Part Nine: The Right Things
She plopped down on the couch and looked at him, standing at the phone table that made absolutely no sense. One of Mom’s pieces that had survived and prospered, despite its uselessness, while the coffee table that had served long and hard during many Stupid Movie Nights had died during the Demon Birthday onslaught. There’s no justice in the world, she thought. At least when it comes to furniture. She glared accusingly at the irritating end table she was always bumping into. Next demon broke into the house, she was going to steer it straight at that thing. Her shins were permanently deformed, thanks to it.
“So, let me guess,” she said.
“Buffy…How did you know that?”
“And it doesn’t involve demons and stuff like that.” She shrugged off his question. “My mom used to have some of the same body language when Snyder used to call her.”
“No,” he said heavily, sitting down next to her. He took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. At moments like this, she saw his age clearly, and thought that the short life of a Slayer had an advantage, albeit selfish: I’ll never have to see him die. Giles leaned back against the couch, sighing deeply. “That was Xander.”
“Was it?” Xander had called and not asked for her? Not good.
“Yes.” He waited and she looked at the carpet, thinking, in an alternate universe, I bet the Slayers complain about demons that inadvertently fix furniture and clean carpet with their spit.
“She’s not making much progress.”
“What do you mean, by not much?”
“She’s not talking.”
“She’s…What do you mean, she’s not talking? I thought she was, you know, making progress.” Her earlier worries about Xander and Willow together, reinforcing their tendencies, hit her again, and she looked at him with doubtful eyes. “Is she using sign language or something?”
“Evidently not. Progress being measured by not flaying people, yes.” He said reluctantly. “I didn’t lie to you. Xander has been somewhat oblique.”
“Not important. Giles—this is scary. She has to talk. She has to. How is she going to…? To do whatever it is you do when you’re a---a---an angry witch,” she finished lamely. “That’s not progress. That’s…reverse progress.” She chewed on her lip. “That’s, like, nothing. She’s still in one place.” She crossed her sense, sensing impending badness of the worst sort. Can’t stake it. Can’t behead it. Can’t fight it because it doesn’t fight back. “How long has she been like this?”
Giles rubbed his forehead, glasses dangling from one hand. “Yes, well, more or less since she arrived.”
“And what about Xander? If he can’t make her talk, Giles….Giles?” Buffy stared up at him with wide eyes. “So now what?”
“Why do you think Xander’s the only person who can make her talk?”
“Because he is. And he can. And, uh, you….can’t.”
“Well, evidently, he can’t either,” Giles said acidly, “because as yet he hasn’t done so. And quite frankly, I’m at a loss.”
“You can’t be at a loss,” Buffy said firmly. “I won’t allow it. You must be at a…gain or something. How come that doesn’t make any sense at all? Shouldn’t clichés come in pairs?”
“Lots of things should be, Buffy, but aren’t.” Giles sat down wearily next to her, rubbing his temples with his index fingers. As he bowed his head next to her, she saw suddenly how the grey in his hair had increased, and stamped back on the worry. He’s a Watcher, she thought. He’ll think of something.
Except what if the something is him leaving again?
“Giles…You’re not going to go there, are you?”
“No,” Giles said firmly. “Until Xander gets her to open up, I believe that the sight of me will only make her shut down.” He sighed and looked down at his hands again, hesitating. His discomfort was practically a physical presence. Someone obviously had to go and do something about Willow’s non-progress. Someone who was mature and capable and cool. Buffy ran over the short list of candidates in her head. Giles. Me. Dawn? Anya? Oh, yes, that would be good. She was still running over her list, wondering what she’d missed, finally turned to her. “I’d rather like you to try.”
Giles reflected wearily that in all the years he’d known her, he’d never heard that particular tone to Buffy’s voice. He suspected dogs in the neighborhood were perking up their ears all of a sudden. “Why me? I’ve never been….I’ll have to…I can’t!”
“I can’t leave here, obviously.”
“Why can’t you? It’s not like it’s the first time.” Buffy winced at the sudden, pained look on his face.
