|Story Title:||Can't Buy Me Love|
'Raising kids is like giving a cat a bath. You think you have everything under control right up until the bugger digs into you with teeth and claws, turns the washtub over, and escapes out the back door.'
May 2010 - July 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.
Runaway Train, Soul Asylum http://youtu.be/NRtvqT_wMeY
ScreenCaps courtesy of ScreenCap Paradise: http://www.screencap-paradise.com/?cat=3
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.
(4 days after getting back to Sunnydale) Saturday, May 8th, 2010, 1:00pm, Sunnydale Mall:
“But, Mom, pleeease,” Annie begged, hugging the coveted jeans to her chest tightly.
“Annie … I’m seriously not paying that much for a pair of jeans because they’ve got pink piping, a few sequins, and say ‘Barbie’ on them,” Buffy retorted – again. “Put them back.”
“But I love them … and they’re on clearance … and Synchronicity would be soooo jealous…” Annie continued to argue.
“Anne Joyce … I wasn’t put on this earth to make your friends jealous. I could buy five pairs of jeans with what that one pair costs, even on ‘clearance’. For me to pay that much for jeans, Ken better be in them,” Buffy asserted. “Put. Them. Back.”
Annie sighed and her shoulders sagged as she hung the jeans back on the rack. “Synchronicity isn’t my friend … she’s just … she thinks she’s the coolest thing in school and she’s such a ditzoid! I think her parents paid to get her into the Magnet program ….” Annie disclosed as she continued looking through the other jeans on the clearance rack. “She can barely tell Arabic from Greek…”
“We’re not here for you … we’re here for Bess – let’s try to stick with that plan and we’ll worry about making … What the hell kind of name is ‘Synchronicity’, anyway?” Buffy wondered as Annie held another pair up in Bess’ size and Buffy made a face and shook her head. “Too many holes.”
Annie shrugged and put the holey jeans back on the rack. “It’s like Joshua … apparently it’s the name of an album or something from the olden days.”
“Aaaa yes, the long ago, caveman olden days … the '80s,” Buffy quipped, rolling her eyes.
“How about these?” Annie asked, holding up another pair of jeans.
Buffy looked them over, checked the price and nodded. “Yeah – take those to her to try …”
Annie headed off towards the fitting rooms with the jeans. They’d been at this for a couple of hours, trying to get Bess a decent wardrobe … this was the second store they’d been to so far today and there were lots more stores waiting for them. Bess needed everything from underwear and socks to jeans and t-shirts to dress slacks and nice tops to dresses and skirts to shoes. It was costing a small fortune, but Bess couldn’t go the rest of her life with just two pairs of jeans, three shirts (including the one from Jake-John-Jack), and the one dress Buffy had bought her in London.
After a few minutes, the two girls came back carrying armfuls of clothes that fit and Bess liked or that Annie had talked her into liking, at least, and the three of them headed to the checkout counter.
After ringing everything up and running Buffy’s credit card, the cashier frowned and handed the card back to Buffy. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Weckerly, that card’s been declined.”
“What?!” Buffy questioned, checking to make sure she’d given them the right card … the card she thought didn’t have anything on it … the card she’d later find out Spike used for their night out in London and the charm bracelet. “Oh … ummm…” Buffy stammered, looking in her wallet and shaking her head. She knew the other two cards would be declined too.
“Would you like to apply for a store credit card?” the clerk offered.
“Uhhh …” Buffy looked at all the clothes as her stomach knotted in embarrassment and frustration … Bess really did need them. “Yeah – let’s do that…”
After four more stores, and four more store credit accounts, the trio left the mall laden with a decent wardrobe for their newest addition … along with a few items for the other new addition that would be coming along in October that Buffy just couldn’t resist getting.
(2 days later), Monday, May 10th, 2010, 3:00pm, Dr. Benson’s office, OB/GYN (16 weeks pregnant):
“You should’ve been in sooner,” the doctor chastised her, “But everything looks fine, Buffy,” the doctor assured her as she ran the sonogram wand over the cold jelly on Buffy’s abdomen.
Buffy sighed in relief as she watched the blurry picture on the black and white monitor. “Can you tell the sex of the baby?” she wondered.
“Well … it’s a little early …” the doctor began, moving the wand around more and studying the screen. “… but it looks like a girl. I wouldn’t paint the room pink yet, though … we should be able to be more certain on the next sonogram, assuming she or he isn’t shy.”
Buffy nodded. Of course it was a girl … of course the ‘insane Cambridge man’ was probably right … she’d done the math, she was due on October 9th, 2010 … ‘on the day that falls one short of the month and the year,’ exactly 266 days from the ‘buggering blue demon’ attack … the night in the bandstand.
“Ok ... no pink yet,” Buffy agreed as the doctor cleaned the jelly off her skin.
Out at the appointment desk, they set up the next appointment. “That’ll be three hundred for today’s visit,” the nurse behind the desk informed Buffy nonchalantly as she handed her the appointment card.
“Three hundred … dollars?! For thirty minutes?” Buffy questioned with wide eyes. “Wow … who can afford to have babies anymore?” she only half joked, pulling out her checkbook. Her hand shook slightly as she wrote the check. The money that Willow and Tara had ‘repaid’ them back February wouldn’t last long at this rate…
(2 days later), Wednesday, May 12th, 2010, 10:00am, Dr. White’s office, DDS:
“Your other teeth look fine, Buffy … just that one got knocked out?” the dentist questioned. “I don’t know that I’ve seen just one molar knocked out before, with no damage to the others.”
“It was a freak accident involving a … ummm … an angry puppy …” Buffy explained vaguely. “Can you fix it?”
Dr. White shrugged. “Sure … for someone your age, and with just the one tooth missing, I’d recommend an implant. It will feel just like a real tooth when it’s done.”
“Ok … good, yeah, let’s do that, then,” Buffy agreed.
“What kind of insurance do you have?” the dentist questioned, looking at her folder.
“None … my husband’s job doesn’t offer dental,” Buffy admitted. “Why … how much does it cost?”
“It would be $1,000 for the one tooth …” the doctor informed her.
“What?!” Buffy exclaimed, sitting up from the reclining position in the dentist’s chair. “The tooth fairy only paid me a dollar for them!”
“Yeah, I know – crazy isn’t it?” Dr. White empathized. “Well, it’s up to you. We can do a payment plan if you need to. The thing to keep in mind is, if you leave that spot blank, your other teeth are going to shift over time to fill it … you may end up with gaps in the front …” he informed her.
“Wonderful…” Buffy moaned, resting back against the chair. “Fine … just do it… What’s one more payment?”
(next day) Thursday, May 13th, 2010, 2:45am:
Spike walked alongside the garage to the garden and found Buffy in her new usual place … sitting under the oak tree, guarding her small plants from the killer bunnies, like a sentry standing guard at Buckingham Palace.
“See any action tonight, soldier?” Spike quipped as he walked up to her.
“Nope … that’s three nights in a row now,” Buffy informed him, standing up and brushing her backside off before dropping a soft kiss on his lips. “Maybe I scared them off,” she hypothesized as he wrapped his arms around her and gave her a hug.
“Or maybe it was that bear piss you poured all ‘round the whole bloody garden…” Spike suggested, scrunching up his nose as he released her. He could still smell it.
Buffy shrugged. “Maybe …” she acquiesced as they started walking towards the house arm in arm. “Just how do you think they collect bear urine?” Buffy wondered.
“Very carefully,” Spike guessed sarcastically.
“’ere,” Spike continued as they walked, handing her a wad of small bills.
“What’s this?” Buffy questioned, as she took them. “You haven’t been there long enough to get a paycheck yet.”
“Darts…” Spike explained with a shrug. “It’s not much, but …”
Buffy counted the money, seventy-five dollars. That would pay for one-fourth of a sonogram… but it was more than she’d brought in, which was zero … or less than zero if you counted the money she’d spent the last few days.
“How’s life in The Fish Bowl?” she questioned as they made it into the house.
“I didn’t think anyone could be cheaper or skuzzier than Willy, but that bloody shark Tiburon has ‘im beat, fins down,” Spike groaned, rolling his eyes.
