None of it means a damn thing.

Mal ,'Objects In Space'


Buffista Fic: It Could Be Plot Bunnies  

Where the Buffistas let their fanfic creative juices flow. May contain erotica.


P.M. Marc - Sep 17, 2002 8:18:09 pm PDT #10 of 10001
"Man, i'm covered in pony blood."

It felt almost like the last time. She'd grabbed a bag, bought her ticket , and left a short note on her bed. Only this time, the bag was weekend-light, the ticket round-trip, and the note said she'd be back soon. Buffy shifted in her cracked vinyl seat and tried to ignore the smell of stale sweat and urine that clung to the interior of the bus.

The steady rhythm of the vehicle lulled her into a state midway between waking and sleeping. She stared out the window, occasionally focusing on something--pebbles in the asphalt or shrubs off the shoulder, it didn't much matter. Every time she focused, she let herself think before letting the scenery blur again, leaving the thought trapped on the roadside. Buffy knew it was only a short-term solution, a mental coat check. She'd collect her problems on the return trip. She didn't need them where she was going.

The worn-down sigh of the brakes startled her. She got up slowly, still stiff from the ride and the lingering effects of the demon sting, collected her things, and headed to a pay phone to call a cab. It cost more than she remembered, so she put a dollar in the vending machine for some stale candy she had no intention of eating, then headed back to the phone booth to make the call.

The driver was surly, and she was pretty certain he took the long way to the motel, but she didn't have the energy to argue. Buffy paid him, frowning at how much of her available cash she'd had to hand him. Lately, it seemed like everything came with too high a cost.

She checked in, ignoring the leering suggestions of the manager, and went to her room. With its faded shag carpet and beaten old furniture, it reminded her of Faith's room. She wondered why she found the idea comforting.

Buffy set her bags on the bed and locked the door . She undressed quickly and headed to the shower, wondering why it was that sitting on a couch for a few hours didn't leave her sticky and gritty, but sitting on a bus for the same amount of time did. She showered as quickly as she could, then did her best to dry off with the small threadbare towel provided. The jeans and t-shirt she picked out clung to her still-damp body, but she figured that as long as she was clean, she could cope with clammy.

She slid into her shoes and out the door, heading down road until she found the path to the beach. It looked almost the same as she remembered it. There was the strangely listing tree that Dawn had insisted on climbing when she was four, and the spot where she'd fallen and ended up lucky she only got the wind knocked out of her (except she hadn't, but Buffy didn't know if she had any memories about the tree that weren't monk-made), and the curve in the trail where Buffy had panicked because her mom and dad had rounded the corner when she wasn't paying attention and she'd thought they'd abandoned her. She hadn't been back since she'd learned she was the Slayer. It was safe here, the only ghosts from the past happy ones.

The sand crunched under her feet, and she wondered if it was worth the risk of broken glass and needles to take off her shoes and feel it squishing between her toes.

"Guess even the safe places have their dangers," she muttered.

Buffy wandered along the beach, admiring the sunset and losing herself in memory, a piece of driftwood swinging from her hand just in case. She didn't notice the man leaning up against a log until she'd tripped over his legs. She went sprawling, her makeshift stake flying from her hand as she caught herself.

"Ouch." She rubbed her wrists as she got up, and turned to glare at the man, wondering why the hell he hadn't told her she was about to step on him.

The bandage across his neck brought her up short, as did the empty look of recognition in the dark blue eyes.

She frowned, trying to place him. When she did, her eyes widened and she almost laughed.


P.M. Marc - Sep 17, 2002 8:18:24 pm PDT #11 of 10001
"Man, i'm covered in pony blood."

"Wesley?"

He closed his eyes, and she noticed the tension in his face. He looked like he hadn't slept or shaved in days.

"What are you doing here?"

A quick expression of exasperation crossed his face, and he grabbed the pen and notepad off the ground next to him. He scribbled something quickly, and handed her the pad.

Does it matter? She read.

"You look like hell," she said, handing the pad back.

He wrote another message.

