|Story Title:||Can't Buy Me Love|
Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word
Bess is back … where do we go from here?
MacKenzie Verity Weckerly born October 9th, 2010
Edmond “Eddie” Giles Rosenberg-Maclay born March 11, 2010
Joshua "JJ" Harris was born on April 21st, 2004
The twins (Danielle Dawn, "Dani" and William Rupert, "Billy") were born on February 12th, 2004.
Annie was born on February 14th, 1999
Spike and Buffy were married in February 1999
Buffy was born January 19th, 1981
William/Spike was turned by Dru in
All the Potentials were endowed with full Slayer power in February 2003.
Buffy and Spike learned of the other dimensions and got the memories from the 'Rome' Universe in May, 2003.
The ‘Wish-World’ lasted from January 19th, 2005 to January, 16th 2010.
Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word, Elton John http://youtu.be/J2e4NlnLr28
ScreenCaps courtesy of ScreenCap Paradise: http://www.screencap-paradise.com/?cat=3
Thanks to 'epd4' for betaing this chapter. Any mistakes are mine because I can't stop fiddling ...
|Rating / Warnings:||
NC17. Content is only suitable for mature adults. Contains explicit language, sex, adult themes, and other adult situations that some people may find objectionable. If you are under the age of 17 or find any of these themes objectionable – GO AWAY.
Sunday, December 26th, 2010, 5:00pm, Sunnydale:
Buffy and Bess both held their breath … which was more symbolic for Bess than anything, but still … and everyone that was dancing finally looked over to see what was going on. As the music came to an end, all eyes were on the three blondes as Spike and Bess approached Buffy where she’d waited and watched as her husband spoke with the girl.
Spike looked from one to the other of his Slayers and thought the resemblance was staggering, really – jaws set firm, bodies tense, adrenaline racing … they were both ready to fight or flee at that moment; he hoped they did neither. As Spike and Bess stopped in front of Buffy, the two Slayers remained silent for what seemed an eternity – the silence was deafening in the large room. The two stood, unmoving, their breath caught in their throats as if bracing themselves for a punch to the gut. Finally, without warning, they both spoke at once…
The two hardest words in the English language broke the uneasy silence.
Spike breathed a deep sigh of utter relief.
Buffy moved forward and did what Spike had been afraid to do, pulled Bess into a strong hug. Bess didn’t object, she welcomed the embrace and finally allowed herself to breathe again as tears stung her eyes and she buried her face against Buffy’s shoulder. Wanda had been right. As Bess clung to Buffy she thought she could feel the ghostly embrace of her long dead family wrap around them both. Like a warm blanket of love on the coldest of days, it reminded her of Wanda’s words back in Philadelphia and it made her want to make those new memories with this family which the Guardian Angel had spoken of – happy memories, loving memories … memories to completely obliterate all the bad, erase all the doubt and fear.
It seemed like time had stopped for those moments … how much time had passed in Buffy’s embrace, Bess didn’t know. It seemed like minutes, but could’ve only been seconds before they were both overwhelmed by a tide of family and friends, exclamations of surprise and Billy asserting that he knew she would be here soon ‘cos Santa left her presents here. Buffy reluctantly released her as the others took a turn welcoming Bess home, the children fired off questions about where she’d been and what she’d been doing, the adults just gave her encouraging hugs and smiles. Buffy’s eyes met Spike’s across the throng of people that now stood between them and she took a deep shuddering breath and nodded her head slightly. They’d do better this time … you don’t often get second chances in life, it wouldn’t be squandered.
When the pandemonium had settled down to a low roar, Buffy officially introduced Bess to Willow and Tara, whom she’d never actually met in person before.
“Willow, Tara … this is our daughter, Elizabeth Anne Weatherford … Bess,” Buffy began.
“Weckerly…” Bess corrected quietly.
Buffy turned to her with a softly furrowed brow, tilting her head in question. Bess shrugged one shoulder slightly and nodded. “Bess Weckerly,” she repeated, looking back at Willow and Tara. “It’s really good to meet you at last. Buffy talked about you all the time.”
Buffy thought her heart was going to explode right out of her chest with joy. Spike had been right – of course, as he usually was in matters of the heart, Bess had to find her own way back to them; she had to come to terms with everything in her own time and her own way, and it looked like she had.
