Coming Home
by Morgan Peer

Distribution: Please ask before archiving this story.

Disclaimer: Most of the stuff here belongs to Joss Whedon, et al., but the story (and the characters of Anne Petrowski and Matt Wight) belong to me. Don't sue me, it isn't worth your bother.

Feedback: Yes, please. I'd like some feedback, as this is my first BtVS story. Send it all to...
morgan.peer@utoronto.ca



Coming Home

5:00 PM, Sunnydale Police Station.

Constable Harris entered the station early, his duty shift ended by a call from the dispatcher. He had been hoping to get back to nights, but now they were calling him home before the sun went down. His annoyance was palpable as he stalked passed the duty sergeant, irritated by this early interruption. He had made his name working the night shift, and ever since he had been moved to the dayshift he had found it difficult to keep on dazzling the command, Hellmouth or no.

"Hey Harris," Sergeant Petrowski called, "the captain wants to see you. Sorry 'bout the interrupt, but he probably wants to bawl you out on your lack of results lately."

Anne Petrowski was in narcotics, but she spent a lot of time shuffling paper. Harris suspected that she just didn't want to get her nose dirty, so she did all the paperwork she could find. Mind you, she had a pretty nose, not to mention a whole lot else that was pretty, and someone had to do the paperwork, so Harris didn't mind her wimping out. And, of course, he preferred to work alone anyway. Others just got in his way now.

"Thanks, Petrowski," he responded, stopping at her desk to lean on it as he spoke with her, "he expecting me, or should I wait?" Anne had also developed into the captain's unofficial secretary.

"Nah. He said to barge on in. And," she continued, interrupting his actions, "not to stop for any coffee. It's important, apparently, although I can't imagine 'Harris' and important in the same sentence without some help."

"Funny, Petrowski. Seriously, though, he's talking with someone right now," he could see the object of their discussion through his glass door, "should I disturb him?"

"Yeah. He said to go in as soon as you got here, so get going."

"Thanks." Harris responded as he pried himself off of Anne's desk and headed for the captain's office. He could see that the captain was deep in conversation with someone, but he couldn't tell much about the captain's companion other than that she was short and dressed in a stereotypical trenchcoat and fedora. He stopped to knock at the door before entering. Seeing the captain beckon him in, Harris let himself in as the captain's companion turned away to inspect some suddenly interesting object on one of the captain's filing cabinets.

"Constable Harris." The captain greeted him curtly, his voice a mixture of anxiety, disappointment and eagerness. Harris didn't know what to make of it. "Captain," Harris replied, glancing at the observer to get a solid look at her coated back, "you wanted to see me."

"Yeah, Harris, the detective here just transferred in from the East Coast. She wanted a partner. That's you, Harris."
"Now just a minute, captain. We had an agreement. No partners. It's bad enough that I'm not working the dayshift anymore, now you want to pair me up with someone? Gimme a break, sir."

"The detective's been burning up New York, Harris. The FBI wanted her, and we got her - on her terms. What she wants, I'm inclined to give her. Now you, Harris, you've had some good days, but you ain't no hotshot detective like her, and you haven't done much lately. If I've got to shake you up, then I'm gonna shake you up."

"Why not someone else, sir? Petrowski's being wasted in narcotics, and Wight's getting pretty antsy for a promotion. I like my beat, sir, even if I do prefer the night shift."

"'Cause Anne brews a mean cup of coffee, and Matt needs way more seasoning before he gets promoted anywhere. Besides, the detective asked specifically for you. I'd be just as happy to let you rot in your beat. You're good enough there."

"Me?" Harris queried, turning to face the detective's back, "What'd you want me for?"

"Really, Xander," the detective said, turning to face her new partner, "I always thought you had your own, rather detailed, ideas about that."

Xander's jaw dropped as he saw who he was newly partnered with, gasping, in a strangled voice, "Buffy?"

"Great." The captain interrupted, "It's agreed. Harris, Summers, you'll be off-duty until 6pm tomorrow, then  you'll be in homicide. Harris, you're now a sergeant, get used to it, and Summers is the senior partner, so get used to that too. Now get out of my office."

Turning, Buffy grabbed Xander by the arm and marched them out of the captain's office and toward the station garage. Glancing at him, Buffy chuckled before she spoke, "Really, Xander, I don't think I've seen you so tongue-tied in all the time I've known you. You'd think you were unhappy to see me."

