After assuring the girls that she would be back with the scythe early in the morning, and that they should not worry about that night’s patrol, but prepare themselves mentally for the battle, Buffy ran through what she’d planned so far, and why they shouldn’t be too worried.
“We’ve got weapons, we’ve got magical backup, we’ve got experienced fighters, and we’ve got numbers on our side. You’ll be fighting in pairs whenever you can, and with luck, only against Bringers. But, you need to be ready for anything. Once you have your powers, those evil creatures won’t seem so intimidating, and you’ll find yourselves eager to dust them. I’ll be back first thing in the morning. Be ready to be strong.”
Without waiting to answer any questions, Buffy and Spike left with Giles and Wesley, leaving Winston to chat with Willow about the spell. To her surprise, Wes asked Buffy to come with him to his car. She shrugged and followed him, sending Spike a quick I’ll be right back.
Wes opened the passenger door, and Faith slid out to stand beside the car. Her expression indicated she wasn’t sure what her reception would be, and the tension was apparent in every line of her body. Her wary expression changed to obvious shock when Buffy grabbed her in a hug, saying, “Oh, I’m so glad to see you!”
“Huh?” was the inarticulate response as Faith seemed bewildered by the warm welcome. Buffy let her go and stepped back, still smiling.
Wes stepped into the awkward silence, saying, “Faith said she knew that in your time she came back to help, and she thought she probably should do that.”
“Especially after some random bitch tried to gut me with a knife,” Faith said. “I remembered what you said about the First trying to kill all the slayers, and figured that was my clue to leave where I was and join the fight.”
“Where were you?” Buffy frowned, remembering that in their time, Faith had been in jail.
“Not in the pokey,” Faith said quickly. “And not in trouble, either. Seems like something you did here made those charges go away. It made me re-think a few things…”
“So, you’re here to help?”
“If you’ll have me.”
“Oh, I’ll have you,” Buffy said, flushing when Faith raised a ribald eyebrow and drawled, “Oh really….?”
“You can help with the new slayers tomorrow, and after we kick First butt, I’ll tell you about what we’re going to do later.”
Faith’s lack of surprise at Buffy’s comment about new slayers, made it obvious that Wes had been filling her in on what was going on. He nodded at Buffy.
“I’ve told her as much as I can about the plan… and what you’ve told me about the future. But I wanted to make sure she was welcome before springing her on everybody.”
Buffy grimaced in agreement. “Yeah. Let’s wait until after they’ve seen her in action before we tell Sara we have another slayer for her to guard.” She turned back to Faith. “You’re welcome to our couch,” she said.
Faith shook her head. “My man, Wesley, got me a hotel room. Just tell me where to be and when to be there. You can make introductions after we send the devil back to hell.”
“Okay. If you’re sure. Willow’s going to power up the girls tomorrow morning at the Guardian house, and then we’ll all meet near the new high school. Xander will go in with us to set off the fire alarm and empty the building. He could probably use a bodyguard…”
“Got it. And then?”
“I’ll going to tell the other slayers about you before we leave the house. As soon as you’ve got Xander safely in and out again, you’ll take one squad of newbies and I’ll take the other. We’re going to make sure the building is clear of Turok-Hans and Bringers. The Bringers, we slay, the others, we either slay or drive back to the Hellmouth.”
“Sounds like a plan. See you tomorrow, then.” Without another word, Faith got back in the car and waited for Wes to drive her to the hotel.
Buffy rejoined Spike and Giles, nodding when Spike asked, “Was that who I thought it was?”
“Yep. It was Faith. I didn’t ask her what she’s been doing, but she said she didn’t break out of jail to get here, and she wants to help. I gave her body-guard Xander duty to start with, and then she can take half of the slayers while I take the other half.”
“Do you trust her?” Giles asked, his own views strongly influenced by the things Faith had done in this time.
“I think so. She is a slayer. And in our time, she came back to help. As far as I know, with me not there, I’d guess she’s in charge of slayer training in our time. Or would be, if that time line still existed….” Buffy stared back and forth between Spike and Giles, her eyes wide. “Wow. I just realized. It doesn’t exist any more, does it? I mean, we’re here, and so is Winston, but the world we left doesn’t exist yet. And when we get there, it’s going to be way different.”
“That was the goal, was it not?” Giles said with a wry smile.
“Yes. Yes, it was. But now we’ve got to figure out what to do all over again.”
“I suggest we worry about sending the First back to hell before you start hyperventilating over what comes after that. We’ll figure it out, Slayer.”
Giles nodded his agreement with Spike’s words.
“Indeed. The First Evil must be our priority for now. We’ll deal with what comes after later.”
“You’re right. I’m worrying about stuff I don’t need to worry about yet. All I need to worry about right now, is taking a bunch of brand new slayers into the mouth of hell and getting them all back out again. Easy peasy.”
“Piece of cake,” Spike agreed. “See you in the morning, Rupert. Buffy needs her sleep, and I’m taking her home now.”
