IWSHLY Part 4 (season 7 +)
AND I STILL DO (LOVE YOU)
“Okay, so Mom’s on board with the idea of us getting married while it’s still summer and things are relatively quiet. But we can’t have a wedding without Willow and Winston!”
“Think Winnie told Rupert he’d be back by early August, but got no idea what’s going on with Willow.”
Buffy frowned. “Neither do I. Giles is being very secretive about it. All he’ll say is that he knows some of the coven members, and he’s sure they’re doing Willow a world of good.”
“Translation—Red isn’t quite reliable yet,” Spike said, raising one eyebrow.
“You don’t know that!” she replied quickly, even though she knew he was probably right.
“Maybe not, but I’ll wager it was a bloody good guess,” he said, blowing her a kiss. “An’ you know it, Slayer.”
He laughed at her and picked up his coat. “Can’t think of a good comeback for that bit of wit, so I reckon I’ll just go on over to help Harris with that pool table he wants in the basement.”
“Fine. Go help him try to brighten up that awful old house. I’m going to go talk to Mom about dates in late August or early September. I’m sure Willow’ll be back by then.”
He waved and left the apartment, leaving Buffy mulling over how much things had changed over the summer. Winston had long since become such an important part of their lives, that with both him and Willow gone, Scooby meetings consisted more of Buffy and Giles comparing notes about what to watch for in the fall than actual meetings, while Spike and Xander had been spending more time together playing pool and drinking beer. Their mutual insulting and bantering had never stopped, but there was less dislike to it now, and more good-humored poking fun.
Xander’s parents had both died, and within a few weeks of each other. His mom succumbed to alcohol poisoning less than a month after a crippled liver had killed his dad. None of them actually knew his parents very well, except as loud voices from upstairs, but they were Xander’s family and everyone tried to be properly sympathetic. Finally, he’d announced to the small group around the table, “Look. My parents are dead. And yes, I guess it’s sad, but they haven’t been involved in my life for a very long time. I raised myself, with a lot of help from Willow, and then Buffy’s mom. And Giles,” he added, causing the man in question to cough vigorously.
“So, here’s the deal. I’m sad for them, and I’m sad for me that I don’t have parents anymore, but all things considered, they’re better off and so am I. And if that sounds terrible, well¬—”
He’d been cut off when Buffy ran over to hug him, saying, “We got it, Xan. We’ll stop acting like you’re going to fall apart any minute and treat you like usual.”
Xander sighed in relief. “That’s all I’m asking. Stop treating me like I might break or something.”
“It’s about bloody time!” Spike said. “I’m not sure how much longer I could go on pretending I give a rat’s ass about your feelings.”
Everyone stared at Spike, then back to Xander who just shook his head. “Leave it to the bloodsucker to know what to do,” he said, giving Spike’s a thumbs up. “Thank you,” he’d whispered, just loud enough for Spike to hear.
Since then, Spike and Xander had spent more time together, shooting pool, drinking beer, and giving both Buffy and Anya some time to “do regular girl-stuff” as Anya put it. The rest of the summer passed relatively quietly and quickly, although not as quietly as normal Sunnydale summers tended to be.
Buffy strolled up Revello toward her mother’s house, surprised to see Dawn walking toward her.
“Going the wrong way, aren’t you?”
“Not if I want to see the ribbon cutting on the new school,” Dawn said. “It’s in an hour.”
Buffy shook her head, but turned around to accompany Dawn.
“That’s a very Willow-y thing to do,” she teased. “Wanting to see the school open.”
“I didn’t say I can’t wait for it to start again, but this is the first time they’ve let anybody get close to it and I want to see what it looks like.” She gave Buffy a sidelong glance. “And anyway, you know how good my last test scores were. I’m almost as smart as Willow.”
“Interesting how your grades don’t reflect that….” Buffy snickered at her.
“Oh my god! You sound just like Mom!”
Buffy shrugged. “In my time I had to be Mom. I guess it’s still a habit.”
“Well you don’t have to be her now,” Dawn said, tossing her head. “So stop acting so much like a grown-up.”
Buffy snorted, then pointed ahead of them. “Looks like Xander decided not to spend the day playing pool with Spike. I wonder what he’s doing here?”
That question was soon answered as Xander walked past the dais and joined an uncomfortable-looking group of muscular men standing near the colorful tape across the entrance to the campus. None of them looked excited to be there, but they dutifully watched the dais for some sign of why they were needed.
There was some shuffling around in the more formally-dressed group, until one man stepped forward and introduced himself as the superintendent of schools.
“I want to welcome all of you to the much-anticipated, if somewhat delayed, opening of the new Sunnydale High School. While it is not quite complete yet, I’m assured it will be ready in time for school to begin after Labor Day.”
Explaining Xander’s group’s presence, he thanked the construction workers who’d been building it, and acknowledged they’d had some “unusual” problems crop up that had delayed completion. “But our men continued their task with determination and courage, and for that we should applaud them.” There was a polite smattering of applause while Xander and his fellow workers looked embarrassed at having attention drawn to them.