"B-Buffy is it really you, Buff?"

"Yep, it's me, in the flesh." She replied, stopping to twirl about for his benefit.

"Geez, Buff, what happened to you? We all thought that you and the G-man were dead, you were gone for so long. He is all right, isn't he? Giles, I mean."

"Rupert's fine, Xander. He'll probably even want to see you. As for where we've been that's a long story."

"So? Edify me."

"In a minute, Xand. Once we're in the car. 'Til then, how is everybody? Is Willow okay? How about Oz? Is - is Faith st-still, I mean, is she still alive?"

"Faith's fine. She's been doing an a-one job while you've been - gone. Willow's also okay. She's been working  as Faith's Watcher, and continuing to train as a witch. Will and I have been living together for a while now, and have been thinking about getting married, but . As for Oz, well, we had to put him down a while ago. The wolf urges had been getting stronger, until they dominated him throughout the month. He became a killing machine - a smart killing machine. Will's still pretty broken up about it."

"Poor Will."

"Yeah. Still, we're coping. Now, let me show you the Xander-mobile." They had arrived in the parking garage by this point, and Xander was directing Buffy in the direction of his car.

Seeing the Xander-mobile, Buffy was forced to comment, "What a piece of junk!"

"Hey, she may not look like much, Buff, but she's got it where it counts."

"Okay, that's enough movie quoting for tonight." Buffy chuckled as she moved around to the passenger-side door, waiting for Xander to let her in.

Xander beeped the doors unlocked with his remote, opened the door and slipped into the driver's seat. As he slipped the keys in, Buffy dropped heavily into the passenger seat, tossing her fedora onto the dash as she stretched, cat-like, in the seat. As Buffy strapped herself in, Xander started the engine and turned to his diminutive companion, saying, "You don't have any plans, do you? I'm sure that Willow would love to have you over for dinner tonight."
"I'm sure she would, Xand, but Rupert and I'd like to have you and Will over to Casa Giles for dinner, tonight. He's probably got it started even as we speak."

"Giles and you . You're living together, Buff?"

"We've been living together since I started college!" Buffy replied, laughing, "A Slayer's got to keep her Watcher close, Xander. Wouldn't want him watching another Slayer, would I?"

"Guess not." Xander replied, navigating his way out of the cops' parking garage, "So where have you and Giles been for the past few years, Buff? And does your mother know you're still alive? Why did you have to disappear like that?" As Xander continued his voice got more heated.

"Whoa, Xander, take a pill. All will be explained. I've already spoken with Dad, who'll be coming to visit this weekend, and I haven't spoken to Mom, 'cause she's off on some gallery thing, and won't be back for a week or so. As for where we've been, and what we were doing, well, that's a long story."

"We've got some time before we get to my place."

"Yeah, but I'd rather tell you and Willow at the same time. Why don't you call her, tell her to be ready, and I'll fill you both in on the way to Casa Giles."

"No fair, Buff. I saw you first, I should hear the story first. That's the way these things work."

"Be patient and call your lady, Xander."

Grumbling, Xander pulled his cellphone out of his pocket, flipped it open, and started pressing keys. Soon he had the phone to his ear as he stopped at a red light. The ringing went on for longer than Xander would have expected, given the size of their apartment, before someone picked it up off the receiver.

"Hello?" Willow answered just as the light turned green.

"Hey Will," Xander replied, gunning the engine, "it's me."

"Xander." Willow breathed, "Getting off work early?"

"On my way home now, Will. How'd you like to go out for dinner tonight, Will?"

"I'd love to . Can Faith come as well? I'm worried about her. She's been pretty emotionally fragile recently. Plus, I think she'd like a free dinner, Xander. She's been pretty poor lately, and you know how she is about accepting handouts."

"Can Faith come?" Xander pondered out loud for Willow's benefit, waiting for Buffy's vigorous nod before continuing, "Sure, I don't see why not. Is she there right now?"

"No. She should just be getting back to her place right about now. I'll give her a call."

"Nah," Xander replied, taking a hard turn a little too fast, "don't bother. I'll be home in about ten minutes. You be ready to go when I'm back, and I'll call Faith on the way, alright?"

"Xander! Ten minutes?"

"You'll be fine, Will. See you soon."

