Things were going along nicely. Buffy should have realized that would end sooner rather than later. Nice or smooth in the life that was Buffy Summers' didn't exist. She needed to tell Matty the truth about who and what she was. The consultation business he thought she was involved with aside, he deserved to know.
She had already sent off an email to Giles informing him she was going to tell him whenever the opportunity presented itself. That opportunity hadn't come yet. They were both busy with their respective jobs. Buffy accompanied him to baseball and basketball games, professional and college. That was when she wasn't working her own job.
Tonight, she was home and Matty was working late in the city. Buffy was taking the opportunity to catch up on paperwork. She always checked to see if anyone had been in the office, and Willow had taught her a spell that she could cast on the file cabinet so that anyone opening it would only see empty file folders. Buffy didn't really like to use magic, but she knew until Matty knew the truth she had to use caution.
She was humming along with an old Stray Cats song when Jim appeared in the doorway. He knocked lightly on the door to get her attention, though she'd sensed he was there.
"Hi," she said brightly. She'd come to the conclusion that they were never going to be fast friends, but they tolerated and even sort of liked one another in an odd way. Maria, on the other hand, was someone Buffy would like to call friend.
"You have visitors, Mrs. Demaret."
"Visitors?" She frowned, glancing at the clock. It was after nine o'clock. "Where are they?"
"Actually, they insisted on remaining outside until you invited them in personally."
"Hmm, okay. I'll go right down. Thanks, Jim."
She saved her document on the computer and closed out of it. She double checked that everything was locked up and put away before heading downstairs. She had worked out when she came home, including a swim in the pool, so she was dressed to stay in for the night in a pair of boxer shorts and an oversized T-shirt. She immediately regretted her choice in clothes when she opened the door and saw them standing there. Both of them. Together.
"Uh, hi," she said hesitantly. She couldn't stop staring at Spike. He was dead. She'd seen him start to turn to dust. She hadn't dreamt that, hadn't hallucinated it.
"Buffy? It is you. I thought Willow had given us the wrong address."
"Yeah, I need to talk to you."
She stepped outside, her hands going to Spike. She touched him, the front of his coat. He was real. She drew him closer, sniffing. Sure enough. It was him. Leather and cigarettes, and something that was distinctly Spike.
"Don't know, luv. Some hocus pocus, magic thing. Here I am. You can't keep the big bad down. You should know that."
"Uh yeah, I guess I should have."
She stared at them both, unable to get over the fact they were here. Together. There were so many questions running through her mind she almost forgot her manners.
"Come in. I get now why you wanted me to do the inviting."
"You live here?" Angel asked as they stepped into the foyer.
"As what?" Angel asked.
"What do you mean as what?"
"Are you working for someone privately now?"
"How do you know?"
"Buffy, come on, Willow told me. She said you've been working as a bodyguard. Excuse me, security specialist. I didn't realize it was this lucrative of a business."
"It's not," she said simply. She wasn't sure she wanted, or even needed, to explain. "Willow told you how to find me?"
"Well, yeah. We've been getting the run-around from Giles. Hasn't he told you I've called?"
"No, he hasn't said anything. I knew about the slayer they found near you. Dana, but no one's told me anything else. Willow knew you were alive?" The question was directed at Spike. She still couldn't believe it. As she led them to the parlor and they sat, she kept waiting for his image to disappear.
"No, Andrew did, though."
"Why didn't you?"
He shrugged. "I figured we were both probably better off this way."
"We can catch up another time. It's not like it's been years or anything. So, anyway," Angel said, bringing Buffy's attention back to him. "Willow called me and told me you were right nearby. I'm not sure why she trusts me when Giles doesn't seem to."
"I don't know either. Again, no one's said anything to me about you. I'll see what I can find out, though."
"Well, that's not why we're here. I, we," Angel said, gesturing to Spike. "Need your help."
"My help? With what?"
Angel stood then and walked to where she was sitting. He knelt in front of her, took her hands in his. A pose she'd dreamed of him taking with her often in high school.
"I'm taking on the senior partners. I've been working for Wolfram & Hart, on the inside, trying to destroy the beast that way."
"I can't really fill you in much, beyond something big's going to go down and I could use all the muscle, all the manpower you've got. Spike mentioned you activated slayers."
"Maybe you can convince Giles I'm all right and that we need the help. Unless he wants to see LA destroyed."
