Title: The Coldest Winter We Ever Spent... (Part II: June)
Pairing: Buffy/Giles, Buffy/Angel, Giles/Angel, others hinted at
Rating: Explicit/ NC-17
Word Count Part I: 4546
Trigger Warnings: RAPE, torture, underage sex, intergenerational sex, miscarriages
Beta: gilescandy (Although there is only so much even she can do for a stubborn old thing like me!)
Legal Notice: This non-commercial artistic activity meets Fair Use requirements
A/N: "I think he'll find her when she wants to be found." BtVS 3.1 (Anne)
Alone in his tiny courtyard, clutching a cup of coffee; hot, black and bitter, Rupert Giles stared at the sunrise unseeing, unmoved by its beauty. His heart was empty, a bottomless pit of regret and despair. He knew the time had come to call Boston again. He knew, but he could not accept it. It was clear to him that, if Gale and her new Slayer came to Sunnydale, it would not be to join him but to replace him. He would be reassigned. A new Watcher would be assigned to find Buffy and bring her back to task. That was the best case scenario.
The Council could, if it so chose, meet out far more serious discipline. For both of them. There was no fathoming how these decisions were made. He might be drummed out or even disappeared. Buffy might be declared a renegade. The Council might hunt her down and kill her. Or tear itself apart trying. He could not be responsible for that. He simply had to find her. He had to look harder.
He stood mechanically and walked through the back door into his kitchen. He thumbed through a small, overstuffed rolodex that sat on the counter beneath the wall-mounted phone. The card he pulled was yellow and worn with age. The information it contained did not include a phone number.
Rupert lit a burner on his gas range and started an iron skillet heating. Then (because there's never a valuable live animal around when you need one these days) he took out his wallet and pocket knife and improvised a sacrifice by dropping a fifty dollar bill into the trying pan and sprinkling it with a few drops of blood from his own hand. As the edges of the bill began to curl and blacken, Rupert Giles began to chant. Some of the words that rolled from his lips could have been Latin. Some of them.
In Sheila Rosenberg's back yard, three teens lay sunning themselves at poolside. Her daughter Willow was propped on her elbows making note on a Garfield shaped pad that lay before her on the lawn lounger. Her best friend Xander sat sipping casually on a cup of punch. The other boy, some friend of his she guessed (maybe that Jerry boy she'd heard so much about a while back?) lay on his stomach on another lounger, a newspaper open in from of him. All three kids appeared deep in conversation. Anyone would have thought they were trying to agree on a movie or keeping tabs on their favorite sports teams. Sheila certainly thought so. She was wrong.
“Two more possibles buried today?” Willow Complained. “That makes six on the watch list.”
“Alright,” said Xander, “I'm calling it. Cross Barker off the list.”
“But what if—” Willow started to object.
“Come on Wil,” Xander argued, “It's been six days.”
“Only five,” Willow corrected him.
“Alright, five,” Xander conceded, “but we still can't be in six places at once.”
“Three places,” Oz interjected.
“That's right!” said Willow with shiny-bright enthusiasm, as if that totally solved the problem. “Barker's in Peaceful Valley with one of the newbies. ...” she looked down her list. “Kathy Ziegler.”
“Yeah, but she just died yesterday,” Xander pointed out, “She won't be up until tomorrow night at least.”
“I don't know,” Willow countered, “burial in less than twenty-four hours, usually means a DB, and it seems like they get up a little faster. I think the formaldehyde slows them down.”
“There's three in Westgate,” Oz pointed out. “How old are they?”
Willow looked at her list again. “Payton Snow died three days ago, buried yesterday. Same goes for Brian Grafton.... And Brice Freed, buried today, died... ahha! Three days ago too!”
“So that just leaves one over in Elmgrove, right?” Xander asked.
“Willow nodded, “Erika Nucheski,” she confirmed. “Dead four days, buried yesterday.” Willow frowned. “We might have already missed her last night, while we were working Restfield.”
