With the new clothes, the car seat and the fact that they were traveling much faster than he had ever seen before, Connor stayed wide awake during their trip up the Pacific Coast Highway toward Sunnydale. He kept asking what things were along the way – billboards, buses, the ocean – and Fred answered his questions, chuckling when Rupert or Wesley chimed in with a comment of their own.
In addition to some of the peanut butter crackers, he also drank three boxes of juice, loving all the new tastes he experiencing. He didn’t say, but Fred was sure that he hadn’t had anything other than foul tasting water most of his life. It had been the same for her in Pylea, and she remembered how she had drunk only juice and Kool-aid for days straight after returning, not wanting to touch the water out of fear.
About two hours outside from Sunnydale, he started squirming in his car seat, however. Leaning forward, Fred touched Giles’ shoulder. “We need to pull over somewhere – Connor needs to use a restroom. It probably wouldn’t hurt to get him something more substantial than crackers and snacks as well.”
She could see that Giles wanted to keep going, but he nodded and pulled off the highway at the next exit and into a McDonalds parking lot.
Connor had been watching the three people that made up his world closely. Giles was really important to his mommy and daddy. They would touch him and try to make him feel better. His little brain told him that something was wrong with Giles, that he was upset about something. He hoped it wasn’t something he did. As they pulled into the parking lot, his eyes widened at the big yellow sign. Little brow furrowing, he remembered the letters. That man had started to teach him how to sound words out.
“Mc...D...on...alds. Mcdonalds. Is that what that sign says, Daddy?” Connor asked, unsure of himself. Wesley looked at Fred, shocked. Holtz must have just started to teach him to read.
“Yes, it does, Connor. That was perfect. McDonalds is a restaurant. They serve food to eat here.” He smiled proudly and chuckled when Connor grinned broadly, clearly proud of himself as well.
The little boy looked down when his mommy started to remove his belt. “No, mommy. I want Giles to do it,” he said, determined to try and pay the other man some attention.
Giles looked up, surprised. He could feel Wes and Fred both smiling at him. Looking at his watch, he got out of the car, reached in back to undo the boy’s belts, and pulled him out of the car into his arms. Blue eyes held green when Connor reached forward with his little hand and smoothed it over Giles’ brow.
“Giles, are you mad at me?” he asked innocently. If he had done something to upset Giles, he would apologize. He saw the older man look at the others, clearly shocked by the question.
“Good Lord, no, Connor. I’m not angry with you.” He shook his head, ashamed that his behavior made the boy suspect that that might be the case. “I’m...there’s a young woman in Sunnydale – that’s where we’re going. She’s very important to me. I’m just worried about her. She’s sick, and she needs me,” he tried to explain.
“Does that mean that you’ll leave us when you get back?” Connor asked him worried.
“No, Connor. I could never leave you or your mum and dad. I love all of you far too much. Yes, Buffy needs my help. But I need all of you. I couldn’t help her if I didn’t have you and your mum and dad,” he promised, looking up at the others. “We’re making good time. Why don’t we sit inside and have breakfast? We can spare forty minutes.” He smiled down at the little boy in his arms. “What do you say?”
“Yes!” Connor bounced excitedly for a few moments before a sheepish expression spread across his face. “Giles, I gotta pee,” he whimpered softly then smiled when the older man laughed.
“Why don’t we let your mum and dad get our breakfasts while I take you to the men’s room,” he suggested. He turned his attention to Wes and Fred. “Get a little of everything if you like. We might as well let him try things. We’ll meet you at the counter when we’re finished.” With that, Giles tucked an arm around the boy and carried him inside, immediately heading for the men’s room.
Fred watched Giles disappear through the restroom door with Connor. “He’s an amazing little boy,” she told Wesley, wrapping an arm around him and resting her head against his shoulder for a moment. “And you...you’re doing an amazing job as his father.”
“I’m terrified that I’m going to screw up with him.” His own father could hardly be called a sterling role model of fatherhood. “Rupert would be a much better father,” he admitted, taking a deep breath. “But I know I have to do this, not only for Connor, but for myself, to prove that I can.”
“You’re going to be a great father,” Fred told him, touching his face briefly. “I know you will be. And we’ll do it together.”
He sighed softly, offering Fred a smile when she kissed him on the lips and then pulled him over to the counter, looking at the breakfast menu.
“He said a bit of everything, didn’t he?” she said with a laugh. “We’ll have one of each breakfast sandwich, only two burritos, please. Also, an order of pancakes, six hash browns, four orange juices, three coffees...and a small coca-cola.” She looked over at Wesley with an embarrassed shrug. “I thought he might be interested in the bubbles. He’s been curious about everything else.”
Wesley couldn’t help but chuckle at the cashier’s suddenly pale face as she input everything Fred had said into the register.
“That’ll be $48.58,” the nervous woman behind the register answered. She could hear the people in the grill cursing as they scrambled to fill the order.
“Sorry, our son has never been to McDonalds, so he wants to try everything,” Wes explained sheepishly. He turned when Giles returned with a giggling Connor tucked underneath his arm, Fred’s now damp t-shirt clutched in his tiny grip. The front of his own shirt was soaked, but he didn’t seem angry.
