I was 20 minutes late in my time zone, but the kindly mods were kind and let me leave it up.
Chapter Two – Sunshine
Bright sun turned the river to a mass of shimmering sparks. A few fluffy clouds drifted across the sky and dancing leaves dappled the shade on the terrace where Buffy sat. The café music was soothing, vaguely jazz-like, and she stirred her latte idly, enjoying the chinking sound of the spoon against the glass. Andrew was talking. No change there, then.
“So, she’s with a group of other new Slayers in England, and Giles has them guarding her on a rota. No men around at all, in case the sight of them triggered her. I had to be Extremely Careful on the trip back to England, you know.”
Buffy sighed. She could hear the capital letters. Andrew wasn’t so very bad, when you got to know him. Not really. Honestly.
Buffy sighed again. Why had a walk by the river seemed like a good idea?
Andrew was off again, “So, I told Mr Giles I would be only too happy to stand guard there, but he said the Project would be better-served if I were here. So of course I realised he meant you needed my advice and I was online in a heartbeat and got the next train to Heathrow…”
She tuned him out, a skill which was essential to anyone in his vicinity for long. The annoying little geek just didn’t know when to stop. Granted, that castel thing had been cool, even if it was a reminder of a certain souled vampire – why Sant’Angelo, she wondered idly. Nice big tomb, with all mod cons inserted by later Popes. Andrew had dragged her there excitedly that morning, eager to see the reputed haunt of a master vampire in Rome. Not that she wanted any more of those, thank you very much. Once – no, twice, be honest, Buffy – burnt, twice shy. Or did it have to be thrice in that case? And what came after thrice – force?
And, dragged in a full circle to Force, and thus geeks who memorised Star Wars, she wrenched her attention back. It really was that much of an effort, and working out what topic he’d bounced on to took more work every time.
“She really has come a long way, you know. All the way back from LA she had to be restrained. I tried to sit near her and cheer her up with a little light chit-chat about superheroines and how cool a movie about Wonder Woman could be, but I had to move away after the third time she tried to break a bone. She nearly got me too – it took weeks for the scratch to heal. I have delicate skin you know, and my middle ear issues were making the flight tough enough in any case…”
LA. Buffy’s memories drifted back to those days after the collapse of her home town, when Angel had put them all in his old hotel, and she’d spent just long enough with him to realise that, in that direction at least, her cookies finally were cooked. He was still the dream of her youth, dark, gorgeous, sexy. But how had she ever put up with that brooding? How, indeed, had she ever thought it was a sign of a deep character? She’d left town with a certain amount of relief in the end.
Back to Andrew, now, please to the heavens, surely close to the end of his tale.
“They’d wanted to keep her there, you know, in LA. They said they’d care for her and needed to look after her – some sort of atonement, I think, but I put my foot down. This is a Slayer, I said, do you think we’re just gonna let you take her back to your evil stronghold? Anyway, they had plenty of their own trouble – you should have seen what she did to Spike…”
Buffy’s head jerked up. Suddenly, he had her full attention. Her very full attention. “Spike? What do you mean, Spike?”
Andrew stopped talking. For one blessed instant there was actual silence. He gulped, looked to his left, then to his right.
“Spike? Did I say Spike? Slip of the tongue. I meant to say “spite” – she was very spiteful, you know, cutting bits off people she’d captured.” He shuddered theatrically and glanced at Buffy uneasily.
“That is not what you said and not what you meant, was it?”
Another gulp. “You aren’t supposed to know. He’ll take me apart if he finds out. Er, Angel, that is. Finds out I reminded you of our Heroic Martyre Vampyre.”
Buffy stood. Suddenly she towered above him. She grasped him firmly by the collar and lifted. The chair came too, his whitened knuckles clamped to the arms. She shook him. The metal legs clattered against the table. His legs made a duller, more satisfying thud. He yelped.
“OK, OK, I’ll tell you! Don’t torture me any more!”
Disgusted, she dropped the handful. He landed heavily on his side, the chair landing even more heavily on his hand. There was an enjoyable scream.
“This is your last chance, Andrew. The next move I make, you will be swimming. If you can swim – and, frankly, I don’t give a damn whether you can or not right now.”
Ten minutes later, Andrew was forgotten. There was another target for her fury. Another familiar target. And Rupert Giles was not going to enjoy the meeting she was planning.
There should be another three or four chapters to come on free-for-all day. I may post some on my own LJ in the interim, but will link from here if I do.
Next: Chapter 3
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/418936.html