She woke to an empty bed for the first time since they'd started sharing one. She didn't count business trips that couldn't be avoided by either of them. Her hand slid along the empty spot on the bed beside her. It was cool to the touch, which meant he hadn't just gotten up to use the bathroom or something. She glanced at the clock. It was just after two in the morning.
She tried not to be concerned, but couldn't stop herself. What if he'd had one of his dreams? He hadn't had one in a while that she knew of. She could usually tell. He'd wake with a start, a frightened cry escaping his lips, covered in sweat. He never talked about it, she didn't push. She assumed it was the bad thing he'd mentioned once before.
She slid out of bed and padded to the bathroom in search of her robe. She never knew when Jim would be lurking in the halls. Or God forbid her father-in-law would make a sudden appearance again! A quick cursory glance of the bathroom told her he was not there and had not been there recently. At least, there was no evidence of his having used the shower or sink.
A check of his office netted her nothing. The kitchen was empty as well. There was evidence it had been used recently, though. So, she suspected she was getting closer to finding him. She found him in the game room, and let out a sigh of relief at seeing him alive, awake, and unharmed.
"There you are."
"Did I wake you?"
"No," she laughed. He knew he hadn't. "Whatcha doing?"
"Nothing," he said dismissively. She recognized the tone. She was a pro at it herself.
She noticed a few empty beer bottles and some left-over slices of pizza. She took a detour to the game room fridge, grabbing herself a beer before settling in the chair near him. She leaned forward and grabbed one of the slices of pizza.
"Then you won't mind me sitting here with you?"
"You can if you want to."
"Good pizza," she said. It wasn't hot, but wasn't cold either. So, he hadn't made it that long ago.
"It's just frozen."
"Nothing wrong with frozen pizza. You have no idea what I ate the last year or so before I met you."
He shrugged, taking a sip from his beer. "Actually, scratch that. I just need to know. Is that it? Is that everything?"
"What do you mean?"
"Are there any other secrets you're hiding under a rock?"
"Mm, nope, not that I know of."
She set the pizza slice and the beer on the table.
Holding out her index finger. "I'm a vampire slayer. But it's not limited to just vampires. Anything evil that comes my way. Not of the human variety."
"Nope. Was with someone who did once. Accidentally. It wasn't pretty." Her hand instinctively went to the side of her neck where her scar was. That incident was the culmination of just how far off the path Faith had gotten. That wasn't the case now. Last Buffy heard Faith was out in Boston trying to rid herself of psychological ghosts. With the help of Robin Wood.
She held out her middle finger. "I've had three serious boyfriends. You met two tonight, and I told you about the third. I wouldn't call Spike a boyfriend really. I was in a bad place, he was there and I needed what he gave me. It sounds bad now, and I'm glad that we got past it. There were a couple of others, but no one else noteworthy."
She held out her ring finger. "What I do is secret. Meaning, you can't tell anyone."
"I get that."
She held out her pinky finger. "There used to be just one. Me. One would die, the next one would get called. I was an unusual case in that I wasn't raised by a watcher. I lived a normal life. They didn't even know about me until I was called I don't think. That's not normal. I was fifteen, in LA, at Hemry High. I'll never forget the day. I thought the guy was a freak. My parents started fighting, because I couldn't tell them what I was doing."
"The secret thing?"
"Right. They ended up divorced. Mom ended up moving us to Sunnydale because I had burnt down the gym at Hemry and no other school district in the area wanted me. I met Willow and Xander almost right away. And Giles. I didn't want to do it. I wanted to start over, fresh. No more vampires, no more late nights, no more cutting class because a vamp was prowling the tunnels. It didn't work that way. First Willow got taken after I advised her to seize the day. So, I had to rescue her. Then they got Jesse. And then there was Angel."
"The dark haired one?"
"He kept pushing me to get involved. I thought at first he was a friend of Giles'. My watcher. Giles is my watcher, I mean."
"I got that."
"Okay, sorry. I tried staying normal. Went out on dates, went to parties, went to a frat party even. Only, it never worked right. The dates would get sabotaged by vampire stuff. The frat party, a party I didn't even want to go to but was coerced into going by someone who did want to go. She and I, and a third girl, were going to be used as a demon offering for the frat house."
"Yeah. I almost didn't get out of that one. I'd lied to Giles and my mom, and Angel. I told them all I was doing something else. Willow knew where I was and told them when they figured out something was going on at the frat house. The night I died, this was before the frat party. Sorry I'm talking sort of out of sequence, but I've never really sat down and laid it all out for someone before."
"It's okay." He smiled at that. He moved to the couch, patted the empty spot next to him and she joined him.
"Giles was willing to go meet the Master for more."
