“Thanks for letting us use the building’s all purpose room, Max. I don’t think our apartment would be a good place to hold a meeting.” She looked at the people sitting around the table in the middle of the room. “This is a lot better.”
“You’re quite welcome, Buffy. As it was my request we hold it in my building, it seemed only fair that I provide some space in which to do so. I thought this would be more comfortable than your living room. Even though that worked well for your party,” he hastened to add when she frowned.
“Well this looks more meeting-y,” she said with a shrug. “So thanks.” She looked at Giles. “I think everybody’s here. Do you want to start?”
“It’s your meeting, Buffy. I suggest you chair it.”
Buffy made no attempt to pretend she wasn’t willing to be in charge. She walked to the head of the table and sat down.
“Okay, does anybody have anything to contribute since last time? Magic people?”
Willow raised her hand. “I had an idea.”
“Um… okay? What is it?” She cast a quick glance at Giles and Winston, but they just shrugged.
“What if Anya and I can figure out what I was trying to do in your time that brought Otto—”
“Olaf!” Anya corrected.
“Olaf.” Willow glared at her. “If we can find the right crystal, and I can figure out how to bring just the hammer here without the troll, then you’d have it if you needed it.”
“Well, yes, that would be very helpful… but how could you do that? I don’t know exactly what you were trying to do or why it didn’t work, or even why it ended up freeing Olaf from the crystal. All I know about it is that it was you and Anya and that’s what happened.”
“But if I could do it, it would help, right?”
Buffy looked helplessly at Winston and Giles before stammering, “Ye… yes, of course it would. But I don’t see how—”
“That’s okay. You don’t have to understand how I do it, as long as it gets done.”
Willow sat back with a satisfied smile on her face, ignoring the way Anya was glaring at her. She didn’t acknowledge the little frown furrowing Tara’s brow, nor the interested expression on Max’s face, although she did send Giles and Winston a challenging stare. They both stared back, their expressions as neutral as they could make them. Buffy just sighed and filed “talk about Willow” away as something to worry about later.
“Okay, then. Anybody else?”
Xander surprised everyone by speaking up next. “Anya has something to say,” he said, nudging her.
Anya stopped glaring long enough to say, “I’ve been thinking about what’s going to happen to Buffy and Spike when they change something as big as not letting her die… or be resurrected,” she added with a sidelong glance at Willow, who interrupted.
“I’ve already said I won’t bring her back if she dies. That’s why I’m trying to think of ways to keep her from dying this time.”
Pretending she’d never heard Willow, Anya continued. “I don’t think they are going to stop being a couple just because the future changes. When I was a vengeance demon, I could go back and forth in time and it never took away my memory of what I went back there to do. I could remember what the time I came back to was like before I left, but I also knew why it was different when I came back.” She frowned. “Of course, I wasn’t going back in my own time, and I didn’t hang around to see what happened after that.”
Buffy’s expression, which had been cautiously happy, faded as Anya finished speaking.
“So, you don’t really know that they’ll remember what their world was like before.” Willow gave a snort of contempt, earning another glare from Anya, who then turned her gaze on Spike.
“You know what you can do to make sure the two of you stay together. I really don’t know why you haven’t done it yet.”
Xander sputtered and coughed, matching the expression on Giles’s face as they both jumped to the same conclusion.
“You think he should turn me?” Buffy said, rising to her feet.
“Easy, love. That’s not what she’s talking about.” Spike put a reassuring hand on Buffy’s shoulder, never taking his eyes off Anya. “At least I don’t think it is…” Buffy sank down into her chair, still staring at Anya.
“Of course it isn’t!” Anya waved her hands in indignation. “Why would we want a slayer to be a vampire? Do I look stupid?” She subsided. “I don’t understand why you haven’t done it yet, that’s all. You’re wasting all this time worrying about keeping your relationship, when you should be worrying about how to keep a hellgod from killing us all!”
Buffy looked up at Spike. “What the hell is she talking about?”
