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And I Still Do (Love You) by slaymesoftly
Chapter Twenty-five
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They made the trip to the Magic Box in uncomfortable silence, Angel sitting in the passenger seat, with Buffy and Spike behind him. By the time they got there, the lights were on and Giles, Willow, and Wesley were seated at the table. They all immediately looked at Angel, with varying degrees of anger and concern.


“Not a full Scooby meeting, then?” Buffy poked Spike, but Giles responded anyway.


“No sense telling everybody about it until we know what damage has been done,” Giles said. “I gather it was what you’d expected?” He looked at Buffy, but Spike answered for her.


“Pretty much. Different blood donor, same result. We got the first ugly bugger, but we could see there was at least one more trying to come out.”


Spike turned to ask Angel, “Could you see down in there from your vantage point? Are there more?”


Angel shrugged. “I couldn’t see much, but there are definitely more than the two we saw. And more of those things that we fought when you came to LA.” He shook his head. “The opening isn’t that big yet, but who knows how much room there is down there?”


“I know,” Buffy said flatly. “And Spike knows.”


“I guess this is more of Spike’s ‘seer’ stuff?” Angel sneered at the reminder of why he was there, and Buffy narrowed her eyes as she gave her response..


“Actually, it isn’t. It’s something he knows from experience. Sit down so we can tell you about it, and you can go back to LA and get out of our lives.” Buffy pointed to a chair.


Angel’s gaze was now riveted on Wesley. “You know what they’re going to tell me, don’t you? That’s why you aren’t as worried as I am about Spike’s hold on Buffy. You already know what’s going on.” The tinge of anger in his voice was easy to hear, and Spike and Winston both stepped closer to Wes.


“I do. And if I were you, I’d stop referring to it as ‘Spike’s hold on Buffy’ and acknowledge what you can easily see, which is that it is a mutual, and quite happy relationship.”


“Sit down, Angel,” Buffy repeated, doing so herself on the other side of the table. Spike walked over to lean against the wall behind her chair.


“Does he have to be there?” Angel grumbled. “Is he there to make sure you say the right things?”


“Oh, for the love of—somebody tell him, now!” Spike’s amber glare made it very clear he was reaching the end of his patience, and Buffy reached back to give him a calming pat on the leg before she responded.


“Angel, Spike and I have been together, as allies, friends, slaying buddies, or… lovers, in one way or another for over seven years, almost eight really. We’ve known each other for ten years, if we count from when we first met in our timeline and formed a truce to save the world from Acathla, plus the four years in this one.” She waited a few seconds while Angel frowned, watching him try to work out the math, and then realize what she’d just said.


“In this timeline? Meaning there’s another one?”


“Another two, actually,” Winston spoke up. “Theirs and mine. Very similar in most respects, but not exactly.”


“You’re saying you’re from the future? How far in the future? How did you get here? When did you get here?”


“Our future’s not far at all, now. It’s only a bit more than a year from now, I reckon. But it isn’t likely to be much like what we left four years ago. When we were sent back here—separately, I might add—it was from a good four plus years ahead of this timeline. Winnie, here, got sent back to help us out a few months later.” Spike waited to hear Angel’s response.


He stared at them, his gaze going from Spike to Buffy to Winston.


“Eight years….”


“And countin’,” Spike replied.


“So, when I showed up four years ago….”


“We’d already been here long enough to find each other and figure out what happened. And to decide that we were going to take advantage of the time we’ve been given to have the life we never had a chance to back in our time.” Buffy sat back and waited for his response.

“So, in your time, you aren’t married, or mated, or any of the things you are now. If you were sent back separately, then you weren’t together at that time.” Angel nodded to himself as if having suspicions confirmed. In spite of the eye rolls around the table, he persisted. “What changed that in this time?”


“I thought he was dead in our time,” Buffy snapped. “He died, in case you’re curious, saving the world from an army of Turok-hans trying to come out of the hellmouth. I was heartbroken, but very proud of him,” she added, casting a glance over her shoulder to smile at Spike. “I was all kinds of happy to have another chance for a life together.”


“And I was just a ghost, in LA. As soon as I was solid enough, you and Oxford here, decided to send me back. Never had time to contact Buffy to let her know I was alive…so to speak.”


“I’m confused. Why did I think it was a good idea to send you back? And why was Buffy sent back by whoever sent her back? Don’t tell me it was just so you two could shack up?” He ignored Spike’s growl, but cringed from Buffy’s narrowed eyes.


