Given how late it was when they got back to Sunnydale, the “nap” turned out to mean Buffy only woke up long enough to tell Winston “good-night” and “thanks” when he dropped them off at home. Even Spike was yawning as he felt dawn approaching, and without any discussion, they dropped their clothes on the bedroom floor and fell into bed.
It was well into the next day when Buffy’s phone woke her up, and she stumbled around hunting for it among the things on the floor.
“Umm. Hi, Giles. I mean, good morning?..... Oh. It is, huh?..... Yeah, yes we did…. No Winston’s fine. He didn’t have to do much, but he drove there and back so he’s probably sleeping too….. Uh huh. Okay. Sounds like a plan. See you this afternoon.”
She dropped the phone, but elected to visit the bathroom before deciding if she was up for the day, or just taking a pee break before going back to sleep. She remembered what Giles had said about what time it was already, and with a sigh, reached into the tub and turned on the shower.
When she came out, towel wrapped around her head, she ran into Spike’s chest as she tried to leave the bathroom.
“You didn’t wait for me?” He sent her a mental pout.
“You don’t usually want to be awake this early. Go ahead and get cleaned up.” She slipped past him, giving his morning wood a little pat. “I’ll wait for you out here.”
“You’d best still be naked,” he grumbled, attempting a half-serious grab at her still damp body.
“Depends on how long it takes you to get clean. It’s kind of chilly out here….”
In spite of her words, she just towel dried her hair as well as she could, and combed it out with her fingers.
“Grab my hair dryer!” she yelled as she heard the shower go off.
When Spike appeared, dryer in one hand and brush in the other, she beamed at him and sat on the edge of the bed. In a routine that was becoming almost a ritual for them, he sat behind her and began to brush and dry her hair. Buffy’s sigh of contentment seemed to make up for the lack of immediate sexual activity he’d been looking for, and she smiled as he settled into a steady rhythm of brushing and blowing until her hair was settled around her shoulders in a silky cover.
“That what you wanted, love?” he murmured in her ear as he dropped the tools on the floor.
“Mmmm hmmmm,” she agreed, leaning back into him. “Thank you.”
“Was my pleasure… as you well know,” he said. “I’d almost rather do that than….” He stopped when she snorted, breaking the spell of quiet contentment. “I said almost,” he growled, pulling her back against his body. “But now that it’s done with…..”
With them both still naked from their showers, it took very little time to find themselves in one of their favorite positions, with Spike on his back and Buffy impaled on his cock. She wriggled her hips, earning a groan from him as he pushed up into her. “Are you in a hurry?” she gasped, beginning to rock back and forth on him as he continued moving.
“Wasn’t before, but I am now,” he growled, holding on to her hips and pushing up harder and faster.
Buffy leaned forward and rested her hands on his shoulders as she let his motions bring her to a whimpering finish that preceded his own shout of completion by only a few seconds. She fell onto his chest, leaving her legs on either side of his, and murmured her appreciation as he put his arms around her and held her even closer.
After a few moments of mutually happy snuggling, Buffy sighed and pushed herself off his body.
“Well, that was a nice way to start the day,” she said, standing up and avoiding the arm he tried to grab her with. “I hope the rest of it goes that good.”
“What rest of it?” he grumbled, accepting that she wasn’t coming back to bed with little grace.
“We need to go over to my mom’s gallery to thank her again for having the wedding for us, and to see if she needs help with anything. She said she was expecting some deliveries. And then, I think we need to sit down with Giles and Winston…. and maybe the others….I guess they have a right to—”
“If you want to discuss what I think you do, I’d say we just talk with the watcher and the wizard before we bring anybody else into it. If we decide it needs to be done, then we can bring Red and Harris up to speed.”
By the time they’d both eaten breakfast, it was well past noon, and they opted to drive to the gallery to help maintain Spike’s, by-this-time-not-so-secret, secret that he could go out in the sun.
“I’m not sure we’re fooling anybody with this anymore,” Buffy commented as Max waved to them when they drove past the front of the building. They’d long since begun parking Spike’s car in the small designated area in the back, knowing it was perfectly safe there.
“Maybe, maybe not. Half the people who know I can get about in the sun think it’s because I’m just a really pale human, and most of the demons aren’t around in the daytime enough to catch me doing it.” He stopped and frowned. “I’m not sure what we’re going to do about Wood yet. Might be a good idea if he did see me walking around in the daylight.”
Buffy groaned. “Speaking of….” she said. “He asked Dawn about me. I guess he saw me when I went after that talisman before it could cause a lot of trouble, and he heard one of her friends call me Buffy.”
