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The Meaning of Heroes
Book One: Chapter Twenty (Part 2 - 7,352 words) 
25th-Jul-2006 10:41 pm
wes/fred/giles OT3!, heroes
WARNING: GRAPHIC VIOLENCE AND CHARACTER DEATHS

Elizabeth Wyndam-Pryce was in the sitting room, working on a section of an embroidery project that she had been forced to pick out and redo at least five times now. She wasn’t sure why she was so unsteady. Roger was out of the country in American on some errand for Quentin although there had been something about the way he had informed her of his trip that she hadn’t liked. She wasn’t even sure where he had been going.

Sighing, she had just begun the section again when Geoff came in. “Your son is on the phone,” he told her.

“What?” she asked, not sure she had heard him correctly. Wesley? She hadn’t heard from him...it had been several months at least. Why would he be calling now? Putting her frame aside, she stood and went out to the phone, picking up the receiver. “Wesley?”

“Yes, mother, I—I’m sorry it’s been so long since you last heard from me.” Wesley took deep gulping breaths, concentrating on Fred’s hand rubbing his bare back, trying to draw strength from it. “It’s been a bad few months. I wish...I wish I was calling with better news. It’s about Father. He...he came to see me in Sunnydale.”

Elizabeth felt her throat tighten painfully at that. Roger had gone to Sunnydale? To see Wesley? Oh God, that couldn’t be good. The only time Roger had ever gone to see Wesley anywhere, whether it was at the Academy or London, was when he was planning on “telling” Wesley just how badly he believed their son had screwed up. “I—he—I take it that didn’t go very well. Is he still there, or is he heading home?”

“He’s...he’s not coming home, Mum. At least not under his own power. We were having a problem with Angelus here. Father didn’t know. He was focused on...other things when Angelus surprised us. He’s dead.” Wesley took a shaky breath, drawing strength from his lovers and his son touching him though he was once again on the verge of tears. “I’m so sorry. I’m sorry I couldn’t save him.”

“He—he’s what?” Suddenly, the floor wasn’t there anymore, and a pair of hands grabbed her before she fell, steadying her. Looking up, she saw Geoff there, his arms wrapped tightly around her as he held her up. Her entire body felt like she had just been whacked with something hard, and the knot in her throat was more painful now. She tried to breath. “Angelus...killed him? Is—is that why Quentin sent him to America? Because of Angelus?”

“No, he was trying to find out why the young Watcher Quentin sent hadn’t reported back in. The boy was fine; we were forced to bring him in because he made himself a target of Angelus’ wrath. Finding me here was just a bonus for Father,” Wesley admitted, his voice breaking.

Giles slid his hand up to take the reciever from Wesley’s shaking hand. “Elizabeth, this is Rupert Giles. I’m not certain you remember me, but my own mum always spoke highly of you. My condolences for your loss, Ma’am. I’ve already contacted Quentin, he has a man coming from Vegas to return your husband’s body to you. The Council will take care of the funeral arrangements. Just let them know if you would like something special,” he explained to the older woman, giving Wesley a moment to collect himself.

“I remember you,” she said softly as Geoff helped her to sit down in the chair next to the telephone. It had been so long since she had last seen Thomas and Claire. “You were...you were a child the last time I saw you, right after Roger and I got married. Claire—your mother—she helped me through so much...” She paused for a moment, trying to come to terms with this. Roger was gone. He was really gone. “Is Wesley...is he...is he going to be all right? If Roger found him there, I—he probably...” She couldn’t finish her sentence.

“He did,” Giles responded, knowing what she meant about Roger finding Wesley in Sunnydale. “With time and a lot of love, he’ll be fine. You son has one of the most resilient souls I have ever known.” He smiled at Wes lovingly, running his hand over his hair. “I think the more important question is, are you going to be all right?” Wesley had those here that loved him, but Elizabeth was alone. If he had to send Wesley home, even for a little while, he would.

Elizabeth looked up a Geoff, who reached down and took her hand, and breathed in deeply at Giles’ question. “I’ll be fine,” she told him. She was a Watcher’s wife – she had been prepared for this sort of call since the day she had married Roger. “As long as I know Wesley is going to be all right. He’s been through so much.”

“Agreed.” Giles sighed – if she only knew. “He has a lot of people here who love him very much. And now that we’ve delivered the bad news, I think I should give you back to Wes, and he can deliver the good news.” Smiling faintly, still running his hand through Wesley’s hair, he held the phone back to his lover, nodding his head toward Connor and Fred.

