Chapter 2 - Blending Realities
Three hours later.
The group returned to the living room. Joyce had fixed lunch and they had eaten while Willow, Xander and Buffy had exchanged information on the happenings of this time line. Giles' head was spinning from all the things that he had heard. And something told him that he hadn't heard anywhere near the whole story. Several times Buffy had cut one of the others off, saying that they would talk about this or that later. Most of the prohibited subjects seemed to be about Angel. He wondered what had happened to cause Angel to leave Sunnydale, leave Buffy.
Another thing was how Buffy kept touching him. If they were apart her eyes looked for him, when they were near she would keep in contact with him. She seemed especially fascinated with his hand, touching his fingers, running her thumb across his palm. It was more than a little unsettling. It was, in fact, arousing. This Buffy was setting off feelings in him that he hadn't felt in years. Feelings that he couldn't imagine having for his Buffy.
His Buffy had been so young. Brave and courageous, but much too young for the burden she had carried. This Buffy was a battle hardened solider. Used to giving orders and expecting to have them obeyed. He saw that the others, especially that young man Riley, found this Buffy just as unfamiliar as he did. He wondered if there had been a Riley in her time line, and if so, what had he meant to her. Apparently not as much as he had to this time lines' Buffy. Riley looked confused and upset by her behavior. She completely ignored the fact that he was there, talking to him only in response to a direct question.
Giles moved towards the armchair, but Buffy steered him to the sofa. She gave him a gentle shove and he sat next to the arm. Buffy sat close beside him, touching all along his left side. She took his left hand in her right and twined her fingers through his, resting their joined hands on her right thigh.
Giles noticed that this made Joyce look upset, Riley angry, and Xander shocked. But the three girls exchanged glances and smiles. Willow and Tara joined them on the sofa, Willow giving Buffy's left hand a little squeeze. The two nodded and shared a bright smile. Buffy cleared her throat.
"I think the first thing we need to do is figure out how to get us legally back among the living. I suppose that if there were no other choice, I could assume another identity. At the age I'm supposed to be, it's not that big a deal. Very little life experiences to worry about replicating, just a high school diploma. I'm sure Angel knows people in LA who could take care of that, but Giles is a different story. He's not an American citizen. There's the whole passport, green card thing, as well as credentials and references for getting a job." She gave a deep sigh.
"I guess we need to call Travers. Boy is he in for a shock. I bet he had a big celebration when you called to tell him we were dead."
"Buffy!" Giles protested.
"He hated my guts, Giles, and the feeling was mutual."
"You speak of him as though he were in the past."
Buffy got a haunted look in her eyes, and swallowed hard. "In my time line he had been dead for about three months. The Council had been destroyed. You and Wes were the only Watchers left."
Xander broke in. "It's been a busy couple of days, we hadn't gotten around to calling them yet. We were discussing that when you guys dropped in."
Giles ignored him. He paled. "The Council was destroyed? How? Why?"
Buffy squeezed his hand. "I promise I'll tell you everything, but later. We'll figure out a way to keep it from happening here." She turned back to Xander. "Even if you didn't call them, I'm sure Wesley did." At Xander's blank look she asked, "Wesley Wyndom-Pryce? Self-righteous prig? Guy that Travers sent to be my Watcher after they fired Giles?" Buffy turned and gave Giles a look. "Later."
Giles closed his mouth.
Willow said, "We forgot about Wesley."
"But, you called Angel."
"And every time we called, we talked to Angel. I totally forgot that Wes was working with him."
Buffy nodded. "Willow, would you please call Wes and ask him if he called the Council yet?"
Willow crossed the room to the telephone. She pressed the numbers and waited. "Angel, uh, hi. Can I speak to Wesley please?" There was a wait while Willow fidgeted. "Oh! Hi, Wesley, it's Willow. I wanted to ask if you had called the Council to tell them about Buffy and Giles?" She listened, then turned to give Buffy a thumbs-up. "I wondered if you wouldn't, not just yet?" Willow pulled the phone away from her ear and everyone could hear the squawking sounds coming from in.
"Wes, it's important. You waited this long, what's a few more hours?"
Buffy waved to get her attention. "Ask him to come here," she whispered.
"Wes, could you come to Sunnydale, to Buffy's mom's house?" He apparently asked when because Willow mouthed, "Today?" at Buffy's nod she told him, "Today."
