"OhMyGod, you're not gonna hurt Giles, are you?" Dawn asked, in a panicky voice.
"That shouldn't be necessary." The Guardian said, calmly. "We just need him to change his mind."
Spike took Jennifer Anne from Dawn, if trouble was coming, he wanted her close to him. He could feel reassurance coming from Buffy and knew that he, Jennifer Anne and their newly conceived child, Joy? - he didn't know which of them had named her, only that they had - were, along with Dawn, the most important things in her world. Not that they expected Giles to be in a murderous rage but Spike felt an unaccustomed warm glow, at the feeling of togetherness.
Family. He hadn't realized, ever since Dru had sired him, he'd been craving it. Putting up with years of abuse from Angelus, Darla, Dru and even Buffy, just to have that feeling of belonging.
He realized, now, that, although drawn to Buffy at the beginning, what had really made him go to her, when newly chipped, had been the whole 'family' thing that the 'Scoobies' had going.
He could feel Buffy, as though she was another facet of himself, tense at the thought of seeing Giles; unsure how to deal with the level of betrayal committed by her surrogate father and it was his turn to reassure her, that, no matter what, they were together.
It was an anticlimax when Giles walked in through the front door - opened, by Dawn, when they heard his rented car pull up.
"Buffy…" His voice trailed off, when he realized he didn't know what he could say. She knew.
"Why didn't you tell me?" Was all she said.
"It was for the best…"
Buffy strode over and slapped him, hard, the sound ringing in the spacious hallway. Dawn winced.
"Whose best?" Buffy demanded, as Giles straightened his glasses, a red hand print clearly visible on his face.
"When Andrew told me about the prophesy…"
"Oh, the prophesy," Buffy sneered, "There's always some damn prophesy, isn't there? What did this one say? '..and the chosen one shall be kept in the dark by the people she should be able to trust…' Or maybe '…the chosen one shall mourn the death of the only man she ever truly loved, while her so called friends, knowing that he still lives, shall keep shtum…'" She broke off, as Giles, unexpectedly laughed. "What?" She demanded.
"Where did you pick that word up from?" Giles asked, "You've only been in England a few days."
"Yeah? Well, it feels like a lifetime. It's my home, now." She said, defiantly; realizing that she didn't just know English slang from her bond with Spike but a whole lot of other languages - human as well as demon - along with a deep affection for England.
"Who's this?" Giles asked, looking suspiciously at The Guardian.
"I am the Guardian of the slayer line, Watcher…" She made his title sound like an insult.
"I told you about her, Giles, remember? The lady who put the scythe in the rock, for me to find."
"You said Caleb killed her," Giles said, instinctively putting his hand out to The Guardian. "Pleased to meet you…" As she took his offered hand in hers. "Now, about Lily and Spike's child…"
The Guardian gripped his hand and he abruptly lost the powers of speech.
"Buffy..?" Dawn started forward but Spike stopped her.
"It's OK, Nibblet, she's promised not to harm him."
Giles was on his knees now, a low moaning coming from the back of his throat and tears in his eyes.
"It's done." The Guardian said at last, releasing his hand and stepping back.
Giles looked up at Buffy, tears running down his face, the pain of betrayal in his eyes.
"Oh God, Buffy, how could I have? I never realized… How could you ever have forgiven…? You trusted me…"
"What did you do?" Dawn demanded, glaring at The Guardian.
"I simply showed him another point of view."
"I showed him how the slayers saw it. Every slayer, from the first to the most recent to suffer betrayal at the hands of the council."
"You can do that?" Dawn was incredulous.
"All Guardians are empaths and we can share that gift. Haven't you noticed how calm you all feel around Jennifer Anne? I think that Buffy and Spike's reunion would have been a little more fiery, without her."
"Oh, I think there was probably fire." Dawn said, smirking.
"Could you have done this to Caleb?" Buffy asked, looking at Giles as he sobbed on the floor.
"I could have shown him but one such as he, so secure in his own righteousness…"
"Sociopath." Spike said, grimly, "No one else truly exists, for them, except themselves."
"Wesley's father would have been impossible to convince." Buffy said, remembering and seeing him through Spike's memories; the robot a perfect copy.
"You are quite right, Buffy." The Guardian agreed, "When we travel to other dimensions to 'straighten out' the watchers, we will have to be quite creative, with some of them."
"C'mon Rupert," Spike said, offering his free hand to Giles, who was still on the floor, "I think you need a drink."
"How could I have been so wrong about you?" Giles whispered, taking Spike's hand and getting unsteadily to his feet.
