Epilogue – Signed, Sealed, Delivered
Just past noon on Thursday, Buffy and Giles arrived back at their apartment. As they walked up the stairs Buffy said, "I think it’s the perfect answer. You’ll be your own boss, so you won’t have to explain things to anyone like we always had to do with Snyder. Plus, that back room is exactly the kind of space we need for training."
"Indeed. Having access to ingredients for castings is also a plus. By having direct contact with the suppliers we won’t need to make up reasons as to why we need some of the more esoteric ingredients."
Reaching the top of the stairs, Giles stopped and Buffy felt him stiffen. A voice floated across the patio. "Hello, Ripper." Sitting in one of the chairs, his face set in a mocking smile, was Ethan Rayne.
"What are you doing here, Ethan?"
"Here, as in Sunnydale, or here, meaning at your flat?"
"Don’t play the fool, Ethan. What are you doing here?"
"I came to Sunnydale at the command of Chaos. When I heard the good news, I knew it would be a while before I could get in touch with you. I put a little spell on your front door so I would know when you left." Ethan stood. "We need to talk, Rupert. Something has to be done to keep that little witch of yours from destroying the world."
Friday, 4:00 p.m.
Willow and Tara stood outside the Magic Box, looking at the closed sign. Tara asked, "Are you sure she said meet her here? The store has been closed for almost a month."
"The message on my answering machine said to meet outside the Magic Box at 4 o'clock. Either she didn't know the shop was closed, or she just….." Willow's voice trailed off when the door opened.
"Hey, guys. Right on time. Come in." Buffy stood in the doorway, smiling brightly. The two girls entered, and Buffy closed the door behind them, locking it. Looking around, Tara saw that Xander and Anya were there as well.
"Rupert bought it this morning. Pretty neat, huh? There is a huge back room that is perfect for training, plus instant access to all the magic supplies we could ever need."
Willow looked around. "Yeah, this is great. What gave you the idea to buy it?"
"Well, Giles has been bored, what with nothing to do since the school blew up, but he had that green card problem. Since that's not an issue any more, we were talking the other night about what kind of job he might be interested in doing. It kept coming back to the slayage and how do you explain to a boss that you couldn't come to work because you had been up all night researching the end of the world. I remembered you telling me that this place was for sale, and we came to look at it yesterday. We talked it over and agreed that it was just what we needed, so Giles had money transferred from his bank in England and bought it this morning. A couple of weeks to inventory everything and make a few changes, then we open for business."
"Buffy, that's great. We'll have a place we can hang out and help with the research, just like at the library." Willow looked around again. "I know that Giles said he had money, but I never would have guessed that he had enough to buy something like this."
Buffy giggled. "I don't know about before, but he does now."
Xander and Anya crossed the room. "I can hear a story behind that laugh. Spill."
Buffy walked over to the sales desk and hopped up on it. She waved to the table and the others sat down. "It would seem that Wesley had a lot to say to our Ms. Cavanaugh on the drive back to LA Monday. Instead of calling Quentin to grill him about the Council, she flew to London and talked to the Board of Directors."
"Board of Directors? I though that Travers was in charge of the Council."
"Technically, he was." Giles' voice came from behind them. He emerged from the back room. "Most people, including Quentin himself, forgot that he is just the public face of the Council, that the Board is really in charge. He gave them status reports, and they had always gone along with his recommendations, so he tended to forget that he was answerable to them. Everything was going along smoothly until Buffy became the Slayer."
"What difference did that make?"
"An untrained Slayer was an affront to Quentin's notion of how things should be, so he did everything he could to decrease her chances of survival. First Merrick, a retired Watcher was sent to help her, then me."
"What did he think was wrong with you? You were a good Watcher. You kept Buffy alive through a lot of hard times." Willow was angry.
"Due to my rebellious past I was not his picture of an ideal Watcher. He thought we would fail, whereas what he considered our weaknesses were really our strengths."
"We know all this," Xander said impatiently, "what does it have to do with you being able to buy the Magic Box?"
"Ms. Cavanaugh talked to the Board of Directors, and they found out that Quentin had been lying to them for the past year and a half."
