In The Darkness: Part 7 – Connections

Invisible threads are the strongest ties. 

— Friedrich Nietzsche

Author’s Notes: AU/Futurefic. Much as it was in A:ts s5, no one but Angel knows about Connor. Whether he told Buffy or not, has yet to be known but as far as everyone else is concerned – he didn’t exist. Giles theory about vampires separated from their mates plays nicely into s2 of Angel, and of course, would apply again in this fic with Buffy’s disappearance.

Rating: Adult; sexual situations

Disclaimer: Own nothing whatsoever regarding Buffy or Angel. Joss & co. owns all. Elise is my creation.

Pairing: B/A, A/Other

Distribution: My site, EverySixSeconds; sites currently with permission to host my fics; all others please ask.

Originally posted: Apr 23, 2005

Revised and reposted: June 21, 2015

Elise had been in London for two days before she found St. Margaret’s Ursuline School for girls with the headmaster, Rupert Giles.  The former convent was, she suspected, now both home and training facility for the Watcher and the slayers in training. With it’s secluded location, just on the outskirts of London, it was practically ideal if one wanted to avoid attracting attention.

Much to her frustration and impatience, it was another two days before she finally managed to catch Mr. Giles alone. He was often with one or more of the girls, or a young blonde man who appeared to be – at least if Mr. Giles’ expression was any indication – less than ideal company.

On this particular afternoon, she was waiting on the steps outside the main building when he returned from some errand.

“Rupert Giles?”

“Yes?” Giles squinted into the late afternoon sun at the woman sitting on the school steps like a young girl. She wore a baby blue cashmere sweater with a white blouse peeking above the neck and below the hem, perfectly tailored black pants and a pair of high-heeled pumps. Other than the fact that she was a few years older than he initially guessed at first glance, she could have fit in with the girls at the school.

“Hello, I’m Elise Seymour. I left you a couple of messages.”

Regarding her carefully, he shook the proffered hand. “Ah yes. Hello.”

He guarded the school and the girls carefully from any and all prying eyes. He didn’t want any attention on their efforts at the school, so to the world at large, St. Margaret’s was known only as a highly exclusive college preparatory academy for girls.

They stood for a moment, scrutinizing each other before Elise spoke again. “If you have some time now, I really would like to talk to you.”

Glancing at his watch, Giles nodded reluctantly. He had a feeling from her repeated calls and the determined look on her face that the woman would not be easily dissuaded, so if he had to deal with her at some point it might as well be now.

“I have an hour or so,” he replied with a sigh. Taking his keys, he unlocked the door and escorted her down the short hallway to his office.

“Would you like tea?” he asked as she took a seat in the chair across from a much cluttered and very old desk.

She nodded, and he excused himself only to return a few minutes later with a tray containing a teapot, cups and saucers, and a random mix of Pettit fours, crackers, and shortbread cookies.

Balancing the tray on a stack of books on the corner of the desk, he poured two cups and handed one to Elise before taking a seat across from her.

“By chance, was your father Charles Seymour?” he asked, flicking on the desk lamp to stave off the afternoon gloom.

“Charlie was my stepfather, though for all intents and purposes he was my father. My real dad was a bastard,” she trailed off, embarrassed by the uncharacteristic blurt of personal information. “Um, you knew him? Charles, that is.”

“I didn’t know him personally, I’m sorry to say, though I did know of him. I’m sorry to hear of his passing.”

“Thank you. It’s been some time now, but I still miss him.” Picking up her teacup, she cradled it in her hands. “You knew of him through the Council?”

Giles paused uncertainly for a moment before nodding. “He was quite well respected.” Despite being a former Watcher’s stepdaughter, he didn’t know how much she knew or how much he cared to reveal.

“That’s nice to hear. He was a good man, and very dedicated to… his pursuits.”

With an understanding nod, Giles asked curiously, “So, what was it you wanted to see me about?”

“This is rather difficult.”  Elise said with a sigh. “As I mentioned in my message, I’m a novelist.”

