Completely AU. There are people who get inside you. That you love, that you get angry with, but they're still your person. The person who, no matter what they ask, and how much you say no, you will end up doing anything for them. Buffy and William have that kind of relationship as they grow up. Is there anything that can change it?
Author's Note: This story is told in a series of moments, sometimes minutes apart, sometimes months apart. Page breaks denote the shift in time.
Nothing of Buffy belongs to me, except my sincere admiration. However, this story is all mine.
There are people who get inside you. That you love, that you get angry with, but they're still your person. The person who, no matter what they ask, and how much you say no, you will end up doing anything for them.
It started in tenth (her) and eleventh (him) grade. New kids at a new school. Outcasts and nervous, the cafeteria was the place to be stared at, whispered about-to not look where you're going.
"Oh my God! Sorry. SO sorry, I'm just- with the coordination and the... not looking up." Buffy picked up the tray from the floor and found herself looking into the bluest eyes ever made.
"It's fine, really." The boy, not too tall, with sandy, brushed back hair, fumbled out a reassurance and picked jello off of his shirt. It stained. Orange. He didn't look good in orange. But this girl. So adorable, and so apologetic, he found that looking more of a fool didn't really matter.
"I'm new here and I -"
"Me, too. First day." William cut her off with a burst of eagerness. That I hope doesn't make me look like a ponce.
It didn't. The eagerness was returned. "Really?"
He had an accent. Pretty. British and almost musical without being all stuck up like the guys in the old movies her mother made her watch.
"That's cool." Buffy tried not to let the eagerness in her voice reach the "pity me" level and played it calm.
"We moved over last week, but it's been a -" something clouded in his eyes, and he tried to stop himself, but couldn't. He didn't talk about these things, but the little figure in front of him suddenly made him feel like he'd found a friend in an ocean of loneliness. "A rocky start."
"Me, too. Although, I didn't move from England. That is an English accent, right?" I'm going to look so stupid if he says it's Australian. I should have paid more attention during those movies...
"Yes, my uncle and I came over-"
"Get out of the way. God! People do not want to stand here and look at two tragic victims of social awkwardness." A brunette and a pack of giggling girls pushed past them.
Buffy stared between the bodies. The guy looked like he wanted to tell them off, but he didn't. Just glared and moved silently back. "We should sit down."
"You should get another tray."
So we split up... back to being lonely and the new girl. It was a nice three minutes of talking to someone...
"There's a table by the window with a few seats." The invitation was subtle.
"Be right back." Buffy's grin spoke volumes of relief and maybe a little pathetic-ness, she didn't really care.
"My folks got a divorce over the summer. We came from LA after Dad got the house in the settlement."
"London. My uncle and I."
"Bloody awful." William poked at something on his plate, gave up and let the idea of eating fall by the wayside.
"It's weird coming in a few weeks later than everyone else."
"I know. New enough to stand out, not new enough to be like all the other transfers."
"Exactly." Buffy realized she didn't even know his name yet. And he didn't know hers. Duh. "I'm Buffy."
His eyebrows raised. "Are you putting me on?"
"No." Buffy looked immediately irritated.
"I'm William." He smoothed over with an awkward smile that somehow made her feel that any wrongdoing wasn't meant to be cruel, simply inept. She was all over inept.
"Sophomore?" He couldn't be. Probably at least a senior.
"Year twelve- only here you don't have year thirteen, so- I'm in the 11th grade."
The bell rang. They rose slowly. "See you around?" Buffy offered with a casual hopefulness.
"Do you take the bus?"
"Neither do I."
Her face lifted. "See you after. There's a big tree-"
"Offside the stone bench. I'll see you."
"I will die in French."
"I'll help you, if you'll help me along with American History. In my old school, it was pretty much, 'discovered by some Spanish sailor in the fourteen hundreds, colonized for queen and country, rebel upstarts pinched the place, bashed each other to bits mid-eighteen hundreds, and then came in a few years late to the Second World War."
Buffy paused as they walked home together. It was a four-day habit by now. "I think that was how they taught it at my old school too." She said worriedly. "I didn't even know we came in late to a war. That's so rude. Who does that?"
He laughed. She laughed at his laugh, and she perked up, "Oh hey. I know all the state capitals. Does that count?"
"Mom, this is Will. Will, this is my mom."
"Hello, Mrs. Summers. Lovely to meet you." William said with deep sincerity in every syllable, eyes seeming to drink her in as they shook hands.
