full 3/4 1/2   skin light dark       
Almost Home by slaymesoftly
Chapter Twenty
<<     >>
Buffy tried her best not to look distressed about the clear message from both Spike and Winston, but Giles just nodded and continued the discussion.
“So, you will endeavor to prevent that murder by warning the victim to stay away from him. And what about the armored car?”
Buffy sighed. “Well, that’s what they did in our time, and Warren thought I couldn’t interfere because he had his magic orbs-of-kick-Buffy’s-ass, but he doesn’t have them now, and they know I’m watching them, so I really don’t know what he might do now. Maybe try to rob a bank again or something….”
“It’s…” Willow spoke hesitantly, as if not sure anyone wanted to hear from her.  “It’s too bad we can’t turn the tables on them. If we put our own cameras or microphones where we could see what they’re doing….”
“And this is why we love you!” Buffy said. “Of course! If we can see who goes in and out of Warren’s house—”
“And Andrew’s,” Spike growled.
“And Andrew’s,” Buffy agreed. “If we can actually watch them, we’ll know if they kidnap Katrina, and maybe even what else they’re planning. At least we’ll know what deliveries they get and who else goes in and out.”
“I like that!” Xander said. “Spying on the spies. If only we had a way to connect what the cameras see to something to watch them on. Somebody who could….” He stopped as Willow just glared at him.
“Oh, right. We do have somebody like that. Sorry, Wills, you’re so much with the magic now I forgot you can do computer magic too!”
Willow sniffed her disappointment, then said, “So, do we want to do it?”
“I can’t see why not,” Giles said, smiling at her. “It’s an excellent idea. And will certainly save Buffy and Spike a lot of hours spent trying to watch them all the time.”
“Okay. I’ll go online and order what we need as soon as I get home. How many places do we want to see?”
Buffy frowned as she thought about it, speaking almost to herself. “Well, Warren’s house for sure, front and back doors maybe? And ditto for Andrew’s house. If there was some way to get something on the van…”
“Could hide one in the radiator,” Spike said. “At least we’d be able to see where it goes….”
“Excellent idea!” Winston said at the same time as Buffy’s “Should I be worried that you have such sneaky ideas?”
“Vampire, love,” he said, grinning at her. “Thought you might have noticed that by now.”
She rolled her eyes at him and shook her head.
Giles brought the attention back to the subject at hand. “So, Buffy and Spike will do what they can to watch for misbehavior from them, and she’ll try to warn off Meers’ old girlfriend. Willow will handle obtaining the cameras, which someone will then install where we can watch the houses without setting off alarms.” He raised an eyebrow at Buffy.
“Are we assuming that after Spike’s encounter with them, they will no longer be in Angel’s employ? Or that they’re the only spies here?”
“Don’t think we can assume that, based on what Wes told us. We’ll just have to hope that whoever else the poof hires is just as clumsy and stupid.”
“Will you be calling Wesley to let him know you found the spies?” Giles asked.
“Uh, we kind of need you to do that so Angel doesn’t know Wes’s been talking to us. If you call his cell and try to get it across that he should call one of us some time when he’s away from the building…” Buffy shrugged. “Or you can just tell him yourself what’s going on. As long as he doesn’t have to say anything back that might get him in trouble, you could probably let him know. It’s not like he needs to do anything about it from there. If he wants to talk more to you or us about it, he can call you back from a safe place.”
“Do you trust him?” Winston spoke up. “He does seem to be disturbed by much of what he’s seen from Angel, but they have been working together for some time and we can’t be sure where his loyalties lie.”
Giles responded. “He was a bit of a prat when he was younger; however, I don’t believe evil is in his nature. Whatever mistakes he may make, or have made, I’m confident they would be because he was trying to do the right thing. If he no longer believes that Angel is as admirable as he once thought, I believe we can trust him.”
Giles glanced at Buffy. “Is there anything else we should know about Meers’ actions?”
“Hmmmm… well, I think I already discouraged him from making or using the freeze ray, and…. Oh wow. I almost forgot about the make-everything-invisible gun!”
“I didn’t,” Spike said with a leer.
Buffy threw a pencil at him and blushed.
Xander held up his hand. “I’m pretty sure we don’t need to know what that’s about.”
Spike laughed. “You didn’t know. Had a naked Buffy right in front of you and never—” This time Buffy grabbed a book from the shelf behind her and threw it at Spike’s head.
“Ow! You’ve got no sense of humor, Slayer.”