Wes took the phone, now that he had his emotions under control once again, looking at Giles gratefully. “Mum, Rupert is right, there are other things to tell you. I supposed the first is my lovers, starting with my fiancée Winifred. She’s amazing – a physicist from Texas. She’s beautiful, and she has the truest heart I have ever known.”

Fred smiled softly, resting her head against Wesley’s shoulder as he talked about her and reaching out to take Rupert’s hand in hers. She couldn’t get over sometimes that these two men both found her beautiful and said such lovely things about her.

Elizabeth felt the knot in her throat loosening at her son’s words. For so long, she had wanted nothing more than for her son to find fulfillment, love and happiness, especially after the way his father had always treated him. “Fiancée? You’re getting married? Oh, Wesley, that’s wonderful news.”

“Yes.” He smiled, leaning his forehead against Fred’s. “I asked; she said yes. And now that Angelus isn’t hanging over our heads, we might be able to start planning.”

“I’m so thrilled for you. I didn’t even know that—wait...did you say ‘lovers’? Plural?”

He chuckled and didn’t notice Giles smile, happy to hear the sound coming from him. “Some things never change. I still can’t slip anything by you. I did say ‘lovers’. The other you just talked to. Rupert Giles. Fred and I are marrying ‘officially’, then the three of us are going to have a joining ceremony.” He paused, waiting to see what she thought of this, before springing the largest of the surprises on her. “I love them both with all my heart.”

“Oh, Wesley,” she said softly. She knew that had Roger been there, he would have been berating him for this, and a part of her wondered if he had known. An American girl and another man. Both would have been equally wrong in his eyes. But all she could think of was that her son had found love, not once but twice over, and after everything his father had done to him over the years, he deserved it. She squeezed Geoff’s hand. “As long as they love you and you love them, that’s all that matters. That’s all that ever matters. You don’t want to spend the rest of your life with someone that—if you’ve found them, hold onto them with both hands.”

“Thank you,” Wes whispered, feeling his eyes tearing up for different reasons than for why they had before – the happiness of knowing that one of his parents approved and was happy for him. “There’s a much bigger piece of the puzzle too. Here, I’ll let him say hello himself,” Wesley held the phone down to his son. “Say hello to your grandmother, Connor.”

“Granny Trish?” Connor asked excitedly. He had been obsessed with Fred’s mum, ever since he had found out that she drove one of the large busses.

“No, not your Granny Trish. This is my mummy. Say hello, son. She’s waiting,” Wes pushed the phone into his hand.

“Hi Granny! It’s Connor! Are you really Daddy’s mommy?!” he asked, ignoring the adult’s chuckles.

Elizabeth’s eyes opened wide when she heard the child’s voice on the phone. A grandson? She had a grandson? But...but how? He sounded like he was at least three, possibly older. Was this Winifred’s child? “Yes, pet, I’m your daddy’s mummy. It’s very nice to talk to you. How old are you?”

“Four!” he said. “Mommy taught me how to count that too. One, two, three, four!”

“Very good, Connor,” she told him. Even if he wasn’t her biological grandchild, she could already tell she was going to love being his Nanny. “I do so want to meet you soon, but can I talk to your father?”

“Okay!” Connor held the phone back out to Wesley. “Granny wants you.”

Wesley and Giles had looked at Fred, surprised when Connor started counting. “It looks like he’s going to have his mother’s head for numbers,” Giles teased as Wes took the phone back from Connor. The older man reached out to tickle the boy’s stomach, smiling when he got a squirm and a giggle.

“I’m sorry to have sprung him on you like that, Mother. It seemed like the easiest way,” Wesley apologized.

“That’s all right,” she told him. “I was just...trying to figure out the numbers myself there. Is he Winifred’s son? You would have still been in England when he was born. Unless there was something you never told us.”

“No, he’s mine and Fred’s. Fred...” He paused, hating the fact that he was about to lie to his own mother, but he knew they had to stick to the story they had created, especially considering her remaining ties to the Council and Angel’s reputation as Angelus. “There’s something you should know about her. Five years ago, she was student at UCLA, and her professor, intimidated by her brilliance, sent her to a demon dimension called Pylea. We rescued her, and shortly after, Fred and I began dating. When this professor saw that she was back, alive, he became obsessed with her strength, her will to survive. We went through a lot to try to get him to realize that he would never have her. Fred became pregnant in the meantime, and...a few months after Connor was born, this man attacked me, left me for dead, and took Connor, escaping into a demon dimension called Quor’Toth. I suppose he thought we would never follow since even demons consider this place hell.”