As do you, Ms. Summers.

"I feel like it, too." she mumbled.

Wesley raised his eyebrows.

She felt the urge to clarify.

"It hasn't been the easiest of resurrections. Lots of stuff has...happened, and I just wanted to leave it behind me for a couple of days."

She slumped down next to him and stared out at the water.

"I've tried so hard and it hasn't been enough, not for any of them, not for me."

"Besides," she added quietly, "I think after...well, I think that maybe it's a good idea for me to give them some space. Do you have any idea what it feels like to know you've betrayed almost everyone you care about for an illusion?"

The harsh inhalation of breath startled her, but not as much as the raw pain she saw on Wesley's face when she turned to look at him.

She suddenly realized what a bad idea it was for someone weakened by an obviously recent wound to be out by himself waiting for the sun to set.

"Do you even care that any vamps who happen to be out tonight will smell the blood on you from a mile away?"

He shrugged and picked up the notepad.

Not especially.

She stared at him, wondering what to say.

"I used to come here when I was younger," she stated suddenly. "I thought it was the most beautiful place on earth. We'd get a room in town for the weekend, and Dawn and I would build sandcastles and play in the water while Mom and Dad relaxed in the sun. I don't remember them ever fighting here, but maybe we stopped coming before that really started. It was always so peaceful. "

"I came out here because I needed that again. The peace. It's the one place I thought I could go where I wouldn't have to remember that I'm the Slayer, but I guess I was wrong. "


P.M. Marc - Sep 17, 2002 8:18:41 pm PDT #12 of 10001
"Man, i'm covered in pony blood."

"It's not you," she added. "Even before I tripped over you I was prepared."

Buffy pointed to her discarded stick. "Exhibit A, one strong piece of driftwood."

"I was finished. Done. At peace. And then I wasn't, and suddenly, nothing made sense anymore. Not my friends, not my family, not my enemies. And I made the least sense of any of it. The idea that it was all just a hallucination, that none of the pain and confusion was real made so much sense to me. So much sense that I almost killed everyone I loved so I didn't have to face the reality of my life."

"The reality is my friends decided to bring me back from the dead because they loved me and they thought I was in hell, and now I can't even talk to them, because they're still filled with some fucked-up combination of guilt over what they did and frustration with my inability to get over being ripped out of heaven."

"The only person I could talk to was Spike, which is wrong, and I ended up fucking him so I wouldn't have to listen to what he had to say, which is even worse."

The expression on the ex-Watcher's face wasn't the disbelief or disgust she'd expected. It looked uncomfortably like compassion.

Any port in a storm?

Buffy gave a wan smile. "I guess so."

She'd never noticed how young Wesley was. At 18, she'd just lumped him in the adult category and left it at that. She hadn't really thought about him much, even before he'd left Sunnydale. After that, the time she thought about him was when she'd gone to LA to confront Faith. Despite the lines of worry and exhaustion on his face, she figured he was only about a decade her senior. Only 5 or so years older than Riley. Not that she was thinking about Wesley that way.

"Where are you staying?" she asked.

He shrugged and wrote I hadn't given it any thought.

"Why don't you come back to my motel?" Buffy winced at how that had come out. "I mean, it's late, you don't look like you're in any shape to go anywhere tonight, and besides, I think the manager kind of expects me to show up with a strange man, and I'd hate to disappoint him. Not that this is a come-on...far from it, I mean...you're a good-looking man, but I'm so not ready to deal with that sort of thing, not after Spike, and besides, you used to be my Watcher, and you don't look like you're in any shape to... " She stopped as he pressed a note into her hand.

Yes, I'll stay. And yes, I'm well aware that it was not a come-on.

She smiled again, a twist of rue to it. "I must have sounded pretty stupid. Want to head back now?"

It wasn't really a question. She stood up, grabbing the closest stick.

"Follow me. It's not far."

She waited until he was standing and gently took him by the hand to lead up to the trail. They walked slowly and silently back to her room, pausing occasionally so he could catch his breath.

