Second Face


Summary: Buffy falls afoul of Wesley when she first meets him and it just keeps coming
Rating: NC-17
Story Notes: Challenge of any length, any rating. Include parchment, treacle, and a tumbler. Part 2, because I couldn't fit the three parts of the challenge in one. Wesley comes to visit Buffy's grave and finds her mostly alive instead. Inspired by Eve and the dormouse, for Minim
Disclaimer: The characters and world portrayed herein belong to Mutant Enemy/Joss Whedon. I just borrowed them to play with for awhile. I promise to put them back right where I found them.

Spike didn't seem to have anything to add, and, really, what was there to say? She sat with him awhile in silence, the sun too hot, the line of shade physical against her skin. Sometime later she found herself in the car and heading for home, only without remembering if she'd said anything before she left, or how she'd gotten so far without noticing the road disappearing beneath her wheels, or the stopping and going again with ever traffic light and crossing guard. She thought, anyway, she was going home. There wasn't anywhere else to go. She'd given the people who loved her what they needed; what she should have realized they needed. It was a good thing Dawn couldn't just leave it be or they never would have heard a thank you, not for this.

She'd used up any purpose for the day doing, well, the things that had to be done. She'd made lunch for Dawn. It would most likely end up in the trash. It probably wasn't any cooler to take a lunch now than it had been when she was Dawn's age. It wasn't anything special and she didn't really care. It was a gesture, a way to show Dawn that she was trying, and she was, really, she was. She wanted to care. She'd taken Dawn to school, dropped her off a block away so she wouldn't have to be embarrassed by her big sister bringing her. Normal stuff. Stuff her mom wouldn't have done, but, really, if it made Dawn happy, who cared? Then she'd gone to the Magic Box, through the starkly outlined trees and sharp green leaves overhanging the mica-glittered gray streets, with the cars honking, and people talking, waving their arms, shouting. Music. Had music always been so bad? So loud?

So, all the responsibilities hooked into her, holding her down were satisfied for the momment. She wasn't allowed to get lost. So, Dawn had a lunch and the gang had their heartfelt appreciation. That was enough motivation for one day. Wasn't it enough? When is enough? She refused to think about what she'd told Spike. It made her feel panicky. The gang, the gang was safer.

She'd probably loved them, once. She could remember, vaguely, that she used to think so, so she probably still did. She wasn't sure, though a part of her seemed to be sure. Yes, of course she did. She couldn't seem to feel it, except, the feeling that she ought to care was probably what kept her going, pretending.

Remembering was painful, everything was painful, but remembering was worse even than driving, the solidity of the steering wheel against her palms, the sound of the turn signal, and when had that gotten so loud? The lurch of her body when she stepped on the brakes, squinting against the glare of the sun through the window, everything was so sharp, sharp enough to cut. But it didn't. It didn't cut. Memory cut.

She'd read somewhere once, yes, she remembered, though where? Health class? Home-ec? that babies, when things were too loud, too stimulating, they shut it out by turning their heads or going to sleep. She felt like her head was permanently turned, but she couldn't go to sleep.

The next thing she knew she was in the kitchen. She'd been in the car on the way back from the Magic Box. Was there an accident? But there was no blood, or damage, no pain, no broken glass. She was here, that was all. She was home. She put water on for tea and opened the cutlery drawer. She'd make toast. Tea and toast would fix anything, wouldn't it, Mom? They didn't have any hot chocolate in the house, no mini-marshmallows. She stood, mesmerized by the glitter of the knives, thoughts of mom and hot chocolate buzzing. The scream of the kettle made her jump, confused and helpless, unsure of where she was. She looked at the burner. She should turn it off. Yes. That was the next step, take if off the fire.

A knock on the door startled her again. She turned toward the sound and debated answering it. If she could sleep, then maybe she could shut it all out and tomorrow would be better, only, she didn't know if she'd ever sleep again. But if she could sleep, then, when she woke up, maybe then she'd feel again, and want to feel. Things could get better. She didn't believe it. She didn't think anything could ever be better again but what else could she do but pretend until, maybe, it happened? It could happen.