Wrapping his arm around Connor, he hugged him tight. “But I’ll always follow my son, no matter where he is. With Rupert’s help, we went to Quor’Toth, dealt with the man who took him and brought Connor home. However, time passes differently in these dimensions. To us, we were gone three weeks. Fred told us that eighteen hours had passed here. In this dimension, Connor isn’t even six months old, but his time in Quor’Toth has aged him to appear four. The Council has supplied us with documents reflecting his apparent age. Despite everything he’s been through, he’s wonderful, mum – a beautiful boy with a generous heart. Smart, loving...I don’t know what we would do without him.”

“Love you, Daddy!” Connor said loudly, liking that his father spoke so highly of him.

Elizabeth shut her eyes for a moment. To know her child had gone through so much for his own child, she knew that he was already a hundred times the father that Roger had been. She then smiled when she heard the little boy talking to Wesley. How she wished she could have heard that sort of love between her husband and son. “It sounds like you have a wonderful family, Wesley. That’s...that’s all I ever wanted for you.”

“You’re part of that family too, Mother. This young man has been blessed with two wonderful grandmothers.” Wesley smiled faintly. “If I remember correctly, Grandmother always used to say it was a grandmother’s perogative to spoil their grandchildren. Despite...” He looked around at the people sitting around him. “Despite the heaviness in my heart, I know that I am blessed.”

“Live your life,” she whispered. “Live your life and don’t look back. And maybe we’ll see each other soon, yes?”

“I hope so,” he admitted, feeling very much like he was Connor’s age, wishing to see his mother. “I love you, Mum. I—we’ll be staying in Sunnydale, raising our family here, at least until the Hellmouth is closed. I should go, though. With this call and Rupert’s two to the council, poor Buffy’s phone bill is going to be attrocious.”

She understood. Besides, if Giles had called the Council already, she was sure that she was going to be getting a visit sometime soon. “Goodbye, son. Take care of them and yourself. And Wesley...I love you. I should have said it more.”

“I know. I’ve always known,” he reassured her. “I’ll keep in touch, I promise. Goodnight, Mum.” After disconnecting the call, he smiled down at his son. “Your grandmother wants to meet you very much.”

“She talks funny, like you and Papa!” Connor giggled, proud when he made his daddy smile.

“That’s because she lives in England, which is where your papa and I were born. You and your mum are the yanks!” He smirked at his love while tickling his son.

Fred laughed, glad to see that the phone call to his mother had helped raised his spirits a bit even though she knew this was something that he wasn’t going to get over easily. “You do realize that you call us Yanks in Texas, and you’ll get yourself strung up,” she said, reaching out to ruffle their son’s hair before kissing Wesley’s shoulder.

Wesley smiled, wrapping his arms around his family. “Come on. Let’s get dressed and join the others downstairs before they send a search party,” he said, scooping his son up in his arms and dangling him upside down as Rupert tickled him.

“No, Daddy! Papa!” Connor squirmed, trying to escape the fingers as he howled with laughter.

*****

Once she had hung up the phone, Elizabeth looked up at the man standing over her, taking a deep breath. “He’s gone, Geoff. A vampire killed him in California.”

“Forgive an old man,” Geoff began, his voice soft, “but thank god. Now you both are free.” He had spent too many years watching Roger Wyndam-Pryce terrorize his wife and son. And despite his best efforts to destroy them, they were still people to be proud of. “Did I hear you correctly? Master Wesley is getting married?”

She nodded, getting up from the chair. “To two people, actually,” she said, laughing softly when she saw his expression. “He’s in a relationship with a young woman and a man he says he loves very much. I could hear it his voice.

“Two?” Geoff was shocked, but he supposed he shouldn’t have been. “Well, Master Wesley has always had a lot of love to give and was without an outlet for so long. It doesn’t surprise me that it’s taken two people to give him that outlet.” He knew the boy had always adored his mother, but he was never allowed to show it. Any show of that love, and Roger would punish him for being weak. You only had to kick a dog so many times before it learned to obey outright.

“I certainly think he’s been given both of them to make up for Roger.” She looked down at Geoff’s hand still wrapped around hers. “Just like I was given you. I couldn’t have got through these last years without you.”

He smiled at that. “He was always taking his anger out on you. That wasn’t right. But you and your loving heart, you understood why Master Wesley had to escape. You never complained, not once. If anyone every questions your love for your son, I will kill them where they stand,” he promised, giving her hand a reassuring squeeze.

