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The Meaning of Heroes
Book One: Chapter Twenty-Three (6,284 words) 
1st-Aug-2006 11:17 pm
wes/fred/giles OT3!, heroes

“It was nice of your mum to invite the Burkles to stay with her and Geoff in the house she rented,” Giles told his lover as they pulled up front at the Magic Box. One more day until Wes and Fred’s wedding, and with the commitment ceremony the following day, he wanted to get some work done in the shop. Wesley had brought the scroll the Council had sent earlier in the week to keep himself occupied. Getting out of the car, he engaged the lock as both men made their way into the shop. He knew Anya would have had the shop open a few hours already.

“Hey, Giles. Hey, Wes,” Willow greeted them when they entered. “We were just picking up a few last things for ceremony. How’s Fred doing?”

“Tired, so Lorne’s watching Connor while she gets some rest,” Giles explained, heading to his position behind the counter to look over the reciepts. Anya was quite the meticulous number cruncher. He pointed out the area of the store where Wes could find the books he needed, smiling when the other man nodded. “Willow, have you seen Anya?”

Willow glanced over at Tara for a moment before indicating to the upper section of the shop. “Up there. She was stamping around and muttering a little while ago. Not sure what about, though.”

“Would you mind watching the counter for a moment while I go diffuse the problem? We’re liable to lose money if she turns that frustration on the customers.” With a smile, he made his way up the ladder, looking for the woman in question. “Anya?”

“Stupid customers,” she muttered from the back of the stacks. “Stealing stupid books. Making us lose money.” Hearing Giles approach, she looked up at him. “We’re missing a spell book. I thought maybe I had put it in the wrong section, but I’ve just searched everything. It’s not here.”

Giles felt his stomach constrict. “Are you sure it’s a spell book?” He backtracked at the potency of her glare. “Of course, you’re sure. Have you figured out which spell book it is? It might help if you can remember who has been up here. This section isn’t as frequented as the others.”

“Ummm...there was a couple here a few days ago – they were looking for some books on healing. I think for a friend that had been diagnosed with cancer. Oh, and Tara and Willow when they came to borrow the books on commitment ceremonies, but neither of them would...” She paused for a moment. “Would they?”

The bottom dropped out from under him when he realized what had most likely happened. Damnit, he loved that girl like she was his own daughter, but he would be damned if he allowed her to traverse such a dangerous path unchecked. Randall might still be alive if someone had done the same for him. “Willow would,” he commented sadly with a nod. Making his way down the ladder, he made a beeline for Willow’s book bag. Opening the flap, he nearly cried when he produced the missing book.

“Hey!” Willow said when she felt the tugging on her bag. Turning, she found Giles standing there, the book she had taken in his hand. Oh, Goddess, she thought, swallowing as she saw everyone staring at her. “I—I can explain...”

“We both know you can’t.” Giles was so disappointed in her. He could see Tara’s face fall, and Wesley stand, the need to help clear on his face. But there was nothing he could do. “Willow...stealing? Are you going to continue to deny that you have a problem?” He wasn’t angry truthfully since Willow didn’t have a dishonest bone in her body, but he was terrified for the girl in front of him. Stealing was a behavior reserved for addicts.

“I just wanted to read it! I haven’t done any of the spells, honest,” she said. “I wanted to prove to myself that I could just read and not do anything. I’m not addicted to magic. I’m not.”

“Will you listen to yourself?!” he snapped. “If this behavior was innocent, just something to prove that you could, you would have told Tara. I can see from the look on her face that you didn’t.” Shaking his head, he sighed. “You stole this book, so whether you’ve performed any of the spells is irrelevant. Theft is the behaviour of an addict. Willow, you need help.”

“I’m not an addict, Giles!” she swore, backing up from the others, not liking the way they were looking at her. “I was going to return the book when we returned the others. I just knew that Anya would have made me buy it otherwise.”

“Now you’re making excuses. You know that had Anya known Tara was going to supervise you, she would have allowed you to borrow it. Instead, you kept it a secret from both of them, specifically waiting for me to be out of town – for a second time.” He stepped forward as she continued to move back across the room. “I’m not doing this to be cruel, but I’ve been where you are, and I’m trying to spare you the pain I was forced to endure. There’s a pattern in your behavior. You’re an addict. And you need help. Let me help you.”