She found herself standing at the door, one hand against it, feeling the reverberation of knocking, echoes in the wood. How many times had that been? Was this the second, the third knock? It stopped. Silence. She heard, muffled by the weight of the wood between them, the shuffle of someone walking away, pausing, and then coming back again. One more knock, just one, not the usual triple that most people used. A single knock. It seemed to require an answer so she knocked back. Just once.

The door pushed against her hand and a voice called out.

"Hello? Is anyone here?"

Did she forget to lock up? She stepped back, made herself visible through the crack between the door and the jamb, sunlight striping her against the dark. An eye looked back at her.

"Buffy? But, that is...Buffy?" The eye blinked. It looked tired, and older than it should, but content, maybe. Yes, and he sounded content, even in that small exclamation. His world wasn't overthrown because she existed, or didn't. She'd settle for content. That would be a nice feeling. Her hand fell to the knob as she realized that she ought to open the door the rest of the way, and so she did. She marveled that it took so little thought to do so much, and so much thought, too much thought, went on, unwanted, anyway.

"Hello Wesley."

"Buffy, hello."

"Why are you here?" She remembered, after asking, that she should have invited him in first, offered him tea, but he was talking, and she shouldn't interrupt.

"I came to ask if I could see your grave, actually." He grinned, an odd smile of relief and confusion, and then sobered when she didn't smile back at him. "We were all very sad," He stopped and started over. "Buffy, I was very sad to hear of your death. I'm glad you're back."

"Willow did it. She brought me back, she and Tara and Xander. Out of hell." She blinked. "Would you like to come in? I was just making tea."

"Oh, is that what that noise is?" He smiled again, this time a lopsided grin, part of an open expression she didn't remember ever having seen on him before today. "Perhaps I could make the tea?"

They sat together at the dining room table, the free end, ignoring the computer and its wires at the other. It was suddenly easy to talk to Wesley. He was--and this seemed strange, but she didn't know why it would be strange--kind, and warm. He didn't seem to have any huge expectations of her. He asked her how she was and took her halting answer at face value. He talked about Angel Investigations, telling funny stories about Gunn and Fred. Buffy caught herself laughing at a silly story about Fred and tacos. It felt... good. It felt good to laugh. She felt a sudden surge of heat.

She put her hand out and covered Wesley's with her own. "Not that I'm not glad to see you," Buffy shrugged, an ambivalent movement of shoulder and head, "but, Wes, really, why are you here?"

He sobered. "I meant what I said, at the door. I wanted to see your grave. To understand. I think of you, you know."

"Of me?"

He smiled, a shade of bitterness flickered. "Oh yes. I consider you my first failure on American soil. I think of you quite often."

"I don't understand. Failure?" She curled her fingers around his. It felt good, warm. Two good things from his visit. A record for her so far.

"Yes, failure. I was so sure I would be the best of Watchers, far surpassing Mr. Giles, gone native, of course." He said with a twist of his lip. His voice had risen as he spoke, it felt sharper, and it hurt. He caught her flinch, her fingers automatically withdrawing from his hand, and he caught them back, gentled them, moderating his tone. "Instead, I was, at worst, a monster. If one wished to be charitable one might call me an inconvenience. If one were very kind, I suppose one might say I helped, a little." He looked down, refusing to look her in the eye.

"A monster? I don't know what you mean?" She felt confused and a little cranky.

He tightened his grip on her hand, noting with understanding the bandages still wrapped around her fingers. He lifted her hand and kissed the wounded fingertips in a surprisingly unaffected gesture. That was nice. It made her smile.

"I've owed you an apology for that spell for a long time."

She looked at him, blank, waited for his eyes to lift to hers. If she could see his eyes, maybe she'd remember. She'd like to remember. There was something, something about heat and warmth. She felt an urgent need to remember that, that thing in particular.

He looked up when she failed to respond, "It was reprehensible of me to be playing with sex magic, no matter what excuse I might have made on my behalf. Certainly I should never have done it around a young girl in my care. I didn't even have a target, which, I suppose, is a good thing. I just thought..." He trailed off. "I don't guess it matters what I thought. It was wrong."

"In the library, when you first came, when Faith..."

"Yes, when I first came, when Faith killed. I failed her as well, in far more ways, I suppose. If you can measure failure that way. I don't. I just keep a list."