Just as Willow and Tara began talking to Bess, Billy came up and began pulling his sister by the hand over towards the Christmas tree. “Santa left your presents here!” he informed her excitedly.
“Santa?” Bess questioned as she let him drag her over to the tree.
“We didn’t know what you wanted, though … so we don’t know what you got,” Billy told her, pointing to the wrapped gifts still under the tree.
Bess felt … strange … that was the best way she could describe it, very, very strange. Santa had brought her presents … Her. A vampire. A vampire that basically cussed her mother out, accused the people who had helped her most of not loving her, and ran away from home. A vampire that stole her father’s motorcycle, ran it out of oil and blew up the engine. A vampire that didn’t even mail them a postcard to tell them she was ok. Now, of course, she knew that Santa wasn’t real … but that made it all the more perplexing as she looked at Spike and Buffy, who, along with everyone else, had followed them over to the tree.
“I … I don’t know what to say…” Bess stammered as Billy retrieved the largest package, longer than it was wide but quite thin, and handed it to her.
“You don’t have to say anything – Santa knows everything, even what you’re thinking, so it’s ok,” Billy assured her. “It’s not heavy enough to be a flat screen TV … Dani thinks it’s a dart board, I think it could be a bulletin board or maybe a picture in a frame…” Billy prattled happily as he waited for her to open it.
Bess sat down on the couch, still feeling terribly uncomfortable as everyone watched her open the first gift.
“Oh neat!” Dani exclaimed. “A skimboard!”
“I …” Bess stammered, turning the colorful board over. “… don’t think I know what that is.”
“It’s for skimboarding!” Dani explained eagerly, her eyes wide with excitement. When Bess just looked at her blankly, Dani continued, “At the beach, you ride it in the water … like a surfboard only … not really. I’ll show you! It’s awesome! You’ll love it!”
A skimboard? Buffy asked Spike silently, cocking a brow at him.
Spike shrugged. Figured Lemon Drop would like it if Bess didn’t, he explained.
Or you… Buffy accused with a smirk, drawing another noncommittal shrug from Spike.
“Here’s the next one!” Billy continued, handing Bess another gift. She was starting to feel a little like a side-show freak with everyone looking at her, but the kids seemed so intent on doing this and eager to see what the gifts were that Santa had left, and she hated to disappoint them.
“Dani thinks it’s rollerblades,” Billy informed her as he waited for the paper to be torn away.
“Oh, excellent!” Dani enthused, jumping up and down and clapping when her theory was confirmed. “They’re just like mine! We can go together!”
Now these Bess recognized and knew she liked. She’d seen people on them before and they did look like fun … like the roller skates she’d gotten for her thirteenth birthday, only way better. “That sounds wonderful…” Bess agreed as she sat the box down beside her on the couch.
The next gift was a long, round tube. “It’s a poster for your room,” Billy informed her confidently.
Bess smiled and took the tube from his small hands. Your room … your room … it sounded … comforting, like dulcet choir of angels had rained the words down on her softly from above.
Bess laughed as she unfurled the two posters that were in the tube … one of American ‘Muscle Cars’ … side views, like those silhouette photos she’d seen in some old war movies of different airplanes that the soldiers used to try and identify the aircraft … Santa obviously wasn’t sure which car she’d like, so he got her a poster with all of them on it.
The other poster was of three colorful motorcyclists taking a curve in a race …
Bess looked up at Spike. “I promise I didn’t ride it like that…” she assured him, although she had done her best to ride that way for a short while when she first left.
Billy handed Bess the last box that was addressed to her. “This is probably clothes,” he moaned, rolling his eyes. “The best presents were the ones with all the tape and funny paper on them …” he explained.
Buffy rolled her eyes. Next year she was gonna be the one giving the ‘best presents’ and Spike could give them the dreaded utilitarian stuff – underwear, socks, shoes, jackets. Spike didn’t know it yet, but he had messed up by wrapping those gifts himself … she now knew that he could, in fact, wrap gifts without bursting into flames. He couldn’t wrap well … but, hey, even howler monkeys could be trained.