“Well, why can’t you go, Buffy? I don’t understand why you’re so dead set against it.”
Because Spike might come back and you might stake him, Buffy thought. It was impossible to say that and impossible to forget it. ”Well, why shouldn’t you? It’s your country.”
“But she’s your best friend, Buffy.” He rubbed his eyes again. “And right now I’m just the person who disagrees with her about her magic.”
“All this addiction talk,” he said dismissively, waving a hand. “It’s not an addiction.”
“We—ell…” Buffy said, startled. “What is it, then?”
“It’s an excuse,” Giles said loftily. “Remember your trepidation about drinking?”
“Uh?” Buffy said brightly. “Y-es?”
“I hate to have to say this, Buffy, but really, this is so American.”
“Oh, really? And why?”
“Well, just because it’s entertaining or self-indulgent doesn’t mean it’s bad,” Giles said dryly. “And I thought we had the market cornered on stiff upper lips.”
“What are you talking about? You and I?”
“About American repression. Look at obesity, for example. One simply does not see obese people elsewhere in the world, unless it’s a culture that specifically prizes size as a sign of affluence. Actually,” he said, “that might not be very far off with Americans.” Buffy instantly recognized the lecture mode. “I wonder if there’s any commentary about indigenous culture in the Chron---“ He caught Buffy’s eye, and cleared his throat, shifting uncomfortably on the couch.
“Giles,” Buffy said sarcastically, “Can you not make us sound like we walk around in bearskins or something?”
“Yes, well, I’ll see about that later,” he sighed. “Why are you so opposed to this idea?”
“Because I’m afraid of being overwhelmed by weird silverware and---“
“Buffy,” Giles interjected.
“I’ve never been anywhere,” Buffy said. “And it’s Willow. I have enough trouble with this—this---talking, when there’s nothing at stake, but now everything is. I’ll say the wrong thing, or I won’t be able to say anything at all. And she’ll get pissed off at me, and this time I won’t be able to stop her.”
“You said you wanted your friend back,” Giles reminded her softly.
“But I don’t know how to do that!”
“You won’t know how to do it till you try,” Giles said in that same soft voice. “I can only do so much, Buffy. There are things I can’t do. I can’t get your friends back for you. All I can do is referee.” With that, he got up wearily and went to the kitchen. She listened to the clinking of the bottles there, and knew he was pouring himself some more scotch. She’d never seen him buy a bottle; had he come with a huge supply, or did the Scotch Fairy replenish it every night?
The fact was, she was scared. Once she and Willow had been best friends, but she didn’t know if that was possible now. It seemed like it had been such a long time since they had been friends. All last year, they seemed more like people who’d divorced on really, really good terms. Of course, she thought, Spike and I were enemies once. At that thought, her tentative optimism collapsed. Who knows what we are now? Who knows where he is? How can I know anything till I find that out?
Giles returned and wearily sank down into the couch next to her. He sniffed at the contents of his glass, winced, then handed it to her. With a wry glance, she imitated his movements, then took a sip. “You just don’t think there’s any other way?”
“Buffy—it’s not magic that’s bothering her,” Giles said. “I don’t believe for one minute that her behavior now has to do with magic.”
“What do you think it is, then?”
“It’s whatever emotions one feels after acting so out of character. Grief, anger---She doesn’t want to talk about anything, because to do so would mean acknowledging what she’d done.”
Buffy stared at him with huge eyes. “You—think so?”
Giles avoided her eyes. “I hope so. If I still know Willow at all, that’s what she’d be feeling.”
“Giles---“ Buffy said thoughtfully.
“It was just one thing, one time,” she said thoughtfully. “Does it change somebody that much? One awful---“ she looked at him cautiously. “One evil, terrible thing. Can it totally change someone?”
Giles looked at her a long time. “It depends on the person,” he said finally. His lips parted as he thought of saying something else, but he gulped down the Scotch instead. “With Willow, it’s entirely possible she could have gotten into trouble with something else. Using magic to solve a non-magical problem is like…” He sighed. “And I’m afraid I simply wouldn’t be that welcome.”