"Love you, Xander."

"Love you too, Will."

Xander's thumb disconnected the call as he took another sharp turn, driving past the cemetery with a watchful eye. He and the gang had spent a lot of time in that cemetery, among others, but there always seemed to be more evil lurking in it. Keeping an eye on road, he started to enter Faith's number.

"Hope you don't mind Faith coming as well, Buff. Willow's become pretty protective of her."

"Not at all, Xander. It'll be good to see her ag-" Buffy trailed off as Xander made a gesture to indicate that Faith had picked up.

"Hello." Faith answered.

"Hey, Faith. How's one of my favorite slayers?"

"Only one of, Xander? When did I get demoted?"

"Look, Faith," Xander replied, chuckling, "I got promoted, and Willow and I were going to go out for dinner. We wanted to know if you'd like to be treated to good food and good company."

"Good company? Since when do you qualify, Xander?"

"You can ask Willow about that. In the meantime, do you want to go out with us?"

"Sure. Where should I meet you, Xand-man?"

"Don't. We'll pick you up in about 20 minutes from your place. I'm just getting home to pick up Willow. We'll be there shortly."

"Thanks, Xander."

"Not a problem, Faith. Bye."

"Bye."

Xander disconnected the phone as they pulled onto his home street, still a few minutes away from picking up Willow. He slipped his cellphone back into his pocket as he glanced over at his companion. He could tell that she was amused at his keeping her presence a secret from his friends. Knowing her as well as he did, Xander suspected that she was going to be making a snarky comment soon. 

"Promoted, Xander? Ego much? You know you only got promoted 'cause I insisted on you as my partner, and constables don't work homicide?"

"Geez, Buff, could you shatter my self-worth a bit more?"

"Whatever, Xander. How much further is it?"
"It's a couple of more houses on the right. You wait here while I go and get Willow. You can surprise her when we get back to the car. She should like that. Sound good?"

"Sounds like a plan, Xander."

"Good, 'cause we're here." Xander pulled up to the curb and set the car to idle as he got out. "We'll be back in a moment, Buff."

Xander ran up the walk to his front door. Stopping to knock briefly, he barged in, calling for Willow. Her answering call indicated that she'd be down in a moment, which set Xander to tapping his foot impatiently. He turned to face the stairs as he heard her footsteps. As it always seemed now, her beauty took his breath away. She'd done something to her long, red hair, and had switched into a nice dress. He had no idea how she'd done it so quickly, but there she was, looking like a radiant vision.

"Willow, you're - gorgeous. How'd you get ready so quickly?"

"Woman's secret, Xander." She replied, taking his arm, "Now, I believe you were in a hurry?"

"Yeah, c'mon." He replied, opening the door and setting it to automatically lock.

"Xander, there's someone standing by the car." Willow said, spying Buffy's back as they left their house.

"Yeah, I see. I'm pretty sure I can protect you." He replied, rushing her towards the car. As they came within a few feet, Buffy turned around.

"Hey, Willow, good to see you."

Willow stopped dead in her tracks, the color draining from her delicate features. "B-Buffy?"

"Yeah, it's me, Will. C'mon, give us a hug like old times."

"Buffy!" Willow cried, wrapping her arms around her smaller friend. "It's been years! What happened to you?"

"Let's get in the car, and I'll explain it all to you. We've got to pick up Faith, and I've got to give Rupert a call, let him know how many are coming." Buffy replied, glancing at the huge smile pasted on Xander's face at his friends' reunion.

"R-Rupert?" Willow replied, as Buffy guided her into the shotgun seat, "Giles is here too?"

"Yeah," Buffy said, getting into the back seat and leaning between the two front seats, "he's back at our place, getting dinner ready."

"Your place? You're living together?" Willow asked as Xander got into the driver's seat and revved the engine.

"Again, yes. Like I told Xander, earlier, a Slayer's got to keep her Watcher close. Wouldn't want him watching any other Slayers." Willow noticed a possessive tone in Buffy's voice, but decided to ignore it, putting it down to the amount of time that they'd spent together recently.        "So," she continued, as Xander pulled out onto the street, "where've you been for the past few years? We figured you were dead, yet here you are. Alive. And not dead."

"Well, Willow," Buffy replied, gently touching Willow's shoulder, "as you know, after I graduated from College, I got a job working for the NYPD, and worked my way up to detective in homicide."