“Same goes for Barker,” Xander pointed out.
“Westgate,” Oz said matter-of-factly, decisively. “Best bet.”
“But... but what are we supposed to do about all of these others?” Willow whined.
“Nothing,” Oz replied, “unless we get done early at Westgate.”
“I wish Buffy was here,” Willow grumbled miserably.
Xander felt like she had stuck a knife in his chest, but he covered it pretty well if he did say so himself. But Oz gave him a look anyway. Unless he was imagining it. He was probably imaging it. “Wil,” he said tensely if not quite angrily, “even Buffy can't be three places at once.”
“I know that,” Willow countered, sounding miserable and maybe just a little defensive. “It's just... I wish that stupid detective would finally get a clue. I mean, I must have told him a hundred times that we were attacked by a tall, twenty-something brunette with two male accomplices that called her 'Drusilla', but somehow, he still keeps insisting that it has to be Buffy!”
“Wil,” Xander reminded her, “she's not going to know when it's safe to come back anyway. None of us knows how to get in touch with her.”
“We don't know that,” Willow argued, persistent in her halfhearted optimism as usual. “I still say...”
“If Giles was in touch with Buffy,” Xander countered, “why wouldn't he tell us?”
“To protect us,” Willow repeated for the millionth time, “in case we're questioned. So we can't be charged with aiding a fugitive.”
“Yeah,” Xander shot back sarcastically, “just like he's out there protecting us from vampires, every night, you know, pitching in with the team. Except, oh wait. He's not. Our asses are on the line and he's keeping his ass covered.”
Willow was quiet for a beat. Xander had been increasingly pissed at Giles lately. It was almost as if he knew... something he couldn't possibly know. But still... Giles didn't deserve.... “He could be protecting us!” she appealed to Oz for support, “Couldn't he?”
Oz leaned across the space between their chairs and kissed her forehead, but didn't say anything. She hated when he did that, but it wasn't exactly the kind of thing you could say you hated, like, “Hey, I feel belittled and unsupported as a person when you kiss me and ignore what I say.” That was something only her mother would say. Nobody wanted to be like that.
Once again, as she had done for forty days and forty nights, Anne lay staring at the ceiling in her one-room apartment, watching the shadows crawl towards the hour when she would be force to get up, go to work, and pretend to live her life. She had been awake for hours. She had dreamt again. Badly enough to banish all thought of going back to sleep. It was neither an entirely new dream nor a complete repeat. It was a variation on a theme, one of many.
Buffy was walking through a beautiful field of green grass and tiny purple flowers. Anne looked on sadly, feeling pity for her. She knew what was coming.
Buffy stopped and looked down, mildly puzzled, mildly curious. At her feet was a tiny mound of earth, carpeted in blood-red flowers. Flat against the earth at the head of the mound, her eye caught a glint of gray granite in the grass.
Buffy knelt, her round belly brushing against the rounded earth, and pushed the tender green blades away so that she could read the single word chiseled into the stone: MOM. Buffy stiffened in horror. As Anne looked on, helpless, tiny pink hands shot out of the ground and pulled her down until she lay flat against it, until the swell of her belly and the swell of the earth were one and what was buried there moved inside of her.
Anne shook herself. It was not even a dream she was having anymore, just a memory of a dream. She was a fool to let it bother her like this. If there was one fact of which Anne Winters was absolutely certain, it was that she was not pregnant. While it was true that she had still not had a period in the two and a half months since her miscarriage, she had not had sex either. And she hardly ever felt really nauseous anymore. Unless she tried to skip breakfast.
Anyway, that was not her life. Angel, Giles, the miscarriage, all of it... that was Buffy's life. And Buffy's life was over.
Slowly, as Giles persisted in his chanting, a purple mist that had been gathering unobtrusively in a corner of his kitchen for some time resolved itself into a vaguely humanoid figure. “Rupert Giles,” said a commanding voice, “you have summoned me because your heart cries out for one you cannot find.”