“I don’t think that will happen...never again.” Part of her felt that she should be sad – Roger had died – but now that the initial shock had worn off, she found that she couldn’t grieve for the fact that he was gone, that she’d never had face his wrath or be controlled by him again. Geoff was right; they were finally free. “I’m sure that Quentin and some of the others will be here soon. We should be ready to receive them.”

“I’ll put the tea on and keep watch if you want to go get changed to recieve them,” Geoff offered. “I’ll leave your sherry on the table outside your door.”

Elizabeth nodded, heading for the stairs but stopping for a moment. “You can bring it in if you’d like,” she told him before going up to the first floor to her room.

*****

Once everyone was changed, Giles smiled when Connor ran back into their room excitedly. He bent down and scooped the boy up, dangling him upside down. Walking toward the door, he looked over his shoulder at his lovers. “Would one of you mind getting the door?”

“Papa!” Connor giggled as his daddy came over to open the door. “Help, Daddy!” he pleaded, squirming when his daddy tickled him. Giles immediately heading toward the stairs, still dangling the boy upside down from his outstretched arms. “Anyone want this sack of potatoes?”

Fred smiled as she watched them go downstairs, her hand resting on her stomach. Both Wesley and Rupert were wonderful fathers to Connor, and she knew that she couldn’t ask for more for the baby she was carrying either. Lorne came out of Connor’s bedroom from putting the little boy’s tuxedo away and put a hand on her shoulder.

“You all right, sweetie? It’s been a rough day.”

Looking over at him, she nodded. “I’m fine.”

“What you did at the church...”

“I did what I had to. I couldn’t let Angelus take my family away,” she told him, not wanting to think about it, before following the others downstairs.

Buffy was reaching out to take Connor from Giles when she noticed the bruising developing around her Watcher’s neck – even though he was obviously trying to hide it with the shirt he was wearing. “Are you all right?” she asked. “That looks pretty painful.”

Connor’s eyes widened when Buffy froze in front of them, looking at his papa. Painful? Concentrating his strength, he contracted his abdominal muscles as if he were doing a dangling sit up and found himself looking into his papa’s eyes. Little hands gripped his shirt, pushing the collar aside. “Papa?” he asked worriedly.

“I’m all right, Connor,” Giles replied, his voice gentle. On the scale of his injuries as a result of Angelus, this was minor.

“Promise?” the boy demanded, wrapping his arms gently around his papa’s neck to hug him.

“I promise,” he whispered, rubbing the little back soothingly.

“Woah!” Xander gasped at the display of strength from the four-year-old. “You see that, Tony? I can’t even do that! Is that normal?” He looked at the young Watcher to see him shaking his head vigorously.

“That’s right – you weren’t with us several weeks ago,” Buffy said, looking over at Giles, Fred and Wesley. “And Tony wouldn’t know the entire story about Connor.”

“Our son is actually only about six months old, Tony,” Fred said softly, taking Wesley’s hand. “He was kidnapped and taken to the hell dimension Quor’Toth by the same person responsible for sending me to Pylea for five years. He was only missing for a little over a week our time, but four years passed for him and the man who took him.” She looked over at Wesley and Rupert. “The time there not only aged him, but it changed him too. Made him stronger than a normal human boy and gave him other skills. He can sneak up on Buffy without her hearing him.”

“And let me tell you, he has a hell of an aim,” Buffy added. Wesley smiled when his son giggled, still happy at the idea that he could sneak up on her.

“Quor’Toth. I’ve heard that name before,” Tony remarked absently, his mind trying to pull up the memory.

“Cassandra,” Wes supplied. “We actually used the same spell she used to retrieve Connor.”

“I got you, Buffy!” Connor grinned and practically leaped from Giles’ arms into Buffy’s.

“Oof,” Buffy said, her reflexes allowing her to catch him. “You know, it’s a good thing I’m strong; otherwise, we’d be on the floor right about now.” She smirked at him when he pulled a face on her. “Hey, be good. I’m going to be watching you for a few days, you know. Speaking of which, we were talking about that before you guys came down...” She looked over at Xander.

“Buffy mentioned you wanted to take Wes and Fred out of town for the weekend.” Xander withdrew an envelope from his pocket. “Ahn and I started opening gifts already, and since Anya feels like she lost enough money when she had to close early, she doesn’t want to use it.” He passed the envelope to Giles. “We think you guys should. It’s...it’s a weekend stay, all expenses paid, at a B&B about three hours from here.”