Backing up some more, she shook her head. “No! I’m not an addict! I’ve gone this long without casting a spell! What else do I have to prove? You just don’t want me to use my talent. You want me to go back to being boring old Willow, so I can’t help Buffy anymore. You were jealous of me for that, weren’t you?” Giles stepped forward again, and Willow flung her hand out toward him. “NO!”

Wesley had seen the storm brewing in the redhead and shook his head, trying to tell his lover to back off before she blew. To his horror, though, when she threw her hands out, he watched Rupert being flung hard against the counter, hard enough to crack the glass.

Giles felt the ribs snap when he impacted. He landed hard on his back, the air being driven from his lungs. A moment later, he heard someone talking him through the fog of pain, almost instantly realizing there was a problem.

“Lay still; let me check you over,” Wesley was saying, the fear clear in his voice as he knelt next to him.

“What have you done?!” Anya cried out, rushing down the stairs and over to Wesley and Giles. “I’d...I’d better call an ambulance.”

Willow stood there for a moment, staring at Giles on the floor then at her hands. “I didn’t mean...I wasn’t trying to...oh, Goddess. I’m so sorry, Giles,” she cried, backing up farther until she was up against the shop door.

Wesley saw Rupert seemed to be struggling to draw in air, and inwardly, he was panicking. Not now. They couldn’t lose him now! Opening his lover’s shirt, he cursed when he heard the breath sounds absent over his right lung. “Anya, tell them he has a punctured right lung,” he said. He could feel himself shaking in fear; he needed to get ahold of himself. The more information he could give the paramedics, the better they could help. “Rupert, you need to hang on. I know it’s hard to breathe, but you have to hang on. We have a baby and an amazing girl to take care of.”

Tara stood between her crying girlfriend and Wesley and Giles. She didn’t know what to do. She was furious that Willow had taken the book and agreed with Giles that she needed help. But she knew that Willow never intended to hurt him. Her heart went out to Wes, hearing how scared he was.

“The ambulance will be here in a few minutes,” Anya said, hanging up the phone and hurrying back around the counter to kneel down next to Giles and Wes. “Is there anything I can do?”

“I need you to call Fred and Buffy now. Tell them to meet us at the hospital.” Wes hoped Tony thought to drive – the last thing they needed was their worried family crashing.

Willow wanted to run. She wanted to run far, far away and bury herself in a deep, dark hole and never come out again. She had hurt Giles. She hadn’t meant to, but she had hurt him, and now everyone would hate her, and maybe she was an addict. “I’m sorry,” she sobbed, wishing she could take it back. She still wanted to run, but she couldn’t make herself move. “Goddess, help me.”

Tara frowned, looking at her. There wasn’t anything she could do for the gasping man on the floor, but she could help Willow hold it together. Taking a knee in front of the redhead, she held out a hand, placing on her arm, giving it a reassuring squeeze. Maybe she would call Xander, once Giles was away safely, and see if he could stay with her for awhile.

Anya, meanwhile, had gotten back to her feet and grabbed the phone instead of going around the counter. She quickly phoned the house.

“Hello? Summers residence,” Buffy’s voice came on the line.

“Buffy, it’s Anya. You and Fred need to meet us at the hospital. Giles’s been hurt,” the words came out in a rush as the ambulance arrived. Willow moved into the corner while the paramedics came in and hurried over to where Giles and Wesley were on the floor.

“What! What happened?! Is he—?”

“We think he punctured a lung. The paramedics are here. Just get to the hospital.”

“All right, all right...oh god...we’ll be there.” The line went dead, and Anya hung the phone up, helplessly watching the unfolding scene.

Wesley felt his stomach lurch when the paramedics loaded his gasping lover onto the stretcher. Gritting his teeth, he looked over at the redhead trying to make herself look very small in the corner. He knew Rupert wouldn’t blame her. So for him, he would bury his anger.

“Anya, I’m going in the ambulance with Rupert. We’ll need you to bring Tara and Willow to the hospital,” he explained, knowing she wouldn’t like it, but Rupert would want Willow there, he was certain of it.

“But—!” Anya reflexively started to answer before she realized what she was saying. This was Giles, not some stranger. “All right – we’ll be right behind you. Go.”

