Vampire Stories, story 3
BtVS / Buffy/Willow/Xander
Summery: There are some who know what happened. There are some who have also been betrayed. Enter Giles, Jenny and Cordelia.
Intervention, part 5.
Disclaimers and warnings are listed in part 1 and still apply.
It was well into night in Cleveland when Jenny arrived. She paid the cab driver and stepped nervously onto the sidewalk in front of the Sunny Hills apartments. Ridiculous name considering it was located downtown, in the flats, and the humid summer night gave her the feeling of being trapped in an oppressive closed in cave. 'Or grave,' she mentally corrected herself. She stopped at the locked front door, trapped by her own fears and staring at the call button next to the name Rupert Giles. The sound of someone coming down the entry stairwell on the other side of the door shook her out of her frozen state and she quickly backed down the stairs and to the side, out of the way. Her breath caught as she watched a tall man exit the building and start down the sidewalk away from her. 'Rupert.' She watched, stunned and mute as he started to fade from her sight. "Way to show some courage, girl," she muttered to herself. Trusting her snap decision to follow him, she quickly started down the sidewalk.
Jenny watched as the man entered a pub and she stopped just outside the windows to peer inside. The pub was empty and she could easily see Giles sit on a stool at the bar and motion to the bartender. A sudden flash of panic crossed her mind as she realized he could be here to meet someone, a female someone. She stayed at the window, waiting. He was older, Jenny realized. Gray has started to show in his hair, he moved slower and with greater caution. A loose, casual, button down shirt was left un-tucked over blue jeans. He sat hunched over the bar, head down as he nursed his drink. If she didn't know him anywhere, she wouldn't have recognized him at all.
Jenny noticed he never looked to the door or glanced at his watch. The bartender moved as if this was routine. She guessed it was. He held himself like a man who had lost everything. Maybe he knew what had happened to Buffy and the others. Maybe she could be one lost thing he could have back. Maybe, in the face of the evidence of so much time passed, it was long too late. A mental tug o' war started as she watched him. She needed life, needed him. If she was rejected, she would be on the next plane to Seattle and the death she was bonded to and admittedly belonged with. She wrapped tight around her fears the thin hope of love. 'A fool's errand,' her mind chided her. 'Then a fool for love,' she mentally countered and taking a deep breath, entered the pub.
Jenny slowly and silently approached Giles, wary of frightening him and terrified for herself. She stopped just in front of the stool beside his and quietly spoke. "Hi."
Giles turned, his face registering surprise before carefully slipping into an indifferent mask. He turned back to his drink. "I suppose you're here to let me know that we couldn't really kill you off."
Jenny's breath caught, she thought she felt her heart stop. "What?... Rupert... I..."
Giles calmly started through the motions of continuing to nurse his drink. "You needn't have bothered. And don't you dare try and gloat. I can see through that bluff. Of course you live on, in our hearts and so you appear as loved ones, but I am just as certain you suffer in defeat."
Jenny's mind was swimming and she felt faint. Quickly, she took a seat and willed the tears not to start. She gazed at his profile for understanding. "Rupert, please, I can explain. I think." Impulsively and desperate for a second chance, Jenny reached over and placed her hand over his left hand, stilling his attempt to casually drink on.
Giles snatched his hand away and placed it on his chest in an effort to calm his heart. He turned to the woman seated next to him, the woman who had just touched him. "Jenny?" He shook his head and glanced at his drink, wondering just how many he had before remembering he hadn't been here that long. "It can't be." He looked up again at the woman looking just as he remembered. "Is it you?"
Jenny tried to smile. "Hi. No, wait. I already said that, and then... Rupert, yes, it's really me. It's Jenny. I know it's been a long time. I know this is sudden. I even know it's impossible, but... I'm sorry, I had to see you."
"But how?" Giles tentatively reached out and placed his hand over Jenny's. He marveled at the feel of it, turning it over and running his thumb over the palm. It was warm to his touch. The skin was soft. The returning squeeze, gentle. She was alive, in the sense of not being undead. His Jenny was alive.