Fred looked at the envelope Xander was holding out, her eyes wide. “But—that’s your...after everything that happened today, you two should at least have something resembling a honeymoon.”

Anya shook her head. “I don’t want to leave the shop – not when I can open it full time again. You guys go.” She glanced over at her husband. “You need it more than we do.”

Xander smiled when Giles took the envelope from his hand. He looked at Fred, taking a deep breath. “Fred, these guys will tell you, there was no love lost between me an Angel, or Angelus. For months, he terrorirized my family, almost killing us more times than we can count. Death I can handle, but he tried to destroy Giles and to break Buffy. And for that, I hated him and always would. Not for myself, but for that summer I slept on Giles’ couch, falling off almost every night when the screams would wake me up. Giles has given up almost everything for us, including a little piece of his soul. Today, of all days, I watched you and Wes go through something very painful for us. I’m not...I’m not strong like Buffy, and I don’t have any magic like Willow and Tara. Most times, I’m not that smart. But I can accept that Angel was your friend. And to save Giles, you put a stake in his heart without hesitation. I get that that hurts. And Wes, you and I got more in common than I ever would have admitted. We have dads we would have sold our souls to get one sliver of approval from. Ones that take pride in putting us down, trying to make us feel like we don’t matter, that we’re not humans that deserve love. But we’re lucky. We’re surrounded by friends and lovers that tell us how much we are loved. And even better, they show us every chance they get.” Xander smiled softly. “As much as I don’t like my dad, I still love him. Just like I know you loved yours. And for me and Anya, I watched you practically choke on your grief to give this day to us. A weekend away is the least we owe you guys. Each one of you has your own healing to do. Maybe this weekend will be a good start.” He shrugged, giving Fred a boyish grin.

Listening to him, Fred felt tears coming to her eyes as she took Wesley’s hand in hers and gave it a squeeze. “Thank you,” she told him softly. She moved forward and gave him and Anya a hug for what they were doing for them.

Wesley swallowed thickly, overwhelmed that this amazing group had taken them in so quickly. This was a perfect example of how ignorant the Council was. This family was so tightly woven that nothing got by them. One in turmoil rallied the others without hesitation. Giles wasn’t the only one that gave heavily to this family. They all gave and gave...until it hurt. It was that unity that made them so successful on this Hellmouth. He was suprised to realize the similarities between himself and Xander, but the most surprising thing to him was Xander’s very astute observation of that fact.

Xander hugged Fred, meanwhile, laughing softly. “Hey, no sweat. You guys are Scoobies now. We take care of our own...no matter what. Even Kermit over there.” He smirked, holding Fred’s gaze but tipping his head toward Lorne teasingly.

Lorne smiled, looking down at his own hands for a moment. They used children’s characters to describe themselves, yet everyone in the room had been forced to grow up a long time ago, even the littlest one now playing with Buffy’s hair. It didn’t take an anagogic like him to see the pain that each one of them carried in some way, shape or form, and yet all of them managed to continue loving and caring and fighting for what they believed in. “If I’m Kermit, does that make you Scooter?”

Xander grinned unrepentantly, winking at Fred. “Nahhhh, I’m Fozzy.” As he moved to join his wife again, he started humming “It’s Not Easy Being Green” out loud. Lorne shook his head and smiled, knowing that the young man’s generosity was about to visited back on him three-fold.

“Everyone here is amazing,” Fred said, looking around. This family had so many people that had special talents - the Slayer, the Witches, the Watchers, the Seers. It made her feel sometimes like she couldn’t possibly have anything to bring to such a group, but standing there with Xander, another person like her, she knew that by doing what they could for the people they loved, that would always be enough. “I feel so lucky to be part of all this.”

Giles looked around at his family in awe. At times, they could be selfish, like any other human. During those times, he usually shrugged it off, figuring they were entitled. All of them had sacrificed their childhoods to save a world that barely acknowledged their existences. But it was times like this, these selfless moments, that made him look at these young people with such awe.

“So do I,” he whispered, echoing Fred’s sentiment. “Well, since we seem to be exchanging gifts, perhaps it’s time for you to recieve your wedding present from Fred, Wesley, Connor and myself.” He smiled, walking over to the pile and withdrawing two envelopes. He passed the blue one to Xander, watching the boy open it. When he looked up at him in confusion, he explained, “Your renovations on the Magic Box were amazing, as are the work you’ve done here for Dawn’s room or repairing any demon damage. You’re a very talented carpenter. So the first part of your gift is the deed to a shop I purchased in your name. Both of your names. I heard you and Anya talking about the possibililty of you starting your own construction company. Now you have a base of operations. Right next to the Magic Box.”