"Dunno, mate; might have been the vampire thing…"
"Can I watch when The Guardian does Andrew?" Giles said, with a shaky smile, "Or has she already done him?"
There was an uncomfortable silence.
"He's meant to be here?" Dawn asked.
"Yes, he was coming down last night, to find out if you, Buffy and the scythe were here… Report back… You've not seen him?"
"Bloody hope Robert hasn't seen him." Spike said.
"Shouldn't think so, I saw him as I was driving up; digging over that huge rockery, out there."
"Shit." Buffy and Spike said, simultaneously, both seeing the significance of that.
"What?" Giles asked.
"Huh? Oh, it's just that we've not…" Buffy started, nervously.
"We've been so busy with our reunion, we forgot to check that Robert's OK." Spike said, smoothly.
"God," Buffy said, more convincingly, "As far as we know, he's not eaten since breakfast…"
"Lily's death hit him hard…" Spike added, handing Jennifer Anne to Buffy.
"She's dead?" Giles asked, distracted from thoughts of Andrew, "What happened?"
"I'll tell you all about it," Spike said, leading him away, "I know where there's some very good scotch…"
'What do we do?' Buffy silently asked Spike.
'Nothing we can do, Pet. If Robert's killed him… well, it serves the little git right, dunnit.'
'I have an idea…'
'Yeah, that might work…'
"'I speak not, I trace not, I breathe not thy name;
There is grief in the sound, there is guilt in the fame;
But the tear which now burns on my cheek may impart
The deep thoughts that dwell in that silence of heart.'" Spike quoted, as Lily's coffin was lowered into the ground. "She gave me the greatest gift and I loved her with as much of my heart as was free."
They stood quietly, in the family burial plot, a very private funeral party. Robert, with Spike and Buffy standing either side of him, dropped a single white rose into the grave.
"Your children don't belong to you, they are only borrowed," Robert said, "You always lose them, to their own lives, their own decisions… you can only hope that you prepared them, for the world… " He broke down and Spike put an arm around his shoulder.
"I never had the honour of meeting Lily," Buffy said, her voice thick with emotion, "but, through Spike, I know her courage and strength. She's in heaven now, with her mom."
"The life of a slayer, is often short and always violent," The Guardian said, "Although, in this dimension, Lily is dead; in others, she still lives, still fights. Here, she has earned her rest."
"We were friends.." Garri said, fighting back tears, "from our first day at school; I'll miss her for the rest of my life."
"She sang for me," Lorne said, "For the future of her child and, knowing that Jennifer Anne would live, she braved her own uncertain future. So young, so courageous…" He dabbed his eyes with a black silk handkerchief.
"When I was growing up, my sister was the slayer," Dawn said, "And every night, I'd lie in bed and worry that she wouldn't come back; that this patrol would be her last… She had no choice… Slayers now, there's so many, any of them can turn away from it… say no and do something else with their lives. Lily could have chosen that. She was so brave, choosing to fight evil…" She started to cry. "When we buried Buffy…"
"Shhush," Buffy said, soothingly, her arm going around Dawn, "Don't think about that…"
Giles was the last to speak:
"After Sunnydale fell, there were very few watchers left in the world and I wanted to rebuild the council in a better way. Then, one of the few remaining watchers informed me that I didn't have the authority; I was, apparently, nothing. It seemed that I had been chosen as watcher to the greatest slayer that ever lived because no one expected her to survive. That senior watcher is now dead because, it turns out, he was an abusive parent and, unfortunately for him, his son grew up to become, among other things, the favourite of a very powerful entity. Sadly, before his death, he had arranged for the 'Seven Maidens' portal to be opened; indirectly causing Lily's death.
"I am determined to help make the watchers council a force for good, not just in this world but in other dimensions. The council will no longer be made up of power hungry men and women who are content to let innocent young slayers pay for their arrogance and stupidity."
Buffy smiled, inwardly; typical Giles, so wordy. It was hard to believe that just a couple of days ago he had sobbed on Spike's shoulder, barely able to form words, as he relived his 'Guardian' experience. Millennia of wronged slayers, starting with the violation of the first girl to be chosen - the extreme pain of a demon soul forcing its way in; rape of the worst kind - and ending with Dana; her phobia of needles making her final moments of life, into her worst nightmare.
Worst of all, for Giles, had been experiencing his own betrayals of Buffy; her cruciamentum, when the person she trusted most had stripped her of her power and left her helpless. Leaving her, when she needed him - in a small way, when she started college, in the worst way, later - fleeing back to England, when, torn out of heaven, she had been so close to taking her own life. Trying to have Spike killed. Experiencing Buffy's feelings about that, had totally changed Giles' attitude to Spike.