“Shall we assume from this over-sharing that they made you invisible? That hardly seems in their best interest.” Giles waited for an explanation.
“It was by accident,” Buffy said. “They were practicing on a fire hydrant or something, and I walked in front of it. It wasn’t a really big deal, except that it turned out things that got zapped turned into puddles of goo sooner or later, so we had to get the gun away from them and zap me back to visible before I became a Buffy puddle.”
She sighed. “I guess we’d better watch for any signs they’ve made that invisibility ray thing again. I don’t know what the original intention was, but I’m sure they were hoping to do something criminal with it.”
Buffy looked at Giles’s concerned expression and continued, “Getting that away from them and destroying it probably didn’t make Warren very happy with me either. I’d almost forgotten about that.”
“You almost forgot that, accidentally or not, they did something that could have resulted in your death?” Winston looked like he was disappointed in her, and Buffy gave him a wry smile.
“I’m a slayer, Winston. Something is always trying to kill me. For a while it was even Spike. It’s not quite the surprise you might think.”  
“Still and all,” he muttered. “It means he has tried to ruin your life, if not end it completely, multiple times. I just feel you might be taking this ‘the Slayer doesn’t harm humans’ thing a little far in this particular case.”
“Hear, hear,” Spike mumbled, not quite as low as he’d hoped. He coughed vigorously when Buffy turned to glare at him.  She glared until he sighed a “Sorry, love. But you know how I feel.”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “And you know why I want him alive!” she said. She looked around the room and sighed again. “Here’s the deal, guys. Next year, the First Evil uses Warren to get Andrew to kill Jonathan over the hellmouth and release a Turok-han. I’m kind of hoping, if he isn’t dead, then maybe that won’t happen.”
Giles frowned. “The First can take the form of anyone who is already dead, can it not?”
“Yes. Yes it can. And it does. It uses Spike, me….” She hesitated, not wanting to bring up who else might have died. “Pretty much anybody who is, or has been, dead. It’s just that it used Warren to start the whole ball rolling here.” She threw up her hands in surrender.
“I don’t know! Maybe it doesn’t matter. I mean, if keeping me alive and un-resurrected means the balance isn’t out of whack—which was the whole point of this little adventure in time travel—than maybe the First won’t be able to cause as much trouble. I mean that’s what you, future you,” she pointed at Giles, “thought, thinks, will think, whatever… And it’s what future Wes thought too when he sent Spike back.”
Giles nodded. “That’s quite true. You are both here because two different groups of knowledgeable people concluded that it was your resurrection that allowed the First Evil to make its way into our world again.”  He frowned. “But just in case it matters… let’s make sure that pillock doesn’t get to shoot you this time either. I don’t think Willow’s removal of the bullet and subsequent healing of the wound would constitute a resurrection, but let’s not take any chances that it will be necessary. Anything we do to keep the First Evil down where it belongs, can only be a good thing. With luck, next year everything will go smoothly and—”
“Sheesh, Giles! You know you just jinxed us, right?” Xander rolled his eyes and moaned.
Buffy giggled, but had to agree. “Yeah. Let’s go with if or when the First Evil tries to come up here, we can knock him back down without losing anybody or watching Spike pull Sunnydale down around his ears. ‘Go smoothly’ is probably too optimistic for a hellmouth. I’ll settle for an easy win and nobody dies.”
“All right then, let’s get operation spy-on-the-bad-guys underway. Willow, you’re going to do your computer magic thing and hook into the cameras, right?” Xander beamed at her, clearly happy to see Willow being part of the team again.
Willow nodded. “I might even be able to pick them up here in Sunnydale tomorrow at the electronics place downtown.” She looked at Buffy and gave a tentative smile. “I’ll let you guys know when I’ve got them and you can decide where and when you want to put them out.  I’ll just need to have time to link them to my laptop before you do it.”
“That sounds like a plan,” Xander said, beaming at her. “That’s my Willow. Girl genius.”
Willow rolled her eyes, but smiled in gratitude. “Okay then. If we’re done here, I should get home and start researching the best options.”
Spike surprised everyone by asking, “Will you need some dosh, Red?” He was pulling out his wallet when she shook her head.
“Thanks, but I’ll just use a credit card. If it turns out they’re real expensive, maybe I’ll ask for some money then.”
“Credit card purchases are traceable,” Spike said. “Cash might be a safer choice….” He sighed. “And if I’d been thinkin’ halfway straight, I’da grabbed whatever they had in the van this morning and we wouldn’t have to be buying anything.”
