A/N: Small bit of dialogue and events from “Seeing Red” written by Steven DeKnight
Buffy wondered for a few seconds if the cure hadn’t worked and she was once more in her dream world. Giles standing on her doorstep was icing on her cake. The sight of Angel at his side was a jolting reminder that this was reality because Angel had no place in the happy, much missed world of her altered state.
Angel wore his normal pinched, put upon face that spoke of sack cloth and ashes, self-flagellation and unspoken sin. Angel might not be sucking blood from humans any longer, but he could still suck the joy from those around him!
“Buffy, I realize it’s late, but I rather wanted to see your face instead of merely calling to let you know I’ve decided to return to Sunnydale.” Giles was nearly bowled over by Buffy flinging herself into his arms and squeezing him for all she was worth.
He squirmed in an effort to avoid damage, “Breathe…need to breathe!” He was certain his lips were already blue.
“Oh, sorry!” Buffy’s smile could light a city. “I forget my own strength sometimes.” She kept hold of Giles’ hands and looked at him like a starved person would a buffet. “You really mean it? You’re staying this time?”
“Yes Buffy, I’m done with my safe retreat and ready to…ahem…man up as someone once put it,” He smiled back at her with genuine affection.
“Oh God, come in! You’re staying here of course, at least until you kick Anya out of the Magic Box apartment, right?”
Angel cleared his throat pointedly.
“Oh yes, come in, Angel. I don’t imagine you’re staying, but there’s a cot in the basement if you can’t get back to your city tonight.” She wondered for the first time at the reason why these two particular people would show up at the same time on her doorstep.
“Thanks, really…gracious…offer,” Angel looked hurt. Buffy was likely still miffed about their last meeting. She hadn’t taken his reaction to her death well. ‘Nothing wrong with meditation at a monastery. That’s was perfectly appropriate reaction to her death,’ he thought mulishly. ‘She wasn’t too happy that I needed to get back to Cordy and her visions either, come to think of it. She’s jealous, poor girl. Still needs time to get over the fact we can’t be together.’
“Feel free to use the phone if you need to check in with Cordy,” Buffy nodded towards the phone. Buffy would never forget how it had felt a bit like a slap in the face when she had wanted nothing more than sweet comfort from Angel only to have him spend their short visit talking about the important work he was doing with Cordelia Chase of all people! She should have expected nothing more given the distance between them over the past few years. Angel hadn’t even been able to break free to help fight Glory that past year.
“No need. I’m free as long as you need me.” Angel smiled his best ingratiating smile.
Buffy looked at Giles. “Another apocalypse coming that I don’t know about? It’s a couple of months earlier than usual, if so, and I’ve seen no signs of one.”
“No, not that I know of at least,” Giles reassured her.
“So what convinced you to come home, not that I’m complaining?” Buffy considered Giles’ reason for being there the most important question.
“I was acting from fear when I left, Buffy. Seeing you die was incredibly painful. I felt responsible for what you had to do. I was your Watcher and yet could find no way to defeat Glory in time to save you. It was more than me failing you as your Watcher, but the loss felt visceral and, quite frankly, I couldn’t bear the thought of ever feeling such pain again.” Giles looked his age for the first time in Buffy’s memory. “I told myself that I’d go back to the Council’s headquarters and regroup, study more, brush up on all I had once learned…be harder, a better Watcher, even if from a distance. Perhaps if I did it right I could help you stay alive and if that failed, I wouldn’t have to watch as you died again. It was the choice of a coward and I am so terribly sorry, my child. Can you forgive me?”
Buffy had begun to cry mid-way through Giles’ confession. “You don’t even have to ask.” She hugged him close, but with care for his fragile body this time, and for once Giles removed his glasses to wipe his eyes rather than the lenses. “Welcome home, Giles. Please never run away from home again.”
He chuckled a bit. “I promise.”
Buffy suddenly remembered her other visitor then. “Angel! Gotta say I wasn’t expecting to see you at my door, especially with Giles. What’s up?”
“We drove up from LA together.” Angel could see the wheels spinning in Buffy’s mind. She was likely thinking that Angel had called Giles to have him return. He decided not to let her know her suspicion was wrong. He would have called Giles if he had known how important the Watcher was to Buffy’s happiness. Really, Buffy was far beyond needing Rupert at this point, but if she wanted him there, well, that was her business. At least Giles would have the sense to keep Spike from returning. Angel had been shocked when Giles told him about the source of the check he carried.
“I see…kinda.” Buffy looked from one man to the other. “Again I ask, what’s up?”
