It was so stupid.
All the years she longed for normality, and now she had it.
And she was bored.
Safety brought many things. Contentment was not one of them.
She’d gotten used to so much danger, and now she had to adjust to safety. This is what Mom felt like, when I moved out, she thought.
Patrolling had become exercise, like a club she took Dawn to. They wandered through cemeteries at night, and every night the vamps fought less and fled more. She was left standing behind them, staring at their backs, somewhat amused. Frequently, they arrived back home, just in time to see the end of the evening news, and she discovered a world more bewildering than the one she was used to, where there were definite rules and solutions.
She read books. She loaded up on poetry books at the library, till the librarian perused one stack and raised one eyebrow. “Bad break up?”
Buffy could only shrug and slink away. But in her room, she curled up with them, glancing up periodically as some line struck her, expecting to get a reaction from Spike, only to find that he was not there.
Giles still hated email, but he was so delighted at his progress in England that he braved the torture device, as he called Willow’s computer, and emailed her. She received a substantial stipend now, and found that as the summer swirled by, the thought of work was interesting rather than ghastly. Thanks to Robin, work no longer brought to her at automatic twinge at the thought of the Doublemeat Palace. Work didn’t have to mean smells, unending labor, and blood. Odd that fast food slavery and vampire slaying had so much in common. She didn’t quite know what she wanted to do, or could do, but she at least had the knowledge that with her reference letters from Giles and Robin, she had some choices in the matter.
She found that her bitterness against her father had disappeared. There was no point to it, any more, not as long as she had Giles, not as long as Giles had her. After the flurry of news stories about Sunnydale, it took him two weeks to answer her phone calls. For a man who still didn’t know his daughter was the Slayer, he was curiously blasé about her fate. She found herself pausing outside his apartment door before knocking. When he answered, he actually blinked a moment. “Buffy?”
“That’s me.” She glanced around him.”Your daughter?”
“You, ah---“ She watched, incredulous, as he glanced around uncomfortably. “You, ah, you look really good.” The secretary he’d taken to Italy---something he’d never done for Joyce----perched on the leather sofa, one expensive Jimmy Choo tapping impatiently on the floor. “You know, the daughter you don’t pay for? That’s how you tell us apart.”
“Well….I’ve been trying to get ahold of you.”
“Sure,” she said. He remembered himself, then, and gestured inside, but she hung back. “Did I ever tell you, Dad, that I’m the Slayer?”
“I’m the Vampire Slayer, Dad.”
“I knew I should have called more often. Buffy----“
“Well, I used to be the only one,” she added. “But anyway, I figured you should know.”
“Buffy…what is wrong with you? Come inside. Is it…It is…Did you hear about the baby?”
“We’re expecting!” She noticed him take a step back. It was the perfect opportunity to peer around him at the secretary, noting again the clothing that cost more than a month’s pay at the Doublemeat Palace.
So, that explains it, she thought. “You’re not even showing yet. And I’m still the Slayer. With a capital S.”
“Buffy, I know this has been really hard on you, but do you need help? Need to talk to someone?“ He turned around and bustled over to the desk, avoiding her eyes. “I know this therapist…”
Oh, not dad help. Hired help, as a substitute.
“I’m not nuts, if that’s what you mean.” She glanced again at the secretary, whose name she’d carefully avoided discovering. It felt far better to refer to her as ‘the secretary.’ She’d never be a substitute for Joyce, and keeping her anonymous only confirmed that. “I’m the Slayer. Remember all those fights? Remember the gym burning down? Remember all the kids who disappeared in Sunnydale? Remember when the school blew up? Didn’t it sort of bother you, taking me to a town with such a high mortality rate? Leaving me there? Especially after Mom died?”
“Whatever. I’m the Vampire Slayer, and I figured you should know that about me. So, you know, you can put it in my baby book or something. Except, I guess, the baby book’s with Mom…” She turned away from his house with the sure knowledge that she would never seek him out again.
She wasn’t getting anything from him except the support check, and that could be handled automatically by the court. She filled out the paperwork, and put it in the mail. He was gone from her, and she felt like she’d released a long-held breath.
They couldn’t decide where to settle, so somewhat uncomfortably, they returned to LA, and there Dawn confronted for the first time the fact that monks had relied on somewhat out of date research to form some of her memories.
“What do you mean, there’s no Disneyland?”
“God, Dawn, could you yell a little louder? You just knocked a Russian satellite out of the sky.” Buffy gestured down the slope of the hill. “Look, see that? Russian debris.”
“I’m serious. Disneyland is supposed to be here.”
“No it’s not.”
“Is not. We’re in Griffith Park, Dawn.”
“But we already walked all this way. I want it to be here.”
“Brat Slayer. And there’s only one of me.” She ambled down the slope, glancing suspiciously as the trees, as if the amusement park was compressed behind them. Buffy yawned and smiled behind her, amused and tired in spite of herself. They were tourists
these days, while they adjusted. She’d never had so much fun before. Not since before she became a Slayer.