Jenny closed her eyes and lowered her head a moment as she tried to swallow the pain. Raising her head slightly, she looked into Giles' eyes and couldn't help but notice the tiny lines around them. "The tribe. My own tribe. They summoned," she shook her head, "resurrected me. About a week ago, I found myself back from the dead." Seeing the dark look in his eyes, she tried to lighten the explanation. "You know Sunnydale, these things happen."
"Sunnydale's gone." Giles tone was dark and pulled his hand away to grasp his drink once again.
"Yeah, I saw that." Jenny gave him a moment to drink, to collect his thoughts. The silence began to stretch out.
"Why?" Giles asked into the silence.
"Why did I come find you? Or why did they pull me from the grave?" Jenny tried to keep her tone light. She glanced at the bartender, wondering how much of this he was overhearing.
Giles smiled tightly. "Any of it. It seems to be my question to everything in general recently."
Jenny decided to try and steer the conversation away from the specifics just yet and out of the public place altogether. "Is there somewhere more private we could go to talk?"
Giles smiled and looked around the empty pub. "Not much need really, but yes. Yes, we can go to my apartment." He stood up and left some money on the bar top. Taking Jenny's hand, he helped her to her feet as well. She held tight to his hand and grateful he seemed just as reluctant to let it go, they walked back to the apartment complex.
Jenny sat curled on the sofa, her feet tucked beneath her and her hand resting on Giles' shoulder. He sat beside her, facing her, occasionally reaching up to pull a stray strand of hair away from her face and confirm that she was really there. A couple hours had passed as Jenny told the story of how she came to be here. She left out details, skirted around the terrible news when it was discovered he did not know. 'Just one night,' she begged the fates, 'just one night. Tomorrow would be soon enough.'
"Those are powerful magics," Giles wondered aloud. "I don't understand, if they can just bring back their loved ones, why did they curse Angel?"
Jenny looked down at her lap. Angel had entered the conversation as the last clear memories she had. "They don't do this to the ones they love."
As she started to cry, Giles pulled her to him and wrapped his arms around her to hold her close. He stroked her back as she softly shook in his arms. His mind kept going over the pieces of story she gave him. He knew parts were left out. What was uncertain was how willing he was to press when all he wanted to do was be grateful she had returned. His mind kept reminding him of Buffy's own return from the dead, though; and the great consequences of keeping secrets. Feeling Jenny start to rise from his arms, Giles let her lean back only to take her hands in his own. "Jenny, I've asked, you haven't answered, I'll ask again, because I need to know... why did they bring you back?" He shushed her instant sidestep reply with a finger against her lips. "I'm grateful you're back. I'm beyond happy to see you once again. You have never left my thoughts over these years. Your death was one of my greatest pains and to hold you in my arms again... one of my most wondrous moments. Please..." he search for the right words, a winning argument, then settled for the simplest. "Please trust me."
"I do, Rupert," Jenny was so quick to reply, she almost continued with the whole truth. Instead, she pulled up a little, looked deep into his eyes, and stroked his cheek with her fingers in wonder. "I trust you. I'll tell you, everything. Not tonight. Tomorrow, I swear. But tonight... can it just be you and me tonight? Can I stay here tonight?"
Giles relented, telling himself he would hold her to her promise to tell him everything tomorrow, and letting it give him permission to give in as he wanted. "Of course, tomorrow then." He stroked the hair away from her face. "I'll sleep on the couch, you can have the bed."
Jenny didn't know whether to laugh or cry and so settled on letting her head fall back so she could stare at the ceiling. "Really not what I meant, Rupert."
Giles let his head fall shyly for a moment. He smiled warmly as Jenny brought her gaze over to his. "I know. It's just... I couldn't take advantage of you."
Jenny did laugh then and a smile softened across her features. "Take advantage of me? I'm the one that nearly shocked you into a coronary. To me, I've been alive for a week now. To you, it's been what? Three hours maybe?" She took one of his hands in her own. "I know it's not enough time to adjust. I know so much time has passed. But... Rupert, can I stay here, with you, tonight?"