“Giles...” Xander whispered, stunned by the magnitude of the gift.

“There’s more – open the second envelope.” He waited, smiling when Xander held up the Home Depot card. “New businesses need supplies. That card has a $20,000 limit.” He chuckled softly, seeing the brown eyes in front of him tear up with gratitude. “The third and final piece is contingent on the fact that Fred and Wesley need a car of their own while in Sunnydale. I know you take care of yours. Would you consider giving it to them?”

Without hesitation, Xander withdrew his keys from his pocket and walked over to Fred, pressing them gently into her hand. Giles then took a new set of keys from his own pocket and tossed them to the younger man.

“It’s parked around the corner since we couldn’t take a chance of you seeing it. It’s the blue Ford F-150. And it’s yours...and Anya’s.”

Anya looked at everything they had been given in amazement before looking over at Xander. “This is most definitely worth a car and a weekend at a B&B,” she said, throwing her arms around him. “You have your own business, Xander! Now you can start making money too!”

Willow laughed. “Leave it to Anya too see the dollar signs.”

Ignoring her, Anya hugged Giles and the others. “Thank you.”

“Now there’s something you don’t hear everyday from Anya Jenkins,” Buffy said.

“Anya Harris, thank you very much.”

Xander hugged his surrogate father tightly, knowing what Anya had meant. Even though he had been making money already, Giles, Wes and Fred had set things up so he could build a life for his new family. And that meant the world to him. Leave it to Giles to always be looking toward the future. “Thanks, G-Man.” He chuckled when Anya corrected Buffy. “Yes, Anya Harris, thank you very much,” he said with a smirk, echoing her sentiment.

Wes knew that what Rupert had just done for the boy was amazing. It was the best thing he could do for the young man – give him the means to stand on his own two feet. Standing in front of Buffy, he playfully tickled his son. “What about you, young man? Do you mind if we go out of town for the weekend? Can you stay here and behave for Buffy, Lorne and Dawn?”

“Course, Daddy! I’m a good boy!” Connor grinned, shooting a sly smile toward Buffy.

“You’re a very good boy, but you also have your mother’s curiousity. Or do I have to remind you about the pancake incident a few weeks ago,” Wes teased, playfully.

“Messy! But yummy! But I got my papa, so it was worth it!” Connor protested, still grinning from ear to ear.

“Yes, you did,” Fred said, reaching out and ruffling Connor’s hair. He was going to need another haircut soon, but they could take care of that once they got back. “However, you be good, and we’ll be back sooner than you’ll know.”

“’Kay, Mommy,” he said, bouncing on Buffy’s hip.

“Don’t worry, we’ll take good care of him,” Buffy told them. “You go. Have some time together.”

Nodding, Fred looked over at her guys and took their hands in hers. “Guess we should go pack?”

Nodding, Wesley moved closer to Rupert, wanting him to lean in so they could speak. “I know you’re worried about me, and I love you so much for it, but why don’t you let me pack your bag while you talk to Buffy?” he suggested, his voice soft enough for only his lover to hear.

Giles put his hand on the younger man’s arm, giving it a thankful squeeze. He knew Wes was right. Stepping back, he waited for them to head upstairs before turning to face his Slayer. “Connor, why don’t you and Dawn show Xander the new Playstation?” he suggested, trying to distract the boy so that he could talk to Buffy.

“’Kay Papa!” Connor squirmed free of the slayer’s grasp. “Come on, Dawn! Come on, Xander!” he demanded, gripping both their hands tight and dragging them over to the game system.

Giles looked at the amazing woman before him. He was so proud of her. “Step out onto the porch with me?”

Buffy nodded at him and then looked over at Tony, who seemed a little uncertain what to do with himself. “I’m sure they’ll be glad to have you play too if you want,” she told him before she headed to the porch with Giles. When they stepped outside, she took a deep breath and closed her eyes for a moment. For once, being outside felt good again. “What’s up?”

“I...I can’t help but feel as if I’m deserting you,” Giles admitted, looking off the porch into the distance. Without Angelus looming over their heads, he felt as if a massive weight had been lifted, but there was still much on their shoulders as a result. “I wanted to make sure you were okay.”

