A/N: Surprise, surprise, a new chapter! Thank you for your patience (9 months) and continued interest (all the emails, LJ comments). I have more I could say, but then that would keep you from the story. So here we go with Ch. 35, Patience. Rather appropo, wouldn't you say.

They were in the middle of a war that hadn't been declared yet.

There was no denying the truth. Not when it was outlined in colorful charts and maps, detailing a steadily increasing rise in demonic activity. A connection could be made with the birth of the Slayer's child, but Yvonne wasn't ready to take that leap. Because once it was determined, the fate of the child was sealed. In the fight between good and evil, sacrificing one to save millions was unfortunate, but necessary.

Yvonne closed the file, placing her hand over the title page. Olivia poked her head inside, smiling when she saw her boss was alone.

"Olivia, come in." Yvonne opened her desk drawer, sliding the folder inside. "What news do you have?"

Olivia sat, crossing her legs as she did. "The jet is fueled and waiting. Flight destination is unknown. But I would hazard a guess. He's going to the child."

"To bring her here, presumably." Yvonne tilted her head to the side, pondering this new information. "Quentin is shrewd. Presenting the child to the full body of the Council would invite dissension. He wouldn't be able to control the reaction, but," Yvonne stated, using her glasses to stab at the air, "within the confines of the Executive committee, he could convince a smaller group and influence many."

Olivia sighed in defeat. "Then there is nothing we can do to protect the child? We leave her in the hands of a madman, who will use her to start a war."

Yvonne pursed her lips together. Olivia groaned softly, recognizing Yvonne's displeasure. "You are one of our best operatives, Olivia. I understand your… friendship with Rupert Giles and his charge, but first and foremost, you are a Watcher. You can not become emotionally attached to these people. As unpleasant as that sounds to you, we must sacrifice that which makes us compassionate."

Olivia refused to agree with that notion. Hadn't she witnessed the falsity of that assumption? Hadn't she seen how the friendships and love that surrounded Buffy Summers had served to keep her safe, to assist her in the fight?

The phone trilled softly, piercing the silence that was becoming uncomfortable in its length.

Yvonne answered, listening to the voice on the other end. "Yes, she is. Hold please." She pressed her hand over the receiver, amused. "You have a call, m'dear. Would you like for me to leave?"

Olivia shook her head, mortified. "I'm sorry. I… Hello."

"Olivia? This is Willow Rosenberg. We need to talk."


­­­­­­­­

Waiting was not something she did well. Slaying demons, vamps, giant Praying mantis, screwing Spike into next week, even twiddling wood into stakes. All things she was good at. She could even count her short stint as mom as going quite well, if the rosy cheeks of her daughter were any indication. But waiting patiently for Spike to emerge from the tunnels? Nope. She wasn't doing this well at all. Dammit, he'd had enough time to hide the Rover and double back to the station. Thirty minutes at superhuman speed, and he should have been here by now.

Buffy rocked Emma, her hand clasping Emma's. "Don't worry, sweetie. Daddy will be here soon." Of course, Emma didn't answer, but Buffy swore she smiled. An impossibility to be sure, but then she was an extraordinary little girl.

"Fearless." She said, brushing her lips across Emma's brow. "Just like your Dad." Buffy pulled the strap higher on her shoulder, shielding her breast from view.

She alternated between rocking and scanning the tracks. "Don't know why I'm worried. He's one hundred and twenty-seven years old." She informed Emma. "He's fought demons and mobs and me. Probably stolen so many cars, he can do it in his sleep. And that's bad. Very bad." She reiterated, realizing the tone of her voice.

Joanna approached, holding two cups, water for Buffy and coffee for herself. She'd debated getting Buffy a cup of coffee too, but she knew Emma was nursing every few hours, so it was better to be safe than sorry.

"He'll be along shortly." Joanna offered. It sounded weak to her ears, but she felt she had to say something. "My, that sounds tremendously naive."

Buffy grinned, relaxing slightly. "But appreciated."

Her eyes scanned the open lobby of the terminal. If their lives weren't in danger, she might be impressed with her surroundings, but she wasn't. One second people blocked her view. The next second, all she saw was Spike, striding purposely towards her. She met him halfway, throwing one arm around his neck. She felt his arms around her waist, pulling her and Emma close.

"You're late." Buffy mumbled.

"I know. Didn't mean to worry you." He leaned away from her, giving him enough room to press his lips to hers. Had to reassure her. Had to reassure himself that they were safe. He hadn't intended to cut things so close, but he had to make sure the car wouldn't be found.