"I must look like such an old man to you, now." Giles just stared into Jenny's eyes, momentarily mesmerized not just by the beauty he remembered; but by the evidence that for her, time had truly stopped.
She smiled warmly as she stroked the gray hair at his temples and took in the little lines around his eyes. "Not so old. Tired, war torn. Different," she admitted. Suddenly, she looked around the apartment. "You have no books here." He was delaying his answer, and for the moment, she would let him.
Giles glanced around his apartment himself. "Yes. They are still back home. In England."
"Home in England?" Jenny realized, of course, that he was from England, but had always thought of Sunnydale as his home.
"The family estate really." He elaborated no further, his mind still on the real question at hand.
"That's right, you left." She remembered now that part in the last few stories her tribesmen had told her. Seeing him pull back suddenly, she quickly apologized. "I'm sorry. I was only remembering, what they told me. I don't really know, wasn't there."
He smiled and felt them both relax. There was so much pain, guilt; but here, just in front of him, was a second chance. He leaned forward and brought his lips gently across hers.
Jenny didn't hesitate. She reached behind him and pulled him closer, brought her lips to his again and deepened the kiss. "Was that a yes?"
Giles smiled and rising, helped pull her to her feet and led her to his bedroom. The questions and the consequences could wait until morning.
It was like a dream. Just like the many dreams he had over the years before morning and regrets stole the sensations from him. He slowly rocked inside her, lightly ran his lips over hers, down her neck, across her ear. He could smell the sweet perfume of her shampoo, hear his whispered name in his ear; there were details now, clearer than just another one of his dreams. Still, it didn't seem real, even as they climaxed and lay sated and snuggled together. They had both craved peace more than passion and the whole night remained as dazed as any of his dreams.
Half asleep and needing the bathroom, Giles got out of the bed for a moment. Returning, the street light cast a dim glow over the bed. He saw her then. Laid out on the bed, the sheet tangled near her feet, head bent to the side. He cried out, gasped, closed his eyes and reached for the door frame for support.
Jenny startled awake at the sound. She looked around, first for her bearings, then for Giles; and finally, out of returned habit, for monsters. She eventually found Giles across the room near the door. "Rupert, what's wrong?"
He gasped again and opened his eyes at her words. He shook his head and glanced up again, watching as she moved, sat up, her naked body fully revealed out of the shadows. "You're alive." He brought his hand through his hair and tried to calm down. "You were laying there, on the bed, and..."
"It's okay, I'm alive. Remember?" Jenny was confused.
"No, he left you there, he..." Giles' mind was filled with memories more vivid than reality.
"Who, Rupert?" Jenny was really starting to be scared now.
"Angel, Angelus." Giles took a deep breath and seeing the fear in Jenny's eyes, summoned all his courage to cross the room and sit next to her on the bed. Reminding himself that it was in the past, he took Jenny's hand in his own and kissed it, hoping to relieve her fear. "I'm sorry. It's just... When Angelus killed you," he swallowed a lump in his throat and continued. "He brought your body to my apartment and laid you on the bed. When I got home, there was music playing, champagne, roses... red roses trailed up the staircase, candles lit, and a note." Giles closed his eyes and clenched his jaw at the memory. "That's how I found you," he whispered. He looked back into Jenny's eyes. "So when I saw you asleep..."
"Oh, Rupert," Jenny pulled him into a hug and held him close. "I'm sorry. I didn't know. I didn't know."
When Giles started gently sobbing, they both pulled each other down to lay on the bed. Jenny held him, stroking his back, lightly rocking him, until the tears ended. "I didn't know," whispered over and over. So much had happened to them all since she passed out of the tales. There was so much she didn't know.
* * * * * * * * *
"Hi honey, we're home," Buffy called out as she entered the second floor of the building and their new living space. Willow followed, moving into the center of the still empty room and setting down some bags. Buffy kicked the door closed and set down her own burdens. They both looked over the space. It was cleaner, warmer than before. Heavy curtains hung closed over the large window. All the others near the ceiling were bricked over. The wood floor had a polished shine, the few non brick walls cleaned with a fresh coat of paint. "Look! My kitchen." Buffy excitedly hopped over to the back area and started peeking through the still empty cupboards.
