In reality it had only been a few months since Willow and I had declared our love for each other, embraced it, and as a result had been the happiest either of us could ever recall being in life, but, nothing gold can last. That's how the saying goes anyway. Happiness is fleeting, an elusive mistress, while pain is a much more loyal companion, almost shadow like, stalking you constantly, waiting for the sun to set. The last few months however did two things in all their horrific glory. They gave me much time to think, and they brought Willow and I closer together. At times it seemed as if the direct opposite would result, that the seemingly unending obstacles placed in our path would tear us apart, but together we made it through. Still, now, at the end of it all, certain events are hazy and unclear, as if I were viewing them through a piece of dirty glass. Perhaps that's because I wasn't seeing them clearly at the time they were taking place, or perhaps it's just a trick of the mind. I can't forget, so I glaze over.
The first hurdle had to have been when Oz tried to reconcile with Willow shortly after our ordeal with Rio, and that was a hurdle created solely from my own imagination, my own fears. The reconciliation was not to be, but I clearly remember my feelings during that brief period of time. It was before the rest of the cards came tumbling down, and I remember that I was afraid, afraid that he would succeed. Absence, I think, makes the heart grow needier, but time, time makes it grow fonder. Back then I knew that Willow was my crucial game piece, and she is even more so now. Quod me nutrit me destruit-what nourishes me, destroys me. For a transient moment during the time I saw them speaking, saw him smile at her, and her place her hand on his shoulder, I felt a tightening in my stomach and dizziness in my head. I felt like I was dying, and I knew then with absolute certainty just how much of me she actually owned.
My fears were unwarranted, unnecessary, uncalled for, and mentally I knew this all. But love, I was quickly becoming to realize belonged not to the realm of the synapses, of the brain. I was understanding that it was not something to be intellectualized, but to be felt. Felt with the heart, with the spirit. That, sometimes made love irrational, even painful, but without it the experience we call love would not be the same. Would not be love.
One of the few good things to come out of these last few months was that Oz had rejoined us. He had been informed of the recent developments, he had been cool (as usual), and he had been a great deal of help to us. I had been surprised at how well he had taken the news and this surprise, when commented on, blossomed into a conversation which revealed this: To some extent he had always known that there was something special between Willow and I. Something that he couldn't explain or even qualify, but something that he was aware of nonetheless. He said that when all things were considered, Willow was happy and that there was to be no fault found in that. The best man-so to speak-had won.
The person who devastated me so completely over these few months however, was not Willow, or Oz, or Angel, but Faith. Faith, my sister in arms, my friend. She revealed to me a new insight into darkness that I had never considered before, had never needed to consider. My world of darkness is occupied with demons, and vampires, and creatures with no soul. Creatures who were created with the sole purpose of destroying and inflicting suffering. This being said, when the time comes to remove these creatures from the face of the earth there is no remorse, no moral struggle. But Faith, she's a different story altogether, for I knew the good in her, and the very, very worst. The entire situation with the Mayor, and the ascension, and the murder revealed to me a new breeding place for evil. This place more frightening, more disturbing than all the crypts, and fire demon nests in the world because it's much, much closer. This place is the human soul. When the darkness comes from there the motivations of the individual are not so easy to ascertain, the course of action to employ not so easy to decide, the moral dilemma much more difficult to settle. At the end of it all, as she lay in coma, broken and beaten by my own hand, I'm still not sure what to make of her. I only know that despite everything that happened to us, and that we had done to each other, I still considered her to be a friend, to be my sister in arms.
Cordelia, Wesley, and some chick named Anya also made appearances over the past few months, but that's pretty much all there is to say about them. Mother always said that if you didn't have anything nice to say you should at least have the decency to be vague.
The school year had ended, the birds were chirping, pretty much everyone made it through graduation alive, and the demons seemed to be on vacation-at least for the time being. After the ascension fiasco Wesley was summoned back to England, Cordelia and her family were getting ready to move, Oz and the band were heading down to L.A to try and get some exposure, and…well, I'm not really sure where Anya went.
Basically what was left of the gang and I had a summer of bumming around, and loitering to look forward to, and to me, that was okay. Giles however had other ideas.
"We're going where?" I asked aghast. I couldn't have heard that right, which is to say that I must not have heard that right.
"Camp," Giles responded calmly, as if he hadn't heard the tone of voice I had used. But he had heard it, I knew it. "The council feels…"
"I thought that I said I wasn't working for them anymore," I started. "I clearly remember stating that I wasn't working for them anymore. I spoke from the diaphragm, and there was discussion that ended in me stating that I was not working for them anymore. Has everyone forgotten this?" I continued looking around at my peeps for support.
"Did I mention that the camp was in Bermuda?" Giles asked conversationally. "It must have slipped my mind. But, if you're absolutely certain that you don't want to accept the councils offer then…"
"When do we leave?" I asked cutting off his response.
"The tickets are for Saturday morning at 9:00am, but the time can be changed if that poses a problem for any of you," Giles answered semi-smugly. He knew I would cave and cave I did.
"Padres?" I asked turning to look at the assembled Scoobs. I was greeted by four wiggling thumbs pointed in the direction of up. "Saturday is fine," I responded. How could I say no to such cute hope filled faces? "I assume this includes rooms, and board…and petty cash?" I asked. If they wanted to buy me back I could as well make them work for it.
"Certainly," Giles responded. I knew that he was going to go into office immediately after and check out the petty cash thing. The council would probably say no at first-like they always did-but I was sure Giles would get us some moola.
"I would just like to note, that I recognize this for what it is," I responded pointing at Giles.
"And what might that be?"
"Absentee Council Syndrome," I responded. "It's a new spin on the classic 'Absentee Parent Syndrome'. When the parent, or in this case 'council', realizes that they have been neglecting their child, or in this case 'Slayer', they lavish them with gifts, and trips to tropical islands…and cars," I added the 'cars' part in at the end. It was worth a shot, fighting evil would be easier with wheels. I mean, every superhero had wheels, or the ability to fly, or something equally as cool. All I had was a BMX…and it was rusting.
"Does this mean you don't want to go?" Giles asked tilting his head to side in that way dogs do when they're curious.
"Yeah…right," I responded guffawing. I always wanted to go to Bermuda, it reminded me of the Beach Boys. Bermuda, and Cocco.
