And so the question arose: where to go from here?
London provided time enough to gather the strength for an imminent return to Sunnydale. Neither had any feasible grasp how long they would stay. Giles related his joys in their decision, a blessing not as much needed as wanted.
Unfortunately, after their shared revelations in William the Bloody's chamber, both completely forgot about the Watcher who lingered still in the lower levels of the library. He had the bad luck of happening in for a progress report when both were acting rather immodestly licentious.
Things were edgy but comfortable between the Watcher and his former colleague. They held their well wishes in a bittersweet exchange. Despite his claim, Buffy could tell Giles was more than grieved to see his closest friend reduced to the very thing he had tried to escape. Though they promised nothing on the surface would change, a sort of detached formality had consumed their relationship.
Phone calls were made, arrangements and appointments set. Willow and Spike talked in length. She knew the minute it happened, she said. She could feel it when he crawled to his redemption. There was nothing but esteem held in his regard. Xander related a sort of stunned though practical frontage. He didn't take up much time and blamed it on long distance bills. The short conversation with Spike exhibited nothing beyond a general 'thanks,' mumbled under his breath, and an immediate demand to be handed over to the Slayer. Angel shared more of the same, both with his former love and his childe. Bewilderment and lingering respect. Their trade was brief and awkward.
"'F anythin', luv," the platinum vampire grumbled, "we are not livin' in LA."
Buffy's conversation with Dawn was what consumed the better part of an hour. Long, emotional apologies and pardons. Astonished revelations. A promise not to fight to again, however empty it was, and a shared assurance that no matter what, they would always be there for each other—regardless of distance or age.
Spike expressed an interest to hurl after their touchy feelies had concluded. By natural inclination, the Slayer thwapped him on the back of the head.
The administration was in contact with him the day following his return to the library, offering a considerable raise if he would consider staying as curator. They apologized for Dr. Fell's presumptions and indicated that Professor Hawkins, understanding but dejected by William's refusal to return, had blown a lot of air that was taken out of proportion. He was on the verge of declining when Buffy snatched the phone from his grasp and barked into the receiver that he would think about it and call them back. Before he could refute, she had hung up and flashed an insolent smile.
"'Ey!" he growled. "Wha's the big idea, luv?"
"The idea is you said once that you'd be my willing slave, right?" He opened his mouth to contest though there was nothing to do but not in agreement. "Well, I told you I liked it here. Come on, Spike. It'll be fun."
"For nancy boy Ripper," he retorted indignantly. "Not sure 'f you're graspin' the concept 'ere, luv."
"Spike. Think of all the money you would make."
Periodically, it was as though his eyes were composed of nickels and dimes, and the only sound he heard was the continuous cha-ching of a cash register. That day proved no different.
Confirming the matter to himself was, as always, a very different matter. The trip to the airport consisted of a self-contained conversation between the lesser of two evils. Buffy and Giles exchanged weary, amused looks, catching only tidbits of his vocal rant. "Wouldn't 'ave to be there all the time," he muttered. "Hell, 'f they want me that much, I'll jus' make them conform to my sodding schedule. All right, Spike. Think of the money. Focus on the money. All the blood an' smokes you could ever want."
Begrudgingly, he told the Watcher to call the administration for him and let them know he would come back. "But only till I find somethin' that pays better," he warned. "Don' think for a bloody minute I'm gonna spend the rest of my days caught stuck in that rotten place."
Buffy would never say so, but she suspected there was a tiny, miniscule, itty-bitty part of him that was doing cartwheels at the prospect. It would ruin his masculine frontage if anything to suggest the opposite were ever revealed.
Before boarding, Spike took Giles's hand and shook heartily. An emotional trade. From both ends, the over-compensated sense of loss stretched with almost unbearable reality.
"Remember when Red put us all under her 'Will Be Done' spell?" the platinum vampire asked lowly, as though dreading what would happen if he were heard. "'Course, pretty much the same conclusion with the other, but anyway. Remember?"
The Watcher smiled somberly. "How could I forget?"
"Yeh. Well." He cleared his throat and shifted uneasily. "I said, when you asked 'f I was helpin' you with the blindness an' what all, I said 's kinda like you're my father, right?" At that, he tittered and shifted, avoiding the old man's eyes. "Well…you get it. Don' be a prat an' make me come out an' say it. Soddin' Kum Bai Ya moment's enough for me."
A long, knowing beat passed between them, clinching any unfinished business. Giles smiled. "I understand, Will."
The vampire's eyes narrowed at him. "'Ey there. No more 'f that."
"My apologies. Old habit." He cleared his throat formally. "I am to presume you'll be back at work on Monday?"
Spike glanced to Buffy as though searching for an inkling of margin. There was none to offer. "Yeh, I'm guessin' so. Be sure to 'ave a stake nice an' ready, jus' in case I get so painfully bored."
The Watcher's eyes twinkled in merriment. "I'll be sure to have plenty of Weetabix and blood stocked."
"Yeh. You better." He grinned widely and took the Slayer's arm. "See you round, Rips."
The smirk dropped from the old man's face. "I told you not to call me that!"
Spike flickered a brow in amusement. "Come on, luv," he said, pulling his companion with him as he pivoted. "We don' wanna keep our fans waitin'."
"Bye, Giles!" the Slayer called chirpily. "See you in a few days!"
The plane was thankfully sparse in passengers. They lowered the shutter to the window as a precaution, but they where scheduled to beat the sunlight a good hour and fifteen minutes. Buffy drooped her head drowsily on the platinum vampire's shoulder and placed her hand reassuringly on her leg. Sleep would claim her shortly. A long, well-deserved nap.
"I love you," she whispered.
The words got him with every utterance, milking him with life. Whatever lay ahead, whatever prejudices and difficulties they faced in future didn't intimidate him. Nothing could now. They had each other, and that was all that mattered.
Resting his head against hers, he took her hand and squeezed. "Back at ya, kitten."
Together, their eyes drifted shut, fingers entwined, not afraid to let go. The picture of perfection. The heart of all contentment, regardless if it lasted a day or a thousand years.
There was nothing to fear when the world was at their feet.
The reward for a battle fought with blood and ivory.
Conclusive Notes: When I first started this project, I had no idea it would grow to be so long. I had no idea it would be so hard to say goodbye to Will—I'll admit, I grew rather attached to him. I had no idea it would be this warmly received. I had no idea it would be so difficult to end. And I had no thoughts concerning a sequel or a continuation of the plotline. I cannot say whether or not there will be one, though my friend has been feeding me ideas for a possible continuation. As always time, will tell.
My thanks to everyone who has taken the time to read and/or review this story.