|Story Title:||Can't Buy Me Love|
Standing Outside the Fire
The group continues working in London to get the apocalypse team leaders chosen and get the Council headquarters moved, but make time for some slayage and a little fun along the way, too.
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.
A bō is a Japanese long staff weapon which is typically around 6 ft (1.8 m) long, used in Japanese martial arts, in particular bōjutsu.
Standing Outside the Fire, Garth Brooks: http://youtu.be/XbkBp04ykQg
ScreenCaps courtesy of ScreenCap Paradise:
Special thanks to 'epd4' for betaing this chapter!!
|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.
(The next night) Thursday, April 29th, 2010, 8:30pm, London:
It had been a long day at Council headquarters for Giles. The prospect of moving the entire operation from London to Sunnydale was overwhelming at best. The vast number of ancient tomes that the Council had not only in the headquarters building but also at the castle outside of London was a logistical nightmare. Many were irreplaceable … trying to find an economical, but also completely safe way to move them was proving to be difficult. On one hand, he agreed with Buffy that moving the Council closer to the action was a good idea, but the traditionalist in him really wanted to keep the status quo. On the other hand, moving the Council to Sunnydale would afford him the chance to be involved in its operation and keep him close to Edmond … and on the other hand, all the Council history was here, hundreds of years worth of history, along with the ancestral Watcher lineage … but on the other hand … sigh.
Giles walked slowly through the Highgate Cemetery in north London, passing tombs of his ancestors along with many other families of Watchers. When he was in London, Giles often found it relaxing to meander through the centuries old cemetery, which was filled not only with an impressive collection of Victorian mausoleums, gravestones, statuary, and elaborately carved tombs, but also trees, shrubbery, wildflowers, and even wildlife. The cemetery was even purported to sport its very own ‘King Vampire of the Undead’ … the ‘Highgate Vampire’. Urban legend from the 1970s claimed a medieval nobleman, who had practiced black magic in Romania, had been brought to England in a coffin in the early eighteenth century by followers who bought a house for him in the West End. He was buried on the site that later became Highgate Cemetery, and it was claimed that modern Satanists had roused him. Of course, Giles put no stake in such claims; he’d never seen a king vampire roaming these paths in any of his visits and he was fairly certain he would've noticed.
Giles took a seat near one of the oldest tombs on the grounds and tried to get his mind to simply relax for a moment. He wanted nothing more than to go home, which he now thought of as California … back to Sunnydale, back to the magic shop, back to Edmond – back to his life. He didn’t want to be, as Buffy put it, the ‘senior Watcher’ … the man in charge. He’d been happy with his life as it was and, now that he’d reconnected with Olivia, he was even happier. She’d shown considerable interest in understanding his role as a Watcher and what he and Buffy, along with the other Scoobies, actually did, and she hadn’t shied away from it this time. She’d even talked of spending some time with him in Sunnydale … making her living as a graphic artist afforded her the freedom to live nearly anywhere in the world – as long as it had an internet connection and FedEx. He was trying not to get his hopes up too high … trying not to feel like a giddy teenager who had just discovered girls, but he had to admit Buffy was right about one thing – life was too short to spend alone and the racing of his heart and fluttering in his stomach when he was with Olivia told him those old feelings hadn’t been extinguished, despite his best efforts over the last years since losing Jenny to do so.
Giles was pulled from his musings as the door of the crypt directly across the footpath from him opened with a rusty creak. He stood up from his seat and moved slowly towards the heavy door to investigate.
“Rupert … how good of you to come to my re-birth!”
“I wouldn’t have missed it, Quentin,” Giles replied dryly as Quentin Travers emerged from the Travers family tomb. Giles doubted that Spike actually meant to turn the Council Head, but with Spike bleeding so profusely from so many wounds, it was almost a given that Travers would’ve ingested some of Spike’s blood during their struggle.
