Part 10 – Four or so years down the line
Zan read three stories to Christopher in the back booth of the Crashdown… of course he had to add his own little twist to Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, and The Three Little Pigs. "Then the three little pigs roasted the wolf and had a party. The End."
"That's not the way Daddy reads it."
"Daddy don't know how to have fun." Zan closed the book. "My stories are better, huh?"
"Yeah." Chris nodded and sipped at his milkshake.
"Your daddy better hurry up or I'ma be late for work." Zan glanced at his watch. Pop Evans was not going to look kindly on his being late on a court day. "You done wit those fries?"
"Yep. I'm full. My tummy's gonna pop." Chris nodded and searched through his backpack for his pencils.
Zan adjusted his tie. He was never going to get used to dressing like he belonged in a law office. It was his fault for letting Philip know he was taking law classes. He had fifteen minutes before he had to meet Philip in front of the office or twenty in which to make it to the courthouse and he was losing minutes for every one that Max was late. Clerking for a couple of years wouldn't be so bad.
Dawn compared the sights on three different guns before deciding on one. "What's the kick on this one?"
"Too much for a little thing like you." The instructor tried to pry it from her hand but Dawn held fast.
"Says who. Give me a bullet."
"Says here that you've never fired a gun."
"I haven't." She slid the bullet into the chamber and pulled the hammer back. "Let's find out what it's got." She pointed the gun to her target and pulled the trigger. The bullet sliced through the air and punctured the paper between the eyes of the target. "Not bad. Pulls to the right."
"I thought you said you never fired a gun." The instructor hit the button and the target sped toward them.
"No guns. Crossbows, dart-guns but those are more like rifles. I throw knives and wood stakes for hobby." The tiny woman shrugged and turned back to the table of firearms. "What's standard issue again? I always forget that."
"We've rarely had someone pass the firearms test first try but fire a full clip just like you just did and you pass with a hundred percent." The instructor handed her an automatic gun with a full clip. "Send your target down again and fire away. Remember the key spots." The instructor shook his head as she fired away the ten shots in the clip. "Sure am glad you're one of the good guys. We'll need a cop like you."
Zan scribbled notes on papers and passed them to Phillip, who was on the phone, and took them back to re-evaluate his solution with Phillip's notes. The room was in constant movement. Jesse would periodically reach for their notes and add his own. Books were stacked all over the conference room, opened and closed stacked one upon another to specific pages with post-its to notate their importance. There were coffee cups balanced precariously on the table, on closed books. The outside lights were fading as the sunset and the urgency to find something, anything for the case grew. The pressure was high, and Zan loved every minute of it.
The fitness instructor barked for the fight to stop. "Summers, what the hell was that?"
"I took him down, didn't I?"
"What were you doing?"
"A little of this, a little of that." She jogged in pace to keep her blood moving. "Kickboxing, Tae Kwon Do… ancient hand-to-hand. I improvised the scene."
"Improvised the scene." The instructor hung his head. "Why would you do that?"
"Because when we're on the beat, it's not going to be easy to take down a suspect. They might be smarter than you, stronger than you, or resourceful. You have to improvise. You have to be resourceful."
"Is that how you justify taking a broomstick to your sparring partner?"
"He's twice my size and three times as strong. I wanted a chance to beat him." Dawn looked down at her weary sparring partner and he couldn't even focus enough to glare at her.
"You've got a problem with authority, Summers."
"Yes, I do. It's what makes me good at handling the bad guys." She stretched her arms over her head. "I could probably beat everyone in here one on one."
"Is that right?"
"Technicality, Summers. We live by 'em. Back to the mats people. Don't worry, you'll all get a crack at her. We'll see if Summers is as good as she says she is." He clapped his hands together loudly. "Come on. Let's go. Academy isn't over yet."
Max beat Zan to the end of the block and waited. "Those long hours in the office are catching up with you."
"I know." Zan coughed.
"Don't tell me that you're back on the nicotine."
"Sometimes." Zan stretched and jogged in place to slow his blood. "Takes the edge off when you ain't eaten all day."
"Not around my son."
"How much longer?" Max bent to catch his own breath.
"You know, a couple of months. Pop wants me with him before I get any offers from anyone else." Zan shrugged. The last four years had been hard but so challenging.
"Sounds like a good plan." Max stretched his arms over his head. "Jesse and Isabel are moving to Clovis, so he'll take over that office. You and Dad here would be good."
"You?" Zan fell on the ground. "When do you take that exit exam?"
"This summer. I guess I'll move up there to be with Liz. I can teach pretty much anywhere. Chris is still young enough that a move will slide right off his back." Max plopped down on the ground. "I'm gonna miss my kids though. I like middle school."