Since Willy had filled his job by poaching the security from The Fish Bowl, Spike went and talked to Tiburon, a shark-demon who owns the bar on the docks. Spike had met Tiburon before through his brother, who everyone just called ‘Mr. Shark’ … a loan shark who Spike had had a couple of dealings with in the past. Tiburon hired Spike right away … this was his fifth night on the job, but he took a twenty percent pay cut from what Willy had been paying him and it was further away – he had to ride his Harley out there, it was too far to walk. There was also a rougher crowd out on the docks, making for tougher and longer nights. On the plus side, there were a lot of demons and humans from the ships that stopped in on shore leave from points unknown who didn’t know Spike, so he could hustle a game of pool or a dart match or a poker game and make a little extra on the side. The only catch was, anything extra he made while on the clock as security, he had to give 25% of it to Tiburon …
“You’re being careful, aren’t you?” Buffy asked, looking at him with worry. “You know …”
“I know, pet … I don’t ‘ave the Gem. Yes, I’m bein’ careful … no worries,” Spike assured her as they started up the stairs.
“Until Willow figures out how the Gem was made and some way to duplicate the magic in it, or finds out if it can be divided, maybe we should …” Buffy started but was stopped by Spike’s disapproving look.
“Fine…” Buffy moaned, dropping it – again. She’d tried and tried to get him to take the Gem back from Bess, but Spike refused, saying she deserved it … she deserved a life in the light after all she’d been through.
“Never thought I’d miss the bloody wanker Willy…” Spike changed the subject as they reached the top of the stairs.
“I could get rid of a couple of Brachen demons,” Buffy suggested with a shrug. “I mean … I am the Slayer.”
Spike snorted a soft laugh. “You’d do that for little ole me?” he asked in mock disbelief.
“Just say the word,” Buffy assured him with a nod. “They’ll be drowning in bear pee … they probably won’t stop running until they hit Texas…”
(Next day), Friday, May 14th, 2010, 4:30pm:
Bess sat on her bed and read the ‘California Driver’s Handbook’ one more time. Spike promised to teach her how to drive just as soon as she could correctly tell him what all the signs meant and understood the rules of the road. It didn’t seem all that complicated, but she wanted to make sure she had it down pat before he quizzed her … this was the sixth time she’d read the book in the last three days.
Buffy had gone with Faith to scope out warehouse space that Giles could lease and use as the new Council headquarters in Sunnydale – somewhere cheap, with some office space and room for meetings and training new Slayers, and also with enough room for all the books and other magical doo-dads that still needed to be researched and catalogued before they could be sold.
Spike was still asleep, Annie was doing her homework, and JJ, Dani, and Billy were in the ‘bat cave’ playing video games. Bess had played outside with the kids when they first got home from school; Annie, Billy, and JJ had ridden their bikes to the park while she and Dani took turns on Dani’s Spiderman skateboard, following behind them. Bess was quickly learning that she loved anything with wheels … the skateboard was ‘awesome!’ … a new word she’d picked up quickly from all the kids.
Bess was a little disappointed when Annie said they needed to get back home because she had homework to do. Bess enjoyed being outside, not cooped up indoors, but she knew that schoolwork was important, too, and since she was the official babysitter while Buffy was gone and Spike was sleeping, where the kids went, so did she.
Bess looked around her room … There was the ninja poster from Dani on one wall, a poster of the Tower Bridge in London from Annie on another wall, and a poster of the solar system, with all the planets named, on a third wall … the fourth wall was blank. Buffy said she could add whatever posters she wanted, but Bess hadn’t really figured out what she wanted. Apart from chocolate and things on wheels, she hadn’t really had time to form any passions for anything like the other children had.
Bess sighed and went back to her Driver’s Handbook … maybe Spike would have time soon to teach her to drive … maybe she’d get a poster of a fast car for the other wall. Tonight she was supposed to patrol with Faith, but maybe tomorrow night Spike could teach her to drive. She asked why Buffy couldn’t do it while the kids were in school, but that idea was met with only hysterical laughter from Spike…
(Two days later), Sunday, May 16th, 2010, 11am:
“Oh! Bess, check this out!” Buffy exclaimed excitedly, reading from the Sunday morning paper after breakfast. “‘Lifeguard Certification Course. The Sunnydale YMCA is offering a Lifeguard Certification Course starting Saturday, June 19th.’” Buffy looked up from the paper to look at Bess across the ‘bat cave’, looking over the heads of Dani, Billy, and JJ who were on the couch, in order to see their eldest daughter. She and Spike were sitting on the floor, he was helping her, giving her pointers and advice, as they all played some race car video game that Buffy didn’t pretend to understand. “You like to swim … you might like that,” Buffy suggested.
Buffy had been trying to find something to spark some outside interest for Bess, something to get her out of the house and mingling with actual people who weren’t them. She had scheduled Bess to start adult night classes in mid-June, after regular school let out, to get her GED. The assessment exam, to see what grade level she was at now so they would know where to start her, was a couple of weeks from now on a Wednesday morning. This Lifeguard class started after that and it was during the day, so it wouldn’t interfere with the GED classes – it would work perfectly.
Bess shrugged slightly, then nodded, never taking her eyes off the TV screen as she careened her car around a corner, shifting her body to the side and matching the movements on the screen, barely squeezing through between the wall and JJ's car in her quest for victory over the other kids. “Yeah … that might be fun,” she agreed. She did like to swim and she was trying to fit in. She knew the other kids had outside interests: soccer and gymnastics and dancing … maybe hers could be swimming.
“Great,” Buffy smiled, happy with herself for finally finding something that she thought Bess would like, and Lifeguarding kinda fit in with Slaying … well … sort of, in completely opposite ways. Well, they both involved helping people, so it wasn’t all that different.
Suddenly Bess shrieked in victory as Billy's car careened off the wall and spun out just as Bess passed him and the checkered flag waved on the TV while the game declared her the winner. Bess hugged Spike's neck and then jumped up to do a victory dance ... it was the first time she'd won any of the video games that the other kids had taught her. Everyone, even the losers, laughed at Bess' excitement at finally defeating the younger, more experienced players. Well, at least she was a gracious winner ... victory lap around the couch notwithstanding.
(later the same day) Sunday, May 16th, 2010, 9pm:
“Come to a complete stop, look both ways, then go when cross traffic is clear.
“School crossing; watch for and yield to pedestrians.
“Rail Road Crossing. Watch for trains.
“Slippery when wet.
“Workers… uhh … working.
Bess smiled proudly as Spike pointed to different signs in the driver’s handbook and she told him what each one meant. Buffy was upstairs getting the kids ready for bed; it was Spike’s night off … if Bess could pass this bit, he was sure to let her drive tonight.
“What side o’ the road do we drive on here?” Spike questioned.
“The right,” Bess replied confidently.
“What do you do if you’re going over the speed limit and you come up on a copper sittin’ on the side of the road?” Spike questioned.
Bess furrowed her brow … she didn’t remember that in the handbook. “Slow down?” she guessed.
“Too late to slow down, they done hit ya with their soddin’ radar… what do you do?” Spike questioned further.
“Ummm … I don’t know,” Bess admitted, her shoulders sagging. She’d read that damn book ten times, she didn’t remember anything about that.
“Watch in your rearview, if he don’t pull out, then just keep going; if he does, turn into the first crowded parkin’ lot you can find, park, and duck down in the car or hightail it into the store…” Spike advised.
Bess raised her brows – that definitely was not in the book. “Run and hide?” she questioned.
“Works over half the time…” Spike assured her with a smirk.
“Is that legal?” Bess wondered.
“Not running ... just choosing to shop suddenly,” Spike pointed out with a shrug. “Free country … Can park in any parking lot you bloody well want.
“Ok …” Spike continued, waving his arm towards the door leading to the garage. “Time to find out who you inherited your drivin’ skills from, me or your mum…”
Bess smiled gleefully and jumped up off the couch, ran to the garage and jumped into the driver’s seat of the DeSoto before Spike was even halfway across the great room.
“No bloody way …” he chastised her. “Nobody drives Vader but me…” Spike explained, holding up the keys to the minivan and tilting his head towards the driveway. The kids had named the old, black monstrosity ‘Darth Vader’ some years ago … it seemed to suit the old car.