“It really is astonishing! I know I’m dead, but I’ve never felt so alive! You really must give this a go, old chap! It’s exhilarating! I can see everything so clearly … smell every flower, every faint aroma …. hear every heartbeat!” Quentin exclaimed excitedly as he moved towards Giles.
“Was it worth it?” Giles asked his old boss coldly. “Was all the pain you put them through worth it?”
“Who? Your precious Slayer and her demon lover?” Quentin questioned. “If I could’ve gotten that prophecy child … I would’ve been unstoppable. We were mere weeks away from creating a Super Slayer…”
“Oh, please do stop!” Giles exclaimed. “They weren’t any closer to creating a Super Slayer than they were fifteen years ago when they told you it couldn’t be done! I read the reports, I know the truth of that royal fiasco.
“If you hadn’t been so bloody blind you might’ve seen that you had a ‘Super Slayer’ right there all along! If you had taken the time to actually acknowledge that vampires, especially those with a soul, were more than simply monsters to be used and destroyed,” Giles spat the words at him.
“Young Bess is a ‘Super Slayer’ you pillock! And you turned her into a …” Giles choked on his words as Bess’ shy expression and self-effacing demeanor flashed through his mind, making it impossible for him to voice what Travers had turned her into.
“You’ve always been too weak, Rupert. That’s why that Slayer of yours never fulfilled her potential … you couldn’t control her, and now you have a tiger by the tail and it will chew you up and spit you out! You think my job was simple? You think being the only thing between the demons and the rest of the world is easy? You’ll soon find out, I expect…” Travers countered.
“You never stood between the demons and the rest of the world … Buffy did. You ruled by fear and rested on your laurels and took credit for everything my Slayer did. She saved the world time and again, but that wasn’t living up to her potential. She gave you an army of Slayers, but that wasn’t enough. She gave her life to keep the world from being sucked into Glory’s hell dimension, but that still wasn’t good enough for you …” Giles ranted angrily.
“But I believe I finally understand you,” Giles continued, his voice becoming more thoughtful.
“Oh, please do tell!” Travers quipped, sitting down on a nearby headstone.
“It wasn’t that Buffy didn’t live up to her potential … it’s that she surpassed it. She was a Slayer with friends and a family of her own … she had a life apart from her Calling and you couldn’t bloody stand it,” Giles accused.
“My dear Giles … as usual, you couldn’t be more wrong,” Travers retorted, jumping down from the headstone.
“Couldn’t I? Then why did you make it your life’s ambition to tear her down, destroy her family, destroy her?” Giles questioned.
“I never intended to destroy her, Rupert, only ready her for the coming battle … something that you were unable or unwilling to do. The prophecies don’t lie … ‘To reap the harvest they have sown, she who brings forth The Tetrad from her loins must stand alone against the End of Days with neither friend nor foe nor kith nor kin betwixt her heart and the gaping maw of hell,’ Travers quoted. “One day, you may understand, my old friend – that is if you live that long. I find myself feeling a bit peckish …” Travers explained with a rueful grin before morphing into a golden-eyed demon with razor-sharp fangs.
As Quentin lunged at Giles, the self-reinstated Watcher dropped a stake he had hidden in his shirt sleeve into his hand and raised it in one deft move, embedding it into the fledge’s chest and penetrating his heart. “Goodbye, Quentin,” Giles murmured as Travers’ eyes momentarily went wide with surprise before he disintegrated into dust.
Giles sighed heavily, removing his glasses and rubbing the bridge of his nose to stem the headache he felt coming on. He’d accused Travers of resting on his laurels, or more aptly, the laurels of the Council, and he’d meant it. Buffy and Faith were right, it was time to stop living in the past; it was time for the Council to get in the trenches with the Slayers. Regardless of the logistics, it was time to get up off the laurels of the past and start helping the Slayers of today.