"So nice to meet you too. It's so nice Buffy found another student who's new to the school. Let me get you some study snacks. Buffy, help me?"
"Buffy." Joyce hissed at her as they set up chips and grapes on a tray. "He's older than you, isn't he? Is this who you've been hanging out with, an older boy? All this month?"
"Mom, shh! He's going to hear you!"
"I will not shush, I'm concerned. I don't think-"
"You should be nice to him. He just moved here and we're new here too. Stick together."
Joyce focused on portions she wanted to hear. "Exactly, no one knows him, and he's much too old for you."
"He isn't! He's a year older. I think he just looks kind of- tired, and it makes him look older. His mom just died in July. He didn't say anything, but I can tell he's trying really hard not to get- " Buffy paused, groping for words, "I think it's hard for him to be around a mom right now. They were really close, she raised him by herself since he was a baby."
Joyce paused, stricken. "Oh no. Why didn't you tell me?"
"Why would I tell you? I thought you'd be nice without instructions!" Buffy slammed two cans of soda next to the bowl of grapes and glared.
"Lung cancer. Inoperable. His dad had already died in a motorcycle accident when he was really young, and his mom raised him mostly alone. His uncle, his mom's brother, helped, and he's the reason Will had to move. The uncle got a job. He's not just new in town, he's new in country, and I think you should be nicer, okay?"
Joyce softened immediately. "I will. Of course, I will. But don't bring him into the
house when you're by yourself. That goes for any boy."
"Seriously, Mom?" Buffy rolled her eyes.
"Very seriously. And try to make some more friends, okay? It's not healthy just to hang around one person all the time. A girl would be nice."
"Your mum is so nice." William said wistfully.
"Try living with her." Buffy laughed, but nodded her agreement. "Most of the time she's great. Your uncle sounds really cool."
"He's all right. Not home much. Married to his job at the uni library. Regular night owl, too, seems like he barely sleeps. Just sits up and reads from his precious 'private' collection. It's like I'm never on my own if he's home."
"Where do you guys live?"
"Have a flat for now. He says he doesn't want to buy a house, because this job may only be temporary, and I'm off to uni myself in a few."
Buffy looked suddenly miserable. "Oh. Yeah." She cleared her throat. "In England?"
"I don't know." William shrugged like he was carrying a large weight across his back. "I'm not sure what I want to be."
Buffy laughed lightly. "We're teenagers. We're not supposed to know yet. We have years to grow up and be 'responsible'."
"True." A mischievous expression appeared on his typically mild-mannered, intellectual face. "Plenty time to mess about. Do all the stupid things they warn you about, all the stuff they tell you to say no to, but you can't seem to help tryin'."
"Or the not so stupid ones." Buffy prodded his elbow. "I thought you were going to be a good influence!"
He looked contrite, but he didn't take it back. He'd spent years being a devoted son, then a son and nurse, at a pretty young age. He knew his mum didn't have anyone but him and her brother left, so he instinctively spent time with her, learned to love her as a friend as well as parent, and now- well, what was left to be good for now?
"I didn't mean drugs or nothin'. Just... livin' a bit." His accent broadened and he mumbled more to himself.
"Hey, I'm all for that. But, seriously, don't get me into trouble. My mom did the whole 'He's an older boy!' panicked-mommy riff the first time she met you. Of course now she's probably wondering what to knit you for Christmas..."
His eyes glazed over. "First Christmas without my mum. She used to make somethin' handmade for me every year, an' I'd never wear it." He clenched his fist murderously, wishing he could pummel all the missed opportunities.
"Will..." Buffy hugged him, right there, in the middle of the sidewalk.
"Hrm. Wanna read this?" He handed her the leather bound journal. It was risky, but he saw what passing on the risks meant. Saw that you sometimes couldn't make it up later.
She read. Poetry. She didn't get poetry. Sometimes she didn't know if William got it either, just from the first few pages. But he wrote it, and it amazed her. "Wow."
William swallowed. "Wow?"
"You're good. You- put everything in here." His mom, his move, his wishes, his uncle, feeling alone, feeling never alone- all in short lines that sometimes flowed and sometimes didn't.
"Not quite everything." There would be a poem about her some day. How do you write about your best friend and the girl you think is saving you when you're on a downward spiral, especially if she's the only one you've ever shown your writing to? There are risks and there are risks, after all.
"It's really good." She flipped another page. "I wish I could write or something. Be good at something."
"Everyone is good at something. What are you good at?"