Bess opened the last box and Billy’s contention was confirmed. Socks, a jacket, and a pair of boots. Bess actually like the boots and jacket quite a lot, though. Her old boots had gotten rather beaten up over the last months on the road and the jacket had a handy inside pocket, perfect for carrying a stake.
“Thank you …” she offered, glancing furtively towards Buffy and Spike, before giving Billy a wide smile. “Santa was much too kind…”
After everyone started to scatter slightly, Bess stood up and went over to Buffy and Spike. “I … I have a friend waiting outside. May I bring her in?”
Buffy’s brows shot up. “Of course – you should’ve said something sooner!”
“I … I wasn’t sure …” Bess shrugged, not really wanting to finish that sentence. Not wanting to say she didn’t bring Angelpie in because she wanted to be able to make a very hasty retreat if need be. “I’ll be right back.”
When Bess came back in with the kitten … who wasn’t really a little kitten anymore, but about half grown, the kids were enthralled. Miss Kitty Fantastico, who was seven now, was a little curious about the rambunctious youngster … at first. Then she simply sauntered away smugly, climbed the stairs, and took her throne at the top of the landing where she could look down upon her loyal subjects, her tail twitching lazily, as if the whole scene below her was just a bit tedious for her tastes. You could almost feel Miss Kitty’s eyes roll and hear an impatient sigh as the kitten entertained the group of new admirers with her acrobatics and ambush tactics and cuteness. Miss Kitty was too sophisticated for such uncouth antics; she was the queen of the house and wasn’t threatened by the little court jester, although she may have to put her in her place if the newcomer tried any of those ambushes on her.
“What did ya say your friend’s name was?” Spike questioned after a few minutes.
“Sweetie Puddin’ Angelpie,” Bess replied from her place sitting cross legged on the floor with the other kids as Angelpie took full advantage of all the extra attention. “I just call her Angelpie for short…”
Spike pursed his lips and shook his head. “Sorry, pet … but this ain’t gonna work out. Angelpie’ll have t’ go.”
All the kids went suddenly silent and looked up at him with wide eyes … even Buffy, who was sitting nearby holding MacKenzie, looked at him like he’d lost his mind. “What!?” came in unison from the youngsters.
Bess’ face fell … her heart fell … her whole being seemed to fall. “But … she won’t be any trouble… I’ll … I can buy her food and …”
“No Angelpie,” Spike reiterated firmly.
Bess bit her lip as tears welled in her eyes and she picked the kitten up. Was he really going to make her choose between them and her best friend … a friend that had saved her life in more ways than one?
Before Buffy could even step in, Billy came to his sister’s … and Angelpie’s defense. “Papa! You can’t do that!” Billy argued as he looked between Bess and his father. He could feel her pain as if it were his own.
“Mama promised! She said we didn’t have to give away any more kittens – ever! She promised!” he argued angrily as he jumped up from where he’d been sitting and stood between his father and Bess. There was that tic in his cheek that he’d been trying to get during the play.
Spike pursed his lips and looked back at Bess who had gathered the kitten up and was holding it against her chest, its head tucked under her chin, then looked back at his son. Anger flared like blue flames in the boy’s eyes, his mouth was a firm line of determination; it made Spike proud to see him stand up for Bess like that.
“Didn’t say the mangy cat had t’ go … just the bloody name,” Spike explained with an eye roll. “Not having anything named ‘Angel’ living under my roof.”
“Spike! You’re a giant creep! I should box your ears or something …” Buffy exclaimed as she stood up from her seat. She really wasn’t 100% sure what that meant, but it sounded good … how exactly do you box someone’s ears? You get little ear-sized boxes and tape them on? Or maybe you cut the ears off and put them in a box … that sounded more feasible and more painful – that would be more appropriate. If vampires got their ears cut off, would new ones eventually grow back?
“What? I never said the bloody tabby couldn’t stay! Just find it a different soddin’ name for the thing,” he defended.
All the kids let out a collective sigh of relief while Buffy picked up an empty box that had held some sort of Christmas present in its past life and, still holding the baby in one arm, she lifted the box up and stuffed it down over Spike’s head. “Consider your ears boxed.”
“Oh, bloody hell …” came the muffled moan from under the cardboard.
