Musings of A Gypsy Vampire


Summary: Jenny reflects on how things have changed. Fifth story in my "Straight Ahead" universe.

Disclaimer: These characters are all the property of their owners/creators (not me).

Rating: PG-13, for themes and language.

Time Frame: Post GD2, alternate time line.

Archiving: Please do. . .but e-mail me at eilandesq@aol.com to let me know, because it's always nice to know where my work is going, and I might like to see what else you've got.

Author's Note: This story continues the "Straight Ahead" timeline first created in my story, "Left and Up, or Straight Ahead?" Things are different here, and those wondering how all of this happened are referred to that story for how and why.


MUSINGS OF A GYPSY VAMPIRE


It's not often that we all are at the Bronze together, but after having averted yet another world threatening catastrophe by killing the former Mayor of Sunnydale (and without blowing up the school, yet), it seemed appropriate. We had spent the last three days and nights cleaning up the various problems raised by the whole mess, and Sunnydale High had buried its dead and mourned them. . .hardly a new thing in this town, but you never really get used to it. Now we were here to celebrate our victory, and the mood was certainly lighter than it had been in many months.

Rupert brings me a drink, then asks if I want to dance: I decline, being content to watch the others mingle and to soak in the atmosphere, which is noticeably lacking the undertone of dread that is par for the course in Sunnydale. He smiles at me and asks me to let him know if I change my mind, then moves over to where Buffy, Xander and Faith are standing, laughing at something that Xander has said.

Buffy is radiant tonight: she is wearing the dress that she wore two years ago on the night she died: we were shocked to see her in it, but she explained that this night, like that one, was a moment of rebirth for her, with the end of high school and the threat that had been hanging over us these many months. At least this time, she will know not to hold in anything that is bothering her: that lesson has been driven home many times now, and she is better for it. I still remember Rupert telling me about Buffy, and how my immediate reaction was "she's so little." How little I knew then. Buffy's mood swings can be volcanic, and heaven help those who cross her. . . I ought to know. But in the battles we have fought together, Buffy has proven herself not just as a devastatingly capable fighter, but as a true leader: she has absorbed all that Rupert has passed on to her, and built on it. None of us would be here without her, and I am truly grateful that we have put our differences behind us now. . .I can't imagine life in Sunnydale without her here.

Faith smiles softly at something Rupert is saying, and I marvel once again at the changes in her from only four months ago, when Buffy and I helplessly watched as she prepared to stake Rupert. The perpetual air of suspicion is gone: she is finally enjoying her life and rejoicing in her friends. It is a hard thing to know that you would have ignored the last request of your lover as he faced death, but I'm sure that I would have killed Faith if she had gone ahead and staked him. . .I should have had more confidence in Rupert's judgment. Faith looked in the face of an enemy, and found the courage to trust. . .and it has made all of the difference in the world. Having passed her GED, she will be attending junior college in the fall, and she has shown promising talents as an artist and writer. Rupert is still awaiting the Council's permission to start adoption procedures, but he is sure that they will agree to it. . .it is so strange, thinking that Faith will be my daughter after all that has happened. . .for a very short time I hated her with a passion, but I understand all too well what it means not to be able to trust. . .and the price one can pay for it. She has come around, and now I cherish her as much as I do any of the others in our circle. As a Slayer, she is still raw and inexperienced, but she has the two best teachers in the world to help her, and I expect her to reach new heights of excellence in the future.

Xander looks my way, and I raise my glass to him and smile as he winks at me and turns back to Buffy, squeezing her hand in affection and provoking a smile from her. The changes in him over the last year and a half have been more subtle than Faith's recent ones; in many ways, he is still the old Xander, with his ready humor and absolutely dauntless devotion to his friends, from which we all benefited greatly on that horrible night in January when the Hellmouth opened again. However, there is an added level of maturity there. . .a sense of focus that first appeared the night that Rupert and I were turned, and a calm voice was needed to salvage the total disaster that had occurred. That focus has had noticeable effects in his life: his grades have improved greatly, to the point where he will be attending UC Sunnydale in the fall with Buffy, Willow, and Oz, and-most importantly from his point of view-he finally succeeded in winning Buffy's heart. I don't know whether it was the mild prophetic abilities I acquired from Drusilla, or that ineffable thing we call intuition, but I saw it coming long before it happened. . .Xander has always been devoted to her, and with the unfortunate end of her relationship with Angel, it was just a matter of time before she noticed and reacted. Xander has taken time to help me out, too. . .after I was turned, I wanted to take a more active role in the whole demon stopping business. . .a little payback sounded nice to me, since I was physically better suited for it now. Unfortunately, Rupert, Buffy, and Angel refused to help me. . .so I went to Xander, and he was only too glad to help. . .he understood the desire to inflict a little damage on the bastards who were intent on making our lives unhappy. He picked up a lot of bruises, and an odd concussion or two that he explained away to a suspicious Buffy and Rupert as having been picked up in a scuffle with a vampire. . .which, of course, was the absolute truth. By the time we had finished, we were both better fighters, and we both were grinning like fools after Buffy and Rupert saw us tear through a small group of vampires who had thought they had come across an easy meal while our significant others were preoccupied. We both were in the doghouse for a few days, but it was worth it.