Buffy blushed. "Cheerleading."
William swallowed a snigger with effort that threatened to burst his larynx. "So try out."
"That bitch Cordelia Chase runs the squad. She doesn't like me. I'm LA fashionable, Sunnydale fashion victim, according to her and her herd of wannabe Chases."
"She doesn't make the decisions does she? Isn't there a coach?"
"There's a coach, but-"
"Ask for a try out."
"I'll come with you."
"Oh my gosh. Will, do not come in here."
"What? Why? An' why would I? Not exactly allowed." William rolled his eyes. Lovely girl, really, but sometimes his friend wasn't so bright.
"They took my shorts."
William blinked outside the girls' locker room. Ten minutes until the first basketball game of the season and Buffy's first time on the squad. "Your pants?"
"No, the little red shorts you wear so you don't show the entire school your -" Buffy trailed off, frustrated. "I hate them. My mom was even going to take off work today and I'm going to publicly humiliate her, and myself, or sit on the bench, which is what Cordelia wanted the whole time."
There was the sound of something slammed into the wall. "And I just ruined my manicure."
William frowned. Eyes narrowed. "Don't go anywhere."
Five minutes later a small wad of black cloth popped through the door in a clutched fist. "Buffy?"
Buffy took what the bobbing hand held out. Boxers. "Are these-"
"Find a safety pin or something and cinch up the back. They'll hold. I think." William stood uncomfortably in his jeans. "Can't say I have experience in this field."
Buffy didn't have a safety pin, but she had two bobby pins and a burning desire to get even with Cordelia Chase.
William watched her come out, fire in her eye. "Thank you." She said gravely.
"You're welcome." He said with as much gravitas as he could manage while trying not to chafe.
"Are these... yours?"
"Your mum took off from work, and I've been comin' to practices every day for a week to watch you do that bloody basket drop- thing. You're not missing out on this because someone nicked your uniform bottoms."
"That is true friendship."
"I know." William winced as he walked. "You owe me one."
"You want a pair of my undies?"
"No, but I might need a lift home. I rode my bike."
"What? What's it?" The teen sat up, shirtless and bleary eyed, and grabbed at his sheets. "Buffy?"
"Shh! Come out here." Buffy looked freaked, and nervous, as well she might, literally being up a tree outside her friend's flat window.
"What the hell are you doing up in the-"
"Some guys chased me. Messed up guys with messed up faces and - um- I took Mom's car. I mean, I took it before they chased me, I thought I'd go get a pizza. She's stuck at the airport in Santa Fe, they had thunderstorms or something. She was supposed to be back at eight, and I decided to just... I have my permit!"
William put his head in his hands. "I'm getting dressed. Hold on. An' close your eyes!"
Two kids putting their entire bank accounts on the counter at the body shop. The manager looked up. "You're the little fender bender?"
"Fender, stop sign, bending." Buffy wincingly confessed. They'd gone back to retrieve the car, and she'd nervously driven it to the shop.
"I got your estimate here... four hundred."
Buffy paled. William darkened. "Payment plan, mate?"
"With fifty percent down."
"That should cover it." Buffy mentally began pawning her jewelry and figuring out how much a guilt ridden father who hadn't spoken to her in four months should cough up at Christmas- no, not enough. She added in her birthday money, due to arrive in just over a month. Mom would have killed her prior to that. She needed the car immediately. "I can get you the rest."
"By the time the car is picked up."
"Picked up? You can't fix it now?" Buffy's eyes glazed in panic.
"C'mon, luv, it'll be fine. We'll be back tomorrow with the money, all right?"
They paid off the car by breaking into his trust money, not that there was much left in that little legacy, not after cancer treatments and the funeral.
The car was back, in one piece, and Santa Fe was lifted from flight restrictions just in time for Joyce to watch Buffy and William pulling into the garage. She yelled at them both for driving with just a permit, and not asking permission, and grounded Buffy for a week.
It was Will's turn to figure out how to climb up a tree, and get to her window.
"You on bread an' water rations?" He held up a chocolate bar.
She let him in.
"Sorry we weren't a little bit faster with the car, and getting the money out."
"Oh, this is nothing!" Buffy seemed thrilled to be grounded for a week. "If she found out about the car accident, she'd have grounded me for life, and yes, on bread and water. Seriously. Thank you. Thank you, so much."