"It's not very impressive," she warned him as she unlocked the door, "but at least it's inside and there's a bed. Which you should take, by the way. I'll be fine in the chair."


P.M. Marc - Sep 17, 2002 8:18:58 pm PDT #13 of 10001
"Man, i'm covered in pony blood."

Wesley was too tired to argue. He set his backpack next to her bags before staggering to the bathroom. Buffy listened to the water run while she arranged a blanket and pillow on the chair. He came out as she was turning back the covers.

"Make yourself comfortable--well, as comfortable as you can. I think the mattress has seen better days. Possibly the Crusades. I'm going to go brush my teeth and let you get ready for bed now."

She took her time in the bathroom, flossing carefully and brushing until she heard him slide under the sheets. He was already asleep when she walked back into the room, so she quietly turned off the lights, slipped off her jeans, and curled up in the chair. The light from the parking lot kept the room too bright for comfort, so she covered her face with the blanket and drifted off.

The sound of a struggle woke her. She bolted out of the chair ready to fight whatever it was until she realized "it" was just Wesley, face turned towards his pillow as he fought against his nightmare. Buffy shook him awake as gently as she could. His eyes flew open and he raised his hands as if to shield himself from someone.

"Shhh...Wesley, it was just a dream."

Not knowing what else to do, she sat next to him and wrapped her arms around him. He clung to her as though his life depended on it.

"Shhh...it's okay. It'll all be okay."

She stroked his hair and kissed his forehead and cheeks as she rocked him until his panicked gasps changed to harsh, nearly silent sobs. Buffy felt his shaking ease, so she kept caressing and kissing him until somehow one of them shifted as she was about to press her lips to his cheek and she found herself kissing the corner of his mouth instead.

Her tongue darted out before she could think, teasing his lips until they opened. She'd forgotten lips could be so warm. She covered his mouth with her own, hands tangling in his hair as she tasted him, gently licking the curve of his lower lip. A hint of hesitation, and he was returning the kiss, lips moving against her, hands loosening their grip to stroke her back. The warm breath mingling with her own felt foreign and familiar and right, and suddenly she found herself on top of him, pressing into his body urgently as his hands slid under her shirt.

His heart pounded against her chest. She rocked against him, hips echoing the rhythm. The cool air of the room hit flushed skin as he pulled her shirt over her head, leaving her clad in just her bra and a thin pair of panties.

It was too much clothing.

She sat up, pulled off first her bra and then his shirt. Kissed him again as she pushed his boxers down while he slid her underwear off of her and slipped himself inside her.

The coupling was raw and quick. She was gone by the time he woke up, leaving just the room key and a note of thanks.


P.M. Marc - Sep 17, 2002 8:19:41 pm PDT #14 of 10001
"Man, i'm covered in pony blood."

---- "I'm sorry... what?"

The doctor's face was a study in learned kindness. "Is there a chance that you could be pregnant?"

The hum of the fluorescent lights seemed to grow louder in time with the buzzing in her brain.

"Maybe--just a slight chance. More of an off-chance really, almost a no-chance." Buffy wasn't sure who exactly she was trying to convince. "I had a light flow a week later."

"Flow or spotting?" he asked.

"Spotting, I guess."

"It's possible that what you noticed was implantation bleeding. It's fairly common, and your symptoms are consistent with pregnancy. At this point, I can't think of what else it could be. Everything else checks out as normal."

A quick test and a physical exam confirmed the worst-case scenario, and explained weeks of fatigue and dizziness that she'd just attributed to the most recent string of nasty events in her life. That is, until the nasty events had gone out with a bang and the symptoms remained. One encounter, pushed to the back of her mind after Tara's death and everything that followed it, had set a reminder notice, delivery scheduled for mid-December.

She could kick herself for being so stupid. She hadn't thought of the possibility until the doctor mentioned it. In her defense, contraception wasn't really an issue when one's main partner was, well, dead. So perhaps it slipping her mind during an impromptu fling with someone who was still breathing was understandable. Or maybe she was just rationalizing so she'd feel like less of an idiot.

