*squishy hugs* to Megan for betaing!
Chapter 6: Foreign Objects.
The strains of Bach drifted to Buffy’s ears, a frown creasing her brow as her gaze slowly lifted higher with each step forward. Since when did Giles listen to--
The Slayer’s eyes widened with undisguised shock as she took in her environment. The changes within the apartment were anything but subtle. Gone were the old sofas, the coffee table, the old wooden weapons chests and Giles’ music records. In fact, the harder Buffy examined the room, the more difficult it was for her to find any evidence that her watcher lived here.
A large black leather sofa was positioned against the far wall, a great shag pile rug laid out before it. Two matching armchairs sat opposite the sofa with a delicate looking coffee table placed in the middle of the rug. The corner that had once hidden Giles’ television—before Xander’s snooping had unveiled it—now hosted a large, dark stained antique armoire. One of its doors was open, revealing an assortment of weapons including several deadly looking swords and a long bow. In the opposite corner sat a writing desk with neatly stacked piles of books. Research. Giles’ taste may have changed, but at least his habits haven’t…
Approaching the desk, Buffy lifted the lined yellow notepad and examined them. The handwriting wasn’t familiar. The cold fingers of dread tickled at the back of her neck but she pushed them away with as much mental strength as she could muster. So Giles hadn’t written those notes. And he wasn’t here. A shiver of fear rolled over her when her thoughts started for a direction she wasn’t ready or willing to accept. Right now, Giles isn’t here right now… she mentally amended. He’s probably just running an errand.
Frown deepening, Buffy turned around to face the others. She found Spike watching her intently, head titled to the side, his patented look of questioning in his eyes. Unable and unwilling to hold a staring contest with the vampire, Buffy refocused her attention on the new guy.
Shoulders back, chin held high and chest puffed up in an almost mirror image of Giles the first time she’d met him, Nicolas Thompson looked every inch the part of watcher. His expectant smile was warm and welcoming; obviously his intention was to make her feel at ease. Unfortunately his attempts at friendliness were settling none of Buffy’s frazzled nerves.
Turning her back on the pair once more, Buffy reached forward and ran her fingers across the soft new drapes that blanketed the windows. This makeover would’ve cost quite the pretty penny and she couldn’t help but wonder from where Giles had gotten the money for such a task. Icy fear coursed her veins; Buffy’s body recognizing that something was very wrong with this picture, while her mind refused to consider the possibility her instincts could be spot on.
“Lovely, aren’t they,” Nicolas said, nodding in the direction of the drapes when Buffy turned to look at him with curiosity. “I found the fabric in North America when I was assigned to oversee the development of the new base for our operatives down there. And I thought it would be just perfect for my new apartment. A lot has changed within the Watcher’s Council since you last worked for us, Miss Summers. Your sacrifice for the greater good was a factor behind these changes. We believe that --”
Nicolas continued with his little speech but Buffy was still back at the word apartment, or more importantly the two words that had left his mouth before it. My new. His new apartment. So where the hell did that put Giles?
“New?” Buffy asked, using her voice for the first time since her re-birth of sorts. It sounded different to her ears, whether it was from crying herself hoarse or the months of disuse she couldn’t be certain.
One thing she was sure of was that the foreign object she now felt in her mouth most certainly had not been there before… before the tower. It felt like… yes, it was. Her tongue was pierced. She blinked in surprise. Why would someone have pierced her tongue post mortem? How, why… Buffy rolled her tongue over and over in her mouth, wondering how it was that she hadn’t noticed it sooner.
Nicolas nodded enthusiastically in response to Buffy’s question, presuming she was referring to his latest piece of information. “Yes, new. The old buildings were falling into disrepair and we felt it was imperative that better facilities were made available to the potentials. They are, as you say, our future.”
Since setting foot inside the apartment, Spike had kept back and observed. He knew Buffy was going to be quite shocked by some of the… changes that had occurred since her passing. Unlike Nicolas, who had presumed that Buffy’s inquiry was in regards to the ‘great Watcher’s Council’ and their change of heart in spending money on their warriors, Spike knew she was in fact referring to the apartment. The man would have to be blind not to notice the pain and shock that had crossed her face. But of course Nicolas had been too wrapped up in story telling.
Spike liked the young watcher, but sometimes he could be a little dense. In fact in all his experience with the Council, more often than not the watcher assigned to observe and study the Slayer was sometimes the one person who couldn’t see what was so plainly obvious to anyone else.
