Black Magic Woman
Again, I need to thank my betas for saving my butt. Sithspit, Inachis and Azulkan, I cannot live without you! Events in this chapter take place at approximately the same time as the events in the previous chapter.
(please tell me what you think... thanks)
Xander and Kendra walked down the rutted West Kingston street with the same relaxed watchfulness that they brought to every new excursion into a third world country – or the inner city of half a dozen more advanced countries. Although they had been half way across the world, it still surprised them to see just how devastated conditions could be only a short plane ride from home. Of course, there were also places in the States where they were almost as uncomfortable; and possibly more in danger. Xander was surprised how little attention he garnered these days; for some reason, even though he seldom got a sideways glance, he still expected to stand out. Of course, Kendra was, albeit in the very distant past, a local, but he’d been surprised to realize that, especially in places like the Caribbean, ‘locals’ could be any race.
Still, most foreigners were obvious, even to him. Perhaps it was the tan, or the beard, his dark hair and brown eyes, or the fact that they rode the mini buses like everyone else. Perhaps it was just that he had learned to blend, to observe without behaving like a tourist. Even when their clothes were well worn, and sometimes, even when they weren’t white, there was just something about foreigners that always stuck out. Xander had learned long ago in life that standing out was not a good thing for a whole collection of reasons, safety being only one of them.
This was why one of the first things he did when he arrived in a new place, particularly if he planned on staying for more than a couple of days, was to go to a store there, and buy a couple of shirts – locally made if possible – whatever everyone else seemed to be wearing. He never dressed shabbily; his goal was simply to be unremarkable. He never, ever dressed like any watcher he’d ever met and he’d shot that down the first time it had been suggested he wear a suit. Probably his only concession to vanity was the extremely comfortable and very expensive shoes he wore. These looked so very battered that he suspected few people noticed their quality.
Anyway, no one paid the two much attention as they made their way down the almost deserted, heavily potholed road in one of the least safe parts of West Kingston. He supposed that most people who had work were working. It was a school day. Other than a few toddlers, there were few children about. There were a few chickens picking for whatever was ‘pickable’. There was even the occasional goat, and more than a few bony dogs - the locals apparently called them meager dogs, though it sounded more like ‘mawga dawg’ to Xander – as in the local caution against being too charitable: ‘sorry fi mawga dawg, mawga dawg bite you!’
It was the middle of the day and the heat beat down, and though the constant, light breeze made it bearable, he was glad for his cheap sunglasses. Still, he knew he was developing squint lines. Even Kendra, whose darker skin was smoother and much more sun tolerant, had begun to develop just a hint of them. He was glad she’d been available for this trip – he hated making trips like this alone and since her return, she was by far his favorite slayer to travel with. Trips like these were becoming rarer as they found the last of the slayers activated by the spell. Of course, they probably would continue at some level as they had begun to find more and more girls who were coming into the slayer package as they entered puberty.
Though Xander still thought of Buffy as family, their relationship was nowhere as close as it had been before the last days of Sunnydale. All that had happened in those last months had damaged Buffy’s relationship with everyone who had been there, though Giles had borne the brunt of it and only Spike’s unexpected return had thawed the chill between them. Buffy’s grief over losing Spike had made her withdraw into herself in the months after Sunnydale. Since his return, she’d opened up a bit more, but Xander doubted their relationships would ever be as close as before. The extended ‘Scooby’ clan had changed.
Willow had Tara back and they were building an empire and a family as well as working for the council. Buffy had Spike and the two of them were more and more responsible for the day-to-day running of the council. It still surprised Xander that Spike had turned out to be very good with both languages and figures. Apparently, he’d had some kind of financial background before being turned as well as a classical education not that different from Giles. Something about being married and back in England had brought out a side of the vampire that had surprised everyone. Giles, of course, had Christine, and was turning into some kind of older ‘James Bond’- type British gentleman, entertaining at his estate or her townhouse. Dawn was married. Even Faith was married and about to give birth to twins! Life was very different – mostly for everyone else.
Xander could hear the radio blaring from the various houses as they walked. Some local talk show – apparently, it was a popular one, because he heard it from house after house as he progressed down the street. The voice sounded characteristically local, but also cultured and educated at the same time. At one time, he’d thought that educated people should somehow sound American, or at the very least, British like Giles. Over the last several years, with the mini United Nations that was the new council and their various allies, Xander had matured. His innate Ameri-centrism had been one of first of his prejudices to be worn down.
Since the fall of Sunnydale, he’d visited almost every commonwealth country, since at first the only modern language he spoke well was English. He’d come to realize that each of these countries had their own version of the English language and as he had learned to listen, he now had little of that difficulty with ‘foreign’ sounding accents that most Americans seemed to have. In fact, he was slowly beginning to recognize that to be a very American pretension. The rest of the English-speaking world seemed to be more unified than divided by their common language.
Here it was. Number 74, proclaimed a thin, worn metal plate tied in place by rusty wire. It would have been unreadable but for the fact that the number was embossed into the weather-beaten metal. He picked up a small rock, and banged on the gate with it where the paint was worn away from many before him doing the same thing. The various small dogs in the well swept dirt yard began to bark excitedly. A woman pulled back the curtain, looked out at him and Kendra, then drew back without a word and let the curtain close. A few moments later, the front door opened, and the woman came out, wiping her hands on the front of her dress. She shaded her eyes with her hand, squinting a little in the bright sunlight.
“Good hafternoon,” she said. “’ow can I ‘elp you?”
Many months of trips a lot like this helped Xander and Kendra understand the question, despite the thick Jamaican accent.
“We’re here about a young woman who lives here… She’s about fifteen,” said Kendra. “I’m Kendra, and this is Xander…”
“Wha’ you want wid ‘ar?” the woman asked, frowning.
“We’d like to offer her a scholarship,” said Xander. They’d tried talking about slayers and they’d tried other approaches, but this was the one that most often led to good results.
“Scholarship? Ah doan believe yuh,” the woman said. “She use’ to good in school…”
“But things have changed since May of ‘03?” asked Kendra.
“What you know ‘bout dat?” the woman demanded.
Both fists were planted firmly on her ample hips, giving her an impatient, somewhat aggressive posture.
“That’s why we’re here,” said Kendra. “We know what happened to her.”
“Why you never jus’ say dat?”
She sucked air through her teeth, a sound of clear annoyance that Xander had become come quite familiar with.
“We weren’t sure how you’d react, to be honest,” Xander said.
“Sometimes people chase us out of their houses when they find out we know about what happened to their daughters,” said Kendra.
“She change’,” said the woman. “She always have bad dream, but since O-3, she a have dem ev’ry night now. She nuh sleep more than so.”
“I’m sorry. I have them too. I don’t sleep that much either,” said Kendra. “Some of them are very frightening.
“She no’ frighten’ ‘o’ nothing, these days,” the woman said proudly. “Deese days, a them wheh’ frighten.”
“Who’s afraid of her?” asked Kendra.
“All the likkle criminal dem,” the woman’s eyes crinkled into a very pleased grin.
“Really?” Xander grinned. It sounded like their slayer was a one-girl anti-crime unit.
“She beat dem up,” the woman said, beaming with pride. “Dem nuh bother nobody pon this street, no more. Dem fraid fi come down ‘ere.”
Xander laughed. “Sounds like she’s helped things.”
“Yeah man,” the woman said. “Mi proud a’ mi daughta.”
Something occurred to Kendra. “But don’t the bad guys have guns?”
The woman just laughed.
“Dey tek them ‘way. She and ‘ar friend dem find out where di res’ o di gun them deh, and dem bruck them up.”
“Wow. They destroyed
the guns?” said Xander. “Her friends are helping her?”
“We all ‘elp ‘er,” said the woman. “And it’ easiah now.”
“Since she meet up wid di other one,” said the woman.