As they headed out of the door, Anya hurried behind the counter, grumbling to herself as she pulled out her purse and keys. Then she went over to Tara and Willow, looking more at Tara than at Willow because she knew if she did, she wouldn’t be responsible for what she said. “Come on. Let’s go.”

*****

Tony had heard the phone ringing as he made coffee for himself and Buffy. When she didn’t return after several minutes, he headed out into the lounge to check on her, only to find her still standing there, the blood drained from her face. His stomach immediately clenched in fear. “Buffy? What is it?”

She slowly turned to look in his direction, swallowing deeply before managing to tell him, “That was Anya. Giles has been hurt. We—we need to get the hospital.”

“Hurt? He was just going to the shop?” Tony asked, not understanding. He quickly waved off his own questions, however, knowing they weren’t important right then. “It doesn’t matter. We have to find Fred, then I’ll drive you both there.”

“Find me for what?” Fred said as she walked down the stairs. She stopped short when she saw the other two turn their gazes toward her, fear bubbling in the pit of her stomach. “What’s going on.”

Buffy glanced over at Tony before looking back to the other woman. “Giles has been hurt. We need to go to the hospital.”

Fred felt the world seem to give way underneath her and stumbled back a bit, sitting down hard on the steps. She could feel her heart thundering in her ears. “Is—is he...?”

“We don’t know. We need to go now,” Buffy told her. “Dawn! Dawn!”

A moment later, her sister appeared from the back of the house, followed by Lorne and Connor. “What?”

“Giles has been hurt. We need to go to the hospital. Can you stay here with Connor?”

“No!” Connor shouted. If his papa was hurt, he would not be left behind. “Not staying! Papa needs us...all of us!” He folded his arms across his chest, brow furrowing. This was a point he would not budge on.

“What he just said!” Dawn replied. “No way in hell we’re staying here. Not when Giles needs us.”

“All right, all right,” Buffy said, knowing they didn’t have any time to argue. She looked over at Lorne, however, knowing that even though Sunnydale Hospital was used to strange injuries and happenings, even he might be a little too much for them.

He understood without her saying a word. “I’ll stay here and let the parents know what’s going on when they show. Now go.”

“Fred, let me drive – you and Buffy are too upset. I’ll need your keys, though. We have to take your car since it’s the only one here with a car seat for Connor,” Tony told her, his voice soft, not liking her color.

Fred nodded, somehow finding her way to her feet and making her way back up to the bedroom to get her purse. Once she had grabbed it, she felt sick, but she forced it down and went back downstairs. “Here,” she said softly, pulling the keys out and handing them to Tony.

After taking them from her, he reached down and scooped up Connor. “Come on, little man. Time to go see your daddy and your papa.”

“Let’s go,” Buffy said, ushering everyone to the door.

Tony was thankful that traffic was light on the way to the hospital and, as usual, the Sunnydale police force was nowhere to be found. The last thing they needed was to be delayed because of a speeding ticket.

The moment they parked, he jumped out, turning to get Connor out of his car seat. “I’ve got him, let’s go,” he told Fred, not wanting her to have to worry about Connor as well.

When they entered the ER, he saw Tara and Anya, but his eyes narrowed on the redhead who looked like she was going to be ill. Rupert and Wesley had mentioned things to look out for with Willow, and his stomach sank, hoping that what he suspected wasn’t true.

“Tara, Anya, Willow?” Fred called out, her throat tight and causing her voice to come out strained. “What happened? Where’s Rupert? Is he going to...is he...?”

Willow just turned away, looking down at her feet.

“What’s going on?” Buffy asked, suddenly afraid of what the answer might be.

*****

Once the chest tube was in, and Rupert was breathing normally, Wesley felt the fear start to disappate. For everything they had fought against in their lives, his lover had almost been brought down by one of his own and by a minor injury. Reaching his hand down, he stroked the older man’s hair, almost willing him to wake up. The doctor had explained that he would most likely wake up on his own, now that his respiratory system was no longer being compromised. It seemed that would be awhile yet, tough.

So he instead looked toward the hall outside the small room they were in, wondering if Buffy and the others had arrived yet. “I’ll be right back, luv. I have to see if the others are here.” Slipping out, he made his way toward the waiting room, breathing a sigh of relief when he saw Fred there. He nodded, offering a shaky smile, wanting her to know that he’d be okay.

