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And I Still Do (Love You) by slaymesoftly
Chapter Thirty-three
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By mutual agreement, Spike accompanied Giles, Wes, and Winston back to the Magic Box, while Buffy returned to the Guardian House with Faith and the other slayers.  Assuring the men that she would be back with Sara and Willow as soon as they got the girls settled and had gone over what had and hadn’t worked well, Buffy waved and walked off with her new army of slayers.


Sara and Willow were waiting for them at the door, with Dawn and Joyce hovering in the background. Buffy could see that Dawn was trying to hide her disappointment at not having been there with the girls she’d been training with for so long. As soon as she could, she found an inconspicuous way to get close to her and whisper, “I don’t know what Sara thinks she sees in your future, but I’m sure it’s something pretty special.” Dawn flinched at having been found out, but quickly put a big smile on her face and began sincerely congratulating the girls.


“Nicely done,” Joyce said, putting her arm around Buffy. “I think she was really upset when nothing happened to her.”


Buffy sighed and shook her head. “Yeah, in our time she thought for sure she was a potential. But she was a good sport about it when it turned out to be Amanda, not her.”


“Is it wrong of me to be glad that only one of my daughters has to risk her life all the time?” Joyce said with a wry twist of her mouth.


“No, Mom. It’s not wrong.”  Buffy smiled at Joyce and hugged her back. “But I hope Sara tells her what she has in mind for her pretty soon.”


“Is it safe for us to go home now?”


“I don’t know why not.” Buffy frowned. “I guess Dawn should go home too. These girls are going to be… different… now, and I don’t know if she’ll be as comfortable around them as she was before.”


“She’s lived with a slayer her whole life!”


“I know, Mom. But I was just a potential for a lot of that time. By the time I got my powers….” She shook her head. “It’s so easy to forget those aren’t real memories. I was already the Slayer when she showed up, but to her, I’m just her big sister. She doesn’t have that with all these new slayers. Even the ones she’s become close friends with.”


“Well, as much as I’d like to have at least one of my girls at home, I think we should leave it up to Dawn to decide what she wants. As long as it’s okay with Sara,” she added quickly, remembering that the Guardian house, in spite of its current status as a dormitory, was also someone’s home.


Buffy sighed. “I’m sure it’ll be fine. At least for a few days until we sort out what’s going to happen now. I need to take Sara and Willow with me when we talk about what’s next.”


To Buffy’s surprise, Sara shook her head when the idea of going to the Magic Box came up.


“No, I think Willow and I need to remain here with the new slayers. They have questions to which I may or may not have answers. I think our time is better spent thinking about the future and what it’s going to mean when the Council suddenly finds itself inundated with brand new slayers who have no watchers.”


“Ugh. Don’t remind me. I’m going to have to deal with Travers pretty soon.” She wrinkled her brow, channeling her mother to ask, “Is it wrong of me to hope he’s still too banged up to talk to me?”


Sara laughed. “It’s perfectly understandable,” she said, still smiling. “But he’s a tough old bird, so I wouldn’t count on it.”


“Oh joy.”




Buffy entered the Magic Box to find less celebrating than she’d expected. All the men had glasses of something amber in front of them, but the expressions on their faces as they drank didn’t improve with the alcohol.


“Well, this can’t be good,” she muttered to Faith, who snorted her agreement.


“What’s up guys? We did it…. didn’t we?” Buffy looked from one to the other, waiting for an answer to her question.


Seems like the head wanker is on his way here already. He’ll be in Sunnydale by tomorrow afternoon.


Buffy rolled her eyes and groaned. “I don’t even get one day to enjoy our success?” she said aloud.


“Alas, not,” Giles said, not bothering to question how she knew about Travers. “This should be even more fun. Explaining that there are now hundreds, if not thousands, of slayers in need of watchers and training.”


“Not to mention, the existence of Guardians, time travel, Winston, and Spike.”




“I don’t suppose there’s any chance he’s coming here just to tell us ‘job well done’?” Buffy said, only half-hopefully. 


Giles just snorted, as did Wesley, who shook his head.