"When Quentin made me perform the Cruciamentum, he was acting on his own. I was told that the Board had banned it over a hundred years ago. The reason neither I nor the other Watchers knew this fact, was that Buffy was the first Slayer since it had been banned to live to the age of 18."
There was a stunned silence. Willow recovered first. "So, since you weren't supposed to give her the test, then he didn't have the right to fire you for helping her?"
"Then how did he explain sending Wesley here?"
"Wesley was officially sent to be Faith's new Watcher."
"That's right, he didn't show up until after she was here."
"Okay, Travers was a bad boy and lied to the Board. Magic Box?"
"He never told the Board that he fired me and consequently Wesley as well."
Everyone looked puzzled while they thought it though. Xander understood the implications first. "He embezzled money from the Council?"
Giles nodded. "My salary for the past year and a half, Wesley's for the past year, as well as a salary the Council had authorized for Buffy when she passed the age of 18. He has been falsifying reports from both of us. The Council was not aware of the Mayor's Ascension attempt, nor that Faith had gone rogue and was currently in hospital in coma. They also didn't know that Wesley was working with Angel."
Xander gave a low whistle, shaking his head. "How did he think he was going to get away with all that?"
"We had gotten so accustomed to Quentin being the voice of the Council, that neither Wesley nor I thought to challenge his rulings. Plus, he didn’t expect Buffy to live as long as she has." Giles walked over and put his arm around Buffy. "I am most grateful that he was wrong." He and Buffy exchanged a brief kiss.
"He had also expected that by withdrawing his support, I would be deported immediately. He didn't take into account a government bureaucracy delaying the matter." Giles paused.
"How did you find out all this?"
"We received a call yesterday morning."
"Early, yesterday morning." Buffy cut in. "I was not happy with the interruption."
"Buffy," Giles hissed.
"What? You weren’t happy either." Buffy laughed. "You should have heard him, I didn’t know Giles knew those kinds of words."
Anya nodded. "Being interrupted makes Xander cranky too. His vocabulary can be quite impressive, like when you called a little while ago he said,"
Xander quickly put his hand over her mouth. "They’re not interested, honey, just drop it."
"Anyway," Buffy broke in, "the Board found out that Quentin had been stealing them blind, and fired him. They all got on the speaker phone and apologized to Giles and me for the things Quentin had done and transferred the money that we never got from the Council bank to Giles’ bank yesterday. We talked about what to do with it, and I remembered this place was for sale. We looked at it and, presto, Giles is the new owner of the Magic Box."
"That’s really neat," Willow said, "but I think that Travers deserved more than just getting fired. He should go to jail."
Buffy and Giles exchanged a look. "As a matter of fact," Giles said, "the Board did more. As punishment, Quentin was transported to another dimension, and his family was stricken from the Council rolls. None of his descendants will ever be allowed to become Watchers."
"Sent to another dimension? You mean like a Hell dimension?" Even Xander looked appalled.
"No, not that bad. The dimension has no known demons and no vampires, but it’s culture is approximately 200 years behind ours. It has none of the modern conveniences that Quentin is accustomed to: no running water, no electricity, no communication system, no mass transportation, only basic medical services. He has been banished there for five years."
"Wow, that was harsh." Willow looked troubled. "I don’t like him, and I agree that he should be punished, but that does seem a little too much. What if something bad happened to him and he died there?"
"The Board wasn’t entirely heartless, Willow. If he is in mortal peril, he has an emergency switch he can activate to bring him back. But, it must be a true emergency, or they will return him and add another year to his sentence."
Tara asked, "What did they say about you being married."
Buffy gave Giles a sideways glance and he turned red. "At first they blustered and said they wouldn’t allow it, that we had to get a divorce. Ripper made an appearance and told them in no uncertain terms what they could do to themselves. They weren’t happy, but they backed down."
"Buffy failed to mention what she said she would do if they tried to separate us. Leaving the Hellmouth unguarded was the least of it. I think they were more worried about her actions than anything I threatened."
The others laughed, but Buffy and Giles exchanged a troubled look. They had been watching, and since she had entered the store, Willow had been fidgeting slightly. Buffy nodded and jumped down, going into the back room. Giles cleared his throat.
"Willow, remember on Sunday night when I looked at your aura? I have received some more information on what might be the problem. Would you be willing to allow me to try an experiment?"
