"Buffy, you can't seriously be considering this."
"I am, Giles. It's a done deal. He even got me out of the lease on my house."
"How do you know this isn't some scheme?"
"He's not evil, Giles."
"I don't like it. It's not like you to act impulsively."
She quirked her brows at that, not that he could see it over the phone. Her silence must have been enough, though.
"Well, okay, you have always been prone to impulsive actions, but this. Buffy. Marriage is a sacred institution. It's not something you can playact."
"But I'm already married. So, I thought about it. And I have thought about it, Giles. He gave me a month to get my stuff organized and packed. I've seen him during the month. So, the way I saw it I had two options. I could get an annulment and always wonder if maybe he was the one."
"But you shouldn't have to wonder, Buffy, that's what I'm trying to tell you."
"Yeah, well, since when has my life been full of normalcy and the way things should go?"
"You have a point."
"So, my other option was to give it a try. What's the worst thing that can happen? I live in a nice house for a year?"
"You could get your heart broken."
"It's been broken before."
"You're an adult this time, Buffy. This isn't a high school sweetheart gone bad."
"I know what it is and isn't. I know full well what I am, Giles."
"And what about Dawn?"
"What about Dawn?"
"She still needs your protection, your support. I enrolled her in the school as the best short term option. You can't just leave her there as if she is no longer important."
"And, let's see, I actually have a home for her to come visit. Yeah, that's a bad thing. Oh, wait, and I have a guy who travels for his job and, gee, I might actually get to go along and see my sister once in a while."
"Buffy, don't take that tone with me. What about Thanksgiving?"
"What about it? You don't celebrate."
"Dawn shouldn't be stuck at school."
"She's coming here."
"Yes, it's already been arranged. Believe it or not, I do think of other people besides myself once in a while."
"That wasn't what I was implying."
"Of course it is. You still think I'm that selfish seventeen year old girl who ran away to LA instead of face all of your gloating faces after I had to run a sword through Angel's heart."
"No one was gloating."
"I didn't know that!" She sighed and took a deep breath. "Listen, Giles, I appreciate your concern, but it's done. Why do you think I waited to tell you until the last minute? I knew this was how you'd react. I've made my decision. You have to trust me, Giles. For once, can you just support me in something, wish me luck and not be looking under rocks for underhanded evil schemes?"
It was his turn to sigh.
"I suppose I can work on that."
"Thank you. Now, my cell stays the same, so does my email. Oh, and by the way, he's got DSL connections at the house, which I'm not sure what that means beyond he told me it's super fast. So, files and stuff you send me shouldn't take me years to download anymore."
"And where do you plan on keeping these confidential files?"
"Another thing taken care of. You can't accuse me of not thinking. I told him I deal with some touchy stuff. I have an office, Giles. My own office. Top of the line stuff in it. No second-hand computer. Anyway, he told me I can get a lock installed."
"And he didn't ask what you did that was confidential?"
"No, he knows I'm in the security business. He knows I work with high-profile people. You do realize I may have to tell him the truth."
"Yes, that eventuality has crossed my mind the last few minutes. I do hope you'll wait until you know for certain what you're doing. Too many civilians are already in the know."
"I know, Giles. I'll be careful. Oh, and here's the address, in case you need to send me stuff."
"You'll still be using Summers?"
"I really wish you'd reconsider this, Buffy."
"I know you do, Giles, and I love you for being concerned. But I have to do it. I have to see this through. I have to risk my heart again. I admit I'm not even sure it's there anymore."
"Oh, it's there, Buffy, bigger than most and more capable of loving and kindness than most anyone else I've encountered."
She drew the phone away, surprised. "Thank you." She was at a loss, didn't know how else to respond. It was rare for him to be so complimentary.
"You're very welcome. I wish you luck, and you know if you need me for anything I'm only a phone call away."
"I do know. Thanks, Giles. I'm going to go, the movers are here and I need to tell them what's what."
"Okay, Buffy. Please be careful."
"I always am."
"And for goodness sake, don't imbibe in liquor again."
She laughed. "It's a little late for that, but I don't plan on it!"
"I'll talk to you soon, Giles."
"That you will. And, Buffy?"
"I do trust you, I'm just concerned, and it has nothing to do with how valuable you are to the Council at this moment."
She beamed at that. She knew it, knew that their relationship went deeper than simply Watcher and Slayer. "Me, too, Giles."
"Have a good Thanksgiving with Dawn then."
"Thanks. I think she's excited."