“I’d offer to run interference, but I’m not on his list of favorite ex-watchers either. And if I had been, finding out I knew about you three all this time would destroy whatever rapport may have existed. I suggest we spend our time determining which of us will say what…. and who’s going to explain to him that in your time, it’s the Slayers and Watchers Council.”  He smirked at Giles. “And that Rupert here is the boss of it all.”


“As entertaining as I’m sure that will be,” Buffy said with a sigh, “Giles is not the boss of it all. I am. He’s in charge of finding more watchers and training them… and stuff like that. But I’m in charge of the slayers… well, me and Faith.” Buffy glanced quickly at Faith’s shocked expression. “Actually, with me being gone for the past three or four years, I guess she’s been in charge all this time. At least until the things we’ve changed lately have made that future go away, anyway.””


“I don’t do ‘in charge of’’.” Faith’s dismayed expression made Buffy laugh. “You didn’t tell me that was part of the deal!”


“I was getting to it,” Buffy said with a smirk. “Like it or not, you’re the head slayer in my timeline.”


“A timeline that no longer exists,” Winston said with quiet firmness. “Nor does the one I came from. We are, quite literally, back to our future now. Or close enough to it to have changed it completely. This is now what it is, and if we want to have some control over it, we need to be ready to present a united front to Quentin Travers.”


“Oh joy.” Buffy repeated her feelings about the upcoming visit.




The discussions went on well into the evening, with everyone taking a turn to say how they thought the conversation should go. Finally, Buffy raised her voice and said, “Who does he think he’s coming here to talk to? Is he planning to yell at Giles? Or Wes? Or me? Or Winston?” She turned to him. “Has he seen you with the coven? Have you met him in this time?”


Winston shook his head. “I only met with Althenea and one other older coven member. And we did it away from the Council Building. Anything he knows about me is through them.”


Giles sighed. “I believe he will expect me to field most of his questions. However, I have every intention of turning things over to Buffy as quickly as I can. Travers is not a stupid man, and he is well aware that we’ve been hiding things from him this year—”


This year?” Spike scoffed.


“He has no frame of reference for previous years, so has had no reason not to take my reports at face value. However, with everything we’ve tried to do this year to prevent the disaster that we knew could take place in London, he’s become much more suspicious of us. All of us,” he added, with a hard look at Spike.


“Hey! I’ve never even met the wanker,” Spike said, offended in spite of himself. “And I know I never tried to eat him.”


“You have, however, killed at least two slayers,” Giles reminded him. “I’m quite sure he knows a great deal about you, and not just that you and Buffy have been a couple for the last few years. ”


Spike grinned. “I’m guessing he’s the kind to carry a grudge?”


“You have no idea,” Giles replied wryly, to the sound of snickers from Wes, Buffy, and Winston.


Buffy looked at Faith. “Have you met him?”


She shook her head. “Never had any reason to. He just kept sending me new watchers every time one got him or herself killed. Present company excepted,” she added, with a wink at Wes.  He cleared his throat and looked away.


“So, he doesn’t know anything about you after the coma?”


Faith shrugged. “I don’t know what he knows. Wes and Angel knew where I was, or how to get hold of me, anyway. I did what I needed to do to help keep the streets of L.A. safe, but I never checked in with anybody as a working slayer.”


“He has to know you’re still alive,” Wes said quietly. “Given that no one else has been called. But he’s never asked me about you.”


Spike snorted. “The wanker was perfectly happy to know Buffy was here, guarding the hellmouth and preventin’ apocalypses. Typical Council lack of interest in who is the current cannon fodder as long as somebody’s doing the job. If something happened to her, you can bet they’d’ve been lookin’ for you.”


“One way or another,” Buffy muttered, remembering the wet team she had to fight to get away from when she was in Faith’s body. Faith frowned at her and Buffy shook her head. “I’ll tell you about it later.”


“Will he be coming here, I wonder?” Wes said, gesturing around the rather small area they were sitting in.


Buffy got a speculative look in her eye. “I think I’ve got a better idea. Just let me run it by Sara first….”




By time Travers had arrived and Giles had made a hurried phone call to let Buffy know that he’d come with an entourage, she was very glad Sara had agreed to the use of her large gathering room.