Angel looked down bashfully. Buffy could almost imagine him blushing if it had been possible. “Well, um, there’s this… guy…ah…in LA. He knows about the Slayer and how hard your life must be. He cares about you, especially now that your mom is gone and you have a sister to raise.” Angel peeped at Buffy through his lashes, clearly implying that the caring guy might well be himself. “Anyway, he’s not able to be here to help in the fight, but he thought he could make the rest easier.” He took the envelope out of his inner pocket. “It’s only money and he really doesn’t need it, so please don’t turn it down.” He handed the check over to a puzzled looking Buffy.
She opened the envelope and nearly fainted when she saw the amount. “I can’t…this is too…who would …?”
“Yes, all good questions indeed,” Giles teased. “I can assure you that there is nothing wrong in accepting this check, Buffy. It is not ill gotten gains and the person who provided it will not be hurt by your acceptance of the sum. In fact, I believe the benefactor would be relieved to know your load has been lightened. Think of it as a gift of love and compassion.”
“I…,” She murmured, “I’ll think about it. This is a lot of money.”
“If you need help in investing it, I’d be more than happy to offer what advice I can,” Giles suggested. “If the funds are properly invested, neither you nor Dawn will ever need to worry about finances again. You could even return to college full-time, perhaps travel a bit once Faith is out of prison and can take some of the Slayer duties in hand.”
Buffy smiled at him. “I’ll keep that in mind. Wow, this is all just…unexpected.” She laughed in nervous relief. She couldn’t bear to look at Angel at the moment for fear she’d see more hurt in his eyes that her gratitude hadn’t been as fulsome as he should expect, as he deserved.
She rose from the sofa and yawned. “It’s kinda late and I’m sure you’re both tired from all the travel and all. Let me get some sheets for the sofa and the basement cot so you guys can settle in.” She looked embarrassed as she remembered her other hostessing obligations. “Where is my mind? Are either of you hungry? Angel, I’m afraid the blood I have on hand is kinda old, but I could fix you something else until I get to the butcher’s in the morning.”
“I’m good,” Angel nodded. “I sometimes drink coffee, but you may remember I don’t really eat. Vampire here.”
Buffy had a quick vision of Spike diving into a plate of Hot Wings with gusto and gasped at the pain of losing her so unique vampire.
Giles had watched the by-play and knew well that Angel was enjoying the misunderstanding. The berk was more than happy to take credit for both his decision to return and the fortune in cash. What a difference in vampires! Spike had been more than happy to have Buffy never know he was responsible for both. His interest had been in Buffy’s welfare alone. Perhaps Lydia’s rumor had some merit after all.
“Well, Angel, being a vampire doesn’t preclude your eating. As I recall, Spike often enjoyed a meal at my expense.” Giles noted the flash of something that crossed Buffy’s face at the mention of the missing vampire. Perhaps Buffy wasn’t as happy with his absence as Spike had assumed.
“He was always determined to be contrary,” Angel nearly snarled. “Probably did a lot of things just to get your goat.”
“I’ll just get those sheets, ‘k?” Buffy hurried from the room and the discussion of a certain missing blond vamp.
Giles return had a positive impact on Anyanka as well. Once she learned that he wasn’t planning to remove her from control of the Magic Box, she was delighted to have him back in her life too.
“I am so sorry for Xander leaving you that way, Anya.” Giles offered his sympathies, surprised at how sincere he was about it. “I cannot say I don’t understand taking the coward’s path, so I’ll not be as hard on Xander as his actions deserve. I do believe he loves you and his leaving was not so much a rejection of you but simply fear.”
“I used to glory in causing fear in men. Xander never had a reason to fear me.” Anya tried to sound hard, but her voice cracked a little.
“His fear wasn’t of you, dear. It was of how he might fail you. That particular fear is one I am intimately acquainted with.”
“It hurts so much, Giles,” Anya wept. “I want to eviscerate him and win him back at the same time. I’m so confused.”
“I can well imagine.” Giles hesitated to offer advice, but the poor girl looked like she needed some help. “Perhaps you need to decide just which of those two extremes you truly wish to act upon and then actually talk to Xander before carrying either out.”
“The evisceration could happen,” Anya said softly with a bit of fear in her eyes, “I have my power center back. D’Hoffryn gave me my job back after the non-wedding.”
Giles felt his blood run cold. A woman scorned was always dangerous, but this was to the nth degree. Perhaps he should recommend Xander moving far away, very far away. Then again, a Vengeance Demon could even cross dimensions, so no place was safe. “Does Buffy know?”
“No. I haven’t told anyone ‘til now.” Anya stiffened her spine. She would not be made to feel guilty for returning to her safe place after what a human had done to her. “I don’t expect you to approve, but what was I to do? Go home? My only connections in your world were through Xander and you were all his friends, barely tolerating me. None of you ever even listened when I’d try to offer information or suggestions. You all made it perfectly clear that I was an outsider.”