Willow opened and closed her mouth a few times, but no speech came out. Tara looked at her in alarm. "Willow?" she questioned and touched her shoulder. Willow gasped and nodded her head rapidly. "Giles, help."
Giles raised his left hand. "Contineo," he intoned. A ball of green fire shot from his hand and enveloped Willow.
A change came over Willow, and Tara backed away in horror. Willow’s eyes turned black, as did her hair. She started speaking, growling really, in a strange language. Her body struggled wildly against the green shell surrounding her.
"Confuto" Giles commanded. Willow continued to struggle, but was now silent. He watched sadly, then said, "Dormio," and shot another ball of green fire. She slumped against the table, seemingly unconscious. He turned to Tara. "She’s just asleep. I don’t know how long this will hold; we need to prepare for the next step. Will you help us?" He moved his gaze to Anya and Xander. "Will all of you help us?" The three nodded.
"Buffy," he called, "Is everything ready?"
Buffy appeared in the doorway. "Ready."
Giles approached Willow, hesitated for a moment, then bent as if to lift her into his arms.
Giles turned to see Ethan standing behind Buffy. He walked over to Giles. "You are emotionally attached to her, the demon may try to bleed through the containment and use that. She is nothing to me, it won’t have anything to grab onto."
Giles looked at him for a long moment, then nodded. Ethan picked Willow up and carried her into the back room. The others followed. They saw Ethan place Willow in the center of a pentagram that had been drawn on the floor. He backed away, bending to draw the last line of the design. "Contineo," he said, and the pentagram flared to life, it’s lines glowing green.
Looking closer, Tara saw that at each point of the pentagram was a smaller pentagram, also with one line unfinished. Giles went to the spot at the head of the pentagram.
"Willow has been infected with the spirit of a demon from another dimension. The how's and why's we will go into after this is finished. Ethan, being the strongest person here who is not emotionally involved, will do the banishment. The rest of us will be anchors for Willow's spirit, to keep it grounded to this dimensional plane and to her body."
Giles held out his hand. "Tara, you should be here at the front, where she can see you. Unfortunately, this will also put you in the greatest danger. Ethan and I have done what we can to minimize this danger, but it is there. Can you do this?"
Tara swallowed nervously and nodded. She walked over to Giles. "We hope that this will not take very long. The demon doesn't have a very strong hold over Willow as yet. However, you should be as comfortable as possible. If you will sit in the center of this circle, I will close the pentagram around you and set the wards." Giles looked at Buffy, Xander and Anya.
"You need to each sit in one of the other circles. Buffy, here on my left and Xander, you and Anya take the two at the back. I will be in the one opposite Buffy."
Tara sat down, and Giles drew the last line. "Contineo." The lines flared green, the ward was set. As he went to do the same for Buffy, Ethan was setting the wards for Xander and Anya. Ethan warded Giles last. He moved to stand behind Tara.
"When I begin this, the spirit, knowing it is under attack, will awaken. At first it will use Willow's voice to try to convince you that I am hurting her, that there is no need for what we are doing. Under no circumstance must you look in her eyes. The spirit will use all of the power at Willow's disposal to influence you. Quite frankly, we're not sure the wards around her will contain it, but in the event they don't, the wards around you should provide some protection."
Ethan moved next to Tara. "I am quite serious. Whatever happens, don't look into her eyes. It will be hard, especially when she starts to cry and beg for your help, but keep your eyes closed or look down at the floor. Above all remember this, nothing that I will do will hurt Willow. The spirit may hurt her in an effort to get you to help, but this is the only way to save Willow's life."
Ethan's gaze moved from Tara to Buffy to Xander. "I know that in the past I have given you cause to distrust me, but I give you my word, I will do nothing to directly cause harm to Willow. Rupert has gone over this with me and is satisfied that it should work. Are you ready for me to begin?"
The others all nodded, and lowered their heads to focus their eyes on the ground. Ethan smiled briefly. They looked like they were praying. Not a bad idea at all. Ethan again stood behind Tara. "Concentrate all your thoughts on your feelings for Willow, how much you care about her, and how much you want her back to normal. Say it aloud if you wish, it will not distract me. Just don't look up."
