Still dressed, Fred lay on the bed in Wesley’s room, her body wrapped around one of the pillows as she stared off across the floor, unable to sleep. Lorne had insisted she try, but of course she couldn’t. She wasn’t sure she’d be able to until Wesley and Rupert returned with Connor, however long that took.
She hadn’t bothered to change the sheets like she had said she would. As a result, they were still musky, but the musk was the mixed smells of the three of them, and in some way, it offered a little comfort. Not much but enough.
As she lay there, she suddenly heard a knock that sounded like it was coming from the living area. Slipping out of bed, she hurried out to find Lorne sitting up, looking around in confusion.
“Who in the white snows is here at this time of the morning?” he asked. The clock on Wesley’s DVD player read 3 a.m.
“Don’t know,” she said, praying that if it was anyone, it was Cordelia. She grabbed the crossbow she had left out and hurried over to the door as the knock came again, looking out through the peep hole.
No one was there.
Carefully, she opened the door on the chain and looked out into the hall, which was empty and dim. No one. What the hell...?
“If someone was playing a game, I swear I’m going to—,” she started to rant just as the knocking came again.
The door was still open.
Suddenly, she realized what was going on. She slammed the door closed and ran over to the table. “That’s the signal! They’re coming home!” She picked up the Word of Valios and the papers with the spell.
the signal?” Lorne asked.
“I am going to find whoever wrote that spell and kill ‘em,” she muttered, her hands shaking as she handed over Lorne’s part. “I’m going to kill them for making me think it was something else and nearly giving me an aneurysm.”
“It’s okay, buttercup. Take a deep breath. We know what it is now. We’ll get the guys home.”
Nodding, Fred placed the Word in her palm and held her hand up to Lorne, who covered it with his own. They looked at each other for a moment and then began reading the spell, their voices a bit shaky, but their words true.
Slowly, the portal began to form and open.*****
Giles’ tired smile grew as he picked up both of the bags since Wesley was still dealing with Connor.
“Wesley, look.” He pointed, and Wesley laughed softly at the sight of the portal opening in front of them. They had done it. They were going home with Connor, safe and sound. And Fred was waiting. He looked down at the head pillowed on his chest as the little boy started to stir.
“Look, son. That’s the way home to your mum.” He pointed at the portal, both men laughing at the wide-eyed, ecstatic look on Connor’s face.
Giles let Wesley go first then immediately followed. He jumped slightly when the portal closed behind him, and he found himself in the middle of Wesley’s living room. Before he could allow his eyes to adjust to the light – or more precisely, the lack of it – Giles found his arms full of a thin brunette. The force of her impact nearly knocked him off his feet, but he managed to stay upright, just holding her. They had done it. And he had fulfilled his promise. Everyone was home a little battered, but alive.
“I’m so glad you’re home,” Fred cried softly, hugging Giles and never wanted to let him go.
Giles pressed his lips to her forehead. “I promised,” he reminded her, biting back a grimace at the strength of her desperate grip. “She’s stronger than she looks,” he grunted, looking at Wesley.
Fred felt like her heart was going to seize in her chest at any moment. Giles was alive. She looked up at him with tears in her eyes, so glad to see him even though he was battered and bruised and had obviously been through hell. And Wesley was alive. She turned her head, locking eyes with her other love, who looked exhausted but happy to be home. She wanted to kiss them and hold them both.
Wesley’s heart raced at the sight of Fred. The final test in this whole plan was about to take place. He knew the boy had already accepted him as his father, but how would things go when he met his mother
When she saw the little boy in Wesley’s arms, her heart went into her throat. She could tell – even though he was older – that it was him. Now, tears did actually start sliding down her cheeks as she looked at him. “Connor?”
“Is that her, Daddy?” Connor asked him, his blue eyes lit with excitement.
He giggled when Wes nodded at him with a large smile, practically bouncing in his arms. He then nearly jumping from his father’s arms into hers when she held them out to him. Immediately, he was greeted with a wonderful smell – a smell he recognized that was sweet and warm and coming from the woman holding him.
“Mommy!” he cried, wrapping his little arms around her neck and holding on. After several moments, he pulled back with worried look, seeing the tears trailing down her face. “Don’t cry, Mommy. I’m home now. And I’ll take care of you and Daddy...” His brow furrowed as a thought flitted through his little brain. “And Giles too. He’s nice. And he gave me something called chocolate,” he whispered, giving her a wink.
Fred looked down at the little boy – her little boy now – unable to stop the tears even as she smiled at his promise to take care of the three of them. Oh, God, what he must have gone through at such a young age. She knew what it was like to be trapped in a strange world of demons and knew how it made you grow so much faster than you had before. For Connor, it was both literal and mental growth. He looked four but seemed so much older than that in some ways, in what she saw in his eyes.
“Chocolate? I bet you never had that before,” she said, holding him tightly.
“No, never had it before. Giles said I could have more.”
“No, what I said is that your mother will probably spoil you rotten,” Giles told him with a chuckle, touching the boy’s head gently. “But it may lead to more chocolate, among other things. There are so many things just waiting for you to discover them, Connor.”
Wesley watched Giles with Connor, knowing his lover would make a better father to the boy than he would. But he did see the reason why he was chosen. Like Darla, Connor had the bluest eyes. So innocent. He was determined to not fail the boy again, even if it killed him.
“And I’m sure your father and Giles will be so happy to have you watching out for them. I know I am.” Fred cupped her hand against the back of Connor’s head and kissed his forehead. “I’m so glad you’re home. I’ve missed you so much and been so worried, and we’ve been looking for a way to bring you home, and I didn’t dare hope, but here you are.”
The fact that they were lying to Connor about who they were to him didn’t even cross her mind, even if it was to protect him. She meant every word she said to him, felt like she was his mother welcoming him home after having been taken from her. No one was going to take him away again, certainly not Angelus. No matter what, Angel wouldn’t have wanted that
to happen to his son.