“There’s another slayer?” Willow’s spell had only indicated one -- admittedly very strong - signal coming from the island of Jamaica. Now it made sense. Why only one address had come up when they did the locator spell last night was a question for another time.
“Yeah man. Tiny likkle ting. She likkle but she talawah!”
“Those are the dangerous ones,” said Kendra, grinning and thinking about ‘tiny little’ Buffy. Before she’d first met Buffy, she really had little expectation that she would survive. Then she’d fought Buffy. If she had met Buffy before seeing her fight, she would not have believed it possible someone so small could move so fast or hit so hard.
“Unnu wan’ come inside? It well hot out ‘ya. And unnu come from foreign. Unnu nuh hot?”
Apparently, the woman had finally decided they were trustworthy enough to be let inside her house.
“We’re hot,” said Xander, smiling. Xander had long since figured out that ‘unnu’ meant ‘you’. The woman was having pity on the two ‘foreigners’. Xander breathed a sigh of relief.
“Ah have plenty ‘a’ ice water,” said the woman. “Unnu can wait ‘til Annette come ‘ome from school.”
When Annette arrived, the small green rock that Willow had given Xander began to glow and become very warm. She was definitely a slayer. The same thing happened about fifteen minutes later when the other slayer arrived.
After her mother introduced her, Annette vanished into the kitchen. Apparently, she had chores to do. She soon returned bearing crackers, bright orange ‘cheese’ and fresh ‘lemonade’ – that was actually made with limes. The young woman observed them very carefully, not saying much as Xander gave his little speech, and Kendra demonstrated her own strength.
The two young women were obviously very close. Kendra and Xander just hung back, observing everything that was going on. Four more young people arrived within a few minutes of the second slayer, and it began to sound exactly like a Scooby meeting. The only difference being that the ‘big bad’ was apparently a criminal several streets away, and both the police and the army were on speed dial – both the girls had cell phones; Annette’s was a gift from their military friends. Xander wasn’t sure he liked the sound of that, but he listened without saying anything.
The cell phone ‘gift’ had transpired after they had taken down a very bad guy a couple months ago, saving several soldiers from an ambush in the process and the local authorities had paid them a visit, making an offer of their own. The streets were overrun, and despite their activities and the help of the military, the police were simply unable to stop the criminal element from having an upper hand. If these young people wanted to ‘assist them’, when they came of age and completed school, they had open offers to join either the army or the constabulary. The offer was not just for the two slayers, but for their friends as well. In the mean time, they had backup for their community clean up campaign.
In practice, they just as often ended up being
back up. That was, after all, how the whole alliance had begun. The criminals had had a small military convoy surrounded on both sides of the street, and they had set up roadblocks of burning tires, preventing them from retreating. They were shooting up the vehicle, and forcing the men to take cover between a wall and their vehicle. Annette and Vivian had gotten behind one of the groups, and managed to put a hurting on them, knocking all of them out, and then sprinted to the other end of the street, through back yards, coming through the back of the other house and repeating the process with the other group.
Once the military realized the shooting had stopped they had come out. At about that time their police back up had arrived and Annette and Vivian had been unable to get away undiscovered. They ended up explaining what they had done, and once the officer in charge realized they weren’t lying, the army wanted to give them commendations. They had pled with them to keep their names out of the papers, but their senior officers had paid Annette a visit the very next day and begun to learn the truth – or at least a version of it that Vivian quickly cooked up where the girls were ‘karate experts’. Nothing had been said about ‘slayers’, much to Kendra and Xander’s relief.
Annette Garland and Vivian McDonald were a two person anti crime/community policing division. With the help of their friends – two from Annette’s neighborhood, and a couple of UWI students who were Vivian’s friends, they not only helped the police and the military take down several significant threats, they also worked to help create community-policing groups on several nearby streets. Crime was down. Morale was up.
Xander thought these were excellent things. The girls had come up with quite a few wonderful ideas for making things even better. He was becoming progressively more concerned about something, however. These six young people and Annette’s family were bashing heads, taking prisoners, and generally roiling up the local criminal element. As an old enemy of his had once said, ‘there’s always consequences.’ Xander was surprised that the consequences had not come home to roost yet.
No matter how strong they were, the two slayers were vulnerable. At least one was a minor and neither appeared to possess firearms. Their friends and family who had no superpowers, and who could make excellent hostages were even more vulnerable. He wondered if they had any idea how
vulnerable. He didn’t think a local law enforcement that was unable to control crime could offer them much protection, no matter how unlike Sunnydale police they might be.
He wasn’t under any illusions that the armed forces themselves might not represent a threat as well, particularly for the girls. Where there was great inequity, there was usually at least some corruption and the military and the police were always magnets for certain types of predators, and there were bad apples in even the best-regulated, best-paid forces anyway. Two attractive young women were bound to draw the wrong kind of attention from someone: demon, criminal or other, even if they had super powers. Their two attractive young friends with no super powers were at an even greater disadvantage. Xander was beginning to feel more than a little uneasy about the whole situation.
At best, they might come to be seen as a tool by the local constabulary and like the council, he suspected, someone would try to exert control over them. No matter how strong they were, or how smart, eventually, they’d piss off the wrong people. He had a feeling they already had. Xander looked at Kendra, and he could tell from her expression that she was having some of the same thoughts. They needed to talk. More than that, they needed to talk to Buffy, Willow, Faith and Giles. These folks needed help, and they needed it now. First, however, Xander had to figure out how to talk to them about his concerns without alienating them.
“We were thinking…” Xander began.
All eyes were on him.
“It sounds as if you guys are doing amazing work. I just wondered if you had any idea how much danger you and your families could be in?”
“Trust me, we’ve thought about that a lot,” said Vivian, grinning at him. Her brilliant smile reminded him of Cordelia, if Cordelia were Buffy’s height, wiry and brown skinned.
Well, that was something, he thought, taking a deep breath and wondering if there was anything he could say that would make a difference.
After being introduced to Annette, Xander had been expecting Vivian to speak the local Jamaican patois too. He’d been surprised the first time she spoke, that although she had a distinctively Jamaican accent, her manner of speaking wasn’t all that different from his own. Surprised, because from what he could tell, most well-educated Jamaicans tended to stay out of neighborhoods like this one, and Vivian was clearly not just bright, but also extremely well-spoken. He had a feeling that she came from money.
“We want to do this, to help police and JDF, but we’re not stupid, we don’t want to get the people we care about killed,” said Vivian.
“Yet, here we sit,” Xander said, not breaking eye contact.
Apart from the bars on the windows that every other house he’d seen also had, there seemed to be no special precautions. The gate to the yard didn’t lock. The fence wasn’t much of a barrier either. The only things it kept in or out were chickens and the occasional stray dog. Since it was hot and there was no air conditioning, the front door and every window stood open. The house was only a few feet above ground level, and anyone could simply stick a gun in the window.
“You know what obeah is?” asked Vivian.
“Because if anyone had told me I would be dealing with an obeah woman, even a year ago, I would have laughed them to scorn.”
Laughed them to scorn? Then the penny dropped. She meant ridiculed.
“So you went to visit the obeah woman. What did she do for you?”
“Hit me!” said Miss Vi, suddenly standing up. She had been listening to the exchange quietly. Now, apparently, it was time for show and tell. “Gimmie a good slap.”
Xander, being basically a gentleman, hesitated.
Kendra reached around him and gave Miss Vi a fairly gentle slap – which would still have been somewhat painful – if it had connected. Moments later, Kendra was picking herself up off the floor on the other side of the room. She shook her hand as if it hurt.
“Ouch,” she said. “Dat hurt!”
“You’re immune to being hit?” asked Xander. “That’s some pretty potent magic. What about the house? And bullets?”
“We cool man,” said one of the friends, a thin young man of about sixteen. “Dem can’t touch dis!” He gestured to himself. “Dem can’t touch none of us.”
