By the time Spike and Buffy were to meet Giles and Winston at the Magic Box the following evening, Dawn had already had one frightening experience with a homeless man who followed her most of the way home, telling her she was “glowing”. She’d burst into the house, slamming and locking the door behind her, and gone straight to the phone to call Buffy and Spike, who rushed to Revello Drive. The obviously mentally ill homeless man had already wandered off, so there was nothing left to do but wait for Joyce to get home and to assure both Joyce and Dawn that they were all working hard to find a solution to the situation.
Buffy described the Knights, and reminded Dawn to avoid them at all costs. After Spike had circled the house several times looking for lurkers (debating whether he should follow the man’s scent, but deciding against it), and Buffy had called Giles to tell him the wards were needed… NOW… they had dinner with Joyce and Dawn before leaving for the Magic Box.
They arrived at the shop just as Giles and Winston were finishing their wards for that building. Spike stopped in surprise when he encountered an unexpected magical barrier.
“Kickin’ me out of the club?” he inquired, tapping on the invisible wall that had prevented him from following Buffy inside.
“Sorry, Spike,” Winston said quickly. “Forgot that a barrier impervious to all non-human beings would include you. Please come in.”
Spike growled as he stepped through the door. “Not sure if I should be offended or flattered,” he said, only half-joking.
Winston smiled at him. “I guess that depends on whether you consider it to be a good thing or a bad thing to be accepted by the humans you are friends with as one of them.”
“Might have to think on that for a bit,” he said, smothering a smile of his own. “So what did you magical types come up with last night? In the way of a plan, I mean.”
A gasp from Giles brought everyone’s attention to him. He was staring at Buffy, who, in the act of shrugging off her jacket, had exposed the new bite mark on her neck. She flushed, but stood up straight to meet her former watcher’s angry glare.
“Yes,” she said. “That’s exactly what you think it is. Spike and I are….” She paused and gave Spike an apologetic shrug. “I just can’t use that word. Not with other human people.”
“The Slayer and I eloped last night,” Spike filled in smoothly. “We got ourselves married in the eyes of the Powers That Mess With Things, and now we don’t need to worry about what keepin’ her alive might do to our future together. It’s just a pact between us and has nothing to do with anyone else.”
Giles gave a sigh of resignation and nodded. “I suppose that’s true, although I’m fairly certain Xander is not going to see it that way.”
“No reason for him to know about it just now,” Spike said, plucking a soft green scarf off a display and handing it to Buffy, who understood immediately and arranged it around her neck in such a way as to hide the mark.
“Good choice,” she said, smiling at him for picking one that coordinated with her sweater.
“Looks good on you, love. Brings out the green in your eyes.” They beamed at each other for a moment, until Winston coughed and reminded them they weren’t alone.
“I suspect Anya will understand the reason for the scarf rather quickly, but perhaps she won’t share it with her boyfriend,” he said, sending Giles an inquiring look. Giles shrugged his doubt, keeping his attention on Buffy.
“Oh crap! She probably will. Oh well, by the next time we see them, maybe it’ll have faded enough that she won’t notice it.”
“Speaking of fading….” Spike raised an eyebrow at Buffy.
“Oh yeah. That. Sit down, guys, this is really weird.”
With help from Spike, who interjected when he felt he needed to, she explained about Dracula’s mark having vanished without either of them noticing it at the time.
“So, Spike thinks it probably happened after I sent him back to Transylvania or wherever, and we just didn’t notice it till now.”
Giles nodded, grabbing his always nearby notepad and jotting down the new information about time travel and its effects.
“That could be a reasonable outcome,” he said. “In this timeline, he didn’t get to mark you, so the one you brought with you ceased to exist. I’ll admit it’s a little disturbing, but I can understand why it might happen.”
Looking almost as interested as the research-oriented Giles was, Winston nodded his head also. “I believe that’s entirely possible. However, I’m a bit curious about why Spike didn’t notice it, given that we know he enjoys your neck.” He gave a small grin, reminding them of the visible love bites Buffy sported from time to time.
She flushed and muttered, “Let him tell you. That’s the next biggie.”