Blithely ignoring the puzzled looks at courage being having been required to deal with the “unusual” problems, he continued on, thanking the teachers who would be coming back to teach there, as well as the principal of the other high school for taking in Sunnydale’s students in their time of need.
And then he turned to a tall dark man who’d been standing behind him.
“And now, I’d like to introduce Sunnydale High School’s new principal, Mr. Robin Wood.”
“Shit,” Buffy whispered. “I thought we’d have more time.”
Dawn stared back and forth between Buffy and the man who was to be her new principal. “What’s wrong?” she whispered back. “Is he evil?”
Spike’s voice behind them startled them both.
“Not so much evil as not a big fan of yours truly,” Spike said.
Buffy nodded her agreement, happy that Spike had long since retired his old leather coat for a newer, slightly different one, although she’d have been even happier if he wasn’t wearing one at all on this warm summer afternoon. His hair usually made him stand out enough without being the only person wearing a coat in July. Fortunately, the big hat he often wore out in the sun hid his hair and much of his face, and Buffy hoped Robin wouldn’t notice him, even though he was dressed so oddly for a warm day.
Dawn looked at him curiously. “You specifically, or vampires in general?”
“Both,” Spike said tersely as the introductions ended with Robin’s short speech about how happy he was to be there. Then he and the superintendent posed while cutting the ribbon and reminded the onlookers that, while the building was officially open, only employees would be permitted inside until the week before school was to begin.
“Let’s go,” Buffy said. “There’s no sense meeting him until we have to.”
The three of them joined Xander at the edge of the parking lot.
“If you two are still going to hang out the rest of the day, I guess Dawn and I’ll walk back to Mom’s. I’ll probably stay there for dinner, it that’s okay with you,” she added with a smile at Spike.
“That’s fine, love. I’ll catch up with you later. Keep your phone on.”
Buffy started to ask Xander about Anya, but a slight headshake from Spike stopped her. She bit her lip, but didn’t say anything about Anya, just followed Dawn down the street, giving a little wave “good-bye”.
Something I need to know?
Nothing that can’t wait. I’ll fill you in later.
After a nice meal in which she and Joyce talked about wedding plans and Dawn reacted to hearing it was going to be a small wedding by rolling her eyes, Buffy hugged them both and left to meet Spike at the gate to Restfield.
“Did you enjoy your meal, love?” he said, giving her a brief kiss and groping her butt.
“I did,” she said, squirming away from him. “And stop that! We’re in public.”
“We’re in Sunnydale, it’s after dark, and we’re standing by a graveyard. There is no public to worry about here,” he grumbled.
“There also probably aren’t any vampires here, since everybody knows you live here at least part time.”
“Humans don’t know that. They still bury people here from time to time in some of the old family plots. But you’re probably right, we should go somewhere busier.”
“Which is pretty much everywhere, isn’t it?” She sighed. “I don’t know if it’s because the First is already making everybody restless, or if all the vamps and demons are too poor to take vacations this summer, but either way, we’re having to work a lot harder than we should be at this time of the year.”
“Now that you mention it….” Spike straightened up and pointed to two vampires dragging a very young-looking but fiercely struggling girl toward the gate while another one trailed behind them looking around nervously.
They hesitated when they saw Spike and Buffy, then shrugged and kept going, the biggest one letting go of their victim and gesturing at the unoccupied vamp to join him.
“Let’s get them. It’s probably the Slayer and her pet vampire. They can’t be all that—urk!”
Spike held him up with one hand. “This one’s mine, love.” He stepped away and began punching the snarling vampire with his free hand.
Buffy shook her head and side-stepped his companion as he leapt at her. She staked him as he flew by, and turned her attention to the one still holding the now-limp girl. Buffy frowned, hoping she hadn’t made a mistake by staking the one she did before freeing his intended meal. But as she approached, the seemingly unconscious girl twisted loose and kicked her captor between his legs, eliciting a very unmanly scream from him as he grabbed for his abused testicles. Instead of running away, the girl brought her fist down on his temple, stunning him.
“Are you okay?” Buffy asked the now-trembling girl. “And that was wonderful. Good for you.”
Using his foot to keep his much-the-worse-for-wear victim on the ground, Spike added his own, “Bloody brilliant that was.” When the girl cringed behind Buffy, he shook off his own fangs, saying apologetically, “Sorry about that, pet. Forgot it wouldn’t be a look you’d want to see a lot of just now.”
Buffy started to stake the dazed vampire, then changed her mind. Shaking him awake, she said, “What the hell is going on? I shouldn’t be this busy yet! Don’t you guys have any respect for tradition?”
“And don’t you know who lives here?” Spike added, still with his foot on the other vamp’s neck.
The one still capable of speech stared back and forth between them, then muttered, “Asshole there said she’d taste like a slayer. We thought it was worth the risk.”
