Just one further chapter, as our pair inch inexorably towards each other.
Chapter One is here.
Chapter Two is here
Chapter Three is here.
Chapter Four is here.
Chapter Five is here.
Chapter Six: Clear Skies Over Europe
Thanks to Council influence and airmiles, Buffy found herself smoothly and efficiently processed through Security, into a relatively comfortable lounge and onto the plane, with a Business Class upgrade that was very welcome after the somewhat grimy trip by train from Rome. She had no qualms about abandoning Dawn and Andrew. The worst that could happen would be her sister strangling the little idiot, so why worry?
Meanwhile, there was plenty to think about in the couple of hours to Heathrow. She settled down in her window seat, waved away the offer of a glass of wine (it was half past ten in the morning for heaven’s sake!) and pulled out a copy of Vogue from her bag. The Italian was still tricky to read, but Prada and Gucci spoke a language she’d been fluent in for years.
She didn’t really notice the seat next to her being filled, nor the quiet assurance with which her neighbour declined the offer of coffee in a cultured English accent. There were boots of a beauty only Italy could design, and bags she might never be able to afford – and were too tiny to take even a moderate-sized stake – and some very luscious outfits for the businesswoman she intended never to become. She was barely even aware of the plane taking off.
Some twenty minutes or so into the flight, however, her companion cleared his throat. “Excuse me. If you look out of your window just now you should get an excellent view of Mont Blanc – that’s the highest mountain in Europe. Pardon me for interrupting, but I felt you might be interested.”
She was interested, though it felt odd to admit it. Mountains from above, especially those with glaciers, were generally beautiful, and the ice reminded her of days long gone. She gazed down avidly for a few moments, then turned to thank her neighbour.
“You don’t recognise me, do you? It has been a long time, I suppose.”
She stared at him. Recognise? The good-looking man, in early middle age she assumed, a faint trace of designer stubble across his jaw. He did look oddly familiar – someone from a long time ago, perhaps?
He smiled. “I have changed quite a lot since Sunnydale. I wore glasses then, and I wasn’t at all the man I am now. I was pretty useless, really.”
Buffy looked more closely, and her eyes widened. “Wesley? Can it really be you?”
“Ah, you do remember me then. I suppose I should start by apologising – I was such a jerk back then. Working with Angel – well, I’ve learned a lot.”
“Oh yes, you did work with Angel, didn’t you? I remember, a long, long time ago. Faith was there, wasn’t she?”
Her companion grimaced. “Yes. Not an episode to redound credit on either of us.”
“Hey, lotta water under all sorts of bridges since then! So, what are you doing here? You left Angel? How was he?”
“I’m in Europe on business for him. Making contacts, tracking down demons – you know the sort of thing. I’m on my way back now, but I thought I’d detour via home. I haven’t seen my mother since before you left school”
They chatted inconsequentially as they crossed France. Neither was interested in the airplane fare on offer, though Buffy accepted a glass of orange to sip. She found herself telling him about Rome, about her worries for Dawn, about Andrew. They laughed a lot as he, seeing the funny side, made her see it too.
They’d left the Channel beneath them, and the flight attendant was moving quietly from passenger to passenger, warning of imminent descent, when he asked why she was on her way to England. “Not that it’s any of my business, you understand. Feel free to tell me I’m being impolite.”
She smiled warmly. This man was so unlike the Wesley she remembered from her senior year. That man, though boy might be a better term, had been gauche, authoritarian, inept. This man was warm, sophisticated, subtly amusing. Nice to know even men could grow up. “I’m on my way to see Giles. He’s living in the Cotswolds these days, and I need to ask him a few things.” She clenched her nails into the palms of her hands briefly, remembering what she had to ask him about.
“Giles? Oh dear heaven. Is he still about? If I might make a suggestion, though – if you wouldn’t think it impertinent of me?”
“No? What? Is there a problem with Giles?”
“There may be. I may be wrong, however. Just – be careful? Especially if he suggests you go with him to the Cotswolds. Be very careful whom you trust, even Giles. That’s all.”
Moments later he excused himself to go to the bathroom and she returned to her magazine, at least superficially. She knew there’s been discord between the two Watchers, unsurprisingly really. But Wesley seemed so sincere. So approachable. And Giles had been so very arrogant in those last months in Sunnydale. He’d kept that most important secret from her, hadn’t he?
The captain’s voice came over the intercom, the seat belt lights flicked on. Surprisingly, Wesley had not returned to his seat. Perhaps he’d slipped into another on his way back, caught out by the instructions to belt up.
After the landing, Buffy collected her belongings and moved out. Still no Wesley – presumably he’d gone ahead.
The line at Immigration for non-EU citizens was mercifully short. The officer inspected her visa, noted her indefinite leave to remain, politely welcomed her to Britain, and she was through. Baggage claim was even quicker, and within minutes she was at the barrier, waving to Giles.
After a quick hug, she started talking, filling him in on the latest news about Dawn and her astonishingly good grades, about Andrew and his sudden metamorphosis into man-about-town. “And you’ll never guess who I sat next to on the plane, Giles! Wesley Wyndham Price, of all people. He’s changed so much you’d hardly recognise him. Did you see him come out ahead of me? You guys ought to get together, talk over old times…”
Her bubbling talk petered out. Giles, holding her case, was gripping it so hard his knuckles were white. His face was closer to grey than she’d seen it in years.
“Buffy. I have some news about Wesley. I heard from the LA Slayer group just this morning. It’s not good news, I fear. There was a battle. Angel is safe, don’t worry. But Wesley… I’m afraid Wesley is dead. So who was it you spent your flight with, exactly? And why?”