William lay in darkness, waiting for the first sound of someone moving around downstairs. He knew Giles would be up at the crack of dawn. The old man was a creature of habit. Something that Will admired, but knew he would never be since his mind flittered from one dream to another, from one lifetime to another as easily as others breathed. Focus only came when he gave in to the calling of his soul and let these thoughts be transferred to paper. Being a writer was one thing in his life that he was sure of.
The other was the woman snuggled into his side. The softness of her hair floated over his arm and chest, tickling his skin but he refused to give in to the sensation. He didn't want to disturb her sleep. He enjoyed the warmth of her flesh against his, the gentle waves of her breathing, and the tangle of their limbs as if they were one creature. Buffy loved him.
The past few days had shown him that she truly loved the man he was, the good and the bad, no matter what he was or had done. Every moment she stayed with him, or defended gave proof to that reasoning.
For her he would give all that he had, but she only wanted him and a future for them and the baby she carried. He ran the back of his hand over the soft rise of her stomach. Without realizing it, he smiled, the first time since the day when the blackness of his heart was ripped from his chest.
It was time to stop mourning. The funeral was the dividing line between his past and his future. He didn't want to die with Xander and Cordelia, he wanted to tell them goodbye and wipe their mark from his life. He wanted to be the man Buffy saw when she looked at him.
"I promise I will never let you down again," Will whispered. He kissed her temple before easing out of the bed. Buffy moved into the spot he'd vacated. Still far away in happy dreams she wrapped her arms around his pillow. Tears rose in his eyes.
She was happiness.
He crossed his arms around himself, rocked back on his heels, as he felt the chains of his past start to unravel. For years he'd been imprisoned by the fear of being alone, letting it lead him into a hell of his own making. He swore if it was the last he did, he would find his way out. He left her in his bed to head downstairs just as Giles was heading to the kitchen.
Turning from the sink, Giles reached for the knob to turn the stove on. He yelped like a puppy when a shadow fell over the counter. He looked up to see a ghost standing on the other side. Giles stepped back, hoping he was still asleep and in the middle of a bad dream. The figure before him was gaunt, paler than fresh snow and his hair curled in a riot of blonde and black.
"It's me," Spike said.
Giles shook his head. "Good lord, Spike. You nearly gave a heart attack." He put the kettle on the burner to heat. "Not that I can say I'm not happy to see you."
A moment of silence stood between them as they appraised the other. They were both changed men from the last time they'd spoken. Lives changed, ended and began around them and Giles wondered if his young charge was going to survive it all.
"Not Spike," Will said, shaking his head. "Will."
"All right, Will then."
"Will you help me?" Will stared at the floor, waiting as his hands moved up and down his arms as if to ward off the chill. But Giles knew that the other man stood on a precipice. One wrong move or word could lead to the total mental collapse of a tortured genius and a man worthy of so much than he believed.
Giles came around the counter to take Will's face in his hands. "Yes, Will. I will help you. What do you want?" Will's eyes closed.
"Funeral is today?"
"I need to go. For Buffy." Will opened his eyes like a newborn seeing the world for the first time. He blinked then gave a soft smile.
"Yes, you do need to go. Now, I know you have a suit and a limo is already scheduled to pick us up," Giles said, going through a checklist in his mind.
"No," Will said. He raised a hand to run it through the unruly curls. "Need to clean up."
"Of course you do," Giles agreed. "I know someone who will come to the house. Anything else?"
"Afterwards…," Will hesitated, looking around his home. His lips curled in a sneer. "I don't want to come back here." He met Giles gaze with a determination that made the older man proud. "Will you make reservations at a hotel for us? A suite so Tara can come too. But I don't want to ever set foot in this place again." He shuddered.
"Well, that's the longest speech you've made in weeks," Giles said, chuckling.
"Yes, it is time," Jenny said, coming down the stairs. "For all of us," she stopped beside Giles, putting her arm around his waist. It was a lovely feeling, and Giles hugged her back. "I'm happy to hear you making plans."
Will took a step back. He shook his head.
"Will, its okay. One step at a time. Okay?"
"I'm sorry," Jenny said, squeezing Will's hand. "I came on a bit strong."
"Yes," Will said.
When nothing else came out of him, Jenny giggled. It was that easy. Maybe the man of words was going to be one of short speeches from there on in, but it wasn't a bad thing. If Will continued like this, at least no one would have to worry where they stood with him. All they had to do was listen to know.
