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And I Still Do (Love You) by slaymesoftly
Chapter Thirty-six
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Where are you, Slayer?


I’m at Sara’s. Is Travers through with you already?


I was through with him.  Left it to Winnie to bend his ear about how wonderful it was to have a Slayers and Watchers Council.  Maybe he can use some of that charm that he refuses to call magic to talk the Watcher Wanker into being reasonable.


Buffy’s mental snort of disbelief came through loud and clear, making him laugh aloud.


If you’re busy then, I’m going to go watch Harris seal up the hellmouth. He said they’d be doing it today.


Don’t let any of the watchers see you outside. I think they’re watching the repairs.


Bugger. I forgot they might be out and about. I’ll go home first and get my hat and brolly. Sun’s not real bright today. I can probably get away with it if they spot me standin’ in the shade. Or maybe I’ll just pop up inside the school.


Kay. Just be careful.




Spike continued through the tunnels until he approached the sub-basement of the school. He slipped in without being seen by any of the men trying to keep cement flowing into the hellmouth. He opted to stay out of their way, and ran up the stairs to the main basement, where he found Xander supervising the repair work on the floor. Looking very uncomfortable in their borrowed hardhats, the two younger watchers who had come to Sunnydale with Travers were trying to see what was going on without getting too close.


Spike carefully stayed away from the subdued light filtering down from the still-damaged roof, and sidled up toward the two watchers. He laughed as they paled at the sight of him, knowing they were probably fingering the stakes they had somewhere.


“All right, Fangface. Don’t be doing anything to frighten my admiring audience,” Xander said as he walked up to him.


“Just havin’ a little fun,” Spike said, giving the men a toothy grin. “They know I won’t hurt ‘em, right mates?”


They gave somewhat sickly smiles as they nodded, keeping their hands out of sight.


Xander just shook his head and shocked the watchers by giving Spike a shove. “I’m going to tell on you if you don’t behave.”


“Spoil sport,” Spike pretended to grumble, dropping his fangs and giving the two men a genuine smile. “He never lets me have any fun.”


“Don’t you have anything better to do than harass people who actually work for a living?” As Xander was speaking, he noticed two of his men struggling with a heavy beam they needed to get to the hole in the floor. He nudged Spike. “Make yourself useful, oh super-powered one,” he said as he went to help them.


Spike rolled his eyes, but followed Xander and took one end of the beam from the man struggling with it. With Spike on one end, and Xander and his two men at the other, they got it into place quickly and easily. The two men mumbled their thanks, but carefully kept as far away from Spike as they could.


“If you flash your fangs at them, I’m going to throw you down the hole,” Xander growled at him in a whisper that only Spike and the astonished watchers could hear.


Spike laughed, but gave Xander’s men a cheery “No problem. You had it, but happy to help,” doing his best to appear to be a normal, if quite strong for his size, human. He clapped Xander on the shoulder.


“If you’re going to exploit me, I’m going to take myself somewhere else. I wasn’t raised to do manual labor.”


“I don’t think you were raised to do much of anything useful,” Xander snarked back.


“You’ve no idea how true that is,” Spike laughed. “But my charm and other qualities make up for it.”


Xander rolled his eyes, but couldn’t help grinning at the puzzled watchers as they followed the light-hearted banter.


“So,” Spike said, looking from the rapidly disappearing hole in the floor up to the open space leading to the sky. “How long before school’s back in session?”


“Probably a couple more days. We’ll be done with the concrete stuff today. I can only get away with saying we needed it down there for so long. But fixing the floors and the roof are going to take more time. Wood’s office is completely destroyed except for one file cabinet and the not-so-hidden cupboard with his weapons in it.”


Spike raised his eyebrows, and Xander laughed. “Yeah. Almost one whole wall was a weapons stash. Buffy told me about it, so I looked, and there it was. Out in plain sight now that the door was burned off. By the time Wood is back in his office, the whole town is going to have heard that the school principal keeps stakes, swords, and crossbows in his office.”


“That should go over big with the PTA.” Spike chuckled along with him.


