I know I have told some of you that I was going to stay away from the fanfiction and concentrate on my original stuff, but, what can I say? As the saying goes, you can't keep a good villain down.
Some of the characters are mine, but most, along with the groundwork was laid by the great and powerful Joss Whedon.
I'll Be Seeing You
Michael Goodhue had worked successfully if unspectacularly at Wolfram and Hart for a number of years now. His job was in the archives, which no one tended to notice unless something was out of place. He was good-looking, but not outstandingly so, the sort of person who could blend so completely into a crowd as to be nearly invisible.
On the whole, Michael preferred anonymity. He did his job competently, but never gave the extra effort that might mean a promotion, and thereby more responsibility. He had found his niche, and was content, if not happy.
Today, he was not in the paper archives, but the vaults, where were stored all sorts of talismans and spelled objects. It had been expanded considerably since Angel's tenure as CEO, because he insisted that all the truly dangerous things be locked away.
Michael had been doing inventory on these objects on a regular basis for years now, and he had no particular interest in them other than that they were where they were supposed to be, so how it was that this particular item caught his eye when he'd been checking it off his list for years, he couldn't say. But this time, prodded by an uncharacteristic burst of curiosity, he picked it up.
It was a bottle, about the size that would hold a quart, if it had contained fluid, and was made of what seemed to be, but probably wasn't glass.
There seemed to be someone, or something, inside it, and the most curious thing was that he, it, or whatever, seemed also to be alive.
Michael frowned. There was nothing resembling a cork, a lid or anything of that nature, so what kept the thing in there when it so obviously wanted out? Almost as if the creature could read his thoughts, Michael heard a murmuring coming from the container. He pressed his ear to the opening in an effort to hear better.
A string of nonsense words were whispered into his ear. A pause, then they were repeated. Michael murmured them back.
"Thank you, my unwitting friend." He patted the bottle almost affectionately. "I'm afraid I don't grant wishes, though. All I can give you is the prison cell they locked me in." He set the bottle down and smiled, and if anyone had been observing, they would have said that it no longer looked like Michael Goodhue, like his body had been taken over by someone else.
And they would have been right.
"Michael" as he would have to accustom himself to being called, finished out his day at work in the normal fashion. He had a number of things to do to set his plans in motion, and until he was ready to do so, he would remain inconspicuous. It was a tedious, tiresome job, but not difficult, especially with the knowledge he had ruthlessly wrested from the real Michael Goodhue's mind as the exchange was made.
He searched the other memories as well, who Goodhue had known, and how well he had known them. The people he worked with on a day to day basis. But there was on person he searched for in those memories more than any other, sure that once met, she could not be forgotten.
"Hey Mum, have you seen my homework?"
Rose sighed. She thought the children were supposed to be the ones who dreaded schooldays. "Where did you have it last?" she inquired, making an effort to keep any sign of irritation out of her voice.
"Well..," Alaric scowled, trying to recall. "Last time I saw it was when I was doing it."
"Which was where?" Rose prompted gently, feeling a sudden desire to shake her beloved son until his teeth rattled.
"Derek's house," Alaric answered instantly. "While we were waiting for the rest of the guys to show up so we could practice the new song."
Before Rose could state the amazingly obvious, Alaric's cell phone rang.
"Yeah," he answered inelegantly. "Really? Cool. Meet me outside the gym with it, ok? Thanks, man."
"Let me guess," Rose said dryly. "That was Derek saying he had your homework."
"Thought I was supposed to be the mind reader," her son retorted, unabashed. "Is my lunch ready, Mum? I've got to get going." He gave her a quick peck in the general vicinity of her cheek in passing.
"On the counter," Rose replied wearily. She stiffened her spine. After all, that had only been Act I.
Ariel breezed into the kitchen, grabbed a mug of blood and bolted it down without even warming it up. She made a face.
"Ariel, darling, it only takes a few seconds to warm it up in the microwave," Rose pointed out.
"Seconds count." Ariel grimaced. "Did you sign my field trip permission slip? And have you got the money?"
"Yes, and yes." Rose handed over the required items. "You'd better hurry then, dear. Alaric is already on his way down. He has to meet Derek to get his homework."