Spike’s absence seemed to fill her senses these days. She found herself conscious of all the holes he left in her life, even more aggravating than the loss of the house and the environment. She had Dawn and the visits by Giles and Willow, but it was a new world, and in her dreams, she escaped to the old, and to his arms.
There were so many emotions crowding her life now, and she couldn’t keep them straight. Before, she’d kept them rigidly under control, but that didn’t work now, and it was a relief, if sort of frightening. Once, standing at the sink in their little apartment, she suddenly deflated into tears, glad only that Dawn was out with friends and couldn’t see her cry for absolutely no reason at all. The tears left her weak and stunned, and suddenly, there was no one there. She curled up on the couch, and pulled a blanket around herself, hoping to sleep.
That was the first time he came back to her, covered with dust and ashes, sitting on the chair across from her. He looked as he had after the time she’d beaten him, but exhausted besides, sitting slumped in the chair as if he had no strength left. His eyes were hollow and lost, and her throat closed up. Oh, God, I missed you so much, she thought, and reached out to touch him. That was what woke her up. She was awake, and she was alone.
She stared around the little apartment, eyes wide, empty inside.
It was time to call Giles.
“Ouch, Giles, if you’re going to yell, you should just open a window.”
“Oh, right, sorry.” She heard rustling and crackles. “It’s been rather a bit since you last called, hasn’t it?”
Even his subtle reproach was better than her father’s disinterest. “Sorry, I’ve been sort of….not busy.”
“Oh, well, then, I’m so glad you found time----“
“No, it’s nice, Giles. I’ve been getting acquainted with this thing called ‘relaxation.’”
“Well…” Giles paused. “I suppose if anyone’s earned it, it’s you.”
“Yes, I like to think of it as taking all my vacations at once. How’s Merry Olde?”
“I beg your----Oh, yes, of course. Well…” She heard a chair scraping out, and realized with amusement that he was settling himself in for a good long chat. She wondered if she should take notes. “Well, of course, the building’s a loss. And the casualties were….” There was silence there, and she actually heard traffic for a moment. “….terrible. I’m amazed some of us managed to survive. Some of the research is still here, too.”
“Yes, yes, it’s better than nothing. But it’s been hectic----“ he sighed deeply, and she wondered if Dawn would like to go to England. “----with all the funerals, the notifications, the police----“
“Giles,” she said quietly.
“Yes, I know, we were lucky,” he said, in a somber tone that matched her own. ”But---now we have all the Slayers. They’re reporting in from all over. It’s extraordinary, really----I just received an email today from a Watcher in Nairobi. He’s noted the presence of no less than four Slayers in his immediate vicinity, and for the first time he can remember, his province is free of vampires. They’ve all been staked or driven off. This is extraordinary, Buffy, we might very well be entering a new era. Vampires are much more cautious these days. And it’s all because of you.”
She gulped then. Funny how it was all the little things that got her sniffly. Slaying vampires, dying not once but twice, but a genuine compliment from Giles like that would keep her going for days. “Part of the job, Giles.”
“I’m serious, Buffy, you thought of it. Even after----“
Even after we kicked you out, she thought. “That was you,” she said. “You trained me.”
“Well, yes, yes I did,” he acknowledged. “But still, Buffy----“
“Giles, are you feeling guilty about something?”
“God, yes, Buffy, I hate this,” he burst out. “I’m not a CEO, I’m a Watcher. I feel like Quentin Travers is smirking at me from beyond the grave, watching me turn into him.”
“But you like giving orders.”
“Well, yes, but that was on a small scale. I have no one to blame but myself if things go wrong.”
“Oh, I can think of all sorts of people you can blame. Want a list?”
“Buffy----“ He scoffed, but she could hear him smiling.
“Doesn’t being in England help?”
“Especially being in England. Everyone knows me here, and this incident was on the news. Before all this happened, I knew the rules. Now everything is disorganized, and I have to make the rules. It’s very disturbing. I don’t want to make rules. I want there to be rules which I can break myself. I don’t want to be the---the---old---fuddy duddy that’s in charge of inventing them.”
“Well, Buffy, what would you have me do, lie?”
She thought about it. Once upon a time, yes, she would have preferred it. “You know, Giles, once I would have wanted exactly that. Isn’t that funny?”
“Well, I think so. I mean, isn’t it a change? Now I don’t.”
“It seems you’re growing up and I’m regressing.”
“No,” she scoffed. “You’re just stressed. How about if I come visit?”
“I’m sorry, but will that alleviate my stress?”
“It won’t,” she said cheerfully. “But you’ll have to worry so much about me, that you’ll completely forget about whatever else is going on. And you can use me as an example of what not to do. It’ll be just like old times.”
She could hear street noises from what was going on around him---the muffled sound of people’s voices, the oddly high-pitched beeps of what sounded like bumper cars. She’d never heard cars that sounded so small; were they all tiny? She wondered why Giles was hesitating. “You always hated it when I argued with you,” she offered helpfully. “Never argue with your Watcher, girls, it’s very----“
“Buffy….” Giles said gently. “I never hated it.”
“Well, I might have disliked it slightly----“
“I was right some of the time, you know.”
“As was I.”
