Buffy paced, absently chewing on a callus on her knuckle. She stopped, admonishing herself. She looked at her nails. Ugh. They used to be so pretty, all the time. She wondered if he remembered her like that, always pretty, always with new outfits and perfect hair. And all that time spent with miss fashion plate, Cordy. She'd have to get a manicure soon.
She stared at her answering machine. Twenty-three messages. Business was good, but she didn't feel like making calls today. At least, not yet.
She needed her morning tea. Damn Giles, getting her addicted to the stuff. It was early, but she couldn't relax. She'd have to wake him up. She locked her apartment door behind her and bolted up the single flight of narrow stairs.
She banged on his door.
"Morning!" she yelled. She waited. She waited some more, then she banged again.
She heard shuffling. Giles opened the door and glared at her. His hair was standing at a sideways angle, his robe was half-off, with the belt trailing on the floor. His pajamas were disheveled, as if he had just thrown them on. He turned wordlessly and walked away from her toward the kitchen. Buffy dropped the paper on the kitchen table and reached for an orange in the bowl. She peeled it energetically.
"Great patrol last night...clean. I mean, really clean. You were right about those Del Shannon guys. I talked to Willow last night and she put a scan out on the East coast. Activity is down like you wouldn't believe. Gives us a little room to deep-clean. I'm thinking about doing the sewers in this town, flushing out the long-timers. I was going to start tonight. What do you think?"
Giles put the kettle on the stove with a bang.
"I think it's bloody early for you to be so full of so much bloody energy," he snapped.
Buffy stared at him with astonishment and then began to giggle.
"Make the tea, will you?" He went in the direction of the bedroom. Buffy blinked and sank her teeth into the orange. She glanced up at the clock on the wall. 6:05....AM. Wow.
She opened the paper, automatically leafing into the local section, scanning the criminal activity. Cleaner than it had been in a while. In a couple of weeks the report on lower crime rates would be out, and people would be less careful. Sometimes the press caused a lot more trouble than any other faction. But today, nothing could darken her mood. She was light inside, beaming and happy to be alive. Even when she put up a wall of calm the happiness in her shone out through the cracks. For instance, she was certain that this was the best orange she had ever tasted.
There was a thump directly behind her. Buffy's instincts sprung up in her before she had control; she seized a strange hand in the air behind her and twisted whoever it was into a headlock. There was a strangled shriek.
Daytime. Giles' place. Grip, get a grip. Buffy released her hold and Joyce Summers stumbled away from her, gasping.
"Oh, bloody Hell. Priceless," Giles stood behind them, hands on his hips.
"Mom???" Buffy put her hands on her hips, disgusted. "We just got home yesterday! Can't you guys go a week?" Joyce turned a defiant face on her daughter. She was wearing a pair of Giles' boxers and a T-shirt that Buffy had given Giles a long time ago, one he had never worn. She'd had it made at the mall. It read, "I'm a Watcher, ask me how".
"Try a long-distance relationship yourself sometime," said Joyce. She scowled at Buffy. "What's wrong with your nose?"
"What? Oh, it got broken last night. And I am the long-distance-relationship queen, Mom." Buffy paused, then turned her head for Joyce. "Did it heal crooked?"
"You're nose is fine," said Giles. Both women glared at him.
"Come here," Joyce pulled her daughter closer to the kitchen window, turning her in them light. "Oh, yes, there it is...it's just a tiny irregularity,"
"Indistinguishable from the regularity of her nose as of yesterday," said Giles, "You two are imagining it,"
"You told her, didn't you? About the Del Vecchios?" Buffy was stung. They had an agreement: Joyce was happier when she knew less, rather than more, about the slaying, and Buffy liked it kept that way. It made getting along so much easier.
"Dal Riata. And yes, I told her,"
"He was so proud of you," gushed Joyce, "He called right away. He couldn't wait to brag,"
"Really." said Buffy. She fixed a stare on Giles.
"It wasn't bragging," said Giles, "You know perfectly well, Joyce, that I consider the relationship between child and parent to be of utmost importance, and that-"
"He was practically crowing," interrupted Joyce, "That HIS Slayer took down the final battalion of the Del....the Del-'
"Well of course her strength grows as she ages. One would expect-"
"Should I re-break it?" asked Buffy, "So it heals right?"
"Oh, Honey, don't you think you should let a doctor do it?"
"I hate doctors, Mom. Hate."
"I know, Buffy, but it's such a perfect nose, don't you think-"
"Tea?" Giles asked loudly. The kettle was whistling.
"Oh," Buffy jumped to fetch the pot and the tin box. She liked making it; for about a year Giles had muttered and fussed over the use of too much or not enough tea in the pot, but now she could brew like a Brit. She rinsed out the pot with boiling water and measured the fragrant black leaves. Earl Gray. That was her favorite. It smelled the best.
"When does the freighter arrive?" Giles asked. He was groping around the house for his glasses. Buffy shot Joyce a look; they were on his desk, where they always were in the morning, and where he would never find them. Joyce handed them to him and he smiled warmly at her; their eyes locked momentarily. Buffy looked at the ceiling and sighed.
"Thirty-five days. Supposedly."
"You plan to go alone?"
"I know that wharf like the back of my hand, Giles,"
"That is hardly the point,"
"Well, what is the point? Do you think there might be another vengeance squad? A welcoming committee from some ticked-off minions?"
"It's-it's possible, yes,"
"Well, then I'll just take my crossbow, and clean before the boat gets there,"
"It may not be-"
"You think my instincts will be dulled. You think I'll be thrown by love,"
"You must admit, Buffy, that your judgment has suffered-"
"Because of Angel before. When am I going to live this down? How come I don't know more about your teen years? I need to have something on you for a change," Giles and Buffy both knew that she could have called him Ripper, and that she never would.
"Will you two please shut up and sit down?" said Joyce, "Let's have a nice cup of tea,"
Buffy left after tea, to give them some time together. Deep down, it seemed absolutely right to her to have Giles and her mother together, but she would never endorse it, not out loud. She would have to eat a yogurt on the way to her class, because they had talked for a long time about Angel coming back, and Buffy didn't want the inevitable greasy English breakfast.
She'd better check the mail, though.
She opened her mailbox and pulled out the contents thoughtlessly, shifting on her feet and humming. She bolted back up the stairs, danced into her apartment, and tossed the envelopes on the counter. The phone rang.
"Yes," she held the phone on her shoulder and groped in the fridge for a yogurt.
"Hello, we spoke a few weeks ago. I'm Mark France,"
"Oh, yeah...ummm," Buffy struggled to remember.
"Security Design Industries,"
"Yeah, yeah...I'm sorry I didn't call last week. Something came up,"
"Not at all. I understand. Have you considered my offer?"
"Yeah, sounds good, actually. I am considering other bids, but if you could fax me the deal..."
"Absolutely," Mark said happily, "And the number?"
Buffy gave him the museum fax number. Giles could bring it home tonight. She hung up and looked at her stack of mail. She was in a hurry, but she had a sudden urge to look through it. Bill...bill...junk mail-
And a letter, postmarked from Ireland.
Buffy sat heavily on the windowseat. She held the letter in her hands, looking at it. The writing had that elegant curl around the S's and the Y of her name. She took a deep breath. She opened the letter.
To be continued......