“But the things she said to me…”
“At least they’re out of her system,” Giles said quietly. “But I suspect that’s not true for your system.”
“So…are you scared?”
Buffy surveyed her suitcase and grimaced. “No,” she said brightly. When lacking conviction, substitute enthusiasm. No stakes, no axes, no weapons, not even in the carry-on. What was there to be afraid of? Airsickness, weird food and the only people she knew were the friends she had serious, squirm-worthy issues with. “It’s just the possibility of Willow---“ She glanced up at Dawn suddenly. “---not being happy,” she finished lamely.
“Nice try,” Dawn said. She nudged the suitcase aside and flopped down on her bed. “Cause when you’re not happy, you have sex with vampires.”
“Well, it’s true. But when Willow’s not happy, she tries to destroy the world.”
Buffy slumped. Why can’t all dilemmas be solved by staking something? Why?
Dawn fidgeted at the way Buffy’s face suddenly became drawn and tense. Crap, did it again. But why does she have to get all wiggy all the time? Buffy Tv: All wig, all the time. Change the subject. Crap. What was the subject? Something funny!
“When Giles talked about the British invasion, I didn’t think he meant you.”
Buffy sighed and snapped the suitcase shut, then put it on the floor, then flopped on the bed from the other side, putting her head at Dawn’s waist and vice versa. “Going to miss me?”
“Maybe. As long as it takes me to find your diary.”
“Well, I’m comforted now. Because I don’t keep a diary.”
“Which is probably good. Because I saw your other one.”
“What….” An awful suspicion formed in her brain. “You didn’t---“
“Oh, yeah,” Dawn said gleefully. “Even I was not stupid enough to write sixteen-year-old poetry. I’ve seen Janice’s. It’s all about cute guys, and how no one knows she’s actually, like, this fashion model waiting to blossom. She’s always scribbling something in her notebook, and then looking around to make sure she has someone to hide it from, you know? She thinks she’s…”
Buffy waited thoughtfully, while Dawn tried to come up with the name of a female poet. “Well….Huh,” Dawn said. “Maybe that’s why her poetry sucks---who is there to imitate?”
“Ugh,” Dawn made a face. “Okay, so there are female poets, but they’re so depressing. Why are they all depressing?”
“Male poets,” Buffy said. “Isn’t that enough to do it?”
“Plus, like wasn’t that---What?” Dawn said suddenly as Buffy suddenly realized something.
“Are you guys reading Sylvia Plath?”
“No, are you kidding? We’re still reading Harry Potter or something.”
“So how do you know Sylvia Plath?”
“Oh, Janice,” Dawn shrugged. “She wants to be a tortured artist now. Except she left out the tortured part. Sometimes, I wish somebody would----“ At Buffy’s skeptical look, she rolled her eyes. “Besides,” she added, “look at you.”
Buffy shook her head, amused and impressed at the same time, reaching out to touch Dawn’s face fondly. “Well, after that whole I-dated-a-vampire thing, I was kind of so-not-popular. So I had to do something with my time. It’s so much easier to read poetry than write it, you know.”
“Did you really read my diary?”
“No,” Dawn admitted finally. “I didn’t really know you kept one. But now that I do, finding it is going to be my mission in life.”
“Nope, not anymore. I am the sister formly known as Key.”
“Giles hasn’t been making you watch Monty Python again, has he?”
“No, but we do have this marathon planned for while you’re away. He says it’s painful, watching you grimace instead of laugh.”
“I just don’t like them.” Buffy muttered. “I’m sorry, but I just don’t.”
“Well, see, I’m obligated to like stuff that you don’t. Then we can fight about it, and I can write a book about it later and be on Oprah.”
“Oh, God, I am so going to take TV away when I get home.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, but you’ll have to take it away from Giles. He really likes some of those soap operas.”
“I do not,” Giles said irritably from the doorway. “What has she been saying about me?”