The urge to revisit the comforting insane asylum hallucination was strong, as was the urge to just curl up in her bed and not deal. Buffy let herself in the front door planning on indulging in a vacation from coping for the rest of the day. Life, however, had other plans in the form of an overly-concerned 15 year old girl.

"Buffy, did you find out what's wrong? You're fine, right? Just tired?"

"Just pregnant," she replied absently.

"Buffy, that isn't funny. Stop joking and tell me what you found out."

She looked at Dawn and frowned. "I just did."

"Buffy!"

"I'm going to take a nap, Dawnie. I'm tired, and I can't really think right now. Can we talk about this later?"

She walked up the stairs, not bothering to pay attention to Dawn's protests. Her head was spinning, her stomach rolling, and she just wanted to lay down on her bed until it stopped. The rolling got worse, and she sprinted to the bathroom just in time to lose her breakfast. Buffy hoped the nausea was a one-time deal brought on by stress. She rinsed her mouth out and stared at her reflection. She looked the same. She felt the same.

She still couldn't quite believe she was pregnant, had been for several weeks, in fact. It wasn't the sort of thing you normally overlook. Of course, she still couldn't quite believe Tara was dead, Willow had flipped, or any of the rest of it, but unfortunately, not being able to wrap your head around something wasn't the same as it not being true.

Telling Dawn had probably been a mistake, but Buffy hadn't been able to filter the words before they came out of her mouth. At least it was out in the open and she wouldn't have to worry about hiding anything. Oh G-d, how was she going to break it to everyone else? With any luck, they were all as shell-shocked as she was and it wouldn't be a big deal. Although she'd thought that before, and it had kind of backfired.

She somehow doubted Giles would find anything to laugh about at this turn of events.


P.M. Marc - Sep 17, 2002 8:20:02 pm PDT #15 of 10001
"Man, i'm covered in pony blood."

Crawling into bed, she wrapped the comforter around her body and tried to sleep. As tired as she was, it should have been easy, but her mind wouldn't shut down enough for it to happen. She had no idea what she was going to do, and very little time to make up her mind one way or the other, seeing as she was already nine weeks along.

On the one hand, there was no way in hell she could raise a baby, look after Dawn, and keep down the demon population of Sunnydale. Even being pregnant was a liability. She shouldn't be patrolling, let alone fighting. On the other hand, well, there'd been too much death in her life over the last year and a half, and something inside her recoiled at the idea of termination.. Maybe it was something left over from whatever the monks had done to her when they made Dawn, but she just didn't think she could do it. She covered her still-flat stomach with her palm and tried to think of any way out of the mess she'd gotten herself into.

"Come in," she said when she heard the knock on her door.

Her sister stood in the doorway watching her, face filled with shock and a touch of pity. Great, now Dawn was feeling sorry for her. That couldn't be good.

"Do you want something, Dawn?"

"I just thought I'd see if you needed anything. Water, milk, orange juice. Well, we're out of the orange juice, but I think there's some Tang in one of the cupboards."

Buffy made an effort to smile. "Thanks, Dawnie. A glass of water would be nice. But no Tang. I think it's solidified by now, anyway."

"I could chip it out and we could pretend it was candy." Buffy supposed her face must have shown how unappetizing the idea was, because Dawn quickly back-pedalled. "Or not. In fact, while I'm in the kitchen, I'll just throw it out, okay?"

She hurried from the room and came back a few minutes later with a glass of water, which she handed to Buffy.

"Okay. The Tang is history. Buffy, what are you going to do?"

"I don't know. I wish I did."

"Well, anything I can do? To help, I mean."

"You could start with your chores while I do some bills before patrol."

"You're going to go patrolling? That kind of seems like a bad idea, seeing as you're--you know." Dawn made a weird motion with her hands to pantomime a swollen gut.

"Pregnant? I know, thanks for the visual. Patrolling is the mother of all bad ideas. Worse even than Tang chips, but someone has to do it."