“Wow. You do have a sneaky mind,” Willow replied. “And that’s good thinking. That’s how we tracked down the knights last year.”
Spike took several large bills from his wallet and passed them over to her, grumbling the whole time, “I don’t know why I have to keep reminding you lot that I’m evil and have been for over 100 years!”
Buffy’s giggle did nothing to improve his disposition, but when he caught Winston and Giles trying to hide smiles, he gave a disgusted snort and sat back down.
“Fine,” he growled. “I’m mated to the whitest of all white hats. Doesn’t mean I didn’t learn anything all those years I was evil!”
“Wasn’t that just like… a year or so ago?” Xander asked.
“In your time, I guess it was,” Buffy said. “In ours, he’s been helping out the ‘white hats’ for a long time. It’s easy for me to forget sometimes that he wasn’t such a pussycat back in his day.”
“I guess that chip was really a good thing then,” Xander said. “Without it, Buffy would have had to stake you.”
Spike shrugged. “Chip helped her see me a little more clearly, but if Dru was right, I was already fallin’ for Buffy way back when I first saw her dancing in the Bronze. Took me a while to realize it, and bit longer to stop trying to deny it, but I’ve been on her side longer than anybody knows… including her,” he added, smiling at Buffy’s raised eyebrows.
“We will be discussing that comment,” she hissed at him, ignoring the kissy face he made at her.
“Let’s not and say we did,” Xander said. “I don’t need to hear you were already perving on Buffy back when she was in high school.”
“That would have been my bog-trotting, virgin-raping grandsire,” Spike growled. “All I did was admire how beautiful and deadly she was. She was all grown up by the time I realized I didn’t want to kill her anymore.”
“Okaaaay,” Buffy said. “Weren’t we talking about cameras and other non-embarrassing and more appropriate things like that?”
“I’m on it,” Willow said. She smiled at Buffy. “I’ll call you as soon as I have what we need.”
“Okay. I guess that’s it for tonight then. Thanks, Willow. Anybody else have anything?”
Buffy glanced around the table, her comfort with taking charge of a meeting and giving out assignments more than clear to everyone. When she realized what she was doing, she took a quick glance at Giles, but rather than seeming put out, he was smiling at her proudly. He noticed her apprehensive glance and his smile broadened.
“While I can only apologize for my former self’s abandoning you in your time of need, I’m fairly certain the confident and strong woman I see now is who he was hoping you would turn out to be if you didn’t have him to turn to for emergencies.”
Buffy shifted uncomfortably in her chair, exchanging quick looks with Spike. “Maybe so,” she agreed, “but it wasn’t a lot of fun getting here on my own, and I wasn’t willing to lean on Spike until a lot later.”
“After I got the soul,” Spike muttered. “In case anyone’s wondering.”
Buffy glared at him, then relaxed.
“That probably had a lot to do with it. That, and Angel’s stupid claim. I know Spike wanted to help me, but I wouldn’t let him. So that’s my fault. Or Angel’s fault. But it wouldn’t have been the same as having you here anyway.” Buffy smiled at Giles. “I needed my dad.”
Giles blushed and coughed vigorously to try to hide how affected he was by her words, but Buffy just continued to smile at him until he acknowledged her words with a mumbled, “And I will continue to apologize for my older self as needed until I am forgiven.”
Buffy sighed. “It’s all right, Giles. If you hadn’t left me, who knows if I would have gone to Spike for… comfort. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t really happy to be where I am right now, and I don’t know if that would have happened if our lives didn’t work out the way they did. We might not be in love—”
“Oy! Speak for yourself, Slayer!”
She gave Spike an apologetic look, but continued talking to Giles. “And older you is who figured out to send me back here. Not that you knew Spike was going to be here, I guess…. but points for making it happen anyway.”
“And on that, also over-sharing note, I think Anya and I will give Willow a ride and head home ourselves.” Xander stood up and held Anya’s jacket for her. They all three waved and walked out the door after Anya admonished Giles to “be sure you lock up properly”.
Spike and Winston snickered as Giles sighed and assured her he knew how to close up his own building. Even Buffy couldn’t hide an amused snort at his ill-concealed impatience.
Giles shook his head and with a wry twist to his mouth, he said, “Apparently one of things about being human that Anya has yet to master is the relationship between employer and employee. She seems easily confused.”
