Always Wait For You – 2

This entry is part 3 of 15 in the series Always Wait For You
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Chapter Two

She came in late one night, escorted by one of her infrequent dates, to find her two children watching television in the living room with an armed and nervous-looking Xander, while Faith stood by the door in a defensive stance. Raising an eyebrow in question, Buffy responded to Faith’s imperceptible nod by quickly introducing her date to her friends and then hustling him out the door and into his car without so much as a “call me”. She didn’t respond to his bewilderment when she refused his insistent request that she allow him to see her safely back inside. She shook her head, checked the backseat of his car and all but shoved him in the door, waiting only until he had closed the door and started the engine before rushing back inside.

“Sorry, B,” Faith said with a grin. “You’re just never gonna get laid again at this rate, are you?”

“Faith!” Buffy glared and jerked her head at the two youngsters pretending not to be listening to the adults’ conversations. “Can’t you do anything with her?” she demanded as Xander walked up and gave his girlfriend a quick hug.

“Long since given up,” he said cheerfully. “She’s stronger than I am, anyway. It’s not worth the pain.”

Shaking her head at the two of them, she asked in a lower voice, “So, what’s up? Why are the kids down here and why is Faith looking like she’s on guard?”

“Something set her vamp-dar off, and when it didn’t go away like it would have if one just wandered by, she went out to look for it.”

“And?”

Faith shrugged. “There was a vamp on the roof. Near Joyce’s room.”

“Did you dust him?” Buffy tried to keep the fear from her voice, but the other slayer picked up on it.

Faith shook her head. “He made me before I got up there and he took off. I chased him for a while, but he was faster than me.” She looked at Buffy. “I don’t think it was a fledge,” she said with no trace of her usual snark. “It was a powerful signature and he made a jump from that roof that would have crippled most vamps.”

Buffy’s eyes flew to her children, now no longer pretending to be watching the television.

“Relax, Mom,” Will said with a twelve-year-old boy’s casual sense of immortality. “You know nothing can get in here – vamps need an invite, which we’re too smart to give ‘em – and Aunt Willow’s wards keep out everything else.”

Saving her lecture for later, Buffy thanked Faith and Xander for coming by to watch her children while she enjoyed one of her rare nights out.

“So, what was wrong with this one?” Faith’s teasing question had Xander snorting with laughter.

“Nothing, smartass,” Buffy said, glaring at her sister slayer. “But I don’t know him very well, and I really didn’t feel like trying to explain why Xander was hiding in the living room, while you stood by the door like an underweight bouncer. Or, why the kids, who he thinks are old enough to stay by themselves, were huddled in the living room with Xander.”

“Point,” Faith agreed, laughing at Xander’s indignant “I wasn’t hiding! I was… protecting…” “So, are you gonna see him again?”

“Based on the look on his face when I shoved him out the door, I’d have to say ‘no’,” Buffy said with a grimace. She actually had enjoyed her date and was seriously considering going out with him again just to see where it went.

The six years since Spike’s “death” had gone by in a flurry of PTO meetings, soccer games, gymnastic meets and birthday parties. Her own social life revolved completely around her children’s activities, and, although she knew that her non-council friends and acquaintances thought that her life must be very dull, the three or four nights a week that she led a group of slayers-in-training on their first real-world patrol more than made up for any boredom with her daytime activities.

Although she had begun dating occasionally, the dates never went beyond the dinner and a movie stage. At any suggestion that a man thought their relationship needed to be more physical than the chaste good-night kisses that she allowed, Buffy was instantly seized by pangs of guilt. Without explaining that she still thought of herself a married woman, she usually found some reason to end the relationship soon thereafter.

The one time that she had given serious consideration to pursuing a more amorous relationship with a man, she had just allowed herself to melt into his body and enjoy his skillful kisses when her slayer-senses went off, and she gasped as she felt the signature of a powerful vampire nearby. Wrenching herself out of his arms, she pushed him behind her and faced the direction where the tingles were telling her that a vampire was hiding in the shadows.