“He’s fascinated by the faucets,” he explained with a chuckle, tickling the squirming boy before setting him down on the floor gently. “Fred, why don’t you carry the drinks? Wes and I can get the trays while you stay with Connor.” He smirked at the five piled trays and then suggested, “You might want to get the biggest table available.”
She looked at all the food and giggled. Well, they’d have something to take with them in the car when they finished. Maybe. She just realized that she was actually starving, especially since she couldn’t remember eating at all the previous day, which was unusual for her, but she hadn’t been able to bring herself to eat with the guys gone. All she had managed was a couple of cups of tea that Lorne had pressed into her hands at different points.
Taking the tray with the drinks, she balanced it on one hand and reached a hand out to Connor. “Can you come help me pick a table?”
He nodded and took her hand, walking with her through the sitting area to the biggest circular booth available. “Giles said big.”
“He did indeed,” Fred said with a grin and set the tray on the tabletop before turning to the little boy. “We should probably get you a booster chair, though. Which color?” She pointed to the stack of booster so he could pick.
Up at the counter, Giles again looked over all the food on the trays. “May we have an extra knife too,” he asked the woman with a smile.
Wes resisted the urge to roll his eyes when the manager came up front from the back to give Giles the simple plastic knife. The woman looked to be in her late thirties, and a blush colored her pale cheeks. He chuckled to himself. Rupert was completely oblivious.
“Thank you,” Giles added, and picked up a tray in each hand.
“You’re welcome,” the woman giggled as they walked away. This time Wes did allow the eye roll.
“Jesus, Rupert. You could have asked for anything, and she’d have tripped over all of us to give it to you.” He laughed when Giles looked up, totally puzzled by his statement.
“The manager. She came all the way out of the office to get you a knife. She thinks you’re hot,” Wes teased. “Not that I’m disagreeing with her. It just amazes me that you don’t see how people want to get close to you.” They both stopped for a moment as they walked through the seating area with the trays upon seeing Connor looking at a pile of booster seats, deep in concentration.
“I’ll take blue, Mommy!” Connor grinned. “Like my eyes! And Daddy’s!” He clapped his hands together despite the t-shirt he held then held out his arms for his mommy to pass him the booster seat. He looked up when his daddy and Giles passed with trays piled with food. His eyes widened in surprise. “Can you eat all that, Daddy?”
“No.” Wesley laughed at the thought. “But your mum can,” he teased, poking fun at Fred’s notorious appetite.
“Wow!” Connor looked at his mother, little eyes full of respect.
Fred blushed at Wesley teasing her and then turned even redder at the way Connor was looking at her. “I—oh lord, I’m in for it now, aren’t I?” Shaking her head, she directed Connor back over to the table, showing him how to set up the booster chair and then lifting him up to place him in it.
“It’s a good ‘bility, Mommy! You can eat more than Giles and Daddy! That’s cool!”
“Well, it’s nice to know that at least one thing I do impresses my four-year-old son,” Fred said with a laugh
Sliding into the booth besides Connor, she took an orange juice and the soda and placed it in front of him while Wesley and Giles placed the rest of the food on the table.
“You can choose what you want, and we’ll take the rest. Thought you might like to try a bit of everything.” She looked over everything and then took something from the tray Wesley had just set down. “This, for example, is a breakfast burrito. This is my favorite. But if you don’t like it, that’s okay. I’m sure there’s something in there you’ll like.”
Connor called his eyes wide at all the food in front of him while Giles and Wes undid all the straws, both smiling at the boy’s excitement. Giles put the straws into the little boy’s drinks, letting Wes take care of Fred’s. She smiled smiling brightly at him and reached over to stroke his hand briefly, enjoying the moment. She was sure that not in the too distant future, Connor was going to get all “Ewww, gross” about any touchy-feely moments his parents had in front of him.
“I wasn’t sure what anyone took in their coffees, so there’s sugar, sweetener and cream,” Giles said as he claimed the pancakes and flipped the lid off the container. He was coating them with butter and syrup when he noticed the blue eyes staring at him across the table and smiled. “These are pancakes.”
“Another one of your mum’s favorites,” Wes added with a wide grin. Giles paused, looking up at Fred. He hadn’t known she liked them.
“I can get something else,” he offered, willing to give them up.
“Or you could just go get some more from your fan club,” Wes smirked.
As Fred put sugar and cream in her coffee, she shook her head at Rupert’s very sweet offer to give up the pancakes. “I love them, but I can go without this time. You deserve them after everything you’ve been through. I’m quite happy with my burrito...and the McMuffin...and the biscuit...and my hash browns.” She raised her eyebrow. “Although what’s this about a fan club?”
“He asked for a knife, and the woman nearly tripped over her own tongue running from the back to get closer to our Rupert.” Wesley chuckled, his blue eyes lit with mirth. “Twenty quid says the manager is still there staring at you.”
