Before Wes could answer, Spike’s phone rang and he frowned.
“It’s late. Who the bloody hell…. Hello?” His face relaxed. “Ah, Max. Yeah, we do have a guest, but the big poof wasn’t with him, so we invited him in. Haven’t had a chance to ask him why he’s here yet. Do you want me to have him move the car?”
Buffy mouthed “our landlord” at Wesley while she waited for Spike to get an answer.
“Yeah, she’s–we’re fine. But thanks for checkin’ on us.” He saw Buffy’s frown and laughed. “I think you might be giving the Slayer a complex. She thinks it’s her job to worry about people, not ours to worry about her.” He laughed again. “Will do. Thanks. Yeah, I’ll catch you in the morning about the other thing.”
Still laughing, he ended the call and gestured for Wes to sit back down. “He says it’s fine. As long as he knows who the car belongs to and that we’re okay with it, it can stay in front for the night.”
“Do cars not normally park there?”
“Only for short periods of time to conduct business with Max. And I guess the last time he saw yours was when you and Angel showed up to yell at Buffy about breaking the claim he’d put on her. He was just worried about her.”
“Her is just fine, and can take care of herself,” Buffy muttered.
“That’s what I told him, so he said to tell you it was me he was worried about.”
“I guess you two think you’re funny,” she said, her lips twitching to hide a smile.
“We think we know you pretty well,” Spike said, blowing her a kiss. He took a beer from the fridge, raising an eyebrow at Wes who shook his head, then settled on a stool to drink it.
“Now then, you were about to tell us why you drove up here?”
Wesley sighed and settled back. “Angel doesn’t believe you’re the seer,” he said to Spike. “Apparently I wasn’t convincing enough when I told him that’s all I found out. I suspect he’s going to have people here, watching you and Buffy, and looking for… well, I’m not sure what he’ll be looking for, but—”
“Oh come on, we both know he’s still looking for some kind of reason to come ridin’ to the rescue when he figures out why Buffy’s with me.” Spike snorted his disgust and swallowed more beer.
“I was thinking… and I know you don’t want to tell me things you don’t think I should know… but if you could tell me one little thing to watch out for this year, maybe that will ease his mind a little. It could be something really vague…”
Spike shook his head. “Told you before, we don’t know what’s happening now. Especially in L.A. It’s all different. We’re working on some of the same problems here, but even those are different enough now that we don’t know what’s going to happen. We’ve got some idea what to watch out for, but no idea what events are coming for sure or when they might happen.”
Buffy added, “And we don’t know much at all about what’s happening where you are because we were here all year. And kind of busy with our own stuff. Angel didn’t know or care what was going on here—and vice versa to be fair.”
“You don’t know either?” Wes asked Spike.
“Wasn’t near LA in this year in our time. I stayed home taking care of the Bit and then when Buffy…. I was here. The big poof and his doin’s were the last thing on my mind.” He shook his head, continuing, “I’ll give it some thought, but I’d have to be remembering conversations I might have overheard while I—“ Suddenly remembering that they’d told Wes nothing about how or when Spike was sent back, he stopped talking and shook his head when Wes tried to make him go on.
“Why couldn’t you call and ask us?” Buffy frowned her suspicion at him as she tried to change the subject. “That can’t be all you needed from us.”
Wes looked uncomfortable, then said, “I don’t believe Angel trusts me right now, and it just didn’t seem that a phone call, which could be overheard or monitored, was the best idea. If he knows I’m keeping something from him….”
“He’ll go all Angelus on you,” Spike said.
“That would not be in his best interest,” Wes said coldly, his face growing still. Suddenly it was much easier for them to picture him hunting demons on his own.
“Maybe Max was right and we shouldn’t have invited you in,” Spike said with a grin as he tipped his beer toward the couch.
“You and Buffy are quite safe from me,” Wes said. “However, I’m not convinced that’s true where my boss is concerned, and since I’m the one in possession of the correct information, I felt it was my duty to let you know that you need to be careful. I had an errand to run—a book store between here and LA had some things I wanted, so I just extended my trip a bit to see you.” He made a wry face. “I don’t know why I didn’t remember that you work nights and might not be home.”