"Don't thank me all serious-like, it doesn't suit you." He teased, and let her hug him instead, glad to have someone to embrace. His uncle was a warm man, when he wasn't busy, but he rarely showed it physically. "That's much better." William murmured into her ear.
She kissed him on the cheeks, and then the lips, and then they stopped. Too scared to lose the only friend they had. "I love you, you know?"
"I thought you might." His heart soared happily, not lustfully.
"Well... aren't you going to say it back?"
"I'm English. Gotta be a bit drunk first."
"You're a poet, you don't a drink, you need ink. Ha, now I'm a poet too."
Oh, what the hell. "I love you, too, you trouble maker."
"You're in so much trouble. What the hell happened?" Buffy found him outside the principal's office, blacked eye and split lip, his hair badly disheveled.
He wouldn't say.
"Spill it, William."
"I was singin'."
Buffy looked nonplussed. "In a non-singing zone?"
"In the locker room." He muttered. "There's a pep band startin' in February, playin' at the Valentine's Dance and I thought... my mum used to make me take piano lessons, see, and she sang. So I learned to sing a bit. My uncle plays guitar, and he's not bad, so we sing sometimes. Least, we used to..."
"We've been friends all this time- I've worn your boxers and you've prevented my untimely death by momicide, and you didn't tell me you could sing?" Buffy punched his arm, then regretted it as he actually fell out of his chair. Someone passing laughed rudely and she turned to give them the stare-down until they moved on quickly.
"No more beatin' up on me today, all right, Buffy?" He sounded weary of life. "What's his name, Larry, and his jockstrap-for-brains- mates said a few things."
"About your voice?"
"About guys who sing at the school dance instead of goin' to it. Bein' bent."
Buffy followed this slowly. "You hit him for it?"
"Not so much that, just for the part when he said a few things about what I needed to do to a certain sophomore to prove I wasn't."
Buffy colored. "I'm going in to see Flutie with you."
"Buffy, I said no."
"So? I said yes, and you know you're going to let me."
"Really?" He wiped his bleeding lip. "How do I know that?"
"Because. I'm one of those stupid things you can't say no to."
"It's orange. For the jelly you spilled on me the first time I ever collided with you." He showed her the tie with a mock-rapturous expression. "Oh, happy stain."
"You - you're not serious."
"An' you have to wear an orange dress."
"No one wears orange to a formal."
"You have to, Luv, or we'll clash."
"But I'll look so... stupid."
There was an expectant pause.
Buffy sighed. "Okay, but pink-orange. Coral. Understood?"
"Had to lie to get in here." William sat on the bed. "Said I was your brother."
Buffy looked up at him, pale and with matted, dark hair, dark circles. "You might be. I don't know. Crazy people don't know anything. That's what they tell me."
"You're not crazy." William took her hand. It was tied to the bed frame by a leather cuff lined with wool. He looked over his shoulder and hastily unbuckled it. "Bastards. All the nice things I said about your mum? I take 'em back."
Buffy laughed weakly, yet somehow tears leaked out. "See? Crazy."
"Not crazy. What happened?"
"I saw them. I saw the guys with the messed up faces. Different ones. I'm starting to see them everywhere."
"They stalkin' you?"
"I don't know, I don't know! How can they be if they're not real, but I know they're real, I-" Her voice was on the edge of hysteria.
"Shhh. Shh, now, listen. I believe you. Remember that. Even if it's crazy, I know you're not. So I believe you."
Buffy swallowed her tears and panic and nodded. She let out a deep breath and then said calmly. "I saw a vampire. I stabbed him with the wooden No Dogs Allowed sign in Mrs. Feinbaum's yard and he turned to dust and went 'poof'. The other one ran away."
William's mind reeled. "Are you-"
Buffy nodded. "Mrs. Feinbaum found me on her lawn, hysterical and covered in ashes and broken dog sign. First she called the cops for vandalism, then they called Mom when I told them what happened. I told them... I shouldn't have told them the truth."
William paused. Hard to believe. Yet- Buffy didn't lie to him. "You ever told me a lie, Buffy?"
Buffy searched her brain. "Um. Yeah. When I said I had to go to LA for Spring Break. I stayed home the first two days, until Mom took pity on me and took me to the beach. I didn't want you to know my dad was such a jerk that he actually forgot to pick me up."
William moved onto the bed and put his arm around her. "Could it have been someone with pointy teeth and rigged to go off?"
"I don't know. Maybe." Buffy leaned on him with a sad sigh.
"I know you're not crazy."
"So you believe me?"