Spike and Buffy hadn't told Giles about their bonding or their coming child and he was blissfully unaware that while he was drowning his sorrows with Spike, Buffy was 'with' them. When Giles asked that Buffy not be told the details, Spike had, straight-faced and with sincerity, said that she'd never hear it from him…
The Guardian had left for Rome, taking Giles and Dawn with her - Giles, to introduce her to all the new slayers, Dawn because she wanted to pick up some personal items from the apartment - so, Spike and Buffy felt the time was right to confront Robert.
He was sitting in his study, gazing pensively out into the garden. The rockery loomed large.
"We need to talk." Spike said.
"I liked what you said at the funeral. Very apt. Byron?"
"Yeah." Spike said, refusing to be distracted, "About Andrew…"
"It was going to feel so good." Robert said, a far away look in his eyes. "I saw him outside, subdued him, stashed him in the icehouse and, while you two were talking things out…" He cleared his throat, "Cordless power tools."
"I didn't want you to be part of it, Spike. I knew you'd want to but your Buffy would never have forgiven you…" He laughed, abruptly. "Lily was my daughter, it felt right that I should be the one… I didn't realize he'd be so scared.
"I explained exactly what I was going to do… showed him each tool… I wanted him as scared as he could be…"
Spike nodded his understanding; successful torture relied heavily on the psychological.
"Part of it, I think, was getting my own nerve up… How did you handle Giles?" He asked Spike, suddenly.
"Got him drunk, planted the idea that the little boy might have figured out how to go through the portal…"
"Good work. He'll think he's lost in another dimension. Won't go digging around." He smiled, a bitter humourless smile.
"Are you alright?" Spike asked, gently. "I know how badly a person can be damaged…"
Robert laughed, bitterly.
"I never even got to touch him. Oh, I hit him, in the garden, made him easier to handle, tied him up… Scared him to death…" He laughed again.
"But if you didn't hurt him…" Buffy began.
"Scared. Him. To. Death." Robert repeated. "Little bastard had a heart attack, before I even started on him. Died of fright."
Spike could feel the urge, building in Buffy and knew that when the explosion came, it would be big. So big it would take Spike over the edge with her.
"You want to know the worst part?" Robert asked, unaware of what was coming. "I actually tried to give the little sod CPR. Bloody hell, I was planning on killing him and I end up trying to save his worthless life."
It was too much and Buffy lost it.
Robert stared in amazement, as Buffy dissolved into helpless laughter, closely followed by Spike.
"Oh, God," She spluttered, "You had power tools… and… he… and…and… then… and… you… Oh, god… I can't…" She clung helplessly to Spike, who was laughing so hard he could hardly stand up.
"You're not angry with me, then." Robert said, dryly, when the two of them had quietened down; causing Buffy to start again.
"Bit late for that, innit mate? If you were worried how we'd take it…"
"I wouldn't have done it. You're right, of course. Buffy?"
"I don't know." Buffy said, dabbing at her damp eyes with her sleeve. "A few years back, I might have been but now…? I'm old enough to know that things aren't always black and white. Andrew dying that way? Sorta karmic."
"I'm going to miss you two, while you're away."
"Actually, it won't be so bad," Buffy said, reassuringly, her hand on Robert's shoulder. "The Guardian said that too much inter-dimensional travel wasn't good for… us, so she'll start by taking us to worlds where we already exist, we talk to our other selves, get them on side and leave them to handle the details. We come back here and wait for however long it takes for The Guardian to finish up."
"Could be months in between. 'Sides, I don't want to be away from Jennifer Anne for more than a few days at a time." Spike added.
Truth be told, it was Buffy's unborn child, little Joy, who couldn't handle too much travel but, together, Spike and Buffy had decided not to reveal her existence for a couple of months yet.
"I understand perfectly," Robert said, "She's a wonderful baby and I'm honoured to be taking care of her while you're away. Just being in the same room with her…"
"Yeah, mate, I know. It's her empathic gift, makes you feel like everything's OK."
"You look in her eyes and it's like she knows…" Buffy added.
"Yeah," Spike said, thoughtfully, "Knows everything…"
The front door slammed, loudly.
"Hey Guys," Dawn shouted, in the hallway, "I'm home!"
Well Folks, that's it; hope you all enjoyed it. Mega thanks to everyone who reviewed, you'll be happy to know that two sequels are in the pipeline and I'm sure that more will occur to me...