Sappho's Spell: What A Wonderful World by Kirayoshi

Disclaimers; Until I can find a copy of that spell that Faith used on Buffy in "Who Are You", and swap my mind with Joss Whedon, I do not own BTVS, nor do I own the characters or concepts therein.
Rating; PG 
Author's note; Yep, I'm back in Shyfox's universe. Think of this story as a coda to her recent angst-fest. Great stories all around, but I think that Buffy and Willow would appreciate the rest from the emotional roller-coaster.
Spoilers; Anything in Shyfox's Sappho's Spell series, especially Five By Five, Tell Me That I'm Dreaming and Stranger In My House.
Summary; Buffy reflects on recent events, and Giles has an announcement that will change her life (no, he's not announcing that he plans to marry Joyce. Not yet anyway, you'll have to take that one up with Shyfox).

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What A Wonderful World
Written by Kirayoshi

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I see trees of green,
Red roses too.
I see them bloom
For me and you.
And I think to myself,
What a wonderful world.

I see skies of blue,
Clouds of white,
Bright blessed day,
Soft sacred night.
And I think to myself,
What a wonderful world.

The colors of the rainbow,
So pretty in the sky,
Are also in the faces
Of people going by
I see friends shaking hands,
Saying 'How do you do?'
They're really saying,
'I love you.'

I see babies cry,
Watch them grow.
They'll learn so much more
Than I'll ever know.
And I think to myself,
What a wonderful world.
And I think to myself,
What a wonderful world.

--Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong
"What a Wonderful World"

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"When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's Amore,"

Frank Sinatra sang on Giles' radio, and the normally reserved librarian was singing along happily, using his electric razor as a microphone.

"When the world seems to shine, like you've had too much wine, that's amore---"

Rupert Giles had every reason to feel in high spirits. He and Joyce, after so much hardship, were finally able to enjoy a romantic evening together, without the worries of these last days getting in the way. He had made the reservations for Shelton's at the Piedmont Hotel, after Buffy and Willow gave their unqualified recommendation of their cuisine.

"Bells will ring, ting-aling-aling, ting-aling-aling, as you sing, Vita Bella,
Hearts will play, tippy tippy tay, tippy tippy tay, like a gay caballera,
Lucky fella!"

Buffy had also cryptically said something about being prepared for an evening they would never forget. When Giles had asked why, Buffy started to hem and haw, while Willow only said that the head chef at Shelton's specializes in romantic meals for two.

"When the stars make you drool, just like pasta fazool, that's amore.
When you dance down the street with a cloud at your feet, you're in love!"

And a romantic meal with Joyce was exactly what Giles had in mind. Not only for the chance to spend more time with the woman whom he had grown to love over the last two years, but as a chance to forget the unpleasantness that had occurred during the past few weeks. When a madwoman named Faith nearly robbed Joyce of her only daughter.

"When it seems like a dream, but you know you're not dreaming, Signiore,
'Scusa me, but you see, back in old Napoli, that's Amore!"

Giles hammered that last note home with gusto, only to be interrupted by the sudden and incessant ringing of his phone. Exasperated by this sudden interruption, Giles collected his reserve briefly, and grabbed the handset. "Rupert Giles speaking," he greeted the caller.

"What the bloody hell has happened to the Slayer?"

If there was a list of people whom Giles could happily spend the remainder of his life never encountering again, the caller would have secured the second spot, narrowly being edged out by Faith.

"What business is it of yours, Quentin?" Giles asked, his voice as irritated as he suddenly felt. "Neither Buffy nor myself answer to the Council anymore."

"Damn it, Giles," Quentin Travers shouted back. He had clearly built up a full head of steam before making the call. Now, it was Giles who would pay for it, of that much he was certain. "I'm not playing twenty questions with you! Buffy Summers is dead! And the Council knows it!"

"Quentin," Giles answered, a minimal effort to be civil. "I assure you that Buffy is very much alive and well. May I ask what brings on this concern for Buffy's well being? It's so unlike you."