“Yes, I’m familiar with some of your work.” Given her family connections with the Council, Elise’s first novel had been discussed at length amongst the members of the Watcher’s Council at the time of publication. While they all knew the material was presented as fictional, there was considerable fact in what she had written, and for many, that was a concern.  Some of the members feared her books would compromise the organization, despite there not being a single word about the Council. Others believed Charles himself had compromised the organization by providing her with the information, something he vehemently denied. The fury died down after her third novel, published not long after Charles’ death. The Council wasn’t in any position to question much of anything any more, regardless. And soon, most, if not all, of the ruling members would be eliminated by the return of the First Evil.

“You are?” Elise said with surprise. She smiled self-consciously. “I mean that’s nice to hear.”

Giles said nothing, only returned her smile.

“I’m not quite sure where to start so I’ll just… start.  I’m working on a new book, and I was hoping you might be able to help me.”

“If it’s about the Council, then the answer is no. I’ve not been affiliated with them for quite a number of years and even so-” Giles began.

“No… no, it’s not about that. It’s a story about a vampire slayer,” Elise interjected politely, “and a vampire. I know Angel, you see, and I found out recently about Buffy.”

Giles stiffened uncomfortably.

“I know you cared about her. And I understand my coming here, a complete stranger, showing up on your doorstep out of the blue, asking questions and wanting you to talk about someone you cared for is intrusive and rude, especially given the circumstances of her disappearance.”

Glancing away, Buffy’s former Watcher stared down at the stack of assorted papers on his desk.  He hadn’t been in favor of Buffy staying in Los Angeles with Angel, though he would have to admit she had been happier there than he had ever seen her.  His concern was less about her relationship with the ensouled vampire, and more about her proximity to evil. It had been his estimation that one couldn’t live in the belly of the beast for long before being devoured, and Wolfram & Hart most definitely fit the category of ‘beast’ in all capital letters. He wished he had been wrong, but Buffy’s disappearance had been a brutal reinforcement of his fears.  Many times since, he had chastised himself for not doing more, for not taking her away, for not protecting her somehow, some way.  For not having found her…

“I’ve read everything they have in the Wolfram & Hart library – which is quite a lot actually – on slayers. There’s some things there too, about them – Buffy and Angel. It’s an incredible story. You know that perhaps more than anyone else. I want to immortalize that story, her story, in a book. She deserves that much, if everything I’ve read about her is true.” She was solemn but earnest in her entreaty, as she sat forward and waited for his response.

Sighing, he glanced back at the woman watching him intently. It was true Buffy was remarkable, and it was also true that if anyone deserved to have their story written down to be told for years to come, it was Buffy.  But would talking to a stranger about her life be a betrayal of her trust? Or of his integrity as someone who had been her Watcher, and who had loved her like a daughter?

“If you have all of that, which I presume includes many of my own journals from the time I had been her Watcher, what more do you want from me?”

“I’d like your perspective on what I’ve read, and, of course, anything on Buffy that would give me a better understanding of her as a person. I would also like your clarification on a few specifics,” Elise replied, reaching into her bag for her tape recorder. “Do you mind?  I don’t share the tapes with anyone, but it helps me remember the details when I write.”

With a small shrug Giles shook his head. “I don’t mind, as long as you understand that I may not answer all your questions. There are things that are simply too personal, or I would rather not see in print, you understand.”

“Of course,” she said agreeably. She turned on the tape recorder and placed it on the edge of the desk between them  Next she took out her pen and paper in case she wanted to jot down any reminder notes for herself.

“You mentioned you knew Angel. What does he think of you turning Buffy’s life, his life, into a novel?”

Elise glanced up, her expression a bit chagrined. “He doesn’t know… yet. I’ll tell him once I have things a bit more organized. I will even offer to let him read the draft before it goes to my editor if he likes.”

“And if he objects?” Giles asked, unsurprised by the news that Angel wasn’t aware of the intended book. The vampire was rather fiercely protective of Buffy and their privacy, not to mention his own. It was doubtful he’d be supportive of the novelist’s efforts to put their story into print.