“It’s not so much that,” Buffy said dryly. “It’s what is it going to take to keep her from saying it.” They looked up at him, and both gave him identical, gleeful grins. Buffy’s, especially, clutched at his heart. It had been so long since she’d smiled like that, and he wondered how long it would last. “But her allowance isn’t that big, so there’s probably room for negotiation.”
“I really don’t know who’s going to have it worse,” he muttered as Buffy and Dawn both sat up. “You for being away from each other, or me for having to deal with—“ Here he eyed them darkly---“ both of you.”
“Well, hey---“ Buffy lifted her suitcase and shoved it at him. “There’s always---“
“No, thank you,” he said precisely. “And we must get you to the airport. Anya’s waiting in the car, and I suspect she’s charging by the minute.”
“She’ll be coming over to help with Dawn?”
“I don’t need to be helped with!” Dawn said sharply. ”Stop making it seem like I need Depends or something!”
Waiting at the airport only increased Buffy’s nervousness. How on earth could leaving someone ever be an option when it was this painful? Dawn’s good mood vanished, and she became nervous and tense. Anya discussed rent rates with the various shopkeepers on the concourse and kept rolling her eyes at whatever they were telling her. Giles kept bowing his head and sighing. And she herself couldn’t stop pacing. “Buffy,” Dawn hissed. “Stop being so nervous.”
That stopped her in her tracks. “You mean stop looking nervous? But I am nervous.”
“It’s okay,” Dawn assured her. “Planes hardly ever crash anymore.”
“Oh, my God,” Buffy moaned. “I am so grounding you when I get back.”
“Oh, yeah,” Dawn looked distinctly unimpressed. “You’ll have forgotten all about it by then. You have airsickness written all over you.”
“Dawn, you’re making her nervous,” Anya said firmly.
“Oh, I know that.”
“So stop doing it.”
“You’re not really scared, are you?” Dawn looped her arm through Buffy’s. “You’re the Slayer. You’re never scared of anything.”
Despite the butterflies flipping around in her stomach, Buffy still managed a fond look at her. God, she could be so obnoxious one minute, and then adorable the next. And if I ever tell her that, I will never live it down. Good reason to avoid Giles’ Scotch.
“Buffy---“ Giles said. “That’s your flight, I’m afraid.”
Oh, thank God, she thought. At least the goodbyes are over. Suddenly, she didn’t seem to feel quite so nauseous. She received a warm embrace from Giles, a wriggling puppy good-bye from Dawn, and a stiff, puzzled hug from Anya, who then looked bewildered and shook her hand. “Good luck,” Anya said. “If your face is any clue, you’re going to need it.”
The last thing Buffy heard before she headed off down the jetway was the sound of two different voices, one tenor and one soprano, both saying the same thing: “Anya!”
“Buffy’s never flown anywhere before?” Anya asked.
“No, I’m afraid not.”
“Well, that explains the green.” Anya said diffidently. She stared at the pizza.
“Anya, what is it?”
She glanced around before she answered, but Dawn was safely ensconced on the living room sofa, giggling at something she probably shouldn’t be watching without adult supervision. “I just want it to be like it was before.”
“You still…miss Xander?” Giles said cautiously.
“No,” Anya said firmly. “I don’t. Not at all.”
“Anya, be honest. At least with yourself.”
“I miss the idea of Xander,” she sighed. “I was a vengeance demon, do you know what that means?”
“I suspect I don’t want to know.”
“No, it doesn’t mean that, stu—uh,” she managed to stop herself, then beamed at him as he eyed her skeptically. “Uh, no, it just means that I just got the idea that there really aren’t any good relationships, you know? And then there was Xander. He wasn’t bad, but…I got used to him. And he wasn’t that nice to me at all.”
“And then there were the relationships around you, I suppose.”
“Well, I wondered about Buffy and Spike,” she said casually.
“Because she spent all that time with him after she came back. They were always sitting together on the back porch, talking all the time, and then it just stopped. They kind of avoided each other then. Of course, eventually we figured out what was going on. But look at it this way. They were talking, and they weren’t in a relationship, and then they weren’t talking, and they were in a relationship.”
