Buffy blundered to the door and peered out through the peephole lens. Giles. She opened the door.
"Good Lord," he murmured; he laid his hand across her forehead. Buffy flinched away.
"What on earth happened?" he demanded.
"What?" said Buffy. She was feeling irritable suddenly. She'd rather be alone. His voice seemed incredibly loud, and something was making her feel sick; not physically, but something cold in the back of her mind was bothering her, like a small clawed creature crouched and ready to spring, an ugly thought that she wanted to keep out of her mind. With him here she might have to actually confront it.
He was fixing her with an intense hazel gaze.
"What happened, Buffy?"
She flopped into a chair, wincing. Everything was angering her. She couldn't seem to speak.
"How long have you been in the house?" he asked.
"I guess," she said, sullenly.
"Have you eaten?"
He marched into her kitchen. Buffy lolled her head. She was on the verge of tears and that was making her even more irritable.
"Giles, just don't, OK? I need some time alone,"
"What happened on your last hunt?"
"Uh-" she thought, "Oh...this vamp flashed me in the eyes with something. Really bright light,"
"Bloody Hell," he came back with a yogurt, which Buffy stared at as though she'd never seen one. He thrust a spoon into it.
"NO," his eyes were sharp enough to silence her. "If you won't eat now I shall resort to more primitive techniques,"
"Try it," she spat. Then she looked at him in shock, and burst into tears.
"Giles....oh, Giles, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, God..."
He was wrapping a throw around her. He lifted her in his arms and carried her to the door. "Open the door, Buffy,"
She sniffled and opened it; she drew it shut behind them and he carried her up the single flight of stairs to his apartment and put her gently on his couch. Then he was dialing and Buffy heard him, as if at a distance.
"Yes, Willow Rosenburg, please. Oh, I see...well, yes, actually, this is an emergency. Please have her call Giles as soon as possible. It's very important. Thank you,"
Then he went away, and returned with a steaming cup.
"Please try, Buffy,"
Buffy sniffed; it was tea, her favorite kind. She smiled faintly. "OK,"
Then he was bustling around his apartment; Buffy revived a little and looked down at a plate. Giles speared a piece of pancake and swished it in syrup; he held it up on the fork and glared affectionately at her.
"Need I impersonate a choo-choo train?"
Buffy laughed. "No," but it was a struggle. Once she'd swallowed, she felt differently. Suddenly she was ravenous, and she took the plate from him. Giles sighed with a mixture of relief and anxiety. The phone rang.
"Yes....yes, hello, Willow. I believe some sort of spell was worked on Buffy. She hasn't left her apartment for three days, nor has she eaten. She complains of a headache. She recalls a bright light held up by a vampire she was hunting....of course," he handed the phone to Buffy, who was shoveling her breakfast down.
"There's more," he said, arching an eyebrow. She hesitated, and he was off to the kitchen.
"Hi," she said into the phone, mouth full.
"Is the headache getting worse or better?" asked Willow.
"How else do you feel?"
"I don't know....kind of bitchy. And...I couldn't wake up for like, three days,"
"I'm flying out tomorrow,"
"Don't even start, Buffy. This is serious. We have to get this spell off you. Do you know who may have cast it?"
"A spell?" she said. Giles was dishing more pancakes onto her plate.
"Yes. A spell. When did you see the light?"
"I...I guess it was that vampire-I turned around and he was holding something in his hand-"
"No...it's not possible a vampire could cast that kind of thing alone. But it is possible that the person who cast the spell sort of had it delivered...so the vampire didn't actually cast the spell himself, but he was delivering it for someone else. Any ideas at all?"
"No...well....the vamp was talking about that other Monaghan, the one who started up this cadre. I guess it's not a HE,"
There was a small silence.
"Shit," said Willow.