"I believe what happened. Not so sure about what did it."
"That's better than anything anyone else has said. Thanks."
They let her out in a week. He visited every day. He walked her to school and to the Bronze after and home again, while her mother fretted and his uncle didn't seem to notice he was gone at all, suddenly preoccupied to a whole new level with some new project.
It was two weeks later when she saw them again, and when he saw them too. He didn't see quite the same thing, but he saw the way she reacted and saw the big, fast bodies coming at them, no, at her, and the way something in his best friend took over.
She never mentioned she was a ninja, William thought as he was thrown against a wall.
"Will! Are you okay?" Buffy sat up, torn and ashen, but triumphant. Wooden packing crates kicked into shards and stabbed seemed to be an okay combination.
He sat up slowly, painfully. "Aside from a severe case of brown trousers, I'm fine." He gasped. "Holy shit, Buffy. What..."
"I get it now."
"Guess what happened now?"
"Some old guy came up to me today when I was walking home and told me he's my Watcher."
"What is it with you and stalkers?"
"Not watching me, a Watcher. They train Slayers. Which, apparently, is what I am."
"Damn, the one day I have band practice..."
"He says he'll train me in the art of Slaying and I'm not supposed to reveal my true calling."
"Well, he obviously didn't know about me, then." William rolled his eyes.
"And he gave me this." Buffy held out a bag. Two books, two bottles, two wooden stakes, and a beautifully ornate cross. "Slayer starter kit." She joked to cover how utterly terrified and wigged she was.
"With back ups." William picked up the book. "Vampyre."
"Holy water." She showed the bottles to him.
"Two pointy sticks." He took one.
"What are you-"
"Well, if he gave you two, you have one for a friend."
"I don't think that's a good idea."
"I don't think it's a good idea for you to go off and get attacked, and apparently the police don't listen to you when you tell them what's lurkin' in the dark, do they?"
Buffy sank back on her bed. "Read that one. I guess I'm the one who has to read The Slayer's Handbook."
"Homework? The creepy old man gave you homework? Doesn't he know you're already failing math, this berk?"
"I guess that's not his deal. He doesn't have to live with a mother who's already convinced you need counseling and 'tough love'."
"What are you gonna do?"
Buffy looked at him with scared eyes. "I don't really know. Give it back if I can. Get through it if I can't. He seemed pretty insistent." She made the meeting sound like a five minute affair. It wasn't. It was an hour of arguing and threatening to call the police on the guy and him calmly and politely not caring, because what he had to say was more important. The way he spoke, the words he said, everything rang true inside her. It was horrifying, but at the same time a relief, to understand what's happening to you.
"We'll do what we have to do."
"Finished your math homework."
"I owe you."
"You owe me like eighty."
"I think I found a way to repay at least forty-five. I met this actually really nice, not a snob girl. She's pretty and she's academically competent, which would probably be good for your brain, huh?"
"I can get my own girls." He lied confidently. He hadn't been able to so far. Didn't seem to matter right now.
"She's super sweet, Will! She's in all advanced classes which is why I never met her until now. I bet you like red heads."
"Nope. Brunettes or blondes." He said firmly. Buffy rolled her eyes. "All right then, 'Slayer', you want a love life, let's get you one. Gotta be someone in your grade you fancy?"
"I like older men. Maybe I have daddy issues." Buffy half-flirted with him.
"What about this Watcher? How old is he?"
"In the range of committing a crime old." Buffy said pointedly.
"You're not being very cooperative. What's your type?"
"I don't know. Has to have... chemistry. An edge. I don't like anything to be easy, I guess."
"So we're doomed." William said what they both were thinking. Too easy between us. We love the other one, but it's not a burning passion, it's a nice cozy fire. "He better be good to you, this future boyfriend, or I'll rough him up."
"I think, with my new Slayeriffic strength, that I can handle that myself." Buffy laughed.
"Speaking of- gonna patrol with you tonight?"
"Your uncle is going to flip."
"My uncle is never home, Luv, or if he is, he's dead to the world asleep. And don't give me that look. He's a good man, and we have our good times. He's just been quiet lately. Mum was his only sister, and their parents have been dead for yonks. He was a bachelor too, don't think raising a teen was on his cards."
"Well... my Watcher'll flip. He's never going to go for bringing along a 'civilian'."
"Is he with you all the time?"
"So I'll come on the other half."
"Will, you're gonna get hurt!"
"You'll protect me, you big strong girl, you."
