“So, what do you think? Should we go through the whole year just so everybody knows everything? Or just worry about Glory and let the other stuff happen?” Buffy looked at Giles and Winston, holding her list in her hand. “I mean, some of it isn’t going to happen anyway, because of stuff that’s already changed. Like Drac for instance. I already sent him packing.”
“Dracula?” Giles stuttered. “He’s real?”
“Yeah. It was kind of a big deal in our time, but I was ready for him tonight and Spike was with me, so it didn’t take us too long to convince him Sunnydale wasn’t a good place to come looking for a date.” She grinned at Giles. “I remember you seemed to be kinda into his brides, though. Sorry you’re going to have to miss that this time around.”
Spike laughed as Giles sputtered and coughed and demanded Buffy explain herself. When they both just kept laughing at him, he subsided with a “One of those things I’d rather not know, I suppose.”
Winston had paid little attention to the byplay, frowning and seeming deep in thought. When he looked up, he said, “I was thinking perhaps I should tell you what happened in my time line, but I suspect it’s pretty much the same as yours. Whatever changed—and it seems that it was Willow’s keeping her My Will spell in effect—has already been changed now, so whatever else happens may be quite different from my memories. I suggest we just hear the highlights of the year. You can include interesting details, such as Rupert’s experience with Dracula’s brides—” He paused to smirk at Giles. “—if and when we need to hear them.”
“Well, you already know the biggie. That’s Dawn. She should be here pretty soon. Of course, we don’t know if we’re all going to be given those memories of her, or not. The fact that Spike and I already know her and how she got here, makes giving us those memories…. what’s that word that means it doesn’t matter?”
“Moot, love,” Spike whispered.
“Yeah. That. Moot. We already have all our memories of how she got here, and the ones of having her in our lives since she was born.” She frowned. “Well, in my life, since then. Spike didn’t meet her until we made the truce to get rid of Angelus. Either way, we have all the memories we need.”
“You also have your memories of learning what she really is,” Winston said. “And you’ve shared them with us, so that’s quite a twist there isn’t it?”
“Reckon it depends on what happens to your memories once she gets here. Could be the spell is going to wipe what we’ve told you right out of your brains.” Spike shrugged. “We’re counting on it not happening to us, but we left ourselves notes about it just in case. Don’t want to waste all that time once the bitch shows up not knowing what’s really going on, do we?”
Giles nodded. “Leaving ourselves notes could save us a lot of time if Glory’s spell wipes out our ability to remember what we already know from conversations about her.” He got up and went to take a legal pad from his desk.
While Giles searched for a pen, Winston gazed at Buffy and Spike.
“What?” Spike challenged.
Winston sighed and shook his head. “I was just thinking this is the real beginning, isn’t it? Whatever you accomplish this year will change all our futures, mine included.”
“Not having second thoughts about that, are you?” Spike had unconsciously moved closer to Buffy as if to protect her from Winston, who shook his head again, more vigorously this time.
“No, of course not. I came back here to assist you both with your mission. I understood going in that it would also change my experiences. It’s just suddenly hit home that the time is now.”
Giles sat down and poised his pen. “I think we’ll need as many notes as we can manage to keep safe, perhaps in several different places,” he said. “The first one might be a note to ourselves”—he gestured between himself and Winston— “suggesting we immediately work a general spell cancellation spell to eliminate our inability to see Glory in her human form. No matter how often we read our notes—” He paused when Spike growled. “Or how often Spike, who said only humans were affected by it, tells us Glory shares a body with… a doctor?” He waited for Buffy and Spike to nod their confirmation before continuing, “No matter how often he tells us they’re the same two entities sharing one human body, it will be much easier to grasp if we can see it for ourselves.”
“Good idea, Rupert. A sheet of that paper for me, if you wouldn’t mind?” Winston reached for the tablet and began his own list. “What else do you think we need to know?” he asked, looking back and forth between Buffy and Spike.
“Well, for starters, I’m going to try to save that night watchman before Glory brainsucks him. And then—”
“And then you’re going to scarper away with him, while I try to distract her from torturing the poor old man to death.”
“You’re not taking her on without me!”
“I thought you weren’t happy about being smashed through that wall?”
“I won’t be happy if you get smashed either!”
“I’m not as smashable as you are,” he argued back.
When they appeared heading for a slayer-vampire standoff, Giles spoke up.
“Would either of you care to fill us in?”