Spike nodded. “That’s right, isn’t it? He came here looking for you…. and me?”
“I dunno. It could be coincidence that he showed up here where you live….”
“Or it could be he already knew that William the Bloody was the vamp that did for his mum.”
“Well, by now Dawn has probably told him I’m married, so he won’t be asking me out, and if he sees you out and about, maybe he won’t realize who you are.”
“Uh huh,” he said as he parked near Joyce’s gallery. “And maybe I’ll get a suntan this weekend.”
They entered the gallery and busied themselves walking around while Joyce waved and continued an animated discussion with a customer. Her assistant smiled timidly. The poor woman, while grateful that they’d been saved from the robbers the previous year, had never quite been able to get over having seen Buffy beat one of them almost to death. And, while she hadn’t noticed Spike’s fangs at the time, she had seen him pick the other robber up in one hand and hold him there quite easily. Joyce’s explanation, that Buffy and Spike were “different” but on the side of good, not evil, had been accepted as part of Sunnydale’s unusual culture, but she still wasn’t as comfortable around them as she had been when she thought they were normal humans.
As soon as Joyce was free, she came over and hugged them both, commenting on how relaxed they looked after their short honeymoon vacation. Buffy shrugged as she struggled not to think about how much killing Caleb had to do with how relaxed she was now, and Spike smirked as he felt her thought.
“So, Mom. What do you need us for?”
“Just a couple of things. There are two big crates on the loading dock. If you two could just bring them in and open them for us, that would be great. I don’t think there’s anything really big and heavy inside, just a lot of smaller things that for some reason got shipped in the same crates.”
“We’ve got it, Mom. Be right back.”
It took Buffy and Spike only a few minutes to wrestle the crates into the back room and pull them apart.
“No Acathlas this time?” Buffy said, as she emptied out her container.
“Nope. Not even a bloody naked woman. How about yours?”
Buffy pulled the last heavily wrapped item out and placed it on the floor. “None here either, unless this is one—hey, maybe it will be a naked Acathla!”
“Ugly bugger was naked, if I’m remembering right,” he growled. “What is that?”
Buffy pulled the last of the wrapping off and shook her head. “Beats me. Must be some kind of modern art thingie.”
They both stared at the odd-looking arrangement of geometric shapes, but couldn’t figure out what it was meant to be. Joyce came into the big room and frowned at it.
“Huh. It’s bigger than I expected. Spike, would you mind carrying it into the front and putting it on that empty shelf with the light?”
Spike did as he was asked, dutifully admiring it as it sat in its new place, looking just as strange as it had before. Buffy added her, “Yep. That’s really interesting, Mom. We’ve gotta go now. Talk to you later, Bye!” and pulled him out the door.
“Havin’ trouble deciding what to say about that piece, weren’t you?” He laughed as he held the door open for her.
“I hate to hurt Mom’s feelings, but that was just ugly. Nobody’s going to buy that thing!”
“Stranger things have happened, love. Taste in art is a funny thing.”
As they all sat around the table at the back of the Magic Box, finishing up the last of their lunch, Giles leaned back in his chair and smiled.
“I’d like to hear more about this unusual inn you stayed at,” he said. “It is quite intriguing.”
“It’s not for everyone,” Spike said, giving the humans an apologetic shrug. “Don’t think any of you have the right DNA….” He glanced at Anya. “Not anymore, anyway.”
“I know what it is,” she said. “I’ve never been to this one, but I tried to do a vengeance at one… once.” She visibly shuddered.
“You tried to do a vengeance spell? And it didn’t work?” Winston looked appalled and fascinated at the same time. “What happened?”
“Nothing. Absolutely nothing happened. And the Innkeeper had the nerve to laugh at me before the Inn put me outside and slammed the door.”
“You mean there’s more than one like the one we stayed in?” Buffy’s eyes grew big. “How could we not know this?”
“Because,” Spike growled, including everyone in his glare, “they aren’t evil, and they don’t allow it on the property…. Not for long, anyway,” he added, as he remembered Anyanka’s profession. “It’s a place for non-human people to stay in a peaceful setting and mingle with whomever they want to mingle. Peacefully and safely.”
“If you’re saying humans aren’t welcome, what was Buffy doing there?” Giles frowned. “She’s just as human as I am.”
“The Slayer is human… but a bit more than. And clearly not evil. An’ this one was having her honeymoon with a souled vampire.”
“A souled vampire who’s saved the world several times already,” Buffy added, glaring at Giles as if he was going to argue.
