Prologue

Title: Blood is Life
Author: Erucchii
Disclaimer: BtVS belongs to Joss Whedon, and Numb3rs belongs to Nicolas Falacci and Cheryl Heuton. Oh! And I didn't come up with the name "ISWC" either.
A/N: I've been reading BtVS fics for a decade now, but this is the first time I write one so please cut me some slack. Also, I've never attended Oxford University, nor have I ever did my doctorate so I'm sorry if I have some facts wrong. Thirdly, I've never went to Jacobs and Field before. Lastly, please enjoy.

Xposted


Prologue

8th March 2007
Jacobs and Field Delicatessen, Oxfordshire

"What's so important that you can't talk about it over the phone?" Dawn asked her sister after they've settled in Jacobs and Field. She was surprised when she received the phone call from Buffy after the latter returned from her honeymoon.

"Can't I just come and see how my younger sister is doing?"

She made a face. "Come on. You hate taking the airplane to Oxfordshire."

"Humor me," Buffy said, sticking out her tongue at her younger sister. After a while, Buffy sighed, "Fine, if you want to go straight to business…" She motioned her hand at Buffy, telling her to continue. Buffy rolled her eyes. "Graham and I are thinking of moving back to the States. He has been offered a job at the Pentagon."

"You hate government agencies."

"I don't hate it." When she snorted, Buffy rolled her eyes. "Fine, I do hate it sometimes. But, this is a job opportunity for Graham...something that's not related to demon hunting. And I'll get to retire and spend time with Joyce and not worry much."

"If you move, I can't see you anymore," she argued. She knew it sounded pathetic but she had to try.

Buffy raised her eyebrows. "I thought you'd want your own breathing space."

"Well, yeah but…" she bit her lips. It took them a long time to mend their relationship, she didn't want it ruined if Buffy moved across the globe from her. The waitress chose that moment to deliver their food. She started digging in her kedgeree instead of looking at her sister.

Buffy waited for a moment before reaching out for her sister's hand. "You don't have to worry, you know? There will always a place for you in the family."

"Fine...use your logic against me," she retorted, a hint of humor in her voice. "When are you moving?"

"Probably a year from now. I need to finalize some things, choose my successor," Buffy rolled her eyes at that, "besides, baby Joyce needs to be born here so that Willow could perform the protection ritual as soon as possible."

She quickly rubbed away the tears that threatened to fall. "You're so emotional," she said.

"Says the one who is about to cry," Buffy retorted. Both sisters stuck out their tongue at each other, and then laughed.


10th October 2007,

Scooby's Lounge, ISWC Scotland Headquarter

"Awe, she's so cute," Dawn coed at the one-week old baby in her arms. It seemed like her niece has Buffy's hair and Graham's eyes. "I want one too." Buffy laughed as she sat next to her sister on the couch.

"You'll have to find a boyfriend first."

"That's mean," she pouted, and Buffy laughed again. She joined in soon after, and then, she asked, "How are you feeling?"

"You gotta love slayer healing," Buffy gloated. "I think I've completely healed the day after I gave birth."

She used her feet to lightly kick her sister's leg. "I am so envious of that slayer healing when it's my turn to give birth."

"Which won't happen unless you find a boyfriend."

She raised an eyebrow. "Don't you usually keep boys away from me?"

Buffy crossed her hands over her chest. "That was before you spend all your time on studying. You're twenty-one and you're almost done with your doctorate. Is it wrong for me to be worried about you?"

She sighed. "Of course not. But Buffy...I'm focused right now. There is so much knowledge out there. It makes it seem like the hours I put in is still not enough."

"What about Connor? Both of you get along well with each other."

"Buffy!"

This time, it was Buffy's turn to sigh. "All I'm saying is you need to slow down. Life is too short."

"Way to look at a glass half empty," she mumbled, but with Buffy's slayer hearing, of course the latter heard. The older woman gave her sister a glare. She was lucky baby Joyce chose that moment to cry so she handed Joyce to Buffy. Before her sister could say another word, she stood up and said, "I'll talk to you again later. Need to unpack."

"That girl is getting better and better at escaping," Buffy muttered under her breath as she breastfeed her daughter.


5th December 2008,

Beach, near ISWC Scotland Headquarter

Xander let out a relieved breath when he found Dawn. She was sitting at her favorite spot at the beach, on the big rock near the shore. When Giles told them about the estate they were planning to use for the headquarter, he didn't expect it to be huge, with a forest and a beach. "Hey there, Dawnster, it's freezing here," he said as he joined her on the rock. Dawn was hugging her legs to her chest, and although she heard Xander, she didn't reply. He sighed. "It's not your fault."

When, again, Dawn didn't say anything or even give a nod, he sighed for the second time. "What do I have to say to make you understand, Dawn? This is not your fault!"

Dawn turned her head towards Xander, her eyes red and puffy. "It was my fault. I wasn't even supposed to be there that day, but I was there. And she had to protect me."

