The Windmills of your mind Disclaimer: Full disclaimer can be found at the back This story contains allusions to and depictions of mild sexual situations as well as mild swearing and mild violence. Two actual persons appear in this story: HM Queen Elizabeth II and her Principal Private Secretary (to the Sovereign) the Rt Honourable Sir Robin Janvrin, now lord Janvrin. He was her PPS between 1999 and 2007. Both are only “depicted” as they are replied to in a phone conversation. I hope my portrayal of them will be considered acceptable. No actual dialogue is spoken by them. This story contains elements of the works of Joss Whedon in the form of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the works of another author, who will be named at the end, to provide some sort of amusement to the author in hopes people will realize where he’s taking this… Iorgeth demons and Kel’tow demons are mine. Otherwise I make no claim on the content of this story other than to be recognized as its author. None of the previously copyrighted material belongs to me, nor do I make a claim thereon. A sequel is being written and if (positive) reviews/ sufficient readers are available maybe some prequels as well. That the autumn leaves are turning to the colour of her hair
Rupert Giles was worried. Buffy had returned from Italy a week ago in a fair snit, having dumped the Immortal in a rather final and fatal way, which showed that being’s foolishness in assuming such a moniker and then annoying a Chosen Slayer. Research since then had shown him to be a rare Nosferatu vampire, and the fact that Buffy had thrown of his thrall and managed to Slay him had the supernatural world walking around her in wide tippy toe circles.
This also meant that Buffy was currently occupying a small apartment in the Building, and as he was still officially her Watcher this meant that as well as his ordinary duties as Head of the New Council he was responsible for her and therefore more than slightly aware of her comings and goings. And in both capacities it meant that he had a front row view of Buffy’s attempt to single-handedly rid London of what little supernatural activity remained that the three younger Slayers stationed there had missed.
Her last confirmed kill was a wily and elusive demon that for fifty odd years had made its home in Kingsmere on Wimbledon Common, eating ducks, straying dogs, other household pets and the occasional vagrant. There hadn’t been a Slayer patient enough to deal with the thing and after six Watchers had been killed or seriously injured, the Old Council had washed its hands of the matter.
And then Buffy camped out on the Common for two days and now The Demon of Kingsmere was a rather gooey blue patch on a Tarmacked bicycling path. After Buffy’s rather vague and annoyed description it had been tentatively identified as an Iorgeth demon, a rather nasty carnivorous creature that no Slayer had ever managed to defeat single handed. Until Buffy that is.
This had firmly reestablished Buffy’s abilities as a hunter; insofar her lethal break up with the Nosferatu Vampire had not done that already. And had driven Giles, Dawn, Willow and Xander almost insane with worry that Buffy’s recklessness would finally get her killed. Which worry, increased due to the fact that she had not slept in her bed the last five nights, meant that Rupert Edmund Giles was now crouching in a shrubbery on Wimbledon Common, watching his Slayer, with Willow up in a nearby tree, Dawn lying in a sand bunker of the golf course with a pair of binoculars, all three having lost the draw and Xander, having won, coordinating the operation from a nearby van.
Willow and Giles had had their vengeance on Xander by assigning Andrew as the van’s driver.
As Giles sat in the dripping bushes, his hands shivering on the rain slick mud of the common, water dripping down his neck and the smell of wet pine in his nose, he really hoped Buffy was not here on some romantic assignation. To spend so much good worry on that would be embarrassing.
There had been enough romantic fall out in the past few weeks, what with the final and rather violent break up of Willow and Kennedy, the surprising, or maybe not so actually, match up of Xander and Dawn, the elopement of Faith and Robin and their marriage under a waterfall in American Samoa, and the subsequent rather strange happenings and then the rather embarrassing pass made at himself by a cross dressing Kel’tow demon.
Which reminded him that Dawn was very upset with him for dragging off her and Xander, despite her worry about her sister. The Chief archivist of the Council could be quite vocal in her displeasure and had enough knowledge of magic and minor curses to make his life miserable for quite some time. Apparently Anya had not been exaggerating Xander’s ‘skills’ and this had made Dawn very unwilling to be parted from him for more than a day. Or night. Or the width of a bed. Or on at least one occasion he had knowledge of that he would really rather not have had, the width of a desk. Giles sighed and shook himself.
Buffy had not taken the relationship well, especially since all her own had failed so miserably and now…she was hunting and her family was afraid, very afraid. Buffy had wanted a stable relationship and now she finally had a chance, and she still failed. The younger Slayers were far too much in awe to stand in her way and so the Scoobies were out in force on what was essentially a suicide watch.
Suddenly there was squawk in his ear that sounded like a surprised Willow, and an ‘Eep’. And then a light thud and an ‘ouch.’ And then a gulp. About fifty seconds later there was a muffled squeaking and then he saw a scene that made him wince. Buffy was marching towards him, Willow tossed over her shoulder and eyes set to murder. Willow struggled and received a slap on her rear and squeaked again. Apparently the slap had been quite firm.