"You're talking crazy. No one wants to go out and risk their lives all the time."
"Thought we had a deal about crazy an' stupid, didn't we? Tell me when he's not around."
"This guy has been following me around. But I think he's trying to help me, not hurt me, so don't freak."
"Help you with what?"
"I don't know."
"Doesn't sound very helpful."
"He says something big is coming, something my Watcher doesn't understand."
"Hey, he's allowed to meet the Watcher, but I'm not?"
"I don't think he's met him, he just knows about Slayers and Watchers and stuff. I'm guessing. He's kinda... cryptic."
"Quiet an' cryptic. Well, that's never gonna work for you, loudmouth."
"You're the one hogging all the solos on stage lately. Oh, hey, speaking of hot brunettes-"
"How were we speaking of hot bru-"
Buffy blushed as she realized she hadn't shared one particular thought about her cryptic helper aloud. "Cordelia Chase apparently said your social status has increased to datable."
"She's an A-lister and she's actually really pretty once you over look the snottiness."
"I don't like snots. I don't like bein' on any list, A or otherwise. But if you like quiet types, who're a bit older, there's a decent bass player who's joined up. He's in my year. Oz something."
"Who names their kid Oz?"
"What's your stranger's name then, Buffy?"
Buffy blushed. "Angel."
William laughed until he fell off the bed.
"I'm sorry, William, I have to go out. There's a- crisis. With finals week and the- uh- library- something." His uncle thundered down the stairs at bedtime, shortly after his mobile had rung.
William put down his pen and staff paper. "Okay."
His uncle dashed back up the stairs, to his room, pausing in the doorway. "I might be there all night. Uh. The university library keeps odd hours during finals."
"I understand. I'm seventeen, I'm not gonna burn the place down or let strange men selling ice creams in the house."
"Good lad." And he was gone again.
"Night, Uncle Bertie." William chuckled and shook his head at the perpetual flustered state of his once placid uncle.
"Hey. I um. Kinda want that back up now." Buffy called from a phone in the high school office, voice high and panting. Angel was with her, holding them off, but there were too many this time.
"Where are you? I'm coming." William's palms instantly turned slick, but he was already pushing himself towards the door.
"High school. Bring the pointy sticks, okay?"
' Kay." William's gut tightened. Buffy was in trouble, and this was it.
"It's not going very well." Angel crashed into the doorway, then barricaded it. Outside, figure slammed and pounded against the door. It was only a matter of time until it broke down. "We'll stay here, take them in as they come." He reached for her hand and gave it a squeeze. "I want you to get out if I go down."
Buffy's heart quickened at the chivalrous gesture and the moody brown eyes, so intense on hers. "I called for back up."
"Back up?" The moody brown eyes flickered in surprise.
"My Watcher and my best friend. We'll split the fronts. I'll take William, you take Giles."
"I don't like this."
"I don't really think we have a lot of options." She squeezed his hand back. "Hey. I'm sixteen. I have a whole lot of living left to do, so don't worry. I'm not screwing this up."
The dust settled. Figures found each other. Two relieved. Two in shock.
"What!?" Buffy yelped.
"Why didn't you tell me your Watcher was my uncle? Why didn't you tell me you were a Watcher!? Or that you knew Buffy?" William demanded.
Angel hung back and looked awkward, Buffy just swiveled her head between the two Brits.
"Buffy, this is unacceptable, why in the world did you call for a civilian? My nephew of all people!" Giles suddenly moved forward and hugged him hard. "You could've been killed! Your mother would -"
"Wait, wait, wait. You're not- you can't be. Rupert Giles. William said his only uncle was-"
"Uncle Bert. Bertie. When I was little I couldn't say Rupert, I said Ru-bert, and it stuck. Just Bert or Bertie." William pushed his uncle off. "You never said he was called Rupert or Giles. You always call him 'The Watcher' or 'Mr. Doom and Gloom'."
"Well, he is!"
"You call me what?" Giles looked offended.
"I'm gonna go..." Angel slowly backed away.
"You never even said he was English!"
"I thought that sounded insensitive, like ' Hey you're English, I bet you know all the other English people.'" Buffy explained lamely.
"Oh honestly." Giles grumbled.
"Your names aren't the same, how was I supposed to know?" Buffy was still arguing with Will.
"They wouldn't be, mum's maiden name was Giles, but she took her married name and so did I." William explained, then turned on his uncle. "So, this is what you do all the time? There aren't any ruddy computer emergencies?"