Fred leaned back a little in the booth to look toward the counter area, and sure enough, the manager was standing there, apparently
talking to one of the cashiers but throwing looks their—no, Rupert’s
way every few seconds. She didn’t know for a moment to be annoyed or amused before she remembered that she and Wesley were the ones who would be climbing into bed with him at the end of the day.
“The way she’s looking over here, we might have been able to get all this for free.”
Giles shrugged, but a very obvious blush covered his face. “I didn’t even notice until Wesley said something,” he admitted, digging into his pancakes.
The lovestruck manager was forgotten as they ate, all three of them having fun watching little Connor’s face as he tasted the various sandwiches. He seemed to like the muffin sandwiches best as well as the breakfast burritos that Fred showed him. Once they were done and had bagged up the remainder of the food, they made their way back out to the car. Giles chuckled when Wes pointed out to Connor that his grandmother drove one of those big busses he liked. From that moment, Grandma Trish officially became his favorite person. *****
Giles knew he was going faster than he should have, but he wanted to get to Buffy as soon as possible. Rather than the two hours he expected, they pulled up in front of Rovello Drive in just over an hour. He turned off the car and just sat there for a moment, finally looking over at Wes when he felt the hand on his arm.
“Go to her, Rupert. We’ll be right there,” he told him gently and took the keys from his hands to get some of the bags out of the trunk. He watched Giles rush up the front steps and into the house. Taking a deep breath, he steeled himself to face the ghosts of his past.
“Buffy!” Giles called out and froze upon seeing her sitting in the chair. He opened his arms, grunting when he suddenly found himself with an armful of Slayer. He’s here. He’s here,
Buffy chanted over and over again silently, closing her eyes as she snuggled against him. Giles was finally here.
“I’m here,” he whispered as if reading her thoughts, hugging her tightly.
For a moment, she could shut out the harshness of the light and the world and just take comfort in the embrace of the man she trusted more than anyone else. She couldn’t tell him, though. Because she knew how he would react and how he would blame himself and them, and she couldn’t take that at the moment. He’s here. He’s here. He’s here.
Part of her wanted to cry, but she forced herself not to. “I’m so glad you’re back,” she whispered instead.
Outside, Fred unbuckled Connor and lifted him out of the car along with the now half-empty bag from Wal-Mart while Wesley got a few of the bags from the trunk and closed it. Glancing at each other, they walked up to the house and stopped just instead the front door in the foyer, watching the scene before them.
“Who’s that, Mommy?” asked Connor, his voice low as though he understood that this was a time to be as quiet as possible. He hugged the t-shirt-cum-safety blanket to his chest.
“I think that’s Buffy, sweetie. The girl Giles came to see,” she told him softly.
“I’ll always come when you need me,” Giles promised, leaning his cheek on the top of her head. “I’m sorry I wasn’t here sooner,” he whispered, not willing to relinquish his hold on her. He grunted softly when he felt every ounce of her Slayer strength compressing his ribs.
Xander had been silently watching the scene with Anya from the other side of the room. He had never been happier to see Giles and was not in the least bit surprised when Buffy immediately went to him. Giles would fix things. When he glanced toward the door and saw the new arrivals standing there, however, he was
“Wesley?” he asked, a bit in shock. The other man didn’t look like the same man that had tried to take Giles’ job over three years before. In fact, he looked much more world-weary and... Xander winced sympathetically when he saw the large scar across the other’s throat.
“Hello, Xander,” Wesley replied softly. He picked Connor up, letting the little boy soothe his nerves. He wasn’t certain how the Scoobies would handle his presence in their town, so his stomach was tying itself in knots.
Wesley?” Anya asked, eyeing the attractive man up and down. “I thought you said he was scrawny and a coward? I’m sure he didn’t get that scar basket weaving.” She didn’t even notice Giles’ glare, never taking her eyes off the newcomer. “Xander, remember when we talked about threesomes?”
Fred’s eyebrows rose at the blonde girl with the roots standing on the other side of the living. Had she just said something about Wesley and a threesome? Part of her wanted to tell her that he was already taken, but before she could even think about it, Giles took care of the situation for her.
“Anya!” he snapped to get her to shut up. He then growled upon hearing a certain blonde vampire snickering from the doorway. “Spike, one word, and I swear I will dust you myself.”
“Did I hear—Giles!”
Suddenly, a blur with long auburn hair came bounding down the stairs and past Wesley and Fred to throw her arms around Giles. A red-head and another blonde came from the back of the house a few moments later, and Fred could already feel herself getting a bit lost at all the different people. She had heard their names, had been told about them, but at the moment, it was a bit confusing, especially considering that they had pretty much been isolated for over a week. She knew the blonde with the roots was Anya – she wasn’t going to forget that for a while – and the blond man was Spike, but she wasn’t sure about the others. She almost wished she had asked Giles for a picture before they had come up here.
“We got her back, Giles,” the red-head told him happily though her blonde companion was watching him worriedly, looking a bit sheepish. She then looked over, noticing the two adults and the child by the door. “Wes! Didn’t...expect to see you here.”