Quentin Travers told Rupert Giles, in no uncertain terms, how the Council was aware of Buffy's recent condition. When Quentin finished his tirade, informing Giles that his interference in Council business would not be tolerated, and hung up without ceremony, Giles sat alone in his bedroom, shuddering at the implications of what he had heard.

Later that evening, he met Joyce at Shelton's, although he wasn't as excited as he had been before. Joyce had noticed that he seemed distracted by something. She asked him what was the matter. He told her.

When he had finished, Joyce's mood had darkened slightly as well. "Well," she said a trifle too loudly as she tried to cover up her concern. "I suppose that you should talk to Buffy."

"You are quite right, Joyce. Do you wish to be with me when I tell her?"

Joyce shook her head sadly. "No, Rupert," she answered. "This is Slayer business, so you'd better handle it. I'm sure she will want to discuss this with Willow and/or myself. But she'd better hear this from you first."

Giles reluctantly agreed, adding, "I'm sorry if this has put a damper on tonight."
"Don't apologize," Joyce said as she took Giles' hand in her own. "I'm here with the man I love, the man I trust with the lives of both Buffy and Willow. I wouldn't call the evening dampered just yet."

She leaned in for a quick yet less than chaste kiss. Giles decided that Joyce was right. Leave tomorrow's business for tomorrow. There was nothing else either of them could do, so life went on for all concerned.

========

All that she wanted to do for the morning was sit in the garden and look around her. And to once again thank whatever god was responsible for the miracle of her being alive and well.

It was spring in Sunnydale, California, and the bright blue sky above, lightly streaked with just enough stratus clouds to give it a little character, coupled with the sweet trilling birdsong and the budding leaves emerging on the trees and flowers, were enough to make Buffy forget, if only for a little while, the vampires that prowled the dimly lit streets at night. Or the human monster who had threatened to carve the fetus out of a young woman's womb. Or how she herself nearly lost everything to that monster.

Only a short span of days ago, she was stranded in a wilderness of lost memories and unclear emotions. Her own mind was her prison, one from which she almost didn't escape. Just a few days ago, there was no such person as Buffy Rosenberg-Summers. She didn't exist. Her mind, her memories, were lost to her, due to the head injuries she had suffered a few weeks ago. She was literally tabula rasa, a clean slate.

She trembled as she thought of what her poor Willow was going through all that time. Gods, she owed her so much. Willow once again proved herself to be the real strength in their relationship. Her love, her support, her unflagging faith in what they had forged together had in the end saved her once again. It was a long road, but in the end Buffy had found her way back to the one she loved. She smiled at the thought; not every person in the world got the chance to rediscover the love of her life twice in the same lifetme.

It was that last terrifying moment that changed it all, Buffy knew that. She was having flashbacks that she couldn�t understand, experiences of deja vu, even an episode where she was climbing all over her sleeping Willow, her mind bereft of all save the most basic thoughts and emotions. All of which centered on Willow and her baby. But then, that one night. She had finally had enough with all the mysteries, all the unspoken facts that the others were keeping from her, for her own safety of course. She overheard Willow talking about her baby, about her love for Buffy, and something deep within the blond�s mind resonated. She was still confused, but knew now that the source of all answers was within that locked room. The room that her mother wouldn't tell her about.

So she finally busted down the door to that strange room, revealing a nursery. A crib in the center of the room, a chest of drawers, a changing table and a rocking chair. The chair had triggered something profound, something deep within the young woman, but before she could explore that memory trail, a dark-haired woman took them by surprise and terrorized the others with a gun. That one last sight, of this evil woman about to shoot Willow in the forehead, that broke through the dam of memories. She knew who she was, who Willow was, and who the dark-haired woman was. And that dark-haired woman, Faith, was about to kill Buffy�s beloved. Her wife. Her Willow.

Acting quickly, Buffy had disarmed Faith and efficiently subdued her. She didn�t take an eye off of her nemesis until the Sunnydale PD carted her away, then she faced her family. And she knew them now. Joyce, her mother. Giles, her foster father. And Willow, her wife and the mother of her child. Ironically, she owed her enemy for reuniting her with her family. The woman who wanted her dead brought her back to life.