“Yes,” Giles admitted earnestly, “I must find Buffy Summers at once.”
“As you know,” the demon admonished him, “the dimensions of space that exist on this plane are strange to me.”
“I know,” Giles acknowledged.
“Perhaps I can tell you how she is,” it warned. “I cannot tell you where.”
“I understand,” Giles affirmed.
“What can you give me of hers?” the creature asked.
Giles took a small emerald cross on a gold chain from beneath his collar and dropped it into the velvety, purple hand that was extended to him.
“This was hers only for a short time,” the demon began, turning the object over and over in its hand, thinking. “She loved it intensely, then rejected it utterly.”
“I bought this for you,” he said sheepishly, handing her the little gold sack. Then, worriedly, he added, “Don't open it here.”
“It is a symbol,” the demon continued ponderously, “of your betrayal.”
“Please,” he said, trying to sound cheerful, but sounding grave anyway, “Come in. I was just making us some tea.”
“Wow, tiny finger food,” Buffy commented,doing only a slightly better job of sounding lighthearted,“I feel like I'm at some kind of reception or something.”
“Well, I didn't think you'd want anything... erm heavy for lunch,” he mumbled apologetically, avoiding eye contact. There was a moment of awkward silence.
“Giles, share,” Buffy demanded gently. “What's bothering you? Is it the...whole... miscarriage... thing?” Now they were both avoiding each other's eyes. A hell of a way to carry on a conversation. But more silence could not change what had to be said.
“Buffy,” he plunged forward, feeling sick with himself. “I know this is not a good time, but I doubt there will ever be a good time. That is, I mean, obviously, the right time to have said anything was... some time ago. But, well, we need to talk about our... about our uh... our relationship.”
Buffy sat there, blinking at him, stunned. Like a little lamb that had been knock on the head but hadn't died. Giles wanted to pull her into his arms, to sooth and comfort her. To promise her his heart, mind, body and soul until the end of time. Instead he said, “Buffy, we've both known from the beginning that we should never—that I should never have—”
“You're right,” Buffy said shortly, bitterly, cutting him off in mid-sentence, “The time to say this to me is long past.”
“Buffy, I'm sorry,” he tried to explain, “I just—I'm not what you—I can't be what—”
“You know what,” Buffy seethed, cutting him off again, “I get it.” She pulled the emerald cross from around her neck and threw it on top of the tray of tiny finger sandwiches with its suddenly ridiculous boarder of little shortbread cookies. “It was all a big mistake,” she said, wiping at her eyes with her sleeve. Anger struggled in her tone with sorrow, resignation and a shallow bluff of indifference. “Let's just... forget it ever happened.” She laughed brokenly. “I mean, it's not like we have to make a big deal(!)” she added bitterly, her voice rising in pitch and dropping in volume, almost as if she were speaking to herself. Or aside to someone who wasn't there.
Too long a moment had passed. “Is it sufficient?” Giles finally managed. “Can you sense her?”
The creature nodded, letting the gold chain dangle from his hand, watching as it swirled about, holding tight to the cross itself. “She is alive. She suffers. Her heart is half full and half empty. Walls in the wrong places keep out the love and let the pain in. She desires emptiness. Oblivion. But not enough to seek it in death. She seeks nothing. She continues. She maintains.”
“Is she alone?”
“She is lonely. Unloved. Unnoticed by those around her. Yes. She is alone. The vampire is not with her. She mourns him.”
Giles was embarrassed by his own transparency, but he plowed forward. “What can you tell me about her physical condition?” he asked.
“More than you wish to know.”
“Let me be the judge of that.”
“Very well,” it said. “She needs sleep. She is too thin, but not starving. She is with child, for the second time.”
Giles snorted softly. “Well, I was warned,” he admitted.
The creature smiled with deep, quiet amusement, but continued, tactfully, in another line. “The sun warms her skin. It is morning sun. Summer sun. Like the sun that shines through this window. The hour and day are the same.”