Later that night, after all the guests had gone and the younger kids were in bed, Buffy knocked on Bess’ door. Spike was asleep – he’d taken this week off from his regular job to try and get as much rest as possible before the fight on Saturday … which Buffy continued to try and talk him out of, without any luck, thus far.
“Come in,” Bess called from the other side. She was sitting on her bed with her kitten, dressed in shorts and a t-shirt despite the cool temperature in the mansion. The red and green braid had faded out some when she washed her hair and now looked almost pink and chartreuse; it’d probably be gone completely in another couple of days, providing Annie didn't get the idea to re-do it for her.
Buffy smiled softly as she entered her daughter’s room, closing the door behind her and glancing around. The two new posters that ‘Santa’ had given Bess adorned one wall, the skimboard and Rollerblades sat in one corner, a red brick, half of which had been painted over white, sat on the bedside table along with a porcelain angel tree topper that appeared to be quite old, despite its pristine condition. Buffy didn't ask about the items - not now; she hoped when Bess was ready to tell them what she'd been doing that their meaning would be revealed, but she didn't want to push it.
Buffy took a seat at the opposite end of the bed from Bess. “Sorry about Spike today – sometimes he doesn’t think … well, mostly it’s Angel that makes his brain totally fizzle and short circuit … or apparently anything named ‘Angel’ … I think if he ate angel food cake he’d probably dust right on the spot,” Buffy rambled nervously. “It’s a whole thing with him, kind of his raison d’être … to hate anything Angelish, or Angel-y ... maybe even Angelific … he’s pretty anti-Angel. Not, you know … angel angels, but the name … Angel.”
Bess looked at her like the crazy tree was blooming again, but finally shook her head slightly. “It’s ok … we can find a new name.”
“No! No … Angelpie is perfect; it seems to suit her. Don’t worry about him, he’ll be fine with it. He’s just … Spike,” Buffy assured her with an eye roll, as if that explained everything. "He'll deal."
“Ok … if you’re sure…” Bess agreed tentatively. She didn’t want Angelpie to be tossed out because of her name…
“Totally sure … feel free to stomp on Spike’s toe if he says another word.” Buffy smiled and reached a hand out to pet the calico. The kitten arched her back up against the Slayer's touch and purred happily.
Bess laughed lightly at the image of stomping on Spike's toe and him pulling it up and holding it in his hands and jumping around on one foot. She shrugged and nodded her agreement.
“Bess … I’m really glad you came back – there’s no way for me to tell you how glad. I know maybe we messed up before … honestly, we didn’t mean to hold you back or …” Buffy stammered before stopping and taking a deep breath. This was harder than talking to Annie about the facts of life. “What I mean is, we know you’re an adult … we just wanted to let you be child for a while … to try and give that back to you. We just didn’t realize that it was too late… I swear we didn’t mean to hold you back or keep you down.”
Bess bit her lip and reached out and petted Angelpie too, scratching her ears and under her chin as Buffy stroked softly down her back. “I know … I’m sorry. I’m so sorry for lying to you and the things I said – I … I swear I didn’t mean them … I wanted to be what you wanted, but then … I just couldn’t do it and … I didn’t want to disappoint you, so I lied about the GED thing and …” Bess let her voice trail off, knowing that wasn’t really what Buffy had been most upset with her about.
“Bess, it’s not my place to tell you who to … who to sleep with, but I love you too much to stand by and watch you …”
Bess swallowed back a lump in her throat. “I’m not …” she interrupted Buffy. “I won’t … I won’t do that again.” Bess looked down at the kitten, unable to meet Buffy’s eyes. “I got arrested … in Oklahoma …” she admitted to Buffy, not aware that Buffy already knew that. “I … I thought it had all been a dream – you and Spike and Billy and Sunnydale and freedom. I thought the Council had found a new experiment … that they were trying to drive me insane, and they were succeeding.
“I know that fear of jail isn’t the best reason for me to not trade sex for money … but, it’s the best reason I have right now,” Bess admitted, finally looking up and meeting Buffy’s eyes.