"I imagine so. She's been doing well there."
"Yeah, I know, I get that. It was a good move on your part. Thanks."
"You're welcome. Take care, Buffy."
"You, too," she said and disconnected.
She took a minute to glance around her house. Everything was in boxes or bags, except the furniture. She wasn't sure what she was going to do with that type of stuff. Matty said there was enough space to store it until she decided. She should, if nothing else, keep it for the year. And, after that, if she stayed with him, Dawn could have the stuff.
She didn't feel bad about leaving this place. She'd only been here a couple of months. It wasn't home. It was a temporary place to hang her hat until she got her feet firmly planted on the ground. With the money she was earning working for Topline she hoped to be able to start school next fall. A glowing letter of recommendation from Giles should help her get around the fact that she had to bail on her last semester at UC Sunnydale.
It was still kind of sad to leave it behind, though. It had been her first alone place. The only place she'd ever lived on her own. Well, she had once, but that was different. Then, she'd been running away. Here, she was moving forward, looking to the future, not running from anything.
She saw the moving truck back onto the driveway and took one final walk through to make sure she hadn't missed anything. It was odd how much she'd accumulated. They'd left Sunnydale with quite literally the clothes on their back. Yet, she still had stuff to move, even if it was cheap stuff. It was still her stuff.
"So, where is he?"
Buffy wasn't surprised it took Dawn all of two seconds of being in the car to ask the question.
"The mystery guy."
"He didn't come with you? Buffy! I've been dying to meet him since you told me."
Buffy regarded Dawn as her sister talked animatedly. She looked so grown up, worldly. Most of all, she looked happy. She doubted there were apocalypses to deal with where she was. And she looked better for it.
"Because he's my brother-in-law!"
"Well, sort of."
"No sort of's about it. He is! I've never had a brother and I want one. Because having a sister sucks!"
"Yeah, well. So, where is he?"
"I told you, work. We grown ups have to do that you know. He probably would have come if I'd asked him to. But I wanted you for myself. I haven't seen you in six months! I wanted some sister-to-sister bonding time. No boys allowed."
"Well, it's a good thing I didn't stash one in my suitcase."
"Good thing, he'd probably be suffocated by now."
"So, what are we going to do then?"
Buffy waved to the airport police officer who was gesturing for her to move along. They didn't cut you any slack. As soon as Dawn's suitcases were in the trunk and they were seated he began watching Buffy's car like a hawk.
"Well, I thought lunch and then we can go back to the house and you can crash. You're probably exhausted."
"I slept pretty well on the plane actually."
"Lucky you, I can never sleep on those overseas flights."
"That's because you imagine tactical maneuvers in case there's a demon flying the plane."
Buffy laughed. Dawn knew her too well. And, no, she wasn't paranoid pilots were demons, but she didn't like not being on the ground. In control. "Yeah, well, taking a demon pilot out at thirty thousand feet would be tricky!"
"But lunch sounds good. You don't work?"
"Nope, I have the next week off."
"Yes, unless an emergency comes up, I'm all yours."
"Well, that's cool. I don't think I've ever been all Buffy's."
"It's got a nice ring to it, doesn't it?"
"So you like that school?"
"Yes! It's amazing! And they teach us so much. Way better than public schools. And the food."
"And there are no boys?"
"Right, which kind of sucks, but there's a school for boys close by. So, we do stuff once in a while. There was a Halloween dance. And I think they're doing Thanksgiving together, whoever's there. Things like that."
"Fun. Are there a lot of kids that stayed?"
"A few, yeah. Some are there because their parents don't want them at home. It's hard to know though, what's the truth."
"Good for you."
"For knowing that."
"Well, take me for instance. I know why I'm there."
"Why are you there?"
"Well, you need to figure out what you're doing. No one knows what's going on, if the Council is going to stay in London. You want to go to college, which may take you out of LA. I mean, I get it."
"Well, if this situation takes, you can come back to LA, but I want some time to know for sure before we do that."
"I know, and I'd want to finish the year out anyway being my senior year and all. I still can't believe Giles got me in there. One of the girls told me how long the waiting list was."
"I think Willow helped."
Dawn gave Buffy a knowing smile. "Yeah, I guess she did."
"What about him?"
"You know he's coming for Thanksgiving."
"Yes, don't play innocent with me."
"You still like him."
"Get real, Buffy."
"You do, and with Anya gone."
"That sounds so lame. You mean if Anya was still here he wouldn't notice me?"
