I own nothing. Just playing.
Anyone who says he can see through women is missing a lot.
When I awoke, I shaved, showered, and dressed, choosing gray trousers and a deep blue button-down shirt that Hermione had bought me for Christmas. It was the nicest outfit I owned and I managed to look rather professional in it, but still very approachable. I even spent a few extra moments on my hair, mindful that I would shortly see my betrothed. It made me feel giddy, a feeling I hadn't had since I was a carefree child.
I whistled as I went downstairs, intent on grabbing some food before work, and was greeted by the sight of Hermione and Sirius, dressed as well, waiting for me.
Hermione gave me a tremulous smile, clearly wanting to make up for her slightly less than enthusiastic reaction to my pending nuptials. "We thought perhaps we'd all go to breakfast this morning," she said with a quick glance at Sirius. Apparently this was HIS master plan. "You have time before you have to be at work."
I sighed. I'd been hoping to get to the Council building early enough not only to explore, but to have a few moments alone with my soon to be wife. But my friends were important to me, always had been, so I reluctantly agreed.
After a hearty breakfast in Diagon Alley, we stood before the Council building. It was a massive brick building with a small bronze plaque next to the door that read "Royal Watcher's Council." I stood in front of the doors, Sirius and his young wife behind me, and my breakfast a hard, hot ball in my guts. I turned to them with a nervous smile. "Well," I said unnecessarily. "This is it."
Sirius looked like he was about to reply, when a frenzied commotion broke out across the street. A row of cars parked on the other side of the street blocked our view of the goings on.
"Wait up, B!" a voice shouted.
"No way!" another returned. "I'm already late."
Suddenly, Buffy appeared between two vehicles and began running across the street, darting in and out of the morning traffic. She emerged on our side unscathed, not twelve feet from where we stood. "Come on, Faith! You're a hot chick with superpowers! You aren't scared, are you? Hurry up!"
A dark haired girl, younger than Buffy, ran out into the street, almost getting hit several times, but after some split-second dodges and fancy twirls, she stood next to the blonde, panting.
"God, Faith, I had no idea you were so out of shape," Buffy said with a teasing grin. "Clearly you haven't been training enough."
"I've been workin' out," the dark haired woman protested.
"And how is Robin?" my fiancé returned with a smirk.
Faith sneered at her. "Least I'm not marryin' some guy I don't even know. What if the sex is bad? And I don't mean 'Spike on an off day' bad. I mean 'Andrew in heat' bad."
Sirius and I exchanged amused grins while Hermione looked scandalized. The girls were still facing away from us, oblivious to our presence. It was then I realized my oldest friend had cast a do-not-notice-me charm on all of us, just so we could listen in. Cheeky bastard.
"Honestly," Buffy was saying as they slowly meandered towards the giant glass doors, "I really like him, Faith, so I don't care."
The dark haired girl pretended to choke. "Excuse me," she said after a moment. "I think I had some sentimentality stuck in my throat."
Buffy rolled her eyes. "I just mean I would have liked him regardless of the Marriage Law."
"Whatever," Faith said as she pulled open the door. "Is he hot? No! Wait! Better question! Whose gonna be the one to tell Angel you're gettin' married?"
Their conversation trailed off as they disappeared into the building and I felt Sirius remove the spell.
"That's her?" Sirius demanded. "Bloody hell! She's…"
"Odd?" Hermione ventured, disapproval in her eyes. "The way she and her…friend darted through traffic? That's so irresponsible. They could have been killed."
"They're Slayers, Hermione," I said quietly. "To have that much power all the time? They probably have to find random ways to exert it. I'm sure they weren't in any real danger."
She fell silent to think about what I had said, and Sirius took the opportunity to sidle up close to me. "Moony, she's bloody gorgeous," he informed me, as if I hadn't noticed before. "And a Slayer. Strong and…flexible."
"Alright," I said with a chuckle. "I've delayed long enough. See you after work." I strode through the doors without a backward glance.
A large wooden desk sat in the middle of the lobby. A mousy brunette sat behind it, chatting amiably with a pale redhead standing near. They both looked up at my approach and I felt the nervousness set in again.
"Mr. Lupin?" the redhead asked.
"Yes," I answered. "Remus Lupin." I held out my hand and she shook it with a wide smile.