"Okay, I can try."
It was Matty. Of course it was. She tried to clear her thoughts. How much had he heard? She had been so focused on Angel, on the fact that she would have to face yet another big bad that she hadn't paid attention.
"Hi." She stood quickly, almost sending Angel flat on his back. "I didn't hear you come in."
"Obviously. Jim mentioned company."
"Am I interrupting?"
"No, you're fine. They're old friends." It was way more complicated than that, but it was the explanation that would suffice for now.
"Oh, I was beginning to think you didn't have any friends left in LA." Matty walked up to Angel first who had by now righted himself. "I'm Matty."
Matty turned his attention to Spike then. Buffy saw Spike actually hesitate a moment before taking Matty's offered hand. Whether Matty noticed she wasn't sure.
"Spike," he said, elongating the one syllable name in a way only Spike himself could. "Nice digs you got here."
"Did you need Buffy?" Angel asked.
"Need her? Need her for what?"
"Well, you're dressed to go out." Angel frowned, taking in Buffy's appearance. "But she's not."
"I just got home from work. I presume Buffy was upstairs working. That's what she told me she was going to do anyway."
Matty sounded confused. Rightfully so. Buffy nibbled on her lower lip, waiting for things to click in place. She wondered who would come to the correct realization first.
"You don't work for him, do you, Buffy?" Angel asked, his gaze focused only on her. She recognized the look well. He was expecting an answer.
"No. I never said I did!"
"So, what are you doing here then?" Angel could be so exasperating at times. Like now.
"What's going on here?" Matty asked. "Is Buffy in some sort of trouble? Did you have an assignment you were supposed to be at tonight, babe?"
"Uh, no. Angel's sort of here about a job. It'd be off the books, though."
"Oh, so part of your consulting business. Why didn't you just say so?"
"Buffy, you have a consulting business?" Angel glanced to Spike who shrugged.
"Well, sure she does, isn't that why you're here?"
Angel walked to her. "Okay, Buffy, could you please clear this up. Who is this guy? And why are you here if you're not working for him?"
"I live here."
"I get that, Buffy. Why? You don't belong here."
"Thanks. Thanks a lot," she said with a frown. What made Angel say that? "I live here because I'm his wife."
"His what?" Spike and Angel said in unison. It would have been kind of cute under any other circumstance.
"You heard me. I know you both did, loud and clear. I'm his wife. Buffy Demaret," she said with a shrug.
"Well," Angel said.
"That didn't take you long, luv."
"Spike. It wasn't like that."
Buffy sighed. This was exactly what she didn't want to happen. Spike was going to think that she hadn't meant it when she said she loved him. She did. She thought he'd died! Not to mention, she hadn't set out to marry Matty. Or anyone else.
"I get it, Buffy, no problem."
"Oh my God, you two are being unreasonable. You come into my house, not knowing it's my house, and are being rude to me because I've moved on with my life."
"Buffy," Matty interjected.
"Oh, God, Matty, I'm sorry. There are things about me you don't know. Should know. I should have told you before now. I kept waiting for the right moment, but it hasn't come."
"Where did you meet this guy?" Angel asked.
"In Vegas," she answered honestly.
"Demaret, I know that name," Angel added.
"Buffy, what's going on?"
"He doesn't know, does he?" Spike asked.
"No, he doesn't. No time like the present to tell him, considering proof is here."
"What are you two talking about," Angel asked.
"Can you guys, give me a minute with Matty?"
"Buffy, I didn't come here to cause any marital strife. I just need your help."
"Right, I get that, but I can't agree to help you before I tell Matty the truth."
"The truth about what?" Matty asked, sounding more and more frustrated.
"You mean he doesn't know?"
"Oh my God, Angel. Hello? That's what Spike and I were just talking about. No."
"Do I even need to be here?" Matty asked.
"Just go stand in the foyer for a minute. Both of you," Buffy said, shooing them out.
"You look upset, Buffy."
"I am. Only because I was hoping this wouldn't happen. That I would tell you because I could tell you, not because I had to tell you."
"Tell me what?"
"The day I was shot. I tried to tell you, explain to you. I'm more than merely a bodyguard. Saving people is what I do. I wasn't lying. Unlike the bodyguard business, most of the time people don't know I'm doing it."