The Slayer gently put the red-headed and -faced witch down, giving her a glare. Willow gulped. Buffy growled. “Stay.” Willow nodded and Buffy looked at Giles who realized the game was up and rose, rather stiffly. Next time he was going to sit in the van. He noticed that Buffy looked exhausted, with dark shadows under her eyes, her hair badly coifed and her hands trembling with tiredness.
“You guys suck at hiding. It’s a miracle you haven’t been eaten by demon ducks. Get out of the bunker Dawn!”
Dawn emerged from hiding, jogging the distance, her pout clearly visible even at the distance.
“So what the hell are you all doing here?”
Willow rubbed her bottom, wincing and spoke softly. “We’re worried. You’ve been out here, alone, almost without checking in, for five days.”
“And? I’ve been out alone before. I’m always alone.”
“Buffy…” Giles began patiently before he was interrupted.
“Shut up Giles. I’m doing my job. I’m answering my calling. Isn’t that what you always wanted me to do? I’ve grown up. I’ve realized that I’ll never have a normal life, no matter how hard I try. I’ll always be the Slayer and I’ll always be alone. So why don’t you get the hell out of here and let me do my job. Alone.” Buffy’s eyes almost flashed red. Giles closed his mouth. “And maybe the creaking of your joints won’t draw ghouls who think you’re dead already and just mouldering in the park.” Buffy finished nastily.
Dawn was getting close enough now to talk to instead of yell at. “And here’s my little sister, who smells so much of a man’s cologne that the three blind mice could track her down and is so far gone in her romantic” Buffy’s sarcasm was heavy on the romantic, “fantasies that they could gnaw the meat of her bones without her noticing it.” Dawn blinked, blushed and started to tear up.
Buffy gestured towards the road. “And Humpty and Dumpty over there are being accosted by a bunch of merry men in leather on motor bikes as we speak since they parked in the middle of the Gay pick up zone…”
Willow giggled in spite of herself as she heard Xander’s yelp in her ear at hearing that. She realized her mistake immediately as the Slayer turned her attention back to her. “And little Miss Witch…so deep in her spell casting she didn’t even feel me climb the tree she was in…” Buffy moved in closer and snarled at the redhead, from less than an inch away. “I could’ve eaten your face if I was a demon. And all your power couldn’t have saved you. Not even your precious Kennedy could’ve saved you.”
Willow opened her mouth and Buffy turned around on her heel. “And now get the hell away from me and let me hunt,” She stalked off.
Giles rubbed the back of his head. “Well, that was rather humbling.”
Dawn stared after her sister. “That was low! I mean, the way she talked to us, that was mean, nasty…” She looked at Willow. “The way she threw Kennedy in your face, after the way you broke up with her...”
Willow looked down and mumbled. “Imaysortanothavetoldheryet.”
Giles and Dawn exchanged glances. “You haven’t told her yet?”
“She…When we visited in Rome…she told me Kennedy had wandering hands. I yelled at her.” Willow looked at the ground, tears running down her cheeks. “And then she was right, and I felt so ashamed and I still do and Kennedy was just using me and...and…”
Dawn leaned in and took the shorter woman in a hug. “Oh Willow…c’mon I’ll get you home and then we find a way to tell Buffy.”
She tapped her earphone. “Xan? Were coming to the van. Get rid of your admirers and we’ll head to the Building.”
“Sure honey, but I think Andrew wants to take home the one who propositioned in Klingon.”
Dawn and Willow giggled, Giles rolled his eyes. Dawn looked at Giles as he started walking alongside them. “Where do you think you’re going?”
“Nope. You’re her Watcher. You Watch. You get her to talk, if anyone can get her to do that now, it’s you. She won’t listen to me, not since I sorta forgot to mention I was with Xander for a month before she came to London, Xander still winces whenever she looks at him and now we know why she avoids Willow. At least your transgression is old. You’ve apologized for that piece of blithering madness right?”
“Errr…that is to say…”
“Right. Start with that then. That’ll give me and Xand some time to work out our own groveling and gives us time to let Willow build up her courage to tell Buffy she was right about Kennedy.” Dawn cocked her head, and then shook it. “Has to be the first time that Buff’s been right about anyone’s relationship, but hey…gotta be a first time.”
BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS
Dawn and Willow were sitting in Willow’s sparsely furnished apartment in what the Scoobies called “The Building”, a white plastered art deco style block of flats that the New Council had appropriated for executive living space. Willow had moved in after her break up and Kennedy was living with her new girlfriend in Miami. The flat in Rio was being rented out and Vi had taken over as Executive South America.
“Talk to me Willow.”
