Note: Thanks to my beta t_geyer for her unending patience, perseverance and support.
Monday, May 20th, 2002
The smile faded from Giles' face as he remembered that Jenny would never again tell him he was a sexy fuddy duddy or, if she did, it wouldn't be from her own lips. For that, he couldn't find it in himself to forgive Angel. "I'm afraid that I doubt I'll ever reach quite that level of spiritual enlightenment."
Jenny's eyes clouded over. "I suspect you will... sooner or later. It would make me kinda sad, though, if it happened too late for you to enjoy what's left of your time here."
Jenny's mannerisms were gone in a moment, replaced by Spike's at his most brusque. "For Christ's sake, don't you dare, watcher. Just bear in mind that even if you want to keep her here, the only way to do it is for her to not be happy. Now, she may not have said it in so many words, but I'm guessin' that happy goes with the territory in whatever corner of the afterlife she was in when you called her up on the magic telephone and asked her to come visit. Take my advice, whatever the little lady wants-."
"What have you done?" The stunned whisper caused all three men to turn on their heels to look at Buffy, who was staring at Spike and Giles in horror. "What on earth have you done? How could either of you do that to someone when you know..." She threw her keys for the apartment at Spike and ran.
Lily looked down at the picture Rosa was drawing. The child's tutor had left for the day and her grandmother was filling in until Marie got home.
"Who's that with your mommy?" The old demon was fairly certain that she already knew, but it never hurt to double check.
"It's Wes, silly."
Lily pointed to a red blob that hovered in the air above where the wax couple held hands. "But you draw heart. You say Wes and mommy, they be friends. You say they no ready?"
"That was on Saturday. They weren't ready then . Today's Monday." There was a double knock on the apartment's outer door. "Ask him," the child added.
Spike, for once, ignored everything that Jenny was saying to him. "We are not going to give her time to calm down," he told her as he ran downstairs, trying to match slayer speed. "Buffy does not calm down. Buffy gets entrenched and I, personally, would rather not have to dig her out."
The footsteps ahead of him told him that Buffy was drawing even further ahead. "Balls!" The blond swung over the banister into the narrow gap at the centre of the stairwell and spent the second that it took for him to drop the storey and a half to the ground making sure that he didn't hit any structural parts of the staircase. Trying to explain to the building super that he hadn't meant to demolish the stairs but he just happened to be carrying some mystical, strength-giving orbs when he fell through it, would not go down well, he suspected. Then, making only two barely noticeable (or so he told himself, at least) DM-sized dents in the entrance hall's parquet flooring with the impact when he landed, he made his way to the bottom of the staircase. He stretched his arms wide, hoping to scoop Buffy into them before she realised he was no longer behind her. Luck, as usual, was not on his side.
Buffy's eyes gleamed with tears of anger and disappointment. "Unless you want me to kick your ass, you better get out of my way."
"Not gonna happen, princess. I mean, if I hadn't thought that you'd use the first opening you got to make a dive for sunlight and storm off in a righteous rage, then, yeah, I might not have bothered to grab the orbs on my way out, or I might agree to put the things down and let you vent your frustration, but if I did, first time you got me off balance you'd be off like a shot."
"I-." Buffy found herself unable to deny it.
"Love, you don't want to fight. I know you don't."
"Yes, I do."
"You want to lash out. That's different... an' you can go right ahead. You can go ahead and pummel me until your fists are black and blue, but I'd rather you didn't, 'cause I like those pretty little knuckles just as they are." As he talked, he closed the gap between them, finally enfolding her in his gentle but unyielding arms, letting her feel all the reassurance and love he was able to give.
"I know it was a stupid idea, love. An' I tried to get the pair of them to wait until they were sober, but Broody kept saying that he had to get back to LA to look for the cheerleader ...an' watcher boy just... well, I can't blame him for takin' whatever chance he could..." His hands stroked her hair, calming her as best he could until, finally, she stilled against him. "...But it's not like it was with you, pet. It isn't. I don't think they could have called her if she hadn't wanted to come. She... Talk to her, ya stupid bint."
"Wh-." Buffy reeled in surprise at his change in tone from comforting to impatient.
"Not you. Her."
"Buffy," Jenny said, her voice showing her uncertainty as to what she could expect. After all, she hadn't been on the best of terms with the girl when they last saw each other. "Spike's right. The ritual Rupert did wouldn't have had the power to draw me to them if I hadn't wanted to come. It created a path that I could use, but it couldn't have forced me here against my will. They gave me the chance to put things right between me and Rupert. I get to try to help him come to terms with what happened... and that's all I want to do before I leave."
It was her use of Giles' given name that tipped Buffy off. "Ms Calendar?"
"So, I'm guessing you and Marie gave up on the just friends riff?" Bee asked as she settled into the passenger seat.
Wes sighed. "Did someone send round one of those cars with a tannoy on the roof to broadcast it to the whole neighbourhood and not tell me?"
"Duh?" Bee gave a disgruntled frown. "I can see the parking lot from my apartment, Einstein, and that was not a 'just friends' bouquet that you were carrying and since it disappeared before you got as far as the top floor, I assume you didn't buy it for me to celebrate our new partnership. It took you fifteen minutes to reach said top floor from your car, yet I'm aware of no physical handicap that would slow you down, so it seems kinda obvious that you either stopped off at Lily's or Marie's. I suspect you're not trying to wine and dine Lily, and even if you do dress nice enough to be gay, I happen to know that Clem has been all glowy over a certain young lady since Saturday, so unless you want to admit to paedophilia, considering so far as I'm aware you never even spoke to anyone on the third floor at your party, that leaves one possible conclusion."