“Are you really taking me home to sleep?” Buffy asked as they walked past Shady Pines Cemetery.
“Well, I’m takin’ you home to bed,” he said, nudging her arm. “Sleep could happen…. eventually.” He stopped and snarled. “Looks like we’re goin’ to have to earn that rest,” he went on, stepping slightly to the left and bringing out his sword. Buffy gave her own annoyed growl as she brought the scythe where she could use it quickly.
They were facing two Turak-Hans, backed up by Bringers carrying nets.
What do you think?
To be honest, love, this might be one of those discretion-is-the-better-part-of-valor situations.
Run like hell and live to fight another day.
The mental exchange hadn’t taken much time at all, and without further conversation, they spilt up and bolted from the area, using their mental link to keep each other aware of what was happening.
I’m home. Where are you? Buffy’s thoughts were tinged with anxiety as she’d been expecting Spike to get there first.
Bit busy. They all took off after me for some reason. I’m bringin’ ‘em to you. Be ready!
Buffy waited anxiously for some sign of Spike, but when he didn’t appear soon enough to suit her, she left the safety of Max’s property and went down the street, staring in both directions. Spike hadn’t sent any more coherent thoughts, but he did send a brief image of a building one block over. She sprinted in that direction, to find him slashing at the net over him and snarling at the remaining Turok-Han that was circling him warily. Buffy didn’t even slow down, but ran into the old vampire stake end first. She didn’t wait to see the dust fall, just barreled into the Bringer closest to her and broke its grip on the net.
Spike immediately took advantage of the unsecured corner to roll out from under the net and to his feet. The Bringers, now facing both Buffy and Spike, and without their bodyguards, all turned to flee, but they didn’t get very far. A furious Spike, and an even more angry Buffy were on them so quickly, they were down to only two before they even had a chance to fight back. Which did those two no good, as they were quickly dispatched, Buffy using the scythe, and Spike using his bare hands to wrench the head off the last one.
“Let’s get home,” Buffy said. “Just in case….”
They jogged toward their apartment building, stopping when they were safely on the small patch of grass in front. They smiled at Max, who was coming down the steps with a frown on his face.
“Are you all right?” he asked looking back and forth between them.
“We are now,” Spike admitted. “Wasn’t going well there for a bit, but my wife came to the rescue and sorted them out.” He beamed at Buffy.
“It looked like they were trying to capture Spike, like they did in our time, but I don’t know why. The seal is already open, so they don’t need him for that.” She looked at Spike and added, “Unless the First somehow found out about what you did in our time, and figured you were the one he had to get rid of.”
“Don’t know how he’d do that,” Spike said. “Nobody we know would tell him about it.”
“Not on purpose, of course not. But accidentally? Especially if he got to one of the girls….no, they’re all safe with Sara.”
“Worry about it later, love. As long as that’s all he knows, then he won’t be expecting what shows up tomorrow.”
“If he knows about you, he may know more about Winston,” Max said. “Not that I expect it will help him, but if he targeted you….”
Buffy already had her phone out, dialing Winston’s number. He answered on the first ring, saying, “I think I’ve got it, but feel free…” The call ended abruptly and Buffy grabbed Spike’s hand.
“They’re after him too. Let’s go!”
“Be careful,” Max said. “If he has to throw up shields, they may prevent you from getting close enough to help. Please call if you think you will need me.”
Without acknowledging Max with anything but a wave as they took off down the street in the direction of the Guardian house, Spike and Buffy ran as fast as they could, only to arrive on the scene to find Winston surrounded by piles of ash and a few still-burning corpses. He glanced at them, his eyes hooded and his face blank. Then he visibly shook himself and relaxed his face and body.
“You missed all the excitement,” he said, gesturing around him. “It was good practice for tomorrow.”
“We had our own excitement,” Buffy said. “But it’s good to know you didn’t need us.”
“To be honest, I wasn’t sure for a while there,” Winston said with a grimace. “I knew I could destroy them, but I didn’t want to damage anything… or anyone… else. It was trickier than I expected.”
“Not used to being so careful, are you?” Spike said with a grin. “I’m sure the surrounding homeowners appreciate your restraint.”
“Max warned us to be careful,” Buffy said. “I guess he knew you might….”
Winston nodded and looked mildly abashed. “I should call him, I guess. Let him know we’re all okay, and I didn’t accidentally fry you.”
“You should. I think he was worried… about all of us.”
“I’m sure he was.” Winston dialed and waited. “We’re fine, you old worry wart. We’ve got this.” He paused and grinned. “They’re here. But I didn’t leave them much to do. No. Nothing is damaged. I did. Yes. You should apologize.” He sighed. “Yes, Master Maximillian. Yes, I will. Thank you.”
Winston put away his phone and shook his head. “You’d think I was some twenty-year-old novice,” he grumbled, then noticed their curious faces. “It’s fine. He’s happy we’re all okay, and he suggests we get to our own safe places as soon as we can.”