Willow sighed, leaning back on the couch. “It was four months ago, Kennedy and I were visiting in Rome. Buffy was still with The Immortal. And we all told her she was nuts and she said she had her reasons, anyway there was this girl, Claudia, Buffy told me she’d seen Kennedy kiss her and…” Willow swallowed, the betrayal still rankled and hurt.
“Anyway…I wouldn’t believe her ‘cause none of you ever really thought Kennedy was good enough for me and, well I thought she wanted to break us up…”
Dawn nodded. “I’m sorry Will. But I’m afraid we all did think that her hands strayed a little too often if you get my drift, even in Sunnydale and on the bus out of it. She’d have moved on Buffy if she thought she’d had a chance.”
Willow snorted. “Dawn, straight women make passes at Buffy, she’s so hot.” She blushed furiously. “I mean… “
Dawn grinned. “I understand. The sis is a good looking little package. And if you tell her I called her little, I’m gonna tell her you look at her ass when she bends over every single time.”
Willow closed her mouth on her teasing retort, her pretty face distorted by guilt. “I’m evil. I check out my best friend’s ass…Oh goddess…”
“Not evil, human. Now, go on.”
“I yelled at her and we fought, real bad. And she told me not to call her until I’d gotten my head out of Ken’s ass, and I told her at least I wasn’t dating a guy nobody knew what he was who used women like Parker Abrahams, and I said I loved Kennedy and didn’t love her, and then Buffy left and we…we haven’t spoken beyond business since then.” Willow whispered her voice teary.
“Yeah…Dawn?” Willow’s voice was tiny and frightened. “Will she forgive me? Or have I really messed it up completely this time?”
Dawn sighed before she replied. “Will…I don’t know. We all messed up, again. I left Rome because I didn’t understand what Buffy was doing, picked up with Xand and then didn’t tell her ‘cause I was afraid of what she would say, Giles told her the relationship could only end in grief, like with Angel, he had to mention that…and well…we messed up and she’s alone again and I really, really…damn it Willow I’m scared she’ll go on fighting bigger and stronger and more demons until she’s killed. Will, I can’t lose her like that!”
Willow swallowed heavily as she took the younger woman in her arms. “Yeah…neither can I.”
BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS
Rupert Giles was cold and annoyed. Mostly at himself he had to admit. Once again he’d underestimated his own Slayer, thrown the past at her and gotten hit by the past as she threw it right back at him. Buffy had planned to find out what the Immortal was, have fun if he was harmless and destroy him if not. She’d handed him a meticulously kept journal on the matter. And then she’d left, eyes cold and hard and since that day a week ago, he’d not seen her for more than a minute and that only if she wasn’t aware he was watching her. But for the past five days, the way she looked, he knew she couldn’t have slept.
He found her moving through some bushes. “If you tell me what you’re looking for, maybe I can help.”
“I told you to leave, Giles. You’ve got other Slayers to see to. One more or less won’t matter.”
Giles winced. “Buffy, there are many slayers now, but for me there is only one Slayer.”
“Yeah, I noticed that. Gosh your trust in me is just astounding.” She put a hand on her heart and struck a sarcastic pose.
“Buffy, I trust you to deal with any enemy or danger you meet, swiftly and efficiently. But having seen you get hurt time and time again in relationships…”
“You assumed I couldn’t learn about them either.” She turned and glared at him. “You did leave me to fend for myself with bills and mortgages and a little sister and a nine to nine crap minimum wage job and a save the world in your spare time job, remember Giles? Grown ups 101?”
He opened his mouth and she held up a hand. “Just shut up, Giles. I’m gonna find this demon nest, slaughter them all, take back what’s mine and leave. I understand Olga needs some help in St Petersburg.”
“Buffy, these demons, what did they take? And what do they look like? If you really want to leave, and let me help…you can leave all the more quickly.”
Buffy glared, and then snarled. “Fine. They took all my camping stuff, mat, sleeping bag, Mr. Pointy, my spare sword…” She gestured to about four feet above the ground. “Most of them are about this high with brown fur, floppy ears, beady little round black eyes, round paws and short stubby fingers. They’re sneaky as hell and I haven’t been able to track them to the nest.”
“Oh dear…Buffy…did you hurt any of them?”
“What? I haven’t been able to catch one of the little scum, they all went to ground! Smooth and slippery as hell and agile too. Strong for their size as well.” There was grudging admiration in her voice.
“Very well, come with me.” He strode through the thick underbrush, taking in the trees and bushed, muttering to himself. “It may take a bit; I was only here once, years ago, to negotiate about a magical artifact they possessed.”
“You know them? What kind of demons are they?” She sounded a bit more hopeful now, a bit less…dead.