I looked over to another part of the room where Oz, Willow and Cordelia were talking with Joyce, who had been talked into coming to the Bronze by her insistent daughter after coming back to town. I looked at Buffy's mother and marveled at how well she had adjusted to all of the strangeness associated with her daughter's life. The shock of finding out that Buffy was the Slayer hit her hard, as did Buffy's intense and prolonged depression after Kendra's death. She stayed at it, though, providing unconditional love and support, and taking Faith in after her arrival in Sunnydale, which was good for both Slayers. The nastiness surrounding Buffy's Cruciamentum had also taken its toll, but she recovered well, and even managed to joke about being the "designated hostage" for Buffy. . .a comment which Buffy did not find amusing in the least. I always sensed that she was uneasy about the fact that Rupert and I were now vampires, but she never let it show: she was always unfailingly polite to us, and even actively supportive when she thought the situation called for it. . .one night when Buffy and Rupert were out hunting some demon long of tusk and short of brains, the two of us camped out in her kitchen with a nice bottle of twelve year old Scotch and commiserated about how much the two of them drove us crazy at times. After most of the bottle was gone, we looked up to see them standing there with disapproving stares. . .we got the giggles, which didn't stop until long after Rupert had led me out the front door and Buffy had dragged her mother up to bed. . .we didn't stop hearing about that for a good long while.

Cordelia. . .I guess I'll never completely understand her. She is appallingly shallow at times: I still can't get over her bitching about the bloodstains in her clothing after we almost were killed in the Master's aborted revivification ceremony, and too many other similar examples come to mind to readily list. But Willow and I would be dead if she hadn't come along the night the Master rose, and I still can't get over how she bluffed that cowboy vampire into turning tail and running on Homecoming Night, with Buffy and Rupert out of commission and with Cordelia not having so much as a cross on her. The whole thing with Willow and Xander getting caught kissing during the whole Spike fiasco last November hurt her deeply, as did finding out that Xander and Buffy were an item, and she avoided all of us for a while. But, to her credit, when things started getting involved with the Mayor and we needed all of the help we could get, she came back and was actually helpful; of course, it might have had something to do with her obvious interest in Rupert's assistant Wesley, but I think she deserves the benefit of the doubt. She's been talking about going to L.A. to pursue an acting career. . .I wish her well there.

I look at Willow and smile involuntarily. . .she's changed so much from the shy girl who was the star of my computer class when I met her. We've worked extensively together in improving our knowledge of the magical arts, and the results have been impressive: finding a spell to neutralize the effects of the magic candy that the Mayor used to conceal his attempt to conduct the mass sacrifice of babies he had planned, the sealing of the Hellmouth after the Sisterhood of Jhe had opened it. . .not to mention ending Amy's unfortunate stint as a rat following the unpleasantness of the Hansel and Gretel incident. . .yes, we've become quite a team: the Cyberpagan vampire and the badass Wicca. It has made me feel better about myself, but the effect on Willow has been extraordinary: she has developed into a stunning young woman, confident and full of power and life. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I was really glad when Oz chose to forgive her so quickly after the unpleasantness with Xander-not just for her sake, but for mine. . .I know Rupert loves me, but he and Willow have a lot in common, and things happen. . .but I needn't have worried. It seems like a cliché, with Oz being a werewolf and all, but he really is like a loyal watchdog to her. . .no one messes with her when he's around, and there's a lot of vampire dust scattered around Sunnydale to prove it. I hope that things stay happy for them. . .they deserve it.

I look around some more, and see Angel sitting alone at a table, quietly sipping what looks like a beer. If he doesn't join one of the groups soon, I'm damned well going to drag him over to one of them myself. With Rupert being busy most of the time between being at the school library and going out with Buffy and Faith most nights to patrol, I've actually seen more of Angel in the last year and a half than I have of Rupert; as of now, he's my best friend. Not surprising, really, considering our history and the unquestionable bonds we share, starting with Dru and moving on from there. He's needed someone to talk to, with his self-imposed separation from Buffy, and I've been glad to be his sounding board. In turn, he's helped me to come to terms with my situation and the mental dislocation that it involves, though, of course, my situation is quite different from his.