Giles was taken aback. There was some truth in what the girl said. They had never treated her as anything other than an embarrassing, gauche girl when instead she was a thousand years of experience in the flesh. They had kept Spike at that same distance as well, even that summer when he was helping them with no hope of reward. It seemed Giles had failed more than just Buffy these past few years. He resolved not to repeat those mistakes since he seemed to have been granted a second chance.
“Anya, I can only hope that nothing you do in the course of your…duties will warrant Buffy’s carrying out her Slayer’s counter duty. Surely you can satisfy your customers without going to an extreme that would put you in the enemy camp?”
“D’Hoffryn won’t like that,” Anya admitted with a shiver.
“Perhaps if Buffy and I were to explain in great detail why it would be in his best interest to allow you some creativity–creativity that we would have no problem accepting–he could be made to come to some sort of agreement. I doubt your boss would want the full anger of the Slayer and the resources of the Council of Watchers brought into play to convince him.”
Anya brightened somewhat at that. ”You aren’t going to drive me away or take away my necklace again?”
“Not unless it becomes necessary,” Giles sighed. “In spite of our past actions, you are a valuable member of our little family, Anya. Perhaps we can better show it from now on.” He put a consoling arm around her. “It might help if you do have that talk with Xander, though. I’m not suggesting that you have to accept his apologies and begin again, but some kind of peace between you will be necessary.”
“I am glad you’re back, Giles.”
“As am I.”
“So I can get new clothes for school next year and not have to steal, um…borrow from your closet?” Dawn wasn’t two-minded a bit over accepting the massive check. “’Cause I’m thinking maybe Express with a side order of Hot Topic.” She was as energetic as a five-year-old with a sugar rush.
“We’ll see.” Buffy rolled her eyes. She really couldn’t see how she would be able to turn down the whole amount, even if she didn’t want to owe Angel. Dawn did need new clothes, especially if she kept growing like she had been. Dawn was going to be a giant, Buffy just knew it!
Xander looked at the check again in wonder. “WOW! So who does a guy have to kill to get this kind of cash?” He grimaced at the implications. “Since Angel’s the man with the magic check, that may not be the kind of question we want to explore. Sorry.”
“Giles swore that it wasn’t gotten by ill games or however that goes. I guess if you live as long as Angel you can build up a nice nest egg,” Buffy was philosophical about the immortal haves vs. the mortal have-nots.
“Nest this size could house a pterodactyl–a whole family of them!” Xander ran a finger over the amount. “And again with the wow.” He turned a worried gaze on Buffy’s downturned head. “Deadboy’s not expecting anything from you for this, is he?”
“No,” Buffy shook her head. “In fact, he headed right back to LA after just a short, kinda awkward visit.”
“Good, ‘cause you’re not that kind of girl in the first place, and I don’t think any woman could work this amount off!”
Buffy swatted Xander’s arm and giggled. “Oh yeah, baby, I’m worth it!” They all shared in the laugh, Buffy falling over on the sofa in glee.
“Yeah, well, Angel owes you for breaking your heart and making you hate all other guys,” Dawn finally said after the laughter ended.
“Angel doesn’t owe me.” Buffy got up and looked as sad as she had ever since her return from heaven. “No one does, and I don’t hate all other guys.” She yawned in exaggeration. “Think I’ll head up and get some sleep. Ever since that Glarghk Gul Kashma’nik put me in dreamland while I was really awake, I’ve had nothing but bad dreams during my regular sleep. Maybe tonight that’ll change and I’ll go on that shopping spree with you in my dreams, only toss in The Limited and Vicky’s Secret just for fun.”
Buffy didn’t turn back as she mounted the stairs, so she didn’t catch the look of concern on everyone’s face. “Well, I think that was a perfect example of forced gaiety,” Willow opined. “I hope seeing Angel didn’t reopen too many old wounds.”
“Sir Joykill couldn’t just mail the check with a nice note, could he?” Xander would never, ever cozy up to Angel. “I’m just glad he didn’t stick around for the gushing gratitude he probably thinks he earned.”
“Buffy just can’t catch a break, can she?” Willow worried her lower lip. “I thought she might find happiness with Riley, but that didn’t work out well at all. Then Spike….”
“What do you mean about Spike?” a clueless Dawn asked.
“I just can’t do it. I’ll ask him to write a small check as a loan so I can catch up with bills and get some things we need, since he seems to have plenty of money, but I just can’t accept this from Angel.” Buffy looked as determined as she sounded.
All night she reviewed her history with Angel and had finally come to realize that what they had together had come to a real close long ago, probably even before he had left Sunnydale. They had grown apart in every way, moved on. For the first time that thought hadn’t felt like a dagger in her heart.
Since Angel was now nothing more than someone from her past, it didn’t seem right for her to owe him for her solvency. She really didn’t like the idea of owing him at all. She’d have to take the money back to him with her ‘thanks, but no thanks.’ She sighed as her responsibilities once more settled on her weary shoulders. ‘I’ll figure out how much I need to borrow for it to really help and even sign an agreement for repayment.’ He’d argue, she knew, but Buffy didn’t intend to back down.