“I’m home,” the little boy breathed against her neck. Hesitantly, he looked down and drew the three pictures that Giles had given him out of his makeshift shirt. “Mommy?” he asked, his tone worried. “Can I keep these?”
He held up the photographs so that she could take them if he couldn’t. His smile beamed widely when she didn’t. Quickly tucking them back in his shirt, he looked over at Giles.
Getting the first aid kit in the meantime, Wesley set it on the dining room table. Rupert’s arm needed to be looked at, and he could still feel the gash on his leg bleeding sluggishly. It was then that he spotted Lorne standing off to the side, their friend practically vibrating with the need to act though he clearly understood what was at stake. Waving Lorne forward, he smiled.
“Connor, there’s someone we want you to meet.” Wesley stepped aside, revealing Lorne. “This is a friend of ours – his name is Lorne. He also knew you as a baby. I’m certain if you ask him, he might have another picture for you, of the two of you.”
“He’s a demon!” Connor remarked with wide eyes.
“Yes, he is. But Lorne is a good demon and a very good friend. He took care of your mum while Giles and I were away,” Wesley explained, only hazarding a guess as to what Holtz had been teaching the boy. He smiled encouragingly at Connor when he kept looking back and forth between them.
“That man—Holes...he told me demons were bad and that they should be killed. But he told me he was my dad too. He lied.” Connor bit his lip, his little blue eyes focusing on Lorne.
“Well, let me tell you something, kiddo – if you ask me, most demons are bad news too,” Lorne said with a nervous chuckle. “But me, I’m not like most demons. In fact, just think of me as a friend with a bad skin problem.”
“Well, you protected my mommy. That means you’re the best demon to me.” He grinned shyly. Part of him still wasn’t sure that the demon might not try something...but he was confident that if he did, his daddy and Giles would protect him.
Lorne couldn’t help but grin back, finding himself taken in by the blue eyes and the baby smile. Reaching over, he hesitantly touching Connor’s shoulder, not resting his hand until he was sure the little boy wouldn’t jump right out of Fred’s arms, screaming. “I’m so glad you’re home, Connor. Your parents and the rest of us were worried sick.”
He glanced from Wesley to Fred to Giles, suddenly feeling like he was intruding on a family moment. Of course, he didn’t want to leave them, but part of him thought it might be best if he made a retreat for the time being. After all, he had said he would join them in Sunnydale once he got things squared away here, so he would see them soon anyway.
“I probably should let you guys get things settled now. I’d just get in the way. Are the four of you still heading for the big S-D in the morning—I mean later today?”
“Lorne, you don’t have to run off. Please, stay for a bit. I told you before that you would always be welcome,” Wes reminded him. He then looked at himself and at Giles, realizing that Fred would need to do some patchwork on both of them before they could really do anything else. He focused back on the green demon. “Besides, we could use an extra hand with Connor while Fred counts the new scars.”
“Yeah, Lorne...stay!” Connor bounced slightly. He liked Lorne – there was something about the demon that made him feel comfortable.
“Wes, why don’t you get in the shower first? That leg might need a few stitches,” Giles pointed out. He then decided to respond to Lorne’s earlier question. “And yes, we’ll be heading for Sunnydale although we have a few things to arrange here before we go. I have to call movers for whatever Wes wants to take with him.”
He sank down in the closest chair, exhausted. There was still so much work to be done. He noted that Wesley had already headed off to the bathroom. He had to admit – after three weeks without a shower or a shave, he was feeling more than a little ripe.
“We still have to pick up some clothes and things for Connor as well,” he added as he flexed his hand. He looked up to meet Fred’s gaze. “Everything we read about that place is true...and then some. I hate to ask, but how long were we gone? To us, it was a little over three weeks.”
Fred looked at the clock and mentally counted up the hours, trying to remember what time they had left. “All told? About eighteen hours,” she said.
Eighteen hours. To Giles, it had felt like an eternity. He was grateful they had all made it back, in one piece...but if he never heard the name Quor’Toth again, it would be too soon.
“Connor, baby, I’m going to let Lorne take you for a bit while I tend to your daddy and Giles.” She looked him over quickly and saw that he didn’t appear to be hurt in any way, for which she was thankful. “Maybe Lorne can help you get washed up and into something clean. One of my or Daddy’s shirts should do for now until we can get you some new clothes. Then you and Daddy and me and Giles are going to spend a lot of time together, okay?”
The little boy nodded and held his hands out to Lorne, who took him from her, balancing him on his hip. “Why don’t I take you into the kitchen? We can put water in the sink and splash it around for a bit.”
Realizing that the little boy would probably swim in one of Wesley’s t-shirts, Fred pulled her bag open to look for one of her own. She found a plain blue one that was clean and handed it to Lorne with a smile. “Thanks.”
“No problem, doll. C’mon, kiddo. Uncle Lorne’s gonna see what kind of voice you have while we’re taking all the grime off of you.”
As they disappeared into the kitchen, Fred walked over to Giles and put her hands on his shoulders, leaning her head down to rest her forehead against his. “I was so scared even though you weren’t gone long on this side of the portal. Can you tell me what happened? Or would you rather not talk about it?”
“Not much to tell,” he replied with a shrug as he leaned into her. “We found Holtz’s old coat the first night. Ran into some nasty demons...ones that make earthbound demons seem warm and fluffy by comparison. Bugger that did this to me would have finished the job if Wes hadn’t regrouped and decapitated the bastard.” He sighed, feeling at least Angel’s age. “Wes was the one that figured out how to track the areas that seemed habitable by humans. At least what passes for habitable there. That took us a little over three weeks. We found Connor tied to a tree with some vines. I gave him the pictures and the chocolate. He bought it – ran right into Wesley’s arms. Then Holtz showed up, and I had Wesley take Connor out of sight...before Holtz forced me to kill him. He won’t ever bother Connor again.” Giles gave a sniff before suddenly scowling. “You might want to step back a bit, luv. I think I’m even offending myself.”