“Mi can call ‘ar,” said Annette, shrugging. “Mi nuh know if she a go talk to unnu.”
“So how did you find her?” Xander asked.
“She found us,” said Vivian.
“After we stop a whole heap a’ trouble,” Annette said. “One mornin’ we hear this loud, loud noise… like s’madie a bruck down the gate.”
“She came to visit you?” Kendra queried.
“Yes,” said Vivian. “She told us that she had seen signs – since back in ‘03. She knew we were coming!”
“Wow,” said Xander. He had to meet this woman. Apparently, they knew a witch who also had some ability to see the future… She could be a valuable asset to the fight against evil -- in any form.
Visiting the obeah woman, whom the girls said was called Erika Marley, required a trip up into the mountains outside Kingston. The neighborhood was called Gordon Town according to Vivian. The twisting road quickly took them up out of the city, into a quiet, cool valley. The road followed a river for a significant portion of the trip, and Xander and Kendra were surprised how cool and how different it was from the city that was only a few miles away. The road was narrow, and Xander was glad he had decided to allow Kendra to drive. Most of the time, she was actually happier to allow him to drive, so she could study their surroundings, but the girls had warned him about the road, and now he saw why. With two other experienced slayers, Kendra seemed a little less hyper-vigilant, instead staying completely focused on the road ahead.
“So how did you two meet?” asked Xander, expecting some kind of supernatural story.
“May Pen Cemetery,” said Vivian. “I used to go down to the cemetery every night, looking for vampires.”
“You knew about vampires?”
“Well, when I was in Miami, a man came to visit me. He said he was from… the Watcher’s Council… I guess he was a little bit like you, but I didn’t like him,” said Vivian.
“Do you remember his name?”
“Roger,” she said. “He told me his last name, but I can’t remember it.”
“This was before May of ‘03?”
“Yes, of course. That’s why I told him to go away. I didn’t like him. I thought he was a crazy old man.”
“So what did this ‘Roger’ say to you?” Xander made a note to speak to Mr. Roger Wyndam Pryce.
“Something about me being a potential. He told me I was in danger, and that he wanted to train me. He also told me that vampires were real and that magic was real. I laughed at him.”
“Why doesn’t that surprise me? I guess you didn’t have slayer dreams?”
“I didn’t say that…” she hesitated. “You have to understand who I was then.”
“You’re not that person anymore?” asked Xander.
“Not really,” she said. “At the time I was premed at University of Miami. I could have gone straight to medical school at UWI, but my parents... They were convinced I needed to get out of Jamaica and see the real world.”
“You didn’t agree?”
“I just wanted to be a doctor. I didn’t really see the point of going somewhere to get an undergraduate degree I didn’t really care about then spend four more years before I could practice…”
“What happened?” Xander asked.
“Daddy told me that if I wanted to go to UWI, I’d have to get a job, pay for it myself. Medical school and part time work… That didn’t seem like such a good idea.”
“That’s harsh,” said Kendra. “But he was willing to pay for school abroad? Isn’t that really expensive with the exchange rate?”
“Yeah. Extremely. As long as he got what he wanted, he didn’t care,” she said.
“Why aren’t you in school now?” Xander asked.
“Just before the change, some men tried to attack me… Bringers. A couple of men helped me get away. They stopped their car, told me to get in then we drove off. I was actually kind of afraid of them, but they told me they were demon hunters and, well… they had normal looking eyes and they weren’t trying to stab me to death. One of them actually gave me some weapons. They said the men in the robes were bringers, and they wouldn’t stop until they killed me. I called and asked if I could come home. That was when I heard the news…” Vivian stopped, unable to continue.
“Dem kill ‘ar sista’, Annette continued.
“Who killed her?”
“Di bringa dem,” said Annette.
“So I came home for the funeral. The semester was over anyway,” said Vivian. “My father heard that the bringers were after me too, and blamed me for my sister’s death.”
“That’s insane!” said Xander. “It sounds like your sister was a potential too. There’s no record of bringers going after anyone who wasn’t a slayer, a watcher or a potential.”
“That’s what I told him – that she had to be a potential too, I mean.”
“But he didn’t buy it?”
“I don’t know. We’ve never really gotten along all that well. My father is an alpha male kind of guy and I was never the kind of girl to…”
“Take crap from anyone?” asked Xander.
“Something like that,” said Vivian, nodding.
“But your sister was more cooperative?” asked Xander.
“Well, they had more in common. She wanted to be a business woman, just like him and mummy.”
“You were the odd one out?” Xander said, not really asking a question.
“From the time I was little,” she said, shrugging. “I was Jamaica scholar, so he couldn’t say much.”
“First in the island,” said Vivian.
“Wow. And that wasn’t good enough?”
Xander was stunned. Xander had always thought his father thought he was not good enough, because, well, he, Xander just wasn’t all that good at anything. It suddenly hit him that maybe that had not been it at all. Maybe he would have tried harder if he’d realized that.
“I guess it doesn’t matter to people like that, does it?” he said.
“No, I don’t think it does,” Vivian said. “When Marjorie started to rebel, he blamed me for encouraging her. They had a big fight the night she died.”
“They never made up did they?” asked Xander, but he knew what the answer was going to be.
“No. Then I came home, and I told him I thought I should stay. Mummy was a mess… Gramps – her father –had been a drunk. She started to drink the night Marjorie died, and as far as I know, she’s still at it.”
“He told you no?” Xander asked, incredulous.
“He said, and I quote: ‘no daughter of mine is going to go to some third world university’! If I wanted to come home, that was my problem. I actually was going to go back to the states in the fall.”
“Then you became a slayer?”
“Yes,” Vivian said softly, her voice sounding anguished.
“Did someone get hurt?”
“Yes,” she said, her voice barely audible.
She looked profoundly ashamed and dejected.
“Your father hit you, didn’t he?” asked Xander gently.
“Yes,” Vivian said. “And at that moment I got my strength. I only shoved him away, but that put him into the china cabinet, and broke four of his ribs.”
“Shit,” said Xander, silently glad it hadn’t been worse.
“He threw me out that same day,” she said. “He had some workmen sent from the store, and put everything from my room outside the gate. When I got home from taking him to the hospital, most of my things were gone, a lot of what was left was broken. One of my neighbors called me over to her house when she saw me outside. She had moved some of it into her garage. It’s still there. Unfortunately, most of the things that were worth anything… the family jewelry mummy had given me…”
“Yes,” said Vivian. “I haven’t seen either of them since.”
“So where do you live?” asked Kendra.
“I stay with friends. Sometimes I sleep here,” she said. “I finally managed to get a new job just this week. It’s not much, but hopefully, I can rent another room. I had a little money left over from school before and with my old job, I managed OK, but that’s all gone now...”
“If you want to go back to school, we’ll pay for it,” said Xander. “Here or in the States. It’ll cover room and board too - everything.”
“Are you serious?” she asked, sounding excited. “No, I couldn’t do that to Annette.”
“Well, actually we came to offer you both a chance to go to school,” said Kendra.
“Yeah, you mentioned a scholarship. I thought…” Vivian stopped. She had thought that was just a ruse to talk to her once she found out they were there to see them about being slayers.
“We meant it. And it doesn’t matter if there are deficits in Annette’s schooling. We’ll get her a tutor – whatever’s necessary… You guys are incredibly resourceful,” said Xander.
“What about what we’re doing?” asked Vivian. “We’re needed here.”
“I don’t know, Vivian. We need to figure that out. You have a choice, regardless. I’m a board member. I’ll make sure we come up with a solution. Maybe we can stay for a while and give you a hand?” said Xander.
He thought that he needed a break from London anyway… and the non-stop travel was beginning to wear on him. Maybe some time on a tropical island was exactly what he needed. Perhaps Kendra could take the time to find the family she hadn’t seen since she was three. Kendra threw Xander a quick surprised look and he grinned at her. Xander seldom used his clout on the board. Whenever he did, however, he usually got what he wanted.