When she saw him, she felt herself holding her breath until he nodded and smiled. Tears coming to her eyes, she exhaled and hurried over to him, wrapping her arms around him tightly. “What happened?” she whispered. “Can we see him?”

“He has a punctured lung, which they’re currently reinflating,” he explained, hugging her and kissing the top of her head. “Why don’t you take Connor and go and sit with him while I talk to Buffy?” He wasn’t certain how Fred would react to knowing Willow had done this.

She nodded, standing back and wiping her eyes before turning to their son. “Connor. Come on. We’re going to go see Papa.”

The little boy ran over to join her, and together they disappeared into the back, the nurse directing them as to where to go. When they stepped into the room, she swallowed at the sight of Rupert on the bed with the chest tube in and went over to sit down in the chair next to the bed, Connor climbing up in her lap. “Rupert. It’s me. I’m here with Connor,” she told him, taking his hand in hers. “We’re right here.”

*****

Out in the waiting room, Buffy watched Fred go through the doors to the back then crossed over to Wesley. “What’s going on. Anya, Tara and Willow...they look like... Did a demon attack or something?”

Wesley waited for Fred and Connor to disappear down the hall before focusing his gaze on the red head in the corner. Without answering Buffy’s question, he walked toward her. “Willow, are you ready to admit that you have a problem?” he asked, keeping his voice gentle despite the concerned edge it still carried.

Buffy looked from him to Willow, feeling her stomach start to churn. “Willow? What’s he talking about?”

“I—,” she started to say, hot tears running down her cheeks as she looked around at everyone staring at her. “Yes. Oh, Goddess, I didn’t mean for that to happen. I just—I’m so sorry. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what’s happened to me. I thought I could control it. I thought I knew what I was doing.”

“You—you’re the reason Giles is in there?” Buffy felt her mouth go dry.

“Yes! It’s all my fault. And I know all of you hate me now. You should hate me.”

Wesley hung his head, relief pulsing through him. It was a little comforting to know that his lover didn’t have to go through this for nothing. “No one hates you, Willow. Yes, I’m disappointed, and I admit I was scared for Rupert earlier, but he will heal.” He reached a hand out, taking Willow’s hand in his. “Rupert loves you, and I have no doubt he won’t blame you.”

“He should,” Willow sobbed. “He has every right to after everything I’ve done. Him. Buffy.” She looked up at her friend. “I’m so sorry. For what I did to you.”

“Willow, I—,” she started to say before she realized what she was talking about. Willow knew. Somehow, she knew. “Did you know? Before you pulled me back?”

She shook her head. “But it’s true, isn’t it? I pulled you out of heaven.”

Biting her lip, Buffy nodded, tears coming to her eyes. “Yes.”

Wesley reached his free hand out, cupping Willow’s cheek, wiping the tears away with his thumb. “Whether he should or shouldn’t is irrelevant. He doesn’t. It’s one of the things he has taught Fred and me. When we love family, we stand by them, no matter what. We might not always agree with the things they do or the decisions they make...but we always love them. Blood isn’t what makes this family – I learned that a long time ago. All of you are joined by your hearts, your soul. This won’t change that. I’d bet my life that Rupert already has a plan in the works for you to get help. All you have to do is tell him you’re ready to recieve it.”

Willow nodded, her chin trembling as she looked from Buffy to Wesley. “I pulled my best friend out of heaven and I hurt the man who believed in me and just wanted to help. What—whatever it takes...I’ll do it. I promise.”

Wesley stood, smiling sadly, looking from the blonde Slayer and the redheaded witch. He hated the pain and loss he saw in their eyes. Hell, he felt it acutely himself. “I’m not trying to diminish what you’ve been through, Buffy, or what Rupert is going through now. But I want Willow to understand, you and Rupert will heal. And I know for a fact that in spite of it all, you still love her. If you didn’t, you would have told her where you were the moment you came back. I envy that love and devotion this family has. If we’d had it in LA, we might have stood a chance.”

Buffy nodded. “I know, Wes. I’ve been getting better thanks to all of you.” She turned to Willow and put her hand on her shoulder. “Now you need to get better. Come on...let’s go find somewhere to talk.”