Giles and Winston both gave Spike their attention as he coughed and mumbled, before saying, “Seems like I prefer the left side of her neck.”
Giles frowned. “That makes sense, given your hand preferences, I suppose. But that’s quite a strong preference, if you don’t mind my saying so.”
“And there you have the crux of the matter….”
Buffy’s patience had by now overcome her embarassment and she snapped, “Oh my god, just tell them why you stayed away from that side of my neck!” She turned her attention on Giles. “And just so you know, I think my watcher should have at least considered the possibility and warned me about it.”
Giles paled slightly as his growing recognition of what could have happened became visible. “Are you saying….?” He gave something close to a growl. “I should have set fire to that bastard when I had the chance!”
“Well, yeah. You should have. Or, maybe not set fire, ‘cause I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have appreciated it back then, but something. You should have done something!”
Winston interrupted the tense moment. “Are you saying that Angel, or Angelus, had already marked and claimed you?”
“Looks like,” Spike said tersely. “Stupid of me not to wonder why I never felt comfortable kissin’ that side of her neck, but it wasn’t strong enough to get my attention, just enough to keep me from gettin’ too close.”
“How did it happen?” Giles stared at Buffy as if it was somehow her fault, causing her to flinch, and Spike to snarl and rise from his seat. “I’m sorry!” Giles said quickly. “I’m not saying you let it happen on purpose, only that I don’t understand how… I suppose it had to be when he almost killed you to save his own sorry life.”
Buffy put a calming hand on Spike’s arm, the claim letting her feel his anger at Giles even while it was ebbing.
“Yes. That’s the only time he ever bit me. But I was unconscious, so if he claimed me, I didn’t hear it and I definitely didn’t accept it. But….” She glanced at Spike, who was growling again, this time at what he knew was coming. She quickly explained about how Angel would always ask if she was still his girl, even after he’d left Sunnydale, and that she always responded with what he wanted to hear.
“So, even without your knowing what you were doing, you were reinforcing it. Interesting….” Giles looked thoughtful as he added to his notes.
“I know you meant to say sneaky and disturbing,” Buffy said, causing Giles to cough and push his notebook away.
“May I see the mark, Buffy?” Winston asked respectfully.
“Well, that brings us to the next thing….”
“There’s more?” Giles looked as if he was wishing he had more paper as he grabbed his pad back again.
“Boy howdy,” Buffy said with a grimace. She poked Spike. “You tell them.”
“Winston can’t see the mark because it’s gone. It disappeared right after we claimed each other. It was there just before, but not after.”
Both men stared at them with wide eyes.
Buffy filled the stunned silence. “Not only is that scar gone—just like Dracula’s—but so is that connection to Angel I’ve always felt and thought was because he was my first true love.” She made a face to indicate how distasteful she now found that idea.
“It’s gone. And if he’d been around last night when we figured out what he’d done….” She rolled her eyes and muttered, “He should be glad he wasn’t. I was definitely thinking big dust bunny.”
“And what about you? Surely you find this as outrageous as we do?” Giles looked somewhat incredulous as he asked Spike why he wasn’t more furious.
Spike sighed before he answered.
“It was a partial claim at best. If I’m feeling charitable, I can imagine he hoped having his mark on her throat might save her life one day.” He shook his head. “But using it to keep her tied to him, that was the poof being the complete wanker I know he is.” He bared his teeth and snarled. “If he shows up here plannin’ to complain about my real claim kicking his out, he’d best bring an army with him.”
“Indeed,” Giles agreed, sounding very much like the man who’d once gone after Angelus with a stake and a flaming torch. “There may be a line forming.”
Buffy waved her hand. “It has to form behind me. I’m the injured party here. Right now we need to figure out what we’re going to do about Glory, and how we’re going to do it. You researchy guys can take all your notes, and when we have time, we can try to figure out why things I do now can change things I brought into this timeline with me. For now, at least we’ve fixed it so it can’t change how Spike and I feel about each other. So, Glory first, weird time traveling stuff next.”
“Quite right,” Winston said. “We must keep our priorities focused if at all possible.”
