A/N: Well, this is the last chapter and sorry about the wait. Lack of motivation and inspiration with a bit of Real Life thrown in! Be sure to watch for the sequel to this, 'The Darkness Before the Hour', the last in the series. It will continue on from In the End with the battle. The bad thing is it won't be up right away. I'm going to take a break and finish "Bit o'Blarney". Thanks again for reading and for those of you that have reviewed.
Disclaimer: None of these people (except my made up characters of course) or places in this story belong to me. They all belong to ME and its creators especially one Joss Whedon. Darn!
Previously on In the End, News spreads fast on the Hellmouth. Not too long after Buffy and Spike decide to make a slow go at it, the residents of the Summers' house find out. Giles is next in line to hear the news after Spike confides in him about the previous night's patrol. The watcher, the slayer and her vampire proceed to suss out plans and rediscuss the prophecies that have a hold over the two warriors...
"The battle to end all battles will be nigh and the chosen one, the one who is destined to be the last slayer, will lead the world to triumph." Spike heard the Watcher's familiar voice drone on and on covering everything he deemed important enough to cover.
"You are connected to the slayer mentally and physically." Spike was losing focus as his mind wandered and he heard only bits and pieces as the Watcher soliloquized the finer points of the prophecies.
"The two named protectors will follow her way into battle, the Gaelic child to the left hand of the chosen one, the Saxon child to the right." Pages were rustling as they were turned, a pencil tapped ruthlessly on the table, broke up the monotony of the words buzzing around the vampire's head.
"Both immortals will perish"
"Angel's given name is Liam, an Irish form of William"
"The name William means "to protect"." He could hear Buffy humming softly, felt her regular heartbeat, smelled the floral scent mixed in with her distinct aroma. Tried to stay centered, listening and retaining all the information Giles was prattling on about. Everything being swallowed up. Blackness with just a lone voice. The Watcher's voice.
"Since you have a soul now"
"You are but both alike in spirit"
"Buffy and Spike"
"Personalities are similar"
"Understand one another"
"Fit together like separate pieces of a puzzle." Slayer, vampire, end of the world, surprisingly meant to be together, a lifelong bond. Words were bloody jumbled about in his head.
"At the hands of the hellbeast"
"To become and remain mortal." 'What did he say?' Spike wondered, questioning himself if he had actually asked that out loud because he hadn't heard his own voice.
"I have reason to believe that the named protectors are Angel and...Spike. Spike?...SPIKE?"
He jolted to an upright position in the dining room chair, confused at first of where he was until his vision cleared and he saw the Watcher standing across from him on the other side of the dining room table looking quite stern and perturbed.
"Did you not hear a single word I just recounted for you? This is all known information we have discussed previously before the hellmouth incident. Do you have any knowledge of any of this?"
"Pfft, of course I do. Remember it like a bloody broken record. And that's what it's becoming, a bloody broken record. How many times do we have to hear about this prophecy and that prophecy?"
Giles sighed, "Spike, this was only the second time I've recited these facts. I just wasn't certain, what with the partial memory loss, what you have actually retained concerning these prophecies."
"Oh, well, whatever Watcher. I get it. The slayer and I have some kind of kismet going for us. But whatever it is we're not really sure what it all involves, as of yet that is. Which is acceptable by me." Spike leaned his head into his hand and looked over at Buffy who was smiling at him.
"Makes life more interesting and gratifying what with the suspense. I can handle it." Spike grinned back mischievously. The couple sat staring at one another, captivated and caught up in each other's presence.
Giles cleared his throat as he pulled his glasses off with one hand, pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket with the other and began impulsively cleaning the lenses. Buffy couldn't help but laugh at her watcher's unmistakable uneasiness.
"It's ok, Giles. Please continue with whatever else you have left to say or go over. I'm sure it will be important." Giles began to speak as he shook his head. Spike cut him off.
"Yes, yes, watcher. Stun us. Fascinate us with your watcherly wisdom." Spike teased and Giles stared daggers at the vampire.