Giles felt the surge of anger well up in him when Willow arrogantly mentioned bringing Buffy back. He could hear the pride in her voice, and it disgusted him. Any fool with eyes could see that something terribly wrong had happened with the spell. But Willow was too bloody busy patting herself on the back to notice. Thank God for Tara’s level-headedness. He gave the shy girl a sympathetic look over the top of Willow’s head.
“Yes, and you and I will discuss all this later,” Giles told the redhead, his voice carrying an edge. The gall of casting such a dangerous spell that was not only dangerous to Buffy but also to herself and the others stuck with him like a bitter pill.
Willow took a step back, almost as if she had been slapped by Giles’ words. She expected him to be happy about this. Buffy was back, after all! He was probably just upset because he hadn’t been the one to do it. Well, that didn’t matter. She would make him see that when they talked because all that matter was that Buffy was back and that she had managed a really hard and scary spell to do it.
“Ooohhhh, someone’s in trouble,” Xander sang, having heard that tone of voice directed at him more than once. Better Willow than him.
“Xander, not one more word,” Giles growled. None of them were innocent in this, but it was clear Willow was the ringleader.
Wesley just stood by the door, shaking his head. He could tell already that Willow was going to be a problem. Her blatant attitude toward magic, along with the power he knew she was able to wield could mean real trouble for all of them. He wrapped his arm around Fred’s shoulders and walked farther into the house when Giles motioned toward them.
“Obviously, Willow, Xander, Dawn and Buffy know Wesley. Tara, this is Wesley Wyndam-Pryce. Wes, this is Tara, Willow’s girlfriend,” Giles introduced them. “She joined us after you left. Fred, that is Xander, Willow, Tara, Dawn, and the blonde pain in the arse over there is Spike.” He pointed to everyone as he said their names. “The brazen one over there is Anya, Xander’s girlfriend, and this is Buffy Summers, my Slayer.” He turned to the side, draping his arm over Buffy’s shoulders. “Everyone, this is Winifred Burkle, Wesley’s fiancée. She goes by Fred. And the curious one in Wesley’s arms is their son, Connor.” He smiled when Connor buried his face in Wes’ chest. “It’s all right, Connor; these people won’t hurt you. These are all my family.”
“Nice to meet you,” Dawn said, reaching out and shaking hands with Fred. “Didn’t even know that Wesley had met anyone, not that we hear much about what’s going on down in LA anymore.” She looked at Willow as she said this.
“Hey, I didn’t know. I wasn’t exactly there for a social visit, you know.” Willow smiled sheepishly at Fred and shrugged. She did remember her being there when she had gone to tell Angel about what had happened to Buffy but hadn’t really paid much attention to her or any of the others in the short time she had been there.
Dawn rolled her eyes and then turned to Connor. “And aren’t you just adorable. Look, he has Wesley’s eyes.”
“Not right,” Buffy suddenly muttered from where she was curled against Giles’ side. “He’s too old.”
“Actually, Buffy, he’s not. In this dimension, Connor was only born three months ago” Giles sighed, “I suppose I should start from the beginning. Fred was in the doctorate program for Physics at UCLA. She’s brilliant.” He smiled at her when he noticed her blushing at the compliment. “One of the professors there – Daniel Holtz – feared being overshadowed by her academically. So it was easier to send her away, make sure she disappeared. He sent her into another dimension for five years, a place called Pylea. Cordelia was accidentally sucked into the same dimension, so when Angel and Wesley and a couple of their friends went there to save her, they also found Fred and brought her back. When Holtz found out she was back, he became obsessed with her – her strength, her resilience to survive such a hell. He decided he wanted her, and he went insane when she chose Wesley instead. After Connor was born, Holtz took him in a fit of revenge and ran to a dimension called Quor’Toth. It’s a demon hell. Holtz was raising him as his own son to hate his father. Wesley and I just got back tonight after going to Quor’Toth to retrieve him. Time passes differently there, so even though Connor was only gone a little over a week here, four years had passed in the other dimension. Just like on our trip. Fred says we were only gone eighteen hours, but to us, it was about three and a half weeks. The council will be sending us altered documents to reflect Connor’s apparent age, rather than his real one.” Giles shook his head as he finished his explanation, hating that he was lying to all of them but knowing that it was for the best.
As he spoke, Fred stepped closer to Wesley and wrapped her arm around him, resting her forehead against his upper arm and closing her eyes for a moment. She could feel Connor reaching out to run a hand through her hair, his little fingers tangling in her curls. She knew that Pylea was probably going to be found out sooner or later, so it was best that it was worked into the story in addition to Connor’s kidnapping by Holtz to Quor’Toth.
Wesley, meanwhile, smiled sadly, looking down at Fred as she rested her forehead against his arm. He knew she was still sensitive about what happened in Pylea, but Rupert was right to weave the tale into the story with Connor, especially given the fact that Lorne was coming. It was one thing they learned in their training – when having to lie, try and stick to as much of the truth as possible. Pylea was a significant location for not only Lorne but Fred as well.