“And we appreciate it, Wes. We really do,” Buffy said. “At least we’ll know to watch for any strangers paying too much attention to us.” She snorted. “It’s not like we don’t already have enough nosy people of our own to worry about.”
Wes nodded. “The best we can do, I suppose. If I learn anything more specific, I’ll find a way to let you know. I suppose I can always leave the building to make a phone call…. But at least now you know there’s something to watch for.” He leaned back and asked, “So, what are the human problems you’re having? And how can I help?”
“The same wankers that were harassing Buffy earlier in the year. Behavin’ a bit differently in some ways, the same in others. The wanker-in-chief seems to be winding up to do some serious criminal mischief. But then he made the mistake of brassing off the wrong witch a bit earlier than he did in our time and we had some damage control to do.”
“Wrong witch? Willow?”
Buffy nodded. “She’s come a long way from the nerdy little high schooler you knew. And because of things that changed here, she thinks she shouldn’t have to listen to any warnings I give her about black magic.”
“What has that to do with the… um… wanker-in-chief?”
Buffy explained briefly about Rack and Willow’s involvement, and how Tara didn’t approve but hadn’t been sure about it until Warren told her. Buffy exchanged a glance with Spike, then shrugged. “No reason why you can’t know what’s going on now, I guess. You’ll know just as much as we do about what’s going to happen now.”
“Which is pretty much nothing,” Spike muttered. “Winston stopped whatever she was planning to do to Meers this morning, but we don’t know if she’s really over it. She left with Giles, and then we tried to put the fear of the Slayer, Spike and Winnie-the-wizard into Meers, but I doubt it worked.”
“What set her off? Surely simply having been revealed to be lying to her… friend… wasn’t enough to justify retaliation that required magical intervention from someone of Winston’s caliber?” Wes glanced back and forth between Spike and Buffy, waiting to see who would answer him.
Buffy shook her head and responded.
“Willow wiped out Tara’s memory of what Warren had told her and the fight they’d had about it, and then brought Tara to the meeting last night. It didn’t take us long to figure what she’d done, and Winston broke the memory spell in the middle of the meeting. Tara left Willow right there and then. It was a pretty public break up, and now Willow is mad at everybody–me, Winston, and Warren.”
“Why was she angry at you? Did she do that in your time?” Wes frowned, clearly not understanding why it was such a problem.
“More or less,” Spike said. “Mostly more. And it was later, after other stuff happened.”
Wes raised his eyebrows and Buffy sighed.
“Long story short, in our time she messed up and wiped everybody’s memories for a while. All of us. None of us had a clue who or even what we were. It was kind of a mess for a while, and once the spell was broken, Tara left her immediately—for a long time.” She frowned. “Then Warren shot me for shutting down all his master criminal plans, and he accidentally killed Tara when he did it. It was just after she and Willow had gotten back together after being broken up for so long.”
She paused and sighed again. “Willow went a little nuts. She killed Warren, slow and painfully, and tried to kill his buddies. She saved me, but then beat the stuffing out of me for trying to stop her, drained Giles of magic the coven gave him, and tried to end the world.”
“Red doesn’t handle grief very well,” Spike understated, causing Wes to take his shocked attention off Buffy briefly.
“We were trying to avoid anything that bad this morning. And we did, we think. But Willow gave up kind of easy, and I think she’s still mad at Winston, just maybe a little bit more respectful of him. And if Warren isn’t going to stop, and I have to keep messing up his plans, then he might try to kill me again, and….”
Wes turned a disbelieving stare on Spike. “And you’re going to allow that?”
Spike just stared back, letting his eyes go yellow and his fangs hang out just enough to make his point.
“Right then. Not going to happen this time.” Wes nodded and stared at them. He sighed, then said, “I have acquired some… knowledge… of the magic arts in the past several years. Including a brush with the darker magics. Do you think it would help if I spoke with Willow? She has no reason to be angry with me, perhaps….”