"Okay," she said, starting to pace. "You believe, or at least you seemed to understand, that Willow cured me with magic."
"Well, I'm not sure what I believe. I can't dismiss the fact you were healed from a bullet wound in a matter of days."
"Well, the wound itself would have healed that fast on me anyway."
"I don't know. It's part of what makes me me. Willow just needed to get the bullet out and repair the tissue inside that the bullet damaged. And help the healing process along."
She sat next to him, taking his hand in hers. "I have proof of what I'm about to tell you. So before you decide to cart me off, just remember that."
"You're starting to scare me."
"Me, too. I've just never told someone before who didn't already know some of my world." She took a deep breath. Here goes nothing. "I'm a vampire slayer."
"You're a what?"
"You heard me. The stuff fiction is made of. Dracula, hounds of hell, demons. I slay them. Kill them."
It was his turn to stand and pace.
"My life until a year ago was saving the world. Again and again and again. You have no idea many times I've prevented some evil thing from running around on earth. That's why when we first met I wasn't much with the commitment mindset. I had just gotten out of a real heavy-duty commitment."
"Okay, say for a minute I believe this. Why aren't you still doing it?"
"Because last spring, in order to defeat something I had Willow cast a spell that activated all of the potential slayers. So, there are now hundreds of us. That kind of allowed me to semi-retire. I'm here if they need help. That brings us to why Angel's here tonight."
"Angel? He knows."
"Uh yeah." She stood from the couch and walked to the door, opening it. "Guys, come in."
They didn't seem to look too thrilled. She couldn't blame them.
"Buffy," Angel said in protest.
"Just do it."
"Now, I've known Angel for seven years. Spike for six years."
"Is that all it is, pet?" Spike asked.
"Seems a lot longer than that."
"It does, doesn't it?" She turned and walked up to Matty who looked a little lost. She took his hand, lacing her fingers through his. "Change for me, guys."
"Poofs, both of us," she heard Spike mutter, but they both changed.
"But you just got done telling me."
"Well, they're the exception to the rule. They have their souls."
"Long story, but when a vampire is created, the soul goes bye-bye. The demon takes over. So, even though it looks like, sounds like, and walks like hubby dearest or daddy dearest, it's not. The body is really just a shell for the demon to possess. That's what makes them the amoral beasts they are. But Angel and Spike have their souls. They help me. Well, Spike didn't always, until a couple of years ago he was as bad as they came. But that's a different story."
"Okay," he said. "Can I?" He took a step towards the two vampires.
"Go ahead, look."
"Buffy," Angel protested.
"Let him look, Angel. I have to make him believe this. I can't help you unless he does. So, if you need me like you say you do."
"All right," he muttered.
"Amazing," Matty muttered. He sat on the couch opposite Spike and Angel.
"Thanks, guys," she said, taking a seat next to Matty. Neither vamp wasted time letting their game face slip away. She took Matty's hand again, brought it to her mouth and kissed it. "You doing okay?"
"Yeah, I think so. What does Angel need your help for?"
"Evidently, some big bad is going to try and make LA his hell on earth. He needs manpower, which means slayers. So, I'll have to get them to LA. Any chance we could open that unused wing?"
"You're not serious?"
"I am. Just think of all the fun Jim would have. A bunch of girls to boss around."
Matty chuckled at that.
"Buffy, you still have to talk to Giles about this," Angel said. "He may not go along with it."
"I'm the boss when it comes to Slayer stuff, Angel. He's just in charge of paperwork, watchers, and that sort of thing. If I say I need units mobilized here, he'd damned well better send them or I'll go over to England and kick his ass."
"Buffy," Spike said, his scarred eyebrow arched.
"Okay, maybe I wouldn't kick Giles' ass. I'd like to, though, for not telling me Angel's been asking for help."
"Well, he doesn't know I need help. He just hasn't been answering or returning my calls."
"I assume Willow figured you'd ascertain for yourself whether I was sincere."
"I think you are. I've seen you when your soul's left the building."
"I'm supposed to just stand by and let you?"
"Yes," Buffy said simply, cutting Matty off. "It's what I do. It's who I am. I told you from the beginning me and relationships weren't real good mixy things. I meant it. I can't turn my back on something like this."
"How did you two meet? I don't get it. Last time we talked, you were still talking about baking."