Buffy gave her a small smile and nodded. “Well, if you’ll let us, maybe we can help you find some other reasons,” Buffy suggested. “You’re a smart girl, Bess … I know you got scared and ran … but the fact that you made it out there all on your own for six months, that you helped the Slayers in Cleveland and even made a friend,” Buffy continued, nodding down at the kitten, “tells me that you have lots of reasons to be proud of yourself. The fact that you came back tells me how brave you are and … that maybe you’d like to … I don’t know … let us help you now? I promise we won’t suffocate you, but we’d so much like to help … whatever you need or want to do, we’d like to help.”
Bess looked back down at the kitten and nodded slightly. “Wanda said there were a million wonderful memories waiting to be made … here, with you,” Bess bit her lip and looked back up at Buffy, then shrugged. “I’d like to … to make some. You know … memories, happy memories, with everyone … ‘cos …” Bess cleared her throat and summoned her courage. “‘Cos I missed you all and … I love you … Mom.”
It still felt strange to Bess, but at the same time she knew it was right. Buffy was her mom, Spike was her dad. She didn’t know if it would ever roll off her tongue like it had with Wanda and John, but she could press it out of her mouth if she thought about it, and it didn’t burn … it was sweet on her lips. Mom.
Oh God. Mom! Buffy drew in a deep breath and wiped the tears from her eyes then leaned forward and drew Bess into a hug. “We missed you and we love you so much, sweetie. We never stopped thinking about you or worrying about you … I prayed you’d come home every day, but it was Annie, Dani, and Billy that finally got the prayer to come true – they asked Santa to bring you home.”
Bess snorted a soft laugh and nodded against Buffy’s shoulder. “Santa’s like a Borg … resistance is futile,” Bess quipped and Buffy laughed. Apparently the girl hadn’t forgotten everything from the time she spent here … quoting Star Trek expressions is a definite sign of assimilation into the Weckerly clan. Resistance is, most definitely, futile.
(Next Morning) Monday, December 27th, 2010, 6:00am, Sunnydale:
Buffy couldn’t sleep … she tried, but she couldn’t. She had to do something … anything. So she sat alone at the research table, books about demons and magicks spread out over it, important pages marked with sticky notes (don’t tell Giles, he still says they must leave some residue on the paper…it’s simply impossible that they can stick and not leave some substance behind). She’d looked up every protection spell she could find, plus everything about Pele demons … any accounts from Slayers that had met them and any information about how to defeat them – without getting burned to a cinder in the process. Honestly, after three hours of work, she had accomplished very little, but at least she was utterly exhausted now, that was a plus.
“Hey, B,” Faith greeted her as she came in the garden doors … or plastic covered opening, as it were.
Buffy turned tired eyes to her sister Slayer. “Where’ve you been? Change your mind on the whole abstinence policy?”
“Nope, I’m still on the wagon … although my battery bill is going through the roof,” Faith divulged with a sly grin.
Buffy laughed. “I’d tell you that they sell electric, plug-in vibrators, but since I’m paying the electric bill, I’ll just skip that bit of information … Plus, Edison Electric would probably have to start up a whole new power plant if you discovered that wonder of modern technology.”
Faith laughed and dropped down in the seat next to Buffy. “It does make you wonder if it’s worth it … I mean, sex with a real, live guy is basically free … I mean, yeah, you might have to talk to him but … well, we all have to make sacrifices.”
“I hate to tell you this, but if you’re looking for love, you’ll probably have to talk to a guy … probably – I mean, it’s just a theory, I think I read it in Cosmo,” Buffy offered.
Faith rolled her eyes and leaned back, balancing her chair on just the two back legs. “Yeah, I’m beginning to get that idea,” she admitted. “Speaking of talking – Lindsey called … uhhh, I can’t remember what day now, a couple of days ago – you were gone. Anyway, he said he was kinda tied up now – and not in a fun bondage way, but that he’d call back when he could.”
Buffy nodded, somewhat surprised that he had actually called. Faith, of course, knew Lindsey from the time she spent in the Coven in Canada helping to train new Slayers. “Did he say how long he’d be in Nepal?”