"Well, no, but now that Anya's gone and you're almost done with high school you can turn on that Summers charm."
Buffy glanced at her out of the corner of her eye, saw Dawn was blushing.
"You do know he is coming down to see you, right?"
"He is not."
"He is, too. He can see me anytime, and I think he's a little freaked by this whole situation."
"Like the rest of us aren't?"
"Like I'm not?"
"Okay, true, but."
"Yeah, I know."
"And Xander had a crush on you for so long. I'm not saying he's not over it, but still."
"And this guy. Is he nice?"
"And he's gainfully employed?"
"Does he have any moles? Fangs? Or other unmentionables?"
"Not that I've seen."
"Are there parts you haven't seen?"
"That's too bad."
"What? You finally have a normal human guy on the line, I'm excited for you."
"He's not a fish and I'm not an angler."
"Well, in a way you are. And I'd say he hooked a pretty good one in you."
"You're so sweet. Can we drop the fishing analogy please?"
Lunch was perfect. They'd gotten to the local restaurant early enough that they beat the rush and didn't have to wait in line for a table. It was nice to be able to catch up. They were sisters, but there was more than that between them. Death, life, blood. Blood most of all she guessed. She was kind of excited to get Dawn home, show her around, and see what she thought of Matty. Matty planned on coming home early to meet her.
Home. It seemed strange to Buffy to call a place like this home. She called it his house around him, never home. She'd only been there for a few days, though. She just felt like a guest. She'd started crying when she saw that he'd had a room put together for Dawn. He had no idea how much that meant to her.
Her own room was the stuff dreams were made of. Four poster bed, luxurious linens, antique light fixtures, artwork on the walls that she was sure cost a fortune, and a plush carpet that would have made her mom weep. None of the stuff was for or because of her, it was just the way the room was decorated. It was still magnificent, as was Dawn's. Dawn's was on a more low-key scale, though.
"Buffy, this place."
"Yeah, I know. Hard to believe, huh?"
"What does he do?"
"He's a sports agent."
"He must do pretty well."
"Yeah, he does."
"Listen to you."
"You sound proud of him."
"Well, I am. I mean," Buffy shrugged as she used the electric opener for her stall. "He hasn't had it so easy."
"You like him."
Buffy didn't answer right away, turning off the car and busying herself with her purse and things.
"Yes, I do. Okay? I mean, of course, I do. If I didn't like him, I wouldn't be here."
"Well, that's true. Or, on the other hand, you could try and go out of your way to make his life miserable so he wants out."
"I thought of that, but I don't want to do that."
"Because you like him."
"That, and like I told Giles. What if this is it? How many chances am I going to get? Angel couldn't be because of the curse. Riley almost was but our lives were in different places. Spike," she shrugged. "Spike was Spike. No curse but still the living forever thing. I loved all three of them, but looking back at it now I realize I wouldn't have been happy with any of them."
"And you think you could be now?"
"Why not? I'm in a better place, emotionally and lifewise. My life isn't all dire consequences, life and death, apocalypses. So, what if I blow him off and I realize later, he was it? There has to be a reason I married him to begin with, right?"
"I'd say so, but without knowing him I can't say."
"Well, he'll be home before dinner, so you'll meet him soon enough."
"Dinner. Like a sit down meal?"
"Yup. The cook, Maria, makes the best food ever."
"I can't wait."
"Come on then, let's get you settled and I'll show you around."
"Do I need a map?"
"No, silly. It's actually pretty easy once you get the hang of it. And there's a whole section not in use, so you aren't going to stumble into something by accident."
"Listen to you."
"What? I'm just saying."
Buffy popped the trunk, each of them took a suitcase with Buffy taking the additional carry-on bag Dawn had.
"Mrs. Demaret, I can take those."
"Thanks, Jim. Dawn, this is Jim. He's like Jeeves."
"I prefer Alfred," Dawn said.
"Me, too," Jim said and smiled widely for Dawn. It was the most emotion Buffy had seen from the man yet. Interesting. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Miss Summers. I hope you're comfortable here."
"I'm going to show Dawn around and then she'll probably lie down for a while before dinner."
"You've had lunch?"
"We did on our way back."
"He was so prompt. Right there."
"Yeah, it's sort of spooky. There are others, and they're all as prompt. I had to tell Matty they need to stay out of my room. I'd come in from breakfast and my bed would be made."
"Well, it's just weird. I'm not used to it."
"What did Matty say?"
"Told me to get used to it."
"I like him already."
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com