She leaned forward. "I don't remember what happened, exactly. What was it you did?"

"You don't recall?" He sat back, clearly nonplussed. "I can't believe you don't recall. The library? A spell on parchment?"

She leaned back, releasing his hand with a sigh. Yes, the library. There had been heat, and warmth and shivery feelings all through her, an explosion that lifted her hair and made her scream. That had been very nice, too.

"Excuse me," Wes muttered, pushing his chair back and disappearing into the kitchen.

She followed and watched from the doorway as he ran his hands through his hair, obviously agitated, before reaching into a cupboard and bringing out the Alice in Wonderland tumbler Buffy had given Dawn on her second, or was it third? birthday, buying it herself with money Mom had handed her in the checkout line. Buffy felt a sneaking sense of kinship with the poor dormouse.

Wesley tipped his head back, turning the dormouse on his head, and drank thirstily. He set the cup back down with a shaking hand and splashed water on his face.

"I remember." He hadn't heard her come in and stiffened as she pressed her body along the length of him, back to buttocks, her breasts imprinting. She rested her head between his shoulder blades. "I remember. It's a nice memory. I want another one like it."

He turned, slowly, as if afraid to startle her. "Buffy?"

She smiled. "I like the way you say that. Always with a question." Her hands reached up to his throat and began unbuttoning his shirt. "As I remember, I started Right. About. Here."

"No. This isn't what I came for. I only came to..."He trailed off as she pulled his head down and sighed into his mouth. He let his arms hang loose as Buffy's hands smoothed the shirt back over his shoulders and her small tongue licked out and caressed his lower lip, darting inside to touch against his tongue. He responded, lightly, tentatively, as if she were still young. Innocent. He was kind, she realized. Underneath, whatever else he was, he was also kind. She stepped back, took his hand, and led him upstairs, unbuttoning her shirt, kicking off her shoes as she went, never letting go of his hand.

She smiled at the look of bemusement on his face. He wanted her, of course. It wasn't hard to tell. She wasn't sure how he felt about that, though, or which way he'd jump when he dropped her hand at the top of the stairs. But then he smiled, and, cocking his head as if asking permission, unfastened his jeans and kicked them off. He laughed then, and pulled her into his arms. "I really thought you were dead for good this time."

"I think everyone did." Buffy smiled again, glad to feel his skin against hers, to feel so much.

He kissed her firmly on the mouth, stroking her arms, her breasts, her sides until she shivered delicately, then he dragged her into the first bedroom with an open door. He wouldn't know it was hers, not with the silly boy band posters decorated the walls. He didn't seem to care.

Buffy laughed. It was the most incredible thing, to feel something good, the building tension, the play and tease. They were on her bed before she was quite sure how it had happened, a little dizzy, eager, happy, almost. She ran a fingernail down his belly and smiled when he shivered, gooseflesh puckering that gorgeous chest.

Rising above her, he pressed her back on the bed and smiled into her eyes. "Be still, please? I want to look at you."

She stood it for a minute, two, no longer. She couldn't take the eyes on her. She needed the touch, the sensation to come back. Buffy rose up to meet him and gripped his arms firmly, rolling him on his back and straddling him.

"My turn to be the authority."

He winced a little, and then smiled, nodding.

"Don't worry, I won't hurt you," she whispered, stroking his forehead.

She watched his face. It took him a moment to process that thought. He hadn't even realized, and then, before he quite had it, she was rising again, taking his penis in her hand and guiding it between her legs. Barely in place, she ground down, forcing him inside. There was very little moisture and he stiffened. "Buffy?"

"It's okay. It's okay. I need to feel, that's all. I need to feel this." She rocked her hips and they both felt the moisture rising in her, easing his way inside. "Yes, right there. That's what I need." Buffy sighed as she leaned forward, her hair curtaining her face as she rose and fell. He attempted to match her pace but she reached between her legs and gripped his hips with bruising hands, holding him still. He lay back, disoriented. The pose was awkward for her. The sound of sucking, the slap of flesh, the smell of sex filled the room. They met there. Her hair occasionally brushed his chest, her hands gripped his hips, her legs, bent to each side, occasionally brushed his thighs, but, mostly, it was there. The act distilled to its essence, impersonal. Their focus narrowed, joined, slipped into rhythm, friction, heat.