“They’re not. They’re natural to earth as far as I know. Related to the Yeti and the Sasquatch. They call themselves Wombles and they are sort of scavengers. These days they gather the detritus of civilization. They’re very saving creatures really. They must have thought you’d abandoned your camping gear and taken it.”
“So they’ll give my stuff back?”
“Most likely, with an apology. They’re strict herbivores by the way, but don’t accept anything they give you without first asking if a human can safely eat it, they are sometimes forgetful of the fact that they can eat things that would poison a human.”
“Oh…but they’re friendly?”
“Considering that men have hunted them for sport and demons for food…amazingly so. They don’t bear grudges and will succour those who need it.”
“Oh…good thing I didn’t kill any then.”
“Especially since Her Majesty would not be pleased if you slaughtered a group of her Wardens of the Parks and granges.”
Buffy gave him a look. “Is there any weird thing in the world she doesn’t know about?”
“I always assume Her Majesty is aware of the principal matters in all situations, it saves me a lot of embarrassment.”
Buffy grinned. “I wonder if she could’ve warned you about the Kel’tow demon…”
Giles groaned. “I’m never going to live that one down am I?”
“Well you two did look pretty cute kissing under that street light…”
“He had me pinned and was trying to suck my brain out through my mouth!”
“Well you looked pretty pleased about it…”
“Can we talk about something else?”
“Sure. Are we there yet?” She gave him a vapid smile and he groaned.
“Please don’t start that…”
“Well at least you won’t have to suffer long; I just need my gear and a ticket to Petrograd.”
Giles sighed. “Buffy…will you accept the fact that so called adults can make hideous mistakes only fitting to be made by the rear ends of pigs and please forgive me? Abandoning you was the worst mistake of my life, and that includes Eyghon. I damaged our relationship, your trust in me. I failed to realize with the stress you were in the last thing you needed was handling all the responsibilities thrust upon you alone. You never had the chance to learn the ordinary responsibilities of adulthood and pushing you in the deep end was wrong, stupid, unkind, heartless, gormless and cowardly of me.”
Buffy stood stock still and wide eyed. “Wha?”
“I mean it Buffy. Please? Yes, Olga needs help, and yes, she’d love having you over to help train the juniors further and yes, you’d deal with the threat credibly and probably faster than they…but please don’t go alone and please come back. I can’t bear the thought of losing you again.”
“What do you mean probably can do it faster?” Buffy bristled.
Giles shrugged. “You do tend to get lost in unknown cities Buffy.”
Buffy growled. “The Catacombs of Paris and Rome are not ordinary places Giles and you know it!”
Giles winked. “Considering you use clothing and shoe shops as landmarks, I thought it was a miracle you got out.” He took a deep breath. “But Buffy, I’ll beg if I have to…”
Buffy blinked. “You mean it don’t you?”
“Yes. I’d appreciate it if you informed me about…undercover operations…the next time, but I do mean it.”
Buffy grinned. “Well he was pretty good in the sack. He’d better‘ve been I suppose, at his age.” She looked up at Giles who groaned.
“Thank you Buffy, for that…”
Buffy looked at her watcher and nodded. “I forgive you…Giles?”
Giles stooped to look under a fern frond. He knew by the casual tone of her voice that a deep and very emotionally charged question was coming. “Yes?”
“H-how’s Willow been?”
Giles stood, drew Buffy in his arms and hugged her. Buffy looked up in amazement. “Feeling very, very guilty…And you two silly girls need to talk about this.”
“She loves Kennedy…”
Giles came to a decision. “She broke up with Kennedy, she found her in bed with another girl and rather violently dumped her. She’s been too embarrassed and ashamed to tell you that you were right.”
Buffy blinked. “Oh…ummm.”
“Oh ummm indeed. I strongly suggest you go talk with her, and let her babble her apologies until she feels she’s expiated her guilt. Dawn is talking to her now, so you will probably be fed cookies from the moment you enter The Building.”
Buffy smiled. “And why didn’t Dawn tell me about her and Xand?”
“Err…they never officially told anyone. I-I found out when a book case in the archives fell over because they used it as a…support. You really don’t want to know how Willow found out…”
Buffy winced. “Ok…so me walking in on them kissing in the control room was fairly tame?”
“Yes. I assume that they thought I, or Willow told you. And they were probably were scared you’d freak out, as Dawn so elegantly put it.” He cleared his throat. “She fears that you may have feelings for him as well…”
Buffy tightened her hold on him and chuckled. “Xander? Like a brother, which I suppose sorta explains my freaking out when I caught them, what did Betty call it? Snogging for the Ashes?”
Giles snorted. “It does my heart good to find that younger generations still appreciates cricket.”
Buffy sighed. “So…semi adult’s advice is to talk with them and go from there and not stay angry?”
“Please. And please don’t call me semi-adult in front of anyone.”