The trip to LA had been as fast as it was confusing. Angel had finally admitted the money had not come from him at all, but that he had merely been asked to offer it to her as someone she might feel comfortable with as a benefactor.
“So who’s the real moneybags?” Buffy was angry that she had been played. Had she accepted the money, Angel would never have told her he was not the source. She had never enjoyed his half-truths when they were together and liked them less now that they were nothing more than a painful memory. “Don’t tell me that crap about someone who admires the Slayer either. I want the truth, Angel. I realize you aren’t too acquainted with it, but it’s what I want.”
He squirmed and Buffy knew that he did know full well where the money came from and had no desire to share the information. “Maybe you should ask Giles.”
“Giles? He hasn’t got this kind of cash,” Buffy tried to urge more information from Angel but it was like trying to squeeze water from a rock. “Fine! I will ask him.” She snatched the check back from his hands. “Since this didn’t come from you, it’s not staying with you either.”
They sat in the garden side by side, the man with the father’s worried frown and the daughter of his heart. Buffy had wasted no time tracking down Giles and demanding answers.
“Spike?” Buffy’s voice was a small, hurt-filled squeak. “But…”
“He sold some items he unearthed when he discovered the gem of Amara. He told me that he had offered to help you financially and you turned him down. Spike seemed to think that you might accept the help you desperately needed from me or from Angel.” Giles was worried. Buffy looked so young, so much in pain.
Her voice was the softest whisper and Giles had to attend carefully to hear her. “After all I said, all I did…he still wanted to help me.” Buffy began to cry in earnest. “Oh Giles! I’ve made such a mess of things. I know you hate Spike, but he’s so different if you’d just give him a chance.” She looked down at her wringing hands. “If I had just given him a chance.”
Giles held her while she cried, feeling his heart break for her as she sobbed her misery onto his shoulder. Much as he wished Buffy had found her soulmate complete with a beating heart, he had to admit that there had always been chemistry between his Slayer and the difficult vampire. She was right: Spike was different. Giles shuddered to think of the choices Angelus might have made had he been the soulless vampire chipped by the Initiative. Every small decision made by Spike had been one that was leading away from the evil of his past. They had all chosen not to notice.
She sniffled. “How did he look? Was he okay? Where is he? Does he hate me?” She frowned. “No, he can’t hate me, not if he did this. God, Giles, how can he love so much? I thought vampires couldn’t love, but Spike does, with his whole being.”
Giles shrugged, “Yes, I suppose he does. In answer to your questions, he looked well enough. I’m not certain where he is staying or what he is doing, but there are some rumors.”
“Nothing I can verify. Suffice to say I did confirm that a vampire matching Spike’s description has been roving about slaying demons and other vampires. Making a bit of a name for himself in some quarters. He appears to be moving from place to place, not staying long in any one location.”
“I need to see him, Giles, not just because of the money. There are things I need to say.” Buffy stood and looked down at Giles, willing him to tell her how to find the missing part of her: Spike. “Giles, I will always respect your opinion, but I have to see Spike. I love him and should have realized it when I had a chance.”
She looked at Rupert’s resigned face and smiled at him. “I love you, you do know that, right?”
Giles was distracted by something shining over Buffy’s shoulder and he shouted with alarm, “Buffy!”
“You think you can just do this to me? You think I’d let you get away with ruining all my plans?” the gun-wielding boy laughed maniacally. “Think again, bitch!”
The ‘pop pop pop’ of three shots broke the stillness of the lovely spring day, followed by the sound of shattering glass. Buffy crumpled to the ground at Giles’ feet, her shirt already crimson from the horrific wound near her heart.
“NO! God, no!”
The sound of a woman screaming echoed in Giles’ ears but his attention was solely on the girl currently leaking her life’s blood all over his shoes.
“Tara!” Willow dropped to her knees at her lover’s side. Tara looked peaceful, her face still holding a happy smile as her eyes lost the light of life. “Tara, baby? Come on, get up!” Willow’s hand traced the growing river of red that defiled Tara’s white blouse.
Willow began to sob and wail. “No! NO!” She looked around in desperation, trying to make sense of what had happened, not fully taking in the shattered window where the stray bullet had entered first their room and then Tara’s breast, laying waste to the tender heart of the precious girl.
“Osiris! I command you to return her to me!” Willow cried out, her eyes going black as coal. “I demand the return of this innocent!”
A booming voice responded in clear nonchalance, “You thought the blood of a fawn proper payment for the return of the Slayer? How cheaply you counted that cost. You made your choices, Witch. This is a natural death and cannot be undone.”
Willow’s scream of rage and anguish shattered what was left of the glass in the ragged pane.
last chapter here
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/370884.html