"After everything, I'm going to be the only left here." Zan laughed aloud. "But Ma'll like that."
"Yeah, she will." Max agreed. "It still feels like yesterday that I didn't have anything that's important to me now."
"I still gotta see what Liz wants to do. Where she wants to work… I mean… she could have her pick of any facility to get started… Once she gets settled in somewhere, we'll do all the wedding stuff." He laughed humorlessly. "The adoption papers are burning a hole in my safe."
They sat in silence for a long time. They both looked up when the limo stopped in front of them. The passenger leaned toward the window. "Boys. Got a package you'll want to take care of." He slipped a card from a pocket and tossed it at them. "This makes us even."
Max had caught the card and scanned it. All it had was a Roswell address. Yanking out his cell phone, he called his mother to watch Chris a while longer. Then he showed it to Zan. "What do you think this is all about?"
The house was large. Moving vans sat in the driveway. Zan watched as a van door slid open. A lift scooted out. He grabbed Max and hurried toward the house. A wheelchair rolled onto the lift before the lift lowered to the ground. Max stopped short. "Buffy?"
"Hey guys." Buffy nodded up at them. "Bet you didn't expect to see me."
"'Ey. What happened?" Zan motioned to the chair.
"A gift from my last day on the job." She shrugged. "Come on. Everyone else is coming soon." She wheeled herself into the house. "Dawn is around here somewhere. I think she went to fix her paperwork at the police station."
"You guys are moving down here?" Max blinked. The house was huge and wheel-chair accessible.
"Hey, Dawn never said anything about it last time we talked." Zan rushed to keep up.
"Yeah well, you haven't talked to her since she entered the academy, right?" Buffy sighed. "Amazingly enough, we're both glad to see you guys. Kal paid for all this. Said it was the least he could do for us."
Zan had just sat down at his desk when the door opened to admit the newest member of Roswell's finest. "You avoidin' me, girl?"
"Not really." Dawn took a seat across from him. "It looks nice."
"It's Jesse's office. It takes a month to find a guy?" He loosened his tie.
"Like the suit."
"Like yours better." He shot back, after a moment, his expression softened. "Catch me up."
Dawn fidgeted a while. "So, I told you that Faith, she died that year we came down here… that fall."
"She's a slayer, too?"
"Yeah. So the next was called. She was younger than me." Dawn's eyes filled with tears. "She was only 14 and she didn't last long, maybe a year. So, when the next one came… Alena. Buffy took on double duty as primary Slayer and Watcher."
"You told me. She died in six months." Zan nodded.
"There have been too more and I'm helping but I'm in school and Buffy's working. So, then I joined the Police Academy. It two whole years by the time the next Slayer showed up. I had just joined up. Ishana was a blessing. She followed instruction and she had that thing Slayers have to have to survive. She's 17, now. She's taken over full Slayer duties."
"What happened to Buffy?"
"She…" Dawn's eyes overflowed. "I… I wasn't there. Ishana was across town. Buffy was burying Spike's ashes. It was a whole mess of crazy and they targeted the people we knew. Spike went first… Giles… Xander was here."
"Yeah, I talked to him."
"We were there. Willow, Xander, Anya and me. We were guarding this stupid orb thing. Buffy calls us but we can't hear her. By the time we get there, it's too late. That thing smashed her spine. We had to pretend that she died. I called Kal. I set up the house and everything. We snuck Buffy out of Sunnydale. This is the only place that's demon-free. The only place she could really rest after all that hell."
Zan watched her dry her tears. "It's okay."
"Yeah. I put in for transfer here as soon as I graduated." She took a deep breath. "So, when did you get your own place?"
"Probably right after you called to tell me you were gonna be a cop. It was time to move out. Max is getting ready to move and he's doing alright teaching. His first class has been okay. I'm gonna stay here and work for Pop."
"I uh…" She got to her feet. "I gotta go… but I'll be checking in."
"Me too." He got up and gave her a hug. "Be careful out there."
"I know how to take care of myself." She finally smiled at him. "It's really good to be here and I'm really glad you're staying."
"Hey, me too. I was 'bout ready to make the move out there." He kissed the top of her head. "Go. You probably missed more than enough time to be questioned."
"Probably and you've got work to do." Dawn kissed his cheek and reached for her hand. "I'll catch you later. We'll invited you to the house or something."
"I'd like that." Zan nodded. "I'ma hold you to it."
"Later, Dawn." Zan sat at his desk for a long time after she left and just stared at his case file. He had offered restoration to Buffy but she had told him it was the only way she was going to get any actual rest. Dawn was the same way. She wouldn't have left Sunnydale without a reason to… At least now, he had a reason to stay.