"Yeah." Xander replied, "We know all that. Then you disappeared. What was with that?"

"Well, as you could've probably guessed, I continued working as the Slayer all during that time. And being a cop in New York was perfect cover for fighting inhuman monstrosities. And, eventually, Rupert and I attracted the attention of some vampiric order of assassins. I don't remember their name; Rupert could probably tell you."

"So you had to run and hide out?" Willow prompted.

"Not quite yet, Willow. We dealt with them pretty handily, but when we were interrogating one of the last ones, we found out that a new Hellmouth was opening somewhere in the Far East."

"What, Maine?"

"No, Xander. East Asia. Anyway, after we found that out, even more vampires and demons started coming after us. So we dropped out of sight and started looking for information on where this new Hellmouth was going to open."
"Hang on a minute, Buff, we're getting close to Faith's place."

"Wait a sec, Buffy." Willow interrupted, "When did all of this happen?"

"Well, so far," Buffy replied pensively, "this is all about two year ago. Around when you last heard from me. It's the next part that takes awhile."

"We're here." Xander announced as they pulled into the front of an apartment building. "I'll go up and get her  while you two catch up on, you know, girl stuff."

Buffy looked out the car window to see one of the grimier apartment tenements in Sunnydale. She was amazed, looking up at the hideous building, how sugarcoated her memories of Sunnydale were. Although she had fought wide varieties of demonic filth when she had last lived here, she hadn't really spent much time amongst the human dregs in Sunnydale. That had all occurred in other cities, other countries. It had been easier to separate herself then, but now she was faced with abject poverty in her own town. At least in LA it had been expected, but here she hadn't
expected this kind of degradation.

"Faith lives here?" She blurt out, unable to control herself.

"Yeah." Willow replied, as Xander entered the building, his uniform a measure of protection, "She has difficulty holding down a steady job, so her income is sporadic, and she refuses to accept handouts, unless she's desperate, or they're disguised as something else. Both us and your mom have invited her to live with us, but she refuses every time she's asked. Doesn't want to give up her independence. I think she's just afraid of losing anyone she lets get to close." "Still?"

"Your disappearance scared her, Buffy. Just when she was beginning to have some trust that her friends wouldn't, well, die on her, you and Giles just disappeared. Without a trace. Freaked us all out, really. Why didn't you write, or call?"

"We couldn't, Willow. We couldn't let the vampires get a hint of our location. They knew too much as it was, and we had to prevent the opening of a new Hellmouth; that was worth far more than both our lives. Trust me, Will, if there'd been a choice we would've told you, but we absolutely couldn't."

"Okay then, new topic. You and Giles were travelling alone for two years, sharing tents, cars, hotel rooms . What was it like?"

"First, Will, thank you for prying. Second, sharing hotel rooms? Get your mind out of the gutter please, Willow. Third, he's, like, twenty years older than me, Will, do you think that might limit these things?"

"Well," Willow replied, a note of disappointment in her voice, "Angel was, like, two hundred years older than you. And you and Giles were always so close, I'd have thought that ."

"You're not going to bring up Angel again, are you? I am, like, so beyond that. Especially after well, you know ." Buffy's face scrunched up as memories flooded back to her.

"Sorry Buffy."

"It's alright. I really should tell you, though, that-"

"Hey, look," Willow interrupted excitedly, "here they come!"

Looking out the window, Buffy saw Xander and Faith exiting the building, talking animatedly. Faith looked bad. Xander, to Buffy's eyes, had aged into a confident man, someone she wouldn't mind having at her back. Willow had truly moved into womanhood, acquiring a lushness and experience that she had lacked in high school. But Faith looked strung-out, tense, like a heroin junky. She was still pretty, but it was hard to tell beneath the telltale signs of exhaustion, anxiety, and overwrought cynicism. Buffy could tell, just by looking at her, why her mother had offered to take in a virtual stranger, simply one of Buffy's old friends. Faith needed help. She needed someone to take care of her, to restore her own faith in the world, and just to give her some time off.

Throwing the side door open, Buffy ran up to the pair. "Faith?"

"B-Buffy?" Faith replied, staggering back in shock.

"Surprise!" Xander cried, suddenly uncertain as he supported Faith by her back.