Giles slipped his glasses back on and dropped the stake into his coat pocket as he turned and began wandering down the dark footpath further into the park-like cemetery. His mind raced with a thousand things that would need to be done, but one kept popping back to the top of his list … find out more about these prophecies that Travers had put so much belief in.
Buffy, Spike, and Bess stood in front of the three story house on Macaulay Road, just down from Clapham Common and seemed to let out a collective, disappointed sigh. It had changed … in fact, Spike wasn’t entirely sure exactly which house was ‘his’ anymore, it had changed so much. Buffy was sure it was the one they were standing in front of, but as she looked up and down the street, even she started to doubt her own memory, which was admittedly brief, but more recent than Spike’s, of just which house it was. They all seemed to look alike now.
“Sorry, pet,” Spike apologized to Bess. “I suppose what they say is true – you can’t go ‘ome again.”
Bess wasn’t sure if she’d even remember the house, but wanted to see it, nonetheless. To say she was disappointed that it had all changed so much was an understatement. “It’s ok,” she assured him.
“How ‘bout a walk in the Common, then?” Spike suggested. “Hard to make grass and trees look too bloody different …”
The trio turned down the walk and headed south for the park, all disappointed in their own way that the Weckerly house had changed so drastically. After walking a little ways into the Common, Buffy’s eyes went wide. “The bandstand!” she exclaimed, as she took off running towards the familiar pavilion near the center of the green area.
Spike’s stomach was still too precarious to run, so he and Bess followed her, keeping their leisurely pace down the footpath. When they reached the bandstand, Buffy was sitting on the top step, running her fingers over some cracks in the stone floor, seemingly mesmerized.
“What is it, luv?” Spike asked, looking down at the broken stone.
Buffy looked up at him with wide eyes. “The cracks … here – I did this. I did this that night – after …” she explained, still running her fingers over the fissures in the floor. It seemed so long ago now – had it only been three and a half months? Buffy touched the small bulge in her abdomen, fifteen weeks pregnant … twenty three more to go.
“Cheap buggers couldn’t even fix the floor in a bloody century …” Spike complained with a smirk making Buffy laugh lightly. She remembered what Annie had told her about how neat it would be to stand in the very spot one of your ancestors had stood and Buffy got chill bumps. She was sitting in the exact spot she had sat that night, heartbroken and guilt-ridden for hurting William so badly … not realizing that was what she had to do to save her family.
Buffy looked up at Bess and she slid further into the band stand, leaning her back against the low, metal latticework around the edge. “Come sit,” she invited the girl, patting the floor next to her. “We need to talk.”
Bess sat down next to Buffy and Spike sat on the stairs next to her, facing out.
“Do you remember the day I came to your house when you were a little girl?” Buffy questioned.
Bess nodded slowly. “A little bit. You shared the sweet breads with Anne and I … you were sad because you were far from home.”
“That’s right …” Buffy agreed, before taking a deep breath and diving head-first into a tale of magic and revenge and stolen lives and lost years. Bess listened with rapt attention, questioning Spike from time to time about the woman she considered her ‘real’ mother … Cecily. Leaving out the part about just exactly how she’d driven William into Dru’s clutches, Buffy explained that to set things right, to get their family back, that was what had to happen and that was why neither she nor Spike could stay with Bess, Anne, and William. Spike was a vampire and Buffy was from a different time – from this time they were in now.
“We didn’t leave you because we didn’t love you,” Buffy concluded. “We simply didn’t have any choice. Bess, if we could’ve changed it, we would have. If I could’ve stayed, I would have. We loved all of you … you and Anne and William, you children were your father’s pride and joy and it broke both our hearts to have to leave.
“Neither of us knew you were a Slayer – not until recently, and we didn’t know about the dungeon until we met you in Billy’s dreams…” Buffy assured her. “We’re both so sorry that you had to go through what you did.”
Bess sat with her arms crossed over her chest and her head bowed, looking down at her lap as she digested the story that Buffy had laid out for her.