“I’ll explain later, love. She’s right about one thing. We don’t need to waste valuable planning time fretting about it now.” The look he sent Anya made it very clear he didn’t want to continue that line of thought.
“We will talk about this later,” Buffy muttered, then gave herself a mental shake. “Okay, back to Glory. Do we know anything else?” She glanced at Giles and then the two mages. Giles spoke up first.
“I have researched some more, and also been speaking to the researchers at the Council, and it appears that Glory’s human host may not be the innocent victim we’ve been assuming he is. The very human body and personais a host for the hellgod’s essence, but he isnot a separate entity. When Glory returns to her home dimension, he will vanish just as surely as will the less human body she uses when in her god-form.”
Spike’s eyes lit up. “Then killing him wouldn’t be like taking a human life!”
“It’s complicated…” Giles began, then seeing Buffy’s face fall, he added quickly, “But, essentially, yes. Ben is human, and when Glory’s energy runs low, that is the primary form to which she reverts, and she has limited influence over it. But he cannot exist separately from her… and we may then assume the reverse is true. She will cease to exist if and when he does.”
“Let me make sure I’ve got this. If Glory gets to go back, Ben disappears? If she doesn’t get to go back and I find a way to kill her, Ben disappears anyway. But if we kill Ben, we also kill Glory and they both go away?”
“As best we understand it at this time. I will, of course, continue to research.”
“Wow.” Buffy leaned back in the chair.
“This does put a different face on things,” Max said.
“I think I feel a need to visit the hospital,” Spike said, moving toward the door.
He whirled and stared at Buffy in surprise. “What do you mean ‘No’?”
“I don’t mean, no, not ever. Just…. If he changes while he’s there, innocent people could get hurt. Even if somebody sees you kill him… I just think we need to catch him away from other people.”
“At which times, he’s surrounded by hard-to-kill ugly little buggers.”
Winston put a hand on Spike’s arm, not flinching when Spike snarled at him. “Let us work on this a little,” he said, gesturing to include Giles and Willow, as well as Max. I think the safest way to make this work, is to find a way to keep Glory in her human form long enough for you to be able to kill him safely away from innocent bystanders and, with luck, her minions.”
“Can you do that?”
“It remains to be seen. But it would be the safest way to go if it’s possible. We would have to be able to drain her energy sufficiently to keep her in her most vulnerable form for as long as it took to for you to get to him.”
“That sounds like a plan!” Xander looked around the table. “Tell me that doesn’t sound a lot better than towers and stabbing and falling and….”
“It does,” Buffy agreed. She smiled at Winston. “She got a lot of her energy from the Knights when they tried to attack her. If we can get rid of them, she’ll have a lot less energy.” She frowned. “Unless she starts randomly draining regular people…. But that’ll be harder for her to do I think.”
Willow looked somewhat miffed that her idea to bring Olaf’s hammer to Sunnydale might not be necessary, but she smiled and nodded when Max suggested she remain behind to join the three men in working on ways to concentrate their magic on a hellgod.
The meeting broke up into more of a social occasion with the magic people on one side of the table—including Tara, who Max seemed to be quite fond of—and Buffy and Spike with Xander and Anya.
Anya stared at Spike. “Well, are you going to do it?”
“I’m going to discuss it with Buffy. Privately.”
Spike’s cold glare had Xander putting his arm around Anya, saying, “Leave it, sweetie. Don’t make the vampire mad.”
“We are going to talk about this,” Buffy said.
“Said we would, didn’t I?”
“Well, why don’t we go do it now? After we patrol.” She stood up and glanced at Xander and Anya. “Do you guys want us to walk you out?”
“Thanks, but we’ll be all right. I’m packing tonight.” Xander patted his jacket pocket, then pulled out a water pistol. “Sunnydale’s best holy water.”
Buffy furrowed her brow, but Spike laughed. “Good plan,” he said. “But not sure how much help it will be against Glory’s scabby little minions.”
“Oh, I’ve got that covered too,” he said, flourishing an amulet. “Willow gave us these things to wear that will make us grow thorns if anything tries to capture one of us.”