“If he objects… then I’ll either edit until he doesn’t, or I won’t publish it.  I don’t want to hurt him, or anyone else with this book. That’s not my intention,” she said, wanting to believe the words herself. “You do understand though the lure of this, don’t you? The magnificence of the story? The challenge will be for me in capturing it properly, writing it in such a way that actually does it justice.”

Giles thought over her words for a moment before he politely acquiesced. “That will be a challenge, indeed.  Now what is it you’d like to ask me?”

“As I mentioned before, I have read a great deal of what was documented about their relationship, and I’ve talked with Wes – Wesley Wyndham-Pryce – whom I’m believe you know, so I have the basic facts in broad strokes. But I’d like to hear your perspective, from the beginning. What do you remember about when they first met?”

“Angel… He was first seen in Sunnydale around the same time Buffy moved there. He contacted her. and started to drop her bits of helpful information – once to prevent the Harvest, and later he actually helped her to defeat the Three… of course I wondered how he knew what he knew… and I certainly had questions about his motives. Buffy, she thought he was a friend of mine.” Pausing, he smiled. “She called him cryptic guy.”

Elise smiled at the name; it was certainly fitting. “And later, after you found out that he was a vampire?”

Giles’ brows lifted slightly as he considered the question. “I was quite surprised. And of course, a vampire helping a slayer is unheard of, you understand.”

“Almost as unheard of as a vampire with a soul?” she asked, curious about the former Watcher’s response.

“Indeed,” Giles acknowledged, “We hadn’t known he was a vampire. Even if we had, I wouldn’t even have considered the possibility that he had a soul. But, it was obvious that he cared about her… and in time, I didn’t see any harm in the two of them spending time together. She had someone who could help her, someone who understood vampires the way none of the rest of us could or did. I admit, having someone with her and watching out for her, was a comfort. As strong and capable as Buffy was, I still felt better knowing she had some help.”

“I understand they both tried to uh, refrain from any further involvement.”

“Yes.  And they did manage to do so for several months, but inevitably young love, and, er, certainly lust, wins out.”

“Were you concerned when you found out they were moving toward something more than friendship?” She tilted her head, looking at him with genuine interest.

“Yes, of course. Buffy was only sixteen. Angel is much, much older, to say the least. Which was a concern itself, let alone the complications that were part of their lives just by the very definition of who they were: vampire and slayer. I admit I was a bit naive – or perhaps in denial – about just how far things had gone between the two of them… and I certainly didn’t foresee the loss of his soul as a ramification.”

He paused and removed his glasses, pinching the bridge of his nose. Jenny had foreseen it, of course, but she hadn’t been forthcoming with the information. Had she shared those very important details, things could have been very different, and she would most likely would still be alive.

“I can’t imagine how difficult that time must have been,” Elise empathized solemnly.

“Yes, well,” he said, clearing his throat and shaking away the maudlin thoughts. “It wasn’t easy.”

“After Sunnydale was destroyed, what did you think of Buffy staying in Los Angeles with Angel?” she questioned, shifting the subject to one that might a little be less difficult for the former Watcher.

“After spending seven years on a hellmouth, I thought Buffy was overdue for a break. Oh, there are vampires and demons in all parts of the world, so it’s not as though she would have given up her calling… but just moving from one mouth of hell to another…” Picking up a cloth, he rubbed the lenses of his glasses before slipping them back on. Meeting Elise’s gaze once more, he continued, “Make no mistake, Wolfram & Hart is as evil, perhaps even more so, than any hellmouth.”

“Was that your only concern?” she asked softly, reading more between the lines than he perhaps intended. Was he warning her about the law firm?

Giles took a sip of his tea as if to collect his thoughts. “No, it wasn’t,” he admitted on an exhalation of breath. “I am not at all certain Angel’s soul is completely secure, and I believe the last thing we need is a vampire as vicious and as shrewd as Angelus with Wolfram & Hart’s resources at his disposal.”