“It wasn’t,” Buffy said as she plunged her stake into his chest. She turned to stare at the bewildered girl. “Are you a potential?” she asked.
“A what?” The girl shook her head, still edging away from Spike and his captive.
“Reckon that’s a no, love,” he said. “Least she doesn’t know it if she is. Why don’t you take her someplace quiet and see if you can find out what’s goin’ on?”
“Where are you going?”
“Your ‘pet’ just got himself a new toy. Gonna play with it for a while.”
“What? You think they weren’t planning to keep her alive as long as they could just so they could have a nip of slayer blood…. or potential slayer blood… whenever they wanted?”
“What’s he talking about? And what’s a potential? Potential what?”
Buffy sighed and began to walk away, gesturing for the girl to come with her. “Come on, I’ll walk you home.”
I don’t want to know anything about this… whatever you’re going to do.
Wasn’t planning to share it, love. This is all demon to demon stuff.
As they left Spike and his now-terrified captive behind, Buffy tried to engage the girl in conversation.
“That was a pretty smart move on your part. Who taught you to think like that?”
“My mother did,” the girl said. “She always tells me I’ll never know when I might need to defend myself against something bigger and stronger. I always though she was just talking about obnoxious boys.”
“Well, good for her. Unfortunately, in Sunnydale that’s not all you have to worry about.” Buffy smiled at her. “We didn’t actually get introduced. Hi, I’m Buffy Summers, and I’m guessing you’re new here.”
The girl gave her a tentative smile back. “Yes. We just moved in last week. I’m Abby. Abigail Anderson.”
“Where do you live? I’d like to meet your mother.”
After confirming that Abby was not seriously injured, scolding her for being out alone after dark, and sending her to get cleaned up, Mrs. Anderson faced Buffy from across the living room. Buffy smiled in as friendly a manner as she could while obviously being carefully scrutinized.
“So, you’re Buffy Summers,” Mrs. Anderson said finally.
“I am. Are you really Abigail’s mother or just her watcher?”
The older woman flinched. “I’m both. I was raised by my watcher, but when I wasn’t called before I grew up, I was allowed to try to have a normal life. Abby is a result of that attempt.”
“Is she a potential slayer?”
Mrs. Anderson sighed and sank into a chair, gesturing for Buffy to have a seat.
“I think so, but I’m not sure yet. Since I’ve had all the training, I decided to keep her and handle it myself.” She stared at Buffy belligerently. “I never told the Council.”
Buffy gave her a wry smile. “It probably doesn’t matter. I’m sure they know and would have stepped in if they thought you weren’t going a good job.” She frowned. “But you never told her about vamps and demons?”
“I was waiting until she was old enough not to be having nightmares. Guess I waited too long,” she said with a sigh. “I think she’s already having slayer dreams.”
“Well, you definitely moved to the right city,” Buffy snorted. “She knows now.”
“Thank you…. for saving her. I’m glad you were patrolling in that area.”
“Actually, we were just getting ready to leave when Spike spotted them coming. You may not be sure she’s a potential, but those vamps thought so. They were willing to take us both on to keep her.”
“We? Us? Was your watcher with you?”
Buffy sighed. “No. I’m…. I work with a vampire with a soul. We’ve been working together for … for a long time, and he patrols with me. Most vamps don’t want to face even one of us, never mind both at the same time.” She remembered that Abby had seen Spike’s true face and added, “Abby can vouch for him.”
Abby’s mother was quiet while she studied Buffy’s face. “I’ve heard of you. You’ve been the Slayer for quite a while, haven’t you?”
“Yes, I have. Even longer than you might think. And Spike’s been at my side for most of that time… and even when we weren’t anything but sworn enemies, we worked together to save the world at least once.”
They were silent for a moment, then Buffy said, “If you don’t mind my asking, why in the name of all that’s holy did you move to Sunnydale? You do know there’s a hellmouth here, right?”
Mrs. Anderson nodded. “I do. Knowing where the hellmouths are was part of my training. But my job transferred me and I couldn’t afford to quit and start over somewhere else.”
“What do you do?”
“I’m an accountant, and I’ve been with the same firm since I graduated. They’ve been very good to me, and this was a promotion. It won’t be long before Abby is ready for college and I’ll need the money. I couldn’t afford to turn it down.” She hesitated. “I knew you were here, and I thought between that and what I know about vamps, we’d be safe enough.”
Buffy sighed and took out her phone. “Here’s my cell number.” She waited for Mrs. Anderson to scribble it on a piece of school notebook paper. “If you need me for anything, or have any questions, please call me. Or call the Magic Box and ask for Giles. He’s my… he used to be my watcher. He’ll know how to find me.”
Assuring Buffy that she would call her if she felt the need, and asking her to call her Lois rather than Mrs. Anderson, Abby’s mom walked her to the door to say good-bye.
“Thank you again for saving her. I did hope we’d get to meet you when we moved here, but I didn’t expect it to happen like this.”
“It’s Sunnydale. Things happen.”