"He couldn't be hiding. There's no place to hide yet." Willow curiously scanned the room again. She noticed Buffy's smirk and followed Buffy's look up to the lofted bedroom. Xander stood at the glass wall, smiling down at them.
"I don't think he's so much hiding as waiting," Buffy observed.
"Well, we haven't checked out the bedroom yet," Willow considered.
"Still, smug is not something we should be encouraging. Oh..." Buffy watched as the look in Xander's eye turned from mirth to a more predatory hunger. It was a confidence now within him she couldn't help but enjoy encouraging.
Willow smiled challenging back when his gaze moved to her. "Rumor has it he did put in a nice big shower."
"And, I'm so tired of that crappy, dirty, smelly motel excuse for a bathroom." Buffy moved from behind the island counter that separated the kitchen from the rest of the room. As she passed Willow, she grabbed her hand and led her up the stairs.
Xander waited for them on the bed as they entered the loft bedroom. The space was spare but warm. A couple of dressers, a wardrobe. A low platform bed tucked in the corner against the glass walls. He had sneaked a few items over already. On one of the dressers stood a framed picture of the three of them in high school times. Buffy had snuck it onto the bus just in case. There were also some candles, the massage oil Willow had bought on a whim, some books to pass the time. Xander watched, slightly disappointed, as they crossed over to the bathroom area instead of joining him on the bed, but he smiled anyway. Deciding to give in, he rose, followed them and leaned against the door jam. He knew it would meet with their approval. There was plenty of light, storage, no mirror and he had already stocked it with their shampoos, soaps, towels, all the etceteras he could think of. "So..."
Buffy spun from her explorations and bounded into Xander's arms. "Thank you!" She covered his reply with a deep sensual kiss then pulled back and let him see the sincerity in her eyes.
"Yes, thank you." Willow joined them and gave Xander an equally promising kiss.
Xander smiled, shook his head slightly and pulled them tight against him. All day, each day, he struggled to keep hazy memories close so he could remember why they were anchoring themselves to such a human existence. Now, there was the ease of it being so clear. "Ladies do love their bathrooms."
"Ladies love a place to pamper," Buffy corrected, "women love a place to play." She pulled back and started to undress. Willow followed suit. "You've worked so hard, Xander. Wanna get cleaned up?"
Xander's grin widened and he wisely refrained from mentioning that vampires didn't sweat. Instead, his clothes joined theirs on the floor. With some flourish, he opened the shower door and gestured them inside. Indeed, as promised, it was a large shower. He started the two shower heads positioned on opposite walls, then folded down the bench seat along the back wall.
Buffy pulled him into the spray and started kissing him. Willow joined in behind them. They took turns running soap over skin, then simply ran hands seductively over each other, trading positions, partners, the hot water cascading over them from both sides. Buffy sat on the bench and pulled Xander in front of her. He watched stunned as she lowered her head and her tongue caressed the length of his cock. His jaw clenched when she lowered her lips over his cock and slid down to the base then slowly backed up. "Oh, that's easier when you don't have to breath," she smirked at the discovery. As she lowered herself again over his cock, Xander was just grateful his own lack of dependence on oxygen wouldn't allow him to pass out. He braced his hands against the wall and wished he had installed a bar over the bench to hold onto. His knees were shaking when Willow tired of watching and pulled him gently away from Buffy to sit on the bench himself.
"My turn," she informed them. Willow knelt on the bench over his lap and lowered herself onto him, followed quickly by a forceful and possessive kiss. It wasn't often they joined this way. As she started rocking to a slow dance over him, feeling him physically, not just emotionally inside her, she realized that if Buffy and her were now alright, it was past time to get honest and right with Xander.
After the shower left them with the strange combination of feeling both sated and hungry. Dressed again, they explored their new space with greater attention. Xander watched on warmly as they poked through everything, occasionally he pointed out some detail or other. "The plasma TV will hang on the wall here. And your floor to ceiling bookshelves are anchored in this corner as requested, m'lady."