Tara felt the power in the room growing. This man was almost as strong as Mr. Giles was. She wished he was the one doing the spell, but understood why he wasn't. Ethan started to speak in a language that Tara had never heard before. In her peripheral vision she saw Willow stand up.
"Tara, help me. Ethan is an evil man; he tried to kill Buffy once. He's going to hurt me. Tara, please! Tara!" Willow screamed.
Tara closed her eyes tightly, tears streaming down her face. She put her hands over her ears to try to shut out the sound. "I love you, Willow. I love you." She murmured it over and over like a mantra.
The thing with Willow's voice called out to all of them, pleading for help, screaming and cry that she was in pain, that Ethan was killing her. It continued for what seemed an eternity, but was in reality less than 10 minutes. Then it changed tactics, and the demon spoke directly to Ethan in it's own language.
After another few minutes, Ethan shouted, "Bipartitus!" It roared back. Ethan answered, then said, "Carpo!"
There was a moment of silence, then a thud as Willow's body hit the floor. Ethan said, "Ablegatio, ablegatio!" He fell to his knees behind Tara. She felt his hand brush against the ward. "It's over. Expedio," he rasped. Tara turned, gasping when she saw Ethan's face. He was white and drawn, appearing at least ten years older than when this all began. He brushed away one of the lines of Tara's pentagram. "Release the others," he said, falling the rest of the way to the floor, unconscious.
Tara hurried around and released Giles first. He went to Buffy while Tara went to Xander and Anya. Buffy knelt to check on Ethan while Giles removed Willow's body from the pentagram and carried her across to a sofa on the far wall. He checked Willow over and turned to tell the others. "Separating the demon's spirit from hers took a lot of her energy. She'll probably need to sleep most of the weekend, but she'll be all right. Her pulse is strong, and her aura is clear. She's our Willow again."
Tara sat beside Willow on the sofa and placed a hand on her head. She turned back to Giles and smiled. "The darkness is gone. I didn't realize it before, but now that it's no longer there I can see that it had been a part of her since we met. What was it?"
"It was the spirit of a Budjuri demon. It's home is a Hell dimension." They all turned to where Ethan was being helped up by Buffy.
"But how did it get here and why did it pick on Willow?"
Giles brought a chair in from the other room for Ethan. "As best we can tell, it was when Willow cast the spell to restore Angel's soul."
"But she was using good magic," Xander protested. "How could something bad come from that?"
"Magic is neither good nor bad. Magic is just energy. It is how the person uses it that becomes good or bad. Most people cannot manipulate the energy known as magic. Some can to a lesser degree, and others, such as Ethan, Willow, and myself can do more. You are born with the ability to manipulate this power; it is not something you learn. What you must learn is how to use it correctly."
"When Willow did the restoration spell, she was like, to use an analogy, a sprinter who attempted to run a marathon. All her training was no good because it was based in the wrong running discipline. She was able to do the spell, but it caused a backlash because she hadn't yet been trained to handle that much energy. Buffy said that the spell took effect after Angelus had opened Alcaltha. The spirit of the Budjuri must have slipped through the portal and followed the trail of energy back to its source, Willow. She passed out from the backlash, and the Budjuri entered her aura."
"Buffy closed the portal before all of the Budjuri's energy could come through, so it lay dormant. Since Willow didn't do any magic for a long time after that, it couldn't gain strength. It wasn't until Willow started college, broke up with Oz, met Tara, and began to cast spells again, that it could start to take her over. Last week she became very angry at Buffy, and it gained partial control. Enough to alert Tara to a problem and send Willow to me for help. By not using magic and meditating to control her emotions, it was kept from gaining strength this week."
"How does Ethan fit in all of this?"
Ethan, who had been leaning back in the chair, sat up. "Chaos sent me here. When I found out that Rupert had married his Slayer, I thought that was the source of chaotic energy in Sunnydale, but when I did a casting to be sure, it pinpointed the college. I walked around there for a couple of days before signs seemed to indicate that it was Willow. I broke into her room at the dorm and removed some hairs to do further spells. What I discovered sent me to Rupert, and the rest you know."
Tara looked troubled. "What would have happened if you couldn't stop it?"
"The Budjuri would have continued hide in Willow while it strengthened and learned to control her. Just as soon as it felt ready, it would have opened the portal to it's own dimension, and humanity would have been destroyed."