"Big, bad vampire. He was stuck below the earth in an old church that collapsed decades ago during an earthquake. It was part of a prophecy that I'd die. I was sixteen. I wasn't too keen on the idea of going into a battle knowing my life was going to end that night."
"Who could blame you?"
"Well, unfortunately, we're expendable. Slayers. We're there to do a job. I think the fact I had friends and family to help me kept me alive this long. Xander and Angel found me that night, gave me CPR. Willow brought me back the second time. And when I got shot, she did more with magic than the doctors were able to do with modern medicine."
"You were that close?"
"Yeah, I was."
"So, I really shouldn't be too concerned over this bodyguarding gig you've got going on, because really there are more dangerous things out there."
"Yeah, there are." She smiled.
"I couldn't let Giles do it, though. It really didn't hit me until. The vampires had gotten into the school, killed some of Willow's friends. Until then it had just been Jesse and the rest of the victims were anonymous, unknowns. Faces only. But they brought the fight to us. I couldn't let my friends down."
"Even at such a cost?"
Lastly, she held out her thumb. It was strange that things could be summed up so succinctly.
"We did a spell in order to defeat the First Evil. It's just what it sounds like. It's big, bad, ugly, and would love to get its mitts on earth. Get rid of love and the evil baddies would have a field day. I was losing. I had these girls, potential slayers, in my care and I was supposed to save the world while trying to protect them. That's how Xander lost his eye. Up until last spring, I was able to just randomly go in and muscle my way through. This wasn't like that. Willow did the spell. She didn't want to. She'd been in a bad place, too. Her girlfriend was killed and she went all dark magic on us, tried to destroy the world."
"She's a lesbian."
"Is that a problem?"
"No, just making sure I heard right," he said. They each took sips off their beers.
"Anyway, there is no more only one. There's a couple thousand of us. All over the world. I can't run away from my responsibility forever, but I really want to finish college. My mother would want me to do that. She was so excited when I got accepted into Northwestern."
"Yeah, I did. I couldn't go, though. Had to stay in Sunnydale. But Giles understands. And it's worked well so far. We're still kind of gathering the slayers, training, and seeing where we stand. Eventually, though, something will come up and I'll have to do my job. In the meantime, I keep up with what Giles and the others are doing in London. Keep records here so there are duplicates."
"And what Angel's asking you to do?"
"It's his thing. He left Sunnydale. He lost his soul for a while. Turns out the curse has a little loophole. One moment of true happiness results in him losing the soul. He had his soul for close to one hundred years before meeting me." She slid her hand into his, lacing her fingers through his. She needed the contact. The connection. "The night of my seventeenth birthday we got into a particularly nasty fight. I thought for a while I was going to lose him. He was going to get on a cargo ship and take a dangerous item with him. He was talking of being gone for months. Long story short, we got back to his place, we had sex."
"He achieved true happiness. He lost his soul."
"You got it. You're pretty quick."
"You joke about it now, but I bet that must have been pretty traumatic."
"Oh God, don't even get me started. Those were the worst months of my life. Even the months with Spike weren't that bad. At least they didn't feel that bad. I just didn't feel anything. That was a problem itself, I know that now. When Angel was running around without his soul."
"You felt everything."
"Yeah, exactly. I was so raw. He was my boyfriend. He still had his face. I gave him." She clutched to Matty's shirt front, not even realizing until it was too late she'd started to cry.
"Everything," he whispered, kissing the top of her head. "It wasn't your fault, Buffy."
"He killed Giles' girlfriend. He was seeing someone, a teacher, Miss Calendar. They'd had a bumpy time of it, too, and had just started on the right path. He set it up. Made Giles think she was upstairs in his bed waiting for him. She was, just dead."
"Oh God," Matty whispered. He gathered her to him. She went willingly, practically crawling onto his lap and burying her head against his chest.
"Have you ever cried about it?"
"No, not really."
"Then let it out. Maybe there's a reason you're telling me this."
It took her a few minutes to collect herself, but she did.
"I love you, Matty," she whispered.
She felt him stiffen and knew she'd surprised him. She'd surprised herself.
"There's something I should tell you," he whispered, kissing her ear as he did.
"First, I love you, too, but since we're being honest. This is what had me awake tonight."
Sensing he needed space, she slid off his lap to the other end of the couch. She faced him this way instead of snuggling against him. He seemed relieved.
He took a sip of his beer, stared at the bottle as the foam slid back down the edges of the bottle. "I've never told anyone about this. Taylor knows, Pop knows, and Chris knows. That's it. I swore I'd never tell anyone, but I can't withhold something like this from you. I killed someone."
He stood then and walked to the sliding doors that overlooked the pool. She doubted he was looking at it, though.