"We need furniture," Buffy pointed out. "A big sofa here in front of both the TV and the window. Chairs, tables... some of this stuff you can just order online, but furniture is something you really gotta try out first."
"I know, it's hard to find a furniture store open this late," Xander quickly agreed. "Big part of the problem, if I may point out again, with trying to live like humans. You should have seen the trouble I had with materials order and delivery."
"But the shower part of human life isn't that bad, right?" Buffy was quick to counter as she wrapped him into her arms. "And we really do thank you," she added.
"We'll work it out somehow," Willow confidently asserted. "But right now, it's time for dinner. After all that sex, I'm starving."
Buffy laughed and Xander simply regarded his friend thoughtfully. Soon, they were out onto the street and in the busy nightlife part of town.
"Cruise that club again? Split up? What's the plan this time?" Xander always just let them decide. Only once so far did his hunger and passion for the night drive him to run away on his own before they could counter the idea.
"Let's grab a light snack then hit the club," Buffy quickly suggested. "I feel like dancing to celebrate."
"Okay," Willow readily agreed. Xander simply nodded his head. He slipped out down the street and into the Blues club he had found. He loved the music and there was a dark hallway that led to a side exit that led to an equally dark alley. It was becoming one of his favorite spots for the discreet. Willow shrugged at his exit and trailed off down the street herself, a quarter was pulled from her pocket and she started flipping it as she walked away. Buffy stayed in place and simply scanned the streets, confident someone would catch her eye soon.
Rumors was packed when they met up again. Buffy kept them on the dance floor for hours; mindless, worriless, happy in the experience of music and motion. Eventually, Xander managed to pull them to the bar. It was fun, but he was still restless. "I'm thinking I should split, catch up with you guys later."
Buffy smiled but wouldn't let go of his hand. "You're just weirded out by that cute guy who keeps checking your ass."
"You're just jealous he's checking out my ass instead of yours," Xander playfully countered.
"It is getting hot and crowded in here," Willow pointed out, "and that makes for horny and hungry."
Buffy eyebrows rose and Xander smiled. "Wait," Buffy stalled them before they could start away. "There's another place. I've been waiting to surprise you with it and this being a celebration night and all..." She put a small pout to her lips to seal the deal. "Come on... it's just next door." Smiling in triumph, Buffy led them out of the club and over to the Hungry Ghost.
"This will bring back the home town memories," Buffy introduced as she opened the door and led them inside. She continued over to the bar area and watched as they took in the surroundings.
Xander was the first to catch on. "A demon bar! Here?" His initial smile faltered as realization hit. He had been so focused it hadn't occurred to him that they might not be so alone in the small city.
"A small cozy club," a new voice entered from the side. "The back rooms are more the variety spice of nightlife kind of place." Jack smiled gracefully at Buffy. "You came back."
Buffy's smile was genuine in return. "And I brought friends. Guys, this is the owner, Jack. Jack, this is Alexander and Willameena." Buffy was confident they would catch on.
"It is a pleasure to meet you both." Jack courteously nodded to each in turn. "And a double pleasure that you have returned." He offered Buffy a short bow. "Please, let me buy you all a drink." Quickly, Jack motioned the bartender.
Before he realized what just happened, Xander found the bartender waiting for his order. "Ah, I'll just have whatever's good on tap. Thanks."
Willow had remained silent and more observant. So when the bartender turned to her, she was ready. "A Bloody Mary, please."
"Any particular blood type?" the bartender inquired offhandedly.
She wasn't quite that ready. "Oh, ah, no... surprise me I guess."
Buffy chuckled lightly and smiled playfully to the same cute young vamp who was tending bar before. "You remember what I like?"
He nodded and winked. "Long Sloe Comfortable Screws." He then turned to start on the orders.
"What was that about?" Xander's voice held more threat than inquiry.
Buffy smiled and leaned into him, feeling his arms wrap around her in reflex and possession. "It's a drink, silly."