“Ah, it’s Sunnydale. You’d be surprised what parents can be okay with.” 


“Well, I’ll leave you to it, then. Don’t let these wankers fall in the hole. Buffy would blame me for it.” With a final flash of fang at the two offended-looking watchers, Spike went back to the stairs and glanced down to the sub-basement. It looked like the concrete pourers were about done for the day, and were busy collecting all their equipment, so, when he saw that the watchers were busy staring up through the ceiling, he slipped out the nearest door.




After stopping at his favorite bar for few beers, Spike continued toward home, having received a mental image of Buffy leaving the Guardian House.  They arrived at their building at almost the same time, pausing to wave at Max who was standing in the office doorway.


“If you have a minute….” he said, gesturing into the office.


“Sure, Max. What’s up?” Buffy turned to follow Spike who was already entering the room. They settled onto the small sofa there and looked at Max expectantly.


“I just wanted to congratulate you on the successful conclusion to your mission.”


“You already talked to Winnie, yeah?” Spike said. “We assumed you had, since you didn’t ask us how it went.”


“Yes. I did speak with Winston, and I congratulated him. I understand he was quite helpful.”


“If you mean, he did the whole thing pretty much by himself, yeah, he was helpful,” Buffy said with a giggle. “Whoever sent him back here to help out sure knew what they were doing.”


“So it seems,” Max said with a small smile. “I’m glad it worked out.” He turned from Buffy to Spike. “I presume he got through it all right?”


Spike nodded. “Bit of a struggle for him, I think, but he was fine.”


Buffy was reminded of how worried she’d been about Winston, and frowned at Max. “Could he have hurt himself doing all that destroying of evil stuff? He did fry a lot of Turok-Hans before he even started on the building. Is that why you’re worried? Could he have been hurt or killed by using that much magic?”


Max glanced at Spike, who shook his head, then back to Buffy.


“No. It’s highly unlikely that Winston could have been injured or killed by such use of his magic. The ability to destroy things, whether organic or not, comes very easily to him. What he could have found difficult, is stopping.”




Buffy thought back to how Winston had reacted to releasing Doc for Spike and Xander, and how energized he’d been when everyone else involved in the spell seemed wiped out. She remembered a conversation with Spike after he and Winston had taken care of Warren…. And then she remembered how Max had told them to be careful when they went to Winston’s rescue. And how after they got there, Winston called Max to tell him everybody was okay.


“Is that what he means when he says something isn’t in his wheelhouse? What is his wheelhouse????”


“Calm down, love. We’ve never seen him lose control, and he didn’t do it this time. There’s no reason to get upset.”


“He’s dating my mother! I have a right to know how dangerous he is.”


Before Spike could respond, Max said soothingly, “Your mother is perfectly safe with Winston. He’s no danger to her or anyone else.”


“But… he could be?”


“At one time, many, many years ago, perhaps so. Although even then, for him to harm someone he cared for would have been very unlikely to happen, even by accident. Winston worked extremely hard, for longer than you can imagine, to learn to master his power and to use it only for good. I have every confidence in him.”


“Right. So, that’s why you asked Spike if he got through it all right. Because you’re so sure he’s got it under control.” Buffy fixed a slayer’s glare on Max, who only smiled benignly at her.


“I asked only because I knew that it might cost him some effort and I wanted to offer my support if he needed it. However, he has said he was fine, and Spike has vouched for him, so it seems he won’t need my help.”


“You were his teacher,” Buffy said. “Is that what you taught him? How to control himself?”


“Among other things. I helped him learn to control the power, and not permit it to control him. He’s a good man,” he added, as Buffy still looked dubious. “The Coven sent him to you because they felt he could be of use, and it seems they were correct. Please don’t look upon him differently now that you know more about him. He is the same person you have been friends with for the past several years.”


Buffy glared at Spike. “You knew this, didn’t you?”


He shook his head. “Knew he needed to destroy things once in a while. Same as you and I need to kill things sometimes. I also knew he could control that need, same as you and I don’t go around killing random people or harmless demons just because we can. Your mum is perfectly safe with him… probably safer than she would be with one of us at her side. Nobody and nothing is going to harm her while she’s with Winston.”