Bess frowned … she was sure the black behemoth would be much faster and more fun than the blue minivan. She got out of the car despondently and headed past Spike’s Harley towards the driveway and the minivan. “Will you teach me to drive the motorbike, too?” she asked, running a hand over the seat of the Harley as she passed.
Spike’s brows shot up. “Let’s see whose driving genes ya got first, pet…”
Spike shooed her over to the passenger seat and he drove the Blue Bomber to the deserted parking lot at the mall, pointing out the different controls on the dash to her as he drove. Bess watched with rapt attention to everything he was showing her: the speedometer, in miles and kilometers per hour … don’t get those confused, the fuel gauge, the gas pedal, the brake, the transmission gear selector … on and on it went.
“WOOOO-HOOOO!” Bess screamed in delight as she sped Buffy’s Blue Bomber across the deserted parking lot before slamming both feet down on the brake and turning the wheel hard to the right, sending the minivan into a 360° spin, just like she’d seen on TV.
“Bloody fucking hell!” Spike exclaimed as he braced his feet against the dash and held onto the handle above the door.
When the van came to a stop, Spike quickly reached over and turned the key off before Bess could take off again.
“What’d you do that for!?” she questioned, reaching for the ignition, but being thwarted by Spike who still had a hold of the key.
“’Cos you’re gonna get us both bloody killed!” Spike chastised her, leaving one hand on the key and shifting the van into park with the other. "It's not a soddin' video game!"
“I know it's not ... and no one got killed … it’s fun! Didn’t you think it was fun!?” she questioned, her eyes wide with excitement.
“Maybe if we were on a ride at Disneyland that’d be fun!” Spike continued to rant, pulling the key out of the ignition. “Not in your mum’s bloody car! Bloody hell! You coulda’ rolled the soddin’ thing … if that didn’t kill us, your mum woulda!”
Bess had started out really well, easily following Spike’s instructions to speed up or slow down or stop, turn right and left, she even backed up over a hundred yards, keeping the van in a perfectly straight line, and pulled into parking places with no problem. Spike had started to think that she had inherited his driving skills … now he wasn’t so sure. Somewhere in there Evel Knievel had snuck in to the DNA … on the plus side, she certainly didn’t have any fear of driving and she handled the spin like a seasoned stunt driver … albeit, one high on recreational drugs.
Bess folded her arms over her chest and her bottom lip protruded in a dangerous pout. “I didn’t hurt it …” she pointed out.
“Not this time …” Spike muttered. “That’s not exactly ‘Defensive Drivin’ 101’ … c’mon – out ya go,” Spike instructed, waving his hand at her, shooing her out of the driver’s seat.
Bess frowned and her shoulders sagged as she unbuckled her seatbelt and opened the door. Spike slid over to the driver’s seat as Bess walked around and got back in the passenger’s side.
“I’ll get your mum to sign you up for Driver’s Ed… you can wreck their bloody cars,” Spike informed her as he started the van and headed for home with his dejected passenger.
“I guess that means you won’t teach me to drive the motorbike,” Bess moaned.
“That’d be a bloody brilliant guess…”
(Later that week), Wednesday, May 19th, 2010, 6pm:
Buffy rushed in after working all day at the Magic Box laden with pizza boxes. She'd told Spike earlier that she had a craving for pizza; real, honest-to-goodness, all American, take-out pizza from Little Italy, and by God, she was gonna have some. He didn't argue, despite the extra cost of the 'delicacy', it was less work for him, and he always voted for that. He had her pick up a triple order of spicy wings to go with it, for him and Dani – plus Bess had never had them, so she could try them too.
While Buffy was gathering up some 'extras' to go on her pizza, the kids dug into the boxes greedily. Pepperoni with extra cheese was the fan favorite, although JJ also liked the ones with sausage and, although Spike's favorite thing from Little Italy was the extra hot spicy wings, he wouldn't pass up a slice of the 'works' pizza that had everything but the kitchen sink tossed on.
"Ewwwww ... what's that!?" Annie asked with undisguised revulsion as she opened one of the boxes.
Buffy turned away from the cupboards where she was pulling out some extra toppings for her pizza and looked. "Anchovies. Don't touch, that's mine," she insisted as she came to the table with her other goodies to go on top.
"Yeah... I'll try to restrain myself from eating the smelly fish," Annie assured her, closing the box quickly and pushing it away.
"That's gross ..." Billy agreed, looking at his mom. "When did you start eating little fish on your pizza?"
"It's your mum's traditional anchovy pregnancy phase," Spike explained with a smirk as he divvied up the spicy wings between himself, Dani, and Bess. "I'd go for one of the others if I was you, pet... might lose a hand if you try for the little salty fishes," he instructed Bess as Buffy pulled the anchovy-laden pizza to her end of the table and sat down.
"I don't remember an anchovy phase ..." Annie pointed out.
"Oh, I had it," Buffy assured her. "You probably just didn't know what they were then. Back when you were young and impressionable you ate them with me ... you liked them too."
Annie made a face that conveyed both disbelief and disgust as she got her a piece of the pepperoni with extra cheese. "It's a wonder any of us have survived..." she muttered under her breath, trying to shake the thought of eating those nasty little fish.
Buffy worked on her own creation ... she'd been starving for this for days it seemed, as everyone talked and laughed and asked Bess how she liked the different things. Bess nodded her approval of the pepperoni with extra cheese ... unable to talk since her mouth was full to overflowing with the wonder of the all-American, Italian classic. After a few minutes, though, just as Buffy was about to take a bite of her pizza, everyone seemed to go quiet. She raised her eyes up from her creation as she took a bite and saw everyone cringe in horror, even Spike.
"Please tell me I never ate that..." Annie begged, looking at her father.
Spike shook his head and swallowed the bite of chicken wings he had in his mouth with great difficulty. His throat seemed to have constricted ... nearly closing completely in response to what he saw his wife eating. He'd seen some horrific things in his life ... throats torn out, guts used for garters, men flayed alive ... he even endured the torture of listening to an entire Barry Manilow Double-Live album when he was in a wheelchair during Angelus' stay with him and Dru ... but this ... this defied description.
"What?" Buffy questioned innocently, before taking another big bite of her pizza.
"Buffy ... luv ... you really shouldn't mix cravings like that – it's not ... it's not good for the bit ... it's bloody tragic is what it is," Spike informed her.
"It's not my fault! It's what the baby says it wants ... so, actually, it's your fault – Dad," Buffy defended.
"Oh, right ... blame the bloody vampire," Spike muttered under his breath as he sent up small prayer of thanks for the constriction in his throat, at least it was keeping what was already in his stomach down there.
"Anyway, I'm the one that's gonna blow up like a beach ball here ... I have the right to eat whatever I want!" she continued before taking another bite. All the kids dropped their pizzas back on their plates and just stared in wide-eyed horror at the woman who a moment ago had been their mother (or aunt, in the case of JJ) ... now they weren't so sure; perhaps she'd been taken over by a Gross-Out Demon or something. Even Bess had to think what Buffy was eating sounded, looked, and smelled ... bad.
"You know I'd never deny ya anything, pet ... but mixing the peanut butter craving, with the pickle craving, and the anchovy craving, along with the Marshmallow Fluff craving, and topping it all with chocolate sprinkles ..." Spike made a face that mirrored the children's ... utter gross out. "It just shouldn't be done in polite company, luv."
Buffy just shrugged and took another bite, moaning in pleasure. "Don't knock it until you've tried it," she informed them with her mouth still half-full. Buffy reached her hand that held the rest of the 'doctored' pizza slice out towards the group. "Here ..." she offered as a large dollop of Marshmallow Fluff dripped off the pizza, carrying one of the anchovies with it, and splattered on the table.
"Ewwwwwwwwwwww!" they all moaned, pushing back from the table in unison and away from her pregnancy pizza.
Buffy shrugged and took another bite. "Suit yourselves, but you don't know what you're missing! How can you know you don't like it if you've never tried it?"
"I'm never gonna have a baby if it does that to you," Annie declared.
Spike nodded his hearty agreement. "Smart girl, you are, pet. Probably be best to just avoid boys altogether ... forever ... just t' be safe."
"Daaaaad!" Annie moaned, rolling her eyes.