She felt it when he tried to hold back his orgasm, and grew fierce, pummeling his body with her own, eyes feral through the curtaining hair. "Give it to me. I want it. I want this one thing right now. I want you to come." Her own breathing roughened, she whimpered, throwing her head back, her movements growing more wild and frenzied. The bed creaked, threatening to come apart. He reached up and gripped her thighs, his fingers pressing into the heavy muscle until the skin of her leg turned white, outlining each fingertip. She felt it and it was enough to push her over the edge as he bucked, slamming against her with a shout. She growled in guttural satisfaction as she mashed her clit against him, coming with a deep groan of her own.

Afterward, they lay entangled together, quiet. She rested her head on his chest as Wes gently stroked her back. She was crying, but hoped he wouldn't notice. She felt him stiffen when he realized his chest was damp where her cheek rested. He brushed her hair back with one hand. "Buffy?"

She looked up at him, eyes shadowed. "There you go again, making it a question. I was really here for awhile, wasn't I?"

He smiled down at her, his own eyes concerned. "Oh yes, you were most definitely present."

She raised her arm and propped her head on her hand. "You're going back to L.A.?"

He looked into her eyes and then away, unwilling to decipher the look, either hope or something else, and stroked his fingers through her hair absentmindedly. "I'm going back to L.A., yes. This was only a day trip, you know. Just a, well, my chance to say goodbye. I hadn't had the opportunity before, or maybe it was the need. I don't know."

"What about... ?" she waved her free hand in the air.

"Well, it's not like we're a couple." He paused, a sick look on his face.

"What?" Annoyed, she grabbed his chin. "Damn it, Wes, what?"

He looked back at her again. "The spell."

"The spell?"

He stuttered as he tried to explain. It was clear he was unhappy and confused. "Well, you see, it was a...a remembrance spell, is the best way to describe it, I believe. It's," he swallowed hard, a bruised look in his eyes. "I believe it's supposed to bring the lovers back to one another, each year at the same time."

"How could this be the spell? I jumped you because of a three year old spell? No."

"Yes, I'm afraid so, or possibly." He plucked at the coverlet under him.

"Then why didn't it happen last year? And the year before that?"

"I believe, well, that both of us have to want it to work." He looked away again, and then back. Earnest. "Perhaps, for the last two years, one or both of us was otherwise engaged at the time of the spell?"

She thought about that for a moment. "Riley." Wes shot her a questioning look and she explained. "My otherwise occupation, two years ago."

"Ah, I see, yes." He paused. "And, well, a year ago, I was, somewhat incapacitated."

"I see. So, you really think we just had some fun here, because of a spell." Her voice rose, disbelieving. "Even if you were here, we wouldn't want to do this again, at least, not until next year?"

"Yes, right. I'm sorry." He didn't sound sure of what he was sorry for; being there, not being there, or that she'd have to wait until next year. "I mean, if I were here, we could, of course, if you liked, but, the spell, next year, it has an effective window, though I'm not sure of the length. I believe we may be early this year, but, with two years in between since the last one, it's likely the imperative was building, or, there's always the possibility that your resurrection threw it off, somehow."

She laughed, a short, sharp sound. He looked at her, startled. "There's the Wesley I know and love." He shook his head, confused. She rolled off the bed, fluidly, and grabbed a robe from the back of the bedroom door and threw it on. She smiled at him back over her shoulder, an easy, gentle smile that almost reached her eyes. "You were pontificating. I was afraid that Wes was gone for good," she teased. "I get the shower first," and with that she was gone.

Buffy, leaned against the shower wall and let the hot water run over her bent head to mingle with her tears and waited for the sounds she wanted to hear. Finally, movement in the hall, a quiet "Buffy?" at the door to the bathroom, a long silence again, and then steps on the stairs, the outside door closing with, probably, more finality than he intended. He was gone. If he came back later with the paper or a pizza, fine, but he probably wouldn't come back. Still, if he did, she'd show him she really was back, just like she'd shown the rest. She'd thank him for coming, and she'd smile, and when he was gone, then she'd look for a way to feel again. She didn't think she could stand to go back to not feeling and the memory was already beginning to fade.