Elise paled slightly. It was hard for her to imagine Angel as dangerous and evil as others had described him, but she had to defer to their experience. They had first hand knowledge of seeing him that way; she did not.

“Understandable,” she murmured softly.

“And I wondered, too, if they were rushing into things. Besides concerns about the curse, Angel had left Buffy because he wanted her to have a normal life, because he was concerned he wasn’t good enough for her, he couldn’t give her children or take her out in sunlight. Those things hadn’t changed.”  He paused, looking distressed.

“Buffy was devastated when he left her the first time. In all honesty, I didn’t know how she’d take it if it didn’t work out this time.” He said the last with all the concern and seriousness of a father whose child’s future was at stake.

“Did you know they were trying to have a child?” she questioned tactfully. “I understand that Buffy had been undergoing in vitro fertilization. They were seeing the top specialists in the area, as well as someone in the Wolfram & Hart medical services group.”

His brows lifted. “Yes, Buffy mentioned it several times. She called about once a month, sometimes more.”

“So some things had changed.”

“True enough,” he admitted grudgingly. “You probably heard she had miscarried before as well. She was quite distraught about it.”

“Do you think she wanted a child?”

Giles looked almost startled by her question. “Yes, without question,” he answered without hesitation. “She never thought she’d have children, much less children with Angel, yet like anyone considering parenthood, she was excited and scared at the same time. She was afraid of the changes it would bring to their lives, and of her ability to raise a child, but she was anxious for the challenge. Are you suggesting-”

“No, no,” she interrupted quickly. “I’m not suggesting anything. I just wasn’t sure how she felt about children.”

Satisfied with her answer, Giles nodded.

“And Angel, what did he think about having a baby?”  Elise asked, making a few notes as she talked. His words were a bit of a contrast to what Willow, Buffy’s best friend, had said, which was rather curious. Either Buffy hadn’t been honest with one or the other of them, or they were not being honest to her.

“I’m not certain, though my impression was that he was thrilled about the possibility of being a father.  I understand she was pregnant when she disappeared.” He paused, his expression pained. “She called the day before, but hadn’t mentioned it…”

There was a long moment of silence. Giles stared at something on his desk as though he were struggling with his emotions.

“What do you think happened to her?” Elise asked, going to the question she knew would be perhaps the most difficult to answer.

“I don’t know,” Giles said heavily. “I wish I did. I checked all my contacts. I went everywhere I thought she might go – despite Angel having been steps ahead of me every time. I even tried magic, as did Willow, to see if we could locate her. Nothing.”

“Did she ever say anything to make you think that she wasn’t happy in Los Angeles?”

“No, not that I recall,” he answered thoughtfully. “In fact, she was happier than I had seen her in years. She liked working with Angel, and said she thought they were making a difference there. She often said she never imagined she’d have a future with Angel, that it all seemed like a dream sometimes. There was no doubt she loved him, and he her.”

Elise glanced at her watch and sighed with disappointment. “I know you said you only had an hour, and I don’t want to take any more of your time. I do have some more questions I’d like to ask you. Would you mind if I stopped by again some time later this week?” She switched off her tape recorder.

“Yes, that should be fine. Thursday evenings are usually quiet. Why don’t you stop by then?”

“Thank you. That’d be perfect.”

She slept. She hadn’t wanted to, but she had. Exhaustion was an undeniable force, even when the dreams that came with sleep made her waking hours that much more unbearable.

Fingertips, light as butterfly wings, drifted over her shoulders, along the length of her spine to the swell of her hips. Cool lips at her nape… delicate, soft, erotic brushing her shoulders, her back, moving lower.

She stayed very still, hungry and waiting, wanting the elusive sensations to continue. Aware if she moved, she would wake, and he would be gone once again.

The tip of his tongue teased her bare skin, licking softly.

She sighed blissfully.

He nipped and lapped with kisses that enticed with wicked pleasure. Fingertips stroking, caressing, gliding up and down over every inch of her skin… eliciting pure liquid heat that burned through her skin, into her blood to pool between her legs.