"I'm not sure. But it might be a casting stone. If it is, we've got to get it off you as soon as possible. And I need you to do something for me. Listen closely to your thoughts,"
"Listen to your thoughts.. Just pay attention to them,"
"It's hard to remember to do, but it's really important. And if you feel anxious or depressed, I need to know what about,"
"You mean, more than usual lately?"
"Have you been depressed?"
"Well...I mean, it's only two weeks now till he gets off the boat, and-"
"Shit," said Willow.
"Will you please stop scaring me?"
"I'm leaving right away,"
"It's me, the Dean's list darling, remember?"
Buffy was silent, picturing Willow. She missed her, terribly. She didn't feel as guilty as she should have, making her drop everything and come to the rescue. She craved her company.
"Hey?" said Willow.
"Are you OK?"
"I don't know," said Buffy. She looked up at Giles, who was handing her an orange juice. She sighed, "Yeah, I'll be OK,"
"I'll see you soon,"
Buffy drifted into another nap and woke to see two letters in Giles' outstretched hand, both postmarked from Ireland.
"You don't want to fall behind, do you?" he asked pleasantly. Buffy took them and a cold feeling washed over her. She handed them back to him.
"Just toss 'em, OK?"
His eyes widened.
The feeling subsided, and suddenly Buffy's thoughts were crystal clear.
"You know what? I owe you an apology. Or a billion apologies. For everything I put you through because of my stupid hormones. God, Giles, the man tortured you,"
"That-" he sat beside her, "Was a demon. Years ago. Angel and I have an understanding, have for some time now,"
"But, come on," she suddenly felt stronger; she stood on her feet and began to pace his apartment, "I mean, what's a worse match for me? Is there one? And what about risking the health of everybody else in my life, the people who DIDN'T take off across the ocean without telling me?"
Giles stood, his face caught in a frown.
"I must admit, I never thought the day would come when I would defend Angel to you," he said, "But he has been on quite an important endeavor. His bravery in this situation is impressive, and his devotion to his family and country is unquestionable, as is his devotion to you. What are you thinking of?" his voice softened, "Have your feelings changed?"
Buffy frowned. Her heart lurched, and seemed to squeeze in on itself. She suddenly felt the headache returning. She stumbled and rubbed her forehead.
He caught her and guided her back to the couch.
"Are you all right?"
"Why are his letters giving me a headache all of a sudden?" she asked him.
"I don't know. Willow will find out. But I'm going to start some research of my own now,"
Buffy rose again from the couch. He put a hand on her shoulder and pushed her back down.
"I want to keep an eye on you, Buffy,"
She sat resignedly and stared up at him, suddenly full of gratitude for him.
"Got any aspirin?" He brought them to her and began to dig into his books.
She opened a letter, fighting the throbbing behind her eyes.
I dreamed of you kneeling on the edge of the bed. You were taking off a necklace. You were naked, just a little sweaty from a night of slaying, and your hair was falling out of it's confines, draping gently across your neck.
In the light from the lamp your skin was golden and velvety. You have a wonderful back, muscular but soft. I slid up behind you on my knees, unable to wait. You grunted as I wrapped my arms around you.
"Tired?" I asked.
"Yeah..." you said, "But do you mean, TOO tired?"
I laughed a little.
"I guess that is what I meant," I slipped my hand down over your belly and felt the heat rising in me quickly. You were fertile. I could feel it, a vibration from within you that was intensely erotic to me.
You laughed. "No,' you said sweetly, "But remember there's a kid asleep upstairs,"
"Since she's asleep, she won't mind," I hadn't meant to growl, but your body chemistry was working on me like a drug. You leaned back against me and gasped.
"What did I do to get you this hot?"
You laughed outright. "No, I mean-" but I couldn't keep my mouth off yours; I craned my head foreward to sip your lower lip between my teeth, gently. You reached back to wrap your hand around my sex and I almost shouted; the sensation was magnified, it was as intense as the first time you ever touched me. I scooted back on my knees and pulled you with me, keeping you in the same position. I began to devour your neck.