“But this is as far in as they come,” Sara said emphatically. “I don’t want a bunch of ignorant watchers poking their noses into my business and property.”


“Got it. Don’t worry. Let’s just figure out where to put them. Giles said Travers had someone from the Coven, someone from Council Security, another watcher or two, and maybe somebody else? I dunno. Let’s just figure on six extra people that we don’t want to allow to wander around.”


They waved Mel over and told her they needed two girls on each room exit. The others were to space themselves around the edges of the room, casually, but where they could see and be seen. They’d just gotten the girls in position when a knock on the closed main door announced the arrival of Giles with Travers and company.


“Welcome to my home,” Sara said formally when she’d opened the door. She stood to one side, ignoring the curious looks from the Council members as they entered.  “Please have a seat and make yourselves comfortable.” She led the way to the sofas and chairs arranged in a semi-circle facing Faith, Buffy, Winston, Wesley, and Spike, who was leaning against the table behind Buffy. 


Faith snickered, and Buffy had to smother her own smile at the expression on Traver’s face when he recognized her.


“Is this what you meant by I would be meeting more slayers?” he demanded of Giles. A titter went around the room, quickly silenced by a glare from Sara.


“Nice to meet you, too,” Faith drawled. “And no, that’s probably not what he meant.”


“Please sit, Mr. Travers,” Buffy said. “We have a lot to tell you, and you’re going to want to be sitting down when you hear it.”


In spite of his obvious reluctance to appear to be obeying her, Travers chose a comfortable place to sit and gestured for the other to do so also. A large man who was staring very hard at Spike, stood behind Travers’ chair rather than sitting down.


Spike stared back, allowing his eyes to flicker amber, and earning a back kick from Faith.


“Shame on you,” she whispered over her shoulder. “Scaring them is my job.”


He snorted, then nudged Buffy.  Bodyguard, Slayer. Somebody doesn’t trust us.


Yep. Council muscle always looks the same. Like most of the people in this room couldn’t bend him like a pretzel.



Giles walked up to join them, taking temporary charge of the meeting. “Let’s get introductions out of the way, shall we? I believe you all know who Buffy and Faith are, and this is—"


“William the Bloody,” Travers said coldly.


“Council Wanker,” Spike replied just as coldly.


Shaking his head, Giles continued. “I believe you all know Wesley Wyndam-Pryce, at least by reputation and name. He and I have been the primary contacts with the Council throughout this looming apocalypse period.”


Wesley nodded to the Security man he’d been communicating with and smiled at Althenea, as Giles continued.


“And this is Winston.” Giles left off the last name Winston had been using since his arrival. “Of course, Althenea knows him. Winston, for those of you who don’t know him yet, is a powerful mage and is greatly responsible for our having closed the hellmouth with so little loss of life.”


Winston looked around the group, smiling at Althenea, nodding at Travers, and smiling again at the Security Assistant Chief. “Hello, John,” he said cheerily.


“Have we met?” John frowned and looked at Wes for more information, but Winston replied, “Yes and no. We’ll explain that shortly.”


“And this is Sara Johnson,” Giles said, as Sara joined them, bringing Willow with her. “She has a rather unique role here, and one none of us was aware even existed until this year.” There was a cough from Buffy, and Giles frowned. “Very well, yes, one of us was aware of the position already, but none of us had met Sara until lately. And we had no idea she was fulfilling that role.”


“And what is that unique role?” Travers asked. “Other than having a rather unusually large home in which Buffy could keep the potentials she was protecting.” His expression indicated he was expecting to be unimpressed.


“Actually, Quentin,” Giles said, “Sara needs little help from Buffy or any of us. She is capable of protecting the girls all by herself. Sara is what used to be known as a Guardian. Something the Council seems to have been unaware of.”


Travers face reflected his surprise, but his response was calm. “Guardians no longer exist,” he said firmly. “If they ever did exist, they’ve been extinct for generations.”


Giles gawked at him. “You’ve heard of them? Why didn’t I know?”


“The Head of the Council has access to records and information that field watchers have no need of. That would include knowledge of possibly mythical slayer guardians.” Travers barely concealed a disdainful sniff, sparking much glaring and grumbling, and causing Buffy to take a step toward him.