"Very well then," Giles responded. "I suggest the two of you," he continued looking at Xander and Willow, "try to fabricate some suitable tale to tell your parents," he finished then headed into his office.
"So we're going to Bermuda?" Xander asked once Giles was out of hearing range.
"Looks that way my friend," I responded.
"Ha, and to think they laughed and scoffed at the 'Jean Machine' when I bought that blue and purple Haiiwian shirt. For you see, they doubted me and my choice in clothing, but now, now they'll be chew, chew, chewing on that, 'cause every shirt has it's day and mine has arrived," Xander said dreamily. I could almost hear him mentally mocking the sales people.
"Xander that's not why they were laughing at you at the Jean Machine," Willow started to say before Xander interrupted her.
"Yes it was Willow. Yes it was," he said suddenly serious, as he looked directly into her eyes.
"Righhhhttttt," Willow said drawing out the word. "My bad," she continued. Xander nodded seemingly pleased with that response and headed over to where he had left the homework he wasn't going to do.
"Did I miss something?" I asked leaning over and whispering in Willow's ear.
"Yeah," Willow said smiling. "When we went shopping Xander…"
"Hey, what's going on over there?" Xander asked suspiciously looking up. "How many times do I have to tell you," he said whining, "it was the shirt! The shirt!"
"Yes, Xander. It was the shirt," Willow responded soothingly.
"It was the shirt," he muttered turning back to whatever it was he was doing.
"I'll tell you later," Willow whispered back deviously a moment later as she leaned back into me. Once again Xander looked back at us skeptically and glared for a moment.
"It was the shirt and nothing but the shirt," I said putting my hands up. Apparently, we had hit a nerve with the accuracy of a surgeon, and it was kinda fun playing with it.
* * * * * *
I don't know how Giles did it, but he did, and for it he received multiple huggings from all. We had gotten ourselves a petty cash budget and we were going to blow half of it at the mall buying beach wear and other vacation necessities. That was the great thing about school ending-well besides the whole not having to go to school thing-all the time, was all your time. It was noon, we were in the mall, and if all things went according to plan we wouldn't leave until they kicked us out. That, or until we found everything we needed.
"Alright," Willow said checking the list. "What's next?"
"Beach balls!" Xander piped up from behind her. "I say we get the rainbow colored kind, cause they're the prettiest."
"Pretty spherical objects coming right up," I said from my position beside him. I had been standing by Willow but I had to move when Xander came in behind or I would have been squished between them. Not that that would have been all that bad.
While we at the 'Beach Emporium', or whatever the store was called, we decided to take a look at bathing suits, and beach towels. They were after all essential elements to beach life.
"Will," I started slowly eyeing the towel she was holding critically. "Are you sure you want to buy that?"
"Yeah, look," she said pointing at it. "It's all colorful, which was part of the criteria, and it's got a guy fishing on it. Look, he's so happy because he's fishing, and he likes fishing, and he's got his rod out and he's just fishing away. See that smile? That's a fishing smile," she continued smiling. She looked so happy I didn't want to spoil it, but I couldn't let her buy that towel. It would have led to ruin.
"Will, that's not a rod he's holding. At least not a fishing rod," I said trying not to smile.
"Sure it is," she responded looking at the towel a bit more closely. "It's just a short one…Ohmygod…" she squeaked dropping the towel and jumping away from it. "That's disgusting, they can't put stuff like that on a towel and make people think that he's fishing, when he's not fishing. He was soooo not fishing!" she exclaimed. The whole display was too cute. I would never say that though cause she'd go and throw a hissy fit that I would find equally as cute and I would only end up digging myself a bigger grave.
"He was happy though," I said smiling. It always paid to look at the glass as half full.
"I'll bet," she said looking down at the towel a meter or so from her feet with contempt.
"Why don't we move on," I suggested. "Swim wear sound good?"
"Okay," she said quickly forgetting all about the towel. She started shifting her gaze between me and the change rooms and I eyed her suspiciously.
"You just want to molest me in the change rooms, don't you?" I asked smirking. I knew her so well, and I knew this.
"What if I did?" she asked giving me that sexy 'come hither' smile. I loved the sexy 'come hither' smile, I really did. I always hithered.
"I'd say, what are we waiting for?" I responded. We looked at each other for a moment then practically ran to the change rooms. I loved shopping.
* * * * * *
"What took you two so long?" Xander asked when we finally met him outside the store.
"Faulty hinge," I said shrugging. I didn't really know what that meant, but that's what came out of my mouth so I'd have to stick with it, dumb as it was.
"Faulty hinge?" he asked. He didn't seem convinced, I couldn't imagine why.
"Yep," I responded.
"Okaaayyyy," he said drawing out the word. "Where to next?" he asked a moment later.
"Uh oh," Willow said digging around in her pocket.
"What?" I asked though I could just sense where this was going.
"I left the list in the change room," she said blushing slightly obviously thinking about what we had been doing in the change room. She had actually been holding the list when we went in and we were kind of in a hurry so I doubt we would have been able to find the list anyway. I had probably chucked it somewhere…somewhere far.
"Oh," was what I said in response to her statement however. I think that it went without saying that we could not go back into that change room. "No prob, we'll just wing it. How hard could vacation shopping be?" I asked shrugging my shoulders. Theoretically the worst of it should have been over already anyway.
By the end of that day I vowed to never, ever in life, to ask how hard something could be again. Never, ever.
* * * * * *
After our interesting adventures at the mall we headed back to my house to do nothing. We figured that maybe something was on TV, but if there wasn't anything on we'd maybe play a game. Or, if we didn't feel like that we'd just look through the yearbook and make fun of people we didn't like. Or, if we didn't feel like doing that either we'd maybe just sit there. Sufficed to say, we didn't have any concrete plans.
Willow and I were on the big couch, while Xander was off to the side in the recliner. I was using Willows lap as a pillow, as we lounged in the family room watching Ally McBeal. I had never really considered myself to be a snuggler, in fact B.W (before Willow), I probably would have considered myself an anti-snuggler. What I was realizing though, was that I was a snuggler when I was with the right person, and I kinda liked it. As we lounged around we commented on how nuts all the characters on the show were until we realized that it was pretty much a given and not really worth discussion. The principle behind it was identical to the reason why we no longer discussed the oddity that was our lives.