"Hey...really. I mean, you're really-"
Time to admit it.
"I...you're...you're fertile tonight," I said.
You leaned foreward on your hands and looked back at me knowingly.
"Is this a Catholic thing? You just want another baby?"
"Of course not," I said, from the small of your back, "Not if you don't want to,"
You sighed. I stopped.
"I do, actually," you said, "I've been thinking about it,"
I must have been eyeing you hungrily because you laughed at me again. You ruffled my hair.
I wrapped both arms around you, lifting you and pulling you back onto my lap so you were straddling me. You reached down to slip your hand between your legs and I tilted foreward, throwing us both on our hands. The fragrance of you washed through me, bringing every nerve to attention, almost painfully. You were wet, wet like a water lily pulled freshly from a lake, dripping with dew and pollen and all kinds of delicious moisture. My hand followed yours and I groaned with need, stroking between your legs as lightly as I could, feeling the motion of your hand as I did. I dipped a finger into you and sucked the heady sweetness off my fingers. I was so hard that every throb moving through me was edging on pain. You reached up and released your hair and more of your scent flooded over me. It was becoming unbearable for me to wait. Every instinct I had cried out to me to bury myself inside you. Even my hands were shaking.
"I love the way you want me," you sighed.
"I want you," I moaned, "I'll always want you,"
I pressed myself against you and felt you opening, the tender petals of your sex slipping over me, drawing me into your heat. You were scalding, and slippery. I moaned, louder than I meant to.
"Buffy," I begged. You arched backward, thrusting yourself down on me, and I was engulfed completely; I shouted.
"Shhhhh," you giggled, "Am I going to have to gag you?"
I buried my face in your neck and enclosed your hips in my hands, bringing you back against me with a brutal thrust. You screeched. We stopped, you panting, both of us sweating.
"Pillow," you said, and I handed you one. You placed it on the bed in front of you and slinked down onto your chest, clutching the pillow in your arms and burying your face in it. Your haunches were arched up to me; you were giving me complete control. I was hoping I'd be worthy of it, because I was so close already that I doubted myself, but I couldn't resist the invitation. I brought you against me, almost losing consciousness from the lush, overwhelming sensation of being inside you. I drove into you again and again, my eyes squeezed shut, moaning into your neck, trembling with the effort of keeping myself in check. You sat up on your knees and leaned back on me, pushing with your hands, impaling yourself deeply, and I was lost.
"Do it, give it to me, do it-" We raged against each other, our hands gripping with bruising strength, hollow sounds coming from your throat as the air was pushed out of you, and then you gave a trembling cry, and my mind disappeared in blank ecstasy. I regained consciousness with you and we both froze instinctively, listening. No crying upstairs.
You rolled over and pulled me with you. I lay on my side and looked at you. My eyes welled up, as they will, when I look at you. Your eyes are a perfect place I lose myself in, a warm summer night that gives me solace and comfort, more than I've ever had, or could have ever hoped for.
"I love you," I said. "I love you," you were tracing my face with your fingers. You sat up on your elbow and kissed my eyelids, sipping tears away. "They taste like rain," you said, "Only a little saltier. But nice, like rain. Are you happy?" you asked me suddenly.
"I will never be happier, I've never been happier,"
"You'll have Erinne," you said softly, "And her daughters. And all our greats and greats-"
"Don't," I choked.
"But I have to think about these things," you said softly, "I'm not leaving you alone,"
"Buffy, don't. I can't-"
"You'll have to stay around, Angel. They'll need you,"
I caught you close to me, trying to swallow the horror that was creeping up. I hated what you were saying.
"Don't-don't do this-"
"You can be happy,"
"Without you?" I raged, "How? Would you?"
"For the girls,"
I stared at you blankly.
You smiled slyly at me.
"Girl, plural. Two girls," I swallowed and put a trembling hand on your belly. I felt it, the stirring of new life, distant but clear as a song, the breaking forth of a new life.
