Buffy waved at Mrs. Anderson as she left the house and headed down the walk. She briefly wondered if she should go looking for Spike, then decided he would find her if she just went to one of the graveyards they’d talked about patrolling. She’d only staked one new vampire, just crawling from his grave, when she felt Spike’s voice tickling the edge of her mind.
Where are you, Buffy?
I’m at Shady Rest. Not much happening here. I’ll meet you at the gate.
She took a quick glance around, seeing no other new graves and no motion anywhere, then strolled back to the entrance. Where she found Spike leaning against a stone post, cigarette in his mouth. He straightened up when he saw her, flicking the cigarette away and breaking into a smile.
“There she is.”
“Here I is,” she responded. “Did you get tired of your toy already?”
He shuffled his feet and mumbled, “Ended up just askin’ him how he knew what the girl is and why he thought it would be alright to attack her in the Slayer’s hometown.”
“He said word has gone out that potentials are being hunted and are fair game for any vamps that can catch ‘em.”
“Word from who? Or what?”
“Couldn’t get that out of him. He just said he heard about it in LA and was told the girl had moved here, so he came looking for her. Apparently he knew there was a slayer here and that you had a vampire helping you, but didn’t know who we are. He figured the slayer probably wasn’t very good if she needed back up muscle, and he didn’t know her back up was William the Bloody.” He snorted. “Thought for a second he was going to ask for an autograph.”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “And then you dusted him.”
“And then I dusted him,” he said, putting one arm around her. “Let’s go see what’s goin’ on in Pine Ridge and you can tell me what took you so long walking the little potential home.”
Leaving Spike sleeping, Buffy was up relatively early the next morning, anxious to tell Giles about what they’d learned the night before.
“So that’s the sitch, Giles. Besides the number of vamps being more than it should be in mid-summer, there’s now a potential living here, and she was targeted by somebody or something that knew what she is.”
“So, unlike the girls in your time, she hasn’t run here escaping the First’s minions, but she’s still ended up in the safest place for her to be. And you say her mother was also a potential?”
“Yep. Aged out, had a kid, and decided she’d train her like a potential just in case. Except that she didn’t tell her about vamps and demons. Poor kid had to learn that the hard way.”
“Where did they move here from?”
“I didn’t ask, but Spike asked the vamp that grabbed her and he said he was told about her in LA, so maybe they came from there? I’ll ask her mom the next time I—” The bell over the door interrupted her and she stopped to stare. “Or, you can just ask her yourself, because they just walked in.”
Giles and Buffy got to their feet and approached the front of the store where Abby and her mother were staring around at the shelves full of candles and jars of herbs.
“Hey!” Buffy said with a smile. “Fancy meeting you here.”
Lois smiled back, somewhat apologetically. “I remembered the name of the shop, and since Abby and I were already down here looking for school stuff….” She switched her attention to Giles. “I thought she might as well have a chance to meet a real watcher.”
She held out her hand and said, “I’m Lois Anderson, and you must be Giles.”
“Rupert Giles, at your service,” he said, taking her hand and shaking it. “And if you have raised this clever young lady and taught her to defend herself, then I would say you are just as real as I.”
“Thank you,” Lois said, blushing. “But that’s really all I’ve taught her. And none of it involves staking vampires or beheading demons, so she’s very lacking in some important things she’s going to need to know if we’re living on a hellmouth.”
“Ah,” Giles said, the real reason for the visit becoming obvious. “Well, perhaps we can work something out for the rest of the summer before she has to begin her schoolwork. I’m sure I can put together a curriculum of some sort for her, and perhaps we can meet a few times a week to catch her up on whatever she might be missing.”
Lois beamed at him. “Oh, that would be wonderful, wouldn’t it, Abigail?” The significance of hearing her full name used obviously wasn’t lost on Abby, but she rolled her eyes anyway.
“Are you talking about me going to school for the rest of the summer?”
“Only for a few mornings a week,” Giles assured her. “Just to help you fill in some blanks in your knowledge about slayers.”
“It won’t be that bad, Abs,” Buffy said. “If you get too bored, just tell him you have to go kill something, and he’ll let you take a break.”
She responded to Giles’s glare with, “What? That always worked for me!”
While the women all giggled, Giles sighed and shook his head.
Anya’s appearance from the store room interrupted them, and introductions were made. Then Buffy took Lois and Abby into the training room where they gasped and marveled over both the equipment there and the weapons hanging on the walls.
“Are those swords?” Abby said, moving closer and reaching out a tentative hand. “My mom has one, but I’m not allowed to touch it. It’s locked up in a gun cabinet.”
Glancing at Lois to see if she’d object, Buffy said, “Maybe in between boring slayer stuff, Giles can teach you how to use a sword…. just in case,” she added.
“That would be so cool!”
Smirking at Giles, Buffy led them back out of the training room to the main part of the store.
“I’ll just leave you guys to get acquainted. I’m sure Giles has lots of questions for you, but I need to go talk to my mom about a wedding.”
Avoiding Anya’s obvious eagerness to discuss wedding plans, Buffy waved her good-byes and hurried out the door.