She nodded slowly and moved from his arms. “Sure G-man. So, how far are we from these Wombly things?” She grinned evilly and he sighed.
Giles moved the fern and pointed at a wooden door that was sagging open and showed a dilapidated concrete lined hallway beyond. “I’ve no idea. This was the burrow I visited, and it seems to be abandoned. But if you saw them here…”
He nodded to himself and took her hand. “Come on. I’ve got a plan.” He led her to a bench in the middle of the Common and sat down, took a out a mobile phone and after some hesitation dialed a number. It was picked up on the second ring.
“Ah…Sir Robin…this is Rupert Giles of the New Watchers Council. I need contact information for Her Majesty’s Keepers of the Parks and Granges.”
There was momentary pause as whoever was on the other side spoke at length.
“I’m fully aware of the time Sir Robin. I wouldn’t call if it wasn’t an emergency.”
Another silence. “Not of immediate apocalyptic proportions, no…My Slayer killed the Demon of Kingsmere, a Iorgeth demon we believe, and the Keepers ah…acquired her camping gear and some personal items…”
There was a pause that Buffy interpreted as annoyed. “There’s no need to be insulting Sir Robin. There are items among…Oh! Good evening . Yes Ma’am the demon of Kingsmere. Errr. We’ve tentatively identified it as a Iorgeth…Indeed Ma’am any information from your archives would be most welcome, all we have to go on is greeny-blue, yuck slimy and disgusto thing.”
“Yes Ma’am...the Slayer was not in the best of moods to report, since some very personal items were taken, w-with great sentimental value.”
A very short silence. “Which Slayer? Mine ma’am. She’s very upset.”
Another silence. “Indeed Ma’am not the frame of mind we want her in.”
“Thank you Ma’am. I will Ma’am. Thank you very much Ma’am and good night to you as well.”
He took out a piece of paper and smiled at Buffy. “Ah, Sir Robin. Yes, I have pen and paper ready.” He noted down a number. “Mobile phone? Good lord…yes I agree, thing are getting too darn modern. My apologies again for…”
He was silent for a minute. “Ah…yes, understood completely. Good night Sir Robin, and thank you.”
He hung up. “I extend to you the thanks of the British people and the People of London by mouth of her Majesty and her principal secretary, Sir Robin Janvrin. You’ve been invited to tea by the way, and I’ve been asked to accompany you.”
Buffy gulped. “Again? Last time was a disaster Giles!”
“Her majesty doesn’t think so. She’s very concerned about you. It will be informal so no need to fret too much about clothing.”
“Giles, you can just put on the tweeds, it looks terrible on me.”
“We’ll think of something, now I’ve got a mobile phone number, which is a change, last time they used a phone box on the other side of the Common.” He dialed the number and it was answered quickly.
“Ah…would that be Mr. Bungo Womble
? I got this number from her Majesty’s officials…My name is Rupert Giles Chief Watcher of the New Watchers’ Council, I’m currently seated on a bench on Wimbledon common. Several days ago one of your workers took some items that were temporarily left by The Slayer while she was dealing with the Demon of Kingsmere…items of great personal and sentimental value…” Giles listened again for a moment.
“Thank you…erm…the bench seems to have been dedicated by a Mr. John Smith to the memory of his beloved father…with gratitude to Messrs. Bulgaria and Yellowstone…good heavens…would that be Great Uncle Bulgaria? Oh Great Grand Uncle Bulgaria now. Of course. Well we’ll be waiting. Thank you Mr. Womble.”
“So…the Queen is concerned about me?” Buffy asked idly.
“Her Majesty apparently long felt the way in which the old Council treated Slayers was unconscionable, but the Treaty of Cnut bound her hands.”
“Treaty of Cnut? Who was he?”
“An old king of England. He didn’t care much what happened to a few females as long as his people and livestock were safe from magic and demons. He died in 1035 so his views were rather…chauvinistic.”
Buffy grinned. “And now?”
“I’ll let you read the Treaty of Elizabeth II if you want, it makes for interesting reading.”
“Yeah. Before I go to tea…gives me slightly more intelligent subject matter to talk about than my shoes…Or Willow’s frog fear…or her shoes…” Buffy grimaced.
“You were understandably nervous. You’d never met a queen before, let alone The Queen.” Giles said consolingly.
Buffy grinned and then jumped up as two small forms moved out of the undergrowth, one was the largest Womble she’d seen so far, almost as tall as she was, and the other was quite short, had rounded shoulders and wore a thick pair of glasses.
The smaller one spoke in a melodious deep baritone. “Sir Rupert Giles? I’m Wellington Womble, chief historian, Librarian and Archivist of the Womble Commonwealth of Britain. This is my cousin, Tomsk Womble, the Chief Door Guard.”
“Mister Wellington, It’s a pleasure to meet you again. May I introduce my Slayer, Miss Buffy Ann Summers.” The hairy little Womble bowed awkwardly, his larger companion with smooth and easy grace.