“Oh, hush,” she told him, giving him a kiss. “Given where you’ve been and how long you were there, you have an excuse. Now, let me see your arm.”
He held it out, and she could immediately see the long slice in his sleeve, the edges of the material curled with dried blood. Quickly undoing his shirt, she pushed it off him so she could take a better look at the wound. It appeared to be a few weeks old, but it was red from all the dirt and grime Giles was wearing and obviously not healing well.
“Based on what must have given you that, I’d say you’re lucky that’s not looking any worse than it is,” she told him, going over to the dining room table to get the first aid kit Wesley had set there. She crossed back over and kneeled next to the chair, putting the kit on the floor and getting out the peroxide. It was the fastest way to clean it, given how long it had obviously been left. “May want to grab hold of something. I don’t think this is going to feel too nice.”
Giles winced inwardly when he saw the bottle of peroxide, but it couldn’t be helped. He needed to start cleaning the wound. “I noticed a few days ago that it was starting to get infected, but we had a goal to meet.”
“I know,” Fred told him softly, taking out some gauze and pouring the peroxide on it. “I don’t think you could have done much for it there anyway.”
“When we get back to Sunnydale, I have a cupboard full of antibiotics.” He would force himself to take them when they got home. The last thing he needed was to be incapacitated, knowing Angelus was coming. *****
In the kitchen, Lorne set Connor down on the counter while he put the stopper in the sink and started filling it with some warm water, careful not to turn the pressure on too high so Wesley wouldn’t get a nasty surprise in the bathroom. The little boy looked at the faucet in amazement, obviously never having seen anything like it before. Of course he wouldn’t have. Lorne seriously doubted Quor’Toth had indoor plumbing...if there was even an indoors to speak of.
“You think that’s amazing, just wait ‘til you see televisions and stereos, little man,” Lorne told him with a smile. “Arms up please.”
Once Connor had lifted his arms, Lorne pulled his grungy, tattered sorry excuse for a tunic off him and looked at it for a moment, recognizing the baby blanket that he had used to wrap him in not all that long ago. Sighing, he tossed it over his shoulder to the floor and then had him turn so his feet were in the sink.
“You know any songs, Connor?” he asked as he grabbed a dish towel and began using it to scrub the dirt from boy’s face. The boy looked at him blankly. “No, I would imagine not, all things considered. I’m going to have to teach you a few then. Hmmm...how about this one? ‘Christopher Robin and I walked along,/ Under branches lit up by the moon./Posing our questions to Owl and Eeyore,/As the days disappeared far too soon./Now I wandered much further today than I should,/And I can’t find my way back to the wood.’
Connor, who had started splashing the water with a gleeful squeal, suddenly froze when Lorne started singing. Blue eyes wide in surprise, he looked up at the demon. Just as quickly, his brow furrowed and his head titled down, as if he was trying to dust off a forgotten memory.
“I remember...you used to sing to me,” he said softly, staring down at the water, still concentrating.
Lorne stopped washing Connor’s back, looking at him for a moment in amazement. “You remember me singing to you? But you...you were only a baby when you were—when Holtz took you. How could you remember?” He put his thumb under his chin and tilted the little head so he could see his eyes. “I used to baby-sit you, and I would sing that song when I would put you down to sleep for the night. It was the only one that would settle you down. I can’t believe you remember me singing that.”
Connor shrugged his little shoulders.
“Dunno. Feel safe when I hear it. That place we were, nothing was safe. That other man, Holes....he was going to teach me how to fight. He said I was strong. But he lied about so much.” He bit down on his bottom lip nervously. “Lorne? Do you think Daddy and Giles will teach me how to fight?”
Lorne looked at the little boy for a moment, wondering how to answer him. “Your daddy and Giles will teach you, I’m sure...but only if you want them to. They and your mommy won’t make you do anything you don’t want to do. They’re just glad that you’re back. I know they’re going to protect you, and you can be a kid again and have everything you should have.”
“I want them to teach me. I can’t protect them if I can’t fight, Connor told him, his little voice sounding determined. “That man hurt my family. I won’t let anyone hurt them again.”
“Oh, Little Man,” the demon said, ruffling Connor’s hair gently. So old for his years yet still so much a four-year-old. “You’ll learn. They’ll teach you. I know they will.”*****
Fred took Giles’ arm and bit her bottom lip as she applied the makeshift antiseptic rag to his arm wound. He visibly jumped to begin with but then settled down. She gently pressed the gauze along the entire line of the slice, trying to make sure she got everything. Going to the hospital probably would have been the better idea, but given how he had received it and how long it had been, she wasn’t sure that they could have explained it. Plus she was sure he wouldn’t have wanted to go anyway.
“Thank goodness there wasn’t any poison or anything,” she remarked as she finished cleaning the wound and put a temporary dressing over it to protect it when he showered. “I’ll redress it once you finish cleaning up, but that should hold for the moment.”
“Suppose I would have found in a hurry if it was poisoned,” he replied, shrugging his shoulders.
Now that they were out of Quor’Toth, he could feel the adrenaline that had been pumping through his body slowly ebbing away. Without it, he felt every scratch, every bruise. And he felt more exhausted than ever. Looking up when the bathroom door opened, his green eyes darkened slightly when he saw Wesley step out of the bathroom in his boxer shorts, holding a towel to his thigh. He was a walking mass of bruises, and Giles winced in sympathy.
“Your turn,” Wes told him, rubbing his freshly shaven face gratefully. “I think I’m just going to burn those clothes.” He smiled when Giles chuckled and, pulling a chair out from the table, sank down into it with a sigh.
Fred watched Rupert as he got up, touching both of them briefly before he disappeared into the bathroom. Then she turned to Wesley and looked at him for a moment. The scar of his neck was completely healed, but he now had a number of other wounds. None of them were as bad as his neck had been, but she still hated to see them. On either of them.