“So, I’m Billy’s twin sister – like Dani?” she questioned after a few moments.
“Yeah, I guess so … and Dani’s twin, too – just, you know, the older … much older, twin,” Buffy agreed.
“Buttercup, there’s nothing we could’ve done to stop you from becomin’ a Slayer … it’s in your blood,” Spike told her softly. “I’m sorry I wasn’t there to help you, but I’m ‘ere now – we’re both ‘ere now, and we’d do anything in the world for you. We love you, Elizabeth Anne.”
“I understand…” Bess acknowledged with a shrug, still looking down. Buffy met Spike’s eyes over the top of Bess’ head and sighed … would Bess ever really believe that they loved her? Would she ever be able to love and truly trust anyone again?
Buffy wrapped an arm around Bess and pulled the girl against her before dropping a kiss into their daughter’s soft, blonde curls. It was going to be a long road back for all of them, but maybe now that Bess understood what really happened, that Buffy and Spike hadn’t left because they wanted to or because they didn’t love her and the other children, but because they had no choice, Bess could find it within herself to let the walls down a little more and let them help her navigate that long road.
Over the next few days, as Wes and Giles worked on the logistics of moving the Council and all its important documents to Sunnydale, Buffy, Faith, Spike, and Bess worked on interviewing and testing applicants for the leaders of the Armageddon army … or apocalypse team … or whatever they were going to call it.
“We really need a cool acronym for it – or at least a better name,” Faith complained on the second day. “I’d hate to have to tell Willy I needed a night off to go to an ‘AA’ meeting…”
“The A-Team?” Buffy suggested.
Faith rolled her eyes. “I think that’s taken …”
“The ‘Bugger all Demons in the Ass’ team?” Spike suggested. “B.A.D.ASS for short…”
“What happened to the “I” and ‘T’ between ‘demons’ and ‘ass’?” Faith questioned.
“Poetic license…” Spike smirked.
“How about the Annual Apocalypse Aversion Contingent, Harboring Hemophiles, Ordinary Outlaws, & Outcasts …” Buffy tried brightly. “AAA-CHHOOO for short. Then, when you ask for the night off, Willy will think you’re sick.”
Faith sighed and rolled her eyes. “Never mind.”
(Three days later) Sunday, May 1st, 2010, 3:30pm, London:
Buffy, Faith, Spike, and Bess were down to the last group of Slayers and Watchers to interview and test for the leadership roles on the A-team, as Buffy called it, because she’d gotten tired of saying ‘apocalypse’, despite Faith’s objections. They were choosing more than they figured they’d actually need and would narrow the field down further after going through the same procedure with Slayers and Watchers in North America and the rest of the world – after they got back to Sunnydale.
Any Slayer or Watcher could be dismissed from the ‘competition’ by any of the four members of the selection committee. They had the Slayers spar with Bess to test their fighting skills, which served two purposes – it tested the applicants, but also gave Bess a chance to sharpen her own somewhat rusty techniques. During the whole process, Bess had only dismissed one Slayer, telling Spike ‘she hits like a girl’, while the rest of the team had tossed a dozen or more each, mostly on nothing more than gut feel; they didn’t really have time (nor patience) to delve much deeper.
Spike watched Bess after she finished sparring with the latest applicant; a perky girl with pink streaks in the bleach-blonde hair on the top of her head which hung straight down in a pageboy cut, barely covering short, midnight-black hair below. She had a quick smile, and large, bright, aqua-blue eyes, glittery blue polish on her nails, and pretty wicked right hook. Spike walked over to his daughter in the corner of the training room as she put the two long, wooden staffs they had been using in the sparring test back in their place in the weapon's cabinet.
“Didn’t like her, then?” he asked, reading her body language.
Bess shrugged, her back to him. “She’s fine, she fights well enough.”
“Not what I asked…” Spike pointed out. “You don’t like ‘er.”
“She’s fine,” Bess insisted.