(a week later), Wednesday, May 26th, 2010, 8am, UC Sunnydale, Espenson Auditorium:
Buffy handed the clipboard with Bess’ completed GED class registration form back to the woman behind the table as she and Bess sat down opposite her.
“Elizabeth Anne Weckerly…” the woman began reading, “eighteen…” the woman paused and looked back up at Bess and then at Buffy and back to Bess. “Do you have a photo id?”
“Yeah …sure,” Buffy answered, pulling Bess’ passport out and handing to the woman.
The woman, whose name tag read ‘Mrs. Baxter’, looked back up at the two women. “And you are her … mother?” she asked Buffy skeptically.
“Yes … Buffy Weckerly,” Buffy replied nodding.
The woman furrowed her brow then shrugged.
“Is there a problem?” Buffy wondered, thinking maybe she filled the form out wrong.
“No … no … it’s just that she doesn’t look eighteen and you don’t look old enough to have a daughter that’s eighteen…” the woman explained.
“Oh, well … our whole family’s like that … good genes,” Buffy explained giving the woman her most sincere smile.
“Lucky…” Mrs. Baxter murmured as she looked back down at the form. “You didn’t fill out what grade she’d last attended …”
“Well, I really don’t know … she’s been living overseas with … uhhhh … relatives and it was kind of a home-school situation. They were pretty cut-off from civilization,” Buffy explained.
“Missionaries, huh?” Mrs. Baxter guessed.
Buffy smiled and nodded. “Yeah, something like that…”
Mrs. Baxter’s brow furrowed as she flipped the empty pages of Bess’ passport … only two stamps … an exit stamp from the UK and an entry stamp into the USA. “I didn’t realize there was a big demand for missionaries in England… or that there were lots of places in the UK that were cut-off from civilization,” the woman observed, looking back up at Buffy.
“Oh … well … you’ve obviously never been to Wales. I mean, all those … uhhh … shepherds … they need all the help they can get … what with the itchy, wool sweaters and the rocks and the rain and ... did I mention the rocks? It's very dire ... and rocky,” Buffy stammered.
The woman looked a little skeptical, but shrugged. “Ok, well then, since you aren’t sure what grade level she is, I’ll sign her up for the full assessment test and we can go from there …” the woman summarized. “It will be three, two hour sessions and there are thirty minute breaks between each session. The testing starts at nine, so she’ll be done at four this afternoon…”
“Does she need anything? Number two pencils? A slide rule?” Buffy wondered.
“No … just some money for lunch or sodas – we provide everything else. We do need a check for the tuition now … and there will be a fee for the actual GED exam at the end of the class,” Mrs. Baxter told Buffy.
“Right …” Buffy tried not to moan as she pulled her beleaguered checkbook out of her purse and wrote a check for the tuition.
As Buffy was writing the check, the woman looked at Bess, who was looking more than a little worried. “There’s nothing to worry about, dear,” Mrs. Baxter assured her. “You can’t fail … it’s just an assessment. If you don’t know the answer, it’s perfectly alright, don’t guess, just skip it and go on to the next question. If you have time, you can come back to the ones you skipped and see if you can figure them out, but it’s best to not guess, if you guess right, that could skew the results and get placed in the wrong program.”
Bess nodded, wringing her hands in her lap and trying to think of a way to escape …
“You can wait over there,” the woman pointed off to one side of the auditorium, “…for your name to be called when they’re ready for you.”
Buffy put her hand on Bess’s shoulder, making the nervous girl jump. “C’mon …” Buffy cajoled as she stood up and Bess followed her to some seats to join the other lambs that were waiting for slaughter.
“I don’t think I can do this…” Bess admitted when they sat down, nearing a full blown panic attack.
“Honey, it’s just an assessment test. You heard her … you can’t fail it. Those are my kinda tests! I wish we had those when I was in school…” Buffy assured her.
Bess took a deep breath and nodded, but the butterflies in her stomach remained unconvinced.
(Same day), 9:00am:
Bess had listened closely to the man overseeing the exams when he explained how to fill out the little dots completely on the computer-readable answer sheet with the number two pencils they’d been provided. They can write in the test booklet to figure out their answers if they like, but the thing that matters for the score is the little dot being filled in fully.
Bess looked around her at the other students when the examiner instructed them to ‘open their tests and begin’ and she copied what they did, breaking the seal on the test and opening it to the first page. The first exam was math … of all subjects, math was Bess’ worst, but she told herself to just try. The first few pages weren’t bad … basic addition and subtraction, multiplication and division … she actually started feeling pretty good about this. Maybe she was smarter than she thought … then she came to the math word problems, the first couple weren’t too bad, but the further she went, the harder they got…
Three men go to stay at a motel and the clerk charges them $30.00 for the room.
They split the cost ten dollars each. Later the manager tells the clerk that he over-charged the men and that the actual cost should have been $25.00.
He gives the clerk $5.00 and tells him to give it to the men. But he decides to cheat them and pockets $2.00. He then gives each man a dollar.
Now each man has paid $9.00 to stay in the room and 3 X $9.00 = $27.00. The clerk pocketed $2.00. $27.00 + $2.00 = $29.00. So where is the other $1.00?
a. The motel manager kept it
b. The clerk kept it
c. The guests kept it
d. There is no extra $1 to locate
You can see the answer by clicking here - yes, it's a trick question.
Bess read it again and again, looking around at the other students who seemed to be still marking answers on their answer sheets. She blew out a long breath and read it again … shaking her head and chewing on her bottom lip. She started to just pick one answer, but remembered the woman saying she shouldn’t guess, so she left it blank and went on.
Bess chewed on her pencil with nervous frustration as she continued reading the word problems, skipping one after another. She sighed in relief when she got to the end of that section, but her relief was short-lived and replaced with utter confusion when she turned the page …
1. 26 = 8 + v
2. m + 4 = -12
3. -20 = -4x – 6x
Bess stared at the page, blinking her eyes and shaking her head a bit to try and make the equations make sense … but they never changed. When did they start using the alphabet in math?
Bess flipped further through the rest of test booklet … it only got worse, with more letters mixed in with the numbers and more symbols she didn’t recognize. She blew out a long breath and looked around the room again … everyone was still busy scribbling on their test booklets and marking answers on the answer sheets. She looked at her sheet … she’d only filled in about a quarter of the possible answers. Bess’ shoulders sagged … she knew this was a bad idea before it ever started. What did she think, that she was somehow gonna get smarter in the dungeon? Somehow develop an actual brain? Why did she let Buffy and Spike talk her into this? It’s completely ludicrous and … embarrassing and … crushing. Bess clenched her jaw and blinked back her tears; she swallowed hard as she looked around the room again … everyone was still working … everyone but her.
Bess suddenly felt an overwhelming urge to run … to escape this humiliation, get away from these people, and get out of this place where she obviously didn’t belong. Bess hurriedly gathered up her test booklet and answer sheet and pencils and headed for the door.
“I’m sorry miss … you can’t take that out of the room,” the man sitting at the desk near the door informed her.
Bess looked down at the papers in her hand and bit her bottom lip before dropping them all on the desk in front of the examiner. When he saw so few answers filled in, he told her, “There’s more time…”
“Not for me,” Bess retorted as she ran out of the building and into the bright sunlight in the quad … and just kept running.
She stopped running when she got to a street that bisected the campus. She paused on the sidewalk and looked up and down the road, trying to decide which way to go, when a beautiful blue motorcycle parked next to the curb caught her eye. Bess walked over to it and ran a hand over the handlebars, across the cerulean blue gas tank and along the padded seat as she admired it.
“She’s a beaut, ain’t she?” a male voice asked from right behind her and Bess jumped and turned quickly, pulling her hand away from the motorcycle and trying to look innocent.
A tall, well built young man of about twenty-one stood behind her. He was at least six foot two inches tall, had long black hair that hung past his shoulders in tight, soft waves, the muscles of his arms and chest bulged against the fabric of his ‘Pittsburgh Steeler’s’ t-shirt, and his legs looked like denim covered tree-trunks. His dark bronze skin was flawless, the color of a Mocha Frappuccino, and his bright eyes sparkled against it like bright, bottomless jewels of aquamarine behind a soft veil of long, dark lashes.