Buffy gave a quick recap of her first meeting with Glory and how poorly it went for her and the monk who was apparently responsible for getting the Key into her possession. And the brain-sucked night watchman who had actually given her the orb and from whom Glory obtained that information.
“Was the monk already dead when you found him?”
Buffy sighed. “Pretty close, I guess. He died right after he told me about Dawn and insisted she didn’t know she wasn’t real and that I needed to remember that.”
“Perhaps, Buffy,” Giles said gently, “he was meant to die no matter what you do to try to prevent it.”
“That’s what I told her,” Spike muttered, earning a glare from Buffy.
“Giles, she tortured him to death. For nothing. I already had the Key. If I can get there before she starts on him….”
The men exchanged looks, then Spike shrugged. “I s’pose it could be worth a shot. Even if she shows up before we can get him out of there, she’ll have a harder time against the two of us.”
“How will you know when to be there?” Giles asked with a frown.
“As soon as I stake the vamp that drops the glowing thingie, I’ll know she’s around and looking for the monk. I guess I’ll just stake out that warehouse…” At the raised eyebrows, she glared and said, “It’s a work-in-progress idea, all right?” She stopped and shared a look with Spike, then heaved a sigh.
“It won’t be for another week or so anyway. More importantly, right now, I need to convince my mom to see a doctor because she has a brain tumor, without actually telling her she has a brain tumor.”
“Dear lord!” Giles said. “Is that what killed her in your time?”
Buffy shook her head. “No, the tumor wasn’t malignant and the surgery went as well as brain surgery can go, I guess. It was a sudden aneurysm way after we stopped worrying about her that killed her. But if she gets the surgery earlier…. I don’t know. Maybe they won’t have to do as much, and maybe she won’t….”
“If there’s a way to stop it, we will,” Spike growled. “Could just be as simple as convincing the doctor to monitor her with MRIs every week.”
“And perhaps,” Winston said gently. “It’s is just her time. You must be prepared to accept that, Buffy, and not allow it to distract you from your primary mission.”
Buffy glared at him. “Is this your idea of being helpful to me? Cause I’ve got to tell you, it sucks.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that I wouldn’t be happy to assist you in any way to maintain your mother’s health. That’s not what I meant at all. I simply wanted to remind you that experience so far has shown us that, while you have changed some things, others have still occurred, if perhaps in not quite the same way they did in your timeline. And I don’t want you to be thrown off your game, so to speak, by having perhaps unrealistic hopes dashed.”
He sat back and waited for her reaction. To no one’s surprise at this point, she turned to Spike for reassurance. He wrapped his arms around her and murmured to her softly for a few seconds. Buffy nodded her head against his shoulder, then pulled away from him with a sigh.
Facing Winston and Giles again, she said, “I get it. I do. It’s just that walking into the living room and finding my mom—” She gave herself a full body shake. “I lived through it once, I can do it again. But I’m not giving up without a fight.”
“Nor would we expect any less of you,” Giles said. “Until we have to worry that Glory is here and seeking the Key, I want you to concentrate on your mother. As she knows you are from her future, I suspect she’ll be quite willing to follow your advice about her health. Perhaps even without your having to be specific.”
“I hope so. The doctor said he had told her an aneurysm was possible, but the way it happened, there would have been no warning signs and no time for her to realize what was happening. Just boom!” She signed. “He said even if I’d been there, I probably couldn’t have done anything.”
“And the surgery was absolutely necessary, even though it was a non-malignant tumor, is that correct?” Something in Winston’s demeanor caused Spike to sit up and focus on him intently while Buffy responded.
“Well, yeah. I mean the headaches are already getting really bad and she passed out once, so it’s already pressing on her brain. And it’s killing her—just, you know, slower and more painfully.”
Giles and Spike fixed Winston with identical hard glares. Spike spoke first.
“Don’t even mention it unless you’re bloody sure you can,” he growled, as Giles began to speak.
“Is it possible?” Giles asked. “Are you that adept?”
Buffy looked back and forth between them, then at Winston. “Are they talking about what I think they are? Can you cure my mom? Without surgery?”
Winston sighed and shrugged. “If the tumor is truly non-malignant and therefore not seeding cancer cells elsewhere in her body, I should be able to either shrink it away or remove it completely without doing anything more invasive than touching her head for a few moments.”
“Wow.” Buffy sat back and looked at him with new respect. “Why aren’t you a doctor if you can do stuff like that?”