My mom came home shortly before the episode finished and proceeded to completely ruin it by talking through the whole thing. She was trying to find out how our day had gone or something. After a series of grunts met her first query, she decided to move onto greener pastures. Basically to sum up, she ruined any chance I had of finding out if Ling won her lawsuit.
"How did the two of you manage to convince your parents to let you go?" she asked directing her next question at Willow and Xander. I didn't bother moving off of Willow when she came into the room, there were other places for her to sit, and she was fine with Willow and I being together. In fact after the initial shock wore off she was actually pleased. She liked Willow, she thought she was a good influence on me. I wasn't so sure about that but if it made mom feel better then who was I argue. Truthfully, my mother was a pretty cool individual, which was tough on me because when people were bitching about their parents I couldn't really say anything about her.
"We told them that, ad;klv jieh!a dkjfd bobe," Willow and Xander responded together having completely deteriorated into gibberish after the word 'that'. Mom looked down at me to see if I could translate. I simply shrugged then stared back at her. That was always a wise course of action.
"Come again?" she asked once she realized that I was going to be of absolutely no use.
"We told them that *cough* it was something *cough* that had to do with *cough* *cough* thegalleryandthatyouwerepayingforusbothtogosothatwecouldactasgophers *cough* ," Xander responded looking at his hands for the entire time.
"You what?" she asked her voice squeaking a little. I was actually impressed that she had managed to decipher what he had said with all that coughing, and the highly caffinated speech patterns. Willow and Xander hung their heads slightly and turned towards me. They wanted a bail out, and it was my intrinsic duty to provide one. She was my mother after all.
"You are going out of town for the week we'll be gone," I said stressing the word 'are'. "It was the only way their parents would let them go. Not all parents are as understanding, and kind as yourself," I continued plastering a look so sweet it could rot teeth across my face.
"Buffy…" she started to say looking down at me with that mom 'I am not convinced' look.
"Please," I said. I sounded like I was begging and I was. She still looked unconvinced however.
"Please," Willow and Xander said in stereo each matching the pitiful puppy dog face I had on mine.
"Alright," she agreed a moment later. The combination of three adorable faces looking at her beseechingly was too much for her to resist. "But if you get into any trouble, I am 'so' telling your parents," she continued mocking the way myself and millions of other teenagers said the word 'so'.
"Trouble?" I asked. "I know not thy face," I continued. She looked down at me for moment and then sighed. She actually did that a lot, I guess I'm an exasperating kind of kid. Oh, well.
"The things I do for love," she muttered standing up. She walked over and gave me a kiss on the forehead before heading out of the room shaking her head. If I was a less secure individual I would have had major issues with my mother kissing me in front of a friend, not to mention my girlfriend, but since she had just saved our asses I decided I would be mature about it and not start wiping at face going 'ewwww'.
"That was…easy," Willow commented once we were sure she was gone.
"I know," I responded slowly. And we all sat there, thinking.
* * * * * *
Saturday approached quickly which was just fine with me. Everyday between the day Giles told us and Saturday had just been filler. I was ready to go. We arrived at Willow's house first around 6:00am, or at least I think it was around six, I was curled up in the front seat of the car sleeping. After we got Willow's stuff all set up in the trunk-or whatever you call them in jeeps-I went into the back with Willow and curled up and went to sleep back there. And, somewhere in between that and arriving at the airport, we picked up Xander.
We met Giles at the end of a line that had to have been started sometime in the 19th century. When we got to him I couldn't even see the beginning the line. While Giles headed over to where my mom was waiting the rest of us used the opportunity to drop our bags. Xander and Willow started fighting for leaning room on the pillar near us, while I turned to observe my mother and Giles. The two of them, together, had made me nervous since that candy incident. It was just too disturbing for thought. And finding out that they had slept together, twice, on the hood of a police car had nearly made me go loco. It had a chillingly high ick factor.
"Are they in separate rooms Mr. Giles?" my mother asked in what she assumed was a voice low enough for me not to hear. She assumed wrong, I have ears like a hawk, I heard and I glared at her.
"Yes, yes of course," Giles responded in a tone that said 'not to worry I've got it all under control'. I glared at him too after that.
Luckily, we got through the baggage check sometime before the millenium. The lady who was doing the luggage check, and ticket identification took an extra long time when it came to us because she thought Giles was cute, and that if she spent enough time telling us what the weather was like in the Bahamas (even though we were going to Bermuda) was she would get lucky. Then when Giles turned away for a moment Xander told her he was gay and we got through the rest of the process in a snap.
* * * * * *
All I have to say is that first class is a wondrous, magical place, full of chairs big enough for two, and more than enough leg room in between rows, for people who are as tall as I wished I was, to sit comfortably. It was also a place that I would never again visit in life, and I intended to make the most of while I was there.
"I still don't see why we couldn't go to the gift shop," Xander grumbled as he stowed away his bag in the overhead compartment.
"All that was in the gift shop was five dollar gum, and ten dollar key chains," I responded slipping into the window seat. "Wouldn't you rather pay five bucks for Caribbean gum, instead of your run of the mill Yankee Bazooka Joe?"
"Ho, ho, that's very funny. Five bucks for Caribbean gum, Bazooka Joe, very droll indeedy," Xander said laughing in a sarcastically jovial way. I smiled at his response then turned to look out the window as Willow settled into the seat next to me. Xander and Giles were seated across the aisle. I knew that Giles was going to kill me for subjecting him to all of this quality time with Xander but I couldn't give up any opportunity to be alone, or slightly alone with Willow. Besides, I actually think that they were starting to bond, hopefully.
I was pretty sure that in flight attends were seriously considering asking the airline to reconsider the companies policy on the distribution of complimentary peanuts by the time we were finished with them. Our first offense was having a competition to see who could horde the most peanuts. This then branched out into seeing who could actually open the bags of peanuts they had apprehended. I'm ashamed to say that it was not I who succeeded. Neither was it Xander or Willow though, so it wasn't too bad. The three of us eventually had to hang our heads in shame as passed our bags over to Giles to open them, then thank him as he passed them back. It was really very sad, very, very sad. However, once we got over that, the peanuts then became flying projectiles to be used in the civil war launched by Willow and I against the country of Penisalvenia (otherwise known as Xander's pants). What nuts were left at the end of that were now being used by Xander to answer some question Willow had asked about four way stops that I probably failed on my written test.
