Chapter 12 – Tomorrow is a New Day

This chapter's and the story's titles were inspired by "Gone With the Wind". Being a lover of the happy ending, I didn't care much for the book or movie, but I do like how even in the face of her own foolishness, and the disastrous consequences of that foolishness, Scarlett O'Hara didn't give up, but instead declared, "Tomorrow is another day." "Tomorrow is a New Day" could well have been Spike's motto. It paid off for him in the end.

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As the earthquakes ceased, Giles brought the bus to a stop and turned back to look for Buffy and Spike.

Finally noticing that Dawn wasn't with them, Xander yelped, "Where's Dawnie?" He felt a shiver of trepidation run through him. Buffy had given him the responsibility of Dawn's safety, and he hadn't even noticed her absence in his relief at finding Anya safe and sound. She'd been regaling him with how Andrew had saved her life, and he hadn't been able to think of anything else.

Everyone looked around as they belatedly counted heads. Many of them were wounded, but other than Buffy and Spike, only Dawn was missing.

"Where'd she get off to?" Asked Willow worriedly, looking up from healing the claw slashes on Kennedy's arm. She scanned the bus again, sorry that she hadn't noticed either, that Dawn wasn't with them. "I knew she was going to try something Key wise at the Hellmouth. Why didn't I keep a closer eye on her?" Willow questioned herself guiltily.

Frowning, Kennedy raised her arm towards the witch and groused, "It wasn't your fault, Willow." Resentful that Willow was diverting her attention away from herself, she continued, "She wasn't your responsibility. You had other things to worry about. That flighty little thing should have gotten herself on the bus, instead of disappearing and making everyone else worry about her. At the very least, Xander should have watched out for her."

Willow looked at her new girlfriend sadly, noting again her self-absorption. Thinking about Kennedy's words and actions over the past few weeks, she silently began doubting that their relationship could last. Without further comment, Willow turned back to her healing.

Satisfied that Willow's attention was back where it belonged, Kennedy relaxed and closed her eyes. She planned to keep Willow well occupied in the future. 'There's no need for her to return to the Coven, like she's been saying. She's more powerful than any of them already. What more could they teach her? Willow may as well make me her career,' thought Kennedy complacently, imaging with a smirk just how she'd do the convincing.

Arriving once again at the schoolyard, everyone sighed with relief as Buffy, Spike and Dawn walked towards them through the barren spot where the high school had stood that morning. They'd been reassuring each other that the trio were safe, but inwardly had feared the worst. Glancing around the empty schoolyard, Giles said, "I don't understand. What did this? Was it you, Dawn?"

Dawn held up her bandaged hand, smirked and answered, "Yup."

"We'll tell you all about it once we get home," Buffy stated tiredly, putting her arm around Dawn's shoulders and walking towards the bus.

Giles looked over at the vampire that was following silently behind his girls, eyes scanning the area alertly as if still guarding them. "I'm glad to see that you made it, Spike." Giles held his hand out in a gesture of reconciliation and friendship.

Spike glanced down at the Watcher's outstretched hand, and then looked up to study his eyes and found the sincerity there. He accepted the first offer of friendship from a Watcher to a vampire in known history, and shook Giles' hand. "Thanks, Rupert," he replied simply.

The ride to Revello Drive was quiet. Everyone's eyes turned towards the deserted streets of Sunnydale, assessing the damage and rejoicing that the town was still standing despite the earthquakes. Occasional shingles and bricks littered the sidewalks. Several windows had shattered and a number of fallen trees and branches lay in the streets. There were new cracks in sidewalks and roads, but all buildings stood intact. Sunnydale would survive.

Back at home, everyone celebrated that not one single person among them had been killed. Potentials bounced around the room, excitedly telling each other of their first encounters with vampires, and generally exaggerating their prowess during the short fight. Giles called them to order, and while bandaging wounds, everyone took turns filling each other in on what had happened in their respective corners of the battle and closing of the Hellmouth. Conversation eventually turned to what they were going to do next.

"The first thing that must be done," Giles announced, "is return those Potentials to their families that have them. Many of you don't, I know, and we'll form a Boarding School for you in London on the Council grounds there. I hope that even those of you with families will be able to come there to train. We'll start a scholarship program and inform your parents that you've been nominated to attend."