A sob escaped Dawn's throat, so he pulled her into his embrace. He didn't say anything because he knew nothing could soothe her guilt. He just ran his hand gently on her back as she cried.


5th February 2009,

Scooby's Lodge, ISWC Scotland Headquarter

"Are you sure this is wise, Dawnie?" Willow asked, leaning against the doorframe of Dawn's room with her hands crossed over her chest.

"I'm sure."

"But Joyce misses you a lot.

"I can't face her."

She pursed her lips as she watched the brunette moved around her room, trying to make herself busy by rearranging her books. "Dawnie… she lost her mother. She doesn't have to lose her aunt too."

"She shouldn't have lost her mother at all," Dawn muttered softly. She let out a deep breath, and then turned to face Willow. "Can we talk some other time, Wills? I'm busy."

She sighed. "You're as stubborn as Buffy," she said before she left.

"No one is as stubborn as Buffy," Dawn muttered under her breath. She turned back to her books, and continued rearranging her collections. A few seconds later, there was a knock on her door. "I told you I can't talk right now!" she said, thinking it was Xander, sent by Willow when the redhead failed. To her surprise, it was her brother-in-law. "Graham…"

"May I come in?"

She shrugged and motioned for him to enter. After living with a slayer all her life, she wouldn't be caught dead inviting people into her room verbally. Graham stepped into her room and sat at the edge of her bed. She continued attending to her books, giving her back to Graham.

"How are you doing, Dawn?"

She just shrugged but didn't turn to face the older man.

"I don't know what to say to make you understand, Dawnie. Buffy...she will always do what she wants. Nothing can stop her, not even you. So, no matter what, Buffy will always protect you even if it means sacrificing her life. You shouldn't punish yourself for that."

She whirled around and glared at her brother-in-law. "I shouldn't punish myself?! Graham, your daughter is growing up without a mother because of me! You are living without your wife because of me! Buffy died because of me! Tell me why I shouldn't punish myself."

Graham sighed. "Won't you at least see Joyce once before we return to the States?"

"I can't...not yet. Every time I look at Joyce, I'll see Buffy." She felt a lump in her throat as tears welled in her eyes.

"Dawnie, she's confused. She doesn't understand, and it's making her sad. She knows where you are. She has Buffy's abilities to find her blood family, but she doesn't understand why you wouldn't see her." After Graham and Buffy's marriage, Giles had given them a cottage on the estate. That way, she wouldn't have to worry about the other mini-slayers who are living a floor below the Scooby's. Graham took both her hands. "We don't blame you, Dawnie. So, promise me you'll see her soon."

"I'll try," she mumbled.

Graham nodded and let go of her hands. Before he left the room, he said, "We've really never blamed you for what happened, Dawnie. So you have to start forgiving yourself."

She knew what Graham said was true but she couldn't listen to her own rationality, or anyone else's, for that matter. That night, she decided to move back to Oxfordshire. She can't live here anymore, not right now. The Scooby's, and even Graham keep on pestering her to forgive herself, and the mini-slayers are walking on eggshells around her. She did tell her lecturers she's going to start on her second doctorate soon, so this would be the perfect timing. She took out her luggage bag and began packing. She didn't need much since she still has some clothes at her apartment near Oxford University.


24th December 2009,

Library, Oxford University

Dawn had settled herself at one of the tables near the window, closest to the bookshelves. However, that morning, her mind couldn't seem to grasp what she was trying to read. Not long after, she found herself gradually drifting into her own thoughts as she looked out the window. Her head was propped on her hand and she could faintly feel the vibrations on the table. She chose to ignore it. It vibrated, and stopped and vibrated again, and process continued. It went on for a few minutes before someone slid into the seat in front of her.

"You're not going to answer that?"

Surprised, Dawn pulled out from her thoughts, and looked at the person in front of her before looking at her cell phone on the table. The caller id read 'Willow', so she decided to swipe the 'end call' option on her phone screen. The older woman had been calling her a lot ever since she told them she wouldn't return for Christmas break.

"Having a bad day?" the person, a guy around the same age as herself, with blonde hair and blue eyes asked.

"I guess."

Then, the guy held out his hand. "I'm Chris Kaleta, by the way. I'm currently doing my Masters in Engineering."

"Dawn Summers, currently trying to finish my second doctorate."

"Wow. Listen, would you like to have an early lunch with me? It would be lovely to have some hot pizza right now."

She looked at Chris for a moment before turning to her books and sigh. It's not like she could get anything done in her current situation. So, she answered, "Sure."

Their lunch didn't last long. She kept on zoning out into her own thoughts every moment. It was hard for her to stay focus anymore. She felt so disconnected to the world. She doubted Chris had much fun eating lunch with her that day. He didn't even give her his phone number before they separated ways. He just said, "See you around." She snorted when she remembered that part.

