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Almost Home by slaymesoftly
Chapter Fourteen
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 Been dealing with a nasty virus for almost a week and have been either coughing too hard to think or type, or too drugged for either thing. Therefore, I'm only one full chapter ahead of this one and may have to take another week or so hiatus if I can't get back into the groove. We'll see. I am much better now and able to cut way back on the drugs, so hoping I can get more done over the weekend.

In the meantime, moving right along to Chapter 14 behind the cut. Any mistakes are probably due to my drug-induced fiddling and all4spike is not responsible for them. :)
After sitting down with Max and Tara over coffee in Max’s much larger kitchen, Buffy and Spike filled them in on the plan for the day.
“If we can catch Warren at home, before Willow has time to go looking for him, maybe we can convince him to leave Sunnydale.”
“Nothin’ like knowing your sk—” A nudge from Buffy reminded him that Tara had no idea what kinds of things Willow did in their time. “Sorry. Forgot who I was speaking to for a moment. Point is, if we get there first and can convince him to get out of town, we can keep Willow from doing anything she’s going to regret.”
“So, is this just like in your time then?” Tara asked with genuine curiosity. “What happened then? What did Willow do that you’re trying so hard not to tell me she did?”
“Not as blonde as you look, are you, luv?” Spike said with a warm smile. “An’ you’ll need to ask Buffy. Everything I know is second hand.”
Tara frowned at him. “But you said you were there when we lost our memories.”
“When Willow removed everyone’s memories,” Max reminded her gently.
Buffy looked temporarily nonplussed, then said, “In our time, she did take all our memories, including her own. But it was accidental­—she only meant to do you… and maybe me… which doesn’t make it any better I guess. But she wasn’t mad when you left her so much as she was sad about it. And she had no reason to blame it on Warren then. He had nothing to do with it.”
Buffy sighed and continued. “You and Willow had already been having arguments about how much magic she was using for little things. Once she tried to wipe out your memories of it… well… you did the same thing then that you did last night. You broke up with her. And you stayed broken up for a long time. She really worked hard not to use so much magic for everyday stuff during that time, and you were working your way back to trusting her again. Then, just when you and Willow kissed and made up, Warren got really, really mad at me for messing up all his plans and sending Andrew and Jonathan to jail, so he did something stupid-dumb. And awful.”
“He shot me,” Tara said softly. “He shot me, and she went crazy.”
“Whoa! I didn’t think she…. she told you that?”
“It was in her letter from herself, and she read that part to me to help me understand why she worried about me so much. But she didn’t tell me what happened after I…. died.”
“I’ll bet she didn’t,” Spike muttered, wincing when Buffy kicked him in the shin.
“I don’t think you need to know anything about that other than it was really bad in our time, and even worse in Winston’s. But it happened much later in the year, and when the dust settled, Willow went back to England with Giles to recover and work with the Council’s coven.”
“And when the First Evil tried to take over the world, he used Meers’ image to control Andrew and bring the…. well, never mind that. Point is, we’re trying to keep the wanker as un-evil and alive as we can this time around.”
“It’ll be a lot easier if he’ll just listen to us and stop trying to be some kind of master criminal. Maybe we should just tell him if he doesn’t stop being evil, he’s going to die… painfully.” Buffy frowned. “I’d do that if I thought he’d believe us without wanting to know why we’re so sure of it.”
“I can assure him he’s going to die painfully without letting on we know it happened in another time,” Spike growled, not hiding his meaning. When Buffy glared at him he said with a shrug, “Sorry, love, I’m not sayin’ I think I’d have to do it. Could be I can just scare the evil out of him once he understands I’m not as hobbled as he thinks I am.”
“If he’s talked to Jonathan and Andrew, he probably already knows you aren’t chipped... anymore,” she added for Tara’s benefit.
“Well, there you have it. A few minute’s chat with my demon, and he’ll be on his way to church to confess his evil ways.” Spike sat back with a satisfied smile.
