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Almost Home by slaymesoftly
Chapter Twenty-two
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A quick drive to Warren’s neighborhood and a walk past his house showed the van parked in the driveway and lights on only in his lab at the back of the house.
“Well, guess that’s it for tonight. He doesn’t seem to be worried that Ellie might have made it back to town and turned him in….”
“Wanker. Hopin’ the local vamps will do his dirty work for him.” As Spike spoke, car lights appeared and slowed as the vehicle reached the house.  “Looks like he’s getting company…. Duck, Slayer!”
Spike grabbed Buffy and pulled her behind a neighbor’s car just in time to be out of sight when Andrew and Jonathan parked an old car behind the van. They got out and walked up to the front door, giving a quick series of knocks. Warren opened the door and glared at them.
“Well? Did you get her?”
Andrew shook his head. “No. We couldn’t find her anywhere. If she was walking back to town, somebody must have already picked her up.”
“Or a vampire got her,” Jonathan said with a shudder.
“Great. I ask you two morons to do something simple like find a drugged girl and bring her back, and you screw it up. Now we don’t know where she is. You better hope a vamp got her,” Warren said darkly.
“Why didn’t you just grab her when she jumped out?” Jonathan whined. “Wasn’t she still woozy?”
Warren shook his head. “It was wearing off too fast. That’s one of the things I was testing. Damn Slayer messed up my test run on Trina, and I needed to know how much it would take to keep her out of it until I could work the spell with the orb. If that Ellie bitch had stayed unconscious, I would have just dropped her off back at the club parking lot.”
He opened the door wider and waved them in. “Now we don’t know if she made it back or not. We need to figure out what to do if she went to the cops.”
Jonathan hesitated. “What ‘we’? You did it. All we did was try to find her for you after you let her get away.”
“Shut up,” Warren said, slamming the door behind them.
“Well. That was…. interesting.”
“I know you meant to say creepy and grounds for turning him in,” Buffy grumbled.
“It is that. But if Giles and Winnie have done their thing, Ellie should be entertaining Sunnydale’s finest with a tale they can follow up on without worrying about running into something they’d rather not.”
Buffy sighed. “I’m really disappointed in Jonathan and Andrew. I know they’re idiots and not…. but I didn’t think they’d go along with something like kidnapping.”
“Did in our time, didn’t they?” Spike jerked his head in the direction of his car and they started walking. “Weren’t all three of them in on making Meers’ old girlfriend wait on them hand and foot? I doubt he would have shared the affections of such a pretty girl with that pair of losers, but they got to enjoy watching her walking around in her little French Maid outfit.”
Buffy narrowed her eyes at him. “How do you know about what she was wearing?”
He got very busy lighting a cigarette and clearing his throat, responding only when she stopped walking and began to tap her foot. 
“Andrew talks a lot,” he mumbled.
“He told you about it?”
Spike shrugged. “Reckon he was tryin’ to impress me with what a big bad he’d been. Didn’t work,” he added. “Needless to say…”
“Please tell me you didn’t get into an I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours with Andrew!”
He laughed. “Was supposed to go that way, probably, but my first story shut him down bloody fast. He was quiet for the rest of the day. And stayed out of the basement too. Was a good five minutes work, if I say so myself.”
Buffy shook her head and continued walking, waiting until they reached the car to ask, “Do you think we need to tell anybody what we heard?”
“Let’s wait until we know what Ellie told the cops, and how Giles and our magical explaining expert handled the fact that they were looking for her.”
“Okay. Time to go home, I guess. I do need to get up early tomorrow.”
“Guess it’s a good thing I got my quota of lovin’ earlier then, yeah?”
“You don’t have a quota,” she said, groping his cock which immediately filled in her hand. “See?”
She ignored his indignant “Hey!” and slipped into the passenger seat.
“Home, William,” she said with a wave of her hand.
“Yes’um, Miss Buffy. Whatever you say.”
Buffy did get up earlier than usual in the morning to attend one of the two classes she’d signed up for that semester. She’d done one class the semester before and managed to get a B in it, finding that having Spike to help with patrol, as well as not have an apocalypse to worry about, meant she could devote more time to things like working on her degree.
“I guess having money this time around helps too,” she said to Tara, who she’d met for coffee before class.