“Thompson, she was askin’ ‘bout the flat,” Spike informed.
A look of realization passed the younger Brit’s face. “Oh, I see.” He seemed to falter for a moment as he searched for the right words to explain the situation. As the few seconds stretched into more, Buffy became impatient.
“Where’s Giles?” she asked.
When it became apparent that Nicolas wasn’t going to answer, Spike did. “London.”
Buffy felt her knees begin to tremble, but before she could move Spike was at her side, gently steering her in the direction of the sofa she had previously been appraising. “London?” she repeated.
“Moved back to England two months ago,” Spike said softly.
Giles is gone? Buffy was at a complete loss of what to think. How could he just have left? What about her friends? What about Dawn? Her throat closed up with emotion as she fought back tears that seemed to run on tap, not wanting to break down in front of a stranger.
“Forgive me, Miss Summers, it would appear that I’ve forgotten my manners. Considering the ordeal you’ve just gone through, you must be exhausted, famished and most certainly parched,” Nicolas observed, leaving the living area to root around in the refrigerator.
Spike released Buffy once she was safely seated on the sofa, taking a step back but making sure he was within reaching distance, just in case.
Buffy was indeed thirsty, the quaking in her thighs testament to the lethargy she felt. Several months of disuse left her muscles weak, and it wasn’t something one would recover from overnight, but food and rest would help.
Nicolas returned to the living room carrying a tray piled with an assortment of snacks ranging from fruit, crackers and cheese to twinkies and ho ho’s. It seemed the watcher’s youth affected his taste buds; the assortment of sugary goodies placed beside her was a veritable banquet of Xander’s favourite snacks.
“I was unsure of your preference, hence the variety,” Nicolas informed bashfully.
Drinking the offered glass of juice quickly, Buffy reached for an apple as Nicolas continued talking.
“I must say, when Spike here called informing me of your return, I was indeed skeptical. Returning from the dead is not something that one commonly hears about, especially in the case of a chosen one.”
The front door to the apartment swung open and then slammed shut with a loud bang, the noise startling Buffy enough to make her jump.
“Yeah, they normally stay dead,” a new voice piped in.
Buffy warily eyed the newcomer who confidently strode toward them. The girl looked to be the same age as Buffy but that’s where the similarities stopped. First of all, she was taller than Buffy, probably on par with Spike’s height. Her looks were exotic, with large almond shaped eyes the colour of coffee, flawless olive skin and lips that would put Angelina Jolie to shame. Long, wavy, jet black hair flowed down her back, bouncing slightly as she moved.
Not only did she have a beautiful face, her figure was also enviable. Lean and toned the girl had slim hips combined with a bust that made Buffy feel self-conscious. Wearing an outfit reminiscent of Faith, the black leather pants teamed with heeled boots and a skin tight t-shirt all screamed sex. The girl just oozed appeal; the not so subtle flick of her hips as she prowled toward them was obviously deliberate.
Buffy found herself looking at both Nicolas and Spike to gauge their reaction, but both had guarded expressions on their faces.
“Malena, I trust this is not a social call?” Nicolas questioned.
Heavily lined eyes flickered away from Buffy, Malena’s attention refocusing on the watcher. She’d caught the tail end of Nicolas’s little speech, immediately intrigued. “Unfortunately, no. Finished early for the night, thought I’d check in before I crashed for the night.”
Buffy shrank into herself when the other girl turned and eyed her up, a hint of a smirk tickling at the corners of her mouth.
“So is one of you boys going to introduce me to Lois here?”
Spike and Nicolas both frowned in confusion, the pop culture reference going right over their heads.
“As in Lois and Clark? Superman, the TV show, aired mid nineties? Come on, I was a kid and I saw it,” Malena teased, before clarifying bluntly. “Her hairdo.”
“Oh, I see,” Nicolas fumbled. “I’m afraid I didn’t have the chance to --”
“…watch television in the academy because you were too busy being the good student.” The smirk that had been teasing its way across Malena’s face before was now on full show.
Nicolas huffed once and opened his mouth to object but Spike interceded by making introductions. “This is Buffy Summers.”
“As in the?” Malena whistled. “When I heard the words ‘dead’ and ‘Chosen One’ I assumed you meant --”
“Thompson, is the guest room made up? I think it would be best if Buffy got some rest now,” Spike quickly interrupted.