Tara was looking back and forth between them in horror. “But that all happened because I died!” she said. “All I did this time was break up with her.”
“That’s quite true,” Max said soothingly. “She has much less reason to be angry at him this time. He isn’t responsible for the break-up, it was Willow’s attempt to control your memory that caused you to leave. Surely she can see that?”
Buffy gnawed her lip. “You’d think so. But she was really mad when she left last night. I didn’t get the feeling she thought it was her fault. She was blaming him for telling Tara something that started the fight, and….” Buffy shared a frightened look with Spike. “And Winston for breaking the spell she thought had fixed the problem.”
She turned her worried gaze to Max. “You don’t think—”
He shook his head. “I imagine that possibility has already occurred to Winston, and he’s taken the necessary precautions.  Willow is very powerful, but she would be quite out of her league there.”
Buffy relaxed a little and sighed. “I hope you’re right—oh, not about how strong he is, just that he’s going to be watching for… anything. I mean, Tara knows magic, and she didn’t know Willow had put a spell on her.”
Max gave what would have been on anyone else, a smirk. He patted Tara’s hand as he said, “Tara’s wonderful gift for healing, as well as the magic she can pull from the earth, would not prepare her for sensing evil intentions. Particularly from someone she trusts.”
He sighed, almost sadly. “Winston will not have those barriers to sensing a magical attack. Trust me.”
“Okaaaay. On that note, I guess we need to call Giles and see what time they want to visit Warren today.” 
Buffy smiled at Tara. “When we get back, Spike and I can drive you to the apartment to get your stuff.” She frowned. “Which isn’t going to be very useful unless we can find a place to stash it until you get a place to stay. Maybe my mom would let you use her garage….”
“Oh, we forgot to tell you. Max has a small furnished apartment on the second floor that’s vacant right now. I’m going to rent it until I finish the school year and then—”
“And then we will see where things stand,” Max said. “But I can at least take that worry off her mind.”
“And keep her safe from Red’s mojo at the same time,” Spike said with a grin. “You are a sly one.”
“I have my moments,” Max agreed in his usual calm manner, but Buffy thought she spotted a twinkle in his eye.
“’K then. We’ll let you know when we’re done.”
After speaking with Giles and agreeing to meet him and Winston on a street corner near Warren’s home, Buffy and Spike left the apartment and began walking.
“Do we want to use the car?”
Buffy shook her head. “We’ve got plenty of time and I need the exercise.” Buffy frowned at Spike. “Do you want to drive?”
“It’s not so much that I want to drive, as it is I was just thinkin’ about what Giles said about not letting the big poof know about the ring, or that I have it. No sense givin’ him more to be foamin’ at the mouth about than we already have. And the more I’m out walking about in daylight, the more likely word might spread that far. Not all demons are nocturnal, as you well know, love. Would be just like him to have one or two locals on the payroll, so to speak, keeping track of us.”
Buffy sighed and stopped walking. “Wow. I don’t think it ever occurred to me that I might end up having to think of Angel as somebody to worry about. Angelus, hell yes, but not Angel.”  She glared in the approximate direction of Los Angeles. “On the other hand, I didn’t know he would ever do anything like try to claim me without my permission, so good call on your part, I guess. Okay, let’s use the car.”
A quick side trip to pick up Spike’s car still put them in Warren’s neighborhood with time to spare.  Spike parked a full block away from their destination and they walked slowly toward the house in question.
“I guess if Andrew and Jonathan had wards and cameras, he will too.”
“Yeah, he’ll have something. Might be he’s so into the techno stuff that it’s all electronic or mechanical though. The magic is more the useless twosome’s thing, I think.”
“Or not,” he muttered as they got closer. “Can you feel that, Slayer?”
“Feel what?” She took another step. “Oh, I feel something – like there’s something holding me back? Like it’s just too uncomfortable to keep going forward.”