"Can't you maybe take a night off? You're probably kind of distracted, and I don't want you to get hurt. Besides, aren't the bad nasties still in hiding since Willow went crazy? I mean, you could totally skip a night. Please?"

Dawn had a good point. Well, a couple of them. "Fine. I'll stay in for tonight, if it makes you feel better."

She took the water with her to the dining room and sat down with a stack of bills and her checkbook. New glass for the windows had eaten up any cushion she had, and it looked like another month of juggling just to keep everything running. Joy. She wrote out as many as she could manage to pay and still afford to eat, then shoved the rest of the bills under a placemat so she wouldn't have to look at them. Frustrated and exhausted, she went back to bed.


P.M. Marc - Sep 17, 2002 8:20:23 pm PDT #16 of 10001
"Man, i'm covered in pony blood."

At midnight, she was still awake and staring at nothing. She frowned and did some quick calculating. It was morning where Giles was. She could call him, tell him, and then sleep knowing he'd be able to give her some advice. She grabbed the phone and dialled his number.

"Hello?" he sounded like she'd woken him.

"Giles? It's me. Do you have a few minutes? Did I wake you up?"

"Oh, hello Buffy. Yes of course, and no, I've been up since about four. Willow was having a bad night, I'm afraid."

She didn't bother with preliminaries. "Giles, I'm pregnant."

"Are you quite sure?" he didn't sound disappointed, just tired.

"Yes. Confirmed beyond any shadow of a doubt."

The phone was silent except for the faint sound of a throat being cleared.

"Giles?"

"I'm still here. Buffy, when--how--did this happen?"

"The usual way. About two and a half months ago. I went away overnight after the hallucinations and the duct tape and ran into someone I knew from L.A. It just happened, that's all. Giles, I know you're busy, you've got your hands full with Willow, but is there..." her voice broke.

"Is there any way I could come back? Yes, of course. I'll make the arrangements. I should be there before the end of the week."

"Thank you."

"It's quite late where you are, Buffy. Get some sleep, I'll call you when I get into Sunnydale."

"Good night, Giles. And thank you again." She hung up the phone and let herself give in to the tears that had been threatening all day.

Crying brought back the nausea as mucus flowed from her sinuses down her throat. Instead of sleeping, she spent the rest of the night alternating between puking and crying.

"I'm a mess," she told her reflection with its swollen red eyes and blotched skin. Strange what difference a few hours could make. "I should be patrolling, or planning, or something. Not standing in a bathroom blowing my nose, throwing up, blowing my nose some more, and feeling sorry for myself."

The cold porcelain of the hexagonal tiles on the floor felt good under her feet. She touched her hot face and decided to see if it felt as good against her cheek. It did. She stretched out next to the bathtub and fell asleep to the chirping of birds.

//Tara handed her a tissue. "It's all going to be just fine, you'll see." "Tara, you're dead." "So were you, twice, right?" She was wearing the same dress she'd worn the day she was shot, but it was clean, the hole over her heart mended and the blood gone. "I know it's rough, but you'll get through it. You always do." "It's all I ever do. Just once, I'd like to not be getting through something. Why are you here?" "The same reason I was last time, to speak for her." "Are you going to tell me death is my gift? Because I'm sick of that. I'm sick of death." "No, not this time. You already know what you need to do." "Do I? Because I've got to tell you, I'm still not clear on the matter." Tara smiled, a wide, happy, knowing smile. "Yes you are. Trust your instincts, Buffy. I have to go now... tell Willow I love her, always." Then she vanished, leaving Buffy alone. No--her hand crept to her belly--not alone. Tara was right, it was all clear.//

When she woke up, there was a pillow under her head and a blanket draped over her. Dawn must have found her and decided to let her sleep. Her eyelids felt tight and stretched, her shoulders were stiff from sleeping on the floor, and her nose was raw from a night spent using toilet paper as tissue, but her stomach seemed stable and she felt a little better than she had the night before.


P.M. Marc - Sep 17, 2002 8:20:44 pm PDT #17 of 10001
"Man, i'm covered in pony blood."