He turned next to the Key. "Dawn, it's essential that you accompany us to England as well, and that you go to train with the Coven. They'll be able to help you learn about your power, fine tune your control, and teach you to use it responsibly."

She nodded, "Right. Then the next time I need it, I won't have to wing it like I did today." Dawn's mind filled with all she didn't know about being the Key. It would be good to go where they could help her find out, and also teach her to protect herself from those who might want to use her for their own purposes.

Buffy looked at her little sister sadly, knowing that she wouldn't be going with Dawn to the Coven.

Spike caught Buffy's look. "We can go visit the bit any time we want, pet," he reassured her softly. He smiled proudly at Dawn; his little niblet was growing up into a powerful, assured woman.

Buffy nodded wistfully. A chapter of her life was ending. Dawn wouldn't need her every day anymore. She felt like a mother whose child was growing up, leaving home and going away to school.

Giles continued, "I'm going to reform the Council. There are a few Watchers left alive throughout the world, and we'll rebuild. Things will be different this time around, though. The new Council of Watchers will value its Slayer, not take her for granted or think of her as property. The new Slayer/Watcher relationship will be more of a partnership than previously.

The Council will listen to her opinions and instincts. Slayer dreams and premonitions come from the Powers. That is something the old Council ignored, to its detriment. Had they been working closely with Buffy, instead of being estranged from her, they might have been prepared for The First's attack, and could have survived. The new Council will also pay each Slayer a salary, Faith, so that you can live without worrying about finances."

Buffy and Faith nodded approvingly. If Giles implemented his plans, the new Council would be a help, rather than a hindrance to the Slayer; and a Salary, woot! Having to worry about money had made both their lives much harder.

Looking now at Andrew, Giles commented, "I'm impressed with Anya's reports of your courage during the fight, Andrew. You have an innate ability to summon demons, which suggests that you may also be a latent mage. Courage and magic, along with your intelligence and research capacities make me feel that you may have the makings of a Watcher. Would you care to go to England with me, to train and find out?"

Andrew jumped up, whooping excitedly, grabbing Giles' arms and dancing in circles around him. Giles disengaged himself with a grimace, "I see you still have some growing up to do, young man. Watchers display a dignified demeanor at all times."

Settling down immediately and assuming a pious expression, Andrew said, "Oh, I'll grow up very quickly, Mr. Giles, indeed I will. I can be so dignified." He nodded emphatically and flashed a beaming smile around the room, ecstatic that he had earned the Watcher's trust and was being given the chance to make something of himself. 'If only Jonathon could see me now!' he thought excitedly, then saddened as he realized that Jonathon would have seen him now, if he hadn't succumbed to The First/Warren's lure and killed him.

Willow spoke next. "I'll go with you to the Coven, Dawnie. I need to return and finish my training with them." She and Dawn smiled at each other, feeling linked and close again for the first time since Willow had gotten caught up in black magic the year before and had tried to turn Dawn back into green energy.

Dawn nodded; relieved that she'd have someone with her at the Coven that she knew. She was surprised to realize that she could trust Willow again, that she felt like a friend. Dawn hadn't expected to ever be able to even like her, let alone trust her again.

"When you and Dawn have completed your training, I hope that you'll both come back to work with me at the Council," Giles said. "We'll need the strong magic and research skills that you both have."

They looked at each other and nodded again, happy to have an interesting and important future laid out for them.

Kennedy frowned and whispered urgently to Willow, but with every sentence, Willow just shook her head again. She was going to the Coven to finish her training.

Giles turned to Faith next. "You'll be needed in Cleveland, Faith, to guard the Hellmouth there. Is that acceptable to you?"

"Sure, thing Watch," grinned Faith. "Robin and I have already talked about it, and he's going to go with me, and look into educator openings there." She glanced at the principal, smirking.

"Actually, Robin," Giles said, clearing his throat, "I was hoping that you would consent to accompany Faith to the Hellmouth as her Watcher." Everyone gaped at Giles as he continued, "You have all the necessary skills, as well as the instincts and needed personality strengths of a Watcher. You're familiar with the demon world, and are a strong warrior in your own right. You're a scholar, so you'll know how to research when required, and you were raised by a Watcher, so you know the life and the sacrifices that must be made."

Faith frowned, "I've had bad luck with Watchers, Giles. They either die on me or go Darth Vader. Besides, I don't need a Watcher anymore. I can take care of myself."