While both girls headed outside to find somewhere quiet, Wesley turned to Anya. “You might want to call Xander, and let him know where everyone is. I should...I should go sit with Fred and Connor.”

He made his way back to the room, stopping in the doorway, just taking a moment to watch his family. Fred was sitting in the chair next to Rupert’s bed, holding his hand, and Connor was on her lap, looking at the older man as if he could will him to wake up. Stepping behind the chair, he put a hand on her shoulder. “Hey,” he said softly to get her attention.

She looked up at him, giving him a wan smile. “Hey. The nurse was just in here. Said everything looks real good.” Turning her head back, she bit her lip. “What happened?”

“Willow happened though I don’t believe she intended to hurt him. She...she stole a magic book from the store. He confronted her. I should have stepped in; I could see she was starting to feel cornered.” He shook his head. “She threw her hands out defensively, and her magic sent him careening into the counter hard enough to break some of his ribs. One of the broken ribs punctured his lung.” Wes sighed, rubbing the back of his neck, as if he were trying to rub away some of the stress. “The good thing is I think Willow is ready to seek help now.”

Fred was glad that she was sitting down because she didn’t think she would have been able to hear the news while standing in the middle of the waiting room. Now she understood why Willow had looked the way she had. “It’s not your fault, Wesley,” she whispered. She knew how hard he and Rupert had tried to make Willow see what she had been doing was hurting others, especially after she had brought Buffy back. Part of her was so mad at he for what she had done, for not listening to Rupert and hurting him, but another part of her knew that assigning blame and harping on mistakes, it just led to more hurt. “What—what’s going to happen now?”

“Part of me is furious with her for not heeding Rupert’s warnings...but addicts rarely see past their own needs. Rupert loves her as if she were his own daughter. We both know he won’t blame her for this. Plus, I think you and I have had enough of finger pointing and blaming to last us a life time. She’s a sick girl.” He looked toward the man on the bed, giving a soft smile. “And if I know our Rupert, he already has a plan in the works to help her. We just have to wait for him to wake up and let us know what it is.”

She nodded – he had just voiced exactly what she had been thinking. “I just wish he’d wake up,” she said softly, squeezing Rupert’s hand. “Let us know that he’s really going to be okay.”

He is going to be fine.” Giles groaned, hissing when he shifted and pulled against the tube. Opening his eyes, he looked up at the worried gazes of his lovers and, for all intents and purposes, their son. “Are you looking after your mum and dad, young man?” he asked, trying to put them all at ease.

“Yes, Papa,” Connor answered with a nod, a smile finally crossing his little face. “You okay?”

“Yes, Connor, I’m okay,” he promised.

Fred let out a sigh of relief. “I’m glad you’re all right,” she whispered.

Giving her a wan smile, he then looked up at Wesley, his green eyes sad. “How’s Willow?”

“Devastated. She hurt you, and she realizes what she did to Buffy,” he replied, placing a reassuring hand on his shoulder, hoping that he had to say next would offer Rupert some comfort. “She’s ready to get help. I told her I suspected you already had an idea of how to help her.”

“I do. I had hoped to convince her to go without something like this happening, so I called Aimee right after we came here. She and the coven are willing to take Willow in and train her to respect her powers since her power is beyond anything I’m prepared to deal with.” He looked out the window briefly. “I don’t like the idea of her being away from us for so long, but it’s the best chance she has.”

Fred didn’t know much about how covens worked, but from the sound of things, it definitely seemed that sending Willow to train with other witches who knew how to use their powers was the best thing for her. “When would she go?”

“I think after the commitment ceremony. It doesn’t seem right to send her away before. She did help organize it after all.” Giles held the hands of his lovers as he turned his head back to look at the three people that had claimed his heart. “I’m sorry I worried you,” he said, not wanting Fred to make herself sick. The child she carried was perhaps his only chance at fatherhood, and he didn’t want to do anything to cause her to lose it.

“As long as you’re going to be okay, that’s all that matters,” she assured him. He was right that Willow should there – she was part of their family, and despite what had happened, she had done a lot of work for them. That spoke of her love for them as much as anything. “Just rest, and we’ll take you home as soon as you’re able.”

“I’m going home the second this lung is reinflated. The others will tell you how much I despise hospitals.” He had ever since Xander had brought him in from Angelus’ mansion. They had wanted to keep him a week, but he had checked himself out after twelve hours. And even that had been too bloody long for his tastes.

