Buffy watched as Willow and Kennedy walked in the sand along the beach, following some other couple's footsteps that were beginning to get washed away by the tide. Her gaze moved to the sun just about to make its nightly trip beyond the horizon giving Buffy and her friends night.
Night made Buffy think of demons and vampires and the fact that she had not seen many lately. Thinking of vampires brought to mind the two vampires that were significant in her life. She loved both of them and they both loved her. Both had helped make her who she was today. One by trying to destroy the world and making her send him to a hell dimension to stop him. The other one saved the world, proving to Buffy that perhaps everyone was redeemable.
Buffy could not help but smile in response. It was what Spike had called her even after they had become friends. Standing in front of her now was a candidate for redemption. "Hey, Andrew," she said to the blonde man Anya had died to save. Buffy and Anya had their differences, but the ex-demon rarely placed her trust and faith in someone who was not deserving of it.
"I was wondering what we were going to do for dinner."
"I don't know," Buffy said with a shrug, her arms folded over her chest as she watched the sky fill with the flamboyant reds, yellows, oranges, purples and whites that represented the last of the night's magical sunset.
"Well, Dawn and I are hungry," he said in the whiney voice that Buffy had grown to detest over the past few months.
"Then take her somewhere and get something to eat, Andrew."
"Oh, well, we weren't sure you'd let us."
Buffy shrugged. "I don't see why not, Andrew. It's been months now, I think Spike really did it. I think we're all safe now." She did not cry for Spike in front of anyone. Her friends probably thought she did not care or she was hardened and heartless. In truth, it was hard to cry for him when it was something he wanted to do. He wanted to redeem himself; it had not mattered that Buffy had forgiven him. He knew he had a higher purpose to carry out. How could she cry about that? She had not wanted Dawn or her friends to cry for her.
"But for how long?"
"Don't say that, Andrew," Xander interjected from the reclining chair he sat on, nursing a beer. Shirtless with wet swim trunks and skin the color of worn pennies, Xander looked like the poster child for a beach bum. Or an out of work construction worker. "I learned long ago, the worst thing you can do is ask a question you don't know the answer to. It always brings trouble."
"If you say so," Andrew said, sounding doubtful.
"We can never be sure, Andrew. I've fought in lots of apocalypses now, and the world is still here. There will be another one I have no doubt about it. That's all I know."
Willow and Kennedy were nothing but distant silhouettes in dusk's embrace. Buffy envied them in a way. Kennedy was no Tara, but she was glad that Willow had somebody. For the first time in Buffy's life, she felt okay with the fact that she did not.
Maybe it was the fact that she was no longer the Chosen One. Well, she was, she would be the Slayer until she died for good, but there were slayers around the world now who could help fight evil so it no longer felt like a never ending fight. She no longer felt incomplete or alone because she did not have a boyfriend or a lover. She had come a long way since crawling out of her grave two years ago. She wished Spike could see her now, sensing he would be proud. Angel would be, too, but he had not witnessed first hand the downward spiral Buffy experienced since her battle with Glory.
"I guess we can go to Taco Bell then. I'm in the mood for a chalupa."
"Have fun," Buffy said. It was hard to forget all that Andrew had done, but if she could let Spike walk after he had killed people while under The First's influence she could not very well do the opposite with Andrew. It had been obvious toward the end that he was willing to help them, and he was here. Buffy liked to believe that he had survived for a reason, that they all had survived for a reason.
"Thanks," he said before going back to the house. Buffy followed soon after. The sun had set, the sky was no longer its canvas until tomorrow. It was time to see what Giles had come up with that afternoon.
Buffy returned to the beachfront house they were renting for the time being to find the man who had been so many things to her over the years reading something on his computer screen. He glanced at her over the tops of his reading glasses and smiled. A few months ago, the smiles he bestowed upon her were hesitant, uncertain as if he was not sure their close ties had been severed. Now, though, the smiles were genuine and heartfelt, Buffy did not want his pity and he did not give it. Giles knew that she missed Spike but he let her deal with it in her own way without allowing her to grow despondent.
This man had been her Watcher, friend, surrogate father, advisor, and confidante and she knew that he believed he was only doing what was best for Buffy. They had argued and had differing opinions over the years; none had been as potentially explosive as this year's with Spike had been. But still they were here, together, and Buffy could not help but believe it was appropriate.
They had an opportunity to train the slayers from the beginning without the red tape and age old rules and traditions that had been a part of the Watcher's Council. There would be no more eighteenth birthday tests and there would no longer be complete secrecy from the Slayer's parents. What Giles and Willow were presently trying to figure out was how to find all of these girls.
They had started by researching medical records looking for women - adults, teenagers and children - who had suddenly reported a surge in strength and any other goodies that came with the Slayer package since this past May. They were still in research mode. The only problem was this time they were dealing with women and girls who would not know what they were and that might now be in danger from the baddies out there. Spike was not the only vampire that wanted to kill a slayer merely because she was the slayer.
"Some, Willow's computer skills certainly are helpful."
Buffy smiled slightly, remembering all of the times Giles had claimed ignorance when Willow set out to access information on the library's computer.
"What I'm concerned about, however," Giles continued. "Is doctors who might not document some cases because they don't want to admit they have no idea what the cause is. I mean, we're talking about a girl or woman developing superhuman strength overnight. Some would find it impossible, could attribute it to stress."
"Yes, you know the case of the little old lady lifting a car off the pavement to save a child."
"That's actually happened?"
"Adrenaline and stress can cause us to do superhuman things. Even you must be able to relate to that."
Buffy thought on that for a moment. He was right, there was a difference in her slaying when she was pumped up and raring to go. Of course, sometimes that led to bad things happening, like Xander losing an eye. "Yeah."
"And then those women who were brushed off that way may not go back again." He sighed softly and Buffy thought he looked tired. "We'll figure it out, Buffy."
"Can't we just take out ads in newspapers?"
"What?" Giles asked.
"Take out ads in newspapers, use your cell phone number or get a new one just for this purpose. Put ads in newspapers around the world and ask women who have been experiencing these symptoms to call us."
"It is a worthwhile idea, Buffy, but I'm afraid it would be a rather costly endeavor."
"Oh yeah," she said, not having thought of that.
Giles stood and turned off the monitor, removing his glasses as he regarded her. "We'll figure it out, Buffy. I have no doubt of that. We might not get them all, it is very near impossible to, but we'll try."
"Okay, thanks, Giles."
"What's on your agenda for tonight then, Buffy?"
"I don't know," she said with a slight shrug. "I might go back outside and sit with Xander."
"I guess one good side effect of all that's happened is there does not seem to be much demonic activity."
"Bite your tongue, Giles."
"It's just nice to see you relaxed, Buffy."
"Yeah, it is sort of nice. You deserve a break, too, Giles."
"If girls lives weren't potentially in danger, Buffy, I'd take a break. I'm not complaining, but I never thought of the implications when we decided to go with your idea."
"Don't be. You saved the world, Buffy. Again."
"With Spike's help."
Giles bowed his head slightly and then glanced at her again, meeting her gaze evenly. "With Spike's help, but Spike would not have gone down there and would not have taken Angel's amulet if it weren't for you. So in essence, it was you."
"I think he would have done it anyway."
"Perhaps. Now go on now, keep Xander company."
"Okay, I'll see you later."
"Have a good evening, Buffy."
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com