“Yes,” Giles agreed, laying down his pen with some visible reluctance. “I believe we—actually, your incredibly interesting landlord and Winston—have devised a way to convince the Knights of Byzantium that both they and Glory are on the wrong track to locate the Key. With luck, they will leave Sunnydale immediately in search of it elsewhere. By the time they learn they were tricked, it will be too late for Glory to use it and we can hope they will retire gracefully.”
Buffy gazed at Winston. “Is that going to work?”
“We think so. It’s just a question of planting suggestions in a few of the higher officers, and letting them thrash out where else the Key may have been hidden. If we can convince them that Sunnydale is a red herring, they should go off to pursue the Key somewhere in Asia where they will have heard about strange events taking place.”
“In our time, Glory was sucking their brains as fast as she could get them, and all the brain-sucked ones recognized Dawn. And so did a crazy homeless man today. He followed her home! If Glory’d seen that….”
“So there is some urgency to our plan, then.” Winston stood up. “We’ve protected the Magic Box as best we can for now. I propose we go to your mother’s home and do the same there.” He smiled at Buffy. “I feel confident Max has taken care of your home already.”
“Wasn’t ours already safe?”
“It was, but I believe he has added some… embellishments… to the wards specific to your apartment.”
“Maybe I should just bring Dawn and Mom to live with us for a while….”
“I’m sure your mum would prefer that to my crypt,” Spike snorted.
“Your crypt?” Giles frowned.
“In our time, Spike was living in that crypt he has in Restfield, and I took Mom and Dawn there a few times to keep them away from Glory.”
“Your mother must have been pleased…”
“She was a good sport about it. But being able to stay in her own home will be even better. Can she do that?”
“I believe so.” Winston exchanged glances with Giles. “We will do what we can tonight, and tomorrow perhaps we can coax Max into double checking what we’ve done.”
Spike cocked his head at Winston. “When I said old Max was more than he seems, I wasn’t far off the mark, was I?”
Winston shook his head. “His story isn’t mine to tell, but I can assure you he is more than he seems. And so are most of the students he has taken under his wing at one time or another. Max is a wonderful instructor and mentor. I sincerely hope Willow is going to take advantage of having met him so early in her career.”
“Does that mean in your time she met him later?” Buffy asked.
“It does.” Winston didn’t elaborate except to say, “Also not my story to tell. Shall we go, then?”
Dawn followed Winston and Giles all over the house, asking questions, watching, and whispering to herself. As Buffy watched Giles’s jaw get tighter and tighter, she signaled Spike with her eyes and he diverted Dawn’s attention with the suggestion they go downstairs and work on her sleight of hand when handling cards.
“Thank you,” Giles said. “I’m not sure why she doesn’t trust us to do this, but—”
“She trusts you guys. I think she just likes to watch people doing magic.”
“Well, I for one, find it very disconcerting,” Giles huffed. Winston and Buffy shared a quick look of amusement before he went back to work. Losing interest, Buffy went downstairs to talk to her mother.
“Is all this magic going to keep us safe?” Joyce asked.
“Safer, anyway,” Buffy replied. “The wards should keep out pretty much anybody and anything other than Glory herself.” She frowned. “Now that I think about it, Spike told me it’s odd that the house wasn’t warded before. He said most watchers would’ve had the places their slayers slept warded up the ying-yang.”
“Up the ying-yang?”
“Well, some vulgar British version of that. The point is, we should have done this years ago. Here and in my own time. I can’t believe all we ever did was disinvites against vampires. Like they were the only scary things in Sunnydale.”
“If I’ve understood Spike correctly, as far as most vampires and demons are concerned, you are the scariest thing in Sunnydale.” Joyce gave Buffy a wry smile, but couldn’t hide the pride in her voice.
Buffy laughed. “I guess he’s right, come to think of it. Maybe we didn’t need any wards.”
“But now we do.”
Buffy sighed. “I’m afraid so, Mom. In our time, you were already… gone… so you missed the worst of it. This time, I’m hoping to get Glory taken care of long before we get to the have-Spike-steal-an-RV-so-we-can-try-to-run-away point.”
