For Love of Rose
SUMMARY: I owe Andrea a bit of fluff, fluffiness is due. Not done Willow/Giles in a demons age!
Willow walked about her garden inspecting first one plant then another. Finally, she finally set down her trug before an ailing Rose tree. Her brows knitted together in a tiny frown. Tutting, she gently soothed its tattered diseased leaves.
"Oh, my! You've been in the wars haven't you?" Her fleeting smile played on her lips as her husband's phraseology spilled from her lips. That's what thirty years of marriage did for one's vocabulary. She giggled suddenly and then sighed. "Dear Rupert...send this poor tree some scrummy love for me. "
She pruned and examined the leaves of the bush, wondering if it could be saved. Willow was so deeply engrossed in her task that she didn't hear the man approach her from behind. The man grabbed her waist. She let out a girlish squeal, her smile lighting up her age-kissed face. Willow's would be attacker tickled her ribs softly with an impish grin on his face.
Rupert had crept up on his wife, well, as quietly as one could creep using a walking stick. He leaned his face into the hollow of her neck and kissed her. "Children and grandchildren are here, darling. Mmm, you smell scrummy..." Rupert smiled, his eyes lost in deep creases of merriment, the twinkle in his eyes had not faded with the years. The evidence of that twinkle trooped into the garden. Their children, four girls and two boys and grandchildren, ten in all, all ranging in size like Russian dolls.
Willow turned in her husband's grasp and clasped her hands round his neck. "Have I told you I love you today?"
Rupert smiled and kissed her sweet lips, then murmured... "You're asking me? "
Willow's small frame shook with mirth. The instances of memory loss were getting more pronounced for both of them. It was good to grow old together.
"Mum! " Their eldest yelled. "Poppy's fallen in the pond ...again! "
Willow and Rupert made their way quickly to the side of the dripping toddler, held waist high by her uncle. All the family were trying their best not to laugh at the duckweed dangling from Poppy's blonde curls.
Her uncle gave her a little shake to get the worst of the duckweed off and set her on the ground. She tore hell-for-leather straight for Nanny Willow.
Willow readied herself for the sopping grandchild to bring her to her knees. She hugged Poppy close and noticed how hot her face was, she glanced down to see tears of humiliation on her face. She looked at Rupert and he took Poppy from her in a fireman's lift to the house. Willow picked up Poppy's shoes and followed her husband.
Rupert sat down with Poppy on the bathroom floor and wrapped a towel round her. He peered round the door to check on Willow's whereabouts and then reached into his pocket for his toffees. He offered them to Poppy and she took a small lump and sucked thoughtfully on the buttery sweet.
"I wanted to see how deep it was." Her clear blue eyes met his own and reminded him of Buffy and ...Rose, her long dead sister.
"It's deep enough, Poppy. Your mum and dad don't know you're special yet and that you won't get hurt... But you can still drown, and that is a yucky thing to happen. "He smiled and picked a piece of duckweed from her hair. "Plus... green just isn't your colour, darling."
Poppy giggled and snuggled against her Granddad.
Willow made an exaggerated coughing noise at the bathroom door.
Rupert hid his toffees and then looked up expectantly.
Willow arched her eyebrow. "Toffee treatment successful? "
Damn! She knows about the toffees... "Yes, quite, thank you. "
Willow smiled, "It's time for Poppy's nap. C'mon, you can snuggle with Mr. Gordo." The small child left Rupert's side and took her Nanny's hand.
Rupert sat with his legs outstretched and thought back to the birth of their daughter Rose. He knew why his thoughts strayed in that direction, because Rose's destiny was to be a Slayer just like Poppy.
"I can't feel her kicking Rupert! " Willow's urgent voice roused him from his light sleep. His hand drifted over his wife's swollen belly and felt nothing but tense skin. He was fully awake in seconds and dressed moments after.
"You're having contractions... That's not right Willow, you're five months..." He thought frantically, he had to do something; she needed him to do something. "Hospital. Come on. " He heaved her out of the bed and guided her down the stairs, their progress was painfully slow.
"Rupert. Something's wrong! " Willow growled.
He rang a number and the Watcher medical team arrived in ten minutes. They carried Willow upstairs again as she muttered something about being on a bungee...
Giles stayed by Willow's side and watched as their daughter made her silent way into the world. The amniotic sac had shrunk to enfold the infant like a shroud. The doctor handed the tiny bundle to Giles and he held it in numb fingers as Willow wept.
He wiped the hot tears from his eyes with the back of his hand, they didn't reveal Rose's fate and buried her in the Slayers' graveyard in Council grounds. All that was twenty years ago. Why think of it now? He grabbed the side of the bath and eased himself up.
He came downstairs to the relative quiet of his sitting room; the middle grandchildren were playing on the computers. Giles peeped in and grimaced. They all looked round at him as one and sighed dramatically. He closed the door and smiled at himself, "must keep up appearances" he muttered and made his way to the kitchen.
He didn't think there was anyone in the room so he tried for the waist-grabbing tactic again with his wife, or someone whom he thought was his wife.