“The pleasure is mine. If you would follow me?”
Giles and Buffy followed the two Wombles who led them into the bushed until they reached another very well hidden door. Wellington smiled at Buffy’s annoyed face. “We’re very good at hiding Miss Summers.” He opened the door and waved them in. The burrow was warm and well lit, with electrical lights covered with cozy if mismatched lampshades. The walls were paneled and dyed a soft cream. Wellington led them further into the Burrow, Giles had to stoop but looked around with deep interest. The hall descended quite rapidly, via several stairs.
“My word, what splendid woodcarving!”
“Thank you. This Burrow is rather older than the one you previously visited. We can show you around later if you wish, but I suggest we get the business end over as quickly as possible.”
He led them into a large noisy room, filled floor to ceiling with…stuff. From prams to blankets to mobile phones to dog leashes to newspapers, everything imaginable was there. A young Womble was seated behind a computer and typing. Wellington saw Giles’ astonished look and Buffy’s smile and explained.
“We’ve started using the internet to sell things we find and buy things we need more. Victoria is inputting the items on Ebay and Craigslist.” Giles winced and Buffy giggled.
Wellington led them to an old grey-white Womble, who was wearing a tartan apron, a toolbelt and a pencil behind his ear, a pair of reading glasses dangled from a cord around his neck and a Bowler hat sat on his head.
“This is Uncle Tobermory Womble, the head of this Burrow.” Wellington introduced him.
An equally gray-white Womble Buffy identified as probably female stood beside him, in a neat dress and shirt with glasses on her own pointed muzzle.
“And this is his wife, Miss Adelaide.”
Buffy blinked. “Wife and Miss? How does that work?”
Miss Adelaide chuckled. “I’m a teacher dear. Wellington was in my class. So it’s a job title more than anything else. The Womble term for it is…difficult to explain.”
Buffy grinned. “Ah, I see. Well, I’m Buffy Summers and this is…”
“Rupert Giles, yes we met over that unfortunate business about the Dengon Sceptre.” Miss Adelaide said primly.
“Miss Adelaide, Mr. Tobermory.” Giles inclined his upper body slightly with each greeting.
“Right, then, this way.”
Tobermory led the way to an alcove and pointed at it. “This is everything the young idiot brought in that day. We were hoping to return it, but the way you were stalking around, we were rather frightened to lose some of our people. We’d just decided to contact Her Majesty tomorrow to get this straightened out…”
Buffy grinned a bit sheepishly. “Yeah, sorry about that.”
Tobermory grunted. “Understandable considering the circumstances. We had everything laundered and cleaned, the moving parts of the crossbow have been tended, excellent workmanship on that and I took the liberty of waxing and lightly polishing your stake. That’s how we knew whose things young Boise brought in.”
Buffy had gone pale. “’ L-laundered?” She frantically started digging through the pile casting aside item after item, Mr. Pointy and her crossbow falling on the ground unnoticed. Giles looked on in deep surprise, Buffy was always very careful with her weapons, especially Mr. Pointy, Kendra’s favourite stake. He exchanged glances with Tobermory and Miss Adelaide who looked on with bemused expressions. Tobermory picked up and cradled the crossbow with gentle care. Buffy emerged from the alcove holding a long t-shirt, probably a sleep shirt. She sniffed it and then lowered it, a defeated look on her face.
“It’s gone…I can’t smell her anymore…” She dropped the shirt and stumbled blindly, tears flowing down her cheeks, into the hall. Giles could hear her accelerating footsteps thudding up the stairs.
Giles swallowed, picking up the shirt. It was not the sort of shirt he associated with Buffy, a print of the face of Bernini’s Ecstasy of Saint Teresa
…it was…oh dear…
Tobermory glared at him. “What was that about?”
Miss Adelaide shushed him, seeing Giles’ expression. “Be silent Toby. Obviously the scent on that shirt meant a great deal to that young lady…and we washed it out.”
“It was her mother’s; she died a couple of years ago. Buffy has very little to remember her by. Slayers have a very strong sense of smell, stronger even than a Womble, I think…”
Tobermory took out a small lace handkerchief for a second, looked at it and then at Miss Adelaide. He suddenly looked very old and tired. “Oh dear.”
Giles put a gentle hand on the old Womble’s shoulder. “It’s not your fault Tobermory. You could not have known.”
“We should not have touched her things once we knew they were hers…” Tobermory replied with self recrimination in his voice.
“Your concept of privacy is different from ours…I’ll explain it to her.” Giles comforted the old Womble.
“Explain? How can you explain that you broke a child’s last bond with a parent?” Tobermory looked at Giles with self loathing in his eyes.
“Buffy has a very great heart…she’ll understand eventually that you meant everything for the best.”