"Fortunately, I have completed my oration for the time being. Make sure from now on patrols are done in teams. We should have a meeting tonight with everyone and discuss plans for the newcomers. Caulfield called last evening and they should be arriving in due time, possibly within a day or two." Giles stood as he looked at the two warriors sitting across the table before continuing.
"These young girls, potential slayers, will be frightened as well as green. We will have to forgo preliminaries and begin extensive training. The two of you along with myself and the other two watchers, should be capable to prepare them for what lies ahead. I expect it to be a tremendous battle, one we can only hope that we will all survive to see the outcome."
"We have so far, Giles. I haven't lost an apocalypse yet. What makes this one any different?" Buffy's mood changed as her voice became somber.
"I suppose we will cross that bridge when we come to it. The foreboding tale has yet to be spun, and I suspect we are all just characters waiting to deliver our lines when the curtain has been formidably pulled back for the first scene."
Spike rolled his eyes and snickered. "How melodramatic of you, watcher."
"And to that I add a, huh?" Buffy crinkled up her nose as Giles looked on exasperated.
Spike patted her on the top of her hand. "Just Giles' theatrical display to say he doesn't know a bloody thing about how this apocalypse will be any different from the others."
Buffy mouthed a silent oh while Giles gathered up all his important papers and books. "And to that, I will say good day. I will be back this evening for the meeting after patrol. Will you be patrolling together tonight?"
Buffy and Spike exchanged a glance. "Yes, I suppose we can. Meeting at 10 will be the best. I'll call the others."
"Mind if I make an earlier appearance for research sake?" Giles asked.
"Sure. Hey, let's have pizza and research like old times."
"Very well, then. I will see you this evening."
The three said their goodbyes leaving the couple standing in the foyer to contemplate events that lay ahead of them and would take place sooner than they expected.
"So, ok, we, as in us currently in hearing and seeing proximity, are going to have to turn our humble abodes into pre-slayer motels?" Xander looked desperately from Giles to Buffy to Willow.
"Yeah, an apartment full of hormonal, gossipy teenyboppers pillaging your pantry and your fridge, using all your hot water and littering your space with all their girly essentials. Doesn't that sound like a picnic?" Spike pointed out saucily, knowing full well Buffy's home would soon be overtaken by said teenagers.
Xander groaned as he slowly slid back down to sit on the couch as Dawn stood, hands on hips and mouth hanging open. "Uh, excuse me, but teenager in the "hearing and seeing proximity" here. That was just plain rude and uncalled for and I think I deserve an apology from two of the three males in this room."
"Oops," Buffy muttered in Spike's general direction, rubbing his back to show her understanding and pity for what he had to do. Spike stood and walked straight up to the girl, taking a hand in his and looking her squarely in the eyes.
"Nibblet, I am so very sorry to hurt your impressionable feelings. You are an intelligent and beautiful specimen of the female race and I would never fault you for anything." He ended with a light kiss on her knuckles, turning to glare at Xander with a smirk on his lips as he trotted back to his seat next to Buffy. She patted him approvingly on the back.
"Oh, you are good, man. Way to slather it on thick," Xander looked over at Dawn who now had her arms crossed over her chest waiting.
"Dawnie, you know I would never hurt you on purpose. I don't think of you as a teenager but a young woman who is a core part of our gang. I'm sorry if I made you feel bad."
"You guys are really pathetic. But apologies, if you can call them that, accepted. Feel free to throw more compliments my way every now and then. I don't mind, really." Dawn smiled as she seated herself again.
"Well, with that mystery solved, I think Spike and I will head out on patrol while you finish whatever it is you need to finish. Come on, honey. The monsters are waiting for our grand entrance." Buffy reached over and grasped Spike's hand, dragging him off the chair, towards the foyer and out the front door, weapons in hand.
They didn't have the pleasure of seeing Xander's reaction to Buffy's pet name for the vampire as he froze in mid swallow of his soda, eyes protruding and holding his breath. Anya elbowed him in the ribs and whispered for him to breathe and he spluttered out a few adverbs.