“How could I have not known this?” She continued to glare at Spike. “And how come you did?”


“Takes one to know one, love. My demon didn’t roll over and die when I got the soul.”


“Hmmmph!” was the best reply Buffy could come up with. She narrowed her eyes at them, but both men continued to smile at her with affection, and she finally relaxed. “I think you could have told me,” she muttered, knowing if she’d paid more attention, it wouldn’t have been a surprise.


“Speaking of telling people things, I understand Tara has spoken with Willow,” Max said. Buffy frowned, but couldn’t tell from his expression how he felt about it.


“Yes, she told me about it. Willow says they’re just taking baby steps, talking to each other, but no expectations or promises.” Buffy sighed. “I hope she means that.”


“Willow has come a long way,” Max said. “Thanks in great part to Winston’s patience and teaching, I might add.”


Buffy rolled her eyes. “Yeah, yeah, I got it. Winston is still a good guy and my mom’s safe with him.” She gave Max a challenging stare. “So, you think it’s okay? That Tara’s talking to Willow?”


“I think that those of us who care about them have done what we can. They are grown women, and it’s entirely up to them what they choose to do with their lives from now on.”


“And on that mind-your-own-business note, Slayer, what say I take you out for a nice dinner?”


“Definitely one of your better ideas,” she said, beaming at him. “Do I get to pick the restaurant?”




Over a nice meal in one of the few expensive restaurants in and around Sunnydale, Buffy brought up the subject of money.


“I know there’s still a lot of treasure in that old crypt, but is it enough to build a school? I mean, is any of it sellable?”


Spike smiled at her. “Enough of it was sellable when we first got here that I’ve been able to invest and make it grow. We don’t need to dip into for ourselves.”  He shook his head ruefully. “My father would be so pleased to find out I finally know how to handle money. He was sure if anything happened to him, my mum would be bankrupt. And, given enough time, I probably would have proved him right. But I got older, and I learned. Old Angelus was fine with taking whatever he wanted, but Darla liked her comforts and luxuries. She handled the family money, and made sure there was always plenty tucked away in various banks here and there. She’s how we first learned about Wolfram and Hart. She used them to keep her accounts current and available over centuries.”


“Vampires have bank accounts?”


“Old ones do,” he said. “How do you think Drac manages the upkeep on that castle?”


“Does Angel have money?”


Spike shrugged. “Depends on if Darla clued him in before she kicked him out. He should have known where it was and been able to find a way to get it, but I don’t know. I paid more attention than he did.”


“So, you could get it?” Buffy got a speculative look on her face.


“Could try, love. But we’d have to go through Wolfram and Hart, and I doubt you want to do that.” He cocked his head at her curiously. “Am I not keeping you in the style to which you want to become accustomed?” he asked, half-seriously. “We do have access to what most people would consider a pretty fair income, you know.”


“Oh, I know. We’re like, sort of rich. I just figure if I’m going to buy land for a school, and pay somebody—maybe Xander—to build it, that’s probably going to take more money than we have.”


He sighed and leaned back in his chair. “Maybe, maybe not. I’ll look into it,” he said. “But I’m not gonna spend money meant to keep you and your mum and the Bit comfortable in your old age, just to pay for something that the Council of Wankers should pay for.”


When she frowned at him, he added, “I’ll see what else I can pull out of that treasure trove that could easily be converted into cash.” He fixed a hard eye on her. “And you, missy, are going to sit down with me and learn where our money is and how to manage it.”


Buffy stared at him anxiously. “What is all this ‘take care of us in our old age’ and teaching me how to manage the money? Where are you planning to be?”


“Relax, sweetheart. Not plannin’ to be anywhere but by your side for the rest of our lives. But given our track record for dying, there’s no way to know how long that will be.”


“You’re immortal! And you’ve got a gem to keep you that way!”


He reached across the table and took her hand, bringing it to his lips.