Without thinking, she threw her arms around him since she hadn’t been able to hold him since he had returned. “I missed you,” she whispered. “I’m so glad you’re home because I can give you your answer now. It’s yes.”
It took a moment for Wesley’s tired brain to catch up to what she was talking about. Question? He smiled when the memory finally caught up with him. He had asked Fred to marry him as soon as they got to Sunnydale. He had told her to wait until he got back to answer him. She said yes.
A slow smile crossed his handsome face. She said yes!
He hugged her tightly, his hand cradling her head against his shoulder. Slowly, he leaned back, blue eyes locking on brown, and he kissed her deeply. He poured every ounce of love he felt in his soul into that kiss. The effect was almost instantaneous. He and Rupert hadn’t touched each other beyond a good night kiss during the time they had been there, not wanting to be caught unawares should a demon attack. They had been content to just hold each other, protect each other. Now, back with Fred, seeing her beautiful face, drowning in her taste, his body was betraying him, despite how tired he felt.
Fred closed her eyes for a moment, the kiss sending a dizzying rush through her. She had only been parted from them for eighteen hours, but for them it had been three weeks, and she could feel how deeply that affected him. At least they had had each other during that time – they hadn’t been alone.
She wanted to spend time with both of them, holding them and kissing them and loving them, making sure that they knew they were home and safe, but she knew that they had things to sort out first. Slowly, she broke the kiss and pressed her temple to his for a moment. “I so want to make love to you and Rupert the rest of the night, but we have a little boy to settle into his world again, and you and Rupert probably need rest badly, and I need to take care of that for you.” She pointed to his leg before kissing him gently again. “We have the rest of our lives together, all of us.”
Wesley released a soft groan when she confessed what she wanted to do. He more than understood her desires. But they had so much work to do before morning, and even though he wanted to hold her in his arms so badly they ached, he restrained himself.
Slipping down to kneel in front of him, she pulled his other hand away from the towel he was still holding over his leg wound and swallowed. It definitely wasn’t as bad as his neck, but Giles was right – it was going to need a few stitches. Stitching up minor wounds was nothing new; she had learned from Cordelia since they all often came back from skirmishes with gashes. She found the thread and needle that Wes kept in his first aid kit so she could sew his leg up once she had sterilized everything.
He gritted his teeth as she leaned down to begin stitching him up. He knew this was going to hurt, and they had nothing to use as a numbing agent. He could take one of his pain killers, of course, but that would make him useless to Rupert and Fred in the short time they had to get out of Los Angeles. His thigh muscle jumped when he felt the needle pierce his skin, and he let a grunt of pain as she pulled the thread through. It didn’t take long – he only needed five stitches – but it was long enough.
“Stitches without anesthetic. I remember those days,” Giles grunted in sympathy when he came out of the bathroom. Ethan had always had to stitch him up after a good fight.
Once she finished, Wesley released the breath he hadn’t realized he was holding. Sweat beaded on his forehead from the effort of having held himself still.
“It’s all right; her next victim is here, freshly showered and shaved,” Giles teased, sliding down into his own chair. He then smiled, looking over at Fred “And you, by the way...are still as beautiful as ever.”
She blushed as she cleaned and sterilized the needle again before putting it and the thread away in the first aid kit. “And you two are as handsome as ever even if you don’t feel like it at the moment,” she told them as she crossed back over to Rupert.
“No, I don’t feel like it,” Giles laughed tiredly. “I feel like I’ve been hit by a small bus.”
“I think that was the four legged blue demon, Rupert,” Wesley offered with a chuckle.
“I haven’t forgotten about that one. Bloody truck with legs.”
Removing the temporary dressing she had put on Rupert’s arm, she cleaned the wound again before redressing it and binding the arm tightly, wrapping the gauze around his entire upper arm. Once she was finished, she didn’t know who to hug first. Finally, she settled for wrapping her arms around the closest man – who happened to be Giles – and holding her other arm out to Wesley. “I’m so glad both of you are back.”
Giles drew her into his arms. He had been grateful to have Wesley along in Quor’Toth, but he didn’t realize how much he had missed Fred until this moment. Tipping his head forward, he buried his face in her hair running his free hand up and down Fred’s back. “We’re glad to be back too. That is an experience I never want to repeat.”
Wesley also moved into their embrace. This was home, not here in his flat, but in the arms of those he loved.
“Well, I don’t plan on letting either of you going anywhere like that ever again if I can help it,” Fred informed them.
Her hand tangled in the short hairs on Wesley’s head as she leaned into Giles. It felt so good to be able to do this, to know that the dangerous part was over now. They still had things to deal with, but at least they were things that didn’t entail going into hellish demon dimensions. Turning her head, she brushed her lips over Rupert’s gently before deepening the kiss.
Giles moaned into the kiss, warmth suffusing his body. The hand that was resting on her hip moved to her thigh to pull her closer to him. He wasn’t feeling any of his bruises. All he felt was her and Wesley’s hand on his back, the feel of it almost searing. Now that they were out of mortal danger, he could allow himself to feel their presences acutely.
Wesley smiled faintly. If they got this kind of greeting after every mission, he would live the rest of his life a very happy man. Slowly, he moved so he was behind Fred and brushed her hair aside so that he could place his lips on her neck.
“You feel so good. Like...home,” he whispered, nipping at her flesh. *****
In the kitchen, as Lorne scrubbed at his neck, Connor looked at the faucet strangely, remembering that the demon had lifted the long metal handle to turn it on. Tentatively, he reached out a hand and lifted the lever, smiling when the water rushed out onto his feet. “Brrrr, cold.”
Lorne couldn’t help laughing at that. “You know, something tells me you’re going to be as much trouble as your mother when it comes to exploring new things.”