Buffy laughed. “Well in all fairness to Anya, in our time, you left her in charge every time you went back to England for something, and by this time, she was pretty much the boss in all but name.  I guess she sent you money when there was a profit, but she was in charge.”
Spike snorted. “Maybe she’s starting to feel that vibe….”  Buffy and Giles snickered, but Winston looked thoughtful.
“That’s an interesting thought, actually. I wonder if, just as there are some things you haven’t been able to change, there may be other, somewhat less important but still strongly felt, things that can exert influence on this time line?”
“That is an interesting thought,” Giles agreed, reaching for a notebook. “We should add it to our notes on time travel.”
“A Watcher is a Watcher, love,” Spike said. “So, are you and Winnie going to write a handbook on time travel?”
“Possibly. We should at least be noting things that, while somewhat changed, are still seemingly affected by what happened in your time.”
“You mean we’re making stuff happen, just because we know about it?”  Buffy looked bewildered, but worried.
“I doubt there is quite that direct a correlation,” Winston put in. “But who knows how or if your own expectations or worries may be influencing people and events. It’s an intriguing idea.”
“I’m sure you meant to say freaky and unnecessary,” Buffy grumbled. “Like, if I expect Warren to shoot me, he will?”
“We sincerely hope not!” Giles said, almost drowned out by Spike’s snarled “Over his dead body….”
“Rather than worry about events we are fully intending to prevent, why not try to think of anything else that might reinforce the idea that some events are, if not exactly the same, seem to be leaning that way?”
“You mean like Anya and Rupert, even though they never thought they were engaged in this time, might still be thinking about snogging?”  Spike’s look challenged Giles to deny what he and Buffy had noticed about the look Anya and Giles had exchanged when they learned about the listening device.
While Giles coughed and stuttered, all three laughed at him, Winston finally asking, “Shall I include that information in the notes, then?”
“I’ll pretend you didn’t say that,” Giles said with a glare. Turning back to Buffy and Spike, he asked, “Are there any other events from your time line that could show up here?”
“Well, Xander used the demon-summoning necklace to bring Sweet here from whatever hell dimension he comes from. But you already took care of hiding that in a safe place, so…. He said he did it because he was worried about how he and Anya were going to work out, and he thought he could find out that way.”
“And did he?”
“I don’t know. Everybody was dancing and singing about their deep dark secrets, so I suppose he and Anya must have sung about their doubts.” She sighed. “It’s how they all found out I’d been in Heaven. I sang it when we all were at the Bronze trying to save Dawn from being taken back with Sweet.”
“Why did he want Dawn? I thought you said Xander summoned him?”
“Yeah, well, seems like the summoning isn’t real specific about who did the callin’, and the Bit was wearing the necklace when his minions came looking for it, so he was going to take her.”
“I take it he didn’t manage it.”
“I think he got a little sidetracked by how everybody took my little confession about where I’d been… and then he let me try to dance myself to death… so when that was all over and he knew it was a guy who called on him, he just said we won and he went poof!”
“Dance yourself to death?” Winston zeroed in on that part and stared at Spike.
“Uh yeah. Some people who got infected by the whole singing and dancing thing danced so much they spontaneously combusted. And I guess that’s what I was doing.”
“But you didn’t catch fire?”
Buffy reached for Spike’s hand. “No. Spike stopped me. He saved my life.”  She smiled at him. “Not that I was all that grateful at the time, but I figured if he wasn’t going to let me go back to Heaven, then he was going to have to help me want to be here.”
“I take it he did that?” Winston smiled at the way they were unconsciously moving closer together.
“He did,” Buffy said simply. “And don’t bother asking how. You don’t want to know. At least, I’m pretty sure Giles doesn’t,” she finished with a giggle.
“I’m quite sure I don’t,” Giles said, shaking his head. “But I am grateful for it, never-the-less.”
Spike grinned at him, then began tugging Buffy toward the door.
“Time to go, love. We have a few cemeteries to hit before we can call it a night.”
“’K. Night, guys. We’ll let you know when Willow’s ready to hook stuff up.”
They waved and went out the door, closing it firmly behind them.
“So, you and Anya, huh?” Winston smirked at Giles, who glared at him.
“There is no Anya and me. Just some conversation between a woman who isn’t sure what she wants to do with her life, and an older man who has no advice to give.”
“You do know she’s much older than both of put together,” Winston said, still smiling.
“Let’s not speak of this again,” Giles growled, closing the notebook. “We can decide much later if it’s worth putting into the book.”
<<     >>