"Hey, Faith." Buffy replied, wrapping her arms around the taller Slayer, "It's alright. The Slayer Team is re-united, and we're going to kick some butt!"

"Some but what?" Faith replied, quickly re-establishing her cynical equilibrium. Both the Slayers knew that her cynicism was just a masque for her uncertainty, but neither was going to ruin the carefully constructed illusion.

"Very funny." Buffy replied, eyeing her friend up and down, "come on, get in the car. Rupert's going to want to see you. Oh, and Xander, I'll drive."

"What, are you kidding?" Xander replied, nervously, "I remember the terror that you put the driving instructor through. No way am I trusting my life to your driving!"

"Entrusting."

"What?" Xander asked, confused.

"No way am I entrusting my life to your driving. That's what you meant to say. And I have so improved! My driving got way better in India."

"Entrusting? You have spent way too much time around Giles, Buff." Xander replied with a light laugh.

"Whatever, Xander." Buffy replied, walking around to the driver's side door, "Now hand me the keys, and we can get on our way."

"I'm serious Buffy."

"So am I, Xander. Not only am I a better driver, I'm the only one who knows the way to our place. Now give me the keys, and we'll be on our way."

"Well ."

"Just do it, Xander." Willow ordered from inside the car, a new, to Buffy at least, tone of command in her voice."Yes'm." Xander promptly replied, tossing a shocked Buffy the keys.

Faith made a whip-crack noise at Xander as the three of them clambered back into the car. Faith and Xander settled themselves in the back, bickering as to whether or not Willow had Xander whipped, as Buffy adjusted the seat and mirrors to her height and preference. Looking around, Buffy got the car back onto the road, and set the car for a course to the outskirts of town. Glancing at the bickering Slayer and cop in the rearview mirror, Buffy shot a wink at a grinning Willow.

"So, anyway," Buffy interjected into Faith and Xander's squabble, "back to the story."

"What story?" Faith queried.

"Buffy was telling us where she and Giles have been for the past few years." Willow explained to Faith."Okay, quick recap. Assassins went after Rupert and me. We found out that there was a new Hellmouth opening, and set off to deal with it undercover."

"Gotcha."

"Right, so, Rupert and I had to go somewhere where the demons wouldn't follow, and where we could do some research, find out more about Hellmouths. I remembered from when I ran away from Sunnydale, after I sent Angel to Hell, my little trip to Canada. Specifically, Toronto. When I had been there I had noticed not only lots of big libraries, something Rupert I knew would like, but that there were pretty much no demons there. It was strangely peaceful, so we figured that Canada would make a good place to lay low." "No demons?" Xander replied, disbelieving.

"Pretty much. Weird, huh? Rupert couldn't explain it either. Anyway, first we went to Quebec City, since it was an old town, and allegedly had some ancient sites in the older parts of the city. Fortunately, Rupert can speak French, so we got along all right. After we'd discovered all we could there, and the hunt had died down, so to speak, we went to Ontario to learn the, ahem, 'tribal wisdom' of some Iroquois elders. They wouldn't tell us why the demons stayed out of Canada, but they did tell us more about Hellmouths, and how to close or open one. It was all stories, but Rupert was enthused."

"Did you ever find out why the demons avoid Canada?" Willow asked.

"No. But Rupert's got a few theories. The two that I like are either that the authorities keep them out, which isn't too likely given how easy it was for us to cross the border, or that it's just too underpopulated for them. Both theories have problems, but we couldn't think of a better one."

"How odd."

"Yeah, isn't it? Anyway, by then the demons had pretty much stopped bothering us, so we got a flight out to Singapore to start following the trail of the new Hellmouth from there. Talking with the natives, and reading some ancient local religious texts, Rupert decided we should go to Tibet to search an ancient, abandoned, monastery, high in the mountains, for clues."

"Sounds like you two were just finding any old excuse to travel."

"Yeah, Faith, the demons and freezing temperatures were not an issue. I swear, I don't know which is worse, Quebec City in the wintertime, or the Tibetan mountains. Either way is icy cold. Brrr."After that we went back to Singapore to recover and to finish translating what we found in the monastery, as well as to . Well, anyway, we found out that the new Hellmouth was going to be opening in India in an old temple to Kali, the Hindu goddess of death, or somesuch. So we went to India, found the temple, killed the cultists, and made sure that the Hellmouth wouldn't open. End of story."