“I like water. On Quor’toth, we didn’t get to swim very often. The Water Demons were too dangerous. We only had time to get water to drink and run. This water is cleaner...I can see my feet in it.” Connor giggled and kicked up his feet, splashing water all over Lorne. He looked up at the green demon sheepishly, “Sorry.”
Lorne spluttered a bit at suddenly finding his hair plastered down over his horns, his shirt soaked and water running into his eyes. He let out a short bark of a laugh as he shook his head a bit, sending droplets everywhere. “Well, we’ll have to take you swimming some time, I think, and then you can splash me all you want...providing they let me in, of course. If not, you can splash your mommy and daddy. C’mon, let’s wash your hair and get all that bark and stuff out of it, then we’ll get you dried off and take you back in to your parents”
Knowing that it wasn’t good for hair but figuring that it wouldn’t hurt him just this once considering he certainly hadn’t had a proper shampoo since he was baby, Lorne used some of the handsoap Wesley had in the kitchen to wash Connor’s hair. “Keep your eyes shut tight. We don’t want this getting into those baby blues of yours and turning them red as mine.”
Connor clenched his eyes closed tightly and gave a sniff when he smelled the scent of the soap. “What is it, Lorne?” he asked. “It smells sweet.”
“It’s called Dove soap. Not completely sure what’s in it. Probably stuff we couldn’t pronounce, even knowing several demon languages,” Lorne told him before getting him to duck his head under the tap.
He gasped slightly when he felt Lorne turn on the water again. When the demon had ordered him to hold his breath, he had filled his little lungs but the sudden feel of the water running over his head caused him to splutter in surprise. Water was good to swim in, but he didn’t like it when he breathed it in! He coughed a few more times, rasping in air. “Burns.”
Hearing the gasping and coughing, Lorne quickly turned off the water. “Sorry about that, baby cheeks. Guess I should have warned you. Let’s see if we can make this easier.” Looking in the cupboard, he found a measuring container that he filled with water. He then had Connor turn around and lean back a bit against one of his arms to brace him and poured the water over his baby-fine hair so it rinsed the soap off into the sink over his back.
Connor was relieved when the Dove
was completely washed off of him. He then stood up, holding his arms out to Lorne. “Done?” he asked, shaking his head and flinging water droplets all over. He smiled shyly when his stomach growled. “Lorne, I’m hungry.”
His blue eyes lit up with a bright smile.
“Is there any more chocolate?”*****
Fred let out a soft sigh into the kiss with Giles as she pressed up against him, the feel of Wesley’s lips on her skin sending a gentle shudder down her spine. Home.
Yes, this definitely felt like home.
“Feels good having you home
,” she murmured, one of her hands caressing over Rupert’s temple to the back of his skull. She reached back to wrap her arm around Wesley, her hand resting against his hip. “Love you both.”
Giles’ hands moved up and down her sides, smiling when he felt her trembling under their assault. God, she was so expressive, so wanton in her reactions to them. It was one of the things he loved about her. Nothing about her was artificial. When she loved, it was with her whole heart, and that purity was consuming.
“Home isn’t Los Angeles or even Sunnydale. Home is wherever you are,” Giles managed, before dragging her head down for a deep kiss.
Wesley’s hands were not idle either. One hand was flat against her abdomen, moving in small circles as he tasted the flesh at her neck. The other rested on the inside on her thigh, his thumb unconsciously moving on her.
Fred’s mind was spinning now from the both pairs of hands on her. She had learned the differences between both of their hands and the way each one liked the touch her. Rupert’s strokes moved up and down, bold, using the pads of his fingers. Wesley’s were circles, gentle, with very tips of his fingers. Both of them excited her, turning her into a quivering puddle of Fred.
When Giles broke his kiss, she leaned her head back, and almost immediately, Wesley’s lips descended on hers. His tongue teased her mouth open as his thumb suddenly circled across her panties, causing her to gasp.
She could feel Wesley pressing into her back, his want practically burning into her. She wanted nothing more than to feel him – feel both of them
– inside her, but they had a child to take care of. Even so, she groaned, pulling him closer, wanting just a few more moments with them.*****
“Chocolate, huh?” Lorne said with a chuckle. “We’ll have to see if your mommy and daddy have any. Let’s get you dried off first.”
He used another dish towel to quickly rub down his hair until it was only slightly damp and then to wipe off the rest of the water on his skin. Once he was done, he helped the little boy into Fred’s shirt, which hung down to below his knees even though it was a small.
“It’ll have to do for now. Now...let me see what your mom...” He walked over to the door and pushed it open, trailing off when he saw Wesley, Fred and Giles in the living room, obviously having a moment
. He closed the door again. “Doesn’t look like they’re quite done yet, so let’s see what’s in the fridge, shall we?”
He opened the refrigerator door and looked through, wrinkling his nose at the leftover spaghetti and shaking his head at the other stuff. Then he opened the freezer.
“Ah ha!” He pulled out a carton of ice cream and turned to Connor with a big grin. “How about cold chocolate?”
His eyes got huge. “They make cold
chocolate?!” he asked in awe while nodding his head adamantly. “Yes please!” He watched excitedly as Lorne scooped out some into a bowl. Reaching out curiously, he touched one of the scoops with his fingers. “It is! It is
cold!” he laughed.
Lorne chuckled. “It’s called ice cream. Has a few more ingredients than chocolate, but the flavor’s there.”
Wesley, Fred and Giles were going to have their hands full with this little one, he could tell. He was going to be exploring everything and getting into things as he discovered more about the world he had been returned to. Having Fred and Wesley as his parents would definitely help him make the transition better because she would understand what Connor had been through and he would know how to help, having been through it with her.
“Hold on there, Sir Edmund Hillary,” he said, catching Connor’s hand before he scooped the ice cream up with his fingers.
Connor looked up at Lorne, puzzled. “Not Edmund. And not Stephen. Giles said my name is Connor,” he protested.