"What say we go upstairs and play..." He lowered his voice and nuzzled her ear. He noticed something wrong with her perfume. He opened his eyes when he heard a throat clearing sound behind him and the lack of girlish squeal and squirm in his embrace.
He leapt back in alarm. "Good Lord! I'm so dreadfully sorry. I...I thought you were my wife."
Willow snaked her arm round her husband's waist. "Rupert, this is Miss Travers, she has a proposition for us." Her husband's body stiffened at the name, even after all this time the Travers name stirred hostile feelings. Then the young woman smiled and Rupert relaxed.
She was young perhaps thirty, with titian hair and complexion dusted with freckles beneath her vivid blue eyes. "It's a pleasure to meet you both. My name is Stella and I'm here to ask a favour." She wasted no time in settling herself at the kitchen table, idly tying her hair back she slid a pencil into the knot, as she accepted a mug of tea from Willow. "I'd like to invite you, Mrs. Giles, to write a computer simulation for us. A simulation of a Slayer to teach other Slayer's, I think you know who I'm talking about." Stella looked earnestly from Willow to Giles and waited for their reaction.
Their hands clasped together and shared tears formed in their eyes, they had never told anyone of their involvement with Buffy. Giles was the only Watcher in his extended family, but they had bred Slayers.
"I'm out of practice." Willow stated quietly, and then her eyes flitted past the woman with the piercing blue eyes and her shoulders began to shake as her tears cascaded down her face. She thought to have left such feelings far behind her.
With a flourish, Stella withdrew a small holographic device from her copious leather bag and set it on the tabletop. "This is what we have so far." She flicked a switch and Buffy stood in miniature on a small stand.
At Rupert's gasp, Willow glanced at the hologram and smiled. Buffy smiled back.
"Hi, Will's, b.b.bad things are coming and they need us...Again." The figure smiled and jerked round. "I c.c.can't move like I should. I'm all here, honest. Just a little cr.cr.cracked." She grinned.
Willow sighed. "Timings wrong." She turned the dial on the device and the image faded. "How soon do you need her?"
Stella stared at the device; no one was supposed to know how to turn that off. Out of practice, indeed! "Um, as soon as possible, bad things are coming."
"There's been no contraindication in the Chronicles." Giles took out his palmtop and scanned the text. He could feel Stella's eyes upon him and practised his impish grin once more. "Really, Miss Travers, just because my binding's a bit tattered, it doesn't mean my pages are missing or loose."
Willow laughed and kissed her husband's cheek. Rupert enjoyed shaking people up.
Stella Travers sighed and shook her head, she'd been warned that these two were sharp witted and strong willed. You had to be to have survived living on a Hellmouth for five years beyond the call of duty after the Slayer had died. These two extraordinary mortals had taken on a few more apocalypses before a new Slayer arrived to relieve them and still they had lingered before finally moving on to begin a new life in England and build a dynasty.
"Would you like to stay to dinner? " Willow invited. "We often need a spare pair of hands..."
Crashing came form the computer room. "Ah, the beasts have been disturbed!" Rupert commented dryly. "Brace yourself, Travers, you're about to meet the grandchildren."
All at once, the kitchen was full of small hungry people all clamouring for snacks before dinner. Stella flattened herself to the wall and watched as the two seniors organised a feast and then silence reigned.
Willow blew out a sigh of relief and shared a look with her husband, two sets of green eyes twinkled and they said at the same time. "Our little herd of Xander's."
Later that night in bed, Willow snuggled in Rupert's embrace. The house was quiet and dark. Both were awake lost in their thoughts.
"You want to do it, don't you?" Rupert whispered, then kissed his lover's soft skin. He felt her nod and smiled in the darkness. "I'll go and make the tea while you dust down your laptop. And then after," He added quickly, "We'll play."
He limped into the kitchen and filled the kettle. Through the window, he spied the moonlight glinting on his silver tipped wooden stake protruding from the trunk of an ancient Hawthorne. It was the site of Spike's dusting some ten years past. Giles didn't escape unscathed from the encounter; a broken pelvis and a smashed kneecap were the price he paid in defence of his home.
He loaded the tea things onto the tray and took the lot upstairs. Willow sat up in bed supported by cushions and smiled at his entrance, her glasses perched on the end of her nose as she drew out sheaves of paper and pictures from a box on the bed. Her laptop was buried beneath, carefully preserved. She took it out and gently stroked its case re-acquainting herself with an old friend.
"Oh thank you Rupert. I'll write the program on here, test it on the demigod and launch the hologram. Can you find the scanner? We have to give Buffy a change of outfits; I know she wouldn't be caught dead in the same outfit twice!"
"Nice to hear you babble again, darling" He handed Willow her tea, hooked up the scanner, looked through the photos and found one of the Hallow'een frat party. He scanned that one first... for the hell of it!
It popped up on the screen and felt his wife sigh, "We were so young!"
"You all kept me young, and fit, and exasperated and terrified!" Rupert laughed. "It was the best time of my life."
They exchanged glances, and set aside their teacups. Willow shifted over to his body and stroked his chest as slowly his breathing increased and the programming was forgotten, for a while.