“I’m sure it does,” Tara said with a smile. “I can’t even imagine how difficult it must have been for you­—adjusting to being alive, your mother was dead, you had no money except what you could make at a fast food place…” Tara paused. “Didn’t Willow and I pay you rent? We were living in your house, weren’t we?”
Buffy nodded. “Yes, but that was to take care of Dawn, and you did most of the cooking… it’s not like you guys weren’t earning your keep while I was dead. And even after I came back, I was pretty useless for a while. Too busy being unhappy about being alive to participate in the household. And when I started spending more time with Spike….”
“Didn’t that help? I thought you and he were already together?”
Buffy shook her head. “No, I guess with you not getting serious with Willow until after we’d been here a while, you missed Xander’s reaction to Spike. In our time, by now, they were usually okay… I mean they worked together when we were fighting Glory, and they worked together while I was gone and he got used to Spike going in and out to help with Dawn, but he would have pitched a fit about me and Spike being a couple. And probably so would Willow and Giles. The only one who didn’t see him as just extra muscle to help out when they needed it was Dawn.”
She sighed and gave Tara a small smile. “I guess you were okay with it because you didn’t remember him when he was evil, but I l worried about how everybody else would react, and I let it make me ashamed of what we had. I’m still apologizing to him for that, for how I treated him when he was just trying to love me and help me.”
“And did he? Help you?”
“He did. He gave me something to look forward to, something to live for, and I found my way back into the world. But I still didn’t….” Buffy sat up and shook herself. “I was a bitch, he was an soulless demon, and it didn’t go well. We pretty much worked it out the next year when he came back with his soul, but it took awhile. And by that point, I had more important things to worry about than making my friends happy with my choice of the most important person in my life.”
Buffy picked up her coffee and tried to pretend it hadn’t grown cold while she’d been talking. “That’s enough about old history that isn’t going to happen this time. How are things with you? Max says you’re turning in to one of the best healers he’s ever seen.”
Tara blushed and briefly hid behind her hair, then sat up straight and smiled. “That’s very sweet of him. I’m sure it isn’t true, but I do think I’ve learned a lot. Max is very attuned to earth magic and he can do amazing things with it. More than I’ll ever be able to.”
She hesitated, then said, “He wants me to study with some friends of his. They have a coven in New Zealand and they said I’m welcome to join them after this semester and stay as long as I’d like.”
“Well, that’s…. wonderful? Do you want to do it?”
“I think I do. They sound like really nice women—I’ve talked to a couple of them on the phone—and it would be really fun to be with a group of real practitioners who use the same kind of magic I use.”
“Unlike Willow,” Buffy said, keeping her tone as unjudgmental as she could while she met Tara’s gaze.
“Unlike Willow,” Tara agreed sadly. “I do love her, but I don’t think we’ll ever be totally happy together. We’re just too different in our approach to magic.” She sighed. “In your time we did get back together, didn’t we? And it was working?”
Buffy shook her head. “We’ll never know,” she said softly. “You started spending more time together, and I guess Willow was really keeping a grip on her need to do magic for everything, so things between you were getting better. And then, the day you really got back together…. That was the same day Warren shot us. Me on purpose, you by accident. But I didn’t die, and you did. In Willow’s arms….”
“And she went nuts.”
“She did. And it was awful. I tried, Giles tried, but it was Xander who was able to stop her before she destroyed the world.”
Tara looked distressed, and Buffy leaned forward to put her hand over Tara’s clenched fist.
“What’s wrong? None of those things are going to happen this time. Warren’s pretty close to pushing Winston or Spike into… into doing what I’m trying very hard not to. And if Ellie told her story to the cops last night, Warren might be in jail by now. And he has no reason to think it’s my fault, so no mad-enough-to-shoot-Buffy this time.”
When Tara didn’t look convinced, Buffy continued, “And anyway, I don’t live at Mom’s house and neither do you or Willow, so even if you were home when—if—he shoots at me, you know that bullet isn’t even going to reach the building, never mind either one of us.”
Tara smiled her agreement at the complete confidence they both had in Max’s ability to protect his tenants, then she frowned.
“How do you think she’s going to react when she finds out I’m moving to New Zealand to  spend time with a coven?”
“Oh wow.” Buffy sat back. “Well, okay. That’s probably not going to go over real big, but, hey, it’s not the same as making up with her and then dying.”
“She’s already wondering how long I’m going to ‘stay mad’ at her. She really doesn’t understand how wrong it was to use that spell on me. She thinks we’re going to kiss and make up any time now.”