A shower had improved her mobility and her mood. She thought about the dream again. It felt prophetic, but maybe it was just the hormones. It didn't matter; she'd made up her mind. She went to the kitchen for a glass of milk and found Dawn already there, washing the dishes.

"Giles is coming," she told her.

"You called him? I guess you must have, huh?"

"I'm going to go through with it, Dawn. After that, I don't know what's going to happen. I just know that this is something I have to do."

Dawn was quiet, her attention focused on the sudsy water.

"Dawnie? What's the matter, cat got your tongue?"

"You're sure? That this is what you want to do?"

"I'm sure that this is what I have to do. Does it bother you?"

"No, it's just... Buffy, what if they try to take me away from you again? Would they do that? I mean, you've quit your job, someone tried to kill you in your own yard, Tara was killed, you're pregnant. It doesn't really look good."

"Dad's finally paying some of your support, it's been quiet for a month, and social services hasn't been beating down our door. I think we'll be okay."

Dawn made a game attempt at a smile and went back to the dishes. "I hope so. I won't have to give up my room, will I?"

"I haven't thought that far ahead, and I'm not sure that I'm going to be the person raising this baby."

"I thought you said you were going through with it, having the baby."

"I am, but having and keeping are two different things. We'll see. I'm going to wait and see what Giles says before I decide what's going to happen after the baby gets here."

"When's Giles get here?"

"Soon. He's going to call me when he gets in."

"Buffy?"

"Yeah?"

"Who's is it? It can't be Spike's, because, well.. he's a vampire, but you kind of don't know any other guys except Xander and you didn't... not with Xander. Did you?" Dawn's eyes were round as she considered the possibilities.

"There's not really enough no in the world for that, Dawn. No, not Xander. It was just someone I ran into when I went away."

"Ran into as in knew already or ran into as in, well, ran into?"

"As in knew already, and no, I haven't told him, and no, I'm not telling you who he is. It's not important."


P.M. Marc - Sep 17, 2002 8:21:23 pm PDT #18 of 10001
"Man, i'm covered in pony blood."

Dawn didn't say anything; she just dropped the subject and left the room. Buffy waited until her sister was upstairs, then walked over to the laptop Willow had left behind when she'd gone to England with Giles. A quick search of the online L.A. white pages pulled up just one Wyndam-Pryce. She copied down the phone number and address, wondering if she'd ever get up the nerve to use either.

The next two days passed like molasses. Buffy amused herself rewatching old movies, folding the towels, and doing laundry just so she could smell the clothes as they dried. There was something comforting about sitting on the basement stairs, the cool air scented with dryer sheets and dust. It was homey in a way the upstairs hadn't been since her mom's death. If she closed her eyes, she could see Joyce standing there, hands on hips as she tried to keep from opening the dryer before the buzzer sounded. She felt closer to her mother here than anywhere else.

She was rewashing already-clean whites when the phone rang. Mindful of her condition, and not really wanting to leave the basement and its ghosts behind, she let Dawn answer.

"Buffy! It's Giles." The call from upstairs roused her from her communion.

"Hang on, I'll be right there!"

She got up and bid her mother farewell, taking one last deep breath before going to take the call.

  • **

As it wasn't certain how long Giles would be in Sunnydale, it was decided that he'd stay in the house on Revello Drive rather than staying in a hotel. A taxi dropped him off, suitcase in hand. Buffy hugged him before giving him a chance to set it down.

"Make it better?" She tried for playful, but was pretty certain it had come out a little closer to pathetic.

He returned the hug as best he could with his free hand. "I'll see what I can do, but I'm afraid I don't really have much--well, any--experience with this sort of thing."

"That makes two of us, then." She detached herself from his warm, familiar form. "I've made Willow's--the spare room up for you."

"Thank you. Would you rather talk now, or wait until I'm settled in?"

"I'd rather hold off as long as humanly possible so I can cling frantically to my last few strings of denial and shreds of dignity, but I'll settle for waiting until you've at least had a chance to recover from the plane ride before letting you read me the riot act."