“So, you really do only want to do this in the back yard? Or are you just worried about what we can afford?” Joyce eyed Buffy’s smiling face with suspicion. Which eased somewhat when Buffy gobbled the rest of her sandwich to shake her head as she answered.
“No, Mom. I’m not worried about that. For one thing, we’re going to pay for it ourselves, and I’ve told you over and over, we have lots of money. I wish you’d take some from us,” she added with a sigh before continuing, “And for another, there’s just no point in a big wedding. Spike and I have been living together for years now and we’re already as married as it gets in the vampire world, and most of the people we know here already think we are married, so no reason to make it a big deal. Anyway, we don’t really have a lot of friends or relatives to invite. Everybody we care about is right here and we see them all the time.”
“Well, if you’re sure….”
Buffy studied her mother’s expression for a few seconds, then leaned forward to grasp Joyce’s hand.
“Mom. I know this isn’t anything like what you expected when I was a little girl. And I know you’d like to have a big church wedding and look forward to fat little grandchildren. I’m sorry.” She squeezed Joyce’s hand before releasing it and sitting back. “But who knows? Maybe Dawn will want a big wedding someday and you’ll get to do all that wedding stuff for her.”
“Oh, Buffy, no! I should be sorry!” Joyce blinked back tears. “Here you are, getting married and planning your wedding, and I’m making it all about me. I didn’t mean to do that.”
Buffy slid off her stool and hugged her mother until Joyce, gasped out “Air! Air, Buffy!” She let go and shook her head.
“No. I’m sorry, Mom. I wasn’t trying to make you feel bad about wanting a real wedding. But isn’t it more important to know that the marriage is going to be a good one?”
Joyce gave a rueful laugh. “Way to remind me what the result was of my own big wedding,” she said, shaking her head. She sighed and smiled at Buffy, patting her hand. “You’re absolutely right, honey. The important thing is that you and Spike love each other and that you’ve already weathered enough drama to know you belong together.”
Buffy giggled as she thought about her history with Spike. “’Drama.’ That’s one way to put it, I guess.”
“I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know,” Joyce said with a wry smile. “At least, I don’t want to know any more than I already do.”
“Good decision.” Buffy grimaced and stood up. “Thanks for lunch, Mom. If you’re sure you don’t mind, then I’m happy to leave the catering and that stuff up to you. And if you want help, Anya is dying to plan a wedding, even if it isn’t hers.”
“I got the impression from her the other night at dinner—” Joyce stopped as Buffy’s eyes widened.
“You had dinner with Anya? And Xander?”
Joyce looked uncomfortable for a moment, then nodded as if assuring herself of something.
“I’m not sure how to put this without insulting you and Spike….”
Buffy waited, arms crossed, barely resisting tapping her foot. “Mom?”
“Here’s the thing, honey. Sometimes the… okay grownups isn’t the word I’m looking for,” she said quickly when Buffy’s eyes narrowed. “But Winston and I and Rupert… and Anya… sometimes enjoy some quiet time when we can talk about things other than….” She waved her hand around. “Whatever it is that young people talk about.”
“You know Anya graduated with me, right? Twice.”
“I know that. But in her mind—and in reality, I guess—I’m a little shaky on that—anyway, she’s older than all of us put together. And as she and Rupert and I all run our own retail businesses, and your eyes tend to glaze over when we discuss—”
“Okay. Okay. I get it. Spike and I talk about blood and killing things, not shoplifters and overhead. But how does Winston fit in? Aside from being a lot older than he looks, I guess.”
She frowned, then narrowed her eyes again when her mother blushed. Buffy’s mouth dropped open.
“Oh. My. God. You and Winston? How did this happen? When did this happen? Where the hell was I?”
“It’s not like that,” Joyce hastened to assure her, still blushing. “We just enjoy each other’s company and we… we stayed in touch while he was in England, so it just seemed natural to include him in our occasional dinners once he was back.”
“Uh huh.” Buffy’s skeptical eye roll wasn’t lost on her mother.
“He’s a very nice man, Buffy,” Joyce said, her lips tightening into a straight line.
Buffy sighed. “Yes he is, Mom. He’s very nice. I just don’t want you to get hurt.”
“Contrary to what you seem to think, I’m a big girl,” Joyce said with some asperity. “And in case you’re thinking I’m just grateful to him for saving my life…. of course I am. But that’s not what I find attractive about him.”
“Can we just not have this conversation now?”
Joyce laughed. “You don’t think I’m too old to find a man attractive, do you?”
Buffy flushed and dropped her gaze. “No, of course not. I guess I just always thought that someday you and….” She shook her head. “Never mind. Just because you and he…. that was a spell… and also something I’d rather not think about.”
Joyce frowned, then gasped when she realized what Buffy was saying. “Oh Buffy! Even if Rupert and I shared anything more than a parental interest in you… and, as you say, a spell-induced memory….” She shook her head. “Even if adult me had been as interested in adult Rupert as teen-aged me was in the Ripper, I believe his interests lie elsewhere.”
Buffy sighed. “You can see that too, huh?”