The Angel we know has little in common with the troubled young man who had the misfortune to run into Darla other than his face. The decades of Angelus' atrocities and other experiences combined with that young man's soul created a third being: far more humane and compassionate than the man, and able to use the wisdom and power of the vampire without the crippling flaw of Angelus' sadism. It is that dichotomy that has allowed all of us to accept him again as a friend in spite of the recent crimes of Angelus. . .but I'm in a different boat, I'm afraid.

I spent less than eight hours as a soulless vampire before Buffy and Angel captured and drugged Rupert and I, and we woke up with our souls restored. No time to reflect deeply on the nature of existence as a soulless vampire: both of us were concerned with escape. I have spent countless hours pondering those few hours of existence. . .waking up with Dru and Angelus looking down at me. . .seeing Spike stretching his legs and winking at him to let him know I wouldn't tell. . .deciding to defy the high and mighty Angelus by turning Rupert. . .the long wait for Rupert to wake up after I killed him. . .all of it. Angel tells me that he can sense the unfettered thoughts of Angelus hiding along the edges of his consciousness at times: taunting him, desperate to take control. I have had no such experiences. Oh, I'll have the occasional violent urge when I am crossed, and I have to be careful to eat well, or the craving for forbidden human blood comes to the fore, making me seriously cranky. But there is no sense of rebellion within: the demon seems content.

That contentment is the nexus of my own discontent. My vampire self, unfettered by conscience, chose to turn Rupert rather than to kill him outright, not just for the sake of his assistance, but because she loved him. This had been a fact that I was unwilling to fully accept for a long time, but I have become resigned to its truth: the emotion is too clear in those memories to doubt their veracity. Angel agrees that she was a strange vampire from the beginning: her amazingly quick grasp of the situation and ability to improvise a solution to her problems, the odd precognitive abilities passed on from Dru, and a capacity to feel love. A chill goes down my spine as I wonder: did she know on some subconscious level all along that things were going to turn out badly for her no matter what she did. . .that half a loaf was better than none? She knew about the curse and its potential uses as well as anyone. . .Goddess, did she turn Rupert not for her own sake, but for mine? I can't know, and-even if she's in there somewhere listening to my anguished thoughts-I don't think she does either. I have to live with the guilt without even the comfort of knowing the truth one way or another.

I sip at my wine and look up to see that Angel has joined Buffy, Xander, Faith and Rupert. . . good. He seems more comfortable around Buffy these days. . .perhaps it is the knowledge that he is leaving soon and that he will not be tormented by her constant nearness and inaccessibility. I will miss him, but I understand his need to pursue his own redemption, as I pursue mine in my own way.

As I tried to tell Rupert long ago, the Computer Age is a wonderful thing. I am making far more money than I ever could have made as a teacher, and no one minds not being able to see the face of the person who designs their software. I miss teaching, the challenge of helping the less gifted students, as well as the joy of guiding the futures of the ones like Willow. . .but there's no help for it, and I can live with the lost experiences as just payment for the life that I do have.

I miss my reflection. . .funny, I never thought of myself as vain before (the unfortunate effects of Xander's love spell on me notwithstanding), but it would be nice to see how I look. Buffy and Cordelia have been kind enough to accompany me on night shopping trips a few times, and photographs still work, of course: I look exactly like what I am-a computer jockey who spends far too little time in the sun. Angel did a portrait of me in a black evening gown not long ago: Rupert raved about the contrasts of light and dark and proclaimed it a "masterpiece," causing Angel to smile and me to drag him up to our bedroom.

Rupert walks up to me and asks if I have changed my mind as a slow song starts. I have, and he reaches for my hand to help me to my feet. The light strikes the engagement ring he slipped on my finger not long ago, and tears come to my eyes for a moment before I blink them away. We begin to dance, and my thoughts, as often they do, return to him.

The change, if possible, has altered his personality even less than mine has been. With a few changes, he has managed to keep his priorities as they have been: serving as Buffy and Faith's Watcher, fighting evil. . .and making me happy. The more ferocious side of his personality pops up more now, particularly in fights, but we've all known for a long time now that that was always part of him, and he has made it a strength, rather than the shameful secret he saw it as not long ago.

I rest my head on his shoulder and ponder the future. My precognitive senses remain mockingly silent: I have no real sense of what may happen next, and I am not yet truly content. But for the moment, this will do. I clasp hands with Rupert as the last bars of the song die out, then we turn to join our waiting friends.

Tonight is for celebration. . .everything else can wait.




As always, comments are welcome and desired.