Giles went back to the sofa and stood over Willow. "I wasn't there to help her with the restoration spell, to make sure the casting was done properly. We had never discussed using that level of power before, she probably didn't even know that she should set wards. It's a miracle that the backlash didn't kill her."
He reached down and placed his hand on her head. "Willow has the potential to become very powerful." Giles looked at Tara. "I would like to started training the both of you. I don't think that Willow should be doing magic of any kind, no matter how simple it appears it be, unless it's here under my supervision. She must learn control."
Tara smiled. "I think that's a wonderful idea. This would be a safe place, where we wouldn't have to worry about roommates or nosy neighbors."
"I agree," Willow said sleepily. "I would love to practice with Giles. He knows how to do things right."
"Willow," Tara exclaimed happily. "How long have you been awake?"
"Since Ethan made that thing leave. It was just too much of an effort to talk." She opened her eyes and smiled at Giles. "I feel better than better. All the anger is gone." She raised herself up slightly and smiled at Ethan. "Thank you."
Ethan smirked at her. "You're welcome. If you ever decide that you're interested in men, give me a call. We would make one hell of a team."
Buffy snorted. "Ethan's back to normal."
Anya suddenly spoke up. "If the demon is gone and Willow's better, can we leave? Even though I can't do magic anymore, being around that much magical energy made me horny. I want to have sex with Xander. Now."
Xander moaned and hid his face in his hands. Buffy giggled. "Yes, Anya, you can leave. Thank you for your help." Anya grabbed Xanders' hand and dragged him out the back door.
Buffy looked at the others. "I hope she lets him get her home first." They all laughed, except Giles, who turned and went into the other room. Buffy turned to Ethan, bewildered. "What did I say?"
Ethan stood and stretched. "I think it's time for us to go as well. If you would allow me, I'll help you back to the dorm." He walked over and extended a hand to Willow.
She blinked for a moment, glanced towards the doorway to the other room, then looked at Tara. "Right, we're ready to go. We'll call you later, Buffy. Probably tomorrow, so don't expect a call to interrupt you tonight. Not like it did the other morning, and I'm shutting up now." Ethan lifted her to her feet, supporting her on one side, while Tara supported her other.
As the trio was going through the back door, Buffy heard Willow ask Ethan, "Are you going to be all right? You don't look very well."
Ethan replied, "Not to worry, give me a few days and I'll be as right as Rayne." The closing door cut off the sound of the girls groaning at his pun.
Buffy stood still, stunned to be so suddenly alone. Why had everyone left so quickly? She thought back through the conversations and remembered Anya's 'Being around that much magical energy made me horny.' Was that why Rupert had gone to the other room, because he was aroused and hadn't wanted the others to see? Only one way to tell. She walked into the outer room of the shop.
Giles was standing behind the counter, a clipboard in his hand, and he appeared to be studying it intently. Buffy walked over to the counter. "You left the room kinda quick. Did I say something wrong?"
Giles looked up in alarm. "No, love, it wasn't anything you said. I just remembered something I wanted to check. Go on back with the others, I'll just be a few minutes."
"Too late, they're gone."
"Ethan offered to help Tara get Willow back to the dorm and they left." Buffy walked slowly around the counter and stopped behind Giles. "Are you sure you wanted to check something, or did you want to hide something?" She slid her arms around his waist, one hand caressing down the front of his jeans. She pressed gently against the impressive bulge she found there. Buffy tightened her other arm and pressed a kiss to the middle of his back. "Rupert."
Giles shuddered and spun around, catching her mouth in a brief but intense kiss. "You know what it does to me when you say my name." He took her mouth again.
Buffy opened her mouth and sent her tongue questing for his. His taste was familiar to her now, but this time there was something else. She pulled back, smiling. "You taste different. Is it because of the magic?"
Giles flushed slightly. "I don't know. No one has ever asked me that before."
"Hmm, we'll need to run some experiments. But later, not now. Now I want you."
"Buffy, we can't here. We'll have to wait until we get home."
"Why? The doors are locked, the blinds are down and no one knows we're here. We should christen the place." She smiled wickedly at him, rubbing against his arousal. "Besides, you don't really want to wait, do you?"