Bess nervously pulled her eyes away from his and looked back at the motorcycle. “Yes … it’s beautiful. Is it yours?” she asked.
“Mine and the bank’s,” the young man informed her. “I’m Troy, by the way … Troy Malu,” he offered, extending his right hand.
“Oh … uhhh, Bess, Bess Weatherford,” Bess replied, taking his hand and shaking it firmly as Spike had taught her after her hesitancy to shake JJ’s hand when she first arrived.
“Whoa! Gotta grip on ya! That’s rad! Most girls are like …” Troy waved his hand back and forth, letting his fingers wag like a wet noodle.
“Sorry … I … I didn’t hurt you did I?” Bess apologized.
“A little girl like you? Not likely …” Troy snorted a laugh. “So … I haven’t seen you around before, you new?”
“Yeah … uhhh … new,” Bess agreed. “Are you … from Pittsburgh?”
“Huh? Oh … the shirt … no,” Troy told her, looking down at his t-shirt. “Hawai’i actually … I just like Steelers football.
“Sooo… you like motorcycles or just like blue?” Troy asked her, cocking a brow at his bike.
“Oh … both,” Bess gushed, looking back at the motorcycle.
“You wanna ride?” he asked, giving her a dazzling white smile.
Bess’ eyes went wide. “Oh, yes!” she exclaimed, turning her excited eyes back to look at him.
“I’m warning ya, I go fast … and it can get rough,” Troy’s voice rumbled deeply, making Bess wonder if they were still talking about the motorcycle.
Bess bit her bottom lip and gave him a shy smile. “I like fast… and rough.”
Troy squealed out a donut in the middle of the road before speeding away towards the coast with his eager passenger. Bess held on to him tightly and laughed in delight as the wind whipped around her body and the powerful machine thundered under her. This was waaaay better than any stupid test … she felt like she belonged here, she fit in, and she knew what to do.
After about half an hour of riding along the Coast Highway, Troy pulled off onto a dirt track and rode it up to a high cliff that overlooked the highway and the ocean beyond. Bess’ whole body felt like it was thrumming with energy from the reckless, wild ride he’d taken her on coming north on the winding ribbon of road. She jumped off the bike when he cut the engine and took in the view of the Pacific Ocean which was laid out before her like a sparkling blue magic carpet. She almost felt like she could glide down from the cliff and fly out over it – skim the waves and soar with the sea gulls … And it seemed to go on forever … meeting the equally blue sky on the horizon and melding with it, like the two had been forged from the same heavenly spirit.
“Only thing bluer than that is the North Shore of Oahu … or maybe your eyes,” Troy whispered as he walked up behind her and wrapped his arms around her shoulders.
Bess smiled and leaned back against him … yeah … this she knew … there were no alphabet soup math problems here; this was where she belonged, not in some florescent lit, musty building with number two pencils and impossible questions that had no bearing on real life. This was real; the tang of the sea, the feel of the cool breeze on her face, the warm sun on her skin, a man’s strong arms around her … this made her feel alive.
Bess turned in Troy’s arms and lifted up on her tiptoes as she wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him. If she played her cards right, she was sure she could get Troy to teach her how to drive a motorbike … even if Spike wouldn’t.
(later that same day), 4:15 pm:
Buffy pulled up to the curb in front of the auditorium … she hadn’t even gotten the minivan into park yet when Bess seemingly showed up from out of nowhere and jumped into the passenger’s seat next to her.
“So … how did it go?” Buffy asked expectantly.
“Great!” Bess replied with a wide smile. “It wasn’t as bad as I thought…”
Buffy smiled and patted a hand down on Bess’ shoulder. “I told you … you’re gonna be a high school graduate before you know it!”
Bess nodded and looked out the window … just catching a glimpse of Troy and his pretty blue motorcycle as he turned the corner and sped away in the opposite direction. A shadow of guilt passed over Bess’ features … she didn’t want to lie to Buffy, but she was sure Spike and Buffy would never understand that school just wasn’t where she belonged, she just didn't have the brains for that … what they didn’t know, wouldn’t hurt them.
Buffy signed Bess up for a beginners Driver’s Ed course, per Spike’s adamant request … it was over $800 for twelve hours! Buffy argued that it was crazy to pay that much for a driver’s ed class when they could teach her just as well … but Spike would not be swayed. It wasn’t until he told her what Bess did with Buffy’s minivan that Buffy finally agreed … let her tear up someone else’s car.
The company giving the lessons came and picked Bess up at the mansion three days a week for two weeks for her lessons and, at the end of the six sessions they let her use one of their cars to take her driving test. She passed. Despite all that, she still wasn’t allowed to drive the minivan without either Spike or Buffy in the car with her and never if any of the other kids were in the car. At least, not until they were certain that her Evel Knievel phase was past. To say Bess was disappointed would be an understatement…
“But that’s not fair!” Bess argued when Spike and Buffy told her the rules after she’d gotten her license. “It’s not a learner’s permit, it’s a real license! I didn’t wreck any cars … ask the teacher … I did fine!”
“Bess, you’re still learning your way around … still getting used to everything, to the area …” Buffy tried to explain. “I think Spike’s right … it would be best this way for a while.”
“It’s not fair,” Bess repeated, crossing her arms over her chest as her bottom lip protruded in a classic Summers pout. “You wouldn’t do this if it was Annie or Dani …”
Buffy shrugged. “Maybe … maybe not … they grew up here, they know their way around, they know places to avoid and, when they’re sixteen, they’ll have a lot more experience in a car than you have right now …they’ll have had a year with a learner’s permit; you had never even ridden in a car before a month ago …” Buffy pointed out.
“Fine …” Bess hissed before stomping up the stairs to her room in a huff.
Buffy rolled her eyes and sighed heavily, looking at Spike. “You weren’t much help…”
Spike shrugged. “I made sure the back door was closed so the bloody cat couldn’t escape…”
(3 ½ weeks later), Saturday, June 19th, 2010:
Buffy was starting to feel like a taxi service … running kids here and there and everywhere. Dropping them off, picking them up … just remembering where they were supposed to be and when was starting to be a problem.
She looked at the clock on the dashboard, 3:49pm … she was nearly twenty minutes late picking Bess up from the YMCA Lifeguard Certification Class that started today. Buffy pulled up at the curb, expecting Bess to bound into the minivan from out of nowhere like she often did … but after waiting for five minutes with the motor running, it was apparent that wasn’t happening.
Buffy cut the engine and went inside, walking through the gym area to the pool at the back of the complex and found Bess hadn’t even gotten changed yet … in fact, she was still swimming laps!
“Bess! C’mon! We gotta go! We’re gonna be late picking up Annie!” Buffy yelled, but Bess didn’t seem to hear her. Buffy sighed and walked up to the end of the pool and waited for Bess to make it to her.
“BESS!” Buffy yelled before the girl went completely under the water for a flip-turn. Bess pulled up short and lifted her head out of the water when she heard her name.
“Buffy!” Bess exclaimed, looking at the clock on the wall. “Oh … sorry, I was just gonna swim a little bit more before you got here…”
“We need to go … c’mon … you can swim more next time,” Buffy prodded, going over and grabbing Bess’ towel off a chair. Despite being a little upset that Bess wasn’t ready to go, Buffy was happy that the girl seemed to be enjoying it, at least.
“Ok,” Bess agreed, lifting herself up out of the water and taking the towel from Buffy’s hand. “Guess what!” Bess started excitedly as she dried off. “They want me to be on their swim team! Isn’t that amazing!? Coach Sumner said I was the best swimmer she’s seen in ten years! They have swim meets and compete against other clubs and we could go to state or even national championships … even the Olympics!” Bess gushed as she dried her hair.
Buffy’s brow furrowed and she pursed her lips together in thought. “Bess … I’m not sure that’s such a good idea…” Buffy began gently. “First of all, you’re a Slayer … you can’t use your abilities for things that aren’t … well … that aren’t for the greater good. And second of all, you’re a vampire … you’ll never pass the physical to compete in things like that…”
Bess sobered as a dark shroud of disappointment descended over her features. “You’re saying I can’t be on the team? But … but I told them I would … I … I want to,” Bess begged, on the verge of tears.