Buffy sighed. “I know she does. I’ve tried to explain that you were apart for months in our time before you were willing to trust her again. I can’t believe she’s talking to you about it already. I told her to leave you alone.”
“It’s okay. It hasn’t happened very often. She can’t reach me when I’m at home, and we aren’t often on campus at the same time. But I know she’s expecting me to come back soon, and I just don’t think that’s in our immediate future. Someday, maybe, but for right now….”
“For right now, you deserve to be allowed to live the life you want to live. Willow can be a little… bossy.”
“Ya think?” Tara’s uncharacteristic sarcasm had them both giggling as they got up to throw their cups away and go to their respective classes.
When Buffy arrived at the Magic Box that afternoon, she waved at Anya who was waiting on a customer and went right back to Giles’s office. He looked up at her and smiled, although he looked tired.
“Hi. Are you okay? I mean, nothing personal, but you don’t look so hot.”
“I’m not sure how that isn’t personal,” he grumbled, “but I don’t doubt it’s quite accurate. Unfortunately, unlike you and Winston, I had to be up early this morning to open the shop.”
“Hey! I got up early…ish. I had a class to go to. And we were out late too!”
You were not sitting in the Sunnydale Police Station while a young girl you barely know was explaining how she was drugged and kidnapped, only to be rescued by total strangers who just happened to be on the same stretch of desert highway that she had escaped on.”
“Oh. Yeah. That’s true. But we didn’t go right home.” She told Giles about checking on Warren, only to see Andrew and Jonathan show up.
“You’re saying he sent them out to find her and bring her… to him?”
“That’s what it sounded like. He was really pissed that they didn’t find her. Then he slammed the door and we couldn’t hear anything else.” She pointed at the laptop. “Did you see anything this morning?”
He shook his head. “Nothing useful. Andrew’s car is now back at his house, so we can assume they went home at some point. To the best of my knowledge, Warren has not left his home.”
“No cops yet?” Buffy frowned.
“No. However, they indicated that there would be paperwork to obtain this morning before they could make an arrest, search warrants and what have you, so I wasn’t really expecting anything right away…. Hello! Here we go.” 
He pointed to the screen which showed that several police cars had pulled up to Warren’s house, one blocking the driveway and the other parked in front. As the detective walked to the door, warrants in hand, the camera focused on the back door suddenly drew their attention and Giles enlarged that picture. Just as several uniformed officers approached the back yard, Warren bolted out the door, and using a jet pack strapped on his back, he shot into the air and across the backyards in his neighborhood.
The small image from the front camera showed much yelling and arm-waving by the police at the front of the house who, although they hadn’t actually seen Warren leave, quicky realized that he had somehow managed to flee while they were coming in the front door. They ran around to join the officers in the back and added their cursing to that of those already there when they saw the open door still vibrating from Warren’s forceful push against it and no sign of him in the yard.
 “Well crap,” Buffy said. “That’s kind of what happened in our time. Except that they arrested the other two and just Warren escaped like that.  But this time, unless we tell them we were watching last night, the police won’t know about Andrew and Jonathan.”
“Perhaps it won’t matter. If they find the drugs he used, and perhaps whatever else he may have there that would be incriminating, they’ll have enough on him that they won’t need confessions from his cohorts. They have a victim’s statement, I’m sure they’ll be conducting interviews at the club in an effort to find witnesses, and with the addition of physical evidence from the house or the van….”
“The van! We put a camera in the van!”
“It doesn’t matter. It has served its purpose and allowed us to rescue his victim. Spike installed it, did he not?”
Buffy nodded. “But—”
“And they will have very little success finding a match to his fingerprints should they find it and attempt to identify him.  Willow paid cash for the camera, and if I remember correctly, she wore a wig and sunglasses. So, they won’t have any idea who might have put it there. I’m confident they will find other surveillance equipment in his lab, so with luck they will assume he installed it himself.”
“But just in case, we need Willow to disconnect it, or whatever she needs to do to so they can’t find out where it was sending stuff.”
“Excellent point. I’ll call her now.”
While Giles called Willow’s phone, leaving her a message about what was needed, Buffy watched the police carrying things out of Warren’s house.
“Looks like they’re taking all his stuff. They should be able to figure out what he’s been doing and what he was planning to do.”
“We can hope so,” Giles replied as he ended his message for Willow.
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