"Was gonna say, not really how she likes it." Willow smirked and hoped to cut some of the sudden tension.
Jack chuckled softly at the exchange, even as his mind was keeping an acute awareness of the interactions. "And so I learn something more." He laughed at Buffy's mock outrage, but wasn't fooled. He knew she was staying just as aware of her surroundings and his reactions. This was merely a glazing of casual over the surface. As the bartender returned with their orders, Jack moved his focus to the other two. The one she introduced as Willameena was scanning her eyes over the room seemingly not paying attention to anything. He regarded that curiously, surprised that one so silent would be so careless. Then he felt her unfocused eyes pass over him. Felt it along his spine. Magic. He wasn't sure what she was checking or what she had found, but he was suddenly sure she was anything but careless. He moved his focus to Alexander as the two women traded drinks for a sip and held a silent conversation concerning impressions. The young man also appeared casual, content to hold the young blond who remained in his arms. He sipped his beer as he regarded the room, but Jack could tell it was a practiced, experienced ease with which he clocked all the details. Jack had to acknowledge, however improbable, his suspicions were probably true. These young kids were anything but and again he could only hope they would want peace.
"Well, I'm not sure if Joan has told you the rules." Jack waited for their attention. "I'm only a simple peaceful man and this is my sanctuary, my home. I ask that there be no fighting, and since I deplore police even more than violence, I'll also request that if you find prey here that you take them elsewhere." He smiled. "You're welcome here," he had the curious urge to add. Offering the group a short bow, he returned to the small crowd on the far side of the bar.
"He's nice," Willow offered.
"How many times have you been here?" Xander feigned a casual question.
Buffy wasn't fooled. "Only one time. When we split up after house hunting." She stroked Xander's arm in reassurance. "Don't be mad. I didn't keep it from you. I wanted to surprise you. There's a difference."
Xander smiled in defeat. "Okay." He kissed the top of her head. "It is pretty cool that we kind of fit in at a place like this now."
"And it's nicer than Willy's," Willow agreed.
Xander drained the last of his beer. "Still, as the man said, no hunting, no hurting. So, if it's all good, I gotta take off. I'm just a little antsy tonight," he admitted.
"It's all good," Buffy assured him with a small kiss.
"I'll come with," Willow interjected, surprising them both.
"Um, Will, no offense, but..." Xander started.
"I'm not gonna hold you back," she assured. "Promise." Willow took Xander's hand. "Come on, it'll be like really warped old times." When Xander laughed, she knew she had him. She looked towards Buffy. "You coming, too?"
Buffy smiled as she shooed them away. "Nah, I guess I'm just in a club kind of mood. Go. Have fun. Try not to make the front page. I'll see you when we get home." Buffy rose and kissed Xander again. "Yay, home." She then kissed Willow as well. "Go wild."
Buffy watched them leave and continued to nurse her drink at the bar. She wasn't surprised when Jack sat down next to her.
"Your friends are as intriguing as you are," Jack started.
"We're not all that intriguing," Buffy mildly protested.
"Joan..." Jack nodded gratefully as the bartender set his drink on the bar.
"Hmmm..." Buffy smiled as she sipped her drink.
"What is your real name?" He just put it out there. Over the last week, as he wondered if she would return to his bar and what he might say, he had realized the direct approach might be the best way to gain her confidence.
Buffy looked over to him. She guessed he knew; by his gestures towards her, by the way he assured them that they were welcome. She found herself hoping he knew. "Well, what's your real name? Cause you don't look like a Jack, and 600 years ago, not that common a name."
He allowed the equality of the question and was willing to go first. He even smiled. "Jack is short and easy. My given name, not quite so pronounceable here. Shortly after birth, I was named Jambukhadika. It means, 'the wanderer'. And now you know why I go by Jack."
Buffy smiled though it told her little, still. "You said here. Meaning, of course, you are from elsewhere. So elsewhere would be..."
"Ah, but you haven't answered my question yet," Jack pointed out playfully.