"No, but you're in like a circle…" Willow had started to say.
"No, you're not in a circle, you're at a four way stop," Xander responded shaking his head as he pointed to peanuts.
"Okay, you're in a square like perimeter, but still who has the right of way, because everyone's like to the right of someone but whose more to the right then the others who are also…"
"Alright," Xander said cutting her off. "Think of it this way, four cars come to a stop at a culdasack," he continued as he moved the peanuts around on his tray table. "You're a car, and I'm a car…"
I watched the display for a few more seconds before turning my full attention to Willow gazing. It was quickly becoming one of my favorite pass times. We hadn't had much time to spend alone together since the incident with Rio and I realized that I missed just holding her, looking at her, and being alone with her as much as I missed being able to make love to her, and have her make love to me. As I sat there watching her bad poetry started to float through my head and I realized why I was a vampire slayer and not a poet. 'Roses are red, violets are blue, Willow loves me, and I love her too' was the kind of crap I was coming up with. It was almost as scary as the demons we fought!
Sometime while I was watching her I must have fallen asleep, because the next thing I became aware of was being the victim of incessant pummeling. Wincing slightly I opened my eyes and turned my head to see Willow excitedly whacking me. Sometimes the girl really didn't know her own strength.
"What?" I asked moving out of range.
"Look, look, look," she said pointing at the screen. "She looks exactly like you," she continued. "Only skankier," she added as an after thought.
"Skankier?" I asked stressing the 'ier' part. "Are you implying that I have a skank quotient to be 'ier'ed?" I continued raising an eyebrow. Willow simply stared at me for a moment looking like a deer caught in headlights. I let her squirm for a few seconds before letting her off the hook. "Either way, I suppose there is a slight resemblance," I allowed.
"Slight?" Willow asked as if it was one of the most absurd things she had ever heard. "She's like your twin. If you were to be cloned it would look exactly like that, if you were suddenly to be split into two individual entities the other one would look exactly like that. If…"
"So what you're saying is that she looks like me?" I asked cutting her off.
"Yes," she responded. "Only with brown hair."
"Well, there you go. She can't be my twin. I'm a natural blond," I responded pleased with my own logic. Actually the resemblance I possessed to her did border on freaky.
"I know," she said grinning sexily. I looked over at her meeting her gaze for a moment before having the good grace to blush then look away. I knew how she knew, and she knew that I knew how she knew, and I knew that she knew that I knew how she knew and…
"Hey," Xander called in loud whisper interrupting my thoughts. "Zip it. Zip it real good," he continued. "This is the best part." Returning my gaze to the screen I watched as the brunette me leaned forward and kissed the girl opposite to her on the blanket. I watched as they kissed, while at the same time quasi-wondering if it was wrong for the display to be making me randy. It was positively Freudian, and I suddenly felt bad for teasing Willow about the situation she had been placed in with her vamp-self. When the two on the screen finally separated Xander looked back over at me and started to speak again. "Hey, Buff, not only does she look like you but she…"
"Don't finish that sentence Xander. Just don't," I said leaning back in the chair. Getting of off this flight was going to be fun.
As I watched the various pieces of luggage move by me slowly I thought back to when we left the plane. I was right, getting off had been an interesting experience. Someone had actually asked me for my autograph. It could have gone worse though, they could have wanted to see a reenactment. Hearing my name being called spastically I reached out and picked up Xander's suitcase. I considered flinging it at him then decided that I would be nice and gently rest it by him. I had two grown men as travelling companions and I got stuck with luggage duty. How did that work into the karmic cycle?
As we approached the van that would be escorting us 'camp' I felt a cold chill run down my spine, and was suddenly filled with apprehension.
"No…" I whispered just loud enough that Willow who was walking beside me could hear.
"What?" she asked keeping her voice just as low and moving closer to me.
"Please God, no…" was all I said in response as I stared at the van. It couldn't be…Giles would have said something. Wouldn't he?
"Ah…good of you to make it. I was starting to worry that Mr. Giles report of the three of you joining us was merely wishful thinking," came the dreaded voice from inside the doorway of the van. Some people brought happiness wherever they went, and others whenever they went. He was one of those people from column B. I had been happy when he had gone, but now he was back, and I was the opposite of happy.
"Wesley," I said smiling slightly, I think.
"Well, come aboard then, we've got a schedule to maintain you know. A prompt girl, is a popular girl," he responded waving us in.
"I'll have to remember that one," I said quickly moving past him and towards the back of the van. He seemed like one of those front seat people, so I was going to get as far away as humanly possible while still being in the same vehicle.
"Who knew the British could be such sneaky bastards," Xander commented taking the seat to the right of me while Willow took the left one. "The G-man knew all about this and kept mum."
"Kept mum?" I asked quizzically turning to look at him. He had definitely been spending to much time around Giles. Way too much time around Giles.
"Yes, kept mum. I've been expanding my vocabulary, trying to better myself," Xander responded huffing slightly. Apparently the incident at the Jean Machine, and his new found vocabulary were off limits.
"Well what are we going to do now that he's here?" Willow asked looking up to the front of the van then looking away before eye contact could be made.
"Three words: avoid, avoid, avoid," I responded.
"That's actually one word repeated three times," Xander pointed out. My response was merely to stare at him until he looked away and was quiet again. Three words, one word repeated three times, the word three was still in there somewhere and that's what really mattered.
* * * * * *
"Thank you, sweet lord," Willow whispered repeatedly as she dropped her bags down at my the door then walked a little further into the room before collapsing on the bed. We were staying at the Cambridge Beaches cottage colony in Sandys parish. The place was very nice, but more importantly very remote, which made it the perfect place for our little group to be staying. Basically it consisted of about forty cottage units spread out across beautiful grounds, and one central compound that served as a sort of base of operations.
"Come on Will, it wasn't that bad" I responded dropping my bag next to hers then moving over to join her on the bed.
"He was a worse driver than you," Willow said as if that explained everything. I was slightly offended. So I sometimes forgot to look at the road, and I had gotten into one minor collision. That didn't mean I was a bad driver, just that I was surrounded by bad drivers and had a short attention span.
"I think that was uncalled for," I responded turning to face her. I mean the van guy swerved into on coming traffic and nearly drove us into a rock-face. Surely I wasn't that bad.
"You turned onto an off ramp," Willow reminded me looking over in my direction. I had forgotten about that.