“It’s a—never mind. You do that, though, and you’re going to freeze your little fingers off, and I’d rather not have to explain that
to Wes and Fred.” He looked opened the silverware drawer and pulled out two spoons. “Here. Have a feeling you’ve never used one these, have you? It’s a spoon. You use it to scoop up the food and put in your mouth. Like this.”
He proceeded to demonstrate, spooning some of the ice cream up and putting it in his mouth. Once he swallowed, he put his spoon down and picked up the clean one, holding it out to Connor for him to try. His blue eyes had fixed on the demon, watching him carefully, then on the item in his hand.
“Spoon,” he repeated carefully.
Wrapping his hand around the handle, he carefully scooped almost an entire scoop onto the spoon. Opening his mouth wide, he shoved it in, biting down on the cold treat. It was good – tasted just like chocolate. After about three seconds, however, he grunted, clenching his eyes closed and holding his little fists to the side of his head.
“Ow! Ow! Ow!” he whined, rocking back and forth. “It hurts!”*****
Giles smiled, his own body humming with need for the woman between them. His eyes darkened even further as he watched Wesley claim her mouth while he ran his hands over her torso, fingers sliding under the material to caress bare skin.
A moment later, however, he heard something ringing, causing him to look up. That was his cell phone; he recognized the distinctive ring Willow had programmed into it for a call from the Scoobies.
“I have to get that,” he managed to say, his voice thick with emotion. “It’s one of the kids,” When his lovers moved away from him reluctantly, he got up to retrieve his phone. “Hello?”
“Giles?” a soft voice asked.
Fred had fallen back into Wesley’s arms, watching Giles answer the phone when she suddenly heard Connor crying. Without a word, she jumped up, indicating to Wesley that she’d see what was wrong, and hurried into the kitchen.
“Tara?” Giles’ brow furrowed, hearing something in her voice. He started pacing the length of Wesley’s living room, a knot forming in his stomach. “Tara, what’s wrong?”
“How is your friend? Did you find him?” she asked, not knowing how she was going to explain this. She saw Spike, Dawn and Xander all waving at her to get to the point. He was needed back in Sunnydale.
“He’s fine, Tara. Recovering nicely.” He looked at Wes, offering him a nervous smile. “Now why don’t you tell me why you really called?” he encouraged gently.
“Well, the Buffy bot was destroyed.” She winced when she heard the older man go completely silent. “A gang of biker demons found out about her, but they won’t tell anyone. They’re dead.”
“All of you took out a gang of demons?” he asked, shocked. He was rather impressed with the idea of that.
“W—we kind of had some help. Giles, we need you to come home. Now
,” Tara managed.
Now he really was suspicious. “Tara, what’s going on?”
“Buffy’s back, Giles. W—we brought her back. B—but something’s wrong. She needs you.” As soon as she finished, she breathed out, hanging her head, waiting for the tirade.
“You what?!” Giles sank down into a chair in complete shock. “What on Earth possessed you to do such a foolish thing!” he snapped before his tone turned to a growl. “I gather this was Willow’s idea.”
He really didn’t need her to answer him.
“Yes. Giles, you can yell at us later, but right now, Buffy needs you to come home,” Tara told him, gathering her courage. Whatever he said to them, they deserved. However, Buffy needed him.
“I’m coming home tonight,” he told her, just managing to keep himself together. “Tell her that I’ll be there in about six hours. And Willow isn’t to cast another bloody thing until I can ascertain what kind of damage has been done. I—I have to go. I’ll deal with you lot when I get home.”
He hung up abruptly, staring off into space for a moment. He couldn’t believe that Willow would do something so dangerous – not only for Buffy but especially for herself.
“Rupert? What is it?” Wesley asked, not liking the emotions flowing over his lover’s face. “What has Willow done?”
“She resurrected Buffy.” His green eyes filled with tears as he thought about how his Slayer must have felt. “Buffy is sitting in her home, lost.” He looked up at Wesley. “We have to leave tonight, Wes. She can’t spend another night without me there.”*****
When Fred hurried into the kitchen, she found Connor sitting on the counter and somewhat dumbfounded Lorne standing there with a bowl of ice cream in his head.
“What’s wrong?” she asked, leaning down in front of the little boy.
“Hurt!” he cried.
“He took a big bite of ice cream,” Lorne said.
She knew immediately what must have happened. “Oh, sweetie, it’s all right. Feels like a stabbing pain up here, doesn’t it?” she asked, moving his hands away and rubbing at both of his temples. Connor nodded, her gentle touch helping to take some of the pain away. “You just had a brain freeze. It’s what happens when you eat something cold too quickly, but it won’t last long. In fact, I bet you’re already feeling better, aren’t you?”
He nodded, sniffling a little bit. Fred smiled and picked him up off the counter.
“Come here, little man,” she said, cuddling him to her. “Why don’t we save the rest of the ice cream for later.”
Connor immediately curled against her, resting his head against her shoulder. He was probably exhausted – none of them knew when he had slept last, and who knew how normal his sleep patterns had been living in that hell. Holding him close, she smiled at Lorne.
“Thanks for helping with him.”
“Sure thing, buttercup.”
They walked out into the living area together, just in time to hear Giles saying that they needed to leave. Fred looked at them in confusion, her heart seizing in her chest when she saw Rupert’s expression, the tears in his eyes.
“Has something happened?” she asked. “Who’s she? Why do we need to leave tonight?”
is Buffy, my Slayer,” Giles explained. “That was Tara. It seems that while I was here looking after Wesley, Willow decided to resurrect Buffy from the grave. But something’s wrong. I have no doubt they would have never called if something hadn’t gone wrong.”
“It’s all right, Rupert. We’ll pack our bags.” Wesley looked up at Lorne. “I can call for movers from Sunnydale, but can you do me a favor? I’ll need you here to let them in – can you do that for me?”
Lorne nodded. “No problem, scruffy bear. In fact, I’ll pack for you guys if you’d like me too.”
