The Fate of Sunlight
Title: The Fate of Sunlight
Category: Romance, Future
Rating: NC-17 for the sex I guess, but it’s pretty tame.
Disclaimer: The Slayer, the Watcher, the Key, and all the others don’t belong to me. I just subject them to my mushiness sometimes.
Summary: Buffy and Giles arrive in England five years in the future.
Bath. It was a city of marble and lilac, ethereal in its quiet beauty, like a kingdom from a fairy tale. It was a city she never thought she’d see. If things had happened as they should have, as they were destined to, she never would have. But now she was here, across the sea, and destiny had wildly, blessedly changed.
She had heard his slight, embarrassed mumblings about his flat for years now, and from his modest tone she had expected something sparse and simple, almost monk-like. But it wasn’t. The place was spacious and bright with the light that poured in from the windows, and it overlooked a small pond filled with geese, where boys and girls gathered to toss breadcrumbs and red shiny balls. It was like a postcard painting. She had to smile to herself as she traced the fabric of the curtains with her fingertips, imagining what he did in all those months when he hadn’t visited. Maybe he spent them here, at this window, listening to the laughter of children.
“Do you like it?” he asked gently, coming inside with the last of their luggage.
“It’s perfect,” she answered, and in a way she meant it.
Giles (or Rupert? Should she call him Rupert?) set down the bags and blinked at her, as if he wasn’t really sure that she was there. He came up behind her and followed her gaze, out to where a little girl was cross-legged on the grass, making a mess of her overalls with melting chocolate ice cream.
“Do you want to call Dawn? Tell her we’re here?”
He placed a tentative hand on her shoulder. She shook a little when he touched her. Can’t do that. Can’t ever make him think that you don’t really want to be here. To do this. “I’m sorry,” she said, sinking back against him. He put his other hand on the other shoulder, and she reached up to clasp it. “I’ll call her in a while. I just want to take it all in first.”
He murmured agreement. “I’m going to take the bags upstairs.”
When he pulled away from her, she felt his loss, and the chill breeze on the back of her neck. It was real. It was all real. Three months had passed since the end came, or what they’d thought was THE END, in big, blazing letters, superimposed over their lives. But it wasn’t. She could still see everyone in her mind’s eye. Dawn, her baby sister, who was fully grown, beautiful, and as human as she’d ever be, glowy green mind powers aside. Willow, haunted and wise, and finally in control of the power she possessed. Anya, whose mythic demon face was permanent now, marking her with the history she earned. Xander, sorrowful yet masterful, who proved on the battlefield that he was not meant to be the ordinary one, not at all. Faith, his beloved wife (they make almost as strange a pair as we do) who had found her redemption in the throes of yet another Apocalypse. Spike, or William, that mad, impervious shadow of a man, or a demon, who’d never known who he really was. And Angel, with Connor, looking so calm, as if he had been waiting all those years just to fight by her side again.
It was Angel who had heard the news first, as they walked together for the last time among the ruins that were once Sunnydale, searching for something to salvage, to take back to L.A. He had understood better than anyone, in that silent, unreadable way of his. She spoke the words slowly and cautiously, then waited for some sort of reaction. Any reaction. But he only stared at her, the black ash staining both their faces, and nodded. “He loves you,” he said at last. “He always has. And he’ll take you away from here. That’s how it should be.”
How it should be.
Sunnydale was a ghost town now. Actually, ghosts might not even want to venture there. Dawn went off with Xander and Faith to study geopolitical something-or-other and build houses for the poor in South America. Willow was in London, on some assignment for the Council. Anya and Spike . . . who could say where they were. And Angel was in L.A., at least most of time. He turned up in many places, in the shadows, like a phantom. And she was here. With her husband. And her new life.
A few minutes of zoning, and she realized Giles had not yet come back down the stairs. So she curled her fingers around the intricate wooden banister and went up to him. The second floor had a small library overflowing with books, the rest of which had to be put in storage. She passed pictures of nothing but Stonehenge and famous British vampire dens, and she wondered if Giles ever had any family to speak of. Then she saw the framed photograph in the center of the oak chest in the hall: all of them, together, at one of Willow’s birthday parties. There were faces she hadn’t seen in a long while--Oz, Jenny Calendar, Cordelia, and even (don’t cry) her mother. Family indeed.