“Yeah. I’d guess he’s got something up. Doubt it’s magical if we can both feel it—more like some kind of vibrations that get more uncomfortable the closer we get.” He winced. “And that hurt my ears. I’m guessing he’s using sound waves somehow.”
“I’ll vibrate him,” Buffy growled, shaking her head against the high-pitched whine she could now feel in her own head, and pushing herself forward in spite of the way her body was fighting it.
“Hold on, love. Here come the big guns…. Bloody hell! And Willow.”
Just as Giles and Winston reached them and started to comment upon the barrier, they spotted Willow storming up from another direction.  Ignoring them, she paused at the first bit of discomfort, then snarled, “A vibration barrier? I don’t think so!” She threw up one hand, chanting loudly. Buffy cringed when Willow’s hair stood out from her head and her eyes began to darken.
“You take the house, I’ll take Willow,” Winston said as he and Giles moved apart.
There was a popping noise and the unpleasant vibrations ended, allowing Buffy and Spike to move closer to both Willow and the house. When Warren emerged from the house, a weapon of some sort in his hand, he found himself trapped behind a new barrier­—one that Giles was holding in place with both hands.
“We’ve got this,” he said to the puzzled and angry young man. “We’ll be ready to speak with you shortly.”
“I’ve got nothing to say to you… and who the hell are you, anyway?” He turned his gaze on Buffy and Spike. “It’s Buffy-the-pain-in-my-ass and her neutered—” He stopped himself, frowning as he looked from Spike’s demon visage and up to the sun overhead.
Spike grinned at him through his fangs. “Not neutered, and not as unable to get around in the daytime as you might have thought when you tried to stake me in my sleep.”
Warren turned his gaze back on Willow, who was in an obvious stand-off with Winston.
“What the hell are you doing here?”
 She glared back at him, her eyes still darkened. “I’ll take care of you in just a minute. I have to take care of Mr. Mr. Busy-body here first. I’ll get back to you.”
Answering for Willow, Buffy said, “We’re here to keep her from doing anything she might regret. You can thank us later.”
Willow turned back to Winston. “You can’t stop me. If you try your stupid immobilization trick on me, I’ll just—”
She raised her hands to throw a blast of dark magic at him, only to find herself thwarted. The magic blast flickered and died before it had gone more than a foot from her. Her eyes were still wide with surprise when, with a flick of his wrist, Winston froze her in place, leaving only her head free so that she could see what was going on around her.
“You’ll just what, Willow?” he said, his voice soft, but his expression harder than she’d seen it since it since he’d frozen Doc.
Unaware of what had just happened in front of him, Warren stared at Willow whose expression had gone from surprised to furious, although she remained still.
“What could she possibly do to me?” Warren snorted. He hefted the odd-looking weapon in his hand and gestured at Willow. At a nod from Giles, signaling that he’d dropped the temporary barrier, Spike leapt onto the porch and knocked the gun from Warren’s hand.
“Guess I was right, huh? A ray-gun was on the nerd agenda.” Spike picked up the funny-looking gun, snarling a warning at Warren when he tried to stop him with a punch to his head.  To everyone’s surprise, the punch rocked Spike back on his heels and his snarl deepened. He backhanded Warren, who blocked it and punched the now furious vampire again. Before Spike could follow up on his snarled threats, Buffy darted past him and quickly frisked Warren for theOrbs of Neezla'khanshe guessed he was drawing strength from. After a tense moment of dodging his attempts to hit her, she located the pouch and snatched it away, dancing out of his reach.
“Got ‘em,” she said. “Now you can hit him back.”  
Warren pivoted and dove back into his house, leaving Spike snarling helplessly on the other side of the normal vampire barrier. Warren retreated farther into the house and Buffy sighed. “I’ll be right back. You hold his balls,” she said as she handed the orbs to Giles before sprinting after Warren as he ran toward what she assumed, from all the equipment and computers, was his lab.
When he realized she was right behind him, Warren turned at bay, holding a flask of something green.