Nodding, Welsey then turned his attention back toward Giles and placed a hand on his shoulder. “We have to make one stop. Wal-Mart should have everything we need.” He paused when Rupert looked at him. “I know you don’t want to stop, but Connor needs a car seat – it’s state law – and we need to get him a few outfits. We can get the rest in Sunnydale. Lorne, when you come to Sunnydale, you can just drive up in my SUV. The police returned it a few days ago.”
As Wesley walked over to pick up the car keys from his desk, Fred walked over and hugged Giles with her free arm. What had they done to resurrect Buffy? And what had gone wrong? “I’ll be ready to go in five minutes,” she told him before hurrying over to her bag. She stuffed all her clothes into it while still holding Connor, who was drowsing now.
“Need any help packing stuff to take with you now?” Lorne asked as he caught the keys that Wesley tossed him and put them in his pocket.
“Wesley’s books,” Fred said, pointing to the stacks on the table. “We probably shouldn’t leave them here.”
He nodded and immediately went searching for a bag or box to pack the books up while the other three continued getting the rest of their stuff together.
Wesley, in the meantime, went over to the bookcase and collected the small roll of money he had hidden there. It wasn’t fair to ask Rupert to pay for everything. Especially since Connor was supposed to be his
son. “Fred, if Rupert and I go in, can you dress Connor in his car seat on the way?”
Fred nodded. “Of course, I can,” she said, knowing that the sooner they were on the road, the easier it would be for Rupert. It was going to take them long enough to get up to Sunnydale as it was, so the fewer delays they had, the better.
While Wesley headed into the bedroom to get changed, Giles walked over to the pile of Council materials and waved his hand over them, chanting the return spell he knew Collins would have used. The resources had served their purpose. Connor was home. He would call his friend later and thank him, but now, they had to get moving. The moment the piles disappeared, he began gathering his own things and helping Lorne pack up Wesley’s books. He threw on some clothes, making certain there were sleeves on his shirt. He didn’t need Buffy to see his arm and worry.
Wesley soon came out of his room, fully dressed in a fresh pair of jeans and a denim shirt. “Lorne, if you could help us carry this stuff down to the car?” He looked around the room, his brow furrowing. “My weapons are in that closet. I know you’ll need to pack your own things in the SUV, but I need you to grab my weapons too. I can’t trust them to the movers. Not to mention the questions it will raise. All right Rupert, as soon as we get loaded up, we’re off.”
Lorne agreed to Wesley’s instructions regarding his weapons and then took the box of books out of the apartment down the car. Meanwhile, Fred had managed to gather all her stuff together and slung the bag over her shoulder since it was the only thing she could carry due to holding Connor.
Wesley turned to look at her and smiled gently upon seeing Connor dozing on her shoulder. “Do you mind holding him until we get a car seat? We can get him some peanut butter crackers and fruit snacks while were there. I have a feeling he’s not going to want to stop.”
Fred didn’t like the idea of holding Connor in the car considering how dangerous it could be but knew it was necessary until they got the seat. Nodding, she looked down at him – at their son
– and kissed the top of his head, hoping that he would sleep during most of this. Things were already confusing enough as it was, and this would just add to it, having to rush out the way they were.
With that all taken care of, Wesley looked worriedly at Giles’ retreating back as the other man carried out the first load. “I can’t believe they were so foolish,” he sighed, knowing that his lover must be so worried.
“Buffy died last May...that was ten months ago...” Fred didn’t know much about resurrections, but even she realized that bringing someone back after that length of time couldn’t be a good thing, even without already knowing that something had obviously gone wrong. And she could see as well as Wes could that all this was tearing Rupert up inside, and it was making her own heart ache to see him like that. “Wes, should Rupert be driving? I don’t want him getting upset while we’re on the road.”
“Probably not,” Wesley agreed, looking at Giles worriedly when he came back in. They grabbed the last of what they were taking and walked out to the car, Wes and Fred trailing Giles down the stairs and out into the parking lost. “But he needs to focus on something not regarding Buffy. What Willow did was dangerous, not only to Buffy but to herself as well. He loves those kids as if they were his flesh and blood. I’m hoping that if he’s focusing on driving, his anger won’t have time to build. I don’t want him to say something he can’t ever take back.”
Wesley had a point, Fred realized. Rupert would want something to focus on, and with the four of them in the car, he wouldn’t allow himself to get out of control.
He sighed and shook his head as they approached the car. Once they had put everything into the boot, he turned back to Fred. “Why don’t you let me take Connor for a moment. I’ll pass him back when you get settled in the backseat.” With a nod, Fred passed over Connor, who stirred briefly as Wesley took him.
“Daddy?” the little sleepy voice asked.
“Shhh,” Wesley responded softly as he stroked his hair. “I’m here, son. Just go back to sleep,” he whispered, smiling when he immediately dozed off again.
As Connor snuggled against his father’s shoulder, Fred turned to Lorne, who held his arms out to her and embraced her tightly. “Be safe, rose bud. I’ll see you when I get up there, but you take care of your guys in the meantime.”
“I will,” she promised before giving him a kiss on the cheek. “And you watch yourself too. Want you up in Sunnydale in one piece.”
“You and me both.”
After he let her go, Fred climbed into the car and took Connor back from Wesley, cradling him in her lap. Wesley and Lorne then said their goodbyes, the demon grabbing him for a hug. After he and Rupert shook hands, the guys got into the car as well, and they headed off, Lorne watching from the side of the road until they disappeared around the corner.
Wesley directed Giles to the closest Wal-Mart, and soon they were pulling into the parking lot. Fred stayed with Connor in the car as the guys got out, hitting the drivers’ side lock after them.
“Mommy, where are we?” Connor murmured.
“We’re picking a few things up for you before we head up to our new home,” she told him. “Sleep, baby. Want me to tell you a story?”