Buffy and Spike exchanged looks.
“Well, I can’t imagine what could go wrong there….” Buffy said dubiously.
Anya nodded vigorously. “That was my reaction too, but Xander trusts her.” She made a face that Xander couldn’t see, silently begging for help.
“Ah, well, we’re on our way out anyway, so we’ll just walk along with you. No sense growing thorns if you don’t have to.”
Anya mouthed ‘thank you’ at them as Xander strode confidently out the door, waving to Willow and Tara. Spike followed behind him as Buffy dropped back beside Anya.
“So, you don’t think there’s any chance Spike and I won’t be together if we change the course of the next several years?”
Anya shrugged. “I don’t see why you wouldn’t be. You’re here now. You have all your memories of the future you came from. Those didn’t change when Winston got here, did they? And he comes from a different future that you weren’t part of, doesn’t he?”
Buffy nodded. “Yeah. In his future, Willow apparently went off the deep end even more than she did in ours….”
Anya’s eyes lit up. “What did she do?”
“I don’t know. She didn’t get specific and neither did he. But hearing about it from herself was enough to make her break that My Will Be Done spell, so it must have been pretty intense.”
“I don’t mean what did she do in his time. I meant in yours. You said ‘even more’ than she did in yours.”
Buffy shook her head. “Spike and I already know how to prevent what set her off, and we’re planning to make sure it doesn’t happen this time. It was bad. And I can’t really blame her for…. You know what? It hasn’t happened here and it probably won’t, so I think it’s one of those things we should just keep to ourselves.”
“Hmmph!” was Anya’s disappointed reply.
“All you need to know,” Spike said, having been listening to them and dropping back beside Anya, “is that the next couple of years were, and still could be, bloody awful in one way or another for just about everybody. Most of it had to do with Buffy’s death and resurrection and the problems that caused. Not saying it’s all gonna be sunshine and roses if that doesn’t happen, but it’s got to be better, and it’s got to change some of those things in some way. Makes no sense to worry anybody about them now.”
“Fine,” Anya muttered with little grace, then peered at him. “Are you going to do it? That thing you don’t want to talk about?”
“I’m pretty sure when he said he’d talk to me in private, he meant without you and Xander,” Buffy said in a tone that made it very clear that was the end of the discussion.
Which didn’t stop Anya from muttering, “Fine. But if he really loved you, he would have done it by now and I wouldn’t—” Spikes growl and Xander’s hand over her mouth were almost simultaneous.
“Make your own way home,” Buffy said, stopping and grabbing Spike’s arm. “If you’re all covered in thorns tomorrow, don’t blame me.”
“Sheesh, Buffy, you’d think Willow never did anything right. Come on, Anya. Let’s go home.”
Buffy and Spike watched them get into Xander’s car, then exhaled in unison.
“They’ll be fine, pet. Let’s go find something to beat up.”
“Good plan. I’ll pretend I’m beating on Willow and you can pretend you’re killing Anya.”
They began walking toward the nearest cemetery.
An hour later, they’d dusted several vampires and managed to kill two of Glory’s minions with the swords they now rarely went out without.
“Time to go home?” Spike put his arm around her and nuzzled her ear. “I think I’ve worked out my need to shut Anya’s mouth permanently.”
Buffy laughed and snuggled in to his side. “Yeah, I’m not mad at Willow anymore. I’m still a little worried, but I remember all the good magic she did while Glory was here, and she really was a big help.”
Spike nodded. “She was able to go in and pull you out of your head when you went all comatose on us. Got to appreciate her for that little trick.”
“And Anya’s been a big help to us this time with her knowledge of time travel. Not to mention, whatever it is that you keep shushing her about. Don’t think I’ve forgotten that.” She dug her elbow into his side as they began walking home. “We’re in private now, so what is this thing you can do if you really love me that will make sure we don’t fall apart?”
“What do you know about vampire mating rituals, love?”
She stopped walking to stare at him.