He shook his head and raised his hands in a peaceful gesture. “Quite right you are. Both of you. You are not an ordinary human nor is Spike a normal vampire. My apologies. I didn’t mean to imply that either of you might not be worthy.”
Winston cleared his throat. “If I might… I find myself as curious about the Inn itself as the Innkeeper. I take it there was magic involved?”
Spike shrugged. “I reckon so. But not magic the way we think of it. And I think the Inn building is the source of it, not the Innkeeper. If I had to guess, I’d say they aren’t from this dimension. And I doubt there’s very many of them.”
“There are only three on this plane,” Anya said. “And don’t ask me how I know that.” She put down her duster and went down the stairs to the store room, leaving silent expressions of surprise on the faces of the remaining people in the room.
Giles recovered first. “Yes. Well. Interesting to know. I’ll do some research on this. Perhaps the Council will know something about these places.”
“Or you could just mind your own business and leave them be,” Spike growled. “They aren’t harming you or yours.”
Winston smothered a small smile, but not before Giles caught it. He glared, then sighed and shook his head.
“You’re quite right, of course, Spike. It’s just hard for a watcher to not want to know everything there is to know.”
Buffy stood up and stretched, saying, “Well all you need to know now, is what the future is like in our time, and what we might have to do to get back to anything like it.” She went to the small kitchen and got herself a glass of water.
By the time she got back, Winston was repeating to Giles what he’d already told him about his own timeline, and that he couldn’t imagine returning to something so different he wouldn’t recognize it.
He glanced up as Buffy returned, saying, “I don’t believe it’s a great deal different from what Buffy left— except for the things you know about that were changed very early on. Giles, you are still the head of the new Slayers and Watchers Council, there are still multiple slayers all over the world. One of the differences is that the coven and I are very much a part of the Council. Willow is the head of the magic department, although she consults us as needed. You are responsible for identifying and recruiting the newly activated slayers, and Buffy had been working to set up a training facility—until you decided to send her back to try to prevent the rise of the First Evil and the subsequent loss of the Council building and it’s centuries of records. As well as the many friends and acquaintances we both have there.”
“And where was Spike?”
“Trapped in the amulet he used to close the hellmouth,” Buffy said. “And then he was at Angel’s new office in Wolfram and Hart, but he was a ghost.” She glanced at Winston. “Was that the same in your time?”
“As far as Spike goes, I’d assume so. However, Wesley was spending more time at the new Council headquarters than he was with Angel. He did admit to sending Spike back to try to avert your death and/or resurrection, but he was not comfortable working in Wolfram and Hart, and he didn’t like what he was seeing in Angel, so he wasn’t spending as much time there as he apparently did in yours.”
“Okay, well, then you both know what we did and why we did it. The question is, is the First still going to try to come into our world, and is he planning to do it by raising an army of Turok-hans? Can he do that now? Without my resurrection throwing the balance off so badly, will he still have that kind of power? And without Caleb, will he have a human to meld with?”
“And will there still be Bringers goin’ after potentials all over the world?”
Buffy nodded. “That’s going to be pretty important. If they’re all still in danger, we’re going to have to do something to keep them safe.”
“Well, you can’t stash them all over your mum’s house now,” Spike said. “And as nice as our apartment is, I don’t see us keeping them there.”
“Giles, can you find out from the Council if they know of any potentials that have been killed? Other than the ones Caleb got, I guess.” She bit her lip. “I guess we need to figure out a way to warn them about the bomb… not that we know if it’s going to happen now, since Caleb seemed to think he was supposed to do it….”
Winston spoke up before Giles could answer. “I feel quite certain that Caleb was not the only weak-minded, inclined-toward-evil servant the First has managed to find. Who’s to say he doesn’t have another Caleb in London, planning to blow up the building?”
Buffy sighed. “But we can’t very well tell them that without revealing…. And I’m pretty sure if we tell them they’re all going to die and Giles and I are going to be the head of a Slayer and Watcher Council…. Yeah. They’ll either have us committed, or killed.”
Winston made a face. “I see your point,” he said.
“I’ll ask about any missing or murdered potentials,” Giles said. “Perhaps, in the process of that conversation, there will be an opportunity to mention taking precautions. Aside from the loss of so many lives, many of them friends or former coworkers of mine, the loss of all those records and research materials would indeed be a disaster all by itself.”
“Maybe just tell them we went after Caleb because he’d been killing potentials, and he mentioned the Council? Can we do that without actually telling them anything else?”
“Possibly.” Giles shrugged. “We seem to have a better working relationship with the current Council—or they with us—than seems to have been the case in your time… times?” He glanced at Winston, who nodded his head.