I was blinking through tears and you were stroking them away.
"Ann," you said.
I woke up, still in the chair by the fire, with John asleep in the chair next to me. I took a moment to look at him. How badly he must miss his wife, and his sons must be missing theirs as well. I needed to bring this battle to an end. And I needed to try to stop the Mayve from sending out forces against you. I shifted in the chair and pain seared through me; I made a sound, involuntarily.
John woke. He looked at me blearily.
"You must to bed, Uncle," he croaked.
"I have to go,"
His eyes widened. "No! Are you daft?"
"I won't allow it,"
"She's in danger, John. I may be able to stop it,"
"Good God, Uncle-"
"I need your help. She's in danger. She needs to get out of LA. I have people going in, but the sooner she knows, the better her chances. She's running out of time,"
"I'll reach her, Uncle,"
"Or she may call. I left the number,"
"You can't go-"
"I have to, John. I know you understand,"
His eyes blurred.
"You're badly hurt. How will you-"
"I have to,"
We stared at each other.
"Then I'll help you bandage up," he said, "You'll need to bind that wound on your side, nice and tight. You don't want your guts spilling out,"
He helped me dress. Mark had become a very proficient weapon-maker; I filled my coat pockets with stakes and strapped on a leather quiver filled with arrows. I had managed to carry the broadsword home; Mark had cleaned the blade and sharpened it, and it gleamed comfortingly. I had to borrow John's crossbow. With one call John arranged for a boat to take me to the Aran islands, where I would find the Mayve. I wouldn't have to look for her. She would be looking for me. I was certain there would be a welcoming committee.
Mark drove me to the dock. I stepped out of the car and he called me back.
"Yes?" I bent to look into the car.
"St. Brigid be with you," he said, "Come home soon,"
I stood on the deck of the small ferry with the sea wind whipping in my eyes and thought of you, and of my dreams. Do you have a dream of me, occasionally? Am I a complete fool? And why don't I care if I am? Some things matter to me, but nothing like you. Nothing ever has, or will. I can't change that. "Love's bitch," Spike said, of me and of himself. Well, I can admit it now. I have to. There's a poignant pleasure in missing one you love, and I would have indulged myself a bit more, but I was worried about you and I couldn't be distracted. I needed to get to the Mayve as soon as possible, and I knew she would be eager to take me on.
I was right. Standing on Kilronan pier was Fiona; she was dressed like a street-walker. She lisped at me, "Need a guide?"
"Yes," I said. She took my arm and walked me down the winding roads edged with the inescapable low stone walls which are all over Inis Mor, until we had nearly reached Arkin's castle ruins.
"Do you think you'll defeat her?" Fiona asked.
"I don't know,"
"If you do, think of me. I'll make you a good match,"
"How do you figure that?"
"You're Irish," she said, "You'll never be a true Yank. It'll never well out with you and the Slayer. Stay, and rule Eire with me,"
"You're not too smart, are you, Fiona?"
She hissed; her fangs came up.
"Smarter than you," she slurred, and I heard a shattering sound before the world went black.
Buffy felt a small hand on her forehead; she had fallen asleep again, with the letter on her chest. She opened her eyes and looked into Willow's. She stretched her arms up and pulled Willow onto the couch with her.
"Hiiiieeee," she said, in muffled joy.
Willow laughed and hugged her back, then disengaged herself. Her hair was lightly sprinkled with rain. She shrugged her coat off and dumped the contents of a shopping bag on the floor, sorting through candles, crystals, herbs and other mysterious objects. Buffy sighed.
"I am so happy to see you!"
"Me, too," said Willow absently, arranging candles in a circle on the floor.
Buffy watched her, pouting a little.
"Yeah, I can tell,"
"Oh, Buffy, don't! I'm just worried. This is a not-good thing. I've got to find out what kind of a spell this is,"
"Can you do that?"
"I'm going to right now,"