“Oh, honey … I’m sorry,” Buffy apologized. “But … you can’t – even if we could get around the physical, you can’t use your strength and Slayer abilities for things that aren’t … well … they’re for fighting evil, helping people, not winning swim meets and going to the Olympics. It really wouldn’t be fair for the other swimmers, would it?”
Bess crossed her arms over her chest and rolled her glistening eyes skyward, trying hard not to let the tears fall. She’d finally found something that both she and Buffy and Spike thought was good for her, and now they were pulling the rug out from under her feet again.
“Bess … I’m sorry,” Buffy offered gently, reaching a hand out to touch her arm.
Bess jerked away from her and headed towards the locker room to change. “Whatever…” she groaned out as she walked away … using another expression she’d picked up from the kids.
Buffy blew out a long breath and closed her eyes. This sucked. It totally sucked. It sucked to the power of ten… but Buffy couldn’t let Bess compete on a swim team, no matter how much she wanted to. It simply wasn’t fair to the other competitors and it wasn’t what Slayer power was meant to be used for.
Back at the car, Buffy waited in the passenger’s seat … she’d let Bess drive to the dance studio to pick up Annie. But, when Bess came out after changing, she climbed into the back of the minivan and went to the last row of seats and plopped down – as far away from Buffy as she could get. Buffy sighed and transferred over to the driver’s seat … she couldn’t see Bess in the rearview mirror, but anytime she glanced back, Bess’ eyes were glued out the side window, a dour frown on her face … she wouldn’t even look at Buffy.
(4 days later), Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010, 4:30pm:
“So, you haven’t found anything?” Buffy questioned as she sat in her office talking on the phone with Willow.
“Well, a little bit,” Willow divulged. “I found another copy of the Sanctus Mica Sanguis, the book that led Spike to the Gem in the first place, but I’m still working on translating it, and … it’s not in the best condition, pages are missing … some of the ink’s smeared…”
“Soooo … you have found something?” Buffy prodded.
“Maybe,” Willow hedged. “I’d rather make sure before …”
“Will! Please, tell me what you found out … I need to know if we’re going to need to talk Spike into playing ‘musical Gem’ or if you can duplicate it so they can both have it,” Buffy pled with her friend.
Willow sighed. “There might be more than one ring…”
“What?! Where!?” Buffy exclaimed excitedly, sitting up straighter in her chair.
“That’s the thing … I’m not even sure I’m translating it right and it’s smudged and …”
“Willow … how do we find the other ring?” Buffy questioned.
“I don’t know… obviously Marcus didn’t find it in the crypt … and you and Spike didn’t find it and we don’t know of any other vampires walking around in the sun all un-dusty,” Willow explained. “I’m still working on it …”
“What can I do to help?” Buffy wondered.
Willow shook her head. “I dunno … how’s your ancient Latin?”
Buffy snorted a laugh. “Oesday igpay atinlay ountcay?”
“Onay…” Willow replied with an eye roll. “Sorry, Buffy … I’m working on it as hard as I can,” she apologized.
“I know you are … it’s ok, I really appreciate it,” Buffy sighed, leaning back again. “Can Annie help? I don’t think they’ve tackled dead languages, but she picks that stuff up fast…”
Willow sighed. “Actually, it’s not so much the translation as trying to fill in the missing parts that’s the problem,” Willow told her. “But … maybe I’ll email her some of the pages, just to see if she has any ideas.”
“Ok … I’ll let her know to watch for it,” Buffy agreed.
“So … how are things there?” Willow asked, changing the subject. “How’s Bess?”
“Bess is … she’s fine … she’s a century old teenager, and a Slayer, and a vampire … it’s not the easiest thing in the world to be…” Buffy admitted.
“Yeah … I seem to vaguely recall just being a teenager was hard enough,” Willow agreed.
“But I love having her here … and the other kids love her too … she’s really fitting in. I think everything’s gonna be alright … just some growing pains, but I think she’s adjusting and finding herself,” Buffy told her friend sincerely. “She’s learned to drive and she’s shown she can be responsible behind the wheel … I’ll probably let her start driving on her own soon, even with the kids in the car. That’ll really be a big help to have someone who can help taxi everyone around and I know she’ll love doing it.”
“What about … you know…” Willow asked, changing the subject.
Buffy rolled her eyes, picked up the stack of bills off her desk, and flipped through them idly. “We now officially have more money going out than we do coming in…”
“What about what the Council is paying you guys?”
Buffy snorted a sarcastic laugh. “They’re so cheap! I mean, I know Giles is doing his best, but they're just squeaking by, trying to keep everything afloat. What they pay barely covers the extra blood and chocolate Bess eats,” Buffy exaggerated, rolling her eyes. “… And she’s totally hooked on Frappachinos … do you know how much those cost? Of course, I can't blame her ... I'm pretty hooked on them too. I’ve been working at the Magic Box helping Anya while Giles is in London, and that’s helped a little, but I’ve got to find some kind of a permanent job that pays decent money. Spike doesn’t want me to … I really don’t want to, either, but…”
“Maybe Tara and I could, you know, help …”
“No … don’t even go there, Wills. Spike would have a coronary, possibly an embolism ... or just a good old fashioned holy hissy fit. I got him to take that other money as a re-payment, but he already warned me that we weren’t taking any more … he said he’d take care of it. I don’t know how … He’s talking about working double-shifts at The Fish Bowl, but, even with overtime, that’s still nothing compared to what we’re spending on just normal stuff every week.
“Add to that the fact that I have to buy all new baby furniture and clothes since I gave all Billy and Dani’s stuff away ‘cos I was so sure I’d never do that again! And I promised them they could decorate their new rooms however they wanted, so I have to buy stuff for that … I promised bunk beds and Star Wars and bookcases … and these doctors want a small fortune every time you step foot in their office…” Buffy grumbled, still flipping through the unpaid credit card and doctor bills on her desk. “And don’t even get me started on dentists!”
“Do you still have any of the money left?” Willow wondered.
“Some … I’m trying to save it to pay the hospital and doctors when I have the baby … from what Giles told me your insurance paid for Eddie, I’ll just barely have enough, if there’re no complications and they don’t have to do a C-section…” Buffy explained to her friend.
“Then what are you gonna do, Buffy?”
Buffy shook her head and rubbed her eyes. “I have no idea … I’ve still got about half the mandrake, if I can keep the demon bunnies out of it … that’s about my only plan right now.”
Bess backed away from Buffy’s door after hearing only a small part of the conversation. She slipped back down the hall to her own room, Buffy’s words still ringing in her ears, “What they pay barely covers the extra blood and chocolate Bess eats … and she’s totally hooked on Frappachinos … do you know how much those cost!?” The girl hadn’t meant to eavesdrop, she was going to ask if it would be alright if she and Dani went to the park … but now she didn’t really feel like it.
Bess plopped down heavily onto her bed and curled up in a ball. She’d been trying so hard to help out … she babysat the kids when Buffy had to work late at the Magic Box or do stuff for Giles or run errands or go shopping, she was super careful with her driving – she never did donuts or even squealed the tires anymore, she cleaned up behind herself at home, didn’t leave wet towels on the floor, she even did the dishes most nights before going on patrol with Faith … sometimes she patrolled on her own when they thought she was in that stupid GED class three nights a week … of course, that depended on if she saw Troy on campus or not. But none of that really seemed to matter … she ate too much, she cost too much money … she didn’t belong here. Everything had been so much simpler before … she thought life outside the dungeon walls would be happy and easy, full of sunshine and laughter and freedom, but it wasn’t, and now she was just a burden to the people that had gotten her out.
Spike’s words to her when they’d first gotten free of the dungeon echoed in her mind after she told him she didn’t know how to not be alone. ‘No one knows how when they first start out, pet. That’s what your mum and me are here for … to show you how – to help you crawl, then stand, then walk, then run like the wind … We love you, Bess, and we’re so proud of you … we know you can do it.’
She guessed that was what they were trying to do with the GED thing … and the swimming and the driving lessons … but it felt like for every small step forward she made, she took two huge leaps backwards. She’d tried the GED test … she really, really had … but that was useless; she’d tried the Lifeguard class, but never went back after that first day, after Buffy told her she couldn’t join the swimming team, she just didn’t know what to say to them; she’d gone through all the driving classes and gotten her license, only to be told she still wasn’t ready to drive alone … she’d made one mistake and now she couldn’t be trusted. Bess was starting to feel like that square peg once again getting whittled down so she could fit into the round hole … just like she had in the dungeon.