“I am. And I do. I didn’t mean to frighten you. I just started thinkin’ about how my mum was so ignorant about financial things—and, in that time, she wasn’t even supposed to have her own money, never mind handle it herself—and how I don’t want that for you. No more Doublemeat Palace for my wife.”


“Okay,” she said, smiling at him. “See what you can figure out in the way of getting more money, and I’m going to be looking for land to build on. If we can talk Travers into covering the expenses of the slayers who are out in the world keeping it safe, maybe we’ll have enough to build a place to train them.”




The next day was spent at the Magic Box hashing out exactly what Buffy (and Giles, who was treading a fine line between helping Buffy realize her vision of a Slayer and Watchers Council, and Travers, who he understood was struggling to give up any of his authority to one of “his” slayers and a fired former watcher) were going to do and where and how they were going to do it. The discussions were occasionally loud and acrimonious…


“How do you expect to build this ‘slayer school’ you intend to have without input and financial backing from the Council? As you may have noticed, we still exist in the current time and I still control the purse strings.”


“Oh trust me, we noticed,” Buffy growled. “But I’m going to build my school and let slayers know where it is, with or without you.”


“And what are you going to use for money?” Travers sneered. “I still haven’t agreed to pay you and Miss Lehane as you are insisting I should. I certainly don’t intend to build you your own training facility.”


“Let me worry about where the money is going to come from. I’m not trying to support myself by working at the Doublemeat Palace this time around.”  She grinned at Travers’ skeptical expression. “I was smarter this time. I married a rich man, who knows how to invest.”


“William the Bloody is going to fund a school for slayers?” Travers shook his head. “I feel as if I’ve fallen into some sort of alternate universe.”


“We’re going to build it here—somewhere close to Sunnydale, anyway. I’m going to look at some available land tomorrow.”


“You’re determined to do this without trained watchers for these girls?” Travers stared at her, more with resignation than anger.


“I’m determined to do this. Whether or not they have watchers to help them, is up to you.” Buffy stood up. “I think that’s the bottom line. You’ve got the money and the research stuff, I’ve got the slayers. You can help us, or you can stay out of the way.”


She turned and walked out, leaving Travers glaring after her and Giles trying not to roll his eyes. They watched the door close behind her, then Travers said with a sigh, “Being older hasn’t made her any more obedient, has it?”


Giles shook his head, but said quietly, “She is not a disobedient teenager now. She’s a grown woman who has sacrificed much in her life, including that life itself, to keep the world a safe place. I’ve had several years now to get over my own unjustified sense of being disobeyed, and to learn to appreciate being on the same team as this rather remarkable woman. I intend to continue to support her in any way I can.”


“Without taking my place as Council Head?” Travers asked, raising a wry eyebrow.


“Without taking your place. You’re welcome to the job. If I’ve understood half of what Buffy told me they were doing in her time, I’m surprised I didn’t have a heart attack!”


Travers snorted a short laugh of agreement, then stood up. “I need to meet with the rest of my companions and discuss what we’ve learned here. And then we’ll attempt to reach a consensus as to what we should do with all that information. I do have to return to London soon, and I’d like to know what I’ll be leaving here and what changes will have to made there.”




With Travers tied up the rest of the day with his Council members, Buffy felt it was a good time to call everyone, except Xander who was in charge of repairing the school, together to make sure they were all on the same page. They held the meeting at the Magic Box, as Buffy wanted to have all her ducks in a row before she brought the new slayers into the mix. Although she assured them, via Sara, that they would have input into decisions once she had an established organization.


Wes said he needed to get back to LA, as much to try to steer Angel away from Wolfram and Hart as anything else. He nodded his head when Buffy suggested he try to find any slayers that may have been activated there when Willow did the spell.


“You know there’s at least one, right? The girl you saved who kicked your ass and ran away?” Buffy gave him a smile to show she was just ribbing him and not actually faulting him for letting the girl get away. “If she was that good at fighting and staying alive, she probably has a watcher, so Travers can probably supply his name. If we find enough new slayers there, we can use them to form a squad stationed in LA. Since Faith is familiar with things there, she can decide if she wants to be the head slayer there, or hang out with me at the school.”