"You lied to William?" Buffy put her hands on her hips angrily.
"This is getting out of hand!" Giles raised his normally even voice.
"Yeah. Bye." Angel moved further down the hall. Buffy finally noticed he was leaving.
"Oh, wait! Angel, hang on. You- both of you-" Buffy fixed the two men in her life with a hard stare, "owe me mucho explanation."
"She's failin' math 'cause of you." William muttered.
"Not important to a Slayer." Giles muttered back.
"Not just a Slayer, she's my friend. She's a student, she's a girl!"
"Can I stay with you a couple days?" William turned up in the same clothes he'd worn the night before.
"Why- I mean yes, I'm sure it'll be okay, but- why?"
"Rupert and I had a fight."
"Over last night."
"Did he..." Buffy had a hard time imagining her stodgy Watcher, who she still saw as a title, not a "real" person, would throw out his nephew. That would require a big dose of human emotion, and he seemed to be pretty cardboard-y.
"I didn't want to go home with him." Will answered her question.
"Again with the why?"
"You know how you call him 'The Watcher' all the time? Like he's some part of a machine, not a person?"
Buffy blushed. "You noticed that, huh?"
"Don't worry 'bout that. Way he acts, doesn't surprise me. But guess what? You're the machine. You're meant to be used up and spat out, the hell with anything you want or do outside of Slaying. An' you're not s'posed to have any friends. Friends interfere with your 'mission'."
Buffy frowned. Angel had said the same sort of thing last night when he walked her home. "So you got mad at him?"
"Hell, yes!" He thundered.
"William! Buffy! That's detention." Mr. Flutie seemed flustered as he turned the corner to walk in on shouted cursing. "That's the second time this year you two have made trouble together."
"But he didn't do any-"
"I will not have swear words shouted down these halls!" Mr. Flutie ordered. "Now get to class, and then come to my office after last period."
"I can't tell Mom why you're here. She doesn't believe in this vampire shtick." Buffy walked slowly home from school, her friend slouching moodily after her. "I can say your uncle is away for a couple days?"
"Fine. He's on another bloody planet." William grumbled. He brightened slightly. "MTV has a special. Punk rock."
"Since when do you like that?"
"I don't know, just do."
"Well... I don't know if I can. I have a thing. With Angel. Bronze."
"So we'll hit the Bronze. Or is it a date?" His chest tightened a little.
"No. I don't think so. I actually don't know. Ooh, I know. C'mon, let me call Willow, the smart redhead? I know you like your brunettes or whatever, but she's the sweetest girl - ever, actually. And she likes poetry, books. She likes music, too. She plays the piano. I think. I don't remember. We have study hall together and French I. She already speaks better than the teacher, but whatever. Oh come on! Will, you and I could sorta-double."
"I don't wanna go on any stupid flippin'- oh shit."
"You said the magic word." Buffy grinned.
She was nice. Quiet. Angel was quiet, but not so nice. Seemed ill at ease and kept trying to drag Buffy into corners to whisper at her.
"It's okay, you know." Willow hiccuped nervously on her soda during one of the many awkward moments Buffy and Angel disappeared. "I know Buffy tried to set us up, but um- I knew that we- um- wouldn't be on a- um."
William shook his head anxiously, just as nervous as she'd been, but unable to figure out how to say what the girl had tried to explain. "Oh no, not like that. See, I- I actually think I'd like you to meet my friend. He's up where you are in the brains department, and he's up there tonight with his band." William took Willow's arm gently and led her through the crush of people. "The bass player. Oz."
"Oz. Wow. Cool name." Willow murmured as the bass player seemed to make eye contact with her across the stage, and smiled slowly.
"I'm going to LA for the summer." Buffy whispered. She had to whisper. If her mom knew William was in her room at midnight, she'd ground her for life. "My dad had a guilt attack and already took time off work."
"I'll miss you, Luv."
"I was gonna say, can't you come visit?"
"School friends in London asked me to fly out for July. I'll be back in August. Maybe I can swing it."
"What am I gonna do without you?" She moved closer to him on the bed, for his warmth, for the rocky solidarity of his lean chest. Angel didn't like her getting close, this close.
"Nothin' stupid. Promise me."
Silence. "You're going to make up with Giles, right?"
"Rupert?" William said the newly reborn name with a touch of condescension, but then relented. "In time. Always do. What's he gonna do, come to LA to 'Watch' you there?"