Spike took her by the shoulders and turned her around to face him so she had to look in his eyes. “That’s your head talkin’, what does this say?” he prodded further, pushing his fist lightly against her stomach. “What does your gut say?”
Bess rolled her eyes up to the ceiling to break the hold his eyes had on hers and sighed heavily. “I don’t know what you mean. My stomach tells me when I’m hungry … when I’m full …”
“Bollocks! You bloody well do know what I mean,” Spike insisted. “Look at me.”
Bess rolled her eyes around another moment before grudgingly meeting his again.
“You have to learn to listen to your gut, listen to your heart … follow your instincts. You do it when you’re fightin’ … I’ve seen it,” Spike preached. “One day, it may be the only thing that’ll keep you alive – don’t ignore it or it’ll stop talkin’ to you.”
“I’m already not alive…” Bess reminded him.
“Don’t sass … you know what I bloody well mean,” Spike reprimanded her. “Now, what does your gut say about Pinky?” Spike asked again, tilting his head towards the happy Slayer who was now talking animatedly with her Watcher about how good Bess was at Bōjutsu and, for being such a cute girl, she was awfully strong... she’d never seen anyone twirl a Bō quite so fast or strike with so much power.
Bess sighed heavily and closed her eyes. “She’s too … cheerful – look at her! She lost and she’s … chipper! And her eyes are too blue … and her hair is … pink and black and her fingernails sparkle. I hate her,” Bess admitted.
Spike smirked and nodded. “I know, I detest a bubbly Slayer, m’self … now, she’d be a bloody brilliant Dallas Cowboy cheerleader. Missed her true Callin’, I’d say. Lucky your mum’s so bloody surly… mighta never married her otherwise.”
Bess opened her eyes and looked at him and a small smile replaced the grim frown she’d had. “Buffy’s not surly…” Bess defended.
“Ha! You haven’t known her long enough – been on her best behavior, she has. You think splashin’ water on a hotel floor is bad … just wait ‘til you leave a wet towel on her floor – you’ll see.”
(Later that day), 6:30pm, London:
“B! Can I talk to you a minute?” Faith called down the hall when she saw Buffy emerge from the training room.
“Sure…” Buffy agreed, changing directions and heading towards Faith.
Faith stepped into a small office on the other side of the hall and invited Buffy in before closing the door.
“What’s up?” Buffy asked as she leaned on the edge of the heavy desk in the center of the room.
“Had something I been wanting to talk to you about … I’m just not sure how to start,” Faith began.
Buffy raised her brows. Faith wasn’t sure how to talk about something? Faith was second only to Anya in letting her true feelings be known to the entire world – this sounded ominous.
“Well, just say the first thing that comes to mind and we can go from there…” Buffy advised.
“Ok … here goes. You love Spike, right?” Faith questioned, pacing back and forth in front of Buffy.
Buffy frowned and looked at her with a little suspicion. Was she after Spike now? “Yeah…” Buffy answered slowly.
“How do you know?” Faith continued as she stopped and looked at her friend.
“How do I know? Ummmm … well, you just sort of know, ya know?” Buffy answered vaguely.
“But how do you know?” Faith pressed. “How did you know when you first realized you loved him? How did you know it was really love? How did you know he was the one for you? How did you know he wouldn’t, you know, bolt on you or break your heart?”
“Well … I didn’t know he wouldn’t break my heart, and actually, he did bolt on me for a while,” Buffy reminded her. “What is this about, Faith?”
Faith sighed and started pacing again, but didn’t answer.
“Are you in love with someone?” Buffy guessed.
“No … that’s just the thing. I’m not in love … I’m not even in ‘like’ … hell, I’m not even in lust with anyone,” Faith moaned. She hated opening herself up like this, letting her bravado down, letting her true feelings show, even to someone she considered a friend.
“Faith, I can’t help you if you don’t tell me what this is about,” Buffy prodded.