After that first night together, rediscovering the passion that Willow had always elicited in her, Buffy had spent the following three days doing her level best to make up for lost time. Pampering her pregnant spouse, cooking her favorite foods, massaging her feet, whatever she could think of to show her devotion -- until the night when Willow simply pulled off her nightshirt, revealing her naked body to Buffy, crawled across the bed, grabbed Buffy's face in her hands, kissed her soundly, and told Buffy in no uncertain terms to stop treating her like a china doll and simply make love to her. Buffy didn't have to be told twice, and spent the rest of the evening, and the following two nights, reacquainting herself with her wife's body.

They were taking things a little more slowly than Buffy would have liked, but Buffy had finally gotten her life back on track. Willow was helping her recover the ground she had lost in her college classes, and her guidance councilor had arranged for her to take make-up courses for those classes where she was hopelessly lost. And her friends were more than happy to help out any way they could. She felt blessed to be surrounded by these wonderful people who had become her surrogate family. She knew that her daughter would be blessed to be part of that family as well, and she was more determined than ever to be the best parent she was capable of being.

It only took the slightest pressure change in the air around her, the faintest sound of a snapping twig, to inform Buffy that she was no longer alone. She turned cautiously, only to be assaulted by a large figure, its face snarling, its forehead crowned with sinister horns.

Buffy dodged the assailant's first blow, then she sought to take the offensive. Strike fast, strike hard, just as Giles taught her. She shifted easily into a combat stance, her first blows testing her opponent for weaknesses. A soft jab to the left side was undefended against. Buffy smiled. She concentrated on that weak left arm, clipping the foe's shoulder with two quick karate chops. The assailant lunged at the Slayer, leaving Buffy with little time to form a defense.

With lightning speed, she dropped under her opponent, grabbing him by the lapels as she fell back, and placed her right foot at his midsection. With all her strength, she pushed hard at his gut, kicking him off of her and onto the ground behind her. She leapt to her feet, turned, faced her attacker...

And started laughing out loud. "Geez, Giles," she gasped after ten seconds of laughter, "Where'd you get that rubber mask, at Spencers Gifts?"

Giles started to remove the mask, saying, "Merely my effort to impart some realism in this little training exercise."

"Not with that cheesy mask, Giles," Buffy admitted. "Maybe you should find a Hollywood make-up artist or something."

Giles pondered, "Perhaps one of those fellows from Star Trek. I do say, I'd make a striking Klingon, wouldn't I?"

"Maybe. Of course, Mr. Snyder would have made an even better Ferenghi."

It was Giles turn to laugh at the prospect. "The troll wouldn't have needed make-up, would he?" Walking to Buffy, he added, "Anyway, you appear to have suffered no ill effects from your bout with amnesia. A little more work on those lower-body to upper-body moves, but still your reflexes are as sharp as ever."

"Reflexes," Buffy huffed slightly. "Why can't you just hit my knee with a mallet like Dr. Greene?"

"It was simply important to know if your fighting skills had been affected by the fall, or from the last few days."

"Yeah, I know. Just me making jokes," Buffy said. "Say, where's everyone else?"

"Joyce and Willow are on a grocery run," Giles said. "I think Joyce wanted to treat Willow to lunch at her favorite deli."

"So you thought you'd visit me, Giles? I'm flattered." As Buffy walked alongside Giles on their way back to her place, Buffy said, "Hey, I never got the chance to say this before, but thanks for taking in Willow while I was, uh, out of it."

"My pleasure," Giles replied. "The poor child, she had already gone through so much before. I don't know if she told you this before, but she was terrified of the prospect of losing you when you were kidnapped and sent to that psychiatric hospital in LA."

"Thank you, Captain Exposition," Buffy quipped.

"I'm serious, Buffy," Giles answered. "She missed you then, and she missed you while you were recovering from your fall three weeks ago. So if I'm a little cross with you, it's only because I am concerned with your welfare. Yours, Willow's and the child's."