“Deserting me?” she looked over at him then over her shoulder through the window into the house where Connor was playing video games with Xander, Dawn and Tony while Willow, Tara and Anya were looking through some of the presents they had brought over from the wedding. “Giles, it’s not like you’re going away for months or something. You, Wes and Fred need this. And I’m...I’m okay. Surprisingly okay, actually. Angel was gone from the moment he killed Cordelia. I knew that.”

“I’m...I’m so proud of you, Buffy,” he whispered in awe, “but I wasn’t just referring to Angelus. I know it’s only a weekend, but without us here are you going to be all right with Willow, with the rest of the motley crew in there?” He followed her gaze, looking in the window. “Lorne can help you with Connor if it comes down to it. He loves the boy as if he were his own.” He shrugged, a small smile curling up at the corners of his lips. “And of course, there’s always young Tony if you need a distraction.”

“Giles!” Buffy said, her eyes opening wide at his implication regarding her and Tony. Sure, she liked him, but...did she like him like him? Oh, she wasn’t going to go there now.

“Don’t ‘Giles!’ me.” He chuckled, bumping her shoulder with his arm. “Who knows you better than your Watcher? Although Xander does have a point, you do seem to be collecting spares. Technically, though, I collected Wesley.”

Shaking her head with a laugh at his smirk, she leaned against the porch railing. “I’m going to be fine. It was...hard when I was here at first, but having all of you here made it easier. Made it better. I know Willow was just trying to help, and I’ll always love her. She’s my best friend. We’ll be fine. We’ll all be fine. Especially since we all don’t have to live in the same house anymore after this.”

“Yes, it has been interesting to say the least, tripping over each other these last weeks.” Giles took a deep breath. “Buffy, you know that whenever you need me, I’ll always be there for you. If you ever feel we’re wearing out our welcome here, however, just say the word. I know Wes and Fred will understand too.”

“I know,” she told him. “Actually, I sorta figured that you guys would be wanting your own privacy sooner or later. But for right now, I’m glad all of you are here. Gives me back-up in the occasional battles with Dawnie.” Her smile widened when she said that.

“Even though she’s a hair puller, you can take her,” he said with a chuckle. “I actually think the additional floor between you two has minimized the arguments.” Standing behind his Slayer, he pulled her back against his chest gently, and wrapping his arms around her, he hugged her. “I don’t want you to think, for one moment, that I’m deserting you. I love Wesley and Fred and Connor...just as I love all of you. But as our young Mister Harris so astutely put it – no one else can be ‘Watcher’s Pet.’ You are the center of my universe, my reason for being. Nothing will ever change that.”

Closing her eyes, Buffy rested her head back against him for a moment. “I know, but I’m glad you’ve found happiness. You deserve it. I know you’ve given up so much for me in the past.” Turning, she took hold of his arms to direct him toward the house. “Now, you have a weekend away to get ready for, so go and get ready. We’ll be fine, and we won’t let Connor near the pancake mix again.”

Giles snickered when she mentioned the pancake mix. “You better not, or Dawn will never forgive you.” He grinned, his smile immediately falling when he realized they had something else to discuss. “Buffy, you know Spike is bringing Roger here. Quentin is sending a man from Vegas to collect him, but we’ll be gone by the time he arrives. The man’s name is Fitzpatrick. Just check his ID, and get that pillock out of Sunnydale. I don’t want him here when we return. Also, Fred’s parents might call. They have your number, and they’re determined to come to the wedding although we have no idea when that will be. Just tell everyone we’ll be back Sunday.”

“Check, check, check and check,” Buffy told him, pushing him toward the door.

“Everything’ll be taken care of, so don’t worry.” Stopping, she stepped around him and looked up at him with a smile before rising up on her tiptoes to kiss his cheek. “Really. I’m fine, and we’ll be fine for a few days. It’s not like we don’t have people who know how to take care of themselves. So go and take care of Wes and Fred, and let them take care of you.”

“I will. Oh, and check the body when Spike brings it here. I meant what I told him. If he’s taken a drop, make Fitzpatrick’s career and bind Spike for transport to the Council. I will not have that git desecrate Wesley’s father.” He left the ‘even though he deserves it’ unsaid.

“Aye, aye,” she told him, tossing off a salute as they went into the house. “I’m sure that we have several people inside who would be glad to help me put Spike in lockdown.”

“We get to throw Spike in the slammer?” Xander said, looking up hopefully, not even noticing his avatar losing its life in the video game.

“See what I mean?”

“I see the boss has spoken,” Giles chuckled. “I’ll just...” He trailed off when Buffy arched an eyebrow at him. “I’m going.” With that, he turned to make his way upstairs.