He gave a soft laugh. “For those of us not born to be healers, it is very difficult and requires a great deal of magical energy—even for someone like me. I can’t imagine doing it very often. I’d be useless for months after the first few times.” He sighed. “And putting your hands on someone to cure them is asking for more publicity than anyone in my line of work would care to have.”
Buffy frowned, remembering Max and his reluctance to openly use magic to protect himself or the building. She put the comparisons between Max and Winston in the back of her mind to wonder about later and asked, “Is that what people who claim they can cure people do? I thought they were all fakes.”
“Most of them assuredly are fakes. However, it’s likely one or two are actually magical healers who don’t understand why they can cure things, only that they often can.” He smiled at Buffy. “I’m not a healer. That is not my area of expertise at all. However, I am familiar enough with the techniques, and….” He paused and stared around at his audience. Buffy was smiling at him hopefully, Spike was studying him with a gaze both curious and alert, and Giles’s narrowed eyes indicated he was beginning to suspect what Winston’s area of expertise might be.
He sighed and began again. “I’m not a healer,” he repeated. “However, I do have a rather large amount of magic at my disposal, and shrinking a tumor is well within my capabilities. Only you can tell me if your mother is likely to be willing to let me try.”
“I’ll make her willing!” Buffy said.
“Do you want me to come with you, love?” Spike played with Buffy’s fingers as they relaxed on the couch.
“To talk to Mom?” She shrugged. “I don’t know. She likes you, just like she did in our time, but, I dunno. I feel like it needs to be a private conversation. And I don’t know how I'm going to do that if Dawn’s around.”
“Ah, that’s right. She’ll be back in our lives any day now.”
“Yep. One annoying little sister who’s also a thousand-year-old key, coming up.”
“Better get our shaggin’ in now, yeah?” he said, kissing the fingers he was still holding.
“You know she’s going to be a pain in the arse about all this. She’ll never leave me alone with you.”
Buffy snorted. “You might be right. We’ll see I guess. She’ll either have just as big a crush on you as she did in our time, or… she might think you’re boring because you aren’t the Big Bad anymore and her sister lives with you.”
“Either way….” He began to nibble on her neck.
Buffy giggled and tilted her head to give him more access. “If you wanted to go to bed, all you had to do was say so. You didn’t have to blame your constant state of horniness on Dawn.”
“Can I blame it on you?” he said, standing up and pulling her with him. He scooped her up and carried her to the bedroom, sucking on her neck the entire way.
“Are you about to pull my blood out through my skin again?” Although her words were complaining, her accelerated breathing and the accompanying humming sound in her throat, put the lie to it.
“If I did, would you be brassed off? It didn’t hurt you much before, did it?”
“I can’t remember… I think I was usually sort of… involved… at the time.”
“Could get all involved like that again,” he said, pulling her shirt over her head.
“Mmmmm….” Buffy dropped her arms and slid them under his shirt. “Let’s get naked and then we can talk about it.”
“And that’s why I love you,” he said, unfastening her bra and taking one nipple in his mouth. “I will never get tired of the taste of your skin,” he mumbled. “Never.”
“Promise me?” Buffy said pulling him down on top of her as she fell onto the bed. He paused his sucking to frown down at her.
“I mean it, Buffy. You know I do.”
“Yeah, but what if everything’s changed after Glory’s gone? If I don’t die, I don’t come back all depresso-girl, and maybe I won’t need to go to you all the time. And maybe I won’t— and then we won’t…. and you won’t know what my skin tastes like.”
He rolled off to lie beside her, using his free arm to pull her over so he could gaze into her worried eyes.
Maybe not,” he said. “We’ve always known that was a possibility.” He touched her face with one hand. “I can’t imagine it happening to us… to me. Maybe you’ll forget I was ever anything but extra muscle for fighting Glory, but I can’t believeI will. If nothing else, those little sips of your blood I get from time to time are part of me now. Your blood will call to me no matter if I remember how or why I got to taste it.”
“I hope you’re right. I think that needs to go on our lists. That I should let you taste my blood if you want to.”
He snorted. “Right. I can feel that stake going through my heart already.”
“I’ll be sure to remind myself not to stake you if you ask to taste my blood. And anyway, you’ve got the Gem, so it won’t kill you.” She began to unbuckle his belt. “Now, weren’t we about to get so involved that I won’t notice it when you do?”
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