He kept protesting, and Willow kept trying to break in. Finally, Buffy crossed the room and took the receiver from Willow's hand. "Wesley. I need you to come to Sunnydale today. Today, Wesley. I expect to see you in a couple of hours." She pushed the button to end the call and started counting. "One, two, three, four, five." The phone rang.
"Yes, Wes, it's me. He's here too. We'll explain everything when you get here." Buffy closed her eyes at something that was said. She opened them and looked straight at Giles. "Yes, he can come as well, but I don't want to wait until dark. If he wants to come with you he can ride in the trunk. Two hours, Wes, I expect to see you then." She disconnected the call.
Walking back to the sofa, she sat down and took Giles' hand again. "Well, what does everyone want to talk about while we're waiting?"
Giles looked at Xander. "You said a couple of days. How long has it been since our counter-parts died?"
Joyce swallowed hard. "Angel called Monday morning and the two of you left here around nine o'clock. The police called me just before noon. Today is Wednesday."
"Forgive me, I don't mean to sound insensitive, but I thought it took longer than that to organize things for a funeral."
"Usually, yes, but with the condition of the bodies, and the fact that both of you had specified cremation, we decided to just have a memorial service at the cemetery instead of the traditional funeral service. Your papers didn't mention anyone to inform in England so there didn't seem to be any reason to wait."
"What condition of the bodies?"
Joyce stood and rushed from the room. Buffy stood, but Willow stopped her. "I'll take care of it."
Giles looked distressed. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to upset her."
"It's okay," Xander said, "this whole situation is more than a little freaky. The car that ran the red light broadsided Giles' car, pushing it across the intersection into a gasoline truck. The car was engulfed in flames and the bodies were burned. They were identified as yours because it was Giles' car and Mrs. Summers knew that you had gone to LA together."
Xander stopped abruptly and he and Buffy exchanged startled looks. "You mean there was never any kind of forensic identification of the bodies? Nobody checked dental records?"
"That could be the answer."
"Especially with the condition the two of you are in."
"And two days wouldn't be too unreasonable, not with both of us having head injuries."
"What are you talking about?" Riley interrupted. "What could be the answer?"
"There was no medical identification of the bodies. Giles and I can go to the police and claim we were mugged. All of our ID was stolen along with the car. We were both knocked out, and when we came around we were confused and disoriented." Buffy turned to Giles, who was frowning in thought.
"We will need to go into a little more detail than that, and it would be best to wait for this Wesley person to arrive before we call the police."
"Since we were supposed to be in LA, we can claim that after we couldn't get anyone here on the phone, we called him and he brought us back here."
"Good thinking." Buffy smiled. "We might actually be able to pull this off. Once the police accept that we are who we say we are, then we'll need to call the British Embassy to get your identity restored, but with the police report that shouldn't be too hard." Buffy looked at him and blinked, seeming to really see the condition he was in for the first time.
"Xander, could you go to Giles' place and get him a change of clothes? I just realized how messed up he looks."
Joyce spoke from the doorway. "I don't think he should change clothes just yet. The two of you supposedly just got here after being missing for two days, you should stay as you are until the police interview you."
Buffy nodded, "Right. Well then, lets talk this through and have a story ready when Wes and Angel get here."
Time past quickly while the group hashed out a plan. They were deep in discussion when a knock sounded sharply on the front door. Buffy looked at the clock. "He made good time."
Xander went to open the door. Wesley walked in and stepped aside. A heavily clocked figure ran from the back of a van and rushed into the house. Xander closed the door and Angel hurried into the living room, stopping abruptly. The curtains were open and sunlight flooded the room. Buffy sat on the sofa next to Giles, holding his hand.
"Hello, Angel," she said, coolly. "Hey, Wes, how have you been?"
The two men were stunned by her greetings. Wesley because it was so cordial, and Angel because it was so indifferent. This was not the Buffy they knew. Angel frowned, looking at her intently. Buffy sighed and stood up, crossing over to the window to close the curtains. She returned to the sofa, once again taking Giles' hand.
Angel growled, morphing into game face, and pulled a sword from under his cloak as he rushed at the figures on the sofa. He found himself on the floor, Buffy sitting on him and a stake pressing against his chest.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?"
