Disclaimer: I don't own Buffy or Spike. I could wish otherwise, but it wouldn't help. I'm only borrowing Buffy for this story, and Spike's only mentioned in passing. Moira, however, is all mine!
Written as a thank you/birthday gift for my usual beta. In order to keep it as a surprise, it was beta'ed by TalesofSpike and Zanthine Girl, to whom I'm grateful. This takes place during the timescale of The Rest of My Life, shortly after Buffy's arrival in Glasgow. She's met and spoken to Spike, but the two of them haven't come to any conclusions as regards their future. It's written from Buffy's point of view.
We sit at Moira's kitchen table drinking tea. Dawn's still in bed – there seems to be no limit to the length of time she can sleep in one go. There's a pulse in Moira's life which is punctuated by the drinking of tea, and I've become immersed in it since we arrived here. It's a good thing – it gives a structure to everyday things and makes me feel at home even though the environment is alien in many ways.
"So, have you forgiven me yet?" she asks.
"Forgiven? For what?"
"For bringing you up here under false pretences."
I think for a moment before answering. "Well, you did what you thought was right, and I'm glad you did it, so I don't think there's anything to forgive."
"I'm not sure Spike sees it that way." She looks almost bereft at that, as if losing Spike's regard would sadden her.
"He'll come round – especially once he's convinced that I'm not going to stake him."
"I don't think it's you staking him he's afraid of. He's more concerned you'll hurt him in other ways, and if you do, you've got to know that I'll be wanting a wee word about that."
Of course she's right. The least of Spike's fears is that I'm going to stake him. And Moira 'wanting a wee word' is scarier than it has any right to sound.
"If it makes you feel better, I know how much I hurt him in the past and I'm not planning on doing it again. That doesn't mean I know what's going to happen between us – I'd like for us to at least be friends, but we'll have to wait and see, I suppose."
She nods silently at that – a nod of approval that curiously means a lot to me.
"So," I say, keen to change the subject. "What about you? I've seen photos of you and a handsome young man. Your husband?"
She smiles at that. "Yes, my Duncan . He was a good-looking man, wasn't he?"
She gets up and leaves the room, returning a moment later with a framed photo I noticed in her living room yesterday. It shows the two of them, her looking unmistakeable despite the elapsed time, and him, smart in a suit, looking at one another and so very happy.
"This was taken on our wedding day, just before we left for our honeymoon. That was a week in Inverness , but the place didn't matter at all."
She gives a mischievous grin at that, and I almost blush at what she's implying.
"So, how did you meet him?"
"Ah, now there's a story about that – a story of family fallings-out. Are you sure you want to hear it?"
"Of course I am. So, what happened?"
She takes a deep breath and seems to be thinking for a moment, perhaps deciding where to start.
"A bit of background first. My family had always had money, although changing social circumstances meant we weren't at the top of the social pile any more. But in those days it was seen as important for money to marry money. My father had other ideas – he married for love."
There's a look in her eyes then, and a small smile that shows her complete approval of her father's choice.
"My father had an older sister, Margot, and she married a very wealthy Edinburgh man, but neither of them approved of my mother – there was always an air about her – the magic, I suppose - although if they knew about her abilities, they never mentioned it. And, of course, her family didn't have money. They weren't destitute or anything, but they lived in a much simpler way. Her father worked in the shipyards, and her mother, well, she advised people. She had a talent for reading people – motives and feelings, and she used it. From what I hear, she was both feared and admired by a lot of people in her neighbourhood. Of course, there were those who muttered about witches, but for the most part, I think her inherent goodness and the way she helped people who couldn't afford to pay her anything, protected her from the worst of the jibes."
"Anyway, when I was eighteen, my Aunt Margot and Uncle James decided to invite me to stay with them for a while. We didn't know why at the time, although I suspect it was some sort of attempt by my aunt to 'save me' from my mother's influence by showing me how other people lived. I think she thought the social whirl in Edinburgh would be enough to win me over. Anyway, my father thought it would be a good idea for me to mix with my cousins – especially since we had so little contact with any other family. He wanted me to go to university and I wanted to study magic. My mother had been had 'discovered' by a local coven which had links with the one in Devon; she had studied with them for a while, and they were willing to take me. It's not that he disapproved of the magic – he loved my mother too much for that – it was more that he saw that it wasn't an easy life and he didn't want that for me. In some ways, his motivation was similar to my aunt's – that if I was shown something different, I'd choose it. Anyway, I was packed off to Edinburgh for a few of weeks with warnings from my mother not to be obvious about my ability."