Ariel shook her head. "It's a good thing his head's attached," she declared. Then she too, made her exit.
"Coast clear?" Spike's head appeared in the doorway. Early in the school year it had been deemed that it would be best for all concerned if Spike and his temper were not thrown into the before school chaos.
"Yes, love." Rose sank into a chair with a huge mug of coffee. The mug had been meant as a gag gift, but Rose had been delighted with it, and insisted on using it, even though it was so large that it nearly eclipsed her face when she took a sip.
Spike leaned down and kissed the top of her head. "You look half done in already, pet, and the day not really started."
Rose gave him a wan smile. "I can relax when I get to my dusty research," she commented. "The pace is certainly less hectic than getting the children off to school."
Spike frowned. "They're thirteen years old," he stated unnecessarily. "They ought to be old enough to get their stuff together and get ready for school without running you ragged."
"Well, they did just start school a few months ago," Rose remarked, reluctant to admit that that particular sentiment had already occurred to her. "Maybe when they've had a little more time to acclimate."
Spike cocked his head and looked deeply into her eyes, sure that there were currents running below what was visible on the surface. "You'll have to cut the apron strings someday, babe," he said softly. "They're growing up, and there's nothing either of us can do about it." A glimpse of insight seemed to hit him, and he went around the table and wrapped his arms around her, pulling her out of her seat and into his embrace. "You're afraid that they won't need you anymore, aren't you, luv?"
Rose neither confirmed or denied the analysis, trying to conceal a sniffle.
Spike cuddled her closer. "Nothing will ever change the fact that you're their mum," he declared softly. "And maybe someday they won't need either of us anymore. But if we live until the end of the universe, I'll always need you."
He was answered by an audible sniffle and Rose snuggling, as impossible as it might appear, even closer.
Before things could get much more maudlin, or Rose could finally settle down to her own breakfast, the phone rang. With a sigh, she lifted herself away from the chair that her bottom had almost made contact with.
"Hello," she said with some trepidation, phone calls so often having been ill omens in the past.
"Sorry, Mum, it's just me," came her firstborn's voice. "I forgot to tell you, I'll be going to Derek's again after school today. Could you arrange for someone to pick me up?"
"All right," Rose agreed. "And Alaric, darling? Try not to leave your homework there tonight."
She had barely returned the phone to its cradle when it rang again. This, was actually starting to become routine, and Rose idly wondered if all adolescents were so absent minded.
"I forgot to tell you, Mummy." This time, of course, it was Ariel. "There's cheerleader tryouts after school tonight, and I was wondering..,"
"Cheerleading?" Rose had assimilated so well to being a human that most people forgot she hadn't always been one. But now, since her children had started high school, the confusion level was almost as bad as it had been when she had first worn a human body.
"Cheerleading?" Even in the kitchen, Spike heard and now he broke the let Rose handle it rule, seeing as how she was in foreign territory. "There is absolutely no way in bleeding hell that my daughter is going to be prancing around in front of a bunch of horny teenage boys in a skirt that leaves half her bum hanging out."
Rose, hoping Ariel hadn't caught it all, replied, "We can discuss it this evening, dear." She figured that would give Spike time to cool down and explain things to her.
"But the tryouts are today," Ariel wailed. "This is my only chance."
"Then perhaps," Rose answered, evenly but firmly, "missing the opportunity will remind you not to leave everything until the last minute." A trace of the irritation she'd been keeping a rein on began to become noticeable. "Really, Ariel, you can't expect us to make decisions like this on the spur of the moment all the time." Amidst her daughter's sputtering protests, Rose hung up the phone before she lost her temper and started sounding like Spike.
Alaric saw the expression on his sister's face and held out his hand. "Pay up," he said smugly. "I knew Dad would never fall for it."
"I knew that," Ariel replied, slipping a bill into her twin's hand. "But I thought I could get Mummy to okay it before Daddy had time to find out."
Alaric shook his head. "I still think that you'd have been better off working up to it gradually," he remarked. "Did you really want to that bad?"
Ariel shrugged. "I don't know, for sure. Maybe just to see if they're ready to start letting me make my own decisions."