The old Womble exchanged another long look with his wife, who had tears in her own gentle black eyes. Miss Adelaide sniffed. “That poor thing.” She started packing Buffy’s gear into her bag and managed to fit all the Slayer’s gear into it, handing it to Giles.
“Tobermory made her a set of stakes from different kinds of wood…as an apology…”
“I’m sure she’ll appreciate it.”
Wellington cleared his throat. “There were some other things we’d like to discuss but since they have been waiting for a while…I suggest we look for a more opportune moment.”
Giles nodded, slinging the heavy bag over his shoulder with a wince. “I’ll get into contact as soon as things have settled a little.”
He shook hands with Tobermory and Miss Adelaide and then followed the round-shouldered librarian to the exit. The little Womble moved with surprising grace and agility until he arrived at the door. Tomsk was standing there with a younger Womble and nodded solemnly. “Miss Summers left rather hastily some minutes ago, she was crying…”
Giles winced. “Thank you, Mr. Tomsk, Mr. Wellington, I’ll see you soon.” He left the Burrow quickly. Buffy was nowhere to be found. No doubt she was wandering London, killing what ever she could find.
He called a cab and had himself driven to the building. He rang the bell at Willow’s apartment and was not surprised when Dawn opened the door. Willow was on the couch. Giles sighed and walked in, dropping the heavy bag. He looked at Willow apologetically.
“I had to calm Buffy down sufficiently to listen…so I needed to tell her about Kennedy.” Then he looked with amusement at Dawn. “And I informed her you and Xander never actually told
anybody about the two of you…I think she counts herself lucky about the way she did find out.” Dawn winced.
Willow grinned. “I can imagine that…” She gave Dawn a bland look. “Good thing I took pictures.”
Dawn laughed. “Nice one Willow. I’m not buying that.”
Willow took out her mobile and flicked it open, then pressed a few buttons and showed the screen to Dawn.
Dawn blanched. ”Y-you…”
Willow smiled sweetly. “If you behave like that in a public space you shouldn’t be afraid of a little publicity…Oh, I should tell you that the ones of Xander are going up for the Christmas Auction. I expect heavy bidding…”
“Willow!” Dawn was wringing her hands. “Please?”
Willow snapped the phone shut and tapped it against her lips. “I shall…consider it.”
Dawn turned back to Giles, warily eying Willow as the redhead toyed with her phone. “So where’s Buffy?”
Giles sighed and opened the bag. “There were no demons… Buffy’s things were taken by creatures known as Wombles.” He took out the Bernini shirt. “They laundered your mother’s shirt…I think Buffy used it to help her sleep.” He took a breath. “I need to get to bed…can you see she gets her things...and talk to her?“ He looked pleadingly at Dawn, who nodded. “She’s somewhere in London...and she’s not picking up her phone.”
Giles bade the girls goodbye and went to his own silent apartment, to hopefully sleep.
Dawn gently unfolded the shirt, frowning as she saw it. “I don’t know this one. At least, I thought Mom mostly wore the ones with rockstars…”
Willow’s eyes widened. “I-I remember it. She looked at Dawn. “I’ll go sit in her flat, you go to Xander. You’re mood is better after a night of Xander.” She winced. “I can’t believe I said that, I must be channeling Anya.”
Dawn grinned. “I’ve had to catch myself from discussing the really amazing things he can do with his tongue in public. I always thought it was just Anya, but I’m starting to think there’s something about Xander that goes directly to the hindbrain.”
Willow smirked. “Hard to imagine.”
“You can’t imagine how hard…”
Willow raised her hands in defeat, biting her lip. “Go to bed. Or the kitchen table, or the wall, or for all I care, the coffee table…but leave me alone.”
“Want to borrow my electronic companion to ease your loneliness?”
Willow winced. “For that you get to carry Buffy’s bag to her place.” Willow picked up some books and paper as well as the shirt and led Dawn out of the apartment. Dawn glared at her back, then sighed and picked up the bag with difficulty. She was puffing slightly and gripping it with both hands by the time she arrived at Buffy’s door. She put it down and reached into her pocket for the key, opening the door. Willow looked pointedly at the bag and Dawn carried it in, grumbling to herself. Willow settled at the small dining table with her books and then looked at Dawn, who was hovering.
“Dawn…Buffy and I, we have to have this out together ok?”
Dawn nodded. “I know…it’s just…you know you’re like a mom-sis to me too, right?” Willow rose and hugged the anxious young woman.
“Considering your bedding your dad-bro, I find that highly disturbing.”
“What, you’re not jealous? Damn” Dawn said facetiously.
“Of who, You or Xander? I was lusting after Xander long before you girl…and remember not exactly gay, Xander and Oz…”
Dawn suddenly looked alarmed. ‘Y-you wouldn’t…”
Willow laughed. “Xander and I got over each other long ago Dawn, don’t worry. Just go and have fun!”