Faith sighed deeply and turned back to face Buffy. “The other day … I … well, I really thought I was a goner there for a minute and … well, it occurred to me that I’ve never really been in love, not true love – I’ve never had what you and Spike have and … I think I’d like to have that before I die.”
“Oh, Faith …” Buffy sighed, knowing how hard it was for Faith to not only admit that to herself, but say it out loud.
“I don’t know if it’s the same for everyone,” Buffy began to try and explain. “But for me it was … it was kinda strange I guess. I thought Spike had turned evil, like Angel, ya’ know? We’d only been together a really short time, and I wasn’t looking for love by any means, but … I don’t know, I guess I was just vulnerable and he … he was so … sweet to me and didn’t ask for anything in return – he just helped me. And then he was so … well, you know Spike, pretty hot … and there was this romantic Renaissance Man all bundled up in this burning wickedness and it just drew me in. It didn’t matter that I didn’t want to feel anything for him, your heart doesn’t care about logic or making sense, it just does what it wants.
“I first realized that I might love him when I woke up and he was gone … and my mind flashed back to Angel and Angelus and I thought Spike had turned back into … Spike. I was so afraid, I was so … heartbroken, then I was so angry with myself for even letting him worm his way under my skin – I didn’t want to feel anything, least of all heartbroken. I just had a thousand emotions running through me and all I could think was that I was gonna have to kill the second man I’d ever loved,” Buffy continued as she thought back to that night so many years ago when Spike had left her sleeping and gone out to get her pizza and Cokes … she nearly staked him, she’d come so close, so very close.
“Faith, I didn’t consciously stand there and say to myself, ‘I love him. He’s the one for me!’” Buffy continued. “Love just kinda sneaks up on you … you find yourself thinking about someone all the time, you find yourself wondering, ‘What would Spike think …’ or ‘I bet Spike would like that…’, you find yourself putting the other person’s needs above your own, even putting the other person’s life above your own, and you just suddenly realize you love them and the words just come out of your mouth of their own volition.”
“And it feels good, right?” Faith asked.
Buffy laughed lightly. “When it’s good, it’s the best … when it’s bad, it’s the worst. You make yourself vulnerable when you give your heart to another person and, being human, we make mistakes – we hurt each other without even meaning to sometimes. But I wouldn’t trade any of it for a life without his love … every heartache we’ve caused each other has been worth it. I’d do it all over again, because the highs are so high, they make you forget about the lows except to vow to not make the same mistakes again.”
Faith nodded thoughtfully. “That’s pretty much what I thought…”
“Faith, to reach the highs, you have to risk the lows … you may even have to scrape your heart up off the floor once or twice before you find the one that will treasure it and protect it with his life. But you’ll never find that man if you keep it hidden behind those ‘tough girl’ walls you’ve got up … you have to step into the fire. When everything’s just right, that fire will melt your souls together and fill that empty place inside your heart; it’ll make you feel complete … but it’ll never happen standing on the outside looking in,” Buffy advised.
(Later that night), 10:30pm, London:
“But why won’t you tell me where we’re going?” Bess asked for the fifth time in as many minutes as she, Buffy, and Spike climbed into the Black Cab outside the hotel.
“Because it’s a surprise … by definition, surprises require an element of actual surprise, otherwise it would be called an ‘expected’,” Buffy explained – again.
Bess sighed and sat back in her seat, eyeing her backpack that Buffy had borrowed earlier … it seemed to be stuffed full of something. Buffy handed the driver a piece of paper with the address on it and tucked the backpack between her legs and the door of the cab, away from Bess.
“I’m not sure I like surprises,” Bess complained as she looked out the window as the cab zipped helter-skelter down a fairly busy street, dodging in and out of traffic at breakneck speed. She did like riding in cars though; she’d even gotten Spike to promise to teach her how to drive when they got back to California.