"You're not Buffy. You must be some kind of demon with the power to make others see what you want them to. Because I carry a demon I could see the truth."
"So tell me, oh wise one, what do you see?"
Angel looked confused for a moment, then said, "I see Buffy, but you don't really look like her. You're older and thinner." He paused, frowning at her. "Harder somehow."
"That's because I am older. Look at Giles, does he look older too?"
Angel tuned his head and looked at the man now standing behind Buffy. His face showed his confusion. "No, he looks younger. Like he did when we first met, before" he cut off abruptly when Buffy pushed the stake in a little more. He looked into her eyes. "You are Buffy, but not MY Buffy."
"Got it in one, Sherlock." Buffy removed the stake and got to her feet. She moved in front of Giles and he instinctively placed his hands on her shoulders. "Giles is from a time line three years in the past, and I am from one three years in the future. Ours worlds were being destroyed and the Powers sent us here to replace your Buffy and Giles." She looked at Wesley.
"We've figured out a way to fit us into this time line, but we need your help."
Wes stood for a moment, stunned, then said. "Of course, if I can help in any way I'll be happy to."
Five hours later.
The police had finally left. They had asked countless questions, but the cuts, bruises, and the condition of their clothes had made the story credible. And with Wesley there to give Giles a positive identification, things went a little smoother than they might have. While the police were there, Wes had spoken to a person at the Embassy and had the police speak to them as well. The Embassy secretary had them fax the statements and promised to have a courier bring new paperwork for Giles the next day.
Xander had then taken Giles to the University to inform them of the mistake and that he would be back teaching classes the next week. From there they had gone to his apartment so he could clean up and change. Riley had gotten tired of Buffy ignoring him, and he left, saying he would call and talk to her later.
Buffy was sitting quietly amid the chatter of the others, feeling somehow detached. She leaned forward, resting her elbows on her knees and putting her head in her hands, massaging her temples. Her head felt like it was going to explode. Cool hands began to knead her neck. She sat up, shrugging the hands away.
"You looked a little tense. I just wanted to help." Angel's voice sounded a little hurt.
"Buffy, obviously we had problems where you came from, but that wasn't me. I know this has been a rough day. Let me help."
"Rough day. ROUGH DAY?" she spun around, eyes blazing. All of the pain of the past 12 hours came rushing at her at once. "You have no idea. They were all dead. All of them. Some I saw die; others I just found their bodies. Stabbed, slashed, drained, mutilated, you name it I saw it. ALL OF THEM," she screamed.
Warm arms came around her and she was enveloped in the scent that belonged to only one person: Giles. Tears streaming down her face she continued, "Xander, Anya, Dawn, Andrew, Rona, Kennedy, Vi, Faith, Robin, Spike and all the rest." Her hands tightened on the arms holding her. "Giles died in my arms. I didn't want to leave him there, I didn't want to go on without him, but she gave me no choice. She sent me here. Oh, Giles." She turned in his arms and sobbed uncontrollably against his chest.
The others had listened in appalled silence. Xander and Anya clung together at the mention of their deaths. Willow kept remembering how they had both said that SHE had sent them here. Joyce and Tara exchanged looks. Buffy had never mentioned either of them, and she had been looking at them all afternoon like a person seeing a lost loved one. What had happened to them in her world?
Angel looked startled at the depth of emotion she had shown. He felt guilty that he had upset her so badly. What he didn’t realize was that the pressure had finally been too much and anyone could have set her off.
Giles understood, in fact he was happy that she was finally letting go. He rocked her slightly, rubbing his hand up and down her back. His own face was wet with tears. "It's all right. Go ahead and grieve. They were people you cared for, people you loved. They deserve your tears. I didn't want to leave her either, but our being sent here gives their lives and deaths meaning. They will never be truly gone as long as we carry their memories."
The others silently went into the kitchen, leaving the pair to grieve together. For a long time the only sounds on the room were heartbroken sobs and comforting murmurs. Sometime later, after the others had left for the night, Joyce peeked into the room and saw Giles sitting on the sofa with Buffy curled up in his arms. They were both asleep. Taking a blanket from the hall closet, Joyce covered them. She stood looking at them for a moment, then turned out the lights and went to bed. Time enough to worry about tomorrow when it arrived.