“Apparently nothing, or I’d have some idea what she’s talking about.”
“She’s talking about a mutual claim… or maybe just me claiming you, since I’m the vampire in this relationship. Either way, it means if I bite you, and then say the right words while we’re….making love, we’ll be connected. You’ll be marked as mine and—”
“Bite me? You’ve already sucked my blood a couple of times. That didn’t do it?”
He shook his head and urged her to walk faster. “Those little nicks didn’t do anything except remind me what your blood tastes like. Remember how you said you were going to make yourself a note to let me drink your blood if I didn’t remember you?”
“Let’s get comfy, and I’ll explain, yeah?” He held the door open for her, closing and locking it behind them.
“We probably don’t need to do that, you know,” Buffy said, pointing above their heads to where Max lived.
“Don’t know exactly how they work, do I? The poof was able to get to our door last year without noticing anything. And for all we know, people who’ve already been here can come and go as they please as long as they aren’t trying to set fire to the building or something….”
He gave her a leer. “Anyway, I have plans for you, and I don’t want them interrupted by anybody, including our landlord.”
“So, are you going to share those plans with me, or just let me be surprised?”
His expression got more serious as he sat down and pulled her into his lap.
“Wouldn’t do that to you, love. Want you to know exactly what we’re talking about and go into it with your eyes open—metaphorically speaking, know you shut your eyes when you—” He cleared his throat. “Anyway, here’s the thing. I wasn’t joking about those little sips I take every once in while meaning I’d know your blood anywhere, anytime. But knowing whose blood it is wouldn’t prove anything except I’ve tasted it before, so it would tell me we know each other. And if it was the right kind of blood, it might even tell me how well we knew each other….” He got lost in that memory long enough for Buffy to know what he was remembering and poke him hard enough to snap him out of it. He laughed and continued with his explanation.
“But it wouldn’t necessarily keep us the couple we are now—without those two more years of…. I think we’ll still be us. Nothing we’ve done so far has changed that, and we didn’t have the getting married spell this time to wake my subconscious up to the real reason I keep coming back here.”
“That spell? Willow’s My Will Be Done spell that made us think we were in love and getting married? Are you trying to tell me…. You’re just making that up!”
“Not sayin’ I was in love with you then, just that it opened my eyes a bit. Dru threw me out because she said you were floating all around me. I thought it meant I needed to kill you, but after all that time we spent snogging …. I couldn’t walk straight for a week. If nothing else, it got my dick rethinkin’ my plans for you.”
Buffy blushed. “TMI, Spike. And I still think you’re full of it. That spell isn’t why I love you.” She peered at him from the corners of her eyes. “But I do remember thinking you were one hell of a kisser....”
“From little seeds grow mighty trees,” he replied with a grin. “Gave me something to work with, didn’t it?”
“Pfffft. Off the subject. Back to what was Anya talking about.”
“What Anya’s going on about is me putting a claim on you, or, if… and only if… you were sure, doing a mutual claim. Which is basically a vampire version of marriage… except there’s no ending it just by finding a smart lawyer to get you out. It’s forever. Usually, if one dies, the other one soon follows.”
He stroked her face, his expression grim. “Don’t think I’d need it to tell me my life would be over if you— Not after this last year of livin’ together and being there for each other every night. Can’t see me facing immortality after losing something like what we have now.”
“Spike, I’m still a slayer. And right now, I’m The Slayer—except for Faith—and who knows where she is now? Some demon could have his one good day any time. I don’t want you to die just because I do! You didn’t before.”
“Back then, all I had was a bit of your trust and your friendship. And even at that, if I hadn’t made that promise to take care of the Bit… I dunno. Might have been okay once I got past the guilt and grief or might not. Might have just drunk myself to death.”
Buffy put her hand on his cheek, saying softly, “I’m really glad you didn’t. I’m not sure I ever told you that.”
They gazed into each other’s eyes for several minutes, his arms slowly tightening around her until she broke the gaze and sat up straighter.
“So, explain this claim thing to me.”
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