"I'm Willow Rosenburg. I teach our magically inclined girls Wiccan techniques to help them with the slayage!" she exclaimed as she led me towards elevators at the back of the cavernous lobby.
"This is a school?" I asked in amazement. Of course, I was used to schools, looking like castles, but this looked like a giant office building fit to house a law firm, not an education facility for Vampire Slayers.
Willow just smiled at me. "Yes, the first floor is the lobby, and there are a couple of conference rooms for meeting with…you know…non-Council type people. It doesn't happen often, but often enough that Giles thought there should be a few rooms set aside for it." She pushed the button for the fifth floor. "Levels two through five are classrooms. The rooms used to be corporate offices, but we've had them all converted."
The elevator doors opened on a hall filled with doors and loitering girls. They paid us no mind, standing and talking loudly. At the end of the hallway, where none of the young slayers were congregating, one of the doors was flung open and a blonde head poked out.
"Get to class!" Buffy yelled down the hall. "And if you don't have class, go somewhere else! Anywhere else! Just not here." The door slammed shut and silence reigned for a few moments before the girls moved, shooting furious glares over their shoulders at the end of the hall. I smiled as they filed past us, remembering teaching with Severus Snape, and how he had much the same effect.
As the girls stood in line for the elevator, giving me coy looks from under their lashes, Willow pushed us forward down the hall. She stopped in front of the door across from Buffy's.
"This is going to be your classroom," she said, opening the wooden portal and ushering me inside. "It's a little spare at the moment, so you can do whatever you want with it."
The room was a little plain, with a few dark wood tables, four chairs each, facing a large desk. Plush green carpet covered the floor, and the walls were a stark white.
I pulled my wand and, as the young woman watched, I changed the colors of the walls to a muted cream and the tone of the carpet to a deep red. I transfigured the beat up chair at the desk to a much newer and more padded model, and then I enlarged the books and charts I had in my pocket, depositing them on the nearest table. After conjuring some bookcases, spelling the books into them, and directing the charts and diagrams to hang at various places in the walls, I sat back in the desk chair to admire my handiwork. It looked and felt more like the classroom I had occupied at Hogwarts, and I was supremely satisfied.
"When Buffy and Giles said you were a wizard," Willow said in awe, "I'm not sure I believed them. But you really are!" She walked around the room, carefully running her fingers over the bookcases I had created. "And you're really going to…marry Buffy?" She chewed her lip at the end of the question, as though she was nervous about my answer.
"Yes," I replied simply.
"She really likes you, you know," she commented idly as she intently studied my werewolf diagram, all stretched out like DaVinci's Vitruvian Man. "And she's had a whole lot of bad relationships. So, as a friendly disclaimer between colleagues, if you hurt her, I will destroy you, and even your wand and all your wizardy powers won't save you."
I could feel the power pouring off the innocent looking young woman in waves and I knew that she irrevocably meant what she said.
"Noted," I said with a smile. "And I'd never try to hurt her. I rather fancy her as well and…" I trailed off, unable to explain to the woman I had only just met that I thought perhaps it was fate that I had met Buffy. That all of this was supposed to happen, since I hardly believed in such things myself and I didn't want Willow, my betrothed's friend, to think me mad.
She turned and smiled at me. "Good. Now, let's go get you up to Giles' office so you can discuss a class schedule."
As we headed back into the hall, I noticed Buffy's door stood open and her class was gone. Willow noticed my lingering stare and grinned knowingly at me as we got into the elevator.
She pushed one of the buttons and the doors slid shut, but the contraption stayed put. She pulled a key ring from her pocket, inserted a small silver key into a hole next to the button panel, turned it quickly, and the elevator began to ascend to the upper levels.
"To reach the top floor, you have to have a key. It's where all the Scoobies' offices are, and where the library is too. We don't let just anyone go up here." She pulled another silver key from the recesses of her pocket. "This one's yours."
I took it, turning it over and over in my hand, knowing it was a corporeal reminder of the trust they were pacing in me, an outsider. But one thing she had said was niggling at my brain. "What's a Scooby?" I asked.
The elevator doors slid soundlessly ajar and I followed the redhead as she answered.