“Why unnu a laugh?” asked Annette.
“You don’t miss much do you?” said Xander. “That’s why I want to help you. We were laughing because – well, I don’t do this often…”
“Do what?” asked Vivian.
“Tell the rest of the board what to do,” Xander said, smirking just a little.
“But whenever he does, they always pay attention,” said Kendra. “They call him the one who sees.”
“You! You’re him!” said Vivian, suddenly excited.
“I’m him who?” Xander asked, startled.
“The one Erika told me about,” said Vivian, not really answering the question.
Xander could feel both pairs of eyes on him. He wondered suddenly what the hell he was letting himself in for. Who was this obeah woman? What kind of prophecy or what had she seen?
Xander was startled when the door opened, though he really shouldn’t have been. The woman who came out onto the veranda was a lot younger than he’d been expecting. She was 32 or 33 at most. She was built like what Xander imagined a dancer might be – slender but very muscular – like a shorter, brown-skinned, female version of Spike. She moved like a dancer. She had dark reddish brown curly hair cropped close to her head, and she was quite a bit fairer than either of the Jamaican slayers. She had a golden brown completion that Xander found quite striking – and she had freckles – something he couldn’t remember ever seeing on a black person before. The thing that got him most were the eyes, however. Most people he’d met in Jamaica had brown eyes. He supposed hers qualified, but they were very light brown, and flecked with gold. They seemed to see into him. The smile she had for him did odd things to his stomach.
“I’ve been waiting for you,” she said, and he knew she was talking only to him.
“Oh?” he asked. “Am I what you were expecting?”
“You are exactly what I was hoping for,” she said with a grin that crinkled up the corners of her eyes, showing dimples. This was a woman who laughed a lot.
“Well, you’re not what I expected,” he said.
“No? Well, don’t mind that, why don’t we sit out on the back veranda.” She led the group through her house, up stairs, and out onto a veranda that overlooked the river. “I love it out here,” she said, her focus completely on Xander.
“It’s beautiful,” Xander said. He realized none of the others had said a single word since they’d arrived. “The sound of the water…”
“It’s a beautiful sound to go to sleep to every night,” she said softly. “Maybe one of these days you’ll see.”
Xander stared at her. She just grinned at him. Had she really said that?
“So what was it you told these young women that made them stop talking?” he asked.
“I didn’t tell them anything… well, not today anyway,” she said mysteriously. Xander wanted to be angry with her for toying with him, but for some reason he just felt himself being sucked in.
Vivian and Annette exchanged grins. Xander began to relax a little. Whatever they had been told, it was apparently either something funny or just not that terrible. Kendra looked at him and raised an eyebrow. He shrugged.
“So, you wanted to talk to me,” she said. “What did you want to know?”
“Can you make me bullet proof too?” Xander said the first thing that came into his head.
“No… Not unless you want to stay here with me.”
Xander just grinned at her. “I’ll have to give it serious consideration,”
He couldn’t believe he was flirting with her. What the hell was going on anyway?
“They aren’t exactly bullet proof,” she said seriously. “The spells I did… they make them very lucky… the bullets miss…”
“You’re saying they could be hit, but the probability is very low?” asked Xander. “You did tell them this?”
“Of course,” she said. “They’re doing the god’s work, why would I put them in danger?”
“Could you teach this spell to someone?”
“That person would have to have a lot of power,” Erika said.
“The person I have in mind was the person who activated all the slayers,” he said.
“That would be enough power,” Erika said. “Sustaining this spell requires a constant expenditure of my magical energies. I couldn’t do it for say more than about ten people before it would start to break down.”
“What about you? Does it have a cost to you?” Xander asked.
“Not unless I try to expand it…” Erika said, shrugging. “Well, it would probably take a year off my life, if I kept it up for the rest of my life. But that’s a cost that I’m willing to bear.”
“You never tell me dat!” Annette said, hotly.
“It wasn’t important,” said Erika.
“Of course it’s important,” said Vivian, looking horrified.
“I said probably… It’s like everything else… there are risks and cost,” said Erika.
“Magic isn’t free,” said Xander.
His mistrust had vanished with this one revelation. He had not been sure what kind of power the woman could be drawing from to perform such a spell. He knew it took a great deal of power to cast spells that complex and have them operate remotely and indefinitely. He suspected that even if Willow had known of such a spell, she might have hesitated to use it, though maybe she would have used it for Tara. Guns just hadn’t been an issue before Warren. Of course, now, thanks to Dru, she had her Tara back.
“Nothing that’s worth doing is free Xander, you know that,” she gestured at his glass eye.
“No it’s not,” he said, suddenly shutting right down.
“Did you tell them how you lost your eye?” she asked.
“No,” he said, reluctant to talk about it.
“He really doesn’t like to talk about that,” said Kendra protectively, trying to shut the discussion down, knowing just how painful it still was for him.
“He sacrificed himself to protect his slayers,” said Erika. “They need to know.”
“Why?” he looked at her, suddenly feeling utterly exposed. Talking about his eye was one thing he usually tried to avoid.
“They need to know how much you care. And they need to know how high the price can be,” she told him.
“You know what happened?” Xander asked.
“I had a dream… I suspect it was that same night… I saw what happened then I saw you in the hospital…” she didn’t tell him she’d woken up screaming, and cried herself back to sleep.
“Me? Why would the powers show you me?”
“Because you’re the one,” Erika said.
“What one?” he stared at her.
She just looked at him, and then looked over at the river. It was clear she was having trouble saying anything.
“You’re the one the powers showed her as her mate,” said Vivian.
“Oh, you have got to be kidding!” Xander said.
“Don’t think I’m making this up!” Erika said. “It’s not what I wanted.”
“I’m sorry,” said Xander. “If I’m not what you want – why even bring it up?”
“I’m not being clear,” she said. “It’s not what I ever imagined. I didn’t say it wasn’t what I wanted now.”
“What about what I want?” said Xander. “You want me to pack up and move to Gordon Town, Jamaica?”
“I haven’t seen that part of it. All I saw was you – a white man from the US no less, and you’re what, five years younger than me? Not particularly well educated… Believe me; I wouldn’t make something like this up. My family... They will not be particularly happy if things turn out that I end up with some foreigner.”
“You know, I’m not sure I need hostile in laws…”
“After D’hoffryn?” she said.
“Is there anything about me you don’t know?”
“Lots of things. What sign are you?” she asked. “When is your birthday?”
“March 1st,” he said automatically.
“That actually explains a lot,” she said.
“You believe in horoscopes?”
“No, not exactly. You should know something though. We were born on the same day,” she said.
“Hope your luck has been better than mine!”
“You have an amazing job, great friends; you’ve helped save the world… How is that bad luck?”
“So you do know my history?”
“Some of it,” she said.
“And you still don’t think I have bad luck?”
“You have good luck in the things that count,” she said. She moved from what was clearly ‘her’ chair, to come and sit next to him. “You and I need to talk.”
“I can live with that,” Xander said. “I can come back tomorrow.”
“Oh, I am sure they can make it back to town without you. I’ll take you back myself later,” she said.
“Okaay,” said Xander. “What the hell are you up to, lady? I’m not really big with the head games.”
“Oh, I’m not big with head games either,” she said.
“Why don’t you stay and I’ll tell you,” Erika said in a voice so quiet that most people who weren’t slayers wouldn’t have heard.
He had a feeling she would have said something quite different if the three women present had not been slayers. He was reminded of Anya’s directness, and that woke something up in him that had been dormant for a while.
Kendra stood up.
“I can take them back. It’s up to you, Xand.”
“Are you sure?” he asked.
“Oh, I’m sure… Getting’ just a little bit too interesting if you know what I mean?” Kendra told him.
“Oh yeah,” said Xander, wondering if he was making a mistake by staying.