Buffy turned a sidelong glance at her Watcher. "Cross?"

Giles could see her brow knit in concern. He knew that look all too well; the start of anger. He didn't quite care; he had his own head of steam to blow off. "What were you thinking that night, Buffy? You threw yourself and Faith off of a building, five stories to the ground. Had you stayed where you were, your injuries wouldn't have been so severe. The blow to your head from the fall is what caused your amnesia, for God's sake! Were you even thinking of anything but revenge against Faith? What in God's name was going through your head when you were attacking her?"

"You want to know what I was thinking, Giles?" Buffy cut Giles off somewhat angrily. "I'll tell you. I was a dead woman. That's what I was thinking." Her sharp declaration stopped Giles short, and he stood quietly as Buffy continued. "First I thought I had taken her down, so I turned to Willow to untie her. Didn't occur to me that Faith was playing possum. By the time I realized my mistake, I felt the knife enter my back. Hard. Then I didn't feel it."

Giles gasped as Buffy continued her clinical description of the events of that terrible night. "I know what that means, Giles. I was going into shock. I knew that I didn't have long. And Faith was still there, and Willow was still defenseless. I couldn't let that bitch do anything to Willow or the baby, even if it meant losing my own life. I had to take her down. Maybe there was a little revenge in there, but my main priority was to get Faith the hell away from Willow. So if you're mad at me for my methods, then that's too damn bad."

Giles stood silently as he digested Buffy's statements. Finally, he nodded. "I apologize, Buffy. It is clear that you were thinking only of your family. I can't help wonder what I would have done if I were in your shoes, and your mother were endangered."

"Yeah, I know," Buffy admitted. "Pretty much a no-win situation. The last couple of days, I've been replaying that last night, trying to figure if I could have handled the scenario any differently. If I had been more efficient in taking out Faith, instead of concentrating on Willow."

"No, Buffy," Giles admonished. "Don't second guess yourself. You handled the situation as well as could be expected, and in the end you, Willow and the child survived. That's what matters." He turned his head slightly and observed the landscape Buffy had been admiring earlier. "Still, it was a close thing. Do you know that you were clinically dead for nearly a minute in the hospital?"

"Man, twice before my twentieth birthday," Buffy chuckled ruefully. "That can't be good."

"Exactly," Giles commented. "And yesterday afternoon, I got chewed out by Quentin Travers about the situation." He spoke slowly and calmly, wondering how long he would have to wait for Buffy's response.

He didn't have to wait long. "Whoa," she asked suddenly. "How did ol' Stiff Upper Body get word about what happened?"

"You said it yourself. You had been clinically dead once before."

Buffy looked at her mentor briefly, before it sank in. Her eyes widened, and her jaw dropped slightly. "Another Slayer was called while I was out?"

"Precisely," Giles answered. "The Council has informed me that she has been contacted, and after a period of training, she will be assigned to Sunnydale."

"Hey," Buffy smiled, "the more the merrier."

Giles smirked briefly. "Quentin informed me that he wants us to steer clear of her. He doesn't want the new Slayer 'contaminated' by any thoughts of rebellion."

"Or as we like to call it," Buffy amended, "self preservation."

"Buffy," Giles tone changed, from austere and somewhat acerbic to gentle and fatherly, "that last night up against Faith, you didn't face her as a Slayer. You faced her as a spouse and future parent, fighting to defend your family." He regarded Buffy with a compassionate eye, and finished his observations. "Perhaps its time for you to retire as this generation's Slayer."

Buffy shook her head, not believing what she was hearing. After so many years of having her destiny as the Slayer being drilled into her, Giles couldn't have said that, could he? "Retire? As in, not do it anymore? But what about my responsibility as the Slayer?"

Giles smiled at his foster-daughter. "You have a greater responsibility now, Buffy. You're going to be a parent in a few months. And there's a new Slayer coming to Sunnydale soon." He placed his hand gently on Buffy's shoulder. "It's time to go on with your life. It's time to let go of being the Slayer."