Bess had talked to Annie, Dani, and Billy on the phone a few times since the downfall of the Council, and she was both excited and afraid of meeting them. Of course, she knew Billy from the dreams, but the girls were an unknown for her. Would they accept her into their family? Would they like her? Would she like them? Could they actually be friends? Bess hadn’t had an actual friend in … well, too long to remember - she wasn't sure she knew how to have a friend anymore.
Buffy and Spike had tried to talk to Bess about what she’d like to do now that she was back in the real world. They suggested that she go back to school and get her high school diploma … or GED they called it, while she figured out what she would like to do. Bess had agreed, but the thought of that also frightened her. She’d never been the best at school work, and, until recently, she hadn’t even seen a book in over a century. She was slightly relieved when she looked through some of the newspapers and magazines that Buffy had given her and found that she did still remember how to read, at least – even if she didn’t fully understand what the articles were talking about. There was so much to learn, new terminology – stuff about computers and telephones and televisions and the internet and hula hoops and Velcro, and everything seemed to have an acronym. There were MP3s and DVDs and VCRs and LEDs and ATMs and BLTs … not to mention ASAPs and TGIFs and LOLs …
Bess felt like she might’ve actually been transported to a completely different world at times. When she tried to talk to some of the other Slayers, she wondered if they were actually speaking English or some foreign language, which she knew at least one girl was … someone told her not to worry about it, it was ‘Klingon’ – Bess wasn’t sure where ‘Kling’ even was…
And Buffy and Spike want her to go to high school … Bess snorted a soft laugh to herself and rolled her eyes as she watched the world go by out the window of the cab … or, obviously, only a very small part of the world. Bess tried to think back to when she was just a regular girl … she tried to remember what her dreams were, what did she want to be when she grew up? She couldn’t remember anymore.
“’ere ya go,” the cabbie announced, pulling over the curb as he reached back and opened the door for his passengers. “Bushy Park.”
Spike pulled out several ten pound notes and paid the driver as they got out of the cab. Bess reached for the backpack, as if to help Buffy with it, but Buffy pulled it away before the girl could get a hand on it. “Gotta be quicker than that…” Buffy teased, shifting the pack to her other hand, further away from Bess, and waited for Spike.
“Which way?” Buffy asked, looking at her husband. Spike pointed to their right and the trio started walking down the empty side street. After just a short ways, they came to a tall chain-link fence; Buffy turned off the road and followed the fence into the park until they were shielded from the street by trees and shrubbery. She looked around … certain that there was no one out in this area of the park at this hour, she heaved the backpack over the fence and started climbing over after it.
“C’mon,” she called to Bess who was just standing there looking at her with confusion. “Your surprise is in here.”
Bess looked from Buffy, who had nearly made it over the fence, back to Spike, who raised his brows and tilted towards the top of the fence. “Go on then… be right behind ya.”
Bess frowned but started climbing over the tall fence. “I hope my surprise isn’t a big, angry bear … I don’t like bears,” she informed them, as the tall fence reminded her of a trip to the zoo when she was young. A big bear had charged at the fence near where she and her family were standing, growling and barring its huge teeth at them and scaring them all. “And I’m pretty sure I don’t like surprises,” Bess repeated as she dropped down on the other side of the enclosure next to Buffy and looked around pensively.
Spike winced slightly as he swung his legs over the top of the fence. His stomach wound was no longer gaping and his muscles were mending back together, but it still hurt if he strained it in unusual ways … like climbing over six-foot high chain link fences. They’d decided to leave the steel ‘stitches’ in place until just before they headed back to Sunnydale, which was looking like it would be shortly – probably Tuesday or Wednesday. Spike and Buffy were anxious to get back to their kids and they also wanted to get a full obstetrical checkup for Buffy soon, since she hadn’t had one yet, and she needed to see a dentist about her missing molar. Giles and Wes would probably have to stay longer to coordinate the move of the headquarters, but the Slayers had finished the interviews for the apocalypse leadership team here and they needed to start the same process back in America as soon as possible.