Then she felt the powerful strength of his body, cool as a calming breeze, yet tempting as sin, as he moved against her, pulling her closer. The hard length of his cock pressed firmly against her ass as his lips once more grazed her neck, before sinking in to take her flesh between his teeth and sucking hard in mock imitation of what he desired.

Aching for him, she whimpered and attempted to inch closer still.

His hands drifted along her arms, dipping in to caress the taut skin of her stomach. Stroking, petting, higher, higher still, though not high enough. She arched in frustration, pressing her breasts firmly into his hands, her bottom into the cradle of his hips.

He rolled her beneath him then and took her with swift, searing force, unable to contain the storm building between them. She shuddered violently beneath him only moments before he soared to his own explosive climax.  Exhaustion, satiation, contentment, filled her.  Amazed, happier than she had ever imagined she could be now that she was finally able to be with Angel in such exquisite intimacy.  She reached out to draw him close.

Finding only emptiness, her mind snapped back. Her eyes opened as the vestiges of sleep evaporated in a single burst. In the darkness, tears stung her eyes and Buffy wept silently.

It had been real once, but now it was only a memory, and a dream.

On her return trip to St. Margaret’s on Thursday, Elise talked to Giles for almost two hours before an exotic young woman with dark hair interrupted them. In perfect French she explained to Giles that there was a minor emergency in the girls dorm: a clogged drain that was grossing everyone out. With a slight roll of his eyes, Giles excused himself to handle the situation.

Flipping through her notebook, Elise began to reread the notes of their conversation. Giles has commented that he thought Buffy and Spike’s relationship was ‘destructive’ and that she had kept it from everyone for quite some time. Given what she knew about their relationship from Spike, Elise wasn’t too surprised by that. Giles had talked about Angelus at length, and the things that he had done to all of them, particularly Buffy, during his brief months in Sunnydale before he was resouled.

“Are you really going to write a story about my sister?”

Startled, Elise glanced up. “Pardon?”

“I heard you and Giles talking,” Dawn stated almost accusingly.

“You must be Dawn Summers,” Elise said, rising to offer her hand in greeting. “I’m Elise Seymour. And yes, I am. At least, I’m researching your sister with that in mind. I was hoping actually to get some of your time.”

Dawn stared for a moment, an unfriendly expression on her face.  Finally she shook the offered hand. “My time? Why?”

“I’d like to talk to you about Buffy, if you feel up to it. I’m very sorry to hear about what happened to her.”

“Yeah?  Well, if she had come to London with the rest of us then she’d still be alive today. Instead she had to stay in Los Angeles at Evil, Incorporated.”

Elise was surprised by the bitterness in the young girl’s voice. She wasn’t quite sure what to say in response that wouldn’t seem like an insincere platitude. Finally she decided to simply speak from the heart. “Losing someone you love is always difficult. It’s completely natural to think of the what ifs and could haves that would have changed things.”

“What do you know about it?” Dawn asked sourly, crossing her arms over her chest.

“I lost someone once, only a few years back,” the novelist replied quietly. “He was an innocent bystander at a robbery. Sometimes I still think about how different things would be now if he had gone out ten minutes later or had stopped at a different store. It’s irrational I know, but sometimes I still even get mad at him for smoking in the first place. If he’d have given the damn things up he’d have never gone out for cigarettes at all. We’d have bought that house in Pacific Palisades or New Orleans or Dublin or any of the half a dozen other places we talked about living someday.” Pausing, Elise took a breath. “Instead, I’m here with only my memories of him to keep me company.”

“Oh.” Dawn murmured, her expression softening slightly. “Are you really going to write a book about Buffy?

“Yes, I plan to. I’d like to share her story, but if the only people that end up seeing it are Angel, and Giles, and you, if you’d like, then maybe that would be okay too.”

Dawn frowned. “You know Angel?”

“Yes, I met him while researching my last book,” Elise supplied honestly. “That’s how I came to know about your sister.”

The younger woman’s brows lifted. “What? He just told you about her?”