(later that evening) 7:00pm
“Bess… time for dinner,” Buffy called through the closed door of Bess’ room later.
“I’m not hungry,” Bess replied solemnly from the other side.
“Not hungry? Are you sick?” Buffy questioned, before rolling her eyes as she remembered that vampires don’t get sick.
“No. I’m just not hungry.”
“Well, please come down anyway …” Buffy insisted. She and Spike had worked hard to make sure there was at least one meal they could both be at with all the kids … where everyone could talk about their days. “You don’t have to eat if you don’t want to.”
Bess sighed and rolled her eyes as she got up from the bed and opened her door. Buffy gave her a little smile and brushed some of her curls away from her face. “You ok?” Buffy asked.
“Fine…” Bess replied dryly as she slid by her and headed down the hall.
Bess barely said two words all through dinner, even when directly spoken to. She gave short answers: yes, no, fine … as she sipped on a glass of water and nothing else.
During a lull in the conversation, Spike looked at Bess and asked, “What’s on your mind?”
“Nothing …” Bess answered with a shrug.
“Well, I’ve seen empty minds ‘fore … but yours ain’t one of ‘em,” Spike prodded.
Bess rolled her eyes and sighed and Buffy thought that was what her own mom must’ve seen at least a million times. How many times had she answered with one syllable responses when her mom had wanted to talk? How many eye rolls? How many dramatic sighs? But Buffy couldn’t talk to her mom about being the Slayer … well, she thought she couldn’t, anyway … Bess didn’t have any epic secret to keep…
“Whatever it is, you can tell us, Bess,” Buffy assured her.
Bess sighed again, then looked at Buffy. “I want to get a job … I want to earn my own money – maybe buy my own car and clothes and stuff. Or is that against the rules, too?”
Buffy’s eyes met Spike’s across the table and he shrugged. Buffy looked back at Bess. “That’s … fine … yeah, if you want to get a job … but you need to work it around your classes and patrols,” Buffy agreed. “And, when Giles gets here, we’ll need you on the Council Governing Committee …”
Bess nodded. “That’s fine.”
"You know ... you have the money coming in from the Council. It's yours, you can have that if you want to buy..." Buffy began to offer.
"No – you can keep that for ... stuff," Bess declined, interrupting her.
“What kinda job you figure you’re gonna get, pet?” Spike wondered, hoping she didn’t think she was going to be able to get any kind of high paying … or even medium paying job with no GED and no work experience. She’d be lucky to find a job sweeping floors…
And the one word replies commenced again. “Dunno …” At least it was two syllables.
(a week later), Friday, July 2nd, 2010, 10:30am:
“Yes … yes, this will be splendid,” Giles agreed as he looked around the warehouse that Buffy and Faith had leased for the new home of the Watcher’s Council in Sunnydale.
The auction house back in London had, as promised, sold all the furnishings that had been in the headquarters in London and Giles and Wes had finally gotten the whole of the Council library, including what had been stored in the underground tunnels and at the castle, loaded into freight containers – it was all on the way to Sunnydale via cargo ship. There were also three, forty-foot cargo containers full of miscellany … boxes that contained magical supplies, talismans, orbs, medallions, and other trinkets that Giles and Wes would need to research before selling. They’d listed both the castle and the headquarters building with a real estate agent but, in the meantime, they still had the upkeep on both places, as well as mortgages to pay, out of the proceeds of the auction. They’d also settled with the debtors that Travers had neglected to pay, and all the accounts had been un-frozen. Giles and Wes agreed that they shouldn’t give anyone any raises until the CGC (Council Governing Committee), which still had yet to be completely staffed, was actually governing the Council and an alternate source of ongoing funding could be secured for the Council to pay the Watchers and Slayers with.
The warehouse Buffy and Faith had chosen was perfect … there was some office space and room to build a training center, along with plenty of space to house the cargo containers until they could all be sorted through. There was even an area upstairs for further expansion later if need be.
“The phone company hooked up phones in all the offices …. here’s the number,” Buffy offered, handing Giles and Wes a paper with the new phone number on it. “And the cable company’s coming Monday to install internet connections and Willow’s sending six computers and three scanners … we figured part of the training of new Slayers could be scanning and indexing the books a couple of hours a day…” Buffy related.
“Oh … indeed … very good,” Giles agreed, happy that they didn’t think he was going to scan books into the computer.
“I believe we should formulate a plan for interviewing more Slayers and Watchers for the Apocalypse Leadership Team as well as the Council Governing Committee,” Wes suggested. “I thought you and Faith were going to begin that when you got back…”
Buffy sighed and rolled her eyes. “We were … life just got in the way; Faith has a the list of applicants, but we just haven't ... you know, gotten them here yet. You’re right, we need to get on that… you never know when an apocalypse will pop up.”
“Quite right … perhaps we could have our first sub-group meeting of the CGC this evening and come up with a plan to get moving on those issues…” Giles suggested.
“Sure… Oh – by the way, I commandeered one of the offices as a play room …” Buffy informed them, “…so we don’t have to hunt down a babysitter all the time.”
“Well, it certainly sounds like you’ve been asserting your authority…” Giles observed.
“Yeah … I’m really starting to like authority … as long as I’m the authority,” Buffy agreed with a smirk.
(later that evening), 9:00pm:
Bess had been doing a sweep through the cemeteries between UC Sunnydale, where her GED classes were, and Crawford Street for the last couple of weeks since the night classes started, often not getting home on those nights she had class until well after midnight. Since Giles wanted to have a CGC meeting this evening and Bess was on the CGC with Buffy, Wes, Giles, and Faith, Buffy drove out to the campus to pick Bess up after class. Buffy waited in the Blue Bomber just outside the doors Bess would have to come out … she watched the other students file out just after 9:00pm … but no Bess. Finally, at a quarter after, Buffy went into the classroom to find her daughter.
“Can I help you?” the instructor asked, looking up from her desk where she had been organizing some papers and putting them in her briefcase.
“Ummm … I was looking for Bess … Bess Weckerly,” Buffy told her, looking around the empty room.
“I’m afraid I don’t know anyone by that name…”
“She was … ummmm … This is the GED prep class, right?” Buffy wondered, thinking maybe she had the wrong room.
“Yes, but there’s no one by that name in it … Oh! Wait, do you mean Elizabeth?” the teacher asked, digging in her case for the class roster.
“Yes, Elizabeth Weckerly,” Buffy agreed, walking up to her desk.
“Right … no, she’s registered, but she’s never made it to class,” the teacher informed her, looking up from the attendance record.
Buffy let out a heavy sigh and shook her head. “Ok … thanks,” she offered as she turned and headed back out to the car.
“Bess … what are you doing?” Buffy muttered to herself as she put the minivan in gear and started driving the route Bess would walk if she were doing a patrol on the way home from the college campus. Needless to say, Buffy didn’t find Bess anywhere on that route, so she headed for the Bronze … the place that she always went when she was playing hooky from patrolling.
As Buffy drove past the alley behind the Bronze, she caught a glimpse of a thin blonde getting out of the passenger’s side of a car. Buffy stopped and backed up … she watched as Bess leaned back in the window, laughing at something the driver said, then stood up and backed away from the car, stuffing something into her purse.
“She’s doing drugs?!” Buffy exclaimed to herself, completely exasperated.
Buffy put the van in drive and turned off the main street into the alley, flooring the accelerator and pulling up beside Bess just as the other car vacated the spot.
“GET IN!” Buffy demanded through the open passenger’s window.
Bess stood there for a moment dumbfounded. “Why? I was just patrolling…” she lied.
“Bess … I may have been born at night, but I wasn’t born last night … you weren’t patrolling, and you haven’t been to the GED classes at all. Get in – we’re going home,” Buffy informed her tersely.
Bess stomped a foot down and folded her arms over her chest, but finally acquiesced and got in the van. Buffy didn’t say anything the whole way home … she was trying to calm down so she could talk to the girl rationally without completely losing her temper.
