Chapter 28: In the Loop
Chapter 28 In the loop.
“Are you okay?” Adam asked Buffy as she entered the house.
She blinked a few times, before she took a deep breath, trying to stop the tears that threaten to fall. She gave a brief nod, “There was something that needed to be said,” she murmured.
He gave her a deep look, noting the strain and the paleness of her face.
For an instant, wistfulness stole into Methos’ expression; then it was gone. He smiled and gave her a decisive nod, and then they both walked back to her guests.
Jack walked into the house, closing the door gently behind him. He moved stiffly to an empty chair in the living room, he glanced quickly towards Buffy, before turning his gaze elsewhere.
Was she right, he wondered? When he saw her, everything in the past was gone and all he could think about was being with Bella.
Buffy closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She could feel that Jack was watching her, so she tried to keep her features deceptively composed. But all she wanted to do was crawl into a corner and cry.
She didn’t know she would have felt this way - raw. It was as if her insides had been scraped over a rock. But what she said to Jack needed to be said: they couldn’t just pick up where they had left it.
At least that was what she was telling her head, but her heart was saying the chemistry was still there. It was going to be tough being near him and not touch him.
Should she listen to her heart or her head, she wondered. Her eyes flickered over to Jack and their eyes met. It lasted less than a moment, but their eyes conveyed a world of want and need in that split second.
She blinked and turned her face away; she cleared her throat. “You know, I was going wait until everyone was here,” she said. “…but it is fortuitous you got here when you did.”
Everyone turned to look sharply at Buffy.
“Wow Buffy,” said Xander as he walked into the house. “…look at you using Giles like words.”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “Just because I’m blond doesn’t mean that I am dumb,” she retorted. “What are you doing here?” she wondered, looking at the slim time piece on her wrist. “Shouldn’t you be in school? By my watch, you still have two more hours to go.”
“I cut out after lunch,” he admitted with a shrug. “I couldn’t concentrate.”
“Xander,” Jack said, a slight edge to his voice. “What did we say about school and the Air Force?”
He blushed, looking abashed at his feet. “I forgot,” he mumbled.
“See that you don’t forget in the future,” Jack reminded him.
He took a deep breath. “Aye sir,” he said seriously, glad that Jack wouldn’t penalize him because of one infraction. “Is there any food?” he asked, moving towards the kitchen. He was growing boy and lunch was an hour ago. He stopped suddenly, noticing for the first time that Buffy had a visitor.
“Hey!” he exclaimed. “We gain another person…no,” he pointed out. “Two people.”
“Xander, this is…,” Buffy began, but was interrupted.
“What did I miss?” Willow questioned loudly as she rushed in the house slamming the door behind her.
“Didn’t anyone decide to stay in school?” Buffy muttered to herself as she turned her attention to the young redhead. “You didn’t miss much, I was about to introduce my guests,” she said. “Let me guess,” she said with an inquiry smile as she looked into Willow’s flush face. “You cut class.”
“I-I didn’t miss much,” Willow said with a blush. “Anyway it’s the end of the school year, we don’t have a lot to do anyway. “I want…”
“…to find out what anyone finds out,” Buffy concluded.
“Yeah,” she agreed.
“Well this is Nick Wolfe and Amanda…” Buffy added. “What name are you using these days?” Buffy asked Amanda, her eyebrows raised in inquiry.
“Montrose,” Amanda said, smoothly.
“Montrose,” Buffy said dryly.
Amanda smiled, “Yes, Montrose?”
Buffy sighed, and pinched the bridge of her nose. “I…” she began, but once again she was interrupted, this time by the doorbell ringing. “Now who’s that,” she growled, exasperated.
“I’ll get it,” Joyce announced, walking out of the kitchen. She wiped her hands on a damp cloth and strolled towards the door.
Buffy frowned. “Be careful,” she warned.
Joyce gave an understanding nod, before she cautiously opened the door.
“Hello,” she said, stepping aside from the open door.
“Hello Joyce,” he said.
Joyce gave him a polite nod.
“I am sorry, Buffy,” Giles began without preamble as he walked into the house, followed by Teal’c, Sam and Joe. “But I couldn’t find…” he stopped short as he took note of strangers in the house. “…anything related to what we had discussed earlier,” he said smoothly, trying to be circumspect.
“Look who I found loitering outside,” Daniel announced as he enter the house. He was dragging someone behind him.
“I wasn’t loitering,” a voice protested.
“Does she belong to any of you?” he asked mildly, pushing the person forward.
“What do I tell you about picking up strangers, Danny?” Jack chided, his lips twisted into a cynical smile. “Especially in Sunnydale?”
“I have a name,” Cordelia snapped, her eyes blazing as she pushed Daniel out of the way to walk into the room.
“You said don’t,” Daniel said sourly as he replied to Jack’s sarcastic remarks.
“But, you still pick up strangers.”
“Jack, I’m not a child,” Daniel announced.
“Cordelia, what are you doing here?” Buffy asked, ignoring the byplay around her.
“I noticed that both Xander and Willow weren’t in class, so I asked to be excused to the bathroom then I sneaked out,” Cordelia said matter-of-factly. “I am tired of being left out in the loop. “
“You chose to stay in Sunnydale,” Buffy pointing out the fact that Cordelia had stated that she was staying in Sunnydale because as she was head cheerleader, she wanted to stay for a big game.
Cordelia shrugged and walked into the living room. “Well, that doesn’t mean I like to be left out of the loop.”
“Yeah, Buffy,” said Xander. “It’s not nice to be loopless.”
Buffy rolled her eyes.