The sound of a muffled sob came from the bedroom. The white door was cracked open, and she pushed it aside. He was sitting on the edge of the huge double bed, with its deep green brocade comforter. That’s our bed. I’m going to sleep in that bed. He looked up as she entered, his eyes wet with tears. Her own widened at the sight, and she sat down next to him. He took her small white hand in his, gratefully.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
“Oh, nothing. It’s just . . . everything. I can’t believe that things have ended this way.”
“Nothing’s ended,” she reminded him, leaning her head against his shoulder. “Things just change, that’s all.”
“Yes,” he whispered, but a moment later another sob wracked him.
“It’s me, isn’t it?” she said, gazing at the wall. “You’re having second thoughts.”
“Oh no. Buffy, having you here is more than I ever could have hoped for. It’s more--” he sat up straight, met her eyes. “It’s more than I deserve.”
Touched, she took his face in her hands and smiled. Things definitely change. Once it would have been he who made the comforting gesture, who promised that it would all be okay. Now it was left to her to be confident in him, and in the future. She ran her thumbs under the lenses of his glasses and pulled them off his face, folding them methodically and leaning past him to set them on the nightstand. It was left to her to say it. “I love you, you know.”
She grasped the collar of his gray coat and helped him slide out of it. Her nose lingered near the musky scent of his neck. When his arms broke free of the thick material, they encircled her, holding her tightly to him while he buried his face in her hair. “I love you, too.”
Six weeks had passed since the last time they had all been together, at the Hyperion in Los Angeles, most of them penniless and without any belongings. Giles had taken care of everyone, as he always did, with all of his available funds and then some, speaking out on their behalf to the Council, who, at long last, sent compensation.
Then it had happened, one night when she was alone on the roof, trying to find the stars through the smoggy night.
“Buffy, I want to talk to you. There are so many things I want to say.”
“You’re proud of me, I did a good job, yadda yadda yadda,” she grinned.
How somber his expression had been that night. How wounded. “I don’t think you realize what this means. Sunnydale is no more. The Hellmouth is destroyed, most likely permanently. You’re free. The Council can ask no more of you--you’ve died two deaths already. And Faith . . . well, they gave up on her a long time ago. There will be a new Slayer. With a new Watcher.”
Buffy leaned her weight onto the railing, staring out at the traffic below. The red and yellow lights blurred with the darkness. “So that’s it. There’s nothing left for me. It’s over.”
“No, you’re looking at this backwards! Everything is left for you!” he moved to her side. “You can go anywhere, make any sort of life you choose. You’ve survived, Buffy. The first Slayer in history to survive. It’s such an honor . . . and that’s not even the right word. To be your Watcher. To be your friend. You really don’t understand how sacred you are to--.”
She stepped back a little and sniggered. “It’s stupid, isn’t it? This is what I always wanted. What I’ve been waiting for. The day when it is finally enough, when I’ve finally done my part and someone else can pick up the torch. Or the stake, whatever. But I’m afraid.”
He clasped her shoulder, like he always did. So fatherly. “You don’t have to go on alone.”
But the tone in his voice was not fatherly anymore. It was grave, pained, and almost desperate. She studied the worried creases in his brow. “Giles, what do you want? What have you been waiting for, but are afraid to ever have?”
“I don’t know what you mean.” He yanked his hand away.
“I think you do.”
She grabbed his face, turned it to her. They stared at each other for a long time, feeling the weight of their emotions hovering between them. “It’s okay,” she finally said, softer than she had spoken before. “I want to. You don‘t have to be afraid of me.”
He had quite a number of years experience on her, and she knew that the Ripper, the man of shadow and legend, was no timid man or lover. But still he seemed so frightened as he kissed her, enveloping her small form in his long black coat, cautiously exploring the insides of her mouth with his tongue as she wrapped her arms tightly around his neck. His glasses dug into her face, and he freed one hand and took them off.
“I never--” he murmured, when he pulled away at last. “A Watcher and a Slayer can’t--”
“Sshhh,” she said. “You said it yourself. We’re not those people. We’re new.”
He grinned down at her. “You are extraordinary. I don‘t know--”
But she covered his lips with hers before he could say another word.
This wasn’t the reckless innocence of Riley, nor the dangerous passion of Spike. This wasn’t the bittersweet agony and elation that was Angel. This wasn’t the men that came after them--Jeremy, Ian, who had both tried to understand her, desperately at times, but failed. This was a different love, one that had manifested itself in many ways over many years, but only now, in the aftermath, could it really appear. The love of the wise and the weary, the journey and the destination, the light and the end of the tunnel. A love without wooing or seducing, or any of those youthful trivialities. A love of protection and solace.