Winston spoke up. “Because in both their time and mine, the First Evil got a much stronger toe-hold on this plane, and was well on its way to destroying the world as you currently know it. Spike’s sacrifice in the hellmouth managed to save the world, but at tremendous cost of life and property. Both Wesley and what was left of the Council had determined, separately and without speaking to each other about it, that they knew what allowed the First to become so strong, and they sent Spike and Buffy back, again, separately and unbeknownst to each other, to correct that situation and prevent the First Evil from rising again. I was sent back from a slightly changed Council a few months later to assist them.”


Buffy glanced at Wes to see if he was surprised to hear that it was his idea, but the calm expression on his face told her that at some point either Spike or Winston had told him at least something about the part he’d played.


Angel shook his head. “I feel like I’m missing an awful lot here.”


“Because you are,” Wes said, speaking for the first time. “But I can fill you in on a lot of it when we get back to LA.”


Angel looked back and forth between Buffy and Spike, who gazed back with quiet confidence.


“You’ve really been together for eight years?”


“Longer than that if you count from when I began to fall in love with her. Took her a bit longer to warm up to the idea of havin’ another vamp in her life, after what you did to her.” Spike’s eyes flared yellow just long enough to make his point. “But we’d found our way together by this time in our world. I ‘died’ knowing she loved me, so when we found each other here, in Rupert’s living room…” He rested a hand on Buffy’s shoulder. “We picked right up where we left off—just with more shaggin’.” He leered at Buffy, who huffed angrily, but didn’t correct him as she expanded on what he said.


“Angel, the point is, we’ve had way more than the four years we’ve been together here to learn to care for and trust each other. We were friends and slaying partners before we were anything else. But our world was too…. it was hard to be a couple back then. I always thought we’d have more time. And then he died on me. These four years of living together and being…”


“Mated” Spike muttered under his breath.

“… mutually claimed,” Buffy said with a glare, “and now legally married in human terms, have only made us more sure of what we’ve always had. Mutual respect and trust, things you and I never had.”


Angel looked like he was going to object, then shut his mouth and nodded. “I can see how you’d think that.” He visibly shifted his train of thought. “So, this First Evil. Will you need our help again? Is the man who tasered me a minion like the one I watched you kill in LA?”


Buffy shook her head about Robin, saying, “He doesn’t seem to have any powers. I think he’s just a handy puppet for the first to use. Not like Caleb, but obviously not harmless.” She sighed and answered the first part of his question.


“Even if you got hold of the amulet Spike wore in our time, I won’t let him burn up again, so that’s out. I guess the main thing is to be aware of what’s going on here and be ready to form a second front if we somehow don’t succeed.” She smiled at Winston and Spike. “I kinda think we’re gonna be okay, though, even if I have to bring the other girls into it. I’ve got help I didn’t have back in our time.”


“Not to mention, Max thinks we can do it,” Spike snorted while Buffy and Wes laughed softly.


“There is that,” Winston said with a straight face. “Master Maxmillian expects us to ace the final.”


Willow giggled, while Giles smiled in agreement. Buffy gave him a grin before turning her attention back to Angel.


Angel frowned, not having any idea what they were laughing about, but he seemed to have calmed down in the face of indisputable proof that Buffy had known what she was doing when she and Spike mutually claimed each other. Without any more protesting, he turned to Wesley, asking in an aggrieved tone, “Why did you know about this before I did? And why did they tell you not to tell me?”


Before Wes could respond, Spike did. “Because he’s a lot smarter than you are, and he figured it out by himself a long time ago. And we didn’t tell you, or anybody else who didn’t need to know about us because we were tryin’ to prevent making any changes that could mess up the future we knew was coming.”


“But you have made changes!”


“We have. Turned out we never knew when or if something we did changed things, so eventually we just stopped worrying about it and fixed the things we knew needed fixin’.”


“You could have told me then,” Angel said with glare. “You could have let me in on it.”


Buffy rolled her eyes, but let Spike respond.


“You might recall that the Slayer was a bit brassed off at you by then…” Spike said mildly, moving back beside Buffy, who reached for his hand and held it while she waited for Angel to remember why she was mad at him.


He growled, then sighed. “I did it because I loved—love you and wanted to keep a connection between us so you would always trust me. It was for your own good. But I understand that I should have told you about it.”


“If that’s your idea of an apology…” Buffy began, stopping herself and sighing. “Just go home Angel. Try to do good. And leave us alone.”


Wes stood up, touching Angel’s shoulder. “Let’s go, Angel. You got your answer. I’ll drop you off wherever you left your car.”


To everyone’s shock, Angel snarled at Wesley and shook his hand off. “I can’t believe you kept something like this from me. I don’t think you really want to be a small space with me just now.” He stood up, fangs dropping.


Buffy tensed, wondering if she was going to have to interfere, and mentally preparing to throw Angel out into the street. She felt Spike tensing beside her, then heard Winston slide back his chair. He didn’t say a word, just waved his hand and froze Angel in place, leaving his head free, but his mouth shut, just the tips of his fangs still showing.