Faith looked surprised, saying, “I haven’t had time to even think about it. I’m too busy getting used to being in charge of anything besides myself. But, I do have an apartment and some stuff there, so I’ll have to go back anyway. Let me think about it while I get the girls settled in Cleveland.” She glanced at Wes. “Is that okay with you? I’ll only be gone a couple of weeks, probably. Maybe less if the watcher already there isn’t a completely worthless—um, I mean if he isn’t going to need a lot of help….”


Buffy giggled, Sara smiled to herself, and Giles and Wesley tried to smother their reluctant agreement.


“That’s fine,” Wesley said. “I’d love to have you there, regardless of how many new slayers we find, but this will give me some time to find them and look into how much training they might need.”


“Be sure Angel knows that these are our slayers, not his to use whenever he thinks he should.” Buffy smiled when Wes nodded and agreed immediately.


“Absolutely. They will be complete separate from Angel Investigations. Just as Faith has been her own woman for the past few years.”


“Good. So that’s settled, then.” Buffy turned to Sara. “I guess we need to figure out how you want to do your Guardian thing?  I mean, it’s awesome that you have Willow to help you, but obviously you aren’t going to be able to be everywhere, with everybody.”


Sara smiled serenely. “I think we’ve worked something out with Althenea. Willow will work closely with the Coven, perhaps even living in England a portion of the year, and learning about the other slayers and watchers out in the world.” At Buffy’s frown, she continued, “We will still be encouraging them to spend at least some time here in the school, but for those who’ve grown up with watchers, we have to assume they feel ready to step into their new positions as activated slayers and may take some persuasion to join a Slayers Council.”


Everyone laughed when Buffy muttered, “I think we’re going to call it something else. If the Council isn’t going to be helpful, they don’t get to have their name in it.”


Willow spoke up. “It’ll be fine, Buffy. I’ll still be here a lot, learning how to be a good Guardian, but I’ll also get a chance to work on my magic, and to learn more about the Council and how it works. I’ll have the website up and running before I go anywhere. Any slayers who can get online will be able to find us and at least talk to somebody online if they can’t get here for some reason. Amanda is going to be great at doing the online stuff for us when she isn’t out slaying. She’s willing to stay here because of her parents.”


“I’m sure Rosita wasn’t the only activated potential to be a reluctant warrior,” Sara said. “Once you have a place for the slayers to live while they are here training, I can make my house a place for those who wish to become Guardians to stay and learn about it.  We’ll never be able to have enough to guard every slayer out there, but perhaps we can eventually have enough of them to be wherever they are needed.”


Giles cleared his throat. “As you know, the Magic Box is a place of business, and won’t lend itself that well to large meetings. Nor will it be a good headquarters for an organization the size of what you have in mind.” He smiled at Buffy. “If you’ll have me, I would be happy to help you with the administration of your organization. However, I strongly suggest that you ask Anya if she would be willing to help run things. She is actually quite skilled at both taking care of finances and organizing—as you may remember from your own wedding?”




Buffy turned to look at the former vengeance demon who was over at the counter, obviously pretending to be uninterested in the conversation, and just as obviously, listening to every word. 


“Would you do that for us? Help us stay organized and solvent?”


Anya quit trying to pretend she wasn’t paying attention and beamed at Buffy.  “If you want me to,” she said. “I kind of thought you’d forgotten all about me, what with having all these magic people and slayers.”


“I do want you! You can be Giles’ right hand… woman. Just helping him run a slayer school, rather than a magic shop. You can be our administrator, and resident demon expert.”


“I can also be his fiancé,” said, proudly displaying a ring no one had noticed before. “So, as his future wife, I will obviously be available to help him with other things.”


Sara recovered first, saying quickly, “That’s wonderful! Congratulations to you both!”


Which snapped the others out of their stunned silence to add their own congratulations. When everyone had shaken Giles’ hand and hugged Anya and admired her ring, they gradually settled back down, giving Anya her own space around the very crowded table. Only Buffy and Willow exchanged a quick glance, silently agreeing that they were glad Xander hadn’t been able to get off work.


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