The Magic Box was full of people but it was a Scooby meeting so Anya’s face lacked the customer – kindled glow that always tugged at Xander’s heart just a little. It took less to make Anya happy than any other woman he knew and she shared happiness with a lavish hand, beaming impartially, confiding frankly, embarrassing him totally.
He found himself studying her as though he didn’t wake up beside her every morning, as though he didn’t know who – and what – she was. She had lived for over a thousand years. It should have bothered him more than it did. Sometimes he suspected that it bothered him so much he’d put up a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on whatever part of his brain housed that thought. How could someone so old not show it in any way? Angel had been a seedling to her oak but his eyes were full of haunted wisdom. According to Willow anyway, but that was before Angel lengthened his name and killed her fish. There was less doe eyed mooning after that and he couldn’t say he was sorry.
Spike was the youngest of the three and even he had moments of age inspired insight. Generally when Buffy was around to be impressed, of course. Xander tried, and failed, to recall Spike saying anything worth stuffing in a fortune cookie when he was sharing Xander’s basement.
In a rare moment of introspective musing, Xander found himself wondering if no matter how old you got, your wisdom waxed and waned every hundred years or so. Or got to a certain point and stuck. Or wouldn’t the demons rule the earth by now?
He realised that he had drifted off and found to his annoyance that no one had noticed. No, someone had. Spike was looking at him with a gleam of amused sympathy in his eyes. Okay. World had obviously ended when he wasn’t paying attention. Still, it was nice to know that someone else found these meetings on the dull side.
Spike had watched Xander’s head sinking down and jerking up as he fought the urge to doze because it was more entertaining than listening to Giles go on and on about the latest threat to the planet. Sometimes he wondered why he came to these meetings. No one looked glad to see him, anything he said was greeted with derision or ignored and Buffy usually punched him as her way of saying ‘goodnight’.
Buffy. They probably all thought he was here to be near to her. Well – yes. Fair enough, he was. But it was more than that. When the chip had been rammed into his brain he had lost more than the ability to kill humans, he had lost the ability to connect to them. He missed it. It was a short term relationship and it always ended in screams but when he hunted and drank he absorbed more than a pint or two of the red stuff. He took their fear, their dreams, their potential and it filled him with an evanescent glow, a warmth that set his ancient bones humming with life. Drinking dead blood kept his tummy full but it didn’t make him feel alive.
So here he was, next best thing. Hanging around a bunch of children, trying to join their gang and failing as always to fit in.
Giles fought back a yawn as he continued to lecture, wondering if anyone was even listening. Xander looked half asleep, Anya was pouting because he’d closed the shop early. He was tempted to add in a line about the Hadrinni demons playing football just to see if he got any response. Sometimes he felt so alone here. He found himself remembering the short time Wesley had been working with him with some nostalgia. Another Watcher, another Englishman. Bit of a prat but he’d grow out of that or die a horrible death. Giles wasn’t sure what odds he’d give on that, not now.
Giles’ gaze fell on Spike. He supposed the vampire counted as English too but he tried to imagine the expression on Quentin’s face should he suddenly walk through the door and find him here, included in a strategy meeting. Come to that, Travers would probably be so busy denouncing him for having anyone but the Slayer in the room that he wouldn’t even notice Spike. Giles took another look and reconsidered. Spike drew the eye. Travers would notice him. Giles wondered again just why Spike wasn’t dust. Buffy shouldn’t be able to be this close to him without wanting to –
If I moved really fast, I wonder if I could take him, Buffy thought. It was galling to look at him and not know, not for sure, if she could beat him. She probably could. She was the Slayer after all...but he’d killed two Slayers after all. Had Angel? She’d never dared to ask him. She could ask Spike – no. That wouldn’t be fair. That would be sneaky. She carried on staring at him, her eyes running over his body, assessing him. He looked up and smiled, a tiny quirk of his lips, a subtle flexing of his hips as he changed position – and her face flooded with heat and she looked at Xander, now unashamedly dozing.
Anya felt her lips tighten. As if it wasn’t enough that she had Willow’s constant presence to contend with, now Buffy was all over Xander with her eyes. He’s mine, she shouted silently to the room, trying to force the thought into their minds. Mine. I found him first. Xander murmured something, his eyes opening for a bleary second before the measured tones of Giles’ voice sent him back to sleep and her face softened. She trusted him. She really did. He was different. If he slept now, he’d be rested for tonight. That was good. She didn’t like him fighting. What kind of a Slayer needed help anyway? She glared at Buffy again. Incompetent and a boyfriend stealer.
Willow felt the negative energy seeping out and unerringly tracked it to its source. She sighed quietly. Anya’s insecurity was irritating. Maybe there was a spell she could do to...no. That wouldn’t be very safe. Giles would be cross about that. She didn’t feel comfortable with that idea somehow, although it was intriguing. Giles knew so much...but so did she. He wasn’t her Watcher after all and he didn’t need to know everything she did. Her eyes flickered up to the private section of the shop, where the dangerous books were stored. Giles had forbidden her to look at the large one in the corner but he was going to the bank tomorrow. Maybe, if she were quick...
Giles stopped talking and people stirred to life around him, each pinning an attentive look on their face, each assuming that the others knew the plan.
“So, that’s all clear then?”
“Liars. From the top then.”
“Giles! Mercy!” Xander protested.
Giles smiled tightly. “It’s big, it’s blue, and it’s mean. Chop off the tentacles and it’s blind. It was last seen in the cemetery by the old factory and it eats rotting flesh. Let’s go.”
They stood up and straggled out after him. “Didn’t it take longer the first time?” Xander asked Anya quietly.
“How would you know, honey? You were asleep.”
“You noticed that?”
"There was drool."
"I get it."
"People were staring at -"
"Still getting it, Anya. Let's go kill demons, shall we?"
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