The two younger women just grinned at him. He had an idea they had been expecting something like this from the time they had heard Kendra call him the one who sees. Whatever this woman was up to, they clearly looked up to her. He was going to have it out with her without an audience. Worst case, he could call Kendra and she could come and get him.
“So what do you want to talk about?” he said as soon as they had said goodbye to the others.
“Who said anything about talk?!” she said.
His jaw just about dropped.
“I’m joking,” she said, grinning at him, and putting a hand on his shoulder. He noticed she locked the front door behind them. When they had come inside before, she’d just left it standing open. “I just want to get to know you. It’s strange when you start getting visions of someone you’ve never met, and you realize the powers that be want you to be with him.”
“So you admit it’s a bit…”
Xander couldn’t think of a polite word that applied.
“Weird?” she smiled
Her smile made Xander’s stomach do that weird flip it always did whenever he went on a rollercoaster.
“That’s one word for it,” he said.
“I’m thinking it’s time for a drink,” she said. “Red Stripe, or something else?”
“What do you have?” he’d sampled the local beer, but right now, he definitely needed something a bit stronger.
“Wine, rum and scotch.”
“Rum and coke, if you got it,” he said.
“No problem,” she said, “Come.”
She led him to a large open kitchen that looked like it got a lot of use. Behind the old, well-used gas range were pots, pans and skillets of every description. It looked like she or someone else did a great deal of cooking. One whole wall was full of herbs and spices of every description. He wondered if some of those were magical, or just for cooking.
“I don’t keep the magical herbs in here,” she said.
“How do you do that?”
“I’m good at reading people,” she said. “Besides, I think I have a bit of an edge. I’ve been ‘with you’ quite a bit in the last few years.’
“You’ve seen other parts of my life?”
“Yes, and before you ask, yes, they’re probably not the moments you usually share with anyone,” she said.
“Just what I need!” Xander said. “Why can’t anyone normal like me?”
She threw her head back and laughed. It was a full, happy sound. “You know, most people think I’m quite ‘normal’. Boring, even.”
“I find that hard to believe,” said Xander.
“Look around,” she said. “Is there anything in this house that would tell you I’m an Obeah woman?”
“Well, someone who knew what they were looking for would notice some of the charms…”
He stopped. The house was decorated with art – mostly paintings and ceramics, much of which he suspected was local. There were probably as many books here as there were in Giles’ library, though none of the ones in the living room appeared to be occult in nature. In fact, they seemed to reflect almost every other subject area he could imagine, including an enormous collection of books on Jamaica and the Caribbean.
“I’m talking about the average person,” said Erika.
“No, probably not,” Xander admitted. “Even if they recognized… No, you’re right. What else do you do?”
“I have a doctorate in history,” she said. “I’m a lecturer at UWI.”
The way she said it, it came out as ‘U-wee’. Xander remembered that was what Vivian had called the University of the West Indies at Mona.
“Wow,” he said. “Why the hell would you want someone like me?”
“That was precisely my reaction when I realized what the dreams were,” she said.
“I can imagine – no... Actually, scratch that! I don’t have a clue!”
She grinned at him, and took a sip of her beer. “Believe me, this is not my style either. I’m a social scientist. I don’t believe in predestination. Even though I am what I am.”
“How did you become an Obeah woman… or a witch or whatever?”
“My grandmother,” she smiled as if the memory pleased her. “When my mother was in England, I lived with her.” She grimaced.
“Was your mother upset?” he had a feeling there was a story behind that expression.
“I haven’t talked to her about it,” she said. “My grandmother tried to teach her, but she was… she didn’t have any magical talent.”
“So she doesn’t believe?”
“Oh she believes. Grannie is a powerful woman,” she said. “I’m sure she knows about me, but she pretends that she doesn’t and she basically acts as if magic doesn’t exist.”
“And you and your grandmother keep it away from her?”
“Yes,” she said. “I wish I could talk to her about it. She’s a great person… Just a bit resentful. I think she was very disappointed that she didn’t have any aptitude.”
“Well, doesn’t everyone have a basic aptitude? I mean, even I can cast simple spells,” Xander said.
“Grannie doesn’t understand it either… she said that too. I don’t know. All we know is that I seem to have…” she hesitated.
“You have a lot more power than most obeah women?”
“Yes,” she told him. “Grannie said I’m the most powerful one she’s ever seen.”
“From the things you’ve done… I’m not surprised. You’ve done things I haven’t seen Willow do.”
“Really?” Erika looked surprised.
“The thing with the bullets… That’s some pretty serious power,” Xander said. “And you’re not pulling it from anything else.”
“You know a lot,” she said. “Maybe that’s why…”
“Why the powers would put us together?” he said. “Maybe. You know I’m not 100% with that yet, right? Not that I’m not flattered… You’re…” he wanted to say ‘hot’ or ‘gorgeous’ or even ‘beautiful’, but he was afraid of gushing and sounding like an idiot.
“You’re very attractive,” he said, staring at her then suddenly finding the pattern in the polished terrazzo floor very interesting.
“You’re not too bad yourself,” she said, suddenly seeming very shy.
Just like that, the atmosphere between them changed completely. They had been standing in her kitchen, leaning against the counter talking like old friends one moment, then the next, they were staring at each other, and Xander couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt this off balance. Maybe the night Anya had stripped in his parent’s basement. Why did he have to think about that? He blushed deeply and found himself hoping she couldn’t actually read his mind. He couldn’t think of another thing to say. He drank down the last swallow of his drink, and set the glass down. She did the same with the bottle of Red Stripe.
“Maybe we should…” he said, suddenly not sure what he was going to suggest.
“Go back upstairs,” she said
“Are you suggesting???”
“Oh… No… Uh. I don’t know what I’m doing,” she said honestly.
“Guess that makes two of us,” he said. “Maybe…”
“Maybe I should do this,” he said, taking her hand and pulling her to him. He didn’t kiss her immediately. Instead, they stood like that, their arms around each other, just staring. He began to gently trace the lines of her face, touching her cheek, and finally her lips.
“Maybe you should just do it and stop torturing me,” she said quietly.
He kissed her. It was the softest of kisses. She kissed him back the same way, as if they had all the time in the world. Maybe they did. He stared into her eyes when they came up for air, wishing suddenly he had his full range of vision. For some reason, he remembered that he hadn’t been with a woman since Anya. He’d dated one of the slayers in London but that had not ended well, in no small part because he hadn’t felt comfortable sleeping with her. That had been more than four years ago. Xander closed his eyes tightly. It wasn’t going to happen now either. He didn’t have any kind of birth control. Anyway, he didn’t think he was ready for that – he hardly knew this woman even though his body was quite certain what it wanted. His mind was a mess of thoughts of Anya, Anya’s death and Erika.
“What’s going on in your head?” she asked.
“You don’t really want to know.”
“Yes I do,” she said.
He told her the truth.
She didn’t say anything. She just wrapped her arms around him and pulled his head down so his face rested against hers.
“I’m so sorry you lost her,” she said.
“Thank you,” he whispered.
“Let’s go up to the back veranda.”
“OK,” he said. He realized she was being very specific about what she was saying. He got the message.
“I’m not trying to put you off, you know,” she said as he followed her up the stairs.
“That wasn’t me telling you I wasn’t interested. I just want to sit down,” she said.
“Oh,” he said. OK then… apparently not the right message. She was incredibly direct. Unlike Anya who hadn’t seemed to have any sense of what was private and what wasn’t, she seemed quite clear on the difference. She was also apparently not the sort to allow misunderstandings. She was clearly very interested. Xander wasn’t sure what he wanted to do, though his libido had no such confusion.
“I’m not going to pressure you. I want this. I want to be with you… Now even, but I know this is kind of a shock. I can wait.”
“You’re the most direct person I’ve ever met,” he said. “To be honest, I don’t know what I want. I am very attracted to you… but I think you could probably tell.”