“Somehow, that does not surprise me,” Fred said, shaking her head. It seemed both her guys had a strong aversion to hospitals although she didn’t really blame either of them, given the scars she had seen on both of them. She looked down at Connor. “We’ll just have to very careful with Papa once we get him home. No jumping on him for a while, okay?”

*****

Roger Burkle cursed under his breath as his wife ran ahead of all of them, heading right through the ER doors, looking for Fred. She was the one that had taken the call from that fellow Lorne, and God Bless Geoff, he had insisted on driving everyone. He hated the fact that he had given this Rupert such a hard time and now he was injured. Fred must be out of her mind with worry. Trish was right – he was a fool.

Dawn looked up when she saw doors to the waiting room open and jumped up from where she was sitting with Tara and Anya. “Mister and Mrs. Burkle,” she cried out, waving to him. “Lorne told you what happened?”

Trish shook her head. “No, he just said Rupert had been hurt, and that Anya had called to tell Buffy and Fred to come to the hospital. How is he? What happened? How’s Fred? How’s Wesley?”

“We’re not completely sure,” Dawn said as Elizabeth and Geoff joined them. “Wesley came out and said that he’d be okay, but that was all we’ve really heard. Fred, Wesley and Connor are back with him now.” She then looked over at Tara and Anya, not sure about whether to tell them exactly how Giles had been hurt.

Roger stood behind his wife, his hands on her shoulders. Looking toward the area the young woman pointed, he frowned. This would probably be the best chace he would have to talk to his baby. “Lemme go back first, hun. I’ll see if I can’t send Wesley out for a sec before we gotta peel Liz off the ceiling.” He paused for a moment, meeting his wife’s gaze. “I need to do this, Trish. If Fred and I are gonna be okay, I got to make it right.” When she nodded, he smiled, glad she understood.

Making his way back toward the rooms, he peeked in the doors, stopping when he heard his daughter’s voice. He knocked on the door jam, looking at his future son-in-law, willing him to give them a moment.

“Connor, come on, son. Why don’t we go get a hot cocoa from the cafeteria? It has chocolate in it,” Wes suggested, chuckling when the young boy nodded excitedly. “Then let’s go. We’ll bring one back for your mum and one for Papa.” He took his son’s hand, leaving the room to allow Fred and her father to talk.

As she continued to hold Rupert’s hand, Fred looked up at her father, unsure for a moment what to say to him. Finally, she took a deep breath and just said the first thing that came to mind. “Dad, I know you’re not comfortable with all this, but...I love Rupert. That’s never going to change. I know that I’ll always love both of them.”

“I can see that,” Roger sighed, stepping into the room and pulling up the spare chair to sit next to his baby. He looked at the point where she was holding the other man’s hand. “Is he gonna be okay? We wasn’t told much, just that he got hurt.”

She looked back to Rupert, giving him a smile when she saw he had closed his eyes in order to let the two of them talk unhindered. “He’s going to be fine. They’re reinflating his lung, then we’re going to take him home. I was just telling Connor that he was going to have be careful with him for a bit.”

“Tough old bugger, ain’t he?” Roger chuckled, teasing his daughter. He had no idea the man on the bed was awake, or that he had squeezed Fred’s hand reassuringly. “Fred, I just want what’s best for you. Any fool with eyes can see that both of these men love you with everything they got. That young fella Tony is right. That’s all any father can ask for for their baby girls.”

Tears came to her eyes at his words, and letting Rupert’s hand go, she leaned over to her father, hugging him tightly. “You don’t know how much it means to me to hear you say that,” she said softly. “Rupert and Wesley...they mean everything to me.”

Roger hugged his daughter tightly. “They make you happy, darling, that makes them good enough in my book.” He looked into his child’s eyes. He might not have initially approved of Rupert Giles for Fred, but seeing the light in her eyes when either he or Wesley was around, that was enough to convince him that he was being an old fool. “Does that mean you forgive this stubborn old goat?”

“Of course, it does,” she told him with a gentle laugh. “You’re my father. You mean the world to me too, you know. I’m so glad you and Mom are here.”

“I’m glad we’re here too.” Roger grinned. “There was nothing in the world that would keep us from missing our baby’s wedding.”