The kettle whistled. Giles left the other two to return to the kitchen to make tea. He pondered on Will's declaration to go to the funeral for Buffy. The girl's love was changing all of them. For the better as far as he was concerned. Only a month ago, money and status meant more to him than anything. He didn't care what Will and his friends did as long as his bank accounts continued to grow. Sighing, he poured the hot water over the specially blended tea he preferred.
This new life seemed so much better. There was going to be a lot of difficulties. Like arguing a new contract with David over the movie deal, and the publisher about forthcoming books, but mostly the humble pie Giles was determined to eat. He needed to tell Will that he was wrong about Buffy. She was the best thing to have ever happened to Will, to all of them really.
Giles assembled the teapot and cups on a tray to take into the dining room to join his fiancée and the man he'd come to see as a son. He took a seat at the table, setting out the cups, fiddling really while he listened to Jenny talk gently to Will. She was an amazing woman, and he was grateful she finally agreed to marry him.
Maybe things were going to be all right after all.
A shiver danced along her spine. Something was wrong. Of this, Buffy was certain. Sitting straight up, she wiped the last of sleep from her eyes.
"Will," she called out when she realized he wasn't in the bed.
No answer. She threw back the covers, ignored her slippers and robe in her haste to find her husband. Every morning since that day, she woke still wrapped in Will's arms. She hurried down the hallway, glancing into the closets on her way. At the end were the bathrooms, but he still wasn't to be found. Fear clutched her heart at the thought that something was wrong.
The night before while they waited for sleep, she'd mentioned the funeral. As usual there wasn't a response, but now she worried that it was too much for him to handle. What if he left in the night, running from a truth that wasn't waiting for him to catch up anymore? What if Will was through with everything?
Buffy turned back around, running as she hit the hallway.
"Will, where are you? Will?" She yelled as all of the stress of the last couple of weeks caught up to her.
It was Giles. Not Will that answered her. She grabbed the banister to the stairs leading to the bottom floor. Somehow she missed the top step. She screamed as she scrambled to find her footing. There was nothing but air until she grabbed the banister breaking her fall and sending her solidly down on her ass. She took a deep breath as she tried to pull herself together. A flutter in her stomach sent blind terror racing through her.
Her baby! She cried out, but this time someone was there. Arms pulled her close, rocking her as she tried to fight her way to reason.
"I'm here, Buffy, I'm here," Will crooned in her ear.
Maybe it was all a nightmare brought on by wishful thinking. But no, because the arms were strong around her. She covered her stomach with her hand, and another hand covered hers.
It was a stupid comment but everything came crashing into focus when his hand was protective into its gesture. She stared up into his face, searching for truths she'd been hoping to see for so long.
"Yes, I know," Will whispered. "Are you all right?"
"Maybe we should call an ambulance?" Tara asked, rushing up the stairs to sit beside them.
"Did I wake you?" Buffy asked, still lost in the inane question land.
"Just a bit," Tara smiled, pushing her hair behind one ear. She self-consciously pulled the bodice of her nightgown closer together.
Jenny was the next to join them on the stairs. "Maybe we should call your doctor?"
"No, no, I'm fine," Buffy insisted. She took a second to listen to her body. There wasn't any pain, or discomfort except for on her bottom and where she wrenched her arm. There wasn't even a quiver from her womb now. "Really," she said when disbelieving eyes looked back at her. "Look, why don't I lie on the couch for a while and see if anything changes? I promise one twinge of anything uncomfortable and I'll call the damn ambulance myself."
"No, I want you checked out," Will said. He squeezed his eyes shut. "I couldn't take it if…"
"I'm fine." Buffy cupped his cheek. He rubbed against her palm like a kitten seeking comfort from its mother. She let her thumb trail across his lips before leaning closer to him until their foreheads touched. "I'm not going anywhere and neither is our baby."
"I already promised…remember when I said I do?"
"You were so beautiful…my shining light."
Tears fell as she gave her heart to this man again. Despite everything that had happened she knew Will was her future. He just needed to believe it, too.
"I want you in that light with me," Buffy whispered. "It's cold without you and I need you."
Will pulled her closer to him, burying his face against her neck. "Wherever you are, I will be. Til' the end of time."
The hard times weren't over yet. Buffy wasn't naïve enough to believe in happy endings anymore, but Will was there in her arms, wanting her and the baby, and that was enough for a new start. She looked around at the people on the stairs with them and knew they would help her and Will to start on that new path. Just like she and Will would for them. No longer was she the scared girl who once ran away from her problems, but a woman with family strong enough to weather any storm.
She'd found her sanctuary.