Buffy laughed. "Well, it wasn't a conscious decision. I was in Vegas on a job, working ‘Boom Boom' Bartucci."
"That bloke can fight like an animal," Spike said. "I've seen him. He's got balls, I tell ya."
"Yeah," Buffy said simply. "I'm not much of a boxing fan. Anyway, I met Matty at a party there. Woke up the next morning not remembering much of anything. You know me and alcohol," she asked with a glance at Spike. "Found out later we'd gotten married. So here we are."
"And you're just doing that?"
"Well, Matty asked me to give him a year. I am, but I'm happy here. So, yeah, I'm just doing that. I've got a decent job, I'm going to go back to school in the fall, and Matty's really great." She leaned in and kissed him on the cheek. She owed him way more than a kiss for being a good sport about all of this.
"So, that consultation business you have?" Matty interrupted, obviously trying to fill in various holes as his thoughts shifted.
"It's not really. Giles, Rupert Giles is his name. He was my watcher. I'll explain that later. But, it's kind of like a teacher, mentor, research assistant. He told me how to kill the demons, and I went and did the work. Anyway, last spring, the Watchers' Council was obliterated. So, he's in England, running the new Watchers' Council, assembling all these slayers we activated last spring. Making sure they get taught, those that want to work with us. Some haven't wanted to."
"But you work. I've seen you working in your office."
"Oh yeah, I do. Giles emails me updates on all of the slayers and everything. I update their files. The building that housed most everything was destroyed. Most records were, too. So, Giles wanted to know that there were hard copies of all of this stuff somewhere other than there."
"Are you paid?"
"That would be the major downside to this gig. No. It's pretty strictly voluntary."
"But it's dangerous."
"Yes, it is. I've actually died twice, almost three times actually."
"Mm, yeah. First time, Angel and Xander saved me."
"Yeah. I drowned. They did CPR."
"And the second time?"
"I actually died. Gone to a better place for a few months."
"One hundred forty-seven days," Spike added. Buffy gave a sniffle that Spike still remembered that.
"Willow brought me back. Some spell. Which really wasn't that great. It took me a long time to get used to being here again."
"Tell me about it," Spike quipped. Buffy glared at him. "What? It's true. Just agreeing with you."
"So, you expect me to just let you go help them, knowing you might die?"
"I don't expect you to want me to go. I do expect you to let me, though. It's what I do."
"Buffy, this is crazy. All of it! I mean."
"I know it sounds like it, Matty."
"Listen, Buffy, we'll go. There was more I could have told you, but if you're willing to help that's all I need to know. Spike will contact you with the details when we get to that point. I can't. It's going to look bad, Buffy, so I need you to trust me. Okay?"
"Yeah, okay." She stood then, not sure what Angel had gotten himself tangled up in. She walked them out, giving each of them a hug. Spike's was a little longer than Angel's, more to assure herself one final time he was really there.
"He makes you happy, pet?"
"Yeah, he does. He's nice. He's one of the good guys."
Spike patted her cheek with his hand before placing a kiss there. "Then I'm happy for you. All's I ever wanted was your happiness. If he does it for you I'm glad you found it."
"Me, too, thanks. I'll see you later, I guess."
"You can count on it."
She closed the door, much rather facing the two vampires than Matty right now. He was standing in the doorway. She supposed he saw the whole exchange with Spike.
"They both love you, don't they?"
"Yeah, I guess so. I haven't asked them recently or anything."
"Do you love them?"
"In a way, yes. I always will."
"So, they were two of the three?"
"Yes, they were."
"And the third?"
Buffy laughed. "He was human, but he knew about the things that go bump in the night. His name is Riley. He was in the Army, but worked for a government branch called The Initiative that performed experiments on what they called hostiles. They tried to plant chips in their brains to stop them from being violent."
"Did it work?"
"Yeah. That's how Spike started working with us."
"Yeah, me, Giles, Xander, Willow."
"How'd you prove it to them?"
"I didn't have to. They were kidnapped by vampires, one of their friends was killed. Jesse," she said, realizing it had been some time since she'd thought of Jesse. "It seems so long ago," she whispered.
"I see the pain in your eyes. I see how tired you are," he said, sliding a hand to her shoulder. "I see how much this takes out of you. You think I'm going to leave you. That I'm going to think you're crazy."
"I wouldn't blame you."
"What happened with Riley?"