 

Chapter Two
Gimme Some Truth

I'm sick and tired of hearing things
From uptight, short-sighted, narrow-minded hypocritics
All I want is the truth
Just gimme some truth
I've had enough of reading things
By neurotic, psychotic, pig-headed politicians
All I want is the truth
Just gimme some truth

--John Lennon
"Give Me Some Truth"

"Looks like I killed you this time!" Faith intoned when the knife entered Buffy's body.

The terrible laughter of her nemesis fouled her ears, as Buffy struggled to stand, the pain of the knife wound protesting her every move. She ignored that pain, and the following numbness that signaled that her body was going into shock. All that mattered now was to get that madwoman away from her wife. Nothing was going to happen to Willow and her baby, of that she was certain.

She tried to tackle Faith, but her strength wasn't up to the task. She charged clumsily toward her enemy, but Faith was easily able to sidestep Buffy's attempt to take her down. With the last iota of her strength, Buffy found herself laying in an unglorious heap on the roof, the dark slayer standing over her. As her consciousness faded in and out from the loss of blood, Buffy thought she heard the keening wail of her beloved in pain. "W-w-wil-low?" she murmured, her fear producing just enough adrenalin for her to raise her head.

"She can't hear you now," Faith giggled, as she stood over the defeated Slayer. "In fact, she can't do much of anything now, or ever again!" Buffy felt somthing warm and wet land on her chest, as Faith laughed loudly. She glanced down at the object that Faith threw at her. A red bloody mass, with a large head and stunted limbs.

A human fetus.

"Congratulations, B," the mad Slayer laughed. "It's a girl!" With the last of her life's breath, Buffy screamed--

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--and screamed as her head rose from the pillow. She sat up suddenly, looking around her, recognizing the familiar surroundings of her bed. Their bed. She calmed herself, willing her heart to slow, meditating as Giles had taught her. She didn't want to awaken her sleeping love with her nightmares. She glanced to her side, to where Willow usually slept.

That side of her bed was empty.

Suddenly Buffy was afraid. After dreaming of Willow's death at the hands of her enemy, to see the space next to her empty was too much. She jumped out of bed, threw on her robe and rushed out into the hall. She heard familiar, friendly sounds from the living room. Wallace Shawn was shouting to Robin Wright, "Do you know what that sound is, Princess? Those are the Shrieking Eels!" And the voices of her mother and her wife, chatting happily over the movie.

Buffy breathed a sigh of relief. She slowly walked down the stairs, seeing her family gathered in the living room, watching Willow's favorite movie, "The Princess Bride". Buffy smiled; her wife was happy, their unborn baby was healthy, and all was right in her world.

"Hey, Wills," she asked, causing Willow to turn her head toward the sound of her voice. "Whatcha doing?"

"Oh, hi, Buffy," Willow answered, beckoning her wife to join her on the couch. Buffy complied happily, slipping next to Willow on the couch, snuggling close to her shoulder. Her hand trailed lazily across Willow's distented abdomen, feeling the warmth of the life within her.

Buffy noticed a half-empty pickle jar on the coffee table, and asked, "You here for the midnight snack?"

"What can I say?" Willow answered, smacking her lips on a kosher dill spear, "I'm embracing the cliche." She reached over to the coffee table and scooped up some ice cream from a dish in front of her, with the tip of her pickle. She opened her mouth wide, and inserted the entire picke, ice cream and all, swallowing quickly. Buffy, for the first time in recent memory, couldn't look at Willow. She averted her eyes from the horrible sight with her hand, and grimaced hugely. Willow looked at her love and asked, "What's the matter?"

Buffy shook her head in disbelief, saying, "You didn't just dip a dill pickle spear into a dish of tin-roof sundae ice cream, did you? There's no way you would do something like that."

"It's called a craving, Buffy," Willow smiled sympathetically at her wife.