Giles growled, and crushed her lips beneath his own. The full force of his hunger broke over Buffy, battering her senses. She sent one hand burrowing into his hair, holding on to the only solid thing in a world of whirling emotions.
Giles torn his mouth from hers, pressing open-mouthed kissed down her neck. When he reached the pulse point behind her left ear, he gently bit her. Buffy shuddered and tightened her legs around his waist. That's when she realized that she was sitting on the sales counter, and Giles was rubbing against her. She gave a breathless giggle, and pulled his face away from her neck. Buffy waited until his eyes focused, then said, "You keep putting me on counters."
His grin was pure Ripper. "I do believe you were right, we need to christen the shop. It's a good thing you wore a skirt today." His hands ran up the sides of her legs, pushing the skirt up around her hips. He gave a sharp tug, and her panties were ripped away. Keeping his gaze locked to hers, Giles gingerly opened his jeans, pulled her hips closer to the edge of the counter, and with one thrust slid deep into his wife.
They both held still for a moment, savoring the feel of their joining. Buffy caressed his face. "Heaven," she said. Giles leaned forward and pressed a gentle kiss to her lips. "Home," was his reply. Buffy clenched her inner muscles around him. Giles groaned and started moving.
Just after midnight Angel was patrolling downtown Sunnydale. He frowned slightly at the sight of what he thought was Giles' car in front of the magic shop. He heard the closing of a door in the alley and moved to investigate. There was a feminine giggle. Angel blinked, startled, and quickly concealed himself.
Giles and Buffy emerged from the alley and headed for the car. They were both very disheveled, and, at least to his vampire senses, reeked of sex. As Giles opened the car door for Buffy he said, "We well and truly christened the shop. I don't know how I'm going to be able to wait on customers at that counter."
"What about the back room? Every time I train in there I'm going to think about our 'training' session tonight. You are a sex god, Mr. Giles."
"Just showing that I could keep up with that rumored Slayer stamina, Mrs. Giles." The two laughed and Giles started the car, driving away.
Angel started after them wistfully. He was happy for them, he really was, it was just……
He turned and resumed his patrol. He thought about the prophecy that Wesley had found. That a vampire with a soul could become human after he saved enough lives. It had to mean him. And if it did, then maybe, someday, he could find real happiness too.
First, truth to tell, when I started this, it was supposed to be a one chapter, quick little answer to a challenge on the Bodice Ripper site. But the characters took over and this was the result. I don't know why, but Ethan keeps insisting on butting into my stories and trying to prove that he's not all bad. Maybe I just like the bad boy.
Second, it has been a long, long, long, time since I took Latin in high school, and I remember very little. The Latin words that I used in the banishment spell came directly from a Latin-English dictionary website. When I typed a word in English, it gave several root Latin words and rough definitions. I picked the ones I thought best worked with what I wanted to say. So I abjectly apologize to any Latin experts that I may have offended. Mia culpa.
Third. I promised that I would put the challenge items at the end of the story and you could decide if I met the challenge. I will tell you now, I don't think I really did. She asked that the story be funny, and while mine certainly has it's funny moments, (my favorite is when Joyce and Buffy both announce that Giles doesn't wear underwear and they explain to each other how they know) I don't think that as a whole it could be classified as a funny story. Also, the investigator was supposed to change the decision after hearing Giles and Buffy argue, whereas my investigator had only told them that she had determined that their marriage was fake to shake them up. She had always intended to grant Giles' citizenship. So, I feel that I did catch some of the challenge, but not all.
Green Card challenge
The Watcher's Council is going to have Giles' Green Card taken away, so Giles and Buffy get married. The investigators determine that the marriage is a sham. Buffy and Giles end up arguing about each other's answers in front of the investigators. When the investigators hear them fighting, they change their decision, figuring that only a married couple (or lovers) would argue like they do.
Some of the questions being asked need to be silly, like asking about their toothpaste, what they eat for breakfast, what color socks they are wearing, or other questions that no one would expect to be asked. Buffy and Giles should fight over the most trivial questions. They don't have to end up as lovers at the end, but it would be nice. Please, make this a funny fic.
Setting: After season three.
Rating: Any rating is fine.
Pairing: Buffy/Giles (at least strong friendship, but more would be nice)