Ah. Blessed silence.
"What? What have you done to it witch?" Bossy demanded.
"I just got here," Willow said defensively.
"He meant me Wills," I said.
"Oh. What could Buffy have done to it?"
"She's the Slayer."
"Possessed of mystical power not magical you jerk! And where is your evidence that Buffy is a Slayer, whatever that is?"
Yay Wills! She's playing it perfectly. I think even I'm confused. Bruce picked Dawn up from where she sat on the floor and sat her in an armchair. Her catatonic state was bothering me more than her hysteria.
"I think it's time you gentlemen left before we take you to the station to ask you a few questions about your information gathering techniques and why you are harassing two bereaved women in their adopted home."
Bossy huffed and turned on his heel. "Please let me show the way gentlemen." Alfred would have made me giggle with that if I wasn't scared for Dawn.
When he returned I asked, "Have you got any chocolate or something Alfred?"
"For Miss Dawn? I have her favourite."
"Bring her into the kitchen Buffy," Bruce was suspiciously scrutinising where the lawyers had been standing.
I gave Dawn a light shake. Her eyes focussed on me and I smiled. "Heya Dawn. Alfred's got your favourite in the kitchen." She stood up woodenly and followed my lead into the large kitchen.
"Through to the kitchen if you will please Officers? Surely you would appreciate a real cup of coffee?"
"Would I?" Harvey said enthusiastically.
In the kitchen we all found seats and were given drinks and cookies.
"Close the gates and release the dogs Alfred. I want to make sure those men are off the premises," Bruce said quietly with only the smallest pretence of disguising his actions from the Police Officers in his kitchen. I didn't know he had dogs. Speaking of dogs, there's my Robin. Even he seems aware of our sombre mood. He's been very subdued lately, throughout his short trip to Metropolis, then to Sunnydale and back to Gotham. He stands beside me and I rub his neck in appreciation of his good behaviour.
Bruce looked at his watch when Alfred confirmed that he had done as asked. "Buffy?"
"Be right back." I went back into the living room and checked the doorway and the floor around where the men had stood and the entrance from the door, anywhere they could have left a bug. Mostly satisfied that there was nothing there I went into the study and down into the Batcave. Robin stayed behind, sniffing at the floor.
Faith was still unconscious. From the chemlab I grabbed the antidote to the pellet I'd used on her. "Commissioner Gordon is here now. Can you bring her back up to the study?"
"Is everything ok Buffy?" Dick asked.
"No. Dawn went into hysterics and Willow used a spell to calm her down but now she's catatonic."
"She'll be ok," Tim said as he hugged me reassuringly, leading us up the stairs.
"When did Willow and Kyle arrive?"
"Maybe five minutes ago."
Dick sat Faith in an armchair and I woke her up. "Faith? Faith, are you with me? It's Buffy. You're safe at Wayne Manor now. Commissioner Gordon is here like you asked."
She finished blinking at me and smiled a little. "Thanks B. Take me to him?"
"You can't say anything till we get to the kitchen, any of you. We aren't sure that the men from Wolfram and Hart didn't leave any bugs behind."
We walked silently back to the kitchen, Robin following us from the entry hall. Once inside Tim took the seat beside Dawn that Willow vacated for him and Dick stood to the back of the room. I stood beside Faith. "Commissioner, this is Faith. Faith this is Jim Gordon."
"We know that you asked Buffy to call us and that you had nothing to do with your kidnapping from prison. I made a few calls. Faith, we can find you a place in one of Gotham or Metropolis' minimum security prisons if you want to be close to some of your friends."
She gaped at him.
"Buffy's identity as Nightstalker is no great secret. Your past friendship was witnessed by several people who would be your character witnesses..."
"You're doing this for Buffy aren't you?"
"You aren't offering me this solution because you think I've been rehabilitated. You're doing this because Joyce..."
"I'm doing this because no one in the LA prison believes what I reported to them before coming here to Wayne Manor but that the Gotham and Metropolis prisons are fully aware of Batman and his clan and know that they wouldn't break someone out of prison without a reason. You did a good thing and didn't escape though I'm sure you had plenty of opportunities. If Batman will permit you to be part of one of his plans then I believe that makes you worth extra effort and consideration. Not everyone who does something bad *is* bad and I'm giving you a chance. If you go back to LA you will be singled out by staff and inmates."
"I can handle myself. I'm a Slayer just like Buffy you know."
"I figured as much considering your infirmary record and the notes in your files about only defending yourself."
"You aren't going to give up are you?"
Dawn looked up from the table. "Faith! Just take the opportunity? My mother died. Her chance is gone. First Bruce, and now Commissioner Gordon is offering you a chance," Dawn said quietly, her voice as strong as steel, "The chance my mother no longer has. Consider it what you owe to her if you have to."
I saw Tim squeeze Dawn's hand in reassurance when she finished speaking and lowered her eyes back to the table.
