alone. If not for my friends, she could have been on the streets."

"He knows. God, he knows," Monica says, her voice quivering with emotion. "And me calling you? It's not going to fix that, Buffy. I know that. If he was conscious and knew I was calling you like this, he'd never forgive me. He'd never want me to bother you with this."

And Buffy can't help herself. She has to ask.

"So why exactly are you calling me then, Monica? I appreciate you reaching out, but I think that Dawn and I . . ."

"Because I know that my daughter Annabelle will never forgive me when she's older if I don't let her say goodbye to her daddy now. And I wanted to make sure that you and Dawn have the same opportunity I'm going to give her, before it's too late."

Buffy's dull nothingness is replaced by stunned silence.

A sister. She has a little sister. Dawn has a little sister.

Her dad left her family, and went and started a new one. And now, he was going to leave them, too.

But this is not their fault, and really, kudos to Monica for thinking about someone other than herself and her own child. Clearly, Hank married up.

Buffy doesn't know what to say. She doesn't know how to react, or how to feel, or what to do with all of this nothing. Is she some kind of monster? Or is she justified in her own lack of feeling?

She's saved from her own self when she hears the front door open and sees Faith stride in, twirling her keys around her index finger.

"Busted!" Faith exclaims. "Knew I'd find you here when I saw Kennedy was subbing your . . ." Faith's voice trails off as she sees the blank look on Buffy's face. "What? What's wrong?"

She approaches Buffy and puts her hands on Buffy's biceps, concern etched across her face. She knows it's bad when Buffy slinks back out of her grasp and hands her the phone.

"It's Monica," Buffy says emotionlessly.

"From Friends?" Faith asks skeptically.

"From my father's matrimonial bed, apparently," Buffy replies, a bright and very fake smile on her face. She turns around and heads towards the stairs, but stops long enough to look back over her shoulder and add, "and also, as it turns out, his death bed. Notice the whole bed theme."

She disappears up the stairs, leaving Faith standing there holding the phone and staring after her in concern.

Faith takes a second to digest the news before the sound of a tinny voice calling out 'hello?' draws her attention. She wedges the phone between her shoulder and her ear and grabs a pen and piece of paper from the counter.

"Yeah, sorry. Tell me where you guys are."

She writes down the information and starts making a plan, because she knows that, for once, Buffy will not be stepping up to handle this dilemma.

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