“He wasn’t really sure how much longer … I guess it’s not like ordering Chinese food – one from column A, one from column B kinda thing. He sounded good though … thought he was gonna make it through the trials and get all the magical concealment tats,” Faith related. “He’s had to do some unbelievable shit … he had to walk across burning coals – like they show on TV. He said it’s a matter of belief that you won’t get burned. Mind over matter or some crap,” Faith continued, shaking her head in sympathy. “And that was the first trial … it’s only gotten more intense from there. They’re really putting him through the wringer for those babies… all I had to do for mine was fork over some dough.”
Buffy cocked a brow and looked at Faith. “I don’t think your tats actually have any magical power…”
Faith shrugged. “I don’t know … they’re like horny-man bait … that’s a pretty good power if you ask me. You can never have too much horny-man bait.”
Buffy laughed and shook her head a little. “A hard man is good to find, huh?” Buffy questioned with a smirk. “And now you’re what? Fishing in a ‘catch and release’ pond, I guess?”
Faith sighed. “Yeah, something like that… catch, talk … toss back. How did you get past the whole … ‘Hey, baby, what’s your sign?’ shit with Spike and get to something that matters?”
Buffy laughed. “We skipped right to beating each other up … it was a whole mortal enemy thing. I wouldn’t really suggest that approach with most guys, though. So, how long did you talk to him … Lindsey, I mean?” Buffy asked, changing the subject slightly.
Faith furrowed her brow as she thought, then finally shrugged. “I don’t know … an hour … two? Maybe longer.”
“Glad I wasn’t paying that long distance bill,” Buffy muttered under her breath and shook her head as she looked back down at the book she’d been reading.
"So, did he ask you your sign?" Buffy wondered nonchalantly.
“Naaa - he never did. We talked about the trials and tats and things they don't have in Nepal. I promised to take him out to Dairy Queen and buy him a Blizzard and a burger if he ever makes it to SunnyD. Who knew there were no Dairy Queens in Nepal ... crazy right?” Faith questioned, dropping the front legs of her chair back down to the floor.
Buffy continued to shake her head. “Yeah, life gets crazy like that sometimes, mostly when you least expect it,” Buffy agreed.
“So, if it wasn’t ‘sexcapades’ keeping you out all night, what was it?” Buffy asked, changing the subject completely.
“Oh – that Pele dude … I was doing some checking around,” Faith told Buffy, leaning forward in her chair.
Buffy looked up from her book. “And?”
“And … it’s not good. He’s the real deal; one very hot potato …” Faith groaned and rolled her eyes. “I’m tired and that sounds like he’s a Mr. Potato Head, which, I’m thinking not. Best I can figure, unless you’re a ‘Fire Extinguisher Demon’ or ‘Asbestos Man’ …” Faith’s voice trailed off.
“You’re not gonna win…” Buffy finished her thought. “Especially if you’re ‘extra flammable vampire man’.”
Faith shrugged and gave Buffy a sympathetic look. “Sorry.”
“Yeah … me too.”
Wednesday, December 29th, 2010, 11:00am, at the new Council headquarters:
“So …” Buffy was saying to the Council Governing Committee, which now included Bess for the first time in many months, “… I think it would be a great idea if we could have some kind of … ‘Special Olympics’ … only well – not. Olympics for Slayers. Maybe ‘Supernatural Olympics’,” she amended.
“Buffy,” Giles addressed her. “I understand your point … Slayers are incredibly … competitive, but do you really think that’s the best use of their time and talents … as well as our own?”
Buffy shrugged. “I just think that Slayers would like a little recognition for their talents … their abilities. They can’t get it by going on TV and saying, ‘Hey, look at me! I saved the world!’ Plus, it would be a great way for Slayers from around the world to meet each other and … Oh! We could compete as teams … teambuilding … that’s like the hottest thing now, right? Companies pay big money to send their employees off into the wilderness or boot camps and stuff to try and not die so they can build trust and whatever. Seems like that would be something kinda important for Slayers to have, right? Trust in each other – the ability to work as a team.
“What do you think, Bess?” Buffy questioned, looking across the table at her daughter.
Bess bit her bottom lip and looked at the faces around the table which all turned to her; Giles, Wes, Faith, and Amanda, along with other Watchers and Slayers she’d only met this day, plus Fred … which Bess considered to be an odd name for a girl.