"One little miscalculation and I'm branded for life," I said throwing up my hands. "You burn down one little school, and turn the wrong way on one little off ramp and nobody lets you forget about it."
"I still love you even if you can't drive," Willow said rolling over so that she was straddling my waist and looking down at me.
"I love you too Little Tree," I said smiling as she stuck her tongue out at me. I was about to pull a switcharoo and secure my position as queen of the castle when there was a knock at the door. Once Willow had removed herself from on top of me I went over to answer it. "Giles," I mouthed back to her rolling my eyes. "Make yourself presentable."
"To what do I owe this pleasure?" I asked Giles once I opened the door.
"I'm looking for Willow," Giles responded still standing outside the door. I was blocking his entrance. Once I had gotten my room key we kind of ran away from him.
"Willow you say," I said stepping to the side to block him. "What makes you think she's here?"
"Besides your paddle ball routine?" he asked.
"Busted," I responded stepping back so that he could enter the room.
"I thought you might be interested in knowing where your room was," he said walking over to Willow who was lounging against the desk.
"Nah, I like it here," Willow said.
"I'm sure you do, it's very quaint, but you're room is identical. And if it's the company you're worried about, I'm sure that Buffy will let you visit," Giles responded. "This way please." In response Willow simply stared at him like he was speaking some foreign language. When he failed to get a reaction besides that from her he turned to me for help.
"What?" I asked helplessly. "Of the three of us here, you think I'm the boss of her?" Even if I had wanted her to go, which I didn't, I couldn't make her go. Willow had a mind of her own and was able to make it up free of any direction from me.
"Children, please," Giles responded looking imploringly between the two of us.
"If it's far I'm coming back," Willow said pushing herself off the desk a moment later.
"I assure you that you'll hardly have to walk at all," Giles responded heading back towards the door with Willow in tow after she picked up her bags.
"Can I come?" I asked bring up the rear. Giles merely sighed and continued out the door. Grabbing my room key, I closed the door behind me then joined Willow and Giles who were waiting on the pathway outside the door. The only way to get from room to room was by going outside or through connecting doors. I had expected some kind of motion when I joined them, either left or right, but we simply remained where we were. "What?" I asked finally. "Did you forget to bring the map?"
"This is it," Giles responded handing the room key over to Willow.
"You're joking right?" she asked looking at the number on the key.
"I'm beginning to wish that I was," Giles responded. "We meet poolside for tea in an hour. Don't be late," he added then headed down the walkway.
"What room are you in?" I asked moving beside her. The look of disbelief on her face was usually reserved for Xander…and occasionally Cordelia.
"18," she said smiling. I smiled back, I was in 17.
"Who would have thought the British were such sneaky bastards?" I asked mirroring Xander's earlier comment. Willow smiled and opened the door. Walking in we both looked for the same thing, and found it a moment later. The wondrous adjoining door. "Two for the price of one," I commented as Willow tossed her bags to the side.
"We've still got an hour to kill," she said sitting on the bed. "What's to do?"
"You," I responded closing in on the bed.
"Me?….Oh, me," she managed to get out before my lips descended upon hers. For long moments I stood there leaning over kissing her gently, tasting her, reveling in it. It had seemed like so long since we had had a quiet moment like this, just the two of us together with no interruptions, no demons on our heels, and no rouge Slayers to occupy our minds. I had missed it so much, and now that we were here like this I didn't want to let go.
When we finally broke apart she pulled back and looked at me for a moment before carefully pulling me down onto the bed beside her. She took my hand and kissed the palm first, then the wrist, and then all the way up the rest of my arm before returning her lips to mine. We kissed slowly at first, almost chastely. It wasn't so much one kiss as a myriad of tiny ones, merging together. We continued in this fashion for what could have been seconds or minutes, wanting it all to last forever, but eventually the kiss became more passionate and our breathing soon quickened, harmonizing as we sought to consume one another completely. Willow brought her hands to my shoulders pushing on them gently until I was lying on my back, then she draped her body over mine and started to run her hands over body, all the while never breaking the kiss. I liked it when we were like this, her body on top of mine, covering every inch of me. It made me feel safe, loved completely, every square inch. I slid my hands up her sides caressing her as I removed her shirt, loving her all the way with my hands and tongue. She did the same to me, slowly, deliberately. There were no words exchanged between the two of us, there were none needed, not at this time. We were beyond that, I knew what she needed, what she wanted, just like she knew what I did. There was no thought remaining within either of us except for the sweet, breathless, fluttering excitement sweeping us up and pulling us together again, and again as me moved against each other. With each other. She was my world, and I was hers. Together we rocked, together we kissed, together we climbed. And it was beautiful, just as she was, and just as she made me. Together, we were beauty.
* * * * * *
We made it poolside with four minutes to spare. Not bad if I did say so myself. We spotted Xander over by the food line and headed over.
"What's the what?" I asked moving in behind him.
"Not much," he responded grabbing a croissant. "Got unpacked, took a nap, fell in love, tried to hook the movie box up and got zapped," he continued moving along.
"What?" Willow asked.
"I tried to hook up the movie box and got zapped. Do not ask me how, for I know not," he responded.
"I think she was referring to that love part," I said.
"Oh," was all he said in response.
"Come on, dish it out. You know about our love lives, it's only fair to share," I said poking him in the ribs.
"Yeah," Willow said teasingly. "What's her name?"
"Evangelia," he said blushing slightly. Sometimes Xander was just too cute for words.
"Xander and Lia sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g…" Willow singsonged happily. She was finally getting some material to tease him back with. After he had stopped wiggin about the two of us being together he had embarked upon a quest to tease Willow as much as was humanly possible. I was sure if he made one more crack about her going over to my house for 'dessert' she was going to snap.
"Shhh," Xander responded. "She'll hear you," he continued looking around.
"Which one is she?" I asked looking around the patio area. There were about thirty people milling about, watchers, Slayers in training, and Slayerettes.
"Over there," he said jerking his head in what was suppose to be an inconspicuous motion. If she had seen him she wouldn't have known he was pointing at her, she just would have thought he had some horrible tick.
"What is it with you and Slayers?" I asked not for the first time. The girl was indicating was standing off to the side near the waterfall. She was tall, dark-skinned, very beautiful. For some reason the term Nubian princess kept popping into my head.