"It was before I met you. Just before I moved out here. I was frustrated. I tried to get out from under my father's name, his reputation. Every job I went to, they took one look at my name and thought it was my father's attempt at muscling in on their company. I can't tell you how many times I got thrown out on my ear."
"I'm sorry, Matty," she said softly.
"My dad's, I don't know what you'd call him. Teddy was his name. I was twelve years old when Pop was ratted on. Teddy tried to get me to kill the man."
"You were twelve? Matty!"
"Just let me say this. Please?"
"All right, sorry."
"I couldn't do it. I wanted to. He'd disrespected my father. He'd disrespected the business. Our name. I wanted to be a man, but I couldn't do it. I took one look at him, and saw my dad's friend. My friend. I went outside and stood there, listening while Teddy and his goons. My father's goons. Administered justice. If I'd just pulled the trigger, it would have been easier on him."
Buffy felt tears stinging her eyes again. She couldn't imagine.
"So, ever since then, Teddy's engrained into my head that I'm not a man. I'm not cut out to follow in my father's footsteps. That I'm not made for the business. I think he's right, you know? I should have wanted to take out the guy who snitched on my father. What kind of son doesn't defend his father's honor? His own father! My pop!"
He took another sip of his beer.
"I tried. Like I said, I really did. Finally, I'd had enough. I went to my father, told him I wanted in. I'd start small, work my way up, I wasn't expecting him to hand me anything just because I was his son."
"Matty," she whispered.
"My father wouldn't hear of it. Teddy, though, he told me there was a way I could prove to my father once and for all I was cut out. He gave me a job. I was to get a bag, fly it back from Washington State without getting caught. Someone was supposedly skimming from my pop, and I was supposed to be the one to bring him the proof. I had a friend who was a pilot. It should have been simple."
"You got that right. We seem to have that in common," he said. He laughed. That was good.
"We ended up going to Montana. Marbles, my friend, he lost the bag. I should have known. I should have gone with him. He had an H problem, but he was over it. Or so he said."
"Oh," Buffy said, realizing their worlds were really quite different. She was involved with someone who had personal knowledge of the mob. Gangsters. Drugs.
"So, me and Taylor and Chris, we fly out to join Marbles. To try and get our bag back. Things are going okay. We muscled our way into getting information. And then they stop going okay. The local cops got a hold of the bag. It had money in it. A lot of money. They wanted it for themselves. I realized as things were going down that Teddy wasn't testing me. He was going behind my father's back. He was using me. Stealing from my father. He was taking a cut from the money, shorting it it's called, and passing it on. He had a gun, too. I think he saw that I knew."
"You shot him?"
"Yeah. He was like a father to me. He killed Johnny."
"My friend Marbles, sorry."
"It's okay," she said. She stood then and walked to him, sensing he was near the end of his story. She wrapped her arms around him.
"I shot him. He didn't think I'd do it. Tried to tell me I wasn't man enough to do it. I didn't have it in me." He used the back of his hand and swiped it across his eyes. "I showed him, huh?"
She positioned herself in front of him, making sure she didn't stop touching him while she moved. She looked him in the eye.
"Matty. It sounds to me like it was self-defense."
"I try and tell myself that. But I see him, you know? I see those last moments. I dream about it. My mind plays it over and over. I keep wondering if there was something I could have done."
"There's not, Matty. I told you I saw someone kill someone. Her name is Faith. She's a slayer. She was called because the slayer who had been called after I died the first time was killed." She smiled, seeing that he was processing that chain of events. "She killed a Deputy Mayor. It was an accident. We were patrolling. He wasn't where a human should have been. Stake through the heart. With our strength," she shrugged. "He didn't stand a chance. The Mayor was corrupt, evil, the Deputy Mayor probably was, too, but Faith went rogue before that could even be thought of."
"What's your point, Buffy?"
"My point is. Faith didn't walk away from the blood and violence. She let it win, let it get the best of her, let it feed her. She went bad. Tried to end the world bad. She poisoned Angel, knowing it would distract me from doing my job. Stopping her and the Mayor of Sunnydale. It almost worked, too, except my blood. Slayer blood was Angel's anecdote. I went to kill her, Matty. I had no hesitation or qualms about doing it either. I fought her within an inch of life, and was willing to kill her if it meant saving him. She jumped off a building's roof, landed in the bed of a passing truck, ended up in the hospital in a coma."
She shook her head. "My point is. You knew that wasn't what you wanted to do. Be like your dad. You learned from what you did and came here, have made a good life for yourself. People see you and they see Matty Demaret. They don't see Benny's son. Or a murderer. I don't see a murderer."
He hugged her and she breathed against him.
"Is that how you got that scar?"
"How did you know?"
"You saved his life."