“In my time, the Council had the benefit of working with the coven for several years, and they are—were— slightly less set in their ways than appears to have been the case in Buffy’s time. Even Travers was known to speak highly of Buffy from time to time.” He frowned. “But we don’t have that going for us this time, do we? I have encouraged the Coven to provide support to the Council, but I’m not aware of their having established a good working relationship.”
“What if the Coven went to the Council and said they’d seen… stuff?”
“Something else to think about,” Spike said quietly. “If they don’t blow up, and Buffy doesn’t do the spell to activate all the potentials, we’re going to be completely lost when we finally get back to that point in this time. Buffy and Rupert won’t be in London, tryin’ to put together a new Council, you won’t be part of the Coven or the Council, and I won’t be popping out of a piece of ugly jewelry in the poof’s new office.”
He waited for them to think it over. Buffy’s face paled as she realized what he was saying.
“You mean we won’t… but then how… are you saying we won’t be here? None of us?”
“Don’t know, do we? I’m just sayin’, we’ll be flyin’ completely blind by then.”
Giles and Winston both shook their heads, but Giles spoke first.
“I cannot, in good conscience, condone allowing an entire building full of people to die.”
“No, of course not!” Buffy frowned. “How about just Travers?” she said, smiling to show she was kidding.
“As much as I can appreciate that thought,” Giles said with a wry twist of his mouth, “I have no desire to take over his job.”
Winston gave Buffy a grin, but shook his head. “I can sympathize with Buffy. I’ve had a few moments with the man myself. However, I agree that we cannot allow all those people to be put to death when we may be able to stop it.”
“Don’t forget about the potentials and their watchers,” Buffy said. “They got killed too.”
“And them. In some way, we are going to have to at least warn the Council about things that could happen.” Winston looked around the table. “I do think the Coven is our best bet. I can be a bit more forthcoming with them without endangering anyone else. They already suspect I’m not the innocent mage they’ve been allowed to think I am. I think I can get them to accept where I’m from—and that it was they who sent me back—without sharing that information with the Council. If I limit my contact to the two oldest coven members…. it should be all right,” he said. “And if it isn’t, the worst thing that will happen is that we will have to let the head of the Watcher’s Council know what is what.”
Buffy blew out an explosive breath, but nodded her head. “I like it. Covens have seers and things. It was a seer who called us about Amanda… I forget her name, but—”
“Althenea,” Winston put in.
Buffy nodded and went on, “It’ll be believable if they tell Travers they think he needs to protect all the potentials and their watchers. That’s a good start.”
“Between that, and Rupert telling Travers that Caleb threatened the Council itself, I think we will have done our best to help them be safe.”
“In the meantime, we’re still here, and still ready for the First to stick it’s ugly head up.”
“Exactly.” Winston looked at Giles. “What do you think? Can we get away with that much information?”
“I don’t see why not. I’d like to offer another thought, if I might?” He looked from Winston to Buffy and Spike, who had pulled their chairs closer together. “If worse come to worst, it may be that we will have to take, not just the coven, but the Council itself into our confidence. We are now very close to eliminating the worst of the events in your timeline. And in Winston’s. Surely by this point, allowing a few others to learn about your history, and how you’ve changed it, would be a safe thing to do?”
“Not until we’re bloody sure that the First has been put back in its cage,” Spike growled. “We need to know it’s a thing of the past, before we start actin’ as if it’s time for a victory parade.”
“I agree with Spike. We’ve disrupted the timing with finding the scythe so early, and getting rid of Caleb, but there might still be Bringers out there trying to kill potentials slayers. And we don’t know who put out word in LA about Abby being a potential. Maybe it was Caleb, but maybe it wasn’t. And I still don’t know what I want to do about the spell to activate everybody.”
“It is a bit of an either/or situation, isn’t it?” Giles said with a sigh. “And not one the Council is likely to approve of.”
Spike snorted. “Yeah, they like to be in control of their cannon fodder. Can’t see them being happy if they’re outnumbered by a bunch of violent little chits, some of them not even knowing the Council exists, never mind that it thinks it can tell them what to do.”
Giles rolled his eyes at Spike, but Winston laughed, and Buffy looked thoughtful.
“What?” he asked her.
I’ll tell you later.
“So. What do we think? Tell the rest of the Scoobies tonight? Or just put it off until we’ve decided what we need to do?” Buffy looked back and forth between Giles and Winston.
“Why don’t we wait until Winston has spoken with the Coven, and until I have spoken with the Council. As much as we may dislike them and their methods, they do have access to information we don’t. Information that could help us make good decisions going forward.”