Spike dropped down on the other side lightly, bending forward and holding his stomach more out of habit now than necessity.
“You all right?” Buffy asked, eyeing his hand as it pressed against his abdomen.
“No worries…” Spike assured her as he stood up straight. “Now … where is that bloody bear?” Spike quipped as he looked around the area.
Bess’ eyes went wide and she whirled around to look at him with panic rising in her throat. When she saw the smirk on his face, she blew out a breath and rolled her eyes. She wasn’t sure if she’d ever get used to his twisted sense of humor.
“C’mon,” Buffy called as she started to walk away. “This way.”
The group crossed an empty parking lot, then came around the corner of a long building, and Bess’ eyes went wide with awe. “It’s a giant … bathtub!” she exclaimed, moving forward quickly towards the large, heated outdoor swimming pool.
Bess was just about to jump in, clothes, shoes, and all when Buffy caught her by the back of her belt and pulled her back. “Hold on there, Little Mermaid …” Buffy told her, swinging Bess around, away from the glimmering, moonlit pool.
Buffy let Bess go and began digging through the backpack, pulling out towels and bathing suits, finally finding the one she’d bought for Bess at the market that first day and handing it to her. “Change into this first – in there,” Buffy instructed, pointing towards the colorful doors of the changing rooms off to the side of the pool.
Bess grabbed the suit and bounded off, as Buffy had instructed, to change. Buffy handed Spike his trunks and looked at him doubtfully. “You sure you want to do this?” she questioned, looking at his stomach as he shed his t-shirt. “You don’t think those stitches will rust in there, do you?”
“The ‘Man of Steel’ doesn’t bloody rust,” Spike assured her with a smirk as he headed for one of the changing rooms himself.
Buffy sighed and followed him with her suit, hoping that he knew what he was doing. The wound had healed over, so theoretically, at least, it should be ok for him to get it wet. He had been taking showers, but that was a bit different than soaking in a chlorinated pool – but he had really wanted to do this with them, to have a little fun time with his Slayers before they headed back home.
Buffy heard a squeal of laughter and a huge splash before she could even get her clothes off and she smiled to herself – glad they could find something that Bess would really enjoy. Bess rarely complained about anything they did, but she didn’t really seem overly enthusiastic about much, either. Apart from trying different foods, including every type of chocolate they could find, and riding in cars or on the Underground, nothing else seemed to really excite her very much, even shoe shopping. Buffy supposed that everything was just a little bit overwhelming, even frightening, for her. Bess didn’t show fear, but that was to be expected, too – after all, how long had she suppressed feelings like that, just to survive?
Buffy came out of the changing room and walked up behind Spike who was standing a few feet away from pool watching Bess in the soft light of the moon. She was lapping the length of the large pool underwater … once, twice, three times … Buffy wondered if she dropped gummy-worms in the water in front of her, if she’d snap them up like a fish.
“There’s no way I’m ever gonna win at Marco-Polo with the two of you…” Buffy observed with a laugh as she wrapped an arm around Spike’s waist and leaned against his side as they continued to watch Bess swim like a dolphin, with graceful elegance and power.
Bess finally surfaced and splashed water high into the air with child-like glee. “This is the best surprise ever!” she called to them as she jumped and twirled around, sending water flying in all directions.
“We better go in if we’re goin’,” Spike told Buffy. “Before she has it splashed drier than the bloody Sahara.”
Buffy smiled slyly. “Butch and Sundance?” she suggested.
Spike waggled his brows and smirked as he grabbed her hand and they started running towards the balmy water. “Cannonball!!” they both yelled as they launched themselves into the air. Bess squealed in delight when they landed on either side of her, sending tidal waves of warm, clear water washing and splashing over her head. Maybe she did like surprises, after all.
Standing Outside the Fire, Garth Brooks:
We call them cool
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