"That's it?" Faith asked, "What about some details? Why else did you go back to Singapore? What were all the places like? Did you encounter any new kinds of demons or monsters? Come on, Bee."

"Well, I'd love to answer all of your questions, but we're here at the Giles residence, so they'll have to wait for dinner."
"I've been meaning to ask you, Buff." Xander stated as they pulled into a driveway.

"Yeah, Xander?" Buffy replied, parking the car behind Rupert's rather ugly, if new, Citroen, and in front of a large house.

"If you and Giles both live there, why do you keep on referring to is as his place? What, does he own it, and you're just renting?"

"Oh well, you know," Buffy said, climbing out of the car and tossing Xander his keys, "I just call it that since I'm going by his name now. So it's the Giles residence."

"What?" Xander replied, Faith and Willow's faces masks of shock as they followed Buffy up the walk, "You mean, like, he adopted you, or something, right?"

"Right." Buffy replied, knocking on the door, "Or something."

"What do you mean 'or someth-'" Xander started, interrupted by the door opening to reveal an older Rupert Giles than Buffy's friends remembered, but still dressed in his traditional tweed, albeit with an apron over his clothes.

"Buffy! I've got your new keys - somewhere." Rupert Giles said, opening his arms to his diminutive Slayer, "Willow, Xander, Faith! It's great to see all of you again. I hope all has been well in our absence."

"Hey, Watcher-man," Buffy replied, wrapping her arms about her much taller Watcher, "I think this is the longest we've been apart in years." Stretching upwards she pursed her lush lips, offering her mouth to her Watcher for a kiss. She had to settle for a brief kiss.

"Now, then," Rupert said, breaking the kiss and pulling his Slayer inside their house, "why don't the three of you come in. I, ah, still have some work left to do in the kitchen, but I'm certain that Buffy can entertain you until dinner is ready."

Buffy and Rupert stepped aside to allow their friends to enter the hall. Their three shocked friends slowly shuffled into the front hall, their gazes locked upon the disparate couple. A whistle sounded from the kitchen and Rupert, nodding to his guests, separated himself from Buffy and went to the kitchen to take his kettle off the stove. Buffy opened the hall closet and deposited her hat and coat within it. She then turned back to her friends to take Xander's jacket.
"B-Buffy? You and Giles ."

"Call him Rupert, Willow. Otherwise you're referring to both of us now. And then we get confused."

"Way to go Buffy!" Faith interjected, punching Buffy in the arm, "It's about time someone grabbed that handsome Watcher of yours!"

"Yeah, well, it took me long enough to realize that. But now he's mine."

"W-when did "

"One year ago now, Will. Xander, would you close your mouth and the door? We, uhm, redefined our relationship while in Tibet. Then we got married in the American embassy in Singapore. Rupert got them to hold the documents there for a while; they should be coming through soon. Thanks Xander," Buffy nodded towards the newly closed door, "now give me your cop jacket and we can go to the living room until the chef is ready for us."

Xander mutely removed his jacket and handed it to Buffy, his jaw still rather slack. She quickly hung up his jacket and closed the door. Smiling at her friends, she led them into the living room and took a seat for herself on one of the couches. Xander let Willow lead him to a loveseat, both of their jaws still rather slack. Faith, meanwhile, arranged herself in Rupert's favorite chair. The guests looked about at the mess surrounding them as they settled themselves. Although space had been cleared, and the furniture arranged, the mantle and rather extensive shelving were empty, and there were packed boxes scattered about the room.

"I'm really sorry about the mess, guys, but we haven't had much time to unpack, and the living room was pretty low on our list of priorities."

"Buffy?" Rupert's voice came from the kitchen. "Yes, Rupert?"

"I thought that you were going to call me." Rupert's even tone concealed to all but Buffy a hint of amusement and of reproach. She suspected that he had expected her to forget. The thought made her smile.

"I'm sorry Rupert. I forgot all about it while telling the guys about our adventures. I hope I didn't ruin your efforts at all, dear."

"No, don't worry." Buffy could hear the tolerant tone in Rupert's voice, "Go back to your conversation. I'll have dinner ready soon."

"Thanks, sweetie."

"So what made you come back?" Faith asked, relaxing into her chair, as Buffy's attention switched back to her friends.

"Well, this is where our friends and family are. And, of course, there's the Hellmouth. That's always a consideration. Gotta stay near it."

