20 Unexpected Visitor
“Hello Buffy.” The young man stood on her porch; not sure if the door was going to be slammed in his face. “May I…” he motioned to the interior of the house.
Even though it was still daylight, Buffy only moved aside to, allow him entry.
With all the things he had rehearsed to say, he froze and could only come up with, “You look great.”
Buffy brushed aside a stray strand of hair. She was about to say thank you when Aria began to let her displeasure, of not seeing her mom, be known; to Buffy and the whole neighborhood.
Riley followed her into the kitchen. There he watched as a little one swiped her hand across the highchair tray sending the cereal, that was on it, flying.
“Aria!” Buffy admonished.
Meanwhile Riley had stopped in his tracks as he was hit with the reality of his actions, all those months ago. His eyes lit with pride as his heart melted at the sight of his daughter. Then another emotion hit him; guilt. Guilt for being so one-sided when it came to what he wanted. Guilt for leaving Buffy alone, at a time when she would have needed him. And guilt for missing out on holding his baby when she was born and seeing her achieve her milestones.
Aria looked at her mother then focused behind her. She flashed one of her smiles; recognizing the person as the one in her ‘wallet’. The one she called, “Dada!”
Riley was shocked that the baby would even know who he was. Knowing from experience, with nephews and nieces, that he needed to approach her slowly. He tentatively approached.
“Well hello there sweetie. Aren’t you the carbon copy of your mother?” Riley looked toward Buffy, “She’s beautiful.”
"Thank you." Buffy said then set to the task of sweeping up the scattered cereal; a smile lit her face. It quickly changed as an uneasy feeling swept through her. Aria had called Riley ‘Dada’. Where had she learned that?
Riley sat in the seat nearest the highchair. “She’s” he did a quick mental calculation, “… eight months?”
“There were complications; she was born early.” then her brow wrinkled, “Riley, why are you here?”
“I want to apologize. I was a complete ass. I never should have left you.”
“It took you ten months to figure that out.”
“No, two days but by then I was with the squad and we were thoroughly entrenched and in communication silence.”
While talking to Buffy he handed Aria the cereal bits that were left on her tray. Using her thumb and index finger Aria took them and popped them into her mouth; squealing with glee.
“How long will you be here?”
“Indefinitely.” Off her curious look he continued. “I was injured during a mission and granted an honorable discharge.”
“I see and you chose Sunnydale because…?”
“I know I did a stupid thing; walking out on you.”
“You’ve got that right.”
“But being away I realized… I love you. I would like it if you would consider giving us another try.”
“You don’t have to give me an answer now, just…”
Aria began to fuss. She had had enough of being in the highchair. Out of the many times of babysitting, Riley released the catch to the highchair, undid the seat belt then lifted her up; holding her close. He placed a kiss on her cheek. Aria accepted his help in gaining her freedom but when he didn’t put her down, she began to squirm. This person was a stranger; she wanted the security of someone familiar.
“Guy-gulls…” she called out.
Buffy took her from Riley. “Shhh… Giles is at the Magic Box. He’ll be home later.” maybe, she thought. Then she placed Aria on the floor. The baby toddled off to play.
Buffy’s comment about Giles did not go unnoticed by Riley. “Home?” he asked.
“Yeah, Giles lives here… with us.”
Riley strained to keep his emotions in check. She couldn’t mean what the words implied. “So, he’s been helping you. That’s… nice.”
Giles was sitting on his couch at the apartment. He tossed the last book he had on the subject of Elementals. He still came up empty as to why the Sylph hadn’t departed when asked. His stomach lurched as he realized he was going to have to consult an expert on the original spell. He rose from the couch and went up the stairs to the loft.
Digging through a box he had stored under his bed; he found a white candle for focusing. He brought the candle down to his desk and set it in a holder. After lighting it he sat back in the chair, touched his right finger tips to the tattoo on his left arm, and stared into the flame; emptying his mind of everything except the person he sought. Ethan told him this was how he had located Giles years ago at Halloween. It took a while but eventually he could see Ethan sitting at a bar. Focusing more on the surroundings; he was surprised to see it was Willie’s Place. Giles withdrew from the trance, extinguished the flame then left the apartment. He was determined to get Ethan’s help one way or another.
Willow and Tara were shelving the books Giles had left on the research table when Anya arrive.
“We’re not open yet and you’re not suppose to leave the restricted books out on the table like this.”
Willow took the lead, “I know you’re not open yet and we didn’t leave the books out. Giles did.”
“Where is he?”
“Not sure he left a little while ago.” Tara answered.
“There better not be another apocalypse. I have a sale to organize.” Anya noticed the subject matter of the books all had a central theme. “Don’t tell me, someone is possessed.”
“Well…” Willow uttered.
“Who is it? I know it isn’t Xander because he performed admirably this morning; giving me several…”
“No, not Xander.” Willow interrupted the ex-vengeance demon from her completed sentence.
“Of course not. I’d know if he were possessed or not. It isn’t Buffy.” The witches quizzical look prompted Anya to explain. “Slayer’s can never be possessed. It’s a defense mechanism the Powers that Be gave the Slayers to protect the world. It must be one of you two. What have you done with Giles?”
“Anya it isn’t one of us.” Willow stated.
“Huh, that’s just what a possessed person would say.”
“It’s Aria!” Tara blurted.
“Aria?” Anya’s expression changed from surprise to sympathy. “The poor defenseless child. We have to do something.”
Willow and Tara exchanged looks; sharing the same thought. Giles told them to leave Aria alone. He didn’t say anything about anyone else doing something.
Willow stepped closer to Anya, “So, you want to help Aria too?” the ex-vengeance demon nodded. “We were looking for a good exorcism spell. Perhaps you know of one. I tried ‘Cromwell’s Portrait Clean’ but it didn’t work. I was ejected from the sacred circle.”
“In order to know what spell to use, I’ll need to know what demon is possessing the child.” Anya stated.
“Well… er…” Willow stumbled.
“You don’t know?” Anya’s gaze shifted from one witch to the other. “You performed an exorcism without knowing what you were dealing with! Amateurs!”
“Hey!” Willow protested.
“Let’s start with when you first noticed she was possessed.”
Continue in The True Nature of the Sylph