She grinned at him. “But?”
“I hardly know you. I guess I’ve figured out that I’m not the kind of guy who just jumps into bed with strangers,” he said. “Once was enough.”
“That’s good,” she said. “Then I guess we need to work on not being strangers.”
“I’d like that. Forgive me for not just falling in line because the powers say we’re fated… I only have your word on that anyway… Say I believe it, I still don’t know why, and they’ve done some very strange things...”
“Don’t trust them?”
“I don’t trust them at all. You’ll find that I’m not the world’s most trusting person anyway. Other than Buffy and Willow and maybe a few of our friends… and we’ve had our share of problems, believe me.”
“You’re just making me like you more, you know. You’re not the only one with doubts, Xander. And I’ve learned that when the powers get involved, there’s always a cost.”
“Yup,” said Xander. “They never give you anything without wanting something.”
“And this ‘something’ is enough out of the ordinary – I know something big is coming.”
“Doesn’t that frighten you?” he asked.
“Yes,” she said. “It does. Right now, though, I’m trying to stay focused on the personal part. It’s not as if I can see the future or anything.”
“Just you,” she agreed.
“And?” he asked.
“You’re not anything like who I imagined I would be with,” she admitted.
“What did you imagine?”
“Someone else at UWI? I don’t know exactly. I went to university with some cool, very bright guys. Good men. People who grew up in Jamaica, who care about the country the way I do. You’ll find most of us who stay here do it for a reason,” she said.
“You want to make a difference?” he asked.
“Yes,” she said. “I love this country. I never wanted to leave. A lot of people go away to university, and they never come back. Going to England, even though I planned to come back… that was something I almost didn’t do.”
What she said just made him respect her more. He wasn’t sure he was ready for a life here, however. His friends were… well, mostly in the States. Buffy and Spike spent most of their time in London when they weren’t on the road. Most of the rest were in the States. Giles was in London or down in Brighton where Christine’s house was, and where most of her family still lived. They traveled a lot. Giles seemed convinced that the future of the council should be in America, something that had really surprised Xander. A part of him suspected it had to do with trying to restore Buffy’s trust, but something seemed right about it, so there was probably more to it than that.
“You went to school in England?” he asked.
“Yes. My mother always talked about her university days with fondness, so I decided to do my post-grad work there… I didn’t want to go to the US.”
“Don’t like us much, do you?” he held her gaze.
“I haven’t met too many Americans that I really liked, no,” she said, her eyes never leaving his.
She had found many of the Americans she met in Jamaica – most of whom were tourists – to be loud and more than a little inconsiderate, with the worst treating the whole country as if it were a beach and there for their entertainment, but she didn’t say that. Most of the others were expatriates working with various NGOs or in a few cases, at UWI. Even some of them seemed arrogant and convinced they had the solution to all of Jamaica’s problems, even though much of the time, they had no idea what they were talking about. No, her experiences with Americans had been less than inspiring.
“So you weren’t exactly thrilled when they showed you me?”
Oddly, Xander found that information made him feel just a little less anxious about Erika’s motives.
“I wasn’t happy at all,” she said, truthfully.
“That actually makes me feel better for some reason,” he found himself smiling at her.
“You’re a very strange man,” she said, smiling back.
“This from the obeah woman who teaches history at the local university,” he said.
“Is that a problem for you?”
“With my life? No. I don’t think I could ever be with anyone ‘normal’.” He made air quotes.
“Not afraid of commitment?” she asked.
“Well… No… I don’t think so. Not with the right person anyway,” he said, thoughtfully. She didn’t ask the easiest questions. “You keep doing that!”
“Am I making you uncomfortable?”
“That would be a yes. Everything about this is uncomfortable,” he said. “Uncomfortable, incredibly stimulating… terrifying…”
“I guess that makes sense,” she said. “So you find my company stimulating?”
“You have no idea,” he said.
“You want to bet on that?” she asked, again with that unsettlingly steady gaze.
She put her hand on his arm, her touch gentle, almost a caress. Just that simple gesture sent a small shock of pleasure through him.
“No,” he said. “What are you trying to do to me, woman?”
“I don’t know. I guess I want to make you to feel just a little bit of what I’m feeling,” she said, tracing a line along his arm with her fingertips.
“Maybe you should tell me what you feel,” he said, knowing he was treading on very dangerous ground.
“Not sure how to describe it, Xander. I suppose… I feel – a little – it’s kind of like the feeling when you’ve had a couple of glasses of champagne… and I really, really want to touch you,” her voice was very quiet. “I didn’t really expect you to walk through my door today. When I told the girls that I was destined to be with the one who sees… I didn’t tell them anything else about you. If I’d known who you were… I would have asked you to come alone. I wanted to stay focused on the girls… they’re amazing, aren’t they?”
“Yes, I am really impressed with all they’ve accomplished. I mean… we did a lot, but we had Giles… I mean… I don’t mean to diminish what you do or anything...”
“No, it’s OK. I don’t deserve the credit anyway. They’re a lot more than you know. Viv has had a rough time. Annette never knew who her father was… Miss Violet just keeps them together… It’s not everyone who can deal with all that’s happened. She’s one hell of a woman.”
“She took in Vivian when she had nowhere to go. She’s a bus driver, did you know that?” she asked.
“No, I had no idea what she did.”
“She’s raised her daughter all by herself and she’s managed to stay away from any more men who…” she stopped.
“You don’t really want to hear about Jamaican social problems, do you?”
“Actually, I was finding it quite interesting,” he said honestly.
“Now you’re just being polite,” she said.
“No, I’m not. To be truthful, it’s interesting to listen to what you think… It helps me understand how your mind works, what you care about.”
“You’re a very astute observer of human nature, aren’t you?” she said.
“Because I’m the one who sees?”
“Because you pay attention,” said Erika.
“Because I pay attention?”
“Because you really
pay attention. Not just to the words… but the underlying messages…” she said.
“I try,” said Xander.
“You know, I’ve decided I like you,” she said.
“Now she tells me this. Don’t you think you’ve got it backwards?” he grinned at her.
“How so?” she asked.
“Well you did tell me how much you wanted to be with me,” he said. “You weren’t sure you liked me.”
“Oh I liked you… Now I really like you,” she said, trying, without much success, not to let all her emotions come through in her voice.
What she managed not to say was that she quite sure she was falling for him. She was usually quite honest about things like feelings, but that particular bit of information was something she needed to process herself and she could tell he was overwhelmed enough without any dramatic declarations.
“You’re crazy,” he said.
“Probably… I have a strange American man in my house, and I’m busy chatting him up,” she said, sounding very bemused.
“Don’t tell me you’ve never done it before!” he teased.
“I’ve never done it before!” she said.
“How come you’re so good at it?” he said softly.
“I have great inspiration,” she said, just as softly.
“See what I mean! You’re a natural,” he told her.
Erika was right; it was wonderful to wake up to the sound of water. Xander also woke up to the feeling of a warm body next to his. The little cat must have come in through the window, he thought, still half asleep. He sat up, stretching. The cat nuzzled him, then stretched herself, and hopped down. Xander couldn’t remember the last time he’d slept quite so well. Life in Sunnydale just hadn’t been conducive to a good night’s sleep – not for a long time. Since then, apocalypses, nightmares and nights slept in different hotel rooms or sleeping bags on different continents had combined to leave Xander just rested enough to function.
Last night had been a revelation. Erika had an encyclopedic knowledge of magic and a library that Giles would have been quite at home in. She seemed surprised by his familiarity with some of the more obscure texts in her office. When he explained how many hours he had spent in the library and then Giles’ house researching, she had a clearer picture of the life he had led for the last almost nine years and he could tell that it made her even more comfortable with him.