Buffy solemnly and carefully unbuttoned his shirt, and he made no move to stop her. The unpacking would have to wait until later. Giles said nothing, only studied her, unblinking. She peeled away the garment and looked up at him, waiting.
“My wife . . .” he breathed, at last, and stroked her hair.
She kissed him, gently at first, then firmer. He tugged at her sleeveless lace shirt, and she lifted her arms to accommodate its removal. Her small breasts, unfettered by a bra, were flattened against his chest as he hugged her to him.
“You sure we’re ready for this?” he asked. For weeks, there had been nothing but chaste kisses, stolen embraces, as they struggled to define what they were feeling, and to help the others accept it. Then, two Fridays ago, on the day when they discovered Spike was missing, the news of Sunnydale’s unexplained ruination seemed to die down a little. And there was a ring, a luxury he should not have afforded. And a nervous proposal.
“I think perhaps--I mean, I was wondering if--if you don’t have a greater plan in mind, I mean to say, if you don’t want to I would understand completely, but--it would please me very much . . . more than I can say, really . . . if you would marry me.”
“Ready as we’ll ever be,” she answered. She slid her hands between them to open his jeans, which unbuttoned and unzipped under her fingers. Past layers of fabric, she found his burgeoning erection, and she eased him back onto the bed as she freed it. She kneeled on the carpet, removed his loafers and socks, and edged his jeans and underwear to the floor. He propped himself onto one elbow and watched her slip out of her sandals, her brown woolen skirt and panties.
“Come here,” he said, reaching his other arm out to her. She climbed onto the green brocade comforter and nearly fell into his arms, her ear pressed against his heart, his sex pressed against her thigh.
“You don’t have to be the strong one all the time,” he whispered, grazing his lips across her neck. “I promise.”
They had gone straight from Heathrow Airport to their wedding, which had lasted about fifteen minutes. Some old judge in a white wig had pronounced them man and wife, with only a calmly supportive Willow and a slightly bewildered Wesley Wyndam-Price there to witness it. Willow said it best:
“He’s the only one, Buffy. The only one you ever depended on completely. The person you could go to when the rest of us weren’t listening, or were wandering away, or too wrapped up in our own danger to really get it. He’s the one that protected you. The only one who knew how.”
Buffy eased him over onto his back and straddled him, smoothly taking him into her as they gasped identical gasps. She set their rhythm, riding him slowly and carefully, until he chuckled. “I won’t break, Buffy.”
She laughed, clasping both his hands and giving him all of her weight as they moved towards their culmination. He spread his arms wide, and hers spread with them, until she fell lightly onto his stomach. He let go of her hands and held fast to her, rolling on top of her as they finished. She cried out softly and almost joyfully, tracing the length of his spine with her fingertips. She wrapped her legs around him, using her unquestionable strength to keep him deep inside her.
“Don’t worry,” he assured her, reading her mind. “I’m not going anywhere.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t call you yesterday,” Buffy said into the phone. “What time is it there, anyway?”
“Seven in the morning. On Saturday,” said Dawn. “But that’s okay. Great, actually. I mean you guys are newlyweds and all.”
Sitting on the arm of the sofa in her bathrobe, Buffy grinned and rolled her eyes at Giles, who was coming out of the kitchen with his morning coffee. She gestured to the receiver. “Wanna say hello?”
He took the phone from her, suppressing a laugh. “Hello, Dawn, how are you finding Brazil? . . . Oh yes, I’m sure the pygmy shamans will be most excited to meet you. Just take Faith along with you and don’t accept any gifts from them, no matter what it is.”
Buffy raised an eyebrow as she went to take her toast out of the toaster. She spread her orange marmalade and listened, bemused, to the conversation.
“Well, just remember your studies are the most important thing. You’ll need an impeccable record in order to get into Oxford next fall. Of course I may be able to pull a few strings . . .”
She settled by the windowsill, where she could watch a gang of children playing tag on the edge of the pond. A couple of them noticed her and waved up. She smiled shyly and waved back.
Then she noticed the click of the receiver. “Dawn wanted me to tell you that she loves you,” Giles said, coming to the window.
She set her half-eaten toast back on the plate, grasped his face, and kissed him.
“Your hands are sticky.”
“I’ve discovered something.”
“And what is that?”
She glanced back at the pond before she slid her arm around his waist. “I’m happy.”
He nodded as if he completely understood. “Things are happening just as they should.”
He lifted the window open a little, so they could smell the lilac, hear the laughter, and feel the protective warmth of the sunlight. And each other.