"So why'd you join the NYPD after graduating, instead of coming back then?" Faith continued.

"That was Rupert's fault. He wanted me to get some more experience before we returned to Sunnydale. Give me time to work on my not directly slayage-related skills. I don't know that I was in as good physical shape as I would've been had we returned to Sunnydale, but I got pretty good at detective work. And there were a lot of demons in New York, considering it's not on a Hellmouth. Speaking of, Rupert wants to talk with you some time soon about your slaying, Faith."

"What? He isn't satisfied with the job I'm doing?"

"Not at all, Faith." Buffy replied calmly, attempting to mollify Faith, "The thing is, historically there's so much pressure on the Slayer that usually she dies quite young. I think the mean life expectancy for a Slayer is about 28 years, and that's factoring in the handful of Slayers who have lived to a ripe old age. None so far, though, has died of old age."
"Yeah? So?" Faith said, tossing her black hair and waving her hands dismissively, "This is a tough profession. It's war out there, for God's sake!"

"I know. But never before have there been two slayers. And now there are. In Rupert's mind, and I'm inclined to agree, this gives us a tremendous edge. We can work as a team. We can develop other skills. We can take sick leave, knowing that there's someone to cover for us! We could be the first, Faith!"

"The first?" Faith queried, confused.

"To live to an old age, and die of natural causes. We don't always have to worry about our backs if we're covering for each other. One of us is a match for the vampires, but two of us? With a tough-ass Watcher, a witch and a cop backing us up? I don't know about you, Faith, but suddenly I'm looking at menopause with a hopeful glint in my eye."

"Eww." Faith and Xander chorused while Willow got a far-away expression on her face.

"Buffy?" Willow quietly, but firmly, asked, "Is the Watcher council removing me as Faith's Watcher? I know I'm not fully trained, like Gil - Rupert is, but I thought that I'd been doing a good job."

"A-one, Will." Xander encouraged.

"The best, Willow. What is up with that, Bee?" Faith continued.

"Well," Buffy said, slowly easing herself into the topic, "Rupert could tell you more about it, since he's more familiar with the council. What it boils down to is that the council wants you, Willow, to apprentice yourself to Rupert until they feel you're fully trained. In the meantime you'll still be Faith's Watcher, but remember that we're operating in the dark here. Having two Slayers is a new experience. The council doesn't know how to handle it. They want to send you a new Watcher, Faith, but they don't figure that you'll like that, and you've already got one fully-trained Watcher and one half-trained Watcher in town, so they aren't certain what to do."

"Actually," Rupert said, walking in as he adjusted his glasses, "the council called while you were out, and told me what they had decided." He walked over behind Buffy and leaned on the couch over her. "They said that they'll be sending another Watcher over. But," he continued, riding over Faith's objections as Buffy gazed adoringly up at him, "only to serve as an aide to Willow and myself. Whomever they send, he'll be over within the month, and he'll be junior to myself, so you needn't worry about him stepping out of bounds. Unlike yourselves," he continued, staring pointedly at Buffy and Faith, "I might add. Regardless, dinner is ready and served, so if you'll follow me into the dining room ."

***

Rupert and Buffy lay in bed together, both still exhausted from the long move. Dinner had went well, and it looked like they had convinced Faith to consider moving in with them; it would make coordinating her actions with Buffy's much easier, and they certainly had the room. Buffy snuggled into the crook of her Watcher's arm, resting her head on his chest as he wrapped his arm around her.

"Happy to be back?"

"Yes, I am. Not that I didn't enjoy our time alone, especially in Tibet, Rupert, but it's good to see our friends again."

"Most assuredly. Faith, however, looks quite worrisome. Almost defeated. She will need a lot of attention and encouragement if we are to restore her emotional stability and equilibrium."

"That's exactly what I thought when I first saw her except, well, you know, I thought it in English."

"I just spoke English, Buffy."

"Yeah, but with long words and stuff. Not, like, real English."

Rupert chuckled at Buffy as he felt her mouth curving into a grin on his chest. Although many people had difficulty with his vocabulary, he knew that Buffy understood him - her own vocabulary was more than ample - but she chose to speak in a more colloquial manner.

"Good night, Buffy." Rupert said, bending his neck to kiss the top of her head.

"Good night, Rupert."

END