Bess cleared her throat … she knew where this was coming from, her disappointment of not being able to compete on the swim team at the ‘Y’. “I … uhhh … I think that Slayers would relish the chance to compete against each other for a bit of glory and … I think that, since we’re placing Slayers in teams now, which is quite contrary to their natural instincts, the stronger we can make each team, the better it would be for everyone – including the world at large.”
Buffy smiled at Bess. She hadn’t warned her about bringing this up and she probably should’ve, but it just seemed like the right time, finally. She’d been thinking about it for a while … well, about six months. Buffy turned back to Giles and raised her hand. “All in favor?”
All the Slayers raised their hands immediately. Faith kicked Wes under the table. He flinched in his seat and glared at her, but finally raised his hand, as well, breaking the tie so Fred wouldn’t have to do it.
Giles sighed and rolled his eyes. “We will have to wait until we have sufficient funding to organize such an event …” he pointed out. “Unless you’d all like to forgo your compensation for a month or two…”
Everyone, except Buffy, Bess, and Faith lowered their hands.
“Let’s do this … let’s table this vote for now,” Giles suggested. “And, when we secure sufficient funding, we will reopen the issue. Perhaps by this summer we can have something in place and host a small, test run of sorts. Would that be satisfactory?”
Buffy nodded and lowered her hand and Faith and Bess followed suit. “Ok … but I’m not gonna forget it.”
“I’m well aware of that, Buffy,” Giles agreed with a sigh. Bone, meet dog.
Giles finished up the meeting going over boring business stuff … saying that, with Anya’s help, who had been hired as their (part-time) Chief Financial Officer, they had applied for several government grants for their new not-for-profit organization and were quite hopeful that they would be receiving those funds soon. They had listed their not-for-profit organization as a ‘Community Enhancement and Safety’ organization. They hoped to offer either free or low cost self-defense classes to the public at large, which would serve as a 'cover' for their non-profit organization and also provide a valuable service which the community of Sunnydale could certainly use. They were still searching for the right instructor for that, either a new Slayer or perhaps one of the Watchers in training. By offering that, it would help them meet the requirements of the government for the not-for-profit status and qualify them for several grants.
Giles had matched what Anya was making at the Video Hut, which wasn’t much for a CFO, but then, the World Defense Council wasn’t much of an organization … yet. As it grew, he promised her, so would her compensation. She still worked at the Magic Box full time, but quit the Video Hut (again … after two weeks notice, just in case this gig didn’t work out and she had to go back).
They had also hired Xander as a contractor to build out a suitable training room in the warehouse and create a bomb-proof, earthquake-proof, flood-proof … hopefully apocalypse-proof vault that could house the more dangerous magical artifacts they had discovered in the tons and tons of paraphernalia the Council had in storage. Willow had placed magical wards within the thick, reinforced, concrete walls, floor and ceiling to keep it hidden from the world at large and protected from magical intrusion or invasion. In addition, a new humidity controlled, secure (but not as secure as the dangerous artifact vault) library was being built within the warehouse to store the multitude of books after they had been scanned into the database (because you know Giles would never actually get rid of the books!). Willow had graciously volunteered her time and expertise to get that database all set up for them and Slayers-in-training spent some hours of each day scanning books into the computer. On the second floor of the warehouse, Xander built out a dorm for the Slayers-in-training with several private berths along with a large bathroom, a kitchen, and a common area where they could ‘hang out’ and watch TV or play games, etc. in their free time.
Back in England, the Council’s headquarters building had been sold – it went for less than what Giles had hoped, but the upkeep was bleeding the coffer dry and they couldn’t afford to wait out the current real estate depression. The castle outside London had not yet sold – funny how plummeting stock markets, threats of entire countries declaring bankruptcy, and devalued currency the world over took a toll on the lucrative castle market…
The Apocalypse Leadership Team had finally been completely staffed with Slayers and Watchers from around the world. Faith and Wes had worked tirelessly on getting that organized and making sure all regions of the world were covered with someone from the ALT. They had gotten the Slayers organized like an army, as Faith had suggested originally, smaller teams or squads (each with at least one Watcher) making up regional platoons, each of which had one of the ALTs in charge of it. Those leaders would be responsible for organizing large-scale battles and following the orders sent down from the ‘General’ … Faith.