Alaric cocked his head at her in a gesture that made him almost indistinguishable from Spike. "Are you sure you just don't want bunches of guys asking you on dates so you can try to forget that you're going to be stuck with Lindsey?"
"Good morning, Rose," Wesley greeted her automatically. Then, he really looked at her. "Good grief, we haven't even started working yet, and you look nearly done in."
Rose smile feebly. "Remember how I once said that what applied to normal children went double for Alaric and Ariel?" When her supervisor nodded, she went on. "And have you heard the phrase, 'just wait until they're teenagers'?"
"Is it really that bad?" he inquired, trying to inject a note of sympathy into his voice. "They're not bad kids, Rose."
"I never said they were," Rose replied, a bit defensively. "But it seems that since school started, they can't keep more than one thought in their heads at a time. If that. It's been almost two weeks since I haven't had both of them calling me from the lobby, or on their way to school about something they forgot." She sighed heavily. "It's just that from the moment they get up until they actually start school, it's all rush, rush, rush at the last possible moment."
Wesley nodded, seeing if not the whole picture now, then at least, most of it. "Have you ever thought of taking a personal day just to have some time to yourself, Rose?"
There was a mental argument going on as the twins started off to their first classes. They had early on decided to present a united front to society at large. Or, at least, the rest of the student body.
'I never said I was trying to forget about Lindsey,'
'I wouldn't blame you if you did,' Alaric retorted. 'I don't know what the 'aunts and uncles' were thinking about saddling you with him.'
'I'm sure we'll find out when they're ready for us to know,' Ariel replied frostily. 'Besides, he's sweet.'
'He's one of the bad guys,' Alaric pointed out.
'Used to be,' Ariel corrected him. 'He hasn't done anything bad in years now.'
'Only because Uncle Angel keeps an eye on him and doesn't give him any choice.'
'How do you know he wouldn't behave on his own?' Ariel demanded.
'Why are you so busy defending a guy that you're pissed off about being stuck with for the rest of eternity?' Having planted his final barb, Alaric ducked into his first period class.
Music wafted, and sometimes blared, through the entire Powers residence. Rose had simply filled the slots on the cd player with whatever had come to hand.
Right now, all that could be seen of Rose, had there been anyone there to look, were her hands, which held a book, and her head. Everything else was buried in a veritable avalanche of bubbles.
Rose was practically in heaven. She wondered why no one had told her about personal days before. Much as she loved Spike and the children, she hadn't really realized that she needed a little time to herself occasionally. She might have to make a point of doing this on a regular basis, she thought, reaching for her cooling coffee. She sighed. If there were just some way she could go to sleep here without fear of slipping down into the water and drowning, it would be perfect.
"Michael Goodhue" frowned mentally, although he took pains not to let the expression reach his face. He had made a special effort to find a plausible excuse to come to research only to find that Rose wasn't here. And he did not dare make it obvious that he was looking for her or in any way doing anything other than his job.
"Thank you, Mr. Goodhue," Wyndham-Pryce was saying. "I'll see that Rose gets those materials first thing when she arrives tomorrow morning. Luckily, her current project isn't a critical one. It can wait until she gets back."
"I hope she's not under the weather," "Goodhue" ventured tentatively. It was in keeping with the man's character.
Wesley smiled. "Not at all. She's just taking a personal day." He did not elaborate, so the reason for the smile was not apparent.
"Michael" seethed inwardly, but left. He just wasted a chance that only occurred a few times a month and had come up with empty hands, so to speak. He glanced at the time and the look of consternation was replaced by an evil smile. Lunch time. His own time. He could do as he pleased.
He was pleased to find out what Rose was up to.
Rose considered what to do with her book, and upon careful consideration, she tossed it gently to the other side of the bathroom. She didn't want to drip on it. Then, she pulled the plug, letting the now-tepid water gurgle down the drain. She made no move to dry off or leave the tub just yet, though. She was going to need a quick shower to rinse off the extravagant amount of bubbles, many of which were still clinging to her, or slithering down her body.
She started to draw the shower curtain when something made her freeze. She stood for a moment, all senses on the alert. She couldn't decisively tell that anything was wrong. Maybe she was just edgy about being alone. No sooner than the thought had occurred, when an unseen hand caressed her cheek.