"I wasn't worried." It wasn't exactly a lie. Just an understatement.

"Uh huh." Spike said amused. He pressed another kiss to her lips. "Best be on our way, pet." As he uttered that sentiment, the PA system announced the boarding of their train. Joanna handed him their passports and tickets and started off towards the security gate.

"Did you get a chance to talk to Glenda?" Spike asked, his eyes darting from passenger to passenger.

"She was at the crypt with Xander. Anya was at the house. No news on the spell. She did say Giles and Willow were here and everything was going according to plan." Her voice was slightly tinged with worry, and Spike picked up on it. His hand drifted from her shoulders to the dip of her back. She felt his fingers drifting softly along the hem of her jeans and sighed.

"Red and Rupe know what they are getting into, luv. They'll be fine."

They were stopped for the moment behind an elderly man, who'd dumped the entire contents of his shaving bag onto the security table. Spike stepped in front of Buffy, bending until their heads touched. "Are you going to be okay?"

Buffy looked up as well as she could, and nodded. "Yeah. I'm worried about them, but they've been in worse situations."

Spike shook his head, running a finger down her cheek. "I wasn't talking about them. I was talking about the train. Traveling underwater. It'll be like..." He whispered.

Buffy flashed to the moment when she realized she was in her coffin. It was terrifying and it stole her breath, but feeling Emma squirming in her arms, shifting her tiny legs so she could be comfortable, served to push that fear away.

"It won't be." She answered him, looking directly into his eyes. "Because you'll be with me. You and Emma." And as she said it, she believed it deeply in her heart. Nothing was ever going to be the same because she had them, and along with Dawn, she was complete.


­­­­­

The hum of the jet's engines was not loud enough to drone out the sound of Travers' ranting. Giles' mouth twitched to break out in a smile, but he held it in. He leaned forward on his elbows, studying Travers.

"Trouble?" Giles asked.

"Yes." Quentin held the phone tightly in his hand. "Timmons isn't answering. In fact, I can't get anyone on the phone."

Giles sat up. "Maybe the phone lines are down. Could be the weather."

Travers' eyes glinted angrily. Giles watched as the man across from him took several breaths, attempting to calm himself before he spoke.

"It is not the weather, Mr. Shackleford. They have my granddaughter!"

Giles almost corrected him, but didn't. Travers would eventually discover his deception, but not at this moment. Buffy and Spike needed time and he was determined to give it to them.

"They couldn't have gotten far." Giles intoned. "We'll find them."

Travers guffawed. "Excuse me if I don't put much faith in your services. If I were a suspicious man, I'd think you were purposely slacking off on the job."

Giles gritted his teeth, appearing to be offended. He leaned forward, his elbows on his knees, and pinned Travers with angry eyes.

"I've done my job. I brought the blood. I contained the Slayer's Watcher and her sister. If you want me to handle the situation, I will. Only say the word."

Travers gave a curt nod, properly chastened. "We mustn't quarrel. Now is not the time."

Giles eyed the closed door of the cockpit. "No, it isn't. We're wasting valuable time as it is on the runway. The sooner we're in the air, the sooner will be able to get some answers from Timmons and his men." Giles continued to regard Travers, never taking his eyes from him. Convincing Travers to go to Scotland was only part of his plan. He also needed to keep him from using the spell and discovering it was virtually useless.

Quentin stared at his clasped fingers, silently studying Giles. All wasn't lost. Even if Buffy had Catherine, all he had to do was summon her with the spell. But there was a part of him that wanted to see Buffy suffer, wanted to see her crumble as he snatched Catherine away from her again…forever.

"The pilots need to know your plans." Giles asked harshly. Giles was reluctant to bring up the spell, but knew he had to mention it. It would appear suspicious otherwise. "There's nothing to stop you from using those witches," he said disdainfully, "once we get there. But I'd rather know what we're facing. I don't like going into things blind."

Quentin closed his eyes, trying to quell the nausea that had crept unnoticed into his stomach. He recognized the source of the uneasiness and it disgusted him immensely to know it was present, although on a subconscious level. He would not allow fear of failure to keep him from acting decisively. Mr. Shackleford was right. Buffy and Spike would be hindered during the morning hours. They would have to stop and hide up until they could safely move again. That was one thig in his favor. The other was Catherine. By now, they probably knew she was sick. He could count on their paternal feelings to keep them within reach of a hospital or doctor.

When he opened his eyes and gazed upon his traveling companion, his mind was clear.