Giles's heart hammered with sudden excitement. Buffy hadn't run to the other side of the globe then. She was still on the West Coast. Perhaps even still in California. “Thank you,” murmured, when it was clear the creature had no more to say. “That should be... most helpful.”
The creature shrugged indifferently, stepped back into the corner and dissipated. Rupert stood watching it go, treading the waters of emotion, trying to keep his head above the waves. Relieved as he was to hear confirmation that Buffy was alive, Angel dead, he had been all but certain of those facts already. He was hit hard by the 'news' that Buffy was depressed and traumatized, unsurprising though it was. There wasn't a word unpleasant enough to describe his reaction to the unexpected blow of Buffy's second pregnancy, but jealousy was one of its uglier notes.
Rupert knew he had no right to feel angry or betrayed. He had long since release any claim he had ever had over Buffy in a romantic or sexual sense. Not that he had had any right to make claims on her affections in the first place. He had told her and himself that he wanted her to be free to move on with her life, which by this point, realistically, had to be presumed to include sex in some form. It was a logical inconsistency to let a bird out of a cage and then curse it for flying.
But logic had nothing to do with the situation. The thought of Buffy making love with another man made him physically ill. The fact that she, in her still nearly total inexperience, had chosen someone who'd so quickly left her empty-hearted, pregnant and alone made him very, very sad. It also made him angry on her behalf, both with this stranger and with himself.
Stranger! If it was a stranger. He hoped to God it was a stranger and not—
But he being ridiculous, Rupert told himself. Everyone knew that vampires were sterile. They were artifacts of death, not participating in the generative forces of creation. Only life could produce life, and there was not a spark of it in them.
But a spark! A spark indeed. That was the rub. A vampire with a soul might be an utterly different matter, he suddenly realized. Horror struck him, waves engulfing waves, like surf on a rocky shore, complex in detail but altogether simple and overwhelming. To cure and yet to kill and to... what in between, exactly? That was taking the concept of the Judas kiss a bit too far! The notion burst like a bubble. A lighter heart might have laughed.
No, it was not possible, and for more reason than just the highly improbable timing. Historical reports indicated that the Restoration Curse had originally been performed by the joint effort of more than two dozen Gypsy Elders, each of whom was as powerful as a mid-level witch. It had all but killed them. There was no way that a single untrained child, a mere dabbler in magic, could have accomplished it.
Rupert had known this, of course, when he had given Willow his tacit approval to attempt it. But Buffy had wanted it so desperately. It had seemed like a low cost way to assure her of his unconditional support, and to free her from any irrational guilt for having left a stone unturned before doing what had to be done. Whereas, his refusal would only have widened the breach between them, made him the scapegoat for her grief and anger over the terrible truth that Angel could not be saved.
He had never dreamed that Willow could come close enough to reaching the powers behind that spell to put herself in any real danger.
As it had turned out, from what the children reported, she had come quite close to those powers indeed. She may even have channeled one of the Elders who had originally cursed Angelus. It was evident that she had a natural affinity for magic that he had never suspected, far more than he himself could ever have claimed. Still, to have successfully performed that spell! Untrained no less! Even with the aid of one or more Gypsy spirits... Willow Rosenberg would have to have been the most powerful natural witch of the twentieth century. It simply was not possible.
Even if it were, that would hardly have lent enormous support to the hypothesis that Angel could have gotten Buffy pregnant that night. God, that night of all nights! Even the theoretical supposition that she might have— But no. There was no danger that that could be the case. If, against all odds, she had managed to have her first love, her true love, restored to her, surely her first act would not have been to destroy him again.
No, Rupert told himself, he was being foolish. There was a far simpler expiation for the impregnation of a lonely, emotionally devastated seventeen-year-old girl. She had merely encountered another of the rich Earth's inexhaustible supply of selfish, unscrupulous men.