In addition to the books he was familiar with, she also had things he had never seen, magical objects and a collection of potions that probably would have pleased Harry Potter’s friend Severus. The magics she had learned from her grandmother were old magics passed down from mother to daughter for centuries. It was African oral tradition, and only those who practiced as much as Erika obviously had were able to recreate the body of knowledge. Erika had begun to create a written record of everything she’d learned from her grandmother.
Erika was determined to create a written history for her daughter… and her daughter’s daughter… Xander had asked her how she knew she would have a daughter… Her answer was simply that every ancestor had had a daughter. Her grandmother remembered hearing of at least seven before her – all were the first daughters of first daughters.
That was when Xander had feared the entire pleasant interlude would unravel and unravel it did.
From the time he remembered someone talking to him about marriage and family, Xander had feared one thing more than any. Fatherhood. The unfortunate thing was he didn’t recognize that fear for what it was for a long time. Nevertheless, he feared it a great deal. Even more than the fact that Anya had once been a demon, Xander had feared becoming a father – becoming his
father. How could he have a family and not
repeat his parent’s dismal history?
After things had failed with Anya, and especially since she’d died, he had given a lot of thought about why. He had never stopped loving her. He still loved her now, even though she’d been dead for years. Part of him always would, he realized. So why had he had such a problem with marriage? He slowly realized that the problem he’d had wasn’t with commitment. He had been committed enough to Anya to ignore the reactions of all the people in his life whose opinion really mattered to him – Buffy, Willow, Giles and even Dawn.
So why had he balked at marriage, like those horses that stopped suddenly at a jump, causing the rider to go flying? Children. Marriage to Xander had meant children, particularly marriage to Anya, who had wanted at least two. That was probably why the demon had showed him a disastrous family life with hints of children that might not have been his. The longer he’d thought about it, the more he’d realized that marriage
hadn’t been the problem.
The real problem had been the idea that he would have to figure out how to be a parent. The overwhelming fear that his children would view him with the disrespect, fear and disgust with which he viewed his own parents. The pure terror that he would hurt someone helpless, the way that they had hurt him. Eventually, Xander had come to a decision. He’d decided firmly that whatever relationship he ended up with, he didn’t want to have children.
Of course, it hadn’t worked out quite that way. Willow, as usual, had managed to blow a big hole in that plan! Since Tara and Willow’s marriage and his agreement to father their children, he felt a little less fear about fathering children, but a large part of that was because, in spite of his (so far minimal) participation, Willow and Tara’s two beautiful baby daughters were fundamentally their
children. He might be their biological father, but he was not really their parent – though as they got older, Willow and Tara had both indicated they wanted him to be very involved, he didn’t fear ruining their childhoods or warping their lives.
He’d made his peace with the whole thing (mostly) – and he had felt a certain relief. He could have his cake and eat it too. He could see his flesh and blood grow up, but he never really had to be a real father
, his contribution to the lives of Willow and Tara’s two daughters notwithstanding.
That very uncomfortable discussion was probably the reason he’d ended up here instead of the spacious room next door. They had talked until he could feel the air begin to change with the slight warming of the coming dawn. The sounds around them had begun to quicken as everything started to awaken. They’d actually ended up holding each other as they talked on that quiet back veranda – sometimes just lying there next to each other listening to the water, and the night.
He was amazed at how quickly he had become really attached to this woman. He’d begun to feel… right. Something had begun to heal in him that had needed healing for a while. He’d thought he had told her everything – even a few things he’d never managed to tell Anya. It seemed they could talk about everything.
Until the fatherhood discussion came up.
There were fresh towels on a chest at the foot of the bed along with a new toothbrush still in the package. Erika must have left them at some point. He wondered if she’d watched him sleep. For some reason, he found himself really hoping she had. He realized the door was slightly ajar, and he went to close it. Downstairs, before he shut the door, he could hear music. It sounded like it could be jazz, but it seemed quite melodic. He liked it, whatever it was. There wasn’t a clock in the room, but since he felt completely refreshed, he realized it must be quite late.
Xander decided to shower and then face her. He opened the door that led to a bathroom she must also use because there was a door on the other side of the room, and there were all sorts of personal touches. The room smelled of fresh soap, which smelled of her. The immediate effect that had on him made him smile to himself. Scent was such a powerful thing. Stepping into the shower was like being surrounded by her. He found himself wondering what it would be like to shower with her, to feel her small, strong hands lathering his body instead of his own. He found himself thinking of her wet golden-brown skin, of bathing with her in the cool river with only warm sunshine on their bodies.
Erika was in the living room reading the morning paper. She had thought to have breakfast on the back veranda, but this morning it reminded her of him and she needed to clear her thoughts. She settled for tea in the living room. She didn’t want to think about the way the night had ended. When she’d woken up yesterday, she’d known she would be meeting Vivian and Annette’s two American visitors. She hadn’t imagined that one of them would turn out to be the man she had been dreaming about for the better part of five years.
The first time she’d ‘seen’ him had been the night he’d lost his eye. That nightmare still haunted her. Since then she’d had many dreams about him – dreams about his past as well as dreams about slayers and Sunnydale, and even the big fight in Los Angeles. The girls thought she had some kind of second sight, but she had not had very many prophetic dreams before that night. She had always been aware, but not terribly prescient.
Now, being with him and feeling just how natural it felt, it all had begun to make sense… except for one thing. She just couldn’t understand why the powers would send him to her and allow her to start to care so deeply if it was not going to work. She couldn’t imagine how it could work for them right now. She couldn’t imagine a life without children, and he couldn’t imagine one with them – in spite of the very big favor he’d done for his friend Willow and her partner. Then something occurred to her that made her smile. She knew it meant something. Maybe there was hope.
She heard him coming down the stairs and set her Observer down, watching him walk down the stairs. He’d trimmed his beard a little, and he looked so very male. She’d never been to bed with a man the first day she’d met him before, but she would have done it yesterday and she realized it had very little to do with the dreams or the Powers… Well… maybe the Powers were onto something! As soon as he walked into her house, she had known he was important and she’d found her body responding to him and her heart had quickly followed.
Before the night was over, she’d known she’d never want him to leave. She had a feeling that he would have had this effect on her even without the dreams. Something to do with the way he looked at her. His glance was gentle, but she felt a strength in him that drew her to him powerfully. He seemed as if life amused him and she found it easy to talk to him, and laugh with him. Touching him had been almost intoxicating.
From the beginning, she had found herself flirting with him, saying things she never usually said to strange men. She had ended up telling him things she never told any of the men she’d ever dated, not even Trevor. Trevor was the man she’d come closest to marrying. Something had been missing between them; she had slowly come to see, but she’d had a hard time letting go… because he was just so… decent. When she’d headed off to London to do her doctorate and to give herself a chance to ‘see the world’ as her mother had suggested, she’d reluctantly ended it, much to his dismay.
By the time she returned three years later, he’d been married for almost a year. Her mother had just smiled knowingly. Apparently, it had been the right decision for both of them, because Erika quickly realized she had no regrets. Sharon was a nice girl. They were even (slowly) becoming friends. Erika had been back home more than a year. She hadn’t dated anyone in even longer. Maybe that was all this was. She was horny. It wasn’t as if she hadn’t had plenty of opportunities, though. No, it wasn’t just that she was horny. She tried to school her thoughts and failed, so she tried instead to keep her expression neutral, and was rewarded by a warm smile and a look that seemed to see everything and was uncommonly pleased by it all.
“Good morning,” Xander said.
For some reason, just seeing her made him feel happy.
“Good afternoon, Xander,” said Erika.
“Wow, I guess I needed the sleep, huh?”
“Did you sleep well, then?”
“Better than I have in a long time,” he said, truthfully.
“I’m glad,” she smiled. “I am sorry you haven’t been restin’.”
“I don’t think I realized how much I needed that until this morning,” he said. “The river is just…”
“It is very relaxing,” she said.
“Yeah, I could do that every night,” he said without thinking. Then it hit him what he’d said, and he laughed nervously.