“Does that mean we were both wrong most of the time?”
“Yes, Buffy, I’m starting to think it does.” He hesitated again, and she could feel it. Am I another responsibility to him? She thought suddenly, panicked.
“ Buffy, is everything all right?”
“Oh, no, I’m---“
“Buffy,” he said sternly, and she crumbled.
“I’m having dreams.”
“No, Spike dreams.”
“No, not those kind of dreams, Giles. I just have dreams where I don’t think I’m dreaming, and he’s here, and then I wake up. And I miss him.”
“I’m sorry, Buffy, I hadn’t thought----“
“Does that make me---?”
“Well, I miss him, but we weren’t exactly----“
“Buffy,” Giles said, and stopped. She could almost hear him collecting his thoughts. “I’d think less of you if you didn’t. It wasn’t an easy situation, and it won’t ever be easy to sort out your feelings. He did something extraordinary in getting his soul, and then he did something even more extraordinary by sacrificing himself. But he was William the Bloody for a century. One can’t pretend to not be confused by it all. It’s very difficult, holding those two extremes before you. And everything in between.” He hesitated again. “Why on earth should this bother you at all? Has anyone said anything to you?”
“About Spike? No, but, you know----“
“What is it, Buffy?”
“You’ve got so much to worry about already.”
“Buffy, if you don’t think you merit a special category of worry, you’re mistaken.” Buffy gulped then, and Giles sighed. “That sounded much more sincere when I was thinking it. Has someone been bothering you about this?
“No, no, it’s not that.” She picked at the upholstery of the chair. “It’s just that it’s hard not to think things when my dad isn’t interested in me at all, and this vampire who said he loved me, died for this, and my dad treats me like I’m the new Avon Lady.”
“Buffy, have you considered….letting him go? It sounds as if he’s ….gone.”
“Do you want him to still be in your life?”
“I don’t—but there’s Dawn.”
“Buffy, I can’t help but think he doesn’t deserve you.”
“That’s the thing. We don’t earn our families.”
“Wouldn’t it be nice if we did, though? Like collecting Green Stamps?”
“Well, Buffy, you’re entitled to more and he’s entitled to…punishment.”
“God, Giles, when did you join the Mafia?”
“What I meant, Buffy, is whether you’re getting anything at all out of your relationship out of your father.”
“Nothing except money. I already filed the court papers. We tried doing the social thing, but he acts like I’m somebody he has to be polite to. It’s not really comfortable. And Spike’s…not here, and I miss him.”
“Buffy, you can’t dwell on it.”
“Well, that’s the problem, Giles. It’s not that I’m not grateful for the money, but I thought I’d like being bored more.”
“Oh, yes. There’s so many Slayers now that Slaying isn’t really Slaying any more. It’s Watching Them Scurry Away like Bunnies. But it gives me time to read.”
“You? You’re reading.”
“Okay, okay, gloat all you want.” Buffy played with a pencil on the table, closing her eyes and flipping it into the air and catching it between two fingers. “But you know, the boredom is only fun when there’s excitement against it. And there’s no excitement.”
“I’m sure Angel could use your help.”
“I’m not sure about that, Giles.” She got up and flopped down on the couch. “That’s why we’re not living at the Hyperion with everyone else.”
“I’m just sort of…uncomfortable around him now.”
“I just keep comparing him to Spike. And I shouldn’t. It’s not fair to either one. But, it’s like this whole thing---Anya dying, Spike saving us----it’s like Angel got the easy way out.”
“You told me you asked him to leave, in case he was needed.”
“I know.” She could hear him tapping a pencil against some hard wooden surface. “That doesn’t mean he had to do it. I don’t know----“
“I feel some sympathy for Angel now.”
“I’m not saying I don’t understand your feelings, Buffy. But life is full of ambiguities now.”
Ambiguities, Buffy thought. Yeah, like I don’t know what that is.
“So…What should I do?”
“Buffy, I think you should----“ She heard him sigh. “I think you should sit down one day, and try and think about that yourself. What do you want to do?”
“I don’t know!”
“Then it’s time you started to think about that.”
“It used to be that there was only one Slayer, Buffy, and many Watchers. Now the reverse is true. We need Watchers. Perhaps you could be one of them?”
“Think about it, Buffy.”
“Me? A Watcher?”
“Hm,” Giles said, pleased. “That was rather a surprise, wasn’t it?”
“YOU BET IT WAS!”
“Buffy, really.” He sighed again. “Oh, would you look at that! Someone’s misfiled the journals again! I have to go. Another fire to put out. Shall I call you or you---“
“No, I’ll call you. Once I recover from the shock.”
“Don’t sell yourself short, Buffy. Remember that.”
Her throat closed up, and she could barely choke out a farewell. She stared at the phone for several minutes after she hung up, looking at it.
A Watcher. Training Slayers, being at one remove from the danger. Research. She wrinkled her nose. This is a whole new world. She curled up on the couch, clutching a pillow protectively. “A whole new world,” she said tentatively. “But---“ She closed her eyes, and he was curled up behind her. “I want the old one.”
Continued in Chapter 2