“Well, I should hardly think a vampire and a vampire slayer should serve as one’s example of a relationship.”
“Yes, well, I’ll go out and get that copy of “Ex-Vengeance Demon’s Guide to Relationship Success!”
“Well, if there aren’t any good ones around, how are you supposed to learn how to do it right? Giles, I became a vengeance demon because I had a crappy relationship.”
“Well,” he said uncomfortably.
“You’re going to do that English noise, aren’t you?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“That English noise. You know, where you go, ‘mm-him’ and try to look like you’re thinking, when you’re actually wondering where either the weapons or the exits are.” Giles, who was in fact looking over his shoulder at that moment, froze and slowly turned around. He squared his shoulders, then adjusted his tie. While Anya smirked at him, he took sip of his tea.
“You know, if you eat your pizza, it’s a much better cover up than drinking that stuff. Isn’t it cold?”
“I’m not---I don’t have anything to cover up.”
“Except for the fact that this conversation is making you very uncomfortable.”
“Well,” he sighed. “What doesn’t, these days?”
“There is a lot,” she agreed. “Buffy boinking Spike, Xander leaving me at the altar—which you missed----Willow going evil--- which you missed----you kissing me----after which you left-----oh, who cares? Giles, you’re a tourist.”
“You are, too.” She glanced over his shoulder to make certain that Dawn was still paying attention only to Dawn. “Why did you leave? Oh, yeah, sure----Buffy wasn’t growing up or whatever with you here.” She swigged her beer. “Except that was so stupid.”
“Anya, have you been waiting to tell me this? Is that why you’re saying this?”
“Well, yes, I’ve been thinking about it. Xander’s not here so I can’t tell him what I think of him, and Buffy and I have pretty much gotten over the whole sex-with-Spike thing---“
“Why…? What would…that have to do…with you?”
“Oh, well, we both had sex with Spike, but---“
Giles took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. “And is it really necessary for me to know this?”
“Well, don’t you want to know what you missed?”
“Okay, that’s not an answer,” Anya said briskly. “Don’t you want to test your theory at all? I mean, you leave, we grow up?”
“I’d say, quite frankly, Anya, it’s already been found wanting.”
“Well, that was no fun,” Anya said sourly. “You didn’t put up a fight at all.” They both sipped their drinks for several minutes, listening to the sound of Dawn gigging in the living room.
“So now what?” Anya asked after several minutes.
“We wait for Buffy to get to .”
“Which will be next morning.” Anya waited patiently, then rolled her eyes. “Well, I’m not waiting, I’m going to sleep. It’s much more efficient than worrying.”
“How many beers have you had?”
“I’ve had less beer than you’ve had Scotch.”
“And am I driving? Certainly not. You can sleep in Buffy’s bed.”
“Dawn will bug me because I’m another girl and you’re not.”
“Oh, good, then I’m locking the door, as well,” Giles said dryly. “You two can bond.”
Giles had warned her that while he had not told Xander that she was coming, the coven was expecting her arrival, and sure enough, once she got through customs, she found someone by the luggage carousel, holding up a sign that said, “Summers.”
This someone was a startlingly attractive young man with long curly black hair, blue eyes, and alabaster skin. She came to a stop in front of him, conscious of her flight-frizzed hair, coach class-wrinkled clothes, and red-rimmed eyes. He looked as if he’d just stepped out of a pleasant shower and stepped into freshly-ironed clothes. If she’d had any energy, she’d have hated him.
“Are you Buffy?” He had an Irish accent, she noticed.
“That would be me.” She didn’t want to shake his hand because she was suddenly certain she’d get sweat all over it. “And you are?”
“Oh, I’m David. Sorry. Let me get that for you.”
With a firm smile, he wrestled the baggage cart away from her and gestured down the concourse. “Shame these things don’t come with seats, isn’t it? You must be very tired?”
“Does that mean I look like I’m tired?”