(about a month and a half ago), Early November …
The CGC and ALT had both been fully staffed and both groups, which included some people who were in both, convened now for the first time at the new Council headquarters in Sunnydale to choose the person who would have complete control during an emergency … an apocalyptic threat. There would be no time for lengthy debate at that time, one person would need to make the hard decisions and everyone else must agree to follow those decisions and work as a team to defeat the threat, whatever form it may take.
There were four nominations for the job of ‘General’ of the Slayer army: Buffy, Giles, Faith, and Wesley. Buffy immediately withdrew her nomination – which had been offered by Spike and seconded by Giles.
“I can’t be the general…” she explained simply. “Take my name off the list.”
“What do ya mean you can’t be the bloody general?” Spike questioned. “You’re the Slayer … you should be the soddin’ general.”
“Spike, I’m a Slayer … not the Slayer and I can’t take that job,” Buffy argued adamantly, wishing he’d drop it. He wouldn’t.
“That’s bollocks! Everyone knows you’re the most qualified … the senior Slayer … been through more hell, both literally and otherwise, than anyone else here, I’d wager. Know all the tricks … all the moves, you do. You know evil … you know how it thinks … how to defeat it.”
“Spike, please … I can’t be the general… I vote for Faith,” Buffy announced, looking around the table. “No offense, Giles … but I think the head of a Slayer army should be a Slayer – and Faith’s the best … she can handle it, she knows as much as I do, she’s just as strong … just as smart – maybe smarter.”
“Bloody hell…” Spike moaned as he got up from his seat and grabbed Buffy’s arm, pulling her up with him and away from the group. “A word, Slayer…” he muttered as he dragged her out the door.
Outside in the hallway, he stopped and turned around to face her. “What the bloody hell are ya doin’, Buffy?” he questioned earnestly. “We both know you’re the stronger one … the smarter one.”
“Spike, please trust me … I just can’t do it.”
“Can’t or won’t?”
“What’s the difference? I can’t and I won’t …” Buffy offered tersely.
Spike tilted his head and considered her a moment as she stood her ground. “It’s that prophecy innit?” he asked at length. “We both know that’s probably a load of bollocks…”
Buffy folded her arms over her chest and rolled her eyes. “Spike … there might come a day when I have to stand alone again … when that day comes, I can’t have an army of Slayers depending on me. You said it … I’m the Slayer … prophecy or no, a day will come when I’ll have to stand alone.”
“You’re a Slayer …” Spike tossed her words back at her.
“Yeah … a Slayer that brings forth The Tetrad … who open the gates of hell, which only I can close; brings forth the End of Days, which I must face alone,” Buffy retorted, quoting prophecies and Slayer dreams.
Tears stung her eyes as she thought of their children and the world they’d brought them into … a world of demons and Hellmouths and prophecies. She blinked her emotions back and met his eyes. “I can’t do everything, Spike … I choose my family … I have to choose to do what I can to protect them first.”
Buffy shrugged. “That’s probably wrong … selfish, maybe … but … that’s my choice.”
Buffy remembered hearing or reading something a long time ago about the people that the government used to staff the nuclear missile silos during the cold war. It said that only people (mostly men) with no families and in particular no children, were used in that position. She wasn’t sure if that was actually true, but Buffy could understand the logic of it – how could you choose anything above your family? Your children? How could you launch a weapon that you knew would destroy the world if you had children out there in that world? It put her solidly between a rock and a hard place … but she had to follow her heart this time – she had to choose to protect her family and leave the world in the hands of someone else.
“‘Keep the mission always in mind … to save your children, you may need to save the world first,’” Spike quoted what Nikki Wood advised him when his ghosts had visited him … and finally forgiven him.
Buffy dropped her arms down to her sides and sighed as she leaned against him. “I know … I remember, but I can’t. Faith can save the world; we’ll save our family.”
Spike wrapped his arms around her and dropped a kiss on the top of her head. “Ok, luv … if that’s what you want, you know I’m with ya – always.”
“It’s not what I want; it’s just what I have to do…” she admitted, blowing out a deep breath. What she wanted was for demons and Hellmouths and prophecies and the PTB to leave her family the hell alone … Wishes and horses…
Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word, Elton John
do I got to do
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