“Did you just threaten my friend?” Winston asked softly, moving to stand in front of the immobile vampire. “For not telling you things you had no need or right to know?”


He never raised his voice, but the menace was palpable, making Buffy wonder what, if anything, she could do if he decided to set fire to Angel. But he continued quietly.


“You need to think long and hard about how much trouble you’ve already caused here with your arrogant insistence that somehow what Buffy does and who she does it with is in any way your business. You’ve forced us to give away valuable information about some of our weapons and capabilities. For no better reason than you aren’t willing to believe Buffy prefers a man who loves and respects her to the one who claimed her without permission and tricked her into unknowingly maintaining it.”


It was a long speech for the normally more taciturn Winston, and there was silence as everyone absorbed what he’d said. Angel’s facial expressions were a mixture of rage at his inability to move, and just a tinge of regret and fear at this proof that Winston’s abilities far exceeded anything he was familiar with. It was apparent that he’d just put himself into a life or death situation. The rage faded from his expression as he began to understand exactly how badly he’d behaved in the eyes of everyone now staring at him. Even Willow, who had moved up behind Winston, had visible energy at the ends of her fingers as she glared at him.


“Wesley is our friend,” Winston repeated. “And not one of us here wouldn’t be extremely angry should anything happen to him. Are we clear about that?”


He released Angel with another wave and waited. Angel gazed around the room, obviously seeing nothing but complete agreement on all the faces except Wesley’s. His expression was one of gratitude to everyone else in the room, and a narrow-eyed reaction to Angel’s implied threat. It wasn’t lost on Angel or anyone else, that Wes’s response to the threat was not fear, and Buffy remembered when they’d seen him stake an attacking vampire without even breaking a sweat.


Wes sure doesn’t seem worried about him.


Rogue demon hunter. Think Angelus might have bitten off a bit more than he can chew there.


Angel sighed deeply. “I’m sorry, Wes. This is what you’ve been trying to warn me against, and I’ve been ignoring your advice the whole time.” He turned to Buffy and Spike, still standing close together as if poised to fight. “Buffy, I… I apologize for what I did to you. Please believe me that my original intentions were… well, if I’m honest, the demon was trying to claim you. And I should have had more control than that. But maintaining that weak connection was my own selfish idea, and you have every right to be furious about it. As does Spike.” He threw a quick glance in that direction, but glanced away again too quickly to read Spike’s expression.


“I’m just going to head home to think about what I’ve learned tonight—about myself, as well as about you two and your very powerful friend here. Wes, if you trust me enough, I’d like to take you up on the offer of a ride to my car. It’s not all that far away, but it will give us a chance to talk.”




Buffy watched them walk out together, noting that Wes did not turn his back on Angel.


“What do you think?”


Spike shook his head. “Not sure. If Wes was walking out with Angelus, I’d say he needed to be ready for anything. But the souled up poof is probably feeling pretty broody by now and just wants to be told he’s not quite as big a wanker as he knows he is.”


“In the meanwhile,” Giles said, “How much damage do you think was done tonight? What do we know?”


“Well, we know the First knows something about Winston now,” Buffy said. “And we know that there was at least one more Turok-Han in there trying to get out, and Angel says he saw more than that. And that the seal is now kaput. So as soon as Winston’s magical fire wall dies down, we’re going to have to be very careful.”


“And watchful,” Spike added. “Once those things were being released, back in our time, things got too bloody real.”


Buffy shuddered. “That’s for sure. If they start coming out in big numbers, I’m going to have to activate the other girls.” She turned to Willow. “Have you guys figured out a way to do it that won’t activate every potential in the world?”


Winston and Willow exchanged glances, then she sighed and let Winston answer.


“Max has been advising me, but it’s tricky designing a spell to activate all potentials, but omit individual girls. We think we can come up with something that won’t affect anybody not mentally or physically capable of handling a slayer’s strength, but eliminating those emotionally unprepared for dealing with a slayer’s life is more difficult.”


Buffy nodded. “Maybe we can work on how we recruit and train them. Maybe when we find them, instead of just saying ‘Hey, you’re a slayer now. Come with me.’ we can explain what’s happened, and why. And then give them a choice? Maybe if the whole idea doesn’t appeal to them, and they don’t get any training, they can just go through life being a little stronger and faster than other girls?”


“I wonder if Sara might have any ideas along those lines?” Willow said. “She must know of some potentials who never wanted to be called….” 


Buffy shook herself.  “We can worry about those details later. Right now, I need to know I’ve got an army of slayers ready to meet the First’s army if that’s what it comes to.”








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