"That's nothing, honey," Joyce added, grimacing herself. "When I was carrying Buffy, my thing was sushi. Any kind, anywhere, as long as it involved raw fish, I'd eat it." Buffy chuckled as her mother's face contorted in mild disgust at the memory.

"Still," Buffy complained. "Pickles and ice cream? I mean, how sixties sitcom can you get?"

"Oh poor baby," Willow teased her love. She put the offending dish aside, and leaned back into Buffy's side, cherishing the easy closeness they shared. Buffy smiled at her beloved, returning her hand to caress her belly, to feel the subtle movement of the fetus within her. Willow purred her happiness; this contact was what she craved more than any ice-cream based travesty.

But soon, Willow noted something wrong with Buffy. Her pulse was quicker, and it wasn't passion. And the faint dampness on Buffy's arm was all-too familiar to someone who slept in Buffy's arms on a regular basis. It could only be one thing.

"You have a nightmare, Buffy?" Willow asked her soulmate. Buffy nodded quietly, as she recalled the terrible, sickening sensations of her dream.

"It was that night again," she explained without preamble. There was no need to elaborate; Willow and Joyce both knew what she meant when she said 'that night'. "But in the dream I wasn't able to stop her. She--she carved the--the--"

"Don't, Buffy," Willow soothed her wife, taking her face in her hand to dry any tears. "It didn't happen that way. Faith tried to destroy us, and she failed. It's okay. You're back, I'm okay, the baby's okay, and nothing's gonna take you away from me again, Buffy." Willow kissed her lightly on the lips, and Buffy's heart melted as it always did under her wife's affection. Buffy had counted on Willow to do or say what was necessary for so long, even before she realized how deeply she loved her, that it had finally dawned on her at some point that she always could.

Joyce smiled as she watched her daughter and her daughter-in-law in such an easy display of affection. After all that had happened between them after Faith's attack on their lives, it did her heart good to see Buffy and Willow together again. But there was still one matter she felt the need to confront.

"Buffy," she started, hesitantly, "I hate to break up this domestic scene, but I feel the need to ask something." Buffy cocked her head toward her mother, waiting expectantly. "Buffy," she continued, "why didn't you tell us that Mr. Rosenberg was the one who arranged for you to be locked in that psychiatric ward in L.A?"

Willow's eyes snapped open suddenly. She knew that she would have to confront Buffy about this soon, but had hoped to hold off for a while, until she and Buffy had gotten their groove back. She glanced at Buffy, who's face suddenly bore a look of sheer confusion. Buffy looked at her mother, then at Willow, and stammered, "Who-who are you? Where am I--"

Willow rolled her eyes, while Joyce simply said, "Oh no, Buffy, you're not getting out of it that easily. You showed us the papers that Mr Rosenberg signed against you while you were still amnesiac, we know what he did to you. I just want to know why you kept it a secret."

Buffy turned her head toward Willow, who simply nodded. She was curious as well, but didn't want to press Buffy if it made her uncomfortable. Buffy hung her head in defeat, groaning, "This is going to be worse than when you found that old Playboy mag in my closet, isn't it, Wills?"

Willow smiled reasuringly at Buffy; "Don't worry, Buffy," she said, "I'm not angry. Well, I am, just not at you. I just wanted to know why he would do this to us? And why you didn't press charges against him?"

"Oh yeah, way to score points with my wife," Buffy grumbled. "Put her dad in jail. I couldn't do that to him. No matter what he did to me, he's still your father. I didn't want to be the one to take that away from you." She lowered her head, hoping that they would understand. "I just hoped that Ira would finally wise up and accept Willow, accept you for the wonderful woman you really are, not for what he wants you to be."

"Flatterer," Willow teased her wife, as her head came to rest in her lap. Joyce shook her head, amazed at how her daughter had kept all this inside of her all this time. "I appreciate what you tried to do, Buff, but it's too late for him and me. He made his choice, and as much as it hurts to say it, I can't forgive him for what he did to you. He didn't do this to protect me, but to protect his own reputation, to hurt you and punish me for going against his wishes. You held out the possibility that he and I could reconcile, but that ship's sailed. I can't let him back in my life again. He crossed the line and he can't go back."