“As for what’s going on in Los Angeles,” Giles continued, “I suppose I should tell you now since it will undoubtedly affect us all. Wesley found a prophecy months ago entailing the return of Angelus. He spent these last few weeks trying to disprove it, but the prophecy is real – Angelus is returning. This was confirmed by a demon friend of Wesley and Fred’s named Lorne.”
“Lorne is a good demon!” Connor chimed up, wanting the others to know. He didn’t want Lorne to get hurt. He smiled shyly when Giles and Wes chuckled.
“Yes, Lorne is a good demon. No one here will hurt him, Connor.” He looked around at his family. “That’s why I brought them with me. Alone, Angelus will pick them off without a second thought. We all know that he’ll want to eliminate all of Angel’s ties to his goodness. That means the three of them and us. At least here we can protect each other. Lorne will also be joining us soon. He’s only staying in LA long enough to pack up the rest of Wesley’s flat.” He nodded when Xander and Spike both groaned. “Quite. I have Anya looking for an orb of Thessulah, but we have no idea how long that will take. If it comes down to it, we will have to stake him. Angel would never be able to live with himself, knowing he killed one of us.”
“But Angel...” Buffy whispered, looking up at Giles. She was as pale as her sister at all this. Fred remembered how Angel had been broken up when he had found out Buffy had died and had left for Sri Lanka. Obviously there were feelings still lingering on both sides.
“Rupes, have I ever said how much I liked you?” Spike asked, surprised the Watcher was going to let them dust the bastard.
“Until then, no one goes out on patrol alone,” he instructed after rolling his eyes at Spike’s comment. “And if you’re out after dark, I want you to travel in threes.”
“If you know that Angelus is supposed to return, wasn’t there something you could do to stop it?” Willow asked. “Like telling him or something? Getting him away from whatever is supposed to de-soul him?”
“Angel doesn’t believe the prophecy is real,” Fred replied. “And he tried to—we had a huge falling out because of it. One of our friends is already dead because of this, used in the attempt to bring Angelus back, so we decided we needed to get ourselves to safety first once Wesley and Giles had retrieved Connor. Angel was—he was our friend, but our son’s life and safety are more important to me...to us, right now.”
“Willow, I don’t think you realize what we’re up against,” Wesley elaborated. “The group resurrecting Angelus is a law firm called Wolfram and Hart. It’s run by a group of demonic entities that call themselves ‘The Senior Partners.’ And they have locations world wide on several planes of existence. In the Los Angeles office alone, they have several thousand employees on their payroll, and that doesn’t include any of the freelance humans and demons. They consider themselves the ultimate evil and will do whatever it takes to achieve their goals. In just the time we were in LA, they resurrected Darla to make Angel go insane, nearly killed Cordelia by overloading her brain with visions, and blew up our old offices while I was standing inside of them. One lawyer in particular concocted a scheme to brutalize Cordelia to get Angel’s attention so that he would save a very evil boy that was a nephew of one of their clients. Angel did, and we know of at least six deaths and one near death that resulted from the boy’s release. Most recently, they planted a slocar parasite within our friend Gunn, promising it that it could have Fred if it helped break up our family. If it weren’t for Rupert, they probably would have succeeded. He was the factor Wolfram and Hart couldn’t account for. These people care for nothing, and they have been slowly decimating us in the most painful way possible. Yes, we could try to stop them, but it would be like an ant trying to push the Rock of Gibraltar up the Alps. Angel is my friend, but Angelus is coming whether we like it or not. I had to make a choice – fight a losing battle or save Fred and Connor. Rupert is right; at least here, we stand a fighting chance.”
Willow digested this information for a minute, realizing that Wesley had a point. If it came to a choice between Angel and Tara, she would pick Tara every time in a cold second, despite the fact that Buffy had loved him. She couldn’t help feeling that way – she loved Tara. And she would do anything for her, especially against a firm like this Wolfram and Hart. Hell, she had tried to take on a Hell God for what she had done to her girl, so she could understand why Wesley would choose to protect his fiancée and son.
Giles shifted to stand in front of Buffy, placing his hands on her shoulders and looking directly at her. “I know Angel means a lot to you, Buffy. And for you, Wes and Fred, I agree we should try and re-soul him. But I will not risk any of you for him. We know what he’s capable of. If it comes down to you or him, I will drive the stake through his heart.” He had already lived the most brutal lesson at Angelus’ hands, not only physically through torture but emotionally as well. There wasn’t a day that went by that he didn’t think of Jenny at least in some way.
Buffy glanced from Giles to Fred to Wesley and then finally to the little boy holding the blue t-shirt in Wesley’s arms. She could see the pain in their faces and remembered the hell that Angelus had put them through. Giles was right – Angel wouldn’t want to live, knowing he was responsible for anything happening to any of them. She wasn’t going to let what happened last time happen again. She wasn’t going to let them live in the same kind of hell she was currently living in.
“He does mean a lot to me and always will...but I don’t want Angelus hurting the people I love again. If it means... well, we’ll what we have to do. So okay. No sole patrols. No one goes out alone. And we’ll deal with whatever comes our way. Same as always.”