His smile became less polite and more mischievous. “I have four sisters, so you’ll have to excuse me for not answering that question without a plea bargain. But I’ve flown just to the US, myself, not even as far as California, and that was quite bad enough.”
“Where did you go?”
“Did you like it?”
“Well…” He grimaced. “Not much. Too noisy, really.”
“Really? What noise level are you used to?”
He deftly steered them toward the elevators, and manage to get them alone in one. “It was actually for a vampire.”
“Why wasn’t I…? Oh, was I dead, then?”
“Yes, I think you were. And Giles had his hands full in Sunnydale.”
“I suppose.” She looked at the bland elevator doors. Nothing worse than having a conversation in an elevator, she thought. There’s just nothing to look at, and it seemed impolite to just stare at someone you’d just met. “I’m sorry,” she said apologetically. “I’m just so tired, my brain isn’t working.”
“That’s okay,” he said soothingly. “You’ll get some sleep, and then you’ll feel lots better.”
Buffy glanced at him, startled. He caught her look, and raised his eyebrows, silently encouraging her to ask whatever she wanted. “Oh..” she muttered, somewhat embarrassed. “It’s just so serious why I’m here, and you’re so calm about it all.”
“That’s because I’m sure everything will work out well.”
“You….you are?” Buffy politely looked away, unable to meet his trusting eyes with her skepticism. “I’m not.”
“That’s understandable, though.” The elevator stopped, and he politely paused so she could get off first. “You’re the Slayer, right?”
Buffy glanced around, but there was no one around them. “Yes?”
“I suppose after all you’ve been through, and what you do…”
“Oh, great…” Buffy muttered.
“I’m…sorry.” He stopped, taking a deep breath and running his hand through his hair. “Amazing how I can screw up with so few words at my disposal, isn’t it? No, what I meant was…” He started walking, using the time to choose his words. “Well…you’re used to fighting, right? And enemies, all the time .But that’s not how we do things here.”
He stopped and fumbled around in his pocket for keys. Buffy eyed the car with some amusement. It was an elderly Volkswagen Beetle, but it was painted red with black dots all over it. The wheel wells were painted black, and eyes had been painted just over the headlights. He finally found the keys, waved them triumphantly, then promptly dropped them. Buffy muffled her smile in a sudden cough. He unlocked her door, then the back passenger side door, then tossed all her luggage in. While Buffy buckled herself in, she was treated to the sight of David patting his pockets for the keys, then staring at the garage floor in bewilderment. Finally, with an exasperated sigh, he rooted around under the car. Nothing. Then something seemed to strike him, and he started to poking around amongst her luggage. A jingle announced the reappearance of the keys, and Buffy had to stifle a smile. “So,” she said as he started the car. “That’s how you do things here.” He shook his head, embarrassed, but finally glanced at her.
“No, just be grateful that’s just how I do things here,” he said dryly. “But that’s why I’m just the driver.”
“You’re not a…?”
“No, not yet. Not done with my studies.”
“Your…studies? At Hogwarts?”
That got her a mildly reproachful look. “No, it’s a degree here.”
“Well, you know…It’s not like a doctor’s degree. But still, it takes about as long as a normal degree.”
“Which is one of the things we think might have…”
“Well, with your friend. She had a lot of talent, natural ability, but it’s not like you can just do it with a couple books and some kitchen spices.”
He glanced at her again. “I didn’t mean that in the past tense…tense. But we just don’t know, now. Or, maybe, yet.”
“Because she’s not talking.”
“Could it be…?”
“Magic?” He asked. He smiled again, but this time it seemed sad more than anything else. “No, and that’s kind of the problem. Maybe with lots of things. She’s blaming magic for stuff.”
“No, it’s just people.” He caught her eye and this time there was unalloyed weariness in his eyes. “That’s half the battle, you know. Blaming the right thing, at the right time.”
“Oh,” Buffy said. “Oh.”
He heard her tone as it struck her, then stared at her as her eyes dropped. “Well, you know? One of those right things is going to be me.”
Continued in Part Ten: Resurrections