"Buffy, you may rest assured that I'm not going to be reading you the riot act. I'm here to help, not to lecture."

She hugged him again and let him go upstairs to unpack while she got things ready for dinner. It had been a while since she and Dawn had had anything like a sit-down meal. Not that Dawn was going to be home for this one; she'd gone over to Janice's, saying that she'd just be in the way when Buffy and Giles were talking. Buffy supposed she had a point, but still wished she'd be here for the food part of it. She'd save Dawn some leftovers, and maybe try to have a real meal again in a couple of days.

Dinner was unexpectedly uncomfortable. She played with her food, her appetite lost to nerves, until Giles finally set down his fork and cleared his throat. She was a little surprised when he didn't clean his glasses.

"Buffy, if you'd rather talk about all this now and get it over with, please feel free to do so."

She looked up from her plate with a wistful smile. "That obvious, was it?"

"Yes, I'm afraid so."

"You should finish eating. Airplane food is no substitute for actual food. I think I'm going to stick my plate in the fridge and come back to it when my stomach doesn't contain a fresh load of butterflies. Meet me on the couch when you're done?"

She fled the room, plate in hand, and settled on the couch to wait for him to finish. It didn't take long. He'd either eaten in haste, or (and she figured the second possibility was the more likely of the two) set his meal aside to come and talk with her before she freaked out.


P.M. Marc - Sep 17, 2002 8:21:45 pm PDT #19 of 10001
"Man, i'm covered in pony blood."

"Giles, I don't know what to do. I'm scared, half going out of my mind. Dawn's made me stop patrolling, and I've gotten away with it so far, but I can't just not do it. Sooner or later, something's going to come up and I'm going to need to be out there. Only problem is, it's not just me I have to worry about any more."

He frowned a little before answering. "Have you thought about what you're going to do in the long term? This is a very serious situation, Buffy."

"Having it. I haven't thought much beyond that. As little sense as it makes, it's the only option I'm willing to look at. Take what I felt about Dawn when I had to think about choosing between her and the world, and make it about a million times stronger."

The glasses came off. She stifled a laugh as he cleaned them while collecting his thoughts. "I took the liberty of looking through all the materials the Council had on hand, but I'm afraid I couldn't find anything that dealt with this particular situation. Most Slayers don't..."

"Live long enough for it to be an issue? I didn't, but there were extenuating circumstances that nixed that, as you know."

Except for a slightly pained frown, he chose to ignore her comment. "It's something that, if it has happened, hasn't been documented. There's no precedent for it."

"So it's safe to say it's not in that handbook I didn't get?" Better living through flip responses, she thought when she heard the words.

"Yes, it's safe to say that this information is not covered in the handbook." He hesitated, choosing his words carefully. "Buffy, I felt it was best if I didn't inform the Council of your condition. I don't trust them to do what would be best for you under these circumstances. However, it isn't something that can be kept from them forever, and you need to keep that in mind when making plans."

"I know. If it helps, the closest I've come to planning is deciding to keep it."

"Strange as it may seem, I find that not at all comforting. We'll try to take this one step at a time. Find some sort of a solution to the patrolling limitations first, and take the rest as we come to it. You'll need to tell the others, of course. They need to know what they'll be up against, what the stakes are."

"Dawn knows, and, well, Xander and Anya are really the only people left since the big blow up. Speaking of, will Willow be all right while you're over here?"

Giles threw her a look that managed to convey irritation and affection and a hint of disappointment that she'd even felt the need to ask the question. "She's in very good hands, there's nothing to worry about there."

"So tomorrow I tell Xander and Anya. Somehow, I'm not sure it will even register."

"They are, well, on speaking terms, aren't they?"

"If by speaking you mean occasionally saying a word or two to try and fool everyone into thinking they're just fine with each other, then yes. Anya's convinced him that it doesn't make any economic sense for one of them to move out when there's plenty of space and a lease-breaking penalty, but I'm getting the impression that their housing situation makes me and Kathy look like a match made in heaven."

"I'm sorry to hear that."