“We were in our safe place,” Spike said with a smirk. “Until we thought we might need to rescue you.”
Winston rolled his eyes, but said, “Thank you for that. It wasn’t necessary, but it’s good to know you had my back.”
“Always,” Spike said.
As they began walking back toward where they could see Winston’s car, he asked, “So what kind of excitement did you have?”
Buffy filled him in, adding that since they were clearly targeting Spike, the First must have somehow learned that he might be the greater danger.
“Of course, that’s not true now, because he doesn’t have that amulet to wear, and I wouldn’t let him do it anyway.”
“Yes, you would, love,” Spike said, pulling her against his side. “You’ll always do what you need to do to save the world. And I wouldn’t have you any other way.”
Winston frowned at them. “I wonder if he somehow heard you yesterday?”
“Heard me what?”
“Talking to Joyce about what happened in your time. She said you stopped by the gallery.”
“I didn’t see Joyce yesterday….” Spike said slowly. Sudden understanding dawned on all three of them. “Bloody, buggering, fuck!” Spike snarled. “That bastard went to her as me.”
“I wonder what else she told him?” Buffy was near tears as she realized what had happened, and that her mother was going to be devastated.
“We need to find out,” Winston said, his own unhappiness clear. “I hate for her to know she may have caused a problem, but we need to know what she said.”
Buffy was already on the phone. “Mom? Are you still up? Okay, good. We’re coming over to talk to you—Spike, Winston, and me. Unless you see all three of us together, don’t talk to anybody, okay? Yeah, I’ll explain later. We’re on our way.”
“She’s gonna figure it out, love,” Spike said, as they got into Winston’s car. “Joyce isn’t dumb. By the time we get there, she’ll already have figured out what probably happened.”
Buffy gave a low moan, but was otherwise silent.
Spike was right. As they walked onto the porch, Joyce threw open the door and, in near hysterics, she asked, “What did I do?” She turned an anguished look on Spike. “I thought it was you!”
“We know that, Mom,” Buffy soothed. “We’ve both been there. It’s hard to tell when it’s not the person you think it is.” Buffy hugged her mother tightly, walking her back into the house. “We just need to know what you talked about, so we don’t get any surprises.”
Joyce sat down on the couch, wringing her hands and still visibly upset. With Buffy on one side, and Winston on the other, she took some deep breaths until she could talk.
“I don’t remember exactly,” she started. She looked up at Spike, standing in front of them. “You—it—talked about what you could do to help Buffy, and I guess I just said something about using your soul to close the hellmouth, like you did before. We didn’t really talk for very long. After I said that, you—it—said it had to go, and it left.”
“Okay, so you just said “like you did before”. You didn’t actually say anything about the future? Or about me, or the other slayers?”
Joyce shook her head. “No, it didn’t ask about the other girls, so I didn’t mention them. The only thing we talked about was how much help Spike could be to you.” She glanced back at Spike. “I mean, I thought I was talking to you, so it’s not like I thought I needed to tell you why you can walk in the sun or anything like that. I just thought you were worried about not having an amulet this time, and I…. I gave away the whole plan, didn’t I?”
She started wringing her hands again, only stopping when Winston took them in both of his and began whispering to her. She stopped fretting, but glared at him.
“Don’t try to magic this away,” she said. “I screwed up. I have a right to be upset with myself.”
“You do,” Winston soothed. “You let out some secrets we’d rather the First didn’t have. But there’s no harm done. They came after Spike tonight, but he got away. And what you think you told him isn’t any part of what’s going to occur now. And they came after me, just because when we had to go rescue Angel, it saw a bit of what I can do. It doesn’t know about the small army of slayers going in with Buffy tomorrow. In fact, as far as we know, it doesn’t even know that we’re planning our attack then. All it knows for sure, is that somehow Spike used his soul to close a hellmouth. That’s all.”
“The worst that could happen now is that it figures out we’re from the future. And I don’t think that’s going to help it much at this point. Knowing we survived it in our time, just means it can’t be so sure it’s going to do what it thinks it can.” Buffy added her own soothing words. “If it knew about us a few months ago, that might have caused more trouble, but all it does now is give it something to worry about.”
Buffy squeezed her mom again. “But just in case, you need to be someplace safer tonight. Dawn’s at the Guardian House, but you need to be someplace we can protect you. I guess we can—”
Winston interrupted. “She can come home with me. When we meet at Sara’s tomorrow, I’ll bring her with me to stay there while we shut this thing down.”
Joyce blushed, but without meeting Buffy’s eyes, she nodded. “That sounds good. Just let me grab a few things, and I’ll be ready.”
Spike was smirking at Buffy’s expression, but sent her a quick, Easy there, love. Your mum’s entitled to a life, and it seems like she has one. Just be happy for her.
Buffy nodded, remembering that in her own time, aside from one disastrous relationship years ago, her mother’d had time for just one date, before the aneurysm that took her life prevented her from having another.
They saw Joyce and Winston out to his car, watched it drive away, then turned toward home.
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