"Tit, tat, and all that is it?" Buffy smiled just as coyly. "But you already know where I'm from. So really, soon, it'll be even."
Jack grew slightly uncomfortable. He felt the warning alarms in his head. He never spoke of his personal life. Much less, his past. And if what he suspected was true, this woman was the very personification of danger. Still, he had set this course and would follow it through. Besides, if it all was true; then this was something remarkably new. And when you live for 600 years, something new was a rare find indeed. He took a big sip of his drink. "I was born and lived and turned in Thailand. As I've already admitted, that was quite some time ago. True to my name, I have since lived everywhere."
Buffy toasted the air to his honesty. She could tell, it was a deliberate decision. It was that fact that put her more at ease than the information itself. "My name is Buffy," she softly revealed.
Jack let the name filter and echo through his mind and their silence stilled the moment. He knew the name. Knew from the stories that drifted through the demon community that she could be no other. He even recognized her friends in the rumors. He knew of Slayers. Had fought and killed a few when cornered. His experience of them was of rash young warriors. Formidable, deadly, but children just the same. The stories of this one... they had painted such a different picture that he had always cast them aside as brash exaggerations meant to balm and bolster a bruised demon ego. Looking in her eyes now, he believed them all. Fear. He hasn't felt real fear in a very long time. And never, never in his own lifetime nor the stories of times before his had he heard of a Slayer being turned. He smiled, but it faltered some. He noticed her face fell slightly. He tried again.
"Forgive my shock, please," Jack quietly assured her. "It's been so long since I've felt shocked that I fear I've forgotten the proper course of reactions."
Buffy took another sip of her drink and continued to watch him. "We're still even then. I'm used to vampires knowing what I am. I've never been worried before about how they would react to it."
Jack did honestly smile then and relaxed slightly. "So both our worries are needless. Perhaps we should just continue our conversation."
"Maybe." Buffy thought that maybe she should just leave him and avoid the barrage of questions she was sure would follow. She could join her friends. She realized she would just wonder all night what might happen next. And she would miss the opportunity for questions of her own. She cared. She smiled to herself as her mind chided and reminded her that there had always just been some vampires that got her to care.
Jack took the smile on her face as permission to continue. "You know, from the stories I heard about the Slayer of Sunnydale, I thought you'd be taller. They made you sound ten feet at least and full of muscle."
Buffy laughed. She nearly spilled her drink. It broke the tension. "So I disappoint?"
Jack shook his head and sat back. "No! No, I daresay I'll find the real thing greater than the sum of mere stories." He sat forward again and raised his drink towards her. "I told myself if we ever met I'd thank you. Before running away of course."
"You'd run away?" Buffy was surprised. He said he wasn't a violent man, but she was just as certain he wasn't a fearful one, either.
"Oh yes," Jack easily admitted. "I value my life, so if I could run, I would."
That made more sense to Buffy. Choice, not fear. "So what are we thanking me for?"
"The world is here and the Hellmouth stayed closed." Jack shrugged at her surprised look. "I believe in a world of balance."
"So you haven't heard about what happened in the end, I'm guessing." Buffy ruefully added.
Jack's face grew puzzled. "What happened, then? Won't another be called? No, wait, wasn't another called already somehow?"
"Let's leave all that for another time, okay?" Buffy's worry was beginning to return.
Jack nodded in reassurance and understanding. "We don't have to tell all tonight. We don't have to say anything more of it at all right now, if you wish." He leaned forward just slightly more. "I must admit though, my curiosity is overwhelming."
"Curiosity about what?" Buffy puzzled. "You can't make me believe that in your long life you've never met a Slayer."
Jack chuckled. "Well, never for conversation. In fact, they've never said anything at all, really. Just, you know, tried to kill me. I'm curious how a Slayer became a vampire."
"Well, you know how that happens, a bite here another there, and..." Buffy playfully cut in.
"No." Jack cut her off. "I mean how..." he suddenly had to search for words to describe the impossible.
Buffy grew puzzled. "I thought, you know, over some of these centuries that you've lived, you'd have seen this happen before."