It was nearly dark when she returned to her empty apartment. She dropped herself onto the couch in the living room, and her eyes fell on the family picture, with all the Scooby's, new and old, in it. It was taken during Christmas, two years after they rebuild the Council. Buffy, Willow, and Xander had finally mended their friendship then. Her cell phone ringing took her out of her train of thoughts. It was Xander. She knew she couldn't ignore them more than she already had. Besides, knowing Xander, he would definitely take a plane, or if he's desperate, ask Willow to teleport him to her place in Oxfordshire, just so he could drag her back to Scotland. However, she was surprised when an unexpected voice called out her name from the other side of the line.

"Auntie Dawnie!"

"Joyce." She gripped her phone tight. "What are you doing with Xander's phone?"

"Auntie Dawnie, missed you lots!"

"Sweetie, where are you?" To her knowledge, Graham and Joyce weren't planning on spending Christmas in Scotland. Then, she heard Xander's voice from the other line, softly asking the phone from Joyce. After the phone changed hands, Xander's voice greeted her.

"Hi there, Dawnie."

"Hey," a sad smile appeared on her face.

"You're missing out on our tradition, Dawnster," he chided her, although there was no real anger in his voice.

She sighed. No matter how many years passed by, the Scooby's will always take Christmas celebration seriously. That was the only time they ever gave themselves to gather at one place, after all. Last year was the only exception, since they were still mourning for Buffy's death. "Are Graham and Joyce at Scotland headquarter too?"

"Yup, and you would know about it if you ever answered any of their calls, or if you come home for Christmas break."

"I can't, Xander. I don't think I'll be able to enjoy the festivities." She could hear the door opened, and Xander walking for a few minutes, before it sounded less noisy. "Where did you go?"

"My attic." Dawn could imagine Xander sitting on one of those window seats in the attic. It was their favorite getaway, whenever the mansion felt over crowded. "Is the feeling getting worse?"

She sighed. Out of all the Scooby's, Xander was the one she usually confided in. After Buffy's death, it was Xander who could get her to talk. No one else could, not even Willow or Giles. "It's like there's something missing in me, Xan. I feel lost sometimes."

"Maybe you just need a break Dawnie. Come home, and spend time with Joyce. It's always about the blood, remember?"

She chuckled, oh how wise Xander had become. "You know I can't do that."

"One day, we're going to do an intervention about your misplaced guilt, Dawnie."

She laughed at that. "You could try."

"Take a break, go travel, reconnect with your roots, whatever. Maybe then, you could forgive yourself. But I'm warning you, don't take too long. Joyce misses you terribly, everyone does." Even me, he added in his head.

"I'll try." Her hands started to shake, and she knew she might break down. Suddenly, the feeling of homesickness engulfed her. "I gotta go. Need to order some takeouts."

"Well, if you came home, you get to eat turkey, mashed potatoes and all those Christmas foods."

"Nice try," she said. "Merry Christmas, Xander. I'll talk to you later." She didn't wait for Xander to say goodbye when she hung up. She placed her cell phone on the coffee table before laying in a fetal position on the couch. She knew Xander was right, he was always right about these things. Maybe she really did need to get away. Maybe she needed to find herself again.


22nd January 2010,

Jacobs and Field Delicatessen, Oxfordshire

It was cloudy that day, so Dawn decided to go to her usual haunt. Besides, they have heater inside the cafe, so she wouldn't be that cold. When she arrived, the staffs greeted her like always, and tried to make small talks with her when she went to the salad bar. However, she only politely replied with short answers, as she didn't feel like talking. As she was eating her salad, the waiter delivered her warm, creamy avocado soup, homemade deli sandwich, and earl grey tea.

She was in the midst of savoring her soup when a couple entered the cafe. From their accent, she knew the newcomers were Americans. The woman was giving her back to Dawn, but the man turned, and when she had a better look of the man, she gasped. She knew that person; she would always remember that curly-haired boy anywhere. The genius of the family. After Sunnydale collapsed, and they went to Los Angeles, Buffy and her had discussed about their family on their mother's side. They knew if they visit them, it would be hard to explain about things, so they decided not to drag them in.

A few months before Buffy's death, her sister had considered contacting the Eppes family again. Dawn agreed, and they planned to visit their Uncle Alan, Aunt Margaret, Don and Charlie together, when she visits Buffy during her vacation. But then, Buffy died, and Dawn had forgotten about their plans. Seeing Charlie made her think of what Xander told her during Christmas Eve. Maybe reconnecting with her roots in L.A. wouldn't be such a bad idea.

After paying for her food, she put on her beanie hat, and scarf so that Charlie couldn't see her face as she walked out. She wouldn't have any answers to his questions, if he asked. Besides, it's not like she wasn't going to see him. They'll meet again, in Los Angeles, after Dawn prepared a story and determine what she could tell them and what she couldn't.


A/N: So, how was it? I would gladly accept any reviews, so please review...lol