Christina Giles washed the dishes of the night before. She gazed out of the kitchen window and wondered why her father hadn't got rid of that curious piece of wood embedded in the hawthorn. She looked down at her son Harry, swinging on her skirt with his fist smothered in jam. "What is it Hal? "
"Nanny and Ganddad all cuddly this mornin' "
Christina picked up her child and sat him on the drainer to wash his hands. "Yes, well, Nanny and Gand... Granddads do cuddle, just like mummy and daddy do..."
Harry giggled, his podgy hand covering his mouth.
Willow and Giles came into the kitchen for their breakfast. Both looked slightly dishevelled.
Christina blushed and Hal giggled again.
"Hello Hal, you crept in our room this morning didn't you? " Willow playfully scolded. " You should knock darling, ok? " Her grandson nodded. Willow ruffled Hal's hair and then addressed her daughter.
"Christina, we'll need the computers today, I have a project to complete. " Willow looked earnest, the first hint of "resolve face" she'd ever shown her daughter.
Christina frowned. She'd never seen her mother look like this. She turned to her father and saw the same resolve. She felt a sense of foreboding in the air. There was just one other occasion when she had felt the same; ten years ago, when her father had tackled an intruder at the house and had killed him with a stake. " Do you want us to leave early? " Christina hesitated before asking, "It's not dangerous is it? "
"No" Her father answered, "not dangerous. We just need peace and quiet to concentrate. " He smiled easily at Christina, as she left to gather the family.
"Umm, Christina..." Willow addressed her daughter's back, " Poppy can stay with us. I'd like her to test the project. "
Poppy clung to her Nanny's body like a limpet as her parents drove away. She waved goodbye to them and then turned to her Granddad. "Can we play with the
pooters now? "
Willow smiled and nodded. "Yes, c'mon. Would you like to choose some dresses for the Slayer to wear? "
"Oooh, Slayer! " Poppy bounced with excitement, "That's what I'll be when I grow up! " She raised her hands to her grandparents, "Swing me..." She asked.
Willow and Giles each took a hand in theirs and swung Poppy up and over, releasing her as she flipped over their arms.
She landed softly and sprang into a cartwheel, hands aloft, they swung her again all the way indoors.
Despite Willow's tireless fingers flying over the keys, the day had progressed slowly, because of the program's complexity.
Rupert leaned against the doorjamb and watched her, whilst sipping his tea. He had completed his task of supplying the arcane knowledge and recording encouraging quips, hours ago. Poppy had long since surrendered to Morpheus; Rupert had tucked her safely into the cot in the corner of the room.
Finally, Willow's fingers tapped to a halt. She leaned back from her screen and sighed. "It's finished. Uploading now. "
Rupert's fingers massaged her shoulders and he glanced as each piece of information glided off to the Councils main frame. One file remained on the screen and blinked urgently at them.
"Damn... " She murmured, " program error..." She reached to delete it but Rupert stopped her and opened the file. The screen flashed blue and Buffy turned to greet them with a thousand watt smile.
"Hi Willow, Hi Giles. It's so good to see you again. " She frowned as her eyes slid to her Watcher. " Sit down Giles, before you fall down. Yep, I know weird! How can I be talking to you...I'm a program. " Buffy looked down at her clothes. " Someone has good taste in clothes! "
Willow glanced at Rupert, her eyes brimming with tears, " I didn't do this... "
Rupert hugged his wife whilst they gazed at the screen.
"You're scaring us a little Buffy. "
Rupert gulped as a young version of himself and Willow strolled onto the screen.
"We're only here for a short while Rupert. Buffy wanted to show you the virtual Slayer; it won't be Buffy's image in the program. "
His own voice startled him.
All three characters parted to make room for the fourth who walked through a mist.
"Hi, mum and dad. I'm sorry I couldn't stay with you and get to know you but my destiny lies elsewhere. I'm Rose and I love you, and I'll take good care of Poppy when the time comes."
Cyber Willow and Giles hugged their daughter.
Buffy smiled sadly at them. "Don't hurry to see me, this file will delete on reboot, I just wanted you to see your baby. See ya later, K ? "
The image faded and the blue screen popped up with the error "file not found." Willow rebooted as her tears splashed on the keyboard.
Stella Travers eagerly awaited the arrival of the holographic program. She paced the training room worrying at a hangnail. All at once, she found herself in a library, with the sounds of a high school in the background. The doors swished open admitting three youths, two girls, and a boy. She flattened herself against one of the shelves and witnessed Giles' traverse of the library steps. He looked directly at her.
"May I help you?" He took a short breath, "Are you the Slayer? "
"Slayer? Slayer... c'mon Big G, y'know that's a secret word..." The gangly boy quipped. "Oh, dunno know though, she's pretty enough to be...what do you think Wills? "
Willow looked Stella over quietly. "Miss Travers, to stop the demo, say halt. If you want to interact with the program say chat." The young Willow with wise eyes smiled as she said "Meet the Slayer."
Stella's eyes connected with the young woman standing in the corner twirling her stake like a baton. She noticed Stella and stopped; hastily hiding the stake behind her back and then stepped forward. "Hi, I'm Rose...Want to train? "
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