As Giles embraced Buffy, Spike watched, feeling both a bit sickened by the display and a bit jealous – she never did that with him. But then he smelled something that piqued his curiosity. He traced it back to the two people Giles had brought home with him and chuckled, unable to believe what his nose was telling him and unable to hold it in.
“Making up for lost time, Rupes?” he asked sarcastically. “Or did you forget about vampire senses. You three are wearing each other’s scent like you bathed in it.” He pointed to Wesley and Fred to make it clear who he was talking about.
At Spike’s sudden outing of the three of them, Fred turned a very bright shade of pink, wanting to clap her hands over Connor’s ears but knowing it was too late. She was suddenly very aware of all the eyes that were on the three of them. “Uhhh...we...” She looked helplessly over at Wesley and Giles, not knowing what to say.
of them?” Anya practically squealed, ignoring the fact that Buffy suddenly looked like she had been caught unaware by a group of vampires she didn’t know how to deal with. “I knew you looked like you had sex, but I didn’t realize you found two
orgasm friends!” She paused for a moment as if in thought. “So, since you’re having sex on a regular basis, you should be in a better mood now. Can I have a raise?”
“Buffy,” Wesley called to the Slayer upon seeing her reaction, keeping his voice gentle. “I love Fred, more than she could ever realize. But even when I was here before, I found myself attracted to Rupert. Over the last couple of years, your Watcher and I have become close friends, and I found it becoming more than an attraction. It was actually Fred who saw it first and encouraged me to gather my courage to tell him and do something about it. None of you can refute that Rupert Giles is one of the best men that you have ever known. I just happen to agree. And like you, Fred and I both love him dearly. We have no intention of trying to come between your family. I found out the hard way that yours and Rupert’s relationship is unbreakable.” He smiled, ducking his head so that their eyes met. “But we would like to join your family if you’ll have us?”
“Giles?” Xander spoke up before Buffy had a chance to answer. He felt like his chin had literally hit the floor. “I understand about Fred; I mean she’s cute and, like you said, smart. But Wesley?”
“What about him?” Giles asked while glaring at the young man.
“It’s Wesley,” Xander responded helplessly.
“Xander,” Giles sighed, trying to be patient, “need I remind you that you yourself thought he was attractive when he was here before? I believe you said something about him having ‘Pierce Brosnan eyes’?” He reached a hand out and touched the shoulder of the man in question. “Even your own girlfriend thinks he’s attractive. Why shouldn’t I? You’re not the only one who’s changed over these last few years. Wesley isn’t the man he was before. This life we all lead, it’s changed all of us, and I believe both he and Fred have a great deal to offer not only myself but also this family. You have no idea what the two of them have endured in the last several years. They have both come through their trials by fire a lot stronger, and I love them even more for it. I would hope you could be happy for me.”
“Giles?” Connor asked from his position from Wesley’s arms. “Do you love my mommy and daddy?” He was pleased by the idea.
“Yes, Connor, I love them very much,” Giles answered honestly.
“Good.” He grinned, his blue eyes lit with happiness, then looked toward Xander. His little brow furrowed after a moment. “Leave him alone.”
“Yeah, you heard him, leave him alone,” Willow said, swatting the back of Xander’s head.
“Ow!” Xander winced, rubbing his head.
“So what if they’re all threesomey and together and stuff. You’re dating an ex-demon.”
“Hey!” Anya said.
“I don’t mean that in a bad way. I just mean, none of us have ever had the most normal of relationships, you know. Vampires, werewolves, ex-demons, more vampires, witches...actually, they might have the most normal relationship here. So hey, Giles, if they make you happy, then I’m happy too.” She threaded her arm through Tara’s and gave the three of them a grin.
Fred gave Willow a grateful smile then looked down at Connor, feeling immensely proud of the little boy – he actually seemed to handling this better than some of the adults in the room. Her mother had been right – it wasn’t going to be easy, being in a relationship with two men, but it felt right, and in the world they were in, it did seem rather normal, which was nice. Reaching out she squeezed Rupert’s hand briefly.
“We really do love him,” she said, finding her voice finally. “Actually, I never thought I’d be lucky enough to find someone I love so much, and now I’ve found two men. And Rupert’s right, Xander...Wesley is amazing man. We’re both glad to have him our lives.”
Tara smiled warmly at the three then met Giles’ gaze and nodded. “Wesley was the friend you went to find?” she asked, remembering the worry that was in his voice when he called to tell her he was leaving.
“Yes, he was. Holtz had someone cut his throat and leave him to die when he took Connor. I was just coming into Los Angeles when Fred called to tell me she had found him. Angel apparently was already starting to turn dark. He tried to suffocate Wesley as he lay helpless in the hospital bed.” Giles looked at Wes, worry still clear in his green eyes. He knew the younger man was still bashful about his scar, but he meant what he said – it was nothing to be ashamed of. “It’s been the one good thing that came from our little sabbatical to Quor’Toth besides Connor. He should be ready to move on to solid foods now.” Giles smiled when the realization hit his lover. They might have only been gone eighteen hours here, but his throat had had three additional weeks of healing. “And for your information Xander, I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for Wesley. Bloody demon in that wretched place was about to administer a killing blow, but Wes regrouped and decapitated the bastard before it could get me.”