Malena frowned as Spike interrupted her. Not that it was uncommon of him to do so, just normally it was Nicolas that he would be interrupting, not her. The vampire had become an unlikely ally, on occasion helping out on patrols and sometimes getting information from his demon contacts. That was, of course, when he wasn’t drowning himself in the bottom of a whiskey bottle in an effort to mask his sorrows.
Spike was in love with Buffy. A vampire in love with a slayer, it was something unheard of. Malena had almost thought it romantic when she’d first heard the story from her watcher. That was before she’d heard how the slayer in question had not only broken his heart, but had done so by fucking another vampire in his bed. A vampire she was said to have dated when she was first called as the Chosen One.
Malena didn’t understand why a girl would reject Spike. If she were in that position, she certainly wouldn’t.
Questions as to why Spike appeared so concerned with the woman responsible for his shattered confidence were quickly followed by one of a more pertinent nature. With Buffy, the original Sunnydale Slayer returned from the dead, where was that going to leave her? Malena might not have been in Sunnydale or active in duty as the Slayer for very long, but she had come to think of this town, and the responsibility of guarding the Hellmouth, as hers. The last thing she wanted was to be replaced.
She wasn’t going to back down just because the other girl had returned.
With narrowed eyes and the focus of a hawk Malena watched as Spike led Buffy to the guest bedroom. When he returned a few minutes later his gaze was unfocussed, obviously deep in thought. Recalling an earlier conversation, Malena realized there were some obvious differences between the girl of Spike’s stories and the one who had just left the room. “Spike, I thought you said she was blonde?”
A short, pimply-faced young intern approached the office door with trepidation. Clutched tightly in his hands was the report Ms Morgan had been waiting on all day. If he hadn’t already pledged it to the firm, the young man would gladly sell his soul right now to escape the expected wrath of his boss once she read the contents of the manila file.
Balling a fist he gently rapped on the door, praying that on the odd chance she wouldn’t be seated at her desk. The brusque “Come in” dashed those hopes.
“Ms Morgan, I’ve got that file you were waiting for,” he timidly informed, holding it outstretched in his hand as he moved toward her.
“Excellent,” Lilah replied, a confident smile plastered on her face as she accepted the dossier from her assistant. “That will be all.”
Not needing to be told twice, the young man scurried out of the room.
“Now, let’s see what all this fuss was about.” Returning the silver letter opener in her hand to its place on her desk, Lilah opened the manila folder and perused the first page. By the time she had scanned to the bottom Lilah’s confident smile had disappeared, to be replaced with a look of concern.
“The Senior Partners are going to be just thrilled with this new development,” she muttered sarcastically to herself as she slid into the seat behind her desk.
Looked like she was going to be working through the rest of the night.
Spike reclined in one of the armchairs, a glass tumbler of whiskey clutched in his left hand, his right rubbing at his temples. He’d barely touched the drink, holding it merely for habitual reasons. Spike’s alcoholic consumption had increased considerably since the night at the tower, and although Buffy had somehow miraculously returned from the grave it had yet to sink in fully.
“Spike, why don’t you put the glass down,” Malena suggested, holding her hand out for the aforementioned object.
Spike acquiesced, leaning forward to rest his forearms on his knees. They faced a serious dilemma with Buffy’s surprise return: housing. As far as the bank was concerned, the place she had called home for the last five years no longer belonged to her. At the time of Buffy’s death Spike had tried to find a way to pay the bills, wanting to keep the house as it was just in case. Hank Summers had other ideas—sell the house and pocket the cash. Buffy’s father had forked out the bare minimum for her funeral, opting for a pine wooden crate excuse for a coffin over something comfortable, more deserving for the woman who was to be buried within it.
Despite his fractured relationship with his former charge, Giles had tried to convince Hank to do right by his daughter and give her a burial and ceremony fitting the Slayer. Hank Summers would hear nothing of it, refusing all requests and rejecting the offers from the watcher himself to pay for the casket.
“I can handle the affairs regarding my daughter, thank you very much. She wouldn’t have wanted money to be wasted on decoration.”
The one task Buffy’s former friends had been delegated was to find something for her to wear, a responsibility Willow had accepted begrudgingly. Finding something for Buffy to be buried in was closure, a way to bury the tattered remains of the friendship along with her former friend.
“I hadn’t seen my daughter in quite some time before her death. I wouldn’t have a clue if there is anything suitable in her wardrobe for this sort of occasion. Pick something out and deliver it to the mortuary.”