She didn’t say anything for a long moment. She just grinned at him and kept watching him with those pretty golden-brown eyes.
“Lost the power of speech?” she said softly.
“Something like that,” he said, grinning then blushing as he suddenly remembered his thoughts about her in the shower. He wanted to boldly close the distance between them and wrap his arms around her, and press those ripe little breasts against his chest. He’d noticed how her nipples brushed the thin cotton t-shirt she was wearing this morning, pretty much as soon as he’d laid eyes on her.
“You don’t really want to know what I’m thinking,” he said thickly, trying to keep his eyes focused on her face and failing dismally.
“I think I can guess,” she said softly, her face crinkling up into that smile he was quickly coming to love.
Oh god. What the hell is going on? What is happening to me? He wondered. He had done everything but consider the ‘L’ word… Yet, there it was… he loved things about her. It was more than that too. He took a deep breath.
She stood up and came over to where he was, standing only about a foot away, looking up at him. “How about we start with breakfast?”
“Afternoon breakfast! That sounds really good,” he said, but he couldn’t keep the disappointment out of his voice. Right now, breakfast of any kind was the last thing on his mind. She just smirked at him, shaking her head.
“Have you ever had ackee and saltfish?”
He nodded. That was the first Jamaican food he’d eaten his first morning here. He’d thought it was tasty enough, though it probably wouldn’t make his favorites list. Had that really just been two days ago?
“It’s good stuff.”
She grinned at him, rolling her eyes. She’d never heard anyone refer to ackee as ‘stuff’ before. Americans!
“Come! Keep me company in the kitchen.”
He watched her moving around the kitchen, adding a little of this, and a little of that. Pretty soon, the kitchen began to smell really good. By the time they took their trays up to the back veranda, Xander was almost drooling.
“So what’s this?” he asked. “It’s delicious.”
“That’s breadfruit. It’s a popular carbohydrate… It’s very nourishing. There’s a breadfruit tree over there,” she pointed in the direction of a huge tree, with large round green fruit on it. “The other thing is called bammie. It’s made from cassava.”
“It tastes good too,” he said, grinning at her.
Then he tasted the ackee and saltfish, and decided he’d died and gone to heaven. Whatever they’d served at the hotel… it had been nothing like this. His expression must have been easy to read because her smile was one of delight.
“This is awesome,” he said.
“Well, I was inspired,” she said, laughing at him.
“You’re very special,” he said. “…and I am officially addicted to your cooking.”
“Guess you’ll have to stick around then,” she said.
“I guess I will,” he said, leaning over to kiss her.
After breakfast, they talked some more. He was reluctant to leave, despite wondering if he should. She didn’t mention it, however, so he didn’t bring it up. He helped with the dishes, and then without discussion, they resumed their comfortable spots on the back veranda. Eventually, somehow, the conversation turned back to the work he was doing, finding all the remaining slayers.
“So how come you’re taking responsibility for all these slayers?” she asked.
“They need someone to take care of them,” he said. “I really love it. Some of them really have a rough time adjusting. It feels good to be able to help them see there’s a good future waiting for them. That’s why, when I realized how much money the council had in reserves I told Giles he had to offer scholarships to those who needed them. After all, they didn’t ask for this.”
“You have a lot of compassion for them.”
“I guess so. Some of them don’t have anyone. It’s what you’d do… besides… it’s easy to care about them; they’re very special young women. They’re my girls. I have to take care of them!”
“From what you say, they really adore you,” she said.
“I guess,” he said, suddenly embarrassed.
“Vivian and Annette are very taken with you,” she said.
“They’re wonderful, aren’t they?” he said, smiling.
“Yes, they are, but that wasn’t really my point,” she said.
your point?” he asked, suddenly realizing there was a definite subtext.
“Your worry about whether you could be a good parent,” she said.
“Well, this isn’t the same,” he said.
“Not exactly, no,” she said. Then she changed the subject.
Xander found his mind wandering from the conversation after that. They weren’t talking about anything serious. He suspected she was throwing him softballs because she could tell how distracted he was.
“Why did you do that?” he said, finally giving up on pretending to concentrate.
“Do what?” asked Erika.
“You know what you did!” he said. “You put thoughts in my head!”
“Did I?” she asked slyly.
“Not those kinds of thoughts… Damn it woman, you’re making me crazy.”
She grinned at him, wriggling her eyebrows at him. It was the grin he was starting to think of as her ‘evil’ grin. Xander sighed. He felt himself surrendering just a little more.
The day had gone by in a flash. They had talked and talked. They’d gone for a walk – one that made Xander grateful that he spent so much of his life trying to keep up with slayers because it was more of a hike up the side of a mountain. It had been worth it, however. He’d found himself on a peak, looking down into a misty valley, surrounded on all sides by the Blue Mountains. The air was cool and fresh, the sun brilliant. He’d had to kiss her.
That had started something that had only become more intense as the day wore on. He felt like sixteen again. By the time they’d made it back to the house and had made an early dinner together as if they had been doing it for years, he was long past ready to make love to her. Had things been different, they would have gotten to this point much earlier. Then again, had things been different, they would have gotten there last night. Now, however, Xander was certain he wanted to do this and it was more than just his libido talking.
“There are all kinds of things we can do that don’t involve sex proper, you know,” she said.
“I do know. There’s just one thing about that...” he said.
“It’ll just make me want you more,” he said.
“You’re not wrong,” she said
They stared at each other, not touching for the first time since dinner.
“Do you trust me?” she asked, looking at him intently
“I could make it so there are no… consequences,” she said.
“Isn’t that what you want?”
“Not this soon,” she said honestly. “And I would never do that to you.”
He hesitated. It wasn’t so much that he didn’t trust her. He just remembered how many of Willow’s spells had gone badly.
“Not sure I trust the magic,” he said. “I mean – Willow’s spells… As powerful as she is? They don’t always work as they’re supposed to. And of course, there’s this ‘Powers That Be want us together’ business. I’m not really ready to be fate’s butt monkey right now.”
Erika gave him a puzzled, slightly amused look and shook her head.
“OK, no fate’s butt monkey, I get it! I’ll have you know my spells are very reliable.”
Erika had no intention of telling him that she’d used the spell before – that just wasn’t
a discussion she wanted to have right now.
“I’m sorry,” he said, “I didn’t mean...”
“It’s OK. I have an idea,” she said. She closed her eyes and tried to visualize the counter in the family planning clinic she had taken a young friend to visit just a few weeks ago. Then she said a short incantation. A small basket appeared in front of them. In it were several dozen condoms.
“What did you just do?” he asked, stunned.
“I raided the local family planning clinic!” she grinned at him. “I’ll send them back what we don’t use. Hopefully, there was no one there today, since this is Sunday.”
“Don’t we have to pay for those?” he asked.
“No, they’re free… You can go in any time and take as many as you want.”
“How ambitious are you feeling?” he asked, suddenly embarrassed.
She pulled out about half of what was in the basket, and set them on the table then she said another incantation, and the basket vanished.
“So… ambitious then!” he grinned at her.
“Just not in the mood to run out…” she said, pulling him close.
Xander could find no reason to argue with her logic.
JDF = Jamaica Defence Force - what the Jamaican military is called.
Red Stripe = popular Jamaican beer.
Gordon Town is a real place. West Kingston is a real place.
Gordon Town really does have a river. West Kingston is a ghetto.
UWI: University of the West Indies, for a long time the only university in Jamaica (and the English speaking Caribbean). It has a reputation as being a quality institution, despite my character's father's opinion.
Jamaican Patois: what most average people speak. Most middle class and wealthy Jamaicans like to think they speak it too, but they also speak 'standard' English. You can find Jamaican patois dictionaries online. Sadly, the spellings are still not 100% standardized.
Have any other questions, feel free to ask and I'll add the answers to this if i have them.