At this, Xander looked at Wesley. Part of him was grateful that he had brought Giles back to them in one piece, but another part knew that Giles wouldn’t have been in that position if it hadn’t been for Wes. “Do I have to get Willow to give the both of you the shovel speech?” he asked both Wes and Fred. “The G-Man means everything to us. You hurt him, and I’ll make sure Wes screams like a girl on a permanent basis.”
“You have nothing to worry about,” Fred told Xander. “He means everything to us too. None of us see this as a fling or anything of that sort.”
Buffy, who had remained silent up until then while she tried to digest everything that had just been revealed, glanced from each of the threesome several times before finally opening her mouth to speak. “Well, I’m happy for you. About time you stopped moping around and found someone—someones. Just as long as I never have to see that robe ever again.”
Giles chuckled when Buffy brought up the robe from Olivia’s visit. He was proud of Buffy, but managed to give her a mock scowl when she said he moped. “Deal, and yes, I remember ‘you’re very, very old and it’s gross’.”
Buffy smiled at Giles, actually feeling normal and a bit happy for the first time since she had returned, gasping for air in the enclosed space of the coffin. For the first time since she had clawed her way out into night air that had hit her like a truck, it felt like everything might actually be all right. “Well, you are, and it is,” she said, matching his tone. Everything would be all right.
“That’s the other thing,” Xander reminded him. “No sharing details. I like my eyesight just the way it is, so I’d really hate to have to put out my eyes to erase nasty images imprinted on my brain.”
“Sod that – I do want details,” Spike said, leaning over toward Wesley. “So, they say it’s always the quiet ones. Is she a real tigress in the bed?”
Wordlessly, Wesley passed Connor over to Giles before turning on Spike and laying him out with one punch. Everyone stared in amazement as Spike hit the floor, no one having expected Wesley to do what he had done. Fred put her hand on Wesley’s arm to try to calm him down while most everyone else tried to keep from bursting out laughing.
“My love life is none of your business, vampire. You’re not a part of this family; you’re their neutered dog. You talk about Fred like that again, and I will kill you,” he growled, standing over Spike with fists clenched.
“Serves you right,” Dawn said with snort while Xander stared at Wes, wide-eyed. He didn’t even try to refrain from laughing at Spike. But apparently, Giles was right – Wesley had changed. And the fact that he was willing to dust Spike made it even better.
Giles smiled proudly. He had planned on hitting Spike himself, but he had held off, wanting to give Wes the chance to stand up to him on his own. Willow, Xander and Buffy needed to see that they didn’t have to coddle him. Wesley could look after himself.
“That’s my daddy!” Connor remarked, looking up at Giles with excited eyes.
“Yes it is,” Giles responded as he returned the grin. He looked around the room at his family, trying to get an idea how things had to be for awhile. He needed to put some distance between those who had cast the spell and his Slayer. At least until he ascertained what the problem was. “Willow, Tara, I need to ask a favor. Of you as well, Dawn.” He looked toward the witches first. “If you don’t mind, I’d like the two of you to move into my flat for a bit while I stay here with Buffy.”
“Sure, if you think that would be best,” Willow said with a nod, looking over to her girl for her agreement. “I mean, your place is really cool, so yeah...if Buffy doesn’t mind.”
Buffy nodded, looking over at Giles. “You’re really going to stay with us?”
Giles looked down at Buffy, emotion clouding his murky green eyes. “Of course, I’m staying. If you’ll have us.” he said, his voice gentle and loving. “I think it’s best for awhile.”
Buffy nodded again, wanting to hug him some more but not able to since he was now holding Wesley and Fred’s son. Instead, she gave him a smile. “Of course. I’m...I’m glad you’re back here now.” She looked over at Wesley and Fred. “And we’re glad you’re here too. Really, Wes...it’s good to see you again. And thank you...for saving Giles.”
“Um...you’re welcome?” Wesley blushed a deep scarlet and looked at his shoes. He knew being the topic before had been necessary since there were things that had needed to be said. But now, Buffy had gone out of her way to thank him. He hadn’t done it for any kind of recognition, though. He had done it because the man he loved was in danger, and had that demon succeeded, he couldn’t be sure he would have wanted to return. He looked up when Giles chuckled.
“And in some ways, you haven’t changed,” he teased him. “You still can’t take a compliment.”
“Well, when I was here before, I didn’t warrant any of them,” he reminded his lover, still a bit shy. He looked up when Giles stepped in front of him.
“That was then, this is now.” Giles reassured him before turning to Buffy’s sister. “Dawn, your part in this is the fact that we need a room nearby the one we’ll be sleeping in for Connor. If Xander, Wesley and I make the alterations, would you be willing to move into the basement?”
“Sure, I’d be willing to help,” Xander agreed. “How about it, Dawnie? Your own space out of the shadow of the Buffster?”