Buffy's heart ached as she heard these words coming from her wife's lips. She never knew Willow to be so harsh, but she understood why Willow was saying these things. Joyce also sympathized with Willow's plight. The young wiccan had won her affection in the short time she and Buffy had been together, and she only hoped that she could fill the void left by her hateful father.

Willow felt a little self-conscious under the scrutiny of the others. "Don't worry," she assured them, "it's not like I lost a family. Mom and I have been talking recently. I suspect that all Dad--Ira, I mean, did was alienate himself. Mom just move out of the house, and she hasn't spoken to him since Buffy's been in the hospital. Oh, and she wants to have lunch with us next week, Buff," she suddenly announced. "She even called you by the right name. There's hope yet. As for Ira, well, I won't rat on him, as long as he steers clear of us. I can't forgive him, but I can be civil. But the next stunt he pulls, I'll bring him down myself."

"I guess," Buffy said. "Wills, I wish I could make things right between you and your dad. I know what it's like to have a father pretty much out of your life, I didn't want you to suffer that same pain."

"I know," Willow nodded. "But you didn't do this. He did. He chose to hurt me. And he's facing the consequences. As for you," she leveled a penetrating gaze into Buffy's eyes as she spoke, "as much as I appreciate you trying to smooth things over between me and Ira, what I'd rather have from you is honesty. You don't have to protect me from everything, just be honest with me. Deal?"

"Pinky swear," Buffy extended her pinky to Willow, who linked her finger with Buffy's. As they disengaged, Buffy added, "On that subject, honesty and all that, I have an announcement to make." She coughed for effect, making sure she had her audience's attention; "Gang, Giles and I were talking today. And he announced that, thanks to my dumb stunt regarding Faith, a new Slayer has been called." Joyce gasped as she realized how close her daughter was to death because of the Dark Slayer. "In fact, he told me that I should consider retiring as the current Slayer." She waited a few seconds for her words to sink in.

"Retire--" Joyce weighed the word slowly, hope dawning in her eyes. "You mean, it's over? You can live a normal life again?"

"Well, normal, in as far as that goes," Willow added, "considering she fathered a child with another woman, and can probably take on Jackie Chan three falls out of three--"


"Hello," Buffy interrupted, smiling slightly, "in the room here." Joyce and Willow giggled nervously, and shut up while Buffy continued. "Yes, he said I should hang up Mr. Pointy and start a normal life. And believe me, the idea gives me happies like you wouldn't believe. But," she stalled, not sure how to word the rest of her thought.

Her words were unnecessary; Willow understood completely. "You don't know if you can just give it up that easy, huh?"

"Buffy," Joyce said, a little motherly sternness edging his voice. "I think you should listen to Giles. You're going to be a mother soon. Mixing that with being the Slayer, that's too dangerous."

"I know," Buffy admitted, shaking her head. "But what about turning my back on what's out there? I know what's out there, more than anyone else." She sat silently as she considered her options.

Joyce looked at her daughter, wishing she could shoulder part of her terrible burden, or even fully understand it. Ever since that terrible night when Buffy came back home after running away to Los Angeles, ever since she realized how much responsibility her daughter was carrying, Joyce had tried to be there for Buffy, to do whatever she could to ease her burden. Part of it was an effort to make up for her past mistakes, her own shortsightedness, but knowing what was out there, Joyce couldn't simply sit back and do nothing. Not while her daughter was risking life and limb on a regular basis.

Joyce mused aloud, hoping her daughter and daughter-in-law would understand; "I always tried to think of your life as, I don't know, like being a cop or a fire-fighter. You know, line of fire, always on call, that sort of thing. But you make it sound like something more. Like a calling. I never fully understood that, but I've always tried to accept it."

"I know, Mom, and thanks," Buffy smiled slightly at her mother. "It's just that, well, it's like more than just a job. Like I can't stop being the Slayer. I don't have an switch that I can just flip on and off. This is what I am. Besides, I can't say I liked the person I was before Merrick first came into my life and told me."