The mansion was empty when they got there. Spike had taken the DeSoto to work this night so he could drop the kids off at the new Council headquarters, where Buffy and Bess were supposed to be, before heading to The Fish Bowl to start his shift early, trying to rack up overtime pay.
“Sit,” Buffy instructed, pointing at the research table.
Bess plopped down heavily in one of the chairs, laying her purse on the table.
Buffy grabbed her purse and began pulling stuff out. “Hey! That’s mine!” Bess argued, jumping up.
“Sit. Down,” Buffy commanded, pushing Bess on the shoulder. Bess pushed back against her momentarily, but she finally gave in and dropped back onto her seat, folding her arms over her chest angrily.
“I can deal with a lot of things, but I won’t have you doing drugs. That’s not gonna fly around here …” Buffy began as she emptied the contents of Bess’ purse onto the table.
“I’m not doing drugs…” Bess defended, reaching for her wallet.
Buffy grabbed it off the table before Bess could get it and opened it ... but she didn’t find drugs, she found money … quite a bit of money. Buffy’s brows furrowed in confusion as she pulled wadded and crumpled hundreds and fifties out of Bess’ wallet and dropped them on the table.
“See? I told you I wasn’t doing drugs. Can I go now?” Bess questioned, gathering the money up.
“Bess … what … where did all that …” Buffy started when realization struck her. “Oh my God … Bess, you aren’t! You didn’t!”
“I got a job … you said I could,” Bess justified tersely as she stood up and began stuffing the money into the pockets of her jeans and gathering up the other things off the table that Buffy had pulled out and putting them back in her purse.
“Bess … that’s not a job! A job is ... is legal … a job is something you can be proud of ... tell your parents about … not hide in the alley and do while you lie about patrolling and going to class!” Buffy explained, still half in shock.
“I made five hundred and fifty dollars just tonight, would’ve been more by now if you hadn’t come along … how much did you make working at the Magic Box all week?” Bess rationalized to Buffy.
“Bess … that’s sooo not the point! This isn’t about money! This is about … self-respect! We didn’t risk our lives to get you out of that dungeon just so you can turn right around and sell yourself! We did it because we love you and want you to have a good life and that is not a good life! Spike didn’t give you the Gem so you could demean yourself by sneaking around in the dark, doing God knows what with God knows who!”
“Oh, like you’re some lily-white virgin!? You don’t think I can hear you and Spike … smell you two!? Vampire, remember!” Bess shot back, tapping a finger on her nose.
Buffy’s jaw dropped open slightly, she hadn’t really thought about what Bess could hear through the sound-proofing in their room … or smell. “That’s different, we’re married!” Buffy defended, a distinct feeling of déjà vu coming over her, hadn’t they had this conversation before? “Do you have any idea how hurt Spike’s gonna be?! How mad he’s gonna be? Do you have any idea what we sacrificed so you didn’t have to be a … a … a whore!” Buffy screamed at her.
“Oh, right, everything’s about YOU … you and Spike … la-te-da, well, guess what?! This isn’t about you, it’s about me! It’s my body! It’s my choice who I want to screw … and I’d rather the guy just give me the hundred bucks than spend it on dinner and wine and stupid movies or stinky ol' flowers!
“I’m not hurting anyone,” Bess continued her defensive rant. “Men want me … they like what I can do to them and I like doing it! They’ll pay a lot of money for it … for something I used to give away! Before I was just a slut … I’d rather be a whore … it pays a lot better!” Bess argued, as she slung her purse over her shoulder and turned away from Buffy, heading for the door.
Buffy ran around and got in front of her, blocking her exit. “I don’t understand you! We’ve given you everything you’ve wanted! We’ve tried to give you a normal life, a little bit of a childhood … Bess, we love you! Why would you do that!?”
Bess stared at her with a cold gaze and folded her arms over her chest as the humiliation of that GED test and the disappointment about the swim team and the frustration about not being able to drive by herself and all the other little things that she did that weren’t even noticed or weren’t good enough washed over her heart like a black shroud. “Oh … you give … you give alright … you dangle the carrot in front of me then you just yank it away! Well, I’m done having things yanked away from me – I’m tired of living by everyone else’s rules! I’m in charge of me now, not you – not Spike – ME!”
Bess sidestepped Buffy and started for the door again.
“I’m not done talking to you, young lady … get back here! This is a long way from over!” Buffy demanded.
Bess swung back around to face her. “I’m not young and I’m not a lady … I’m a vampire and I’m older than you!”
“I’m still your mother and …”
“YOU ARE *NOT* MY MOTHER!” Bess screamed at the top of her lungs. “Wanda was my mother! You are not my mother!”
“I *AM* YOUR MOTHER!” Buffy screamed back just as adamantly. “Elizabeth Anne Weckerly … I am your mother. Sit down – we are not done here!”
“Weatherford! My name is Weatherford and I’m done! I’m done with your rules and I’m done with doing my best only to be told that it’s not good enough and I’m done with you!” Bess continued to scream as tears welled in her eyes and she turned and started for the door again.
“Nothing I do is right, nothing is good enough! You don’t love me … you only love them!” Bess accused as she stormed away, waving her arm toward a photo of Annie, Dani, and Billy as she walked past it towards the door. “I don’t hear you complaining about how much they eat! Annie eats just as much chocolate as I do ... I don't hear you telling her she's costing you too much money! I don’t hear you telling them they can’t do things ‘cos ‘that’s not what their power is for’! I don't see you holding them back ... just me! I don't know why you even came and got me out of there!”
“What? I never …” Buffy began but Bess cut her off.
“I’m not your daughter … and I’m not normal. Why don’t you stop pretending!!? Why don’t we all just stop pretending!?”
“That’s not true! None of that is true! We do love you!” Buffy defended, moving up behind her quickly. “Bess, stop! I forbid you to leave this house …” Buffy caught Bess’ arm and pulled her back.
“You can’t stop me!” Bess screeched, pushing Buffy off with a dangerous growl as gold flashed in her blue eyes, knocking Buffy to the floor before turning back towards the door that led to the garage.
“If you leave this house …” Buffy threatened furiously, as she got back up and started toward Bess. Suddenly her mother’s voice rang in Buffy’s head and stopped her in her tracks … ‘You walk out of this house, don't even *think* about coming back!’
Buffy shook her head to clear it and started towards the garage where Bess went. “Bess! Come back here!” she called, but before she could even get to the door, Buffy heard the Harley crank up.
By the time Buffy got into the garage, all she could see were the taillights as Bess sped out of the driveway on the motorcycle. “Bess! Damn it! Come back!” Buffy screamed after her, but she was gone.
Buffy heaved a deep breath from her lungs and dropped her chin to chest, rubbing her eyes tiredly as tears of anger and frustration and hurt stung them.
“Fuck…” Buffy muttered as she walked back in the house. She should’ve known … she should’ve known by the way Bess had pulled away from them lately that something was terribly wrong. When they first got back, she seemed ok … like she was fitting in, but something changed and Buffy was too preoccupied with everything else that was going on to figure it out. She’d let her down … again.
Spike? Buffy sent through the bond as she grabbed her own keys off the research table and ran back outside.
Buffy wiped the tears from her eyes as she put the minivan into gear and headed out of the driveway in the same direction Bess had gone. I totally fucked up … I forgot to close the door and the cat ran away …
Runaway Train, Soul Asylum
Why you're up in the
middle of the night?
Math question answer:
d. There is no extra $1 to locate
( Click here to go back to the chapter )
The problem is that the question is always cleverly phrased to conceal what is really going on.
First let's locate all that money.
There are two ways to think about how much money is out there to be found. The way that this question is tricky is that it combines that two ways.
The first way is this: How much money did the guys pay originally?
The second way is this: How much money did they end up paying?
So if it is the first way, then clearly the total we need to account for is $30. So let's see what happens to that $30. The owner keeps $25, the clerk gets $2 and the guys get
Hey, that adds up fine.
Now let's look at the second way.
How much money did they end up paying? Well $27, and $25 of it went to the owner and $2 to the clerk.
Hey, that adds up too.
The problem with the question is that the $2 that the clerk gets are contained in the $27 that they end up paying so we shouldn't expect them to add to anything meaningful.
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