“Story? ‘Bout Christopher Robin and Eeyore and Owl? Lorne was singing ‘bout them...”
“I can tell you that if you want. Not so long ago in the Hundred-Acre Wood...”*****
Entering the store, Wesley looked around for a moment. “Rupert, why don’t you head back and get the car seat. Try and find one we can use for awhile. Some of them have parts you can add or remove, so we won’t have to get another one. I’ll grab a few outfits and underwear for Connor. Then we can meet over there.” He pointed toward the grocery section. “I want to grab some snacks for the road for Connor in case he gets hungry.”
Wesley didn’t wait for him to agree before grabbing a basket and heading off toward the boy’s section. He dumped a few packages of boxers into the basket as well as two packages of socks. It was spring, so when he went down the shoe aisles, he snagged a pair of sandals. His eyes then lit on a small pair of tennis shoes. The items bore the image of a cartoon character with yellow and red spiky hair. And apparently when the child wearing them stepped down on them, a section of the soles lit up.
! Mom, please!” begged a little boy, who was very awake despite the late hour, much to the obvious frustration of his harried and tired mother. The child’s response to the shoes clinched it for Wes, however, and he put the box that he guessed to be Connor’s size into his basket.
Making his way over to the shelf of boys’ shorts, he quickly picked out beige, blue and grey shorts before moving onto the pants. He drew out a pair of beige pants and two pairs of blue jeans. Grabbing a couple of t-shirts bearing the same cartoon logo that was on the shoes, he also reached for a few polo shirts in various colors. He finished off with a pair of pajamas, two button-up long-sleeve shirts and a sweatshirt. They didn’t have time to look for a coat, and he wanted something a little heavier in case it got chilly. Looking around, he saw various baseball caps and tossed a Yu-Gi-Oh
one into the cart.
Once he finished in the clothing section, he turned the corner and stopped suddenly, a small smile lighting his face. Star Wars
toys. He couldn’t help himself. He added a couple of figures to the basket as well as an X-wing ship. His father might have restricted him from such childish things as a boy, but he’d be damned if he would do the same thing to Connor. Once he had chosen a few other toys, he rushed off to the grocery section to meet Giles. He resisted the urge to smile when he saw the other man standing at the end of the aisle, waiting impatiently with a car seat box in the cart.
“Why don’t you grab the snacks, and I’ll take the cart and go wait in line,” Giles suggested, taking the basket to put what Wesley had grabbed into the cart. He looked down to see what Wes had gotten and couldn’t help but smile. “Good choices.” Chuckling, he looked pointedly at the toys. After handing the empty basket back, Giles took the cart and made his way toward the check out line.
Wes quickly grabbed a few oranges, a couple of boxes of fruit snacks, and some peanut butter and cheese crackers. He also selected two packages of juice boxes before hurrying to catch up with Giles. It didn’t take them long to get through the line thankfully, and they made their way out to the car.
“Fred, why don’t you get Connor dressed while I secure the car seat in back?” Giles suggested.
She nodded, setting Connor on the seat before taking the bags from Wesley and shifting so that she could kneel on the back floor of the car. The little boy opened his eyes, looking at her tiredly, wondering what was going on.
“We have some clothes for you,” she told him, looking through the first bag. She had to stifle a chuckle when she saw what was in there. Wesley was definitely already getting into being a father, based on the ship she saw in there along with the shoes.
She found the package of boxer shorts – definitely like father, like son there – and pulled one out. She also chose one of the pairs of jeans, a red polo shirt and a pair of socks. Connor whined a little bit when she tried to take her t-shirt off him, not wanting to give it up, but she soon managed to get him to let her take off when she promised him he could keep it. After pulling off the tags, she soon had him dressed, complete with the Yu-Gi-Oh
shoes. He had obviously never worn shoes before because he was kicking his feet out as though trying to get rid of the strange constrictions on his feet.
“Don’t like,” he huffed while holding her t-shirt balled tightly in his hand. Fred had a feeling she wasn’t going to get that particular top back for a long time.
“You need to wear shoes. But look – they’re special ones.” She pressed her palm against the bottom to simulate him stepping down and grinned with his face lit up along with the shoes. As he lifted his foot up to try to figure out how she had done that, she looked over at Giles, who was leaning over the car seat he was installing. “He’s ready.”
Stepping back, he allowed Wes to step up, wanting to give his lovers a chance to settle their “son”. He instead sorted through the bags, moving the toys and snacks into one, which he left aside for Fred to keep by her. The other bags, he gathered up and put them in the boot.
Wes, meanwhile, leaned over the seat and held his hands out to Connor with a smile. “Come on, little man,” he said, scooping him up. Once he placed him in the car seat, he secured the belts in place. “I know it feels tight, but it’s to keep you safe. In this world, kids your age have to sit in these. If we happen to get into a car accident, this seat will keep you safe,” he promised, leaning forward to kiss the boy’s forehead. He was proud when Connor nodded and immediately stopped squirming.
“’Kay,” he replied. “But you and Mommy and Giles have to wear your belts too. You have to be safe too.” His face was as serious as ever, and he wouldn’t relent. He knew his daddy wanted him to be safe, but the three people in this car were the most important to him. He wanted them safe too.
“Deal,” Wesley promised. “If you get thirsty or hungry, your mum has some things in the bag for you. And if you behave like the little gentleman I know you are, there are a few surprises in there for you too.” He chuckled when excitement lit up Connor’s baby blues.
“I’ll behave, I will!” He swore, wondering what his daddy had gotten him.
Giles passed the bag over to Fred as soon as Wes stepped back. Once everyone had climbed back in the car, Wesley made certain everyone had their seatbelt on. With luck, they would be back in Sunnydale within four hours. Not that he was excited to return to the scene of some of his worst painful memories, but for Rupert’s sake, they needed to be there. He placed a reassuring hand on the other man’s arm when they pulled back onto the highway, heading toward their new home.*****