Buffy found a table at the small café, and sat down to wait for her tea and scones. Devonshire tea in Devon; it may be a cliché, but it was a damn yummy one. She had been rolling around the countryside for a few months now, as far from the Council and all things supernatural as she could get, while remaining close enough to get back if needed. The Coven had offered a list of villages and areas to avoid, but she’d taken that as an invitation to visit those very places, confident that both Coven and Council members would avoid the areas, and thus her.
Dawn was in Bath with Giles, finishing off her schooling while figuring out what universities (not colleges; this was England, and they were called universities) she wanted to apply for. Oxford, of course, was top of the list. Xander was recuperating from the healing spell that had returned his eye, and was training with Giles to go out searching for new Slayers. Willow wasn’t that far away from Buffy – in the same shire, as it happened – but she was deeply involved in the Coven, finishing her healing, and working out what was going on with herself and her magic as a result of the Empowerment spell. Buffy, however, had decided she needed time away, time to heal. So here she was in Devon, waiting for tea and scones, and listlessly reading her magazine.
There was a cough above her, and Buffy looked up into clear, brown eyes. “Yes?” she asked blandly, raising an eyebrow in question.
“Sorry to ask,” the stranger began, “but the caf is full. Mind if I sit here?”
Buffy looked around, and, sure enough, the café had filled up while she’d been waiting. She looked back at the stranger, and shrugged. “Sure.” The stranger smiled slightly, and nodded in thanks, and Buffy took the opportunity to look him over. Tall, but maybe not quite as tall as Xander, red-haired as Willow could be, and bearing a couple of nasty claw marks on his face: in all, not a bad looking man, if she were looking. Instead, she turned her attention to the pot of tea and plate of scones, clotted cream, and jam that had just arrived. Diet, she had decided, was not a word currently in her vocabulary.
“We must stop meeting like this,” an amused male voice floated down.
Buffy squinted up to find the same man in front of her as a week ago. She looked around, and, sure enough, the café was once again full. She cocked her head. “But however will we express our love …”
“Bill,” the stranger supplied, smiling.
Buffy flashed a grin. “Bill, than to keep meeting in random cafés?”
“Ours is a forbidden love,” Bill conceded.
Buffy smiled then winced when the phrase brought back memories of Willow, and innocence lost.
“Sorry,” Bill began immediately, “I didn’t mean -”
Buffy waved him off. “How could you possibly know?” she asked gently.
“Still…” Bill offered. He was silent for a moment then went on. “Bad break-up?”
“Actually, no,” Buffy shook her head. “Just…” she trailed off, looking sad again. She sighed. “It’s been a long – god! – eight years now? Very long, and sometimes I wonder if the people we lost weren’t actually the least of it?” She scoffed. “Morbid much?” she asked, self-deprecatingly.
Bill looked at her with understanding. “I … think I know what you mean. Family?”
“Not all of them,” Buffy shrugged. “But yes. My mom,” she added softly. “That was natural causes, though. We think. But… I’m not even sure why I’m telling you this. You have sympathetic eyes, I guess. What about you?” she asked, picking up her drink.
Bill looked away, thinking over the last decade, and how things had changed so very much for all of them. “It’s been … long,” he nodded. “I’m fairly certain you know how that goes. And for me it was a brother and a girlfriend. Others, too; many others, but those were the closest.”
Buffy sighed then took a chance. “Life sucks when you’re trying to save the world, huh?”
Bill stiffened for a moment then nodded. “That it does.” He stuck out his hand, and smiled. “Bill Weasley, by the way.”
Buffy smiled, and shook his hand. “Buffy Summers.”
“This seat taken?”
Bill looked up to find Buffy standing by the table, tray in hand. He smiled. “Please, sit,” he instructed. He waited until she was settled then continued. “I’ve been meaning to ask, but you’re a long way from home, aren’t you?”
“Yes and no,” Buffy conceded. “I was born in LA, and spent seven years in a little hellhole called Sunnydale. Don’t get me wrong, it was pretty as a picture during the day. I wouldn’t have recommended going out after dark, but daytime was fine. Of course, now it’s pretty much a hole in the ground, but it used to be pretty.”
“Sunnydale?” Bill asked, frowning. “I don’t think I’ve heard of the place.”
“A couple of hours North of LA?” Buffy suggested. “Dropped into the ground in ’03? Wow: I thought everyone heard of that.”
Bill’s shuddered slightly. “I was a little … occupied in ’03,” he offered.
“Ah,” Buffy murmured. “Well, since then we pretty much picked up and moved to Merry Old. My sister is in Bath with our father-type-figure, and my friends are around. There’s a few of our people in America, but the really close family is here.”
“But not here,” Bill prompted.
It was Buffy’s turn to shudder slightly. “I love them, I just … needed time away. Needed to just be Buffy for a while. Which, I know they could let me do it, but where there’s a ‘they’ there’s the lot of them, and the ‘them’ can’t see ‘Buffy’ for all the other stuff that I’m trying to get away from, and am I making any sense whatsoever here at all?” she winced.
Bill grinned. “I think you do. My youngest brother’s friend is a little in that position, I think. He’s … like a ‘chosen one’ and all most people can see is the great big hero, and no one can see the man.”
Buffy grimaced. “I tell you, that ‘chosen one’ schtick sucks big time. Thankfully I can go on holiday now, and not think about it at all. You know, for a few weeks or so.”
Bill reached across and rested his large hand on Buffy’s delicate one. “Rest is good.”
Buffy smiled, and suddenly felt lighter than she had in a very long time. “So: holidays. What do you suggest for them?”