“Amanda?!” There was a note of surprise in Joe Dawson’s voice as he took note of his friend in the room. “…and Nick. What are you doing here?”
“I couldn’t let you have all of the fun without me,” Amanda said, greeting Joe with a hug.
“Fun?” Joe questioned with a puzzled look on his face.
“Joe, you don’t take vacations,” Amanda mentioned with a flourishing gesture. “But, here you are.”
“I see,” he said with a small grin. “I wouldn’t call this a vacation. But I’m glad to see you anyway,” he added as he extend his hand to greet Nick.
“Mmm,” Amanda murmured her eyes alight as she caught sight of Daniel, Teal’c and Giles. “Bella, where did you get such delicious men?” she asked, although she didn’t wait for an answer. “You always have the devil’s luck.”
“I could say the same,” Buffy acknowledged with a grin, as she gave a quick nod in the direction of Nick, “Don’t worry though, I’ll introduce you. Everyone this is an old friend of mine, Amanda Montrose and her friend Nick Wolfe. Nick used to be a cop,” she added.
“Really?” questioned Daniel, in an eager tone. “We probably could use someone of your experience.”
“With what?” Nick asked, eyebrows raised.
“Danny,” Jack warned, with a quick shake of his head. It was reminding the younger man, what he was about to say was national secret.
Daniel looked blank for a second, than flushed. He threw at look at Nick and Amanda with a thoughtful frown. Jack always cautioning him to think, before he speak, but sometimes he has some many question in his brain, that they pour out before he realize it. But in this instance, it was Buffy’s fault. How could he have known that she hadn’t mention what was going on? It’s wasn’t as if she didn’t tell every Tom, Dick and Harry everything, he thought exasperated. He sighed.
Buffy cocked her head staring at Jack and Daniel trying to identify the nuance she detected between the two men. She frowned, then a light suddenly dawned in her eyes. She snort inwardly; National Security.
“I haven’t time to say anything,” Buffy said curtly. “Because each time I open my mouth someone interrupt me, plus I was waiting until everyone was here.”
“You know you can’t say a thing,” Jack protest. “Until they sign a nondisclosure form.”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “Look, “she said exasperated. “Call your boss and have them fax the papers over, because in the meantime I’m going to tell them. Especially, since I think they can help us.”
Jack open his mouth, then closed it, turning to his team for help. He was not on his game, he thought as he snorted inwardly.
Samantha returned his look with a shrug. “It’s up to you sir.”
“Yes, Jack,” Daniel said, nodding in agreement.
“I agree with both MajorCarter and DanielJackson,” Teal’c stated.
“What’s going on?” Nick asked with a puzzled look on his face, though he was ignored.
Jack throws up his arms in exasperation. “What the heck,” he muttered sarcastically. “The more the merrier. But when Hammond and the ‘people that be’, come down on me like a ton of bricks, I am taking it out on someone’s hide,” he mumbled.
A few feet away, Giles had tuned out the conversation around him. When he had first entered the room, he had been surprise to see two extra people. After notice the attractiveness of the woman, he got an idea to make Samantha jealous. “Hello,” he announced moving towards Amanda to take her hands into his. He slid a quick glance at Samantha, taking note that she was watching.
At the other side of the room, Samantha eyes narrowed, then sensed Giles she quickly turned her face.
“How do you know Buffy?” Giles asked; a hint of smile on his lips at Sam reaction.
“Bella and I go way back,” Amanda admitted, with a hint of smile. “And I have known Joe and Adam for a while now and….Duncan,” she said drawling out his name while flashing a mysterious smile at Duncan who just entered the room from the kitchen.
“…how long have we known each other?” she asked.
Duncan flashed his own secret smile. “Over a hundred years or more,” he admitted huskily.
Sam looked from Amanda to Duncan, her brows flickered a little. “You are immortal?” she questioned, entering the conversation.
Amanda hesitated for a second. “I guess you know about us, since you know Bella and Johnny.”
“Johnny?” Samantha asked with a puzzled look.
“Me, Carter,” Jack said, in a dry tone.
“Okay--Johnny,” she said as a flash of humor crossed her face. “I’m Samantha Carter,” she announced, then turned to introduce her friends. “And this Daniel Jackson and…” she looked toward Jack who gave a brief nod. “…Teal’c.”
“Teal’c? Interesting name,” Amanda said, her eyes flicking over the gold emblem on his forehead.
“Indeed,” Teal’c said with an incline of his head.
“I will tell you more about that later,” Buffy promised.
Cordelia pushed her way between Daniel and Teal’c. “Since it looked like no one is going introduce me, I’ll introduce myself,” she announced.
Xander rolled his eyes. “Yes, we know how you love talking about yourself.”
Ignoring him, she said as she moved to sit beside Willow. “Hi! I’m Cordelia Chase.”
“Okay,” Buffy said, clapping her hands. “Listen up.,” she called, her voice ringing in command. “Since everyone is here, we can get this meeting started.”
Willow looked around the room counting the heads. “Faith’s not here,” she announced.
“Neither is dead boy,” Xander mentioned, his mouth full of chips.
“Dead boy?” Amanda questioned.
Buffy sighed. “We’ll fill them in, later,” she said.
“B,” Faith yelled as she came rushing through the front door.
“What now!” Buffy exclaimed, throwing her arms up in exasperation.
“You won’t believe what I’m going to tell you,” Faith remarked, panting, out of breath.
“What?” Buffy ground the word out through clenched teeth.
“It’s about the Mayor.”
Buffy glanced sideways at Faith in surprise, “Of Sunnydale?”
“Yep,” said Faith.
Buffy stared at her, baffled. “What about the Mayor?”
“The Mayor is going to kill us all during graduation.”