“I’m sure everyone except the willfully blind Xander can see it,” Joyce said with a wryly raised eyebrow.
“Yeah, well. I think he’s going to have his eyes opened when he asks Anya when she’s moving into the house with him.”
“I suspect you are quite right,” Joyce agreed, shaking her head as she continued. “Poor Xander. I know she doesn’t want to hurt him, but they just….”
“They just don’t have much in common anymore. Not that they ever did, really, I guess. I mean thousand-year-old ex-vengeance demon and construction worker…. No wonder he has so much time to spend with Spike now.”
Joyce smiled. “It’s nice to see them getting along, isn’t it?”
Buffy nodded and laughed. “They still give each other a really hard time, but you can tell they don’t mean it anymore. It’s nice. I don’t think Spike’s had a lot of friends in his life, and with Clem not around as much….” She smiled. “I think he’s enjoying himself. Not that he doesn’t like Giles or Winston; he does, a lot. But he doesn’t get to do things with them unless it involves fighting evil or slaying. With Xander he can just be a guy.”
“Well, I do think it’s nice. It’s probably good for both of them.”
Buffy was mulling over her mother’s words as she strolled back toward the middle of town. It was nice to see Spike and Xander working their way into what seemed like a genuine friendship that didn’t rely on Xander being her friend and fellow Scooby. She vowed to herself that she would spend more time with Willow, doing non-slaying related things that they both might enjoy, although she had to admit she couldn’t think of any.
“We’ve got to have something in common,” she muttered. “Otherwise, why did we become friends in the first place? Maybe we both like to shop?”
Her attention was captured by the display window of a wedding store, and she paused to stare at the lace and pearl-covered gowns in the window.
“I wonder if they have any that don’t scream ‘I’ve read too many Bride magazines?’” she said, as she pushed open the door. Telling herself, and the attentive salesgirl, that she was just browsing for ideas, Buffy soon found herself in a dressing room, trying on one frilly dress after another. When the sales clerk came back with another armload, Buffy smiled and said gently, “That’s okay. I’m all tried out now. I don’t think I’m going to find anything I can use.”
The young woman couldn’t hide her disappointment, so Buffy said, “Here’s the thing… I’m a little older than I look. And I’m marrying the man who’s been part of my life for many years. I don’t need something that will make people ooh and ahh as I walk down the aisle. We’re getting married in my mother’s backyard, in the evening. All I need is a really nice cocktail dress. In white.”
“I’ve got this, Suzie,” an older woman who’d been watching from the back of the store said.
Suzie looked a little disgruntled, but it was clear that the other woman was her boss, and she nodded and turned away with her armload of lace and satin.
The elegant looking woman, whose dark hair was in a tidy bun and whose dress fit as if it was sewn onto her body, studied Buffy for a few moments, then said, “You’re the Slayer.”
“I am.” Buffy’s eyes narrowed in suspicion. “And you are…?”
“A long time resident of Sunnydale, whose clients come from many different backgrounds.”
There was a pause while she waited for Buffy to understand her meaning.
“Then you’re familiar with….”
“I’m familiar with both what a slayer is, and with her normal antagonists. I’m not sure why you’re older than you should be, but I am sure your future husband is well past puberty.” She gave what on someone less elegant would have been called a smirk. “My name is Sarah Johnson,” she added. “This is my shop.”
“How do you—”
“You and your husband are hardly a secret in the demon population. Customers talk. I listen. If you say you and he have been together longer than the few years that I’m aware of, I believe you.”
“So you understand then, why I’m not looking for a fancy wedding dress. If I really was the age I’m supposed to be, I probably would want a big fancy wedding, but I’m not and I don’t. So I don’t need a dress for that kind of wedding.”
“Of course not. But you do want to look nice for your husband, do you not?”
“Well, yeah. I’m not saying I don’t want to look pretty. I just don’t see myself in something frilly and poofy. I’m kinda used to thinking along the lines of ‘Can I fight in this?’.”
“Come back tomorrow,” Ms. Johnson said. “I will have a few more appropriate things for you to try.”
Buffy frowned, but agreed. “All right. If you think you can find something for me….”
“I’m sure of it. Please come back. And bring your husband with you if you want him to give his opinion.”
Buffy shook her head. “You keep calling him my husband… but the wedding isn’t for another month. Why don’t you call him my fiancée or boyfriend?”
“Because those very subtle, but very visible marks on your neck tell me you and he are already more than married.”
Buffy’s hand flew to her neck where she could just barely feel Spike’s mark. “You know an awful lot about demons and vampires for a human. Sunnydale born or not.” She narrowed her eyes in suspicion, but Mrs. Johnson seemed unperturbed.
“I’m also somewhat older than I seem,” she said as she escorted Buffy to the door. “And I’ve led an interesting life.” She smiled and held the door open for Buffy. “Please come back tomorrow to see what I’ve found for you.”
Buffy was still nodding her agreement as she found herself on the sidewalk, promising to return the next day. She stood there for a second frowning at the now-closed door before turning to continue toward the Magic Box.
“She must be from the same place Winston comes from,” Buffy muttered as she began walking away. “I think I’ve just been finessed.”