Before any of the angry people in the room could do or say anything else, Sara smiled at them and shook her head. She waved her hand at the slayers around the room, touched Buffy’s arm and said, “I’ve got this, ladies.”  She walked gracefully over to Travers, looking every inch the elegant woman she was, smiled down at his admiring expression, and smacked him hard on his ear. She froze his startled bodyguard with a look. 


“Does that feel mythical to you, you pompous ass?  People like you are the reason Guardians had to go underground and eventually lost touch with slayers.” She whirled away and went back to stand by Willow. As she walked away, her back to Travers, she shared a quick wink with Spike, who was making no attempt to hide his laughter as the Council Head held his abused ear and almost audibly gnashed his teeth. His bodyguard couldn’t seem to decide what to do and settled for glaring at Spike as if it was his fault a beautiful woman had assaulted his boss.


Spike sent a rude British gesture at the bodyguard, but stopped laughing when Buffy poked him.


“Well then,” Giles said, coughing to hide his own laughter, “we can talk about Sara and her role later. After we’ve established what else it’s important for you to know. Buffy?”


“My turn. Okay, well lets start with… Ugh…” She threw her hands up and stared at Giles. “I don’t know where to start!”


“All right. Let me set the stage for you.” He stared at Travers, who was looking impatient and angry. “Several years ago, Buffy was hosting a Thanksgiving meal at my apartment, when Spike—William the Bloody—came to the door asking for shelter. To my surprise, although he was at that time one of Buffy’s sworn enemies, she immediately invited him in. Before I could admonish her, and throw him back out, they got into a verbal altercation that led to face-to-face arguing. Which resulted in a sudden cessation of hostilities between them, and some very difficult-for-me-to-understand actions and dialogue.


“To make a long story short, it turned out they were both time travelers who’d known each other for years in their own timeline, and become quite close… friends… there. They had each been sent back to our earlier time by people who were hoping to avoid the rise of the First Evil by eliminating the situation they thought was responsible for it.”


He waited for the shocked reactions to fade. Althenea, of course, already knew about Winston, so she just smiled and nodded while Travers and his other companions sputtered and insisted it wasn’t possible. When they had stopped telling each other it wasn’t possible, Travers fixed a hard eye on Buffy.


“Can you prove that?” he challenged.


“You mean doing everything we could to keep you from getting blown to smithereens—which, by the way, is what happened in my time. You’re dead, and have been for a while—isn’t good enough for you? How about sending the Coven to look at employee auras and try to find the bomber before the bomb could go off? Or all the nudging Wes did to John, trying to keep you and all your precious records safe from something we knew was going to happen?”


Clearly unwilling to give up, Travers glared at Giles. “And you just accepted her word for this?” 


“Hers and Spike’s, once they’d convinced me. And then I took Winston’s word for it, once he arrived with a written message from my future self. All three of them were sent back to try to avoid what almost happened anyway. Between the three of them, we’ve been able to eliminate, or at least mitigate, a number of potentially world-ending events over the past several years. Things you know little about because we dealt with them before they could become apocalyptic.”


“If that’s so, which one of you can tell me what’s going to happen next week? I’ll allow you to pick the subject—a sporting event result, some celebrity’s life event, whatever you choose.”


Buffy rolled her eyes, Spike snarled, and Winston just walked over and focused his eyes on Travers.


“Are you truly that stupid? We weren’t sent back to play parlor games or tell the future. Not one of us was. We don’t know any of those things because, right now in our timelines, we were still up to our eyebrows in murdered potentials and watchers, and just learning exactly what sort of evil we were going to be facing. We weren’t taking notes on celebrity weddings.” He shook his head. “And I shouldn’t even be saying ‘we’ because that was Buffy. And Rupert and Spike and Willow. I was in London with the Coven, attempting to pull together some semblance of order after the destruction of the Council building, the most senior watchers, and all the records. You have no idea how easily you got off this time, thanks to the information we were able to give you.”