Although she couldn’t have said that she recognized the signature for sure, fear for her boyfriend’s life had her insisting on seeing him safely inside his apartment and making him promise her that he would not open the door to anyone unless it was daylight outside. When he demanded an explanation, and tried to coax her to spend the night with him, she had shaken her head sadly.

“I’m sorry, Jeff,” she’d said with wistful smile. “I don’t think I’m as ready to move on as I thought I was. Just remember what I said – don’t open your door to anyone after dark. Please. Not for a while, any way. Just in case….”

“Just in case what, Buffy? What’s got you so spooked?”

She hadn’t answered his questions, just rose on her toes and kissed him gently.

“Good-bye, Jeff,” she’d said with a sigh. “I’m sorry.”

Although he never appeared, and Buffy had no real reason to think that the signature had belonged to Spike, she resigned herself to the fact that having a romantic relationship with anyone could mean putting the unsuspecting man in danger. She went back to casual dinner dates that seemed unlikely to escalate into anything more inappropriate for a widow whose husband was not dead in the normal sense of the word.

Buffy brought her attention back to Faith’s puzzled face, asked briskly, “Okay, what do we know? Random vamp, but older than usual? Or, one that knows who lives here?”

Faith shook her head. “I told you all I know, B. He – it was he, I saw that much – was crouched outside Joyce’s window. Didn’t see what he was doing there. He saw me coming and made that jump from the roof to the back yard and was gone by the time I got across the yard. I tried to track him, but he’s fast, whoever he is. Once I couldn’t feel him anymore, I figured I’d be more use back here – just in case he doubled back. If you’d gotten home a few minutes earlier, we’d probably have had him. No way he could have gotten away from both of us.”

Buffy glanced ruefully at her high heels and tight skirt. “Yeah, maybe.”

“You want us to stay?”

Buffy shook her head. “No, thanks, but Will’s right. No vampires can get in without an invitation, I don’t care how old and strong they are. We’ll be fine.”

“Okay, then. Let’s go big boy.” Faith took Xander’s hand and tugged him towards the door. “See you tomorrow – we promised the latest class that we’d take them someplace where they might see a real vamp.”

“Maybe we should just bring them here for a sleepover,” Buffy said with a smile. “Sure would make it easy if the vamps would come to us, wouldn’t it?”

She carefully closed and locked the door behind the couple, then walked into the living room where her children were watching her with eyes that combined confidence with trepidation.

“Was he really watching me?” Joyce asked in a shaky voice. “While I was sleeping? That’s kind of creepy.”

Buffy remembered waking up in Sunnydale to find Angel sitting by her window and shuddered in sympathy for her daughter. “It is creepy – but, hey, you know – vampire? Kinda the definition of creepy, isn’t it?”

“I think it might be kind of cool to be a vamp,” Will said, not noticing his mother’s horrified gasp. “I mean, if you could be a good vamp. Think about it, Mom, super strong, super fast – just think, if there were good vamps, how cool would they be?”

Buffy’s eyes shut tightly while she struggled to control herself.

“They would be very cool, Will,” she was finally able to get out. “But I think they are probably very few and far between. If they even exist at all…”

“I heard the slayers talking last week,” Joyce said abruptly. “They said there were two evil vampires that turned good. Got souls and everything. Do you think it’s true, Mom?”

She watched her mother’s face keenly, not willing to mention what else she’d heard until she got some inkling of the truth of the rumor. When Buffy blanched and couldn’t smother a small start, she nodded to herself. Ignoring Buffy’s stammered and rambling non-story, she vowed to get back into the school’s database at the first opportunity.

Mastering her shock, Buffy relaxed her clenched fists and suggested that the two children go back to bed and try to salvage something of what was left of the night. She assured them that Faith had undoubtedly frightened the vampire away and that she would remain awake until daylight, just in case he came back for some reason.

With some reluctance, they left the old movie, which they hadn’t really been paying attention to anyway, and started up to bed. Buffy’s blurted instructions halted them at the foot of the stairs.

“Don’t open the windows,” she said in a tone that meant she was deadly serious. “And whatever you do, don’t go near an open window when it’s dark out.”

“We know this, Mom,” Will said, shrugging his impatience. “Do you think we’re stupid?”