“Stay away from me,” he said. “Or I’ll blow us both up.”
“I doubt that,” Buffy snorted. “All you’ve ever cared about is yourself. You’re not likely to do anything that’s going to hurt you. Or mess up all your toys here,” she added glancing around the room.
“What are you even doing here?” he almost wailed.
“Trying to keep you alive and to make your rethink all your evil plans,” Buffy said with a sigh.
“If you’re trying to keep me alive, why is your pet vampire threatening to kill me?”
“Well, you did hit him,” Buffy pointed out. “But really we’re just here to keep Willow from doing it.”
“Willow? The witch? What could she possibly do to me?”
Buffy cocked her head and studied him. “You really, really don’t want an honest answer to that question. All you need to know is having Spike bite you or break your neck would be the easy way out.”
Warren stared at her calm expression and unwavering gaze, and lowered his arm to put the flask on the counter.
“How do you know so much about me? How did you know about the Orbs?”
“Sorry, that’s on a need-to-know basis,” Buffy said. “We’ll just wait for Winston and Giles to handle Willow and then we’ll decide what to say to you.”
Handle” her?What are they going to do?”
“That’s another one of those things you probably really don’t want to know….” She gestured toward the front door. “Let’s go see what’s going on out there now, ‘k?”
With obvious reluctance, Warren followed her to the door, refusing to step through the barrier that was keeping Spike outside. Spike snorted and sat on the steps to watch as Giles tried to talk to Willow. Although she couldn’t move, she could see and hear everything that was going on. With a small twitch of his finger, Winston allowed her to speak, ready to rescind it immediately if she tried to do a spell.
Willow gave him a look that could have killed, but said, “You made your point. You can let me go now.”
Winston sighed heavily. “I wish I could believe that, Willow, but I think I’ll wait until we’ve talked for a bit.”
She broke off the chant she’d already begun as soon as she realized she was unable to accompany it with the necessary hand gestures. Having proven his caution to be valid, she snarled in his direction, her eyes flashing with fury and frustration.
“I might talk to Giles, but I’ve got nothing to say to you,” she said, then turned her glare on Buffy and Spike.  “And why are you two here?”
Giles answered for them, saying calmly, “We were all meeting here to speak with Mr. Meers and explain to him both the danger and the futility of his continuing to pursue his experiments in magical and technological criminal endeavors. Our hope was to have completed our task and resolved the problems before you could follow through on your obvious anger against him for telling Tara what you’d been doing.”
Buffy glanced over her shoulder to see Warren’s expression darken at the casual explanation of why they were all in his front yard, she nudged Spike with her foot and moved nearer to the door in case she needed to be within reach of Warren for some reason. Spike was playing with the gun that he’d taken from Warren, but watching carefully as Giles tried to reason with Willow.
“So you’re all here to make sure I don’t what­­—kill and skin him?”  
Warren’s gasp had Buffy moving even closer.
“What the fuck is she talking about?” he asked, almost in a whisper.
“I’m sure she’s speaking rhetorically or metaphorically, or whatever the word is that means she doesn’t really mean she’d do that,” Buffy whispered back in what she hoped was a reassuring manner.
“Then why did all four of you think you needed to get here before she did?” He narrowed his eyes with suspicion, and Buffy had to remind herself that he was just as intelligent as he was evil. She was careful when she gave her response.
“We knew she was really mad at you last night, and we just didn’t want her to accidentally do anything she’d be sorry about after she cooled off.”
“All I did was tell her girlfriend what she’d been doing with black magics. It’s not like that was a lie, or like I killed somebody!”
Buffy stared at him, then said quietly, “We’re going to get to that.”
“I said I haven’t killed anybody. What do you mean you’ll ‘get to that’?” Instead of looking offended, Warren was staring at her with even more suspicion.
“Two words: Freeze ray. Now just shut up and let Giles concentrate on Willow,” she muttered, turning back to the scene in the front yard.
His eyes grew wide, but he was silent as he watched with her.
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