“To be honest, Wes, I don’t think she wants to talk to anybody. She might not have as much reason to be mad at you as she is at Winston and Giles, but she also doesn’t have any reason to talk to you about stuff she thinks is nobody else’s business.”
“I see. Then you’re dealing with two more or less separate issues. One is an untrustworthy novice witch–“
“Don’t let Willow hear you call her a ‘novice’!” Buffy interrupted so emphatically that Wes frowned.
“How concerned are you about her?”
Buffy sighed again. “If we didn’t have Winston? I’d be pretty worried, to be honest. Without telling you things you don’t need to know, let’s just say we could be in real trouble.”
“But you’re not concerned now?”
Spike broke in. “Don’t know how much you learned about him when you and Winnie were getting to know each other last time you were here, but I don’t see Willow or anybody else going head to head with him and not losin’.” He rolled his eyes toward the ceiling and pointed. “With the probable exception of our landlord,” he admitted with a small smile. “Winnie’s well aware of what Red is capable of. More so even than we are. He isn’t going to let down his guard. And he can handle her.”
“So, it’s the other potentially homicidal human who is the real problem.” Wes gave Buffy a shrewd glance. “He didn’t survive in your time, did he?”
Buffy shook her head. “No. I already told you that. But next year might be easier for us if he stays alive. We don’t know. Maybe it won’t matter, there are plenty of other dead people in the world for the—for something evil to use. Maybe he has to die anyway. Some things we can change, some things we haven’t been able to. I just don’t want Willow to do it if we can stop her.”
“That’s understandable.” He shifted his gaze to Spike. “But you wouldn’t object if Spike does?”
“Of course I’d object!” Buffy indignation passed quickly. “But I’d probably live with it. He’s not going to let Warren kill me… or anyone else, for that matter… and I know that. I’ve accepted it.”
“You know Angel would jump all over it if he knew you’d allowed Spike to kill…”
“Angelus doesn’t have a lot of high moral ground to stand on,” Spike growled. “Ask him to tell you about his experiences in WW II and his time with us before the whore threw him out for being all souful.”
Wes blinked in surprise, but didn’t pursue it. “Good to know if I have to find myself defending Buffy’s choices,” he said as he leaned forward, preparing to rise. “I suppose I should be getting back before I’m missed.”
“Stay here and get a good night’s sleep,” Spike said with a grin. “Tell the nosy bugger you had a hot date and got laid.”
“As tempting as that thought is, we do have our own issues to deal with, and I can be home in a couple of hours at this time of the night. And since I did have a legitimate errand to run….” He patted the lumpy couch upon which he’d been sitting. “Although I’m sure I’ve slept worse places.”
“Well, the offer’s there. I hate to think you made such a long drive for something like
having to warn me about Angel.” Buffy shook her head. “But we appreciate it. Can we offer you coffee or something before you head out?” she added. “It’s getting a little late.”
“Thank you, I believe I’ll just stop on my way out of town and grab something to go.” Wes stood up and shook the hand Spike offered. “Just be alert to anyone who might be trying to learn more about you.” He smiled wryly. “It’s not like you don’t slip upon occasion.”
“Everybody’s not as smart as you are,” Buffy muttered. “But we’ll be careful. Warren isn’t stupid either, and he’s just nerdy enough to consider time travel.”
With renewed thanks for the news and offer of help, they watched from the door as Wes made his way back to his car. Buffy gasped when from seemingly nowhere, a fledgling vampire popped up from behind the trunk, but Wes hardly broke stride as he slid a stake into his hand and turned the unlucky new vampire to dust.
“Wow. I didn’t see that coming.”
“Neither did that vamp. But Wes seemed pretty confident he could handle Angelus if he made an appearance, so we shouldn’t be too shocked that he could take out one vamp without breakin’ a sweat.”
“People can surprise you,” Buffy said, shaking her head.
“All the time, love. All the time.” He closed the door as Wes’s car pulled away from the curb.
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