"Is it my fault you're all dollsome?" he asked. I had no response to that. "That's what I thought."
"Ohhh, look," Willow said as we exited the food line. "It's got our names on it. Well it's got Buffy's name on it…kind of," she amended. I looked over to where her gaze was. The sign read: Bufee
"I get no respect I tell ya, none," I said looking at the thing. "As if my name was flaky enough already they had to go and dork it up even more," I continued shaking my head. There was no justice.
"Oh, come on Boof-fee, it's not that bad," Xander said grinning as he made his way over to the table.
Once everyone was seated we had to listen to some old guy drone about the importance of teamwork or something like that for like half an hour. He had one of those Chef Boyardee mustaches and it kept moving around in all kinds of distracting ways as he spoke. The only thing that was missing was his Colonel Klink eyepiece and riding boots. The gist of his whole little speech seemed to be that us Slayers would live longer if we worked as a collective, and the next week was being set up to help us 'be the most productive units we could be'.
"So, who's the competition?" I asked once Chef Klink sat down and we were left to nurse our orange juices before appetizers were served.
"Virtually every female you see here is competition," Giles responded, "But the only one who posses any challenge to you is one Evangelia Grayson, she's seated over there," Giles said pointing to Xander sweetie. "She being toted as, ah, the next Buffy Summers," Giles continued.
"Don't you mean Bufee?" Xander asked before snapping a bread stick in two.
"The new me?" I asked ignoring him. "Nobody needs a new me. The old me, is still here and doing just fine," I continued.
"That's not what they mean exactly," Giles said trying to calm me down. "They just mean that the two of you share certain characteristics which have proven to make you a great Slayer, and they hope means the same for her."
"So they're saying that she's a tall younger version of me," I stated my anxiety level not having lowered at all.
"That's not what I meant," Giles responded rubbing his brow.
"How far down the line is she?" Willow asked saving Giles from having to complete his answer.
"She's the next in line. When…well, she's the next in line," Giles responded changing his answer half way through. We all knew that he was about to say 'when Faith dies', but none of us could find fault with him changing his answer. It wasn't a particularly nice thought for any of us, despite what she had done, and especially for me considering the part I had played in moving Evangelia up in that line.
Thankfully the appetizers came along soon after that preventing us from having to pursue that line of thought.
* * * * * *
The council wastes no time, and half an hour after dessert was served we moved on to the first structured activity of the week. Beach sparing. Apparently the Slayers parts in the camp activities would be more physical than the others. I didn't know who I was up against, only that I was in the last drawing, so the gang and I found a quiet place to sit on the beach and watched the others go at it.
"Buffy Summers and Evangelia Grayson," called the master of ceremonies, or whatever he was.
"Wish me luck," I muttered as I stood up and made my way over to the pit.
We entered at approximately the same time and walked towards the center, stopping a meter apart. We looked at each other for a moment, her down and me up before she stuck her hand out.
"I'm Evangelia, but everyone calls me Lia. It's a pleasure to meet you," she said with a lopsided grin on her face.
"It's shared," I responded grasping her hand and shaking. "My name's Buffy."
"I know. You're quite the legend around here. You've become the model we've all got to live up to. Not big, but certainly formidable shoes to step into," she responded.
"From what I've heard you've been doing a good job of it," I said. She smiled and looked at the sand for a moment before looking back up to meet my gaze.
"I guess we shall soon see how accurate those reports are," she said finally. With that the master of ceremonies handed us each a staff, and told us to take our positions.
We each stepped back and held the staff half an arms length from our bodies, then started circling each slowly. She thrust out the bottom end of her staff then pulled it back teasingly, a smile playing across her lips. Her eyes were alight, mischievous, and I found myself smiling back. She wanted to play, so we would. I bounced on my feet lightly before sticking out the bottom of my staff which she blocked easily. She then thrust out the top of her staff which I blocked easily.
After a few more seconds of playing around like that we began to actually spare. Blocking, jumping, kicking, twirling. Truthfully I was impressed. She wasn't like the other girls I had watched tonight, she didn't play by the book, she made her own rules, had her own style. She was having fun with it. She was good, I would give her that, by far the best present excluding me. We continued fighting for a few minutes, each looking for an opening, finally I found one when she dropped her left hand, and after a few quick moves her staff was in my hand and she was lying on her back in the sand.
She raised herself into a sitting position then stood up fully. Once she was upright she made a fist with her right hand and laid it against the palm of her left then bowed down.
"Looks like I've still got some work to do," she said grinning, then she turned around and made her way back to where she had come from. I handed the staffs back to the master of ceremonies then made my way back over to the gang.
* * * * * *
"Is this not the epitome of romance?" I asked Willow making a grand gesture with my free hand. The moon was shinning, the sky was filled with stars, the waves were lapping at the shore, and I was with Willow. What was not to love?
"It's beautiful," she responded. "I know that we've done this before at home, but it's not the same. Hand holding and moonlight strolls are always better in foreign places," she continued.
"Been on many moonlight strolls in foreign places?" I asked looking over at her.
"No, I'm basing that generalization on this one time alone," she answered smiling.
"That's good enough for me," I said tilting my head back up to look at the stars. "You know what would be more romantic?" I asked.
"What?" she asked with trepidation in her voice. She knew me so well.
"Wrestling in the surf," I answered. "You'd get all wet and your clothes would cling to your taunt teenage body, and when we were through I would be left with no option but to ravage your body with kisses right here on the shore," I continued pointing to the spot where the ravaging would take place.
"That almost made me want to say yes," she responded.
"Is that a no?" I asked pouting.
"Is that a yes?" I asked hopefully.
"No." She responded. I pouted again and kicked at the sand with my foot. "If it makes you feel better when we get back to the room I'll get in the shower with my clothes on and you can ravage me then," she offered no doubt in response to my crestfallen look.
"It's not the same," I said pulling her along as we started to walk again.
"Why not? Either way I'm wet and clingy. It sounds entirely same to me," she responded. I could have said something totally inappropriate in response to that, but I didn't, I controlled myself..
"The romance factor just isn't there. There has to be stars, and sand, and some old guy on the fifth floor with binoculars watching," I answered.
"A pedophile with binoculars adds to romance factor?" she asked clearly not convinced.