Faith's expression of growing anger softened. "Thank you Commissioner."
"Perhaps Batman could take Faith to wherever later tonight..." I suggested.
"Yes. I don't think this Wolfram and Hart could successfully take anything from the Bat. I'll trust you to arrange that Buffy."
"Thank you Commissioner," Faith said again.
"I'll arrange the pick-up for one a.m. if you want to come by and make sure it all goes smoothly."
"Yes. I'll see you then. Rene, will you stay here?"
"Sure Commissioner. See you later then."
That night, Commissioner Gordon and Harvey returned around ten p.m. and waited out the last three hours. There was no attempt by the lawyers to get Faith again and at the appointed time she went quietly to a small minimum security womens prison farm on the outskirts of Metropolis.
The next couple of days passed in a haze of blurred colour and unremembered conversations, my nights were filled with a driving desire to make it all stop. That was how I ended up with a bullet in my right shoulder. It didn't stop me smashing the guys face in but the action hurt more than it normally would have.
I could see it on Bruce's face as we drove back to the cave. He had some serious words for me. I jumped out of the car before he could speak and checked on Dawn before anything else. She was ok. Sleeping restlessly but ok. A week since we buried mom and she still hadn't calmed down.
I slowly descended the stairs knowing that I was the reason Bruce was standing at the bottom of the stairs.
"You have to decide what you are going to do about college and where you are going to live. You don't earn enough to support both yourself and Dawn, and as long as your father is capable of taking care of her I can't see you getting any help from the State."
"No. I suppose not."
"Buffy... Come into my study."
Here it comes. I followed him and waited.
"Have a seat." I sat while he paced, trying to word his tirade as carefully as possible. "I know how much you hurt and that you must want it all to end. You've be blasť before but never careless. Tonight you crossed that line and while you are feeling this reckless you are too dangerous to yourself to be out with us."
"NO! You can't take it away. It's all I have now."
"What about Dawn?"
"How the hell am I supposed to care for her? I don't know anything about raising a person. My teenage years were a little more screwed than normal. Why did she have to die? Why did it have to be me? But you know, I know the answers. Everyone dies and my mom died because it suited the whim of a madman. It had to be me because there wasn't anyone else. I'm sure that there really wasn't anything we could have done to stop at least one of them dying. It's the way of the Joker. Impulsive.
"You have to..."
"Grieve? Deal with this? Continue to live?"
"Find a way to look after Dawn. She hasn't got anyone else to care for her."
"No. She hasn't. Dad wouldn't be impressed to have Dawn in his life all of a sudden."
"You are still the Slayer Buffy. I'm sure that you've heard everything I can ever say to you before. Giles strikes me as that sort of man."
Truth be told, I wasn't angry really. I knew that there wasn't anything I could have done, and I refuse to anguish over things I can't change. I've wasted too much time like that already. "He is and you're right, as always." I'm so tired.
"You are welcome here Buffy. I meant what I said about moving you to Gotham City, both of you."
"Thank you Bruce. Let me talk to Dawn about it." I stood up, rubbing my face tiredly and stumbling from the room towards the stairs.
Dawn waited outside my room with Alfred who held a first aid kit. "Are you ok Buffy?" she asked.
"Yeah. I just wasn't paying attention. It won't happen again though."
"Are we going to move here to Wayne Manor? Tim told me today that his dad has said he could come back to his public High School if I was there."
"Is that what you want Dawn?"
"I don't think anyone in Sunnydale would understand... Yes. I want to be here with everyone. I want to be sure that you aren't alone any more and that you will always come home."
"You can't promise me that one night, in Sunnydale that your supporters won't fail or that a demon will get a lucky shot. I don't want to be alone," she cried and hugged me.
"Shh. We'll be ok Dawn. I can promise you that. We will always survive." She fell asleep watching Alfred remove the bullet still in my shoulder,and cleaning the wound.
New day, bright sun, possibly happy future. It's hard being positive, it's even harder explaining how I feel because there aren't words for it.
At breakfast, which I insisted Dawn be washed and dressed and ready for by nine, Bruce offered Dawn any room in the house telling her should could decorate it anyway she wanted. I think I saw a glimmer of something other than her sadness in her eyes.
That's how Willow and I find ourselves sitting on the bed in the room Dawn finally decided on, two down from my own, with Bruce, Tim, Dick and Alfred all watching as Dawn listens to and discards each of Kyle's ideas. He warned us he wasn't an interior decorator but Dawn said that, like Willow, she liked his drawings and paintings and that it would be nice to have a friend help.
I watched with mild amusement as Kyle's excuses and reservations melted beneath that argument. We've been here for three hours and I think that for this time our recent loss has been the second most important thing in our minds, never far from the surface but Dawn's sombre enthusiasm for this new project has our attention for now.
I wonder when Wally will get back with that food? He's been gone a whole three seconds.