Tony walked up next to Buffy, looking up the stairs after Mr. Giles. He could understand why it might be difficult to prioritize. “He has a lot on his plate. Is there anything I can help with? Since I now seemed to be assigned to you as well,” he offered with a smile. It was a fate he was more than happy to submit to.

She raised her eyebrows at his comment - she supposed he was right about his “assignment”. Somehow, it seemed rather funny that she had not one but three Watchers now when not so long ago, she had thought she didn’t even need one. How wrong she had been. “Well...if you don’t mind...I know the others are going to want to go back to their places to live now that they can, but I would...it would help me out if you stayed here. At least until Giles, Wes and Fred get back. I could use all the help I can get...” She trailed off and pointed to Dawn and Connor over his shoulder and mouthed ‘with them’.

“Don’t think I don’t know what you’re doing,” Dawn said, never taking her eyes from the television.

Tony looked down at his shoes, shuffling his feet nervously. He hadn’t wanted to admit that he wasn’t ready to find his own place. These last few weeks, staying there with all of them, had been amazing since it gave him the chance to get to know this Slayer and his hero, Rupert Giles. He had also gotten a chance to see that Mr. Wyndam-Pryce had not gotten a fair chance by the Council, not by a long shot. Despite the failure he knew the governing body considered him, the man was brilliant in his own right, especially when it came to strategy, and a wonderful father, despite the bullying of his own father.

“I’d be honored. I’ve grown accustomed to your...couch.” He smiled faintly. “If you feel up to it – I know I’m not Mister Giles – but if you feel like getting in a little training...”

Buffy glanced at the other people in the room, seeing their faces at Tony’s offer, and gave them a look that dared them to even say a word. No one did. She then looked back over and him and smiled. “That sounds, actually, like a great idea. Between, uh...Glory and then all this happening, I haven’t had much of a chance to actually just train.”

Still snickering at the patented Slayer Glare – which was almost as deadly as Giles’ Watcher Glare – Xander turned back toward the game, humming “Taps” aloud. “Hey, Tony, your Blue Cross all paid up?” he asked, his lips turned up in a smile. No one trained with Buffy but Giles. And as good as he was, Buffy still dented him from time to time. Tony would be lucky to escape with his head intact.

“Excuse me just a second,” she told Tony before walking over to the nearby chair and picking up the pillow, which she lobbed directly at Xander, knocking him and his hand. His video game avatar once again died a violent death. With a self-satisfied smirk, she turned back to Tony. “Don’t worry. I promise to go easy on you. At least to begin with.”

A moment later, Wesley came downstairs, suitcase in hand, with his lovers right on his heels. He turned to face Giles, taking his bag from him. “Let me take that while you deal with the last-minute details.” He also took the other man’s keys and grabbed Fred’s bag, taking all three out to the car.

Giles had a piece of paper in his his hand that he passed it to Buffy. “This is the number where we’ll be staying. Young Tony should be able to help you hold down the fort for the weekend, but if you need us, call. Even if it’s just to locate the book you need.”

“Speaking of holding down the fort, Tony wants to train with Buffy,” Xander throw over his shoulder, his eyes still on his game.

“Try not to dent him too much,” Giles suggested, biting back his smile.

Buffy rolled her eyes. “I’m not going to put him in the hospital,” she told him. “You guys have a nice weekend.”

“Thanks, Buffy,” Fred said, smiling at her as Wesley came back in from outside. She turned to their son and held out her arms. “Connor? We’re going to be leaving soon.”

He got up and hurried over to them, hugging her tightly. “Love you, Mommy.”

“I love you too, sweetie.”

“Daddy, hold your arm out,” Connor instructed, wanting to show his mommy and his papa what they had been working on. Bending his arm at the elbow, as if he were making a muscle, Wesley smirked when his son jumped up, wrapping small hands around his extended arm, and pulled himself up as he swung into his daddy’s other arm to be held. “See, Papa? See, Mommy? Daddy says I’m gonna be strong and...” His little brow furrowed in concentration as he tried to remember the word his daddy told him.

“Agile,” Wes supplied.

“Yeah, I got good balance,” Connor stated proudly. He hugged his daddy tight before leaning over into his papa’s arms to hug him. “Take care of Mommy and Daddy, Papa.” His papa was their protecter, he felt it.

“I’ll make you a deal,” Giles said with a smile, returning the boy’s tight hug. “I’ll look after your mum and dad this weekend if you look after Buffy and Dawn for me.”

“’Kay, Papa!”

*****

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