"Well not when you put it like that," I agreed. Perhaps I hadn't made my argument very clear. "Spontaneity is romantic. We're suppose to just throw caution to wind and make mad passionate love where we stand. The world be damned, because the fire we feel for each other cannot be extinguished but for the cool of the ocean and feel of each other," I said trying again.
"That was a much more convincing argument," she said. "I was moved, there were words and they moved me. It was very poetic really…" she continued, but I interrupted.
"Prophetic," I corrected.
"No, I think poetic was the right word. Prophetic would mean that…"
"It was some sort of foretelling that was about to come true," I answered.
"Exactly, and ….Buffy…what are you…Buffy…no this isn't…funny…Buffy…" she started to protest but it fell upon deaf ears. We were going to frolic in the surf and she was going to like it, so it was predicted and so it shall be.
* * * * * *
I was awoken by the sun shining into my eyes, and I raised one of my hands trying to block it. Realizing that it was doing no good I shifted slightly adjusting the hold I had on Willow until the sun was no longer shining in my eyes, and sighed happily. I probably should have gotten us both up, but truthfully I just didn't feel like it. It had been a long time since I had woken up with Willow in my arms and I didn't want to interrupt that just yet. She was so very beautiful when she was asleep, her face totally relaxed, angelic in its state of peace. I particularly loved the tiny little smile that played across her lips, I liked wondering what she was thinking about to put it there.
"Ugh," Willow groaned turning away from the light which was now in her eyes and further into my embrace.
"Come on Snow White, it's time to wake up and go to work with the rest of the dwarfs," I said smiling as I ran my hand up and down her arm gently.
"If I'm Snow White where's my kiss?" she asked sleepily.
"Right here," I said kissing her softly.
"I still don't wanna get up," she said resting her head on my shoulder and closing her eyes.
"Will…" I said brushing a strand of hair out of her face. As much as I would have enjoyed lounging the day away we did have to get up. I couldn't exactly remember the reason just then, but there was a reason. I was sure of that.
"Aren't vacations suppose to be time in sleep…I mean sleep in time?" she asked not moving.
"Not when they're sponsored by the Old England Watchers Council," I responded kissing the tip of her nose. "Giles is going to be making his wake up calls soon, we should probably be in our own rooms," I continued trying to get her to move.
"Who's room are we in, anyway?" she asked rolling away from me and into a sitting position.
"I don't know," I said looking around. "I think mine." We were definitely going to have to start paying attention to those kind of things.
* * * * * *
"Corn Flakes, or Frosted Flakes? Pancakes or Waffles? Sausage or bacon? What to choose, what to choose…" Xander said as we made our way through the buffet breakfast they had set out.
"You'd better chose wisely…this could be one of the tests," I said snagging a few pieces of watermelon and honey dew.
"Yeah, if the answer's Corn Flakes, you don't want to end up with the losers who picked Frosted Flakes, do you?" Willow asked. Xander looked at her then down at the miniature box of cereal he held in his hands.
"Frosted Flakes aren't for losers," Xander said defensively. "They're Grrrreat!" Willow and I exchanged looks and continued on down the line as Xander continued to mull over every piece of food he decided to put on his plate. At the rate he was going he would finish about ten minutes before they were ready to serve lunch.
Once breakfast was finished we were informed of what our activities for the day would be. Xander and Willow got to stay poolside playing trust games and water polo, while I was off on what could quite possibly be another van ride from hell, only to end up in the wilderness where I would get to wander around. Not for the first time I felt like I had pulled the short stick. On the bright side, the exercises where only to last until five, then we were free to do whatever we wanted.
As I approached the van I saw Evangelia hug the young man who had been with her every time I saw her-except for our sparing match-before she boarded the van. It could have been nothing, but since we would be spending the majority of the day together I decided I could at least find out if Xander had a chance with her or not. It was the decent thing to do.
"You look well rested. Sleep well?" Lia asked as I took the seat next to her. There were about eight girls spread out around the van.
"Yeah, you could say that," I said smiling. "You?"
"Can't complain," she said glancing out the window and frowning slightly.
"Something the matter?" I asked noticing the look.
"No. Just not looking forward to spending the day in a place called 'Spittal Pond'," she responded sheepishly. "Doesn't exactly conger up a very appealing image."
"Ew…" I said making a face. I had never really thought about that before. Spittal pond was Bermuda's largest nature reserve, and was suppose to be a very beautiful place, but I had to agree that perhaps the name could have used a little work.
"Yeah," she agreed smiling at the look on my face. "The two people with you," she started a moment later. "Are they the infamous Xander and Willow?"
"Infamous," I said laughing a little. "I don't know about that, but they're definitely Xander and Willow. They're my Scoobs," I responded.
"Clever," she said in response. "Velma and Shaggy I suppose?"
"Shhh, let's keep that between the two of us. Xander's always wanted to be Scooby," I said in a hushed tone looking around. "What about the handsome stranger that's been permanently attached to your hip? He's a muffin."
"I'll make sure to tell him he's among the sweetest of the baked goods," she said smirking. "He's my brother, Lyndon. The only cute nickname I have for him is asswipe though."
"I bet he's hoping that one doesn't catch on," I commented watching with abject terror as the driver started the engine.
"That's what he gets for years of sticking my head in a toilet. He's lucky I still talk to him," she said looking out the window again.
"It's stories like that that make me glad I'm an only child," I responded smiling. I bet he didn't try to do that anymore.
"I'd call you a lucky bastard, but I think that goes without saying," she said shifting slightly trying to make herself comfortable. Sometimes it was an advantage to be short.
"You're a good sister," I told her smirking.
"That's what I keep telling him," she responded finally settling into what could only have been a semi-comfortable position. The afternoon was looking up, I figured with Lia around it wouldn't turn out to be a total bust.
* * * * * *
"Is there going to blood involved?" Lia asked sticking up her hand. "Cause, this jacket's off the rack but it was still ridiculously expensive." The lead Watcher guy just continued with what he had been saying before she asked her question. "Was I just ignored? I'm feeling very ignored here," she said turning to face me.
"Bitch slapped," I confirmed.
"I thought so," she said looking back up at him.
We were inside the nature reserve receiving the instructions for our task. The ten of us had been split up into pairs and each given a map and clues. We were suppose to use the map and clues and find some sort of demons nest they had set up. The first team back won, or got a lollipop or something.