"I suppose it was fairly obvious..."
"Well, there is the fact that even though it might not be noticeable to your average 'civilian' to the trained artist's eye you look to be wearing just a hint of Marie's favourite daytime lipstick." The blonde raised an eyebrow and failed to contain a smirk. "Might want to do something about that before you go visiting the jail. Folks could get the wrong idea."
Wes twisted his rear-view mirror until he could see his own face, scrubbing at his lips with a handkerchief until he was certain all traces were gone before he returned the mirror to its original position.
"Why don't you have a look at that while I drive? Maybe you can put that stunning deductive intellect to a more productive use." Wes dumped the folder Marie had given him into Bee's lap.
Bee opened up the file, humming under her breath as she did. "Wes and Marie sittin' in a tree... K.I.S.S.I.N.G."
"So, let me get this right..." Buffy glowered first at Angel. "You got pissed at Spike for gloating about how happy he was, so you came up with the idea and basically double dared him into going along with it?"
"It wasn't exactly like that."
"Okay... enlighten me as to where I've gone wrong."
"Em, well... I'm sure I never actually said double dare."
Buffy rolled her eyes in disgust and rounded on her former watcher. "And you... I seem to recall you saying that this spell was beyond your capabilities and that was before you started playing mix and match with the words."
Giles looked rather shamefaced. "It seemed like a good idea at the time. I suppose that I have rather more confidence in my own abilities after a few drinks."
Finally, she turned to Spike... "And you were too drunk to stop them."
"I was not ," the vamp protested. "Just couldn't see you approvin' of me givin' the watcher a broken jaw, s'all."
"Yeah, right, and if you'd been sober it would never have occurred to you to smash the orb?"
Spike's jaw dropped as he realised just how easily he could have put an end to the farce in which he now found himself.
"And, you, you just decide to hijack my boyfriend's body?" Buffy turned on Jenny before barrelling straight into a high speed apology. "Not that in a way it's not actually good to see you." The slayer gave a self-conscious shrug. "And while you're here maybe I should say that I'm sorry for acting like a supremo bitch. I guess at seventeen you're just too arrogant to realise that people make mistakes and it's what they try to do after that that counts. Maybe you weren't totally honest with us all to begin with and you were pretty damn keen to send Angel off to the far end of nowhere without me, but in the end you tried to help and it was me that pushed you away and kept you and Giles apart and that was petty and immature and it hurt him at least as much as it did you. I just wanted you to hurt like I was hurting and I didn't care about anyone else. I'd like to think that I could be more mature about it now... maybe. I guess I know now that any chance at happiness shouldn't be squandered and you can't blame someone for doing what they think is right." Buffy caught Angel's eye as she finished, hoping he would realise she was referring to Wes every bit as much as the former teacher.
"But, still, you come and possess him, knowing that once you were actually in his body, it would take a moment of perfect happiness for you, not for him, before you would be able to leave again. Did it never occur to you that you might get stuck? And how come if it's your soul that's in there with him rather than anything else he hasn't gone all guilt-stricken on us?"
"She's hardly goin' to feel guilty about stuff I've done, pet."
"Alright, so that's one thing, but what about the whole getting stuck thing... 'cause if you think you're gonna get lucky any time between now and when she's safely back wherever she came from, you can think again."
"Buffy?" Spike came very close to whining.
"Forget it. You have a problem with that? Then you better make sure that she gets gone fast . No way am I sharing our most intimate moments with my teacher... And if she gets perfectly happy the same way Angel does, then you can really forget it because there's even less chance of me sharing my mate with my former watcher."
Giles cleared his throat noisily. "I can assure you that Spike's overactive nether regions and my feeling for Jenny aside that that was never a possibility... And I also doubt, given my reluctance as a participant in such an effort, that it would result in perfect happiness for anyone."
"Just so long as we're clear on that," Buffy confirmed. "But it still begs the question what is going to make her- you perfectly happy?" She looked expectantly into her boyfriend's metamorphosed eyes.
"I don't see that it'll be too much of a problem, once I know that Giles is okay... It's not like I'm headed for a hell dimension when I leave. I just want him to be happy."
Buffy looked over at her former watcher. "Two eyes, two ears, ten fingers, two arms, two legs. Looks pretty hunky dory to me?"
"Except for the fact that he's still carrying around all this emotional baggage and it's ageing him, he's talking about raising a family with someone he's not in love with, and he's given up on staying fit, which for someone who used to look hotter than any man his age had a right to, is not a good sign..."
Giles blustered at the comments, obviously unsure whether to argue about his present condition or be embarrassed by the inherent flattery in the backhanded compliment.
"No offence and, maybe, if you weren't inside my boyfriend it would be a different story, but if you think we're going to have you hang around long enough to put Giles on the Atkins diet and get him fit enough to run a marathon, you can think again, lady. I've seen the state he was in after he ran from The Magic Box to my house, and it wasn't pretty."
"I'm more hoping that if I can talk him into making the mental adjustments, then I can leave the rest up to him. Mostly it's the baggage and the whole romance deal I'm worrying about."
"I am not your pet project, you know!" Giles insisted.
Buffy ignored him. "Okay, so where do we start?"
"Well, we were working on the Angel thing, first. Rupert was being kind of stubborn on that one but I think maybe in time we can reason him round."
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