"Believe me, Buffy," Joyce quipped, "there are times when I wish you were that flighty, fashion conscious girl from Hemery."

Willow glanced at her wife, arching an eyebrow in an imitation of Mr. Spock. "Flighty? You? I must have missed that."

"Oh yeah," Buffy said, slightly embarrassed at the observation. "My only goals during my freshman year were to go to France, marry Christian Slater and die."

"Well, tell Slater that he can stop waiting by the phone," Willow quipped, linking

her arm with Buffy's protectively, "you're spoken for."

"Believe me, he ain't got nothing on you, honey," Buffy smiled happily. "But seriously, Wills, if I'd come to Sunnydale the way I was before I became the Slayer, you, Xander and Jesse would have formed the We-Hate-Buffy Club to go with the We-Hate-Cordy Club. I probably would have become one of Cordy's sheep, or her biggest competitor for the popularity crown."

Willow looked intently at Buffy for a few seconds more, then shook her head. "Sorry, can't see it."

"Strange but true," Buffy admitted. "I guess that being the Slayer's done me some good after all." Then she shook her head. "I have new responsibilities now, huh?" She patted Willow's belly, feeling the growing life within. "I can't keep patrolling every night once the little one's born. But I can't just ignore what's out there at night either. I guess I can settle for semi-retirement. No more nightly patrols, I'll leave those for the new girl. But like I said before, if the Apocolypse comes, beep me."

Joyce sighed briefly, reluctantly accepting her daughter's decision. Willow looked at her beloved, asking, "You sure about this, Buff? I mean, no more patrols, yay for that. But you still want to keep being the Slayer?"

"It's not about wanting to be the Slayer, Wills," Buffy said, "it's about being who I am." She held her wife a little closer, relishing the connection. "When you and I were married last February, I promised myself that I would do everything in my power to protect both you and our baby. If that means saving the world on occasion, then it's a go." She gave Willow a watery smile. "It's still a good fight. And I'm still in."

Willow took Buffy's hand in hers, answering Buffy's smile with one of her own. "So am I, honey."

Buffy then turned to her mother, a peace she never felt before resting on her face. "Tomorrow, I'm going to start job hunting, find some part-time work. Maybe two or three nights a week. I guess with my nights free now, I can help with the finances, once the baby comes."

"I'll do what I can to help, Buffy," her mother promised. "I can make some contacts among my friends, maybe they may have some work for you. But you're still going to college, young lady, so you'll need to budget study time."

"You're right," Buffy admitted, "not to mention time to spend with the kid. I'm not sticking Willow with all the diapers." She gave her wife a loving look, and Willow grinned hugely. "But I still want to meet this new Slayer. The Council doesn't want me messing with her head, but considering that I trust the Council about as far as I could comfortably throw a large house, I'll still want to look in on her." Willow nodded, herself untrusting of the Council's motives.

"Just take care, both of you," Joyce said. "What ever you do, consider how it affects your family."

"Don't worry, Mom. My family's top priority for me from now on," vowed Buffy. She leaned back in her seat, with Willow leaning against her warmly.

Suddenly, Willow sat up, saying, "Oh, it's my favorite scene!" Buffy and Joyce sat by quietly, as on the television Buttercup pushed the Dread Pirate Roberts down the hill, only to realize that he was her beloved Westley. She then threw herself down after him, and once she had reached the base of the valley, Westley leaned over her, asking, "Can you move?"

Willow leaned in close to Buffy, whispering Buttercup's next line in her ear; "You're alive. If you want I could fly." Buffy knew how she felt. With Willow in her arms, she felt like flying herself. What else would happen from now on, she knew that her family would be there for her.

As far as Buffy was concerned, it was indeed a wonderful world.

FINIS

Continue to Kirayoshi's next story in the series:
 Breathing Lessons

or

Go to Shyfox's next entry in the series
To Be or Not To Be...The Slayer

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