"When? How? Where was I?"
"Oh, Xander, you're telling me you didn't even notice how comfy and cozy they've been with each other all night?" Anya asked. "Anyone could tell they are back at it, all over one another, giving each other..."
Willow jumped in over Anya's analysis of the slayer and vampire affair. "Xander, it just happened last night. They went out together and talked, decided there was something there and are giving it the good ol' college try. And no, they are not "at it" again. They are taking things slow, relearning one another again, falling in love at a leisurely pace, one they choose to decide how fast or how slow. I haven't seen Buffy this happy and content in a while so we should be glad and supportive of them."
Xander shrugged his shoulders. "Ok," and went about flipping pages in the text to further the research on The First and its key players.
The graveyards were lifeless, no pun intended, as the warriors strolled through one after the other, both agitated and frustrated because there was no one or nothing to slay.
"This doesn't seem to be of the good news here," Buffy exclaimed. "When there are absolutely no baddies out in a place where baddies generally make up about a third of the populace."
"You don't have to tell me twice, luv. Dreadful and just down right wrong if you ask me. Something's coming and I believe it's coming soon."
"Indeed, soon is way past tense here."
Spike and Buffy stood stock still at the sound of the familiar voice. The couple turned around together and faced a replica of the slayer down to the hair, the stance, the facial expressions and the clothes. Buffy scowled as she realized the apparition mirrored her exact pose.
"I assume we are addressing The First? Couldn't come up with anything scarier to appear as? Because, really, not impressing me by showing up as...me."
"Oh, dear, dear slayer. I'm not out to make first impressions. I'm not here to make with the nice either. Yes, you have overcome my previous tactics but that was just child's play. There is more to come and no little kiddies, no love sick, weak vampires, nor ignorant, selfish slayers are going to prevail over the mighty and powerful me."
Buffy had heard enough as she began to march towards the insufferable blabbering big bad. Spike grabbed her by the forearm and pulled her back to rest against his form, speaking soothing words to calm her inner rampage. Funny, the tables should have been turned, he being the one to lose control of his temper and she most probably talking him down.
"Awww, isn't that so sweet? Young love. How scrumptious and delicious."
Suddenly a likeness of Spike stepped out from behind the evil Buffy, wrapping his arms around her and nuzzling her neck.
"Mm, it is nice, if I do say so myself. Come, lover, there are things we need to tend to." The First looked over at the fearless heroes staring in disbelief.
"We'll see you around, beloveds. Very, very soon." and the evil couple disappeared without further warning. Spike growled and Buffy huffed as she turned in his arms, leaning her forehead against his chest and wrapping her arms around his waist.
"Let's head home, luv. Tell the watcher what we've encountered. Maybe they've found some information for us."
"I do hope so," Buffy mumbled into his shirt. She looked up into his eyes.
"Thank you for being my strength. I wanted to pummel that bitch. Do I act like that?" she asked innocently.
"Uh, no, luv. Not that conceited I can honestly say."
Back at the Summers' residence, exchanges of information took place between patrollers and researchers. It seemed The First could take form of whomever it wanted. More research was to be done in that area. Secret files were found yet not unlocked. Cryptic messages were being deciphered as everyone worked together as an unit, a team. The First was not going to be a force they could reckon with, nothing to laugh at, nothing to take lightly. An army was needed and once gathered, Buffy was sure they could overtake The Big Bad. She just hoped her small troop would grow in strength and numbers.
A knock on the door snapped her out of her thoughts. All chattering ceased as they all looked towards the entrance. Buffy walked over, Spike following close behind as she reached for the doorknob and slowly opened the door. A look of surprise graced her face when she heard a bloody hell announced behind her.
"I was told you may be in need of my services." He smiled slightly as Buffy welcomed him into her home.
A/N: Continued on in Part Three Sequel, "The Darkness Before the Hour". See you there.