As had happened to Angel when Winston lit into him, Travers was immobilized. Although in his case, by shock not only due to Sara’s having boxed his ear, but by Winston’s words and the idea that someone he had just met, but who apparently worked for the Council, would speak to him so harshly. He was silent for a full minute before shaking his head as if to clear it. He exhaled loudly, nodded to Winston, and then to Buffy and Giles.


“My apologies. To all of you. I’m well aware that you have prevented a potential world-ending event. I did not mean to denigrate either your actions or your character. Please. Let’s begin anew with each of you telling me when and how you got here… if you know how it was accomplished.”


Somewhat mollified, Buffy said, “It’s going to be hard to do that without jumping into something else you don’t know yet. But I’ll try. Like I said before, in my time the Council that you know is… gone. Blown up by the First or one of its minions. What was left of it… well, the people trying to put something back together after we defeated the First decided they knew what happened to allow it to become so powerful, and they thought they could avoid it by sending me back to… to do something different about Glory. Something different from what I did in my time.”


Spike took over, even though Travers hadn’t included him. “And I was sent back from a different group of fighters on the side of good for the same reason. I was meant to keep Buffy a—from doing anything that might mean we would go down that same path. Was sent back by… Angel and Wes.” He shot Wesley an apologetic smirk. “You’d have to ask Wes about the how, but since he hasn’t done it yet in this time….”


Travers sent Wesley a wide-eyed stare, then turned his attention back to Winston. “And you? Who sent you back?”


“The Coven did,” he said simply. “As they’d helped those who sent Buffy, several months earlier. Something that happened—we have no idea what—after Buffy and Spike arrived, changed the world just enough that the Coven had become an integral part of the Council, as it is now. The conclusions reached about what needed to be done were the same, but they felt my… special skills… could be very useful to Buffy, and to Spike, who we then knew had also been sent back to Sunnydale for the same reason.”


“Special skills?” Travers asked, raising an eyebrow.


“Trust me, mate, you don’t want to know.”


Travers shot a glare in Spike’s direction, but didn’t respond directly. Instead, he looked back at Giles. “I presume you have kept good records of the events of the past few years? As well as a record of what occurred in Buffy’s timeline?”


“I have all my records. I believe I’ve kept you aware of most of the major activities here. The only information I didn’t share with you, aside from what you just learned about them, is what I know of what was different in the other timelines. Buffy and Spike, and Winston when he arrived, have, quite wisely, only told me what I needed to know to help them decide what to change and how to do it. I will say that it appears to us that sometimes important things can be changed, but not necessarily avoided completely. Winston and I will continue to study….” 


He shook himself. “However, I believe we’ve been able to either avert or seriously reduce the severity of a number of potentially apocalyptical events. Including the current one, which I understand in their time, ended only when….“ He glanced at Spike, who was shaking his head.  “…. the final solution resulted in the entire city of Sunnydale collapsing into the hellmouth. It is, as I understand it, in their timeline, a large crater in the desert. We have managed to avert that situation and push the First and its army of Turok-Hans back where they came from with very little disruption to the everyday lives of the residents.”


Travers stared at Buffy. “You destroyed an entire city full of people?” He made no attempt to hide his horror and anger.


Buffy shook her head. “By the time we were ready to take on the First and his army of ugly old vampires, there was nobody left in Sunnydale. Even the demons who normally live here took off for safer places. All that was left was me… and my slayer army. And Willow, who is more amazing than you know. And Faith. And Spike. And Giles, Xander, Anya, Dawn, Andrew, and Robin Wood. I think that was it. An army of slayers, a powerful witch, a souled vampire, and a small group of normal humans.”


“Your ‘army of slayers’. You mean an army of potentials? There must have been quite a few of them here by then.” He glanced around the room at the girls leaning against the walls. “Did you take these potentials in with you to fight Turok-hans?”


“No. I meant an army of slayers. That’s what I had in my time, and that’s what I have now.”


He narrowed his eyes and peered around the room again. The slayers all straightened up and stared right back at him, their expressions challenging.


Buffy smiled to herself. Even the girls who’d been raised by watchers had little or no idea about the Council and its hierarchy. Their allegiance was to Buffy and Sara, not some old man they’d never seen before.







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