"I regret your past experiences with Watchers, Faith, but every Slayer needs the support and help of one. I have every confidence in Wood that he'll make you an exemplary Watcher. With the revamped (Spike smirked at the word) relationship, believe me, you'll be glad to have him with you. Having a Watcher will extend your life span considerably."

Giles studied them as they turned to look at each other again. He caught a glimpse of their budding relationship. It was unconventional, forbidden, but Faith was of age, and an experienced Slayer so she could handle herself; and Giles was convinced that Wood could handle her, as well. The new Head of the Council of Watchers decided to ignore their personal relationship. Perhaps they would even find happiness together, something that was rare for either Slayers or Watchers.

Robin and Faith studied each other for a few moments, and came to an unspoken understanding. They smiled. Turning to Giles, Robin embraced his new vocation, and answered, "I would be pleased to be her Watcher."

"Good," stated Giles, satisfied. "I'll contact you from England with specifics when the Council is up and running, and send you copies of what references are still available."

Xander hugged a smiling Anya to his side and announced, "Aunnie and I are going to Las Vegas to be married." Amid cheers and congratulations, he grinned sheepishly and continued, "I can't put her through the torture of another engagement, so it'll be tomorrow. Will you all come with us? Then you can go on to England or wherever from there."

Everyone agreed that was a great idea. Anya smiled, "Thanks, everyone. We'd love to have you. Afterwards we're coming back to Sunnydale to settle down, have lots of sex, and lots of kids."

They smiled at each other through the mixed laughter and squeals of "TMI, TMI!" from the teenagers present. When things quieted down again, Xander declared, "I'm going to rebuild the high school. Again. This time for good. With no more Summers women around to demolish it, it should stay put." Buffy and Dawn both stuck their tongues out at him as he laughed and waggled his eyebrows at them.

"If you two ever change your minds about Sunnydale, there will always be places waiting for you at the Council," Giles remarked.

Anya elbowed her fiancé in the side, and said triumphantly, "See, I told you they'd want us! Giles finally sees our value to him!"

Surprised, Xander rubbed his ribs and nodded his appreciation, while blushing at Anya's bluntness. "Thanks, we'll keep that in mind should the delights of ol' Sunnyhell ever get old."

At last Giles turned to Buffy and Spike. "Will you two come with us to London and help us reform the Council? Your skills and knowledge will be invaluable to us."

Buffy and Spike conferred for a few moments in a mixture of thoughts, images, and murmurs too low for anyone else to hear, then turned back to Giles with arms around each other. Buffy said to her former Watcher, "Sure Giles, we'll help you get set up; then Spike and I are going to take a world tour. I've always wanted to travel, you know, but never thought I'd get the chance. I always figured I'd be glued to a Hellmouth. We'll slay where we're needed, and learn our new roles as we go."

"We'll be there for you when you need us, though," added Spike. He cocked an eyebrow at the Watcher's surprised reaction, guessing his thoughts. Giles had expected that the pair would stay with him in London and continue on much as before. "After all, Rupert," Spike smirked, "tomorrow is a new day, a new world. We Immortals need to find our place in it."

"Huh, Immortals?" asked Xander, looking confused. Willow looked intrigued for a moment, then her eyes widened and her mouth dropped open in astonishment, as she grasped the reality of what Spike had just announced.

Giles shook his head at the vampire's turn of phrase, and a flurry of questions erupted around the room as everyone demanded explanations. Buffy cringed at the clamor and shot a mildly annoyed look at her prankster of a mate. Spike just laughed, pleased that he'd gotten a rise from them all.

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Later Spike stood on the back porch with his arm around his love, enjoying the beautiful reds, pinks and golds of the sunset. He admired the black silhouettes of the trees against the glowing sky, and thought of how that scene paralleled Buffy and himself. 'I may just have to write a poem about it,' he thought. The brilliance of the Slayer had joined with the inky black of a Master Vampire to form a picture of unsurpassed power and beauty. Out loud, Spike sighed, "Life is good."

Buffy turned to him and replied archly, "Oh I wouldn't call it exactly good."

He pulled her close so that the warmth of her body infused him, quirked an eyebrow at her and questioned, "Well then, what would you call this life we have?"

Buffy smiled brightly and reached up to murmur her reply against his lips. "Effulgent."

The end.