“No,” she gritted out, “I don’t think you’re stupid. But I do think you’re a little too comfortable about living on a Hellmouth. If you’d been in Sunnydale when I…”

“Yeah, yeah. We’ve heard it before.” Will didn’t notice his mother’s narrowing eyes. “Sunnydale was a real Hellmouth – not like Cleveland. And you were the only slayer there… yada, yada.”

The crack of Buffy’s hand against his cheek was louder than it was painful, but it shocked all three of them into stunned silence. Her son put his hand on his cheek, the emotional pain in his eyes so familiar that she felt her own eyes fill. She stretched a shaking hand towards him, biting her lip when he flinched away from the offered comfort.

“I’m… I’m sorry, Will. I’m so sorry… I just… you two are everything to me. You’re my world. And I worry… If anything happened to you…” Her eyes glistened, begging them to understand and forgive.

Ever the peacemaker, Joyce touched her brother’s arm gently and tugged him up the stairs. “It’s okay, Mom. You’re scared for us. We get that. Don’t we, Will?” She gave his arm a little pinch. He jerked it away from her hand, glaring at his sister as he mumbled, “I get it. It’s okay. Guess I should be glad you weren’t using slayer-strength, huh?” He tried for a smile, but it didn’t reach his reproachful eyes.

Without another word, the two most important beings in her life turned their backs and went up the stairs, leaving Buffy to sink to the floor as soon as they were out of sight. She wrapped her arms around herself, rocking back and forth and saying his name for the first time in years.

“Where are you, Spike?” she whispered. “This is so hard. I don’t know how to keep them safe without smothering them. They need their father. I need their father…” As the words left her mouth, she remembered whose fault it was that the father who had loved them as unconditionally as he’d loved her was no longer part of their lives. Giving herself a mental shake, she stood up and wiped her eyes.

Get over yourself, Summers. This is what you wanted. You didn’t want him in their lives. Deal with it.

Vowing to have another, calmer conversation with them the following day, she walked around the house, double-checking the locks on the doors and windows and turning off the lights as she made her way back to the stairs. She did the same checking of the upstairs windows, hesitating in front of her son’s door before forcing herself to trust him enough not to check up on him. She knocked timidly on Joyce’s door, opening it slowly at her daughter’s soft “come in”.

She glanced at the window, seeing that Joyce had closed the blinds, effectively shutting out the outside world, and then sat down uncertainly on a corner of the bed.

“You know I didn’t mean to do that, don’t you?” Buffy asked, her hands clenched tightly in her lap.

“I get it, Mom. I do. I understand that your life was different from ours – and scarier. But Will doesn’t hang out at the school as much as I do – and he doesn’t pay as much attention to what’s going on in the classes. He thinks it’s just you worrying too much because—” She stopped, her eyes dropping to the blanket.

“Because of your father,” Buffy said dully. “He thinks I only worry because I’ve already lost one person I love.”

“Yeah,” Joyce nodded, touching her mother’s hand with a comforting pat. Showing a wisdom far beyond her years, she added, “He doesn’t know how much else you’ve lost. How many other people you cared about…”

Buffy’s eyes flew up to meet Joyce’s. “What do you know about it?” she demanded, suddenly intent.

“Not as much as I should, probably.” Joyce withdrew her hand and sat up a little straighter. “Just stuff I’ve picked up here and there from Aunt Willow and Uncle Xander. Nobody talks to me about what it was like when you guys lived in Sunnydale, but they talk between themselves. And sometimes people forget that I’m there.”

“Wonderful,” Buffy groaned.

“Mom. You know, if you just talked to us about… about everything we don’t know, it might be easier for us to understand why you do things.” When Buffy didn’t reply, she added, “and we might be safer. If we knew.”

Shaking her head at being handed advice by her fourteen-year old daughter, Buffy reminded herself that she’d been only a year older than Joyce when she was called. She smiled and hugged her daughter, whispering, “I’ll think about it, honey. You might be right. Good-night. I love you.”

“I love you, too,” Joyce said, hugging her mother back. “Good-night.”

 

Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/221011.html

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