Elise debated how best to answer the question, which from Dawn’s tone, was loaded with insinuation. “No, not at first. We didn’t talk about anything personal for several months after we met. And you know Angel, he’s not really one for personal disclosure.”

Dawn snorted. “True, but Buffy was important to him. Or so he said.”

“She was. Still is from what I can tell,” Elise agreed. “My guess is that he doesn’t talk about her because it’s still too painful for him. I think he still misses her.”

“Then why doesn’t he find her?!” Dawn exclaimed tearfully. “He has everything at Wolfram & Hart, everything. Magic, science, computers, seers… why couldn’t they do something?!”

“Dawn,” Elise began soothingly. Leading the younger woman by the arm, they sat side by side in the chairs near the desk. “Have you asked Angel about it?”

Wiping at her eyes, Dawn confessed halfheartedly, “No. I don’t really talk to him at all.”

“You should, honey,” the novelist encouraged. “I think you might find that the two of you have more in common than you think.  Look, I don’t know all the details, but I’ll tell you that Angel, Spike, Fred, Wes, pretty much anyone in the offices there… they all say the same thing. Angel used every resource available at Wolfram & Hart, as well as anyone and anything else he could get in searching for her.”

“Then why’d he give up?  Why isn’t he still looking?” she asked in a small voice.

Giles, now standing in the doorway, overheard the last part of their conversation.

“Vampires have a connection to their mates,” he began as he entered the office and closed the door behind him. “It’s persistent, strong, and from what I understand, quite profound.  There’s a similar bond among vampires that share a common lineage – their children, if you will – though not with the same degree of intensity. That connection is severed only in death.”

Elise and Dawn both looked up at Giles as he took the seat opposite them on the other side of the desk.

“We haven’t covered this in your training, I know,” the headmaster at St. Margaret’s admitted to the young Watcher in training. “The circumstances of the last year have been trying, and it wasn’t something I wanted to emphasize for obvious reasons.”

“Buffy and Angel had an abnormally strong connection from the beginning,” Giles continued plainly. “There were signs of this early on, when they were having shared dreams. I also believe it was their intense emotional involvement combined with this connection that managed to pull – for lack of a better description – Angel out of hell.”

“Really?” Elise asked interestedly, hoping he might elaborate.

Giles sighed. “I never discussed it with Buffy, other than some basic details, but yes, I believe something she did managed to bring Angel back from the hell dimension he was in. I wish I knew more about the specifics, but quite honestly I feared discussing it with her. I thought if she believed, even for a moment, that it was something that she had done, she would have tortured herself incessantly for not have done it – whatever it was – sooner.  She felt guilty enough about having sent him to hell with his soul. I simply couldn’t add to that.”

“So when he bit her…” Elise prompted.

“He simply put the finishing touch on what seemed from all accounts to be predestined. In other words, I think that was a formality of sorts, as they were essentially already bonded, but it was something that definitely strengthened or perhaps solidified their connection.”

“Did you know that at the time?” Elise asked, watching the former Watcher interestedly for his reaction.

“Yes,” Giles admitted reluctantly. “And quite honestly, the implications were alarming.”

Elise looked at him, puzzled. “How so?”

“Angel had already decided to leave Buffy, and to leave Sunnydale. Given that we all believed the clause in his curse was still very much an issue, I agreed that his leaving was for the best. Once he essentially staked his claim on her as his mate, I doubted he would leave Sunnydale. I had, in fact, thought the temptation for physical intimacy would only be that much stronger. And in all honesty, it surprised me that he still had the strength of will to leave after that. If the lore holds, being away from one’s mate is quite difficult for vampires – physically and psychologically. The feelings lessen over time, but in the first year or perhaps more, Angel was likely quite vulnerable.”

“Vulnerable?” Elise questioned with a perplexed frown.