"The original Sunnydale four. Xander, Buffy, Giles, and myself." There were only five doors in the hallway, and she pointed to them as we passed. "The whole left side of this floor is the library. Giles says you're welcome to use it at any time, and if it's lacking…well…it's mostly vampire and demon lore. Not much on the magical creature front. So let us know what books it needs, and we'll get them. That back there," she said, gesturing towards the first door we had passed on the right, "is my office. That one," indicating the next door, "is Xander's. You haven't met him yet, but if you're going to be with Buffy, you'll meet him soon enough. That one there is Buffy's office, and this one is Giles'."
The door at the end of the hall. There was a brass nameplate on it, proclaiming "Rupert Giles" to anyone close enough to read it. Voices came from inside. I recognized a few as Faith, Giles, and Buffy, my heart beating a little faster when I heard her tones. There was one male voice I didn't recognize, and I was almost sure that the young, American baritone was going to be Xander.
"What do you mean 'Spike's alive'?" I heard Buffy demand.
"Oh, goddess," Willow breathed, eyes wide. She shoved the door open and scurried in, not sparing me a second glance.
I followed her, although I wasn't even sure what was being talked about or what was going on. I quietly shut the door behind me and surveyed the scene.
Giles stood stiffly behind his desk, casting worried glances at Buffy, who was standing in shock, eyes like saucers and mouth hanging open. Next to her, jaw set and lips compressed in a firm, white line, was a dark haired young man with an eye patch that I had never before seen. From the way Willow and Buffy were both leaning towards him, unconsciously seeking his support, I knew it was Xander.
I moved up behind them, laying a gentle hand on my fiancé's shoulder. "Buffy?" I whispered. "What's wrong, luv?"
She turned and launched herself at me, burying her face in my chest, and wrapping her arms around my middle. She trembled violently and I enveloped her in my embrace, afraid she might collapse to the ground if I didn't do something. After a moment, I picked her up and sat in one of the wingback chairs before Giles' desk, cradling Buffy in my lap as she burrowed her face into my neck I smoothed a hand through her hair, listening intently for the sound of sobs. But there was no noise. And the air was devoid of the salty tang that always accompanies tears.
I looked around at the others in the room, waiting for answers should I be entitled to them. Willow and Faith watched me with wide grins, despite the circumstances. Giles, too, looked tenderly at us, although his eyes still betrayed the apprehension brought on by whatever was discussed in the office before my arrival. Xander watched me with a carefully schooled blank mask. I had no bloody clue how he felt.
"He's alive," Buffy whispered into my neck. "He's alive and he didn't even tell me."
It was Giles that quietly explained to me who Spike was and what he meant to Buffy. I felt my heart and stomach clench at his words. Was I to lose her already? To a vampire that had saved the world? Would she forget about me, the man she had met and become engaged to less than twenty four hour before, to find someone that Giles claimed she said "would always have a place in her heart" when I had no idea if she felt anything for me at all?
The panic must have shown on my face because suddenly Willow was there, placing a gentle hand on my shoulder in a show of silent support. I felt slightly mollified that I had the support of Buffy's best friend, but Buffy herself had said nothing to ease my fears.
And then I realized that she needn't at all. I had no right to…anything from this amazing woman. She deserved happiness, and if she could find it with this…vampire, who was I to stand in her way?
"Buffy," I whispered to her, "if you want to go to Los Angeles to be with Spike, I'll understand."
"What?" she shrieked, flinging herself into a sitting position so quickly, she smacked her head on my chin on her way up. I rubbed the abused line of my jaw as I looked at her.
"Sorry," she mumbled sheepishly. "But you want to get rid of me now? Already? Usually a guy waits a few months before he decides he knows what's best for me and takes off."
"Wait…what?" I stammered. I went back over my statement in my head, trying to find the point where she could have possibly gleaned that I didn't want her. "I'm trying to say that I'll understand if you choose to leave and forget about our engagement, not that I want you to. I was trying to give you an escape if you wished to be with Spike because I care about you and want you to be happy," I said with a smile. "Believe me when I say I want to marry you, Buffy. And would even if there wasn't a marriage law."
She blinked at me a moment and then her face split into a huge grin. Then she readjusted herself on my lap until she was straddling my knees, leaned down, and kissed me.
Now, I've kissed women before. Not a lot, but I have. And this kiss left them all in the dust.