"Mm, it was during the time that my mom was sick. He was pushing for more than I could give. After Angel left me, I kind of shut my heart off. I couldn't be what he wanted. He left. My relationship with Spike. It was bad. It was after Willow brought me back. I didn't deal with it too well. I didn't deal with it well at all. I used Spike. Sex, fighting, whatever he could take I dished it out. He left after he tried to rape me, got his soul. I don't even know how he did it, and I'm not sure I want to know. He came back crazy out of his mind, but somehow he got it together and he was there for me. For us. He saved the world. He died doing it. But before that, we became friends. True friends."
"You became friends with the guy who tried to rape you?"
"Well, but it wasn't just him, Matty. You have to understand. I can't explain it, and I really don't want to. Spike and I have moved past it, and I don't want to relive that time of my life. It's not that long ago, so it's still a little too fresh."
"Okay, I get that."
"So, Angel left, Spike died. How's he here?"
"He says he doesn't know. Magic, I guess. I don't know."
"Huh. Is there anything normal in your life?"
"Hmm, not sure that's saying much." He guided her up the stairs, not that she needed much prodding. "Okay, so Angel left, Spike died. Where'd Riley go?"
"He left, too. He's married now. He and his wife are still in the Army. They're off fighting demons the right way. Not trying to experiment on them, just take them out. They're, the Army I mean, his unit, have actually helped us some. The slayers. They're outfitting us with some better equipment, armor that slayers can use that might help them live longer. The thing is, we're out there alone typically. Slayer and vampire. I got stabbed with one of my stakes once. It hurt like hell. Who'd look for a living person in a cemetery? You know? So, having something a little heavier than a normal shirt would pay off."
"How are you paying for that?"
"We help them. Power in numbers, and having slayers on your side helps."
"So, until recently there was just you?"
"Yes, one girl in all of the world. I'm not sure when the idea came to me. I wasn't even sure it would work, but I had to try. I wasn't going to die again. I'd finally gotten to a place where I was good with being here, being alive. I wasn't going to toss it away because some big bad wanted it to be so."
"How many have you fought?"
"Too many to count. Angel was even one of them for a while. He lost his soul for a while. Had to fight him to the death. Actually thought I'd killed him for a while, but it turned out I'd only sent him to a hell dimension."
"Yeah, it's just as it sounds. Not very pretty. I was in one briefly and I'm guessing he probably would have rather I killed him, but he's never said."
"See, told you. Me and relationships."
"So, Willow's a witch. A real one."
"Xander is the heart. He doesn't have any powers, but he never gives up and never stops believing. He lost his eye because of me. A bad decision I made, to attack when we shouldn't have. I'll never forgive myself for that. Seven years those two escaped unscathed and I went off half-cocked."
"I think he forgives you, if there's anything to forgive."
"I know, but it was careless of me."
"It doesn't seem like you had much of a choice most of the time."
"No, you're right. I still should have thought things through better."
"You look ready for bed."
"I'm ready for something."
"Let's do that then. We can talk more tomorrow."
"You believe me?"
"I don't have much choice. It's either believe you, or think I married a lunatic. I've seen no evidence pointing to that being the case. I remember how fast you reacted to that car the day you were shot. I know you're strong."
He slid an arm around her waist and she let her head go to his shoulder. She was exhausted. Seeing Angel and Spike, together like that here at her house, well it shook her.
"Remind me to tell you about Dawn sometime."
"Yeah, she's not what she seems either."
"Oh boy. Is there anyone normal in your life? Besides me?"
"My mom was."
"Yeah, she did, not at first. It's supposed to be super secret. I was the exception to that rule. People found out. I think it's why I've survived this long. I had people who cared. People to do CPR on me, people to do spells to bring me back."
"People to tuck you in at night when you've obviously been through a mentally taxing evening."
"Yeah, that, too," she said, letting him lift her up and set her in bed. She had already been dressed for bed, so nothing needed to be done.
"I get the tattoo a little better now," he whispered.
"Yeah," she smiled, her eyes growing heavy. "Good night, Matty. I'm sorry."
"To bring this stuff here, to your house."
"We'll worry about it later. I'm not upset. And it's our house. Our home."
"Get some sleep."
"Are you coming to bed?"
"Yes, I just have to get out of my suit."
"Good, I'm waiting."
"Not for long."
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com