"I quickly found I had very little in common with my cousins – two girls. The younger one, Eloise was about my age, and the older one, Elspeth, was already engaged to the son of one of my uncle's partners. Both girls seemed to have nothing in their heads beyond pretty clothes and dancing, and I found them completely vacuous, as I found the various young men of their social circle. I was convinced that the time was going to be the most boring of my life, until the Friday night of the first week."
"My uncle had invited a number of people for dinner – business colleagues and their wives for the most part, but there was one other included in the party. He was a post-graduate student at Edinburgh University ; he shared his digs with the son of one of my uncle's more important customers. I already knew that Eloise thought herself in love with him, so I fully expected another bland young man, full of brash manners and confidence but with very little substance. What I found was something very different."
"He was quiet, for a start. My uncle was able to engage him in conversation, asking him about his studies in ancient languages, and he was more than able to give an opinion on various serious matters, but he made no effort to ingratiate himself with my cousin or to get involved with the inane chatter at the dinner table."
"He did spend a lot of the meal looking at me, it seemed, and after dinner, Eloise dragged me to her bedroom to let me know how cross she was about that. I pointed out that I'd done nothing to gain his attention, and she seemed mollified at that – and she decided that he must have been watching me, wondering how I could possibly be related to the rest of them. That certainly seemed likely to me. She had the sort of appearance that was very fashionable at that time – she was tall and slender and always dressed in the latest fashions. My father's family were all fair and blue-eyed, and my cousins took after their mother. I, on the other hand, was tiny and dark and didn't particularly care for the latest fashions which tended to make me look even shorter and younger than I already was."
"From then, though, I couldn't get Duncan out of my mind. I believed that my cousin was right, that he wouldn't look at me, thinking that he was, perhaps, simply waiting for Elspeth to show the first glimmer of intelligence before he showed an interest. I tried to put him out of my mind, but on the following Sunday afternoon, in a desperate attempt to escape the atmosphere of my uncle's house, I decided to walk up to the castle. While on the way, I bumped into him – quite literally. I was walking backwards, enjoying the view of the city below me, and I walked into him. Of course, it was very embarrassing, but he invited me to join him in his walk – he was going to the castle too - and I did so. I'd overheard a good deal about his studies during dinner, and we chatted about the various languages he spoke. I asked him to say something in one of them, and he did. To my amazement, it was a blessing which I recognised as one my mother used as part of certain spells. I was half-way through telling him about that when I realised that I had been warned to say nothing. Surprisingly, rather than dismissing what I said as old-wives' tales or nonsense, or the ramblings of a madwoman, he started to question me too, and before we knew it, it was dark and I was late."
"He accompanied me to my uncle's house and apologised for keeping me out. My uncle was rather annoyed at both him and me, and, I gather, that was the last time Duncan was welcomed into my uncle's house. I went home a week later, but it didn't matter, since during his year at Edinburgh , he wrote to me regularly, and since he was a Glasgow man, he visited me when he came home on holiday. By the end of that year, we were engaged, and that was that."
"My uncle and aunt refused to come to the wedding, and although my father was disappointed that I didn't go to university, he was quite content with Duncan as a son-in-law. Of course, Duncan was already committed to the Council of Watchers, and he spent a good deal of his spare time learning from my mother and me - what we knew of magic, encouraging me to make the most of my talent."
"And so we lost contact with the last of my father's family, but Duncan 's family were good people, and although they didn't pretend to understand my involvement in 'unnatural things', they did see that it had uses. His family, of course, could trace their involvement with the Council of Watchers back many generations. And with my background, the whole introduction to vampires and demons was a lot easier than it would have been."
She pauses then, smiling, and I imagine her thinking back over her life.
"You were happy, then?"
"Duncan and I were very happy. Oh, we had rows. You should have heard some of the rows we had! Most of them were about one or the other of us taking risks. We were both quite hard-headed and liked to get our own way. And the best thing about rows is making up afterwards, isn't it?" Again with the mischievous smile, but this time it's followed by a deep sigh. "You know? Right now, I'd give anything to have a row with him."
Her eyes are moist for a moment, but then she gets up quickly and goes to the kettle.
"My tea's cold. I'm going to make some fresh. Do you want some?"
And she's back to her old self again, bustling around the kitchen.