Even the memory of the conversation incensed Spike. Vampiric hearing and open windows had allowed Spike to overhear a conversation not meant for his ears. Apparently Hank Summers assumed Spike to be Buffy’s boyfriend, his grief and pleas for better arrangements for Buffy convincing the man of the fact. Giles had gone along with the mistaken assumption for the purpose of making the time spent with Mr Summers go as smoothly as possible, not wanting or willing to explain anything about Buffy’s secret life to a man not deserving the title ‘Dad’.
Why Hank Summers seemed to care so little about his daughter, Spike couldn’t answer for certain. The snippets he’d garnered over the years from Dawn, Joyce and even Buffy herself all suggested the former patriarch has simply stopped thinking and caring about his former life. Including his daughters. How a person could stop feeling emotion, and block a familial bond with his daughters—like flicking a switch to the off position—was beyond Spike’s comprehension. Drusilla’s repeated betrayals over their hundred-year courtship had damaged the relationship but had not been enough to completely sever the emotional ties. Did that make Spike a better man, because he stuck around through the good and the bad?
It was an offhand comment from the excuse for a human being that Buffy had finally paid the consequences for her recklessness that had Spike chomping at the bit. Chip or no chip, Spike wanted nothing more than to rip the man’s throat out, consequences be damned. Spike would have welcomed his death with a smile, if he just could take Hank’s life first. If not for the fact that daylight would bring forth his combustion before he could latch a hand around Hank Summers’ throat, Spike would’ve leapt from the apartment and killed him right then.
The real nail in the coffin—no pun intended—was the fact that Buffy’s funeral was held during the day. Spike couldn’t even be there when they buried her. Imagine his surprise when he found out it was cheaper to place her coffin in an existing crypt.
Spike was quivering with pent up anger, thankful that Malena had taken the glass from him for it would’ve been crushed in his clenched palms.
“Where is she going to live?” he mumbled to himself, more so than his ally’s in the room.
“She could, er, always stay here. For the time being, of course,” Nicolas fumbled. “It wouldn’t be appropriate for a young woman to be living with a watche--”
“Oh, shut up, Nick,” Malena ordered with a roll of her eyes.
“The crypt… maybe, not permanently, not to the standard of the likes of her,” Spike mumbled.
“She can stay with me,” Malena suggested abruptly, not liking the idea of the other girl bunking with Spike. “My apartment has a second bedroom. It’s small, and we’d need to buy a bed, but it’s doable.”
“Really?” Spike blinked in surprise.
Malena shrugged, drinking in every drop of gratitude that was flowing from Spike’s cerulean depths. “Of course.”
“Wonderful,” Nicolas chimed in. “Now we’ve got that settled, perhaps we should inform Mr Giles of his charge’s return.”
Buffy crept out of the spare bedroom, careful not to make any noise as she made her way toward the kitchen. Her appetite had returned and her stomach was demanding food. Being here, staying in the spare room, it just didn’t feel right without --
“…inform Mr Giles of his charge’s return.”
Her attention snapped away from hunger and focused on the trio of voices she could hear in the adjoining room. Creeping forward to get a better vantage point to listen in, Buffy was careful to keep herself concealed behind in the short hallway.
“What about her family?” Nicolas continued. “Is there someone we should contact? Parent, sibling?”
“For a watcher you sure haven’t done your reading on past slayers,” Malena teased. “Even I know that there’s no one here in Sunnydale.”
No one here… Buffy’s mind blanked for a moment. But where was…
“Her mother died a few months before --” Spike informed, unable to finish the sentence out loud. “Her rat father moved to Europe with his new family a week or so after the wedding. He got married soon after Buffy ---” Again Spike couldn’t finish. “And her sister…”
The reminder of her mother’s passing was not something Buffy wanted or needed to be refreshed, her eyes immediately filling with tears. As for her father, she wished she could say she was surprised to hear he’d gotten himself a new family, but really she wasn’t. However it was the question in Spike’s voice as he trailed off before mentioning Dawn that had Buffy holding her breath with anticipation.
“Her sister…” Malena prompted when Spike seemed to lose himself in his thoughts again.
“Her sister, Dawn,” Spike murmured, his voice choked up with emotion. “Dawn died the same night Buffy did.”
A/N: Hope you liked guys! Let me know what you thought. Thank you to everyone who has left comments so far, they mean the world.
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