Fred pulled out gently from her father’s embrace and sat back in her chair again. “You think you’re going to be all right for the wedding tomorrow?” she asked Rupert softly, running her hand through his hair. “Wesley and I wouldn’t dream of having the wedding without you there.”

He smiled, opening his eyes, looking up into the chocolate brown gaze he loved so much. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” he promised, thrilled that Fred and her father had patched things up.

“Good.” Leaning forward, she gave him a gentle kiss.

*****

Wesley brought the tea out, smiling as he looked down at the cup. Fred was getting really good at making it the way they both liked it.

They had brought Rupert home from the hospital two hours ago, and since then, everyone had been fawning all over him. He groaned when he saw Spike walk right in through the front door. Buffy also looked up and rolled her eyes – after everything that had happened that day, he was really the last thing they needed.

“Thanks for knocking, Spike,” she said. “Come on in. Didn’t think we’d see you for a while yet since we thought you were still mad at us for the bondage jokes the other day.”

“Ha bloody ha. I didn’t take a drop from the old bastard, now did I?” the blonde vampire retaliated. He then growled under his breath, “Not like he didn’t deserve it.” He stopped when he saw the old Watcher propped up in a chair, looking like he got ran over by a Fyaral demon. “You get the number of the truck that flattened you?”

“Shut up, Spike, or we’ll go ahead and chain you up in the basement and make a call to the Council,” Buffy told him. “Giles doesn’t need your crap right now.”

“Awwww...old man take a spill? Junior here wear him out? Something in that old body finally snap?” Spike asked, not knowing when to leave well enough alone. “I dunno, Watcher; he looks like he has a lot of energy.”

“All right, that’s it,” Buffy said, looking over at Wes. “Do you want to pop him or should I?”

“It’ll hurt more if you do it,” Wesley said with a smirk, moving to calm Giles when he went to stand. “Stay still, Rupert. If you smack him, you could pop a stitch and end up back in the ER. You put this wedding on hold, and Trish will skin you alive.” He laughed when his lover immediately stilled, knowing he would die before he ruined the day for Fred.

Grinning, Buffy stalked over to Spike, who started to back up. She made a fist and started to punch out at him but pulled it and grabbed him instead, lifting him off the ground. “Now, I could toss you into the basement, but Dawn lives there. I could toss you into the attic, but Lorne’s currently parked up there. Maybe the garage, but we have a lot of cars here at the moment, so we need all the space we have. That means...” She marched him over to the front door and opened it, setting him down.

“Can’t mean PMS, Slayer, ‘cause I’d smell the blood. Who put a bee in your bonnet anyhow? Thought Ol’ Papa Bear could look after himself? Not so sure about Junior, though. Bit of a poof, that one.” Spike smirked, looking back toward the living room.

“Wanker,” Giles growled, wanting to get up and kick Spike’s fangs in for him. He went to move again, glaring up at his lover when Wes put a hand in the middle of his chest once again to prevent him from moving. “Damnit, Wes...”

“Don’t ‘damnit’ me Rupert. He’s a git; ignore him. You’re going to bust a stitch at this rate, and if that happens, you will have a lot of upset people when we have to call and reschedule the wedding,” Wesley reminded him. “Now calm down and drink your tea.”

Meanwhile, without a word, Buffy pulled back and popped Spike in the chin, sending him out the door to sprawl on the walkway. “You’re three for three, Spike. Might want to think about getting a chip for your mouth.” With that, she shut the door and locked it.

“Besides, he’s gone for the moment, and I don’t think you’re in any condition to go chasing him,” she said with a grin.

“What’s going on?” Fred asked as she came out of the kitchen. “I heard the door slam.”

“Oh, Spike was just being his normal offensive self,” Buffy explained as she dropped back onto the couch.

“He doesn’t know when to stop, does he?”

“I still think Buffy should have hit him harder,” Giles grumbled, pouting at his inability to move, to even handle his own personal headache named Spike. Instead, he drank his tea, trying to force down his own annoyance without the need of the painkillers the doctor’s prescribed.

“Well, if it makes you feel any better, Mister Giles,” Tony put in with a smirk, “Buffy and Wesley have threatened him with a holy water bath if he shows up here tomorrow or at the commitment ceremony.

“You know, that actually does make me feel better.”

*****

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