"Yeah, I did. I couldn't get him Faith's blood, but I could get him a slayer's blood. Love makes us do strange things, Matty. You loved your father. You realized a man who had your father's confidence and trust was betraying him. He would have killed you to prevent you from revealing that to your father. I don't know him, but even I know that. And you know that, knew that, he killed someone at least once. That you know of. So, you know he wouldn't have hesitated. Anyone who would put a gun in the hands of a twelve-year-old and expect him to take a man's life is heartless and cruel."
"So, we've both got demons."
"Are you sure you can live with me knowing what I did?"
"Faith would have killed me, she tried, too. She even slept with my boyfriend." She waved her hand. "That's a whole different story. She came to from her coma and somehow we switched bodies. She was in mine, I was in hers. The point is. She knows now what she did was wrong and is on the right path. She turned herself in, could have broken out of prison any time but she stayed. She broke out when we needed her. Well, the mission needed her. They needed her in LA, and when she was done here she came down to Sunnydale and helped me there. We made our peace. She's okay. She's got a good man who's watching out for her. A good man isn't the answer to everything, I know that. But it does help."
"I'm glad you think so."
She kissed his jaw. "Should I call the police?"
She shrugged. "Yeah, I guess I should. I thought I had killed someone once, I wanted to turn myself in. Spike wouldn't let me. I beat the crap out of him, because he tried to tell me what was one human compared to all of the lives I saved every day. I didn't like that, though."
She rested her head against his chest. She liked that he wasn't hugely taller than she was.
"You did a bad thing. You feel remorse. I've slept beside you, I know you do. If you were happy about it or something I'd think differently."
He stepped away and she looked at him, resting her chin against his chest. He ran a fingertip along her scar.
"Willow says she's offered to try and remove it."
"It's a part of me. I want to remember that. I needed to remember how it felt. To love someone so completely that I was willing to sacrifice myself so that they could live. I didn't think I'd find it again."
"Needed? Didn't think?"
"I think I'm there. I couldn't with Riley or Spike. I was afraid to. It took me a while to realize that."
"You need to help them."
"Yeah, I do."
"Is there anything I can do?"
"Put the slayers up."
"Will Jim and Maria ask questions?"
"No. They're not paid to ask questions."
"All right. I should also brush up a bit."
"I'm going to invite Spike to come workout with me. Here at the house. You can watch if you want to. I mean, if trust is an issue. But I haven't really done my slayer stuff in close to a year. The bodyguard business, it's not quite as physical."
"I'm going to have to put in for a leave of absence, which means I won't have income coming in."
"You don't need to work, I think you know that."
"I know. I just don't like freeloading, especially since a leave of absence means I turn my car in."
"Ah. I think we can work something out."
"Thank you," she said sweetly and lifted up on her toes enough to kiss him. "I don't suppose you have clients in London?"
"I'm going to need to go there. Like tomorrow."
"We can use my father's plane."
"He won't mind?"
"I doubt it. I'll call him right now and find out."
"Matty, it's three in the morning."
"It's six in the morning there. He's awake."
She watched as he walked to the bar area where the phone was and made the call. He looked better, more like himself. As bad as it was to think it right now she couldn't help but think he looked hot. He never slept with a shirt on so the one he had on was hanging loose and open. She had a very nice visual of his chest.
"It'll be here in about four hours."
"Do you want to come with me?"
"Good, I was hoping you'd say that." She slid her hand into his. "Now, other than packing a bag there's nothing else I need to do to get ready. So, let's see if we can't find something to do up in our bedroom to pass the time."
"I don't know, I couldn't sleep earlier."
"I'm not sure that sleeping even entered my mind. I was thinking more of working together actively to keep those demons at bay for the rest of the night."
"That I can handle."
"I thought you might."
He'd told her an important thing tonight. No wonder he had problems sleeping. And no wonder he hadn't wanted to tell her about it until now. Telling the wrong person information like that would land him in prison. She glanced at him as they made their way upstairs. She tried to picture him as a twelve-year-old boy. She'd seen a few pictures of him as a kid, but wasn't real good with ages. How frightened he must have been.
And to learn years later that this man was betraying him, his father. Hadn't that been why he was supposed to kill the other man years ago? Betrayal of Benny? What a foreign world he'd grown up in. Buffy knew about gangs. You couldn't live in LA and not know about them, but it seemed like something she was so far removed from.
She was sure there should be revulsion in her for what he'd done. She couldn't find it, though. He wouldn't be walking beside her if he hadn't pulled the trigger. She knew that. What did that say about her? She knew he wouldn't talk about it again. It wasn't something they'd mention ever. It was out, it was said, and they had to move on. She knew things weren't always black and white, there was always some gray. To think what the world would be like if she'd killed Angel when he lost his soul, or Spike. Or Clem. Even if he did gamble with kittens.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com