Dawn practically jumped for joy at the idea. “You mean I get all that space downstairs to myself? No one allowed to come down and all that?” She nodded vigorously a few times. “Yes. Yes. And the by the way, yes. Oh, this’ll be so cool. Can you put in a bathroom too? I’m tired of having to share with the rest of the house.”
Giles chuckled at Dawn’s enthusiasm. He looked over at Xander in question at Dawn’s request for a bathroom, though, since that was his area of expertise.
“It’ll take a little more time, but I don’t see why not. You’ll have to share until then,” Xander told her, his mind already starting to make plans. “I have the next to days off, so if Giles and Wes are ready to get to work, we can get the walls put up tomorrow.”
Giles looked at Wes, who had finally turned away from Spike, responding to Fred’s soothing touches. When the younger man nodded, so did he. “Tomorrow it is. And for running his mouth, Spike gets to help once the sun goes down.”
“What do I look like, a bloody carpenter ant?” Spike groused, standing and glaring at Wesley.
“You look like a pillock, but we won’t get into that. Xander knows what we’ll need to do. You can take your instructions from him.” Giles smirked at the thought of that, knowing the vampire would hate it. Well, that’s what he got for insulting Fred. “And this is for Dawn, so you will deal with whatever we put you through.”
“Fine, but only ‘cause it’s Niblet.” Spike pouted for a few more moment before his face finally softened slightly at the excitement on Dawn’s face.
Fred smiled as she watched the entire exchange, still holding Wesley. Then she looked at Connor and noticed he was starting to squirm in the same way he had in the car before they had stopped at McDonalds. “You need to go again?” she asked. When he nodded, she reached over and lifted him out of Rupert’s arms. “Can someone direct me to the nearest bathroom?”
“Come on,” Dawn said. “I’ll show you.”
While they disappeared upstairs, Willow looked at Giles, noticing the expression on his face and suddenly felt a bit uncomfortable. Which was stupid. She had brought Buffy back from hell. Why should she feel bad for that? “Tara, maybe we should go get some stuff together to take over to Giles’.”
Tara nodded at the suggestion, knowing what her girlfriend was doing. They had all seen Giles’ face when he saw the state Buffy was in. Willow was running. And so she should. They all should.
“Willow,” Giles called her when she was on the foot of the stairs. “Wesley and I will be by tonight to pick up some of my things. Plan on having our discussion then.”
Willow stared at him for a moment, wanting to say something before finally just nodding and following Tara upstairs to their room. She couldn’t understand why he was apparently so mad about this. Buffy was back
. Why couldn’t he be happy? Yeah, it hadn’t been a picnic, and sure, she was having some trouble adjusting, but this had to be better than being in hell. They could help Buffy here. They couldn’t help her there. She couldn’t let her stay there, no matter what might have happened. Besides, she had worked the spell and was fine. Nothing to it.
On the landing, Dawn watched Willow and Tara as they passed the bathroom and disappeared into the master bedroom, noticing the expressions on both of their faces. She wondered if they realized just how bad off Buffy had been when she had found her. Not even Giles had seen that. But her sister had seemed better in just the half-hour since he had gotten back, and she was glad for that.
And she was getting her own space, almost like an apartment, downstairs. That was definitely a bonus.
A few minutes later, the bathroom door opened, and Fred came out with Connor in tow. “There was another boy in my clothes in there! And another Mommy!”
“That was us, sweetie,” Fred explained. She smiled at Dawn. “He’s never seen a mirror before.”
“Oh, man, so you never saw your reflection before?” Connor looked at her in confusion. “I bet there’s a lot you haven’t seen before then.” She saw the look on Fred’s face when she said that. “Oh...I didn’t mean...”
“No, it’s not that. I was just thinking that you’re right. There are things that I know he’s missed because they’re obvious – toys and things like that. But there’s so many little things. Like mirrors and faucets and an actual bed.” They walked back downstairs to rejoin the others.
“Mommy, what’s a bed?”
“You sleep in it.”
“Oh.” He paused for a moment. “Do you sleep in one?”
“With Daddy and Giles?”
Fred froze as they reached the bottom step and just looked down at him, knowing that the others in the living room had heard his questions.
Giles could feel everyone’s eyes on the three of them at the innocent question. Connor had already expressed that it was alright with him, and he thanked God for the little boy’s innocence. He nodded at Wesley.
“Yes, Connor, your mother shares a bed with me and Rupert,” Wesley explained, squatting down in front of the little boy. Wesley watched him closely, chuckling when his little nose wrinkled and he mouthed out ‘Rupert’
“Can I just call you Giles?” Connor asked the other man. To him, Rupert sounded funny.
“Yes, Connor, you may,” Giles laughed. It really was all right; he wasn’t fond of his first name either, he thought as he smirked at Buffy. That had been one of the reasons he had got saddled with being called by his last name – Buffy’s refusal to use his first. He turned to face his Slayer, drawing her into his arms and hugging her gently.
Buffy clung onto Giles, not wanting to let him go even though she knew she would have to sooner or later. For right now, she was just going to take as much comfort as she could out of this, out of having him there.*****