Dawn left, still looking anxious. Willow sighed grabbed her mobile and dialed. “Xand? Willow. I joked about you and me getting together, sorry about that, Dawn’s in a nervous tizzy that you’ll dump her as soon as I drop a hint I want you. Correct her will you?”
She listened to his wicked laugh and blushed in spite of everything and hung up. She settled at the table and started reading and making notes, at least in so far as her tense mind would allow her.
BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS
Buffy came home very late. It had been ten in the evening when she and Giles had entered the Burrow and now it was hours later, nearer dawn than dusk.
She heard breathing, a single person; familiar breathing…it couldn’t be…She carefully stepped into her living room. The standard issue couch was occupied by a slender form with red hair, covered with the duvet from her bed. Her bag was next to it. She softly walked up to the sleeping figure and reached out a hand, then pulled it back. Biting her lip she very gently ran a hand over the head and hair. The eyes of the figure opened and she looked straight into the emerald depths.
“W-Willow. What are you doing here?”
“Waiting for you.”
“You drew the short straw?”
“No…we need to talk.” Willow sat up, the duvet falling away uncovering a pale shapely leg and a t-shirt with the face of Bernini’s Ecstasy of St Teresa
Buffy fell back a step.
“Giles and Dawn think this was your mother’s.”
Buffy fell back another step and Willow rose, slowly, as if not to startle the Slayer further. The shirt reached to just above mid thigh and Buffy swallowed as she took in the smooth white flesh and the dainty feet and toes.
“Will…I can explain…”
“They don’t know your mother lent this to me the first time I slept over…and then gave it to me because I loved it so much…”
Willow stepped closer to Buffy but Buffy backed away again, until she bumped into the wall. She was looking down and Willow realized that the soft pats she heard were the blonde’s tears hitting the parquet floor.
“I-I’ll leave. I’m sorry…”
Willow reached out and lifted the Senior Slayer’s chin with a finger. “Why? And whatever for?”
“Buffy…why didn’t you tell me?”
Buffy shrank away from her touch. “W-Why? Because you’re so smart and pretty and when I knew you were with Tara and it was beautiful and so peaceful and I didn’t mind that and then there was a war and I was going to die and I’m still going to die and you don’t love me you love K-Kennedy…” Tears were running down Buffy’s face and she was sobbing violently. “And you didn’t talk to me and you hate me and I couldn’t bear it and I wanted to die and I felt so f- filthy because I needed to s-sleep with the I-Immortal because he was evil and…and…I hated it, every touch…and I couldn’t even imagine any more it was you because you hated me and you loved Kennedy…”
Buffy sank down, pulling her legs up and burying her face in her knees. Willow knelt down by her. “Oh Buffy…you were right.”
Buffy started to bawl. Willow winced, realizing the girl had misunderstood her. “No Buffy, I mean you were right about Kennedy…I found her in bed with some female PI, a bitch called Nancy Drew…and it wasn’t the first time either…she had sex with Claudia too…” Willow swallowed. “And I did hate you…”
Buffy tried to move away but Willow’s arms restrained her. “’Cause you didn’t like girls and I wanted to blast the Immortal for making you so happy…’cause I wasn’t the one doing it.”
She took a deep breath. “I wanted a Slayer and I thought I couldn’t have the one I wanted so I settled for one who’s not even second best…” She lifted Buffy’s face, seeing the startlingly wide blue green eyes and the tear blotched face and the soft, pink lips and she kissed her eyelids and then her cheeks and then Buffy’s lips, opening them slightly wider with her own tongue. Buffy swallowed, heavily, when Willow stopped.
“So does that mean…?”
“It means we’re going to do our darndest to make this work.” Willow rose, drawing Buffy’s unresisting body up with her. “But first we get you in the showers and then we go to sleep. Neither of us is in any shape to make…ummm you-know-what enjoyable.”
Buffy giggled. “Will…will you wash my back?”
Willow lifted a shapely eyebrow. “If you want…any reason? That does not involve you-know what” She gave a lecherous grin. Buffy blushed.
“No Wills…I am too tired for that…It’s just…I still have some of that blue demon slime on my back and I can’t get it off…”
Willow laughed and dragged the slayer into the bathroom. “Then I’ll get rid of it for you. And tomorrow…tomorrow is a brand new day.” End note: The Wombles mentioned and featured in this story with the exception of Boise are all the creations, be it older, of Elisabeth Beresford. I would like to thank her for the joys her writing gave a young boy and the introduction to environmentalism I got from the pages of her books. The characters referenced in this originally appeared in The Wombles and the Wandering Wombles, where HM is also introduced. The author of this story would like to thank the reader who managed to stick with him until now. Edited for stylistic and spelling reasons.