The clues were painfully juvenile, and the map far to accurate. We could probably have found the nest without even reading the clues. I realized they probably wanted to ease us into things, but this exercise was pointless. I thought that perhaps I only felt this way because I had already been called, and had seen the real action, but Lia agreed that activities at her girl scouts camp had been more harrowing then this. We decided that instead of going back and being assigned another tedious task we would just wander around and buy our own lollipops when we got back to town.
"So you know, I figure that if they enjoy living in denial, far be it from me to terminate their lease," Lia said shrugging as we made our way around a bend in the path.
"I don't think that they enjoy it so much as they're totally unprepared to deal with reality. The first time I saw a vampire I nearly had a conniption," I responded thinking back. I hadn't wanted to believe back then either. If I had had the option of forgetting, like they do, I probably would have too. But I didn't have that option, I didn't have a choice.
"It's a big scary world out there. Frankly, I think that the demons and vampires we're born to battle are a lot less frightening than the other things out there people are willing to accept. At least there's an easy way to deal with them," Lia responded kicking at a pebble.
I was about to respond when I heard something. It sounded almost like crying, it was very faint, but it sounded like crying.
"Do you hear that?" I asked.
"Yeah," she responded heading towards the sound. "Sounds like crying. You think one of the teams forgot to pack their pic-i-nic basket?" she continued mocking Yogi Bear.
"Only one way to find out," I said. The sound was getting louder, and I figured that whoever was making it had to be behind one of the rocks to our left. I pointed for Lia to go around on the opposite side to me just incase. When we came around on the other side of the rock I saw a little boy curled up against the rock crying. He looked to be around seven years old, and was wearing shorts and a T-shirt. Parts of his clothing, and skin were covered in some sort of black substance, that could have been anything from dirt to tar. Lia started to walk over to the child so I quickly moved to intercept her.
"Be careful," I whispered.
"It's just a little kid," she replied unconcerned.
"Demons come in all shapes and forms. A little kid nearly got my mother to kill me," I responded thinking back to MOO. Stupid, stupid acronym. "Be careful."
"Hey," she called out to the boy stopping just over a meter away from him. The boy stopped crying as hard as he had been and looked over at us sniffling a little bit. But still he didn't say anything. "My name's Lia, this is Buffy," she said pointing to me. I gave a little smile. "Are you lost? Are your mom and dad out here looking for you?" she continued moving a little closer.
"I don't know," the boy said in a small voice.
"What's your name?" Lia asked finally coming to a halt next to him.
"I don't know," he answered again. Lia looked over at me for some kind of answer but I had none. "What are you doing out here?" I asked moving in front of the boy.
"I don't know," he said sniffling again.
"Are you detecting a pattern here?" I asked Lia turning away from the boy momentarily.
"I don't know," she answered smirking a little. Apparently she had a warped sense of humor. "Are you hungry?" she asked the boy. He seemed to consider the question for a moment before answering.
"Uh huh," he answered. "You got food?"
"Yeah, I got food," Lia answered smiling. "I've got a chocolate bar in my jacket, and if you come with us we can get you some sandwiches and something to drink. That sound good to you?"
"Uh huh," the boy answered nodding.
"Alright then Johnny my boy, let's go," she said reaching out her hand.
"My name's not Johnny," he said.
"How do you know that?" she asked once he was upright.
"I don't," he said continuing to hold her hand as we walked.
"Well then from now on you're Johnny. It's better than 'kid' right?" she asked.
"Uh huh," Johnny answered. Lia smirked and looked over at me.
"John Doe," she said in response to my unasked question.
"Uh huh," I answered. The girl definitely had a warped sense of humor. I liked it.
* * * * * *
Long day, it had been a very long day. Once we had found little Johnny we made our way back to the meeting spot. We told the head Watcher guy all we knew, and when the rest of the teams made it back, Lia and I were shipped off to the hospital with Johnny. Once we got there the doctors had questioned us about how he was when we found him, then ran some tests on him to see what could be effecting his memory. Soon after the police arrived and asked us basically the same questions the doctors had. The answers we had weren't much help to either. The preliminary results of the tests the doctors had run came back just before we left, and they didn't show any medical reason for the memory loss as far they could tell. We had actually gotten to be pretty good friends with Johnny boy over the afternoon and didn't want to leave, but the police had located his parents and they were waiting to see him. The last thing I heard as we were leaving was Johnny asking his mother who she was. It was hard for me to hear that, I can't imagine how she felt.
"Look who's decided to grace us with her presence," Xander commented as I made my way through the adjoining doors into Willow's room where the two of them were lounging around.
"Where were you?" Willow asked watching my progress.
"Hospital," I responded kicking off my shoes. There were rocks in them, they were hurting my feet.
"Are you okay?" she asked concerned as she scanned my body for injuries. Xander was scanning my body too but I didn't think it was injuries he was looking at.
"Yeah, I'm five by five," I said not even realizing what was coming out of my mouth before it was out there. That was Faith talk. "We were out on a nature walk when we found this seven year old kid out there," I continued.
"Were they alright?" Willow asked still concerned, only this time for Johnny.
"As far as we could tell physically he was fine," I said dropping down onto the bed. "But he couldn't remember anything. Who he was, where he was from, what his name was, nothing. The doctors think it's all mental though, a result of being lost out there or something."
"So…he'll be alright?" Willow asked.
"Yeah, they already found his parents and everything," I said massaging my shoulder.
"You out of commission for the night?" Xander asked noticing the motion.
"Hell no," I responded. "I promised fun and partying, and fun and partying I shall deliver."
"I love it when you talk like that," Xander responded smiling.
"Where is this party to be at?" Willow asked taking over the job of massaging my shoulder.
"Lia mentioned some place called Oasis. According to the locals it's suppose to be the place to be," I responded.
"Yeah, Oasis. The pool guy was telling me about that place. Let's go there," Xander said. He was way to excited, we were missing something.
"Why?" I asked not really sure if I wanted to hear the answer.
"It's wet T-shirt night," he responded delightedly. I didn't even have to look back at Willow to know she was rolling her eyes right along with me. "Come on," Xander said seeing the look. "Just because you two are all hen pecked doesn't mean you should take away Xander's fun," he continued. The scary thing was that that was his idea of sweet talking us. And we were not hen pecked!
"What's next Xander? Strip Clubs?" I asked.
"One more year," he responded dreamily as his eyes glazed over in response to some hormonally induced fantasy.