“Did that work?”
Buffy grimaced. “No. It didn’t work at all. But we didn’t know about Ben back then. Only Spike knew he was Glory and he couldn’t make us understand. The spell is gone now, so we’re already ahead of the game there. And you aren’t in the hospital, so you and Dawn don’t even need to meet Ben or be around him. The wards are just insurance until we get it all taken care of.”
She glanced up as Giles and Winston entered the kitchen.
“We believe so,” Winston said. “I will ask Max to check our work tomorrow. but I’m comfortable that it will be acceptable.”
“Think you’ll get an ‘A’?” Buffy said with a giggle.
“Very funny,” Winston muttered, then added, “You have no idea how hard it is to get an ‘A’ out of Master Maxmillian.”
Buffy giggled again, enjoying the sight of the normally self-confident and unflappable mage worried about his old teacher’s reaction to his work.
“Somethin’ funny, love?” Spike’s voice preceded him into the room.
“Apparently I am,” Winston grumbled, trying to hide a small smile.
“I think you need to be nicer to the man who saved my life,” Joyce said, her tone severe, but her eyes warm.
“Right you are, Mum,” Spike said. “Behave yourself, Slayer.”
Buffy narrowed her eyes at him. “Are you going to be bossy now? ‘Cause you’re not the boss of me!”
“Trust me, love, nobody knows that better than I do.” He laughed, holding up his hands in surrender. “That hasn’t changed at all.”
Joyce looked back and forth between them, her gaze becoming more intent when Giles and Winston began to sidle toward the door mumbling their good- nights, and Buffy and Spike fell silent. There was a pause while they listened to the front door being shut behind the two escaping men, then Joyce put her hands on her hips and tapped her foot.
“What don’t I know that I should know?”
“Spike?” Buffy looked at him but he shook his head.
“Oh no, love. This is between a girl and her mum.”
“Like hell it is!” Buffy grabbed his arm before he could leave the room and threw him onto one of the kitchen stools. “You sit right there!”
She turned to Joyce and said, “You might want to sit down too, Mom. We have something to tell you.”
Joyce sighed, but sat on the other stool. “Well, you can’t be pregnant, so what is so earthshaking I have to be sitting for it?” Instinctively she seemed to understand that whatever was going on, it wasn’t related to Dawn or Glory.
“Mom!” Buffy blushed, punching Spike in the arm when he laughed.
“You can’t be, can you?”
“No!” Buffy stopped and took a deep breath. “But if I could be, it would be… okay, because we….” She stopped to glance at Spike. “Spike called what we did last night ‘eloping’. Which isn’t exactly what we did, but we did do something that’s like a vampire marriage. Something that will mean no matter what else happens to change the world, we’ll always know who we are to each other. Even if, for some reason, we forget everything we did in our own time that got us here, we won’t forget that we love each other.”
She pulled the scarf aside and showed Joyce her new scar.
“This is Spike’s mark. And he has one I gave him. They’ll heal up, but they won’t fade away like most scars do.”
“I see.” Joyce was obviously trying to school her face into the appropriate lines, but her struggle was evident.
“I know this isn’t what you wanted for me, Mom. But I was never going to live long enough to give you grandchildren anyway.”
Joyce shook her head. “I know that, honey. It’s just….” She glanced at Spike who was sitting quietly. “It’s not that I don’t like you, Spike. It’s just….”
“It’s just that your beautiful, brave daughter deserves something other than a monster for a life partner. I’ll never fault you for thinking so. All I can do is promise you that I’ll love her longer and better than any human man could, and do my best to see she lives long enough to watch the Bit’s babies grow up.”
Buffy had moved to stand beside him, and he put his arms around her to pull her in between his legs, facing her mother.
Joyce took a deep breath, then smiled at them with damp eyes.
“Well, I can’t very well send friends and family pictures of a hole in Buffy’s neck, so I guess I’ll need to plan a wedding.” She frowned. “After you get rid of that nasty woman who wants to kill my other daughter…”
Spike sighed when Buffy pulled away to hug her mother.
“We’re workin’ on it, Joyce,” he said. “We’re working on it.”
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