"I've never even heard of it happening." Jack stilled the conversation again.
Buffy processed what it might mean. "So you're telling me, yet again, I'm the only one in all the world, blah, blah. God! Do you know how many times I've almost dropped that whole part of the spiel only to have it come back?!"
Jack wasn't sure what she was saying exactly, but he smiled at the outburst. "You believe in God?"
"Well, I've fought some, so..." Buffy shrugged.
Jack sat back and shook his head. "Not the same, I think, but I'm quickly realizing I know so very little about you."
That pulled Buffy back to the present some. "This conversation's getting tangled. Let's, umm... So, what's with the name, 'The Hungry Ghost'?"
Jack accepted the diversion. She was right, answers were only leading to too many more questions. "In the Buddhist faith, it is one of the states a person could be reincarnated into. It is a lower state. Bad Karma. A hungry ghost has a great hunger and a small mouth. His needs, as long as he has them, will never be sated."
"So you're a Buddhist?" Buffy did appreciate the poetry of the name.
An easy question and he could simply answer yes, or he could take the opportunity to reveal something he kept very close to himself. He was a little surprised and oddly at peace as he answered. "I am. I was a monk, given to that life at a very early age. It was all I knew until I was turned."
"Oh." It was Buffy's turn to be surprised. She looked around the crowded and loud bar that had so easily been just forgotten. She knew he just gave her a secret and a curiosity to match his own. She smiled. "I'm guessing there aren't many of you, either."
Jack nodded. "There are not. Do you still feel you're a Slayer?" He had to chance this one last question. It would dictate so much of where they could go from here.
Buffy considered the question, still. She had asked herself that many times over the past weeks. Willow kept asking. Xander only once. Still, it stayed in her mind as not fully answered. "I'm as strong as a Slayer still. Stronger even now, but that's another story. The calling's gone: the protect and serve. I don't feel a part of humanity. But, to tell the truth, I had a hard time trying to fit in it before. The violent tendencies I dealt with a long time ago. I still want to come in a place like this and bash heads in, but now it would be just for fun. Don't worry, I won't. I feed as a vampire. I enjoy it. So, you tell me, I guess." A part of her hoped he could.
"You're still a Slayer." Jack smiled. "As I'm still a Buddhist."
"But how can I be?" Buffy protested his answer. "I don't even want to save any of the humans in here from their soon to be one night stand with death. Much less feel a calling or need to protect them." She looked around the bar again, easily noticing the humans dancing and flirting unknowingly with vampires.
"A Slayer is not just an impulsive, mindless calling." Jack watched curiously as he suddenly had Buffy's full focus. It became clearer in his mind she was always a truer Slayer than the child warriors he had fought before. "I am cast out of the mortal coil, the cycle of life and death. This does not mean I cease to believe and value this cycle or the balance of all in this world. And so, I am still a Buddhist. Let me ask you, if someone in here was to suddenly stand up and begin, say, a spell that would end the world, would you stop them?"
"Yes, but..." Buffy couldn't find a counter reason right off.
"See," Jack smiled. "And I would thank you, again, by the way."
"Well, that's just a survival instinct." She eventually thought of another reason.
"But not one the demons share," Jack countered. "My hypothetical spell master has no such concern, nor do all the real ones you defeated before."
Buffy's thoughts turned to Xander and she pushed them away. "What do you know about Slayers?" Buffy impulsively asked.
Jack shook his head. "That's something we should save for another time as well."
Buffy nodded. Her drink was long done. The night was growing to a close. "I should go home. The others will be there soon."
"Yes, your friends." Jack rose as Buffy stood up.
"You know of them as well, huh?" She chanced she didn't reveal anything he might not heard of them already.
"Yes, I know. Well," Jack clarified, "I know some stories. Please, come see me, again."
Buffy smiled. "You can bet on it." Her face sobered. "There might be trouble."
Jack smiled and took her hand in his own. "You would not be the start of it though. You, and your friends, are always welcome here." He kissed her hand and watched as she smiled, turned and left.
* * * * * * * * *