Giles shrugged expressively. “Physically weaker, perhaps. Open to psychological manipulation, certainly. In Angel’s case, I imagine he may have been tempted to give in at times, he may have ceased to care about finding his purpose or mission, or his own future. When the First Evil attempted to work its will on Angel, attempting to convince him to kill himself or Buffy, I believe it knew about this weakness and was attempting to exploit it.  I suppose we can be grateful that it didn’t happen the first year Angel was in Los Angeles. The outcome could have been quite different.  There’s nothing specific to back up the theory, of course, and I’ve not had the opportunity to explore the idea further.”

“So you think that Angel thinks… that Buffy is dead. That she’s dead … be-because he no longer feels that connection?” Dawn asked tearfully, looking from Giles to Elise and back again.

Giles nodded slowly. “He reluctantly admitted some months ago that he could no longer ‘feel her’, though he didn’t go as far as to say that he believes her to be dead,” he confessed sadly. “Though given that, as well as the complete lack of clues as to her whereabouts, it’s difficult to draw any other conclusion.”

“I know.” Dawn nodded, her voice was a whisper, her eyes welling with tears.

“When’s the last time you talked to Angel, or anyone at Wolfram & Hart?” Elise asked curiously.

“It’s been a few months now,” Giles answered, glancing at Dawn.

“I… I didn’t really get along with Angel,” Dawn admitted with a shrug, wiping at her eyes. “I guess I always saw him as the guy that took away my sister. And he scared me… after all the stuff he had done.”

“Were you close, you and Buffy?” Elise asked.

“We were, and then we weren’t, then we were again. I mean, we were when we were younger, then not so much when Buffy became the Slayer and stuff. There were times things were better than others… and then after everything with Sunnydale when it blew up and stuff, we were kinda close again after that. At least as much as we could be since she was there and I was here,” Dawn explained with a shrug.

“Did she talk to you about her life with Angel, and about things at Wolfram & Hart?”

“Some, yeah,” Dawn told her.

“Was she happy?” Elise glanced at Giles who was watching her suspiciously, then back at Dawn.

Dawn sniffed and nodded. “I think so. I mean, when I talked to her it was always Angel this or Angel that. I know they spent a lot of time working, but she always made it sound like fun rather than work. I guess, too, they spent a lot of time at home, you know, doing it.”

Elise’s brows lifted. “I see.”

Shaking his head, Giles asked, “You’ve asked that question before. Did you have reason to think otherwise? That Buffy was not happy in Los Angeles?”

Elise looked from Dawn to the former Watcher pensively. “Well, someone I talked with suggested the possibility… or perhaps I simply misunderstood them.”

“And you believe this person to be credible?” Giles inquired, concerned.

“Was it Angel?” Dawn blurted curiously. “Because I know Buffy said he was always worried about that, if she was happy.”

Elise smiled at the young woman. “No, it wasn’t Angel. And I can’t really say who it was; I keep my interviews confidential. If I didn’t, I’d never get anyone to talk to me.”

Dawn frowned. “Oh. Well, ask Willow. She’d probably know. She saw Buffy pretty much every day, and they were pretty close.”

Nodding politely, Elise glanced back at Giles who was watching her intently. She wondered then, if he somehow knew something. Something he hadn’t told her and wasn’t planning too.

“Did you know Buffy faced Dracula once?” Dawn mentioned, beaming proudly as if she herself had been there.

“Really?”  Elise inquired, though she had read as much in one of the Wolfram & Hart journals. Accompanying the passage had been an annotation in the margin about a visit Angel had paid to Dracula not long after that, apparently to make sure the Transylvanian Count understood completely the boundaries of his trespass. It was unclear whether the famous vampire had survived the encounter.

Picking up her pen and notebook, and making sure her recorder was running, Elise listened to Dawn’s stories about Buffy for the next few hours. It was as if the young woman had finally found an outlet to talk about her sister, and was eager to do so in considerable detail.

Sipping his tea, Giles listened indulgently, smiling at times, and frowning at others. There had been so little time in the last year to indulge in walks down memory lane; the demands of running the school had simply not allowed it. But, he realized as he listened to Dawn’s chatter, it was something they both needed, and was long overdue as Buffy was still very much in their hearts.

To be continued…