"He can't full time. But I'm sure he'll pop in to check on me. Angel said he- might too."
His body went rigid next to hers. "What d'you know about him?"
"Not a lot. He's older and he's serious, and he..." Buffy trailed off. He looked at her with naked hunger in his eyes, and it made her flutter inside, and when his rough whispers, usually warnings, burnt in her ear, she felt hot wet sensations in her stomach. For the first time she was seriously wondering if this is why people had sex, to unlock the slick painful knot, if it was more about facing the danger than finding the love. "He's something." There was something wrong about him and something between them, and it was probably bad, and she didn't care. She was getting that reputation, the bad girl, the trouble maker.
"He better be something good, or I'll have to pound him to a pulp, whether you can do it yourself or not."
"I think he's good. I think he wants to help."
Time passed. Couldn't be helped. They bailed each other out of tight situations. They saw less of each other and more of each other at different times. Most of all, they were there when it mattered, even if they didn't really want to be.
"If it's the vampire again-"
"Don't call him that, he can't help that."
"I'm not blamin' him for bein' a vamp, I'm blamin' you for havin' such a soft spot for him. It's like you like the tiger, long as he's tame."
"I don't!" But she did. The good girl yearned for normal and safety and pretty dresses, but the Slayer took over more and more and liked the torture and the rush of the darkness. "Look, it's my birthday, and he wants to have a little party. Come on, Willow and Oz will be there, and your uncle. There's cake..." She wheedled.
"I thought you were off in mad preparations to stop that fruitcake, Priscilla?"
Buffy winced. William knew her jealousies and fears. Angel made the beautiful, virginal looking vampire, hardly more than a girl, and she had a slavish attachment to him. In fact he must have done more than 'make' her, the way he almost seemed to regard her as his ex-wife or something. No, not ex-wife. His widow. The bride of Angelus, and he'd killed off that part of himself, leaving a mentally unstable, childlike waif alone in her immortality. For that, he had consideration for her, never hurting her, always sparing her... "Drusilla. I don't think there's anything more we can do unless I can kill her. Which I can't."
"Why? She's a vampire, you kill vampires, with notable exceptions."
"She's on my exception list, I guess. Angel says he has to do it, he made her this creature, he has to fix it. He also says the demon is in control once you're turned and it's not her fault she's all possessed-y. He feels sorry for her. Doesn't seem to matter that she's bonkers and kills people."
"I don't get that. If you're still the same person, and you choose when to act human and when not to, demon can't be all the way in control, can it? I mean, he's still got free will, and he's one."
"He has a soul. Never trust a vampire without a soul."
William paused between lines of the poem he was writing. "If I ever got bit..."
"I'm not gonna let you get bit!"'
"You can't be everywhere."
"Will, seriously, don't even joke." Buffy's blood turned cold.
"I'm not. I'm asking. Would you at least give me a chance to see if I was still me?"
Buffy paused. It had been a year in July and she missed it. He was different when he came back from England. Spent a lot of time reading poetry to her grave and being alone, away from the only family he had. "I don't like when you talk about death."
"I don't like when you go and get so bloody close to it." She slid into his arms and he locked them around her. "I wonder though... what happens if you go, but you stay. Like he did."
"I would, but he doesn't like me. Told me once, I didn't belong around you."
"He's kinda jealous, isn't he?" That possessiveness was marginally attractive to her, a girl who'd felt like kind of unwanted lately, abandoned by her father, disappointing to her mother, unable to fit in at school.
"A bit." William scowled over her shoulder.
Buffy knew what she was about to promise was both unlikely and risky, yet the words tumbled out easily. "If anything ever happened to you- I'd take care of you, you know?" He nodded against her, arms relaxing. She swallowed. "Would do it for me?"
It chilled him. "You belong alive."
"So do you. You're full of life."
"You even more. You're everything beautiful and sunny, Buffy."
Silence. He stretched back, on his bed, her coming down with him. Her on top of him. She rolled to the side hastily, and he swallowed the hot blood and confusion inside of him. "Slayers don't live long."
"Giles says so."
"Giles also said Citroens would become the next import craze to the States." Will snorted out a laugh and she cracked a smile. "You're different."
So was he. Buffy moved over, close to him and gripped his hand. "I worry about you."
"Promise me we'll always be okay?"
"I do. No matter what."
She nodded. Her head was full of thoughts and fears and falling in love. She never heard William whispering as she fell asleep,
"Do you think he'd make you the same promises?"
To be continued...