Travers looked up, his eyes hazy. Giles felt a chill go down his spine. "Tell them to proceed to Scotland. I want to know everything that happened last night. Once I do, then I will decide what to do with Ms. Summers and her consort. They will dearly for touching what is mine."

Giles nodded curtly, rising from his seat to notify the pilots.

"You can have the vampire once we catch them. I will deal with Ms. Summers, myself."

Giles turned quickly as his mouth filled with the sour taste of bile. God help them all when Travers discovered their ruse.


Her loyalty was being tested, and there was nothing she could do about it. Yvonne didn't inquire as to the true nature of the call, but the look she'd given Olivia as the phone was handed back to her, spoke volumes.

"That was Willow Rosenberg." She offered truthfully. "She wants to meet."

Yvonne frowned. "She's in London? Is Rupert with her?" The wheels were turning. Olivia could see the machinations in Yvonne's eyes. How would she play this latest development?

Olivia shook her head. "She didn't say. I doubt she would." A quick glance told her she only had twenty minutes to get across town to Claridge House for the meeting.

"They need you, Olivia." Yvonne told her, standing up to gaze out her fourth-story window. Down on the street, life went on, cars passed by, and Quentin Travers held the reigns of power at the Council. "I'm assuming you have a meeting?"

Olivia debated lying, but that would serve no good purpose. They were all working on the same sides, even if their methods and motivations were different.

"Yes."

Yvonne turned, a resigned smile to her face. "Then, you'd better go. I'll expect a full report when it's concluded."

"Of course." Olivia agreed, though she had no intention of betraying Giles' trust. Giles wanted to protect Buffy's child. Defeating Travers happened to be the only way to ensure her safety. Olivia was certain Giles nor Buffy would have concerned themselves with Travers if he hadn't attacked them first.

She didn't have much time, as Willow had told her to arrive within a half-hour of the call. After that, she would assume Olivia was plotting against them. It would be close, but she'd make it. There were things happening in England, stuff Giles wouldn't have knowledge of, no matter his connections. She owed him the truth. It was the only way to repair their tattered friendship.

The waiting was interminable. If she could conjure a spell to fast forward to the end of this adventure, she would. Not only for Buffy's sake, but her own as well. Yes, she was being selfish. She wanted good things, happier times for her best friends and for her and Tara. All in the relative safety, ha ha, of Sunnydale, California, USA.

Magic can only do so much, Willow.

Elsmeth's intrusion into her daydream was unsettling and aggravating, but that was the point, wasn't it? To remind her of the terrible acts she'd perpetrated upon her closet friends and lover.

"Actually, no, m'dear. You've taken care of your own punishment. I am used to communicating in this manner, and I forgot you weren't."

Willow smiled as she turned her gaze to Elsmeth. I'm sorry. I'm jumpy. I wish Olivia would get here already. Willow scanned the crowd again, searching the milling crowd again for Olivia. She signed in defeat.

Elsmeth maintained a serene façade, but on the inside she was nearly as anxious as Willow. Giles was an old and dear friend, and he was in danger every moment he spent in Quentin Travers' company. Hopefully, Olivia would be of assistance.

"I see her."

Elsmeth followed Willow's outstretched hand towards the edge of the park. Olivia threw up her hand in greeting and hurried towards them.

"Willow… It's good to see you again." Olivia's aura hummed with nervous tension.

"Same here. Sorry, it's under these conditions." True statement, but the last time they'd met was during the Gentlemen's visit and that wasn't all tea and roses either, Willow mused. "Do you know Elsmeth?"

Olivia nodded. "We've met."

They'd still be here tonight if someone didn't take hold of the conversation and get it moving. "Have a seat, Olivia," Elsmeth suggested, taking a seat on the cold marble of the fountain. "You should know, Giles is with Travers."

"Travers captured him? How?" She asked, defeated.

"No… Giles…we performed a glamour to make him appear as Shackleford, Travers' head bully." Willow hurriedly explained. "We don't know what's going on, but we do know they are heading towards Petershead, Scotland. Travers thinks Buffy's baby is there."

Olivia slumped, her breath rushing out rapidly. "Bloody idiot. What possessed him to do that?"

"It wasn't planned. He was only supposed to deliver Dawn's blood and find out about Buffy and Spike. It wasn't supposed to go this far, but it has, and I want to know what you can do to help him." Willow was barely keeping her voice civil. Giles wouldn't be in danger if Olivia had been honest with them about Reginald. Maybe, just maybe, all of this could have been prevented if they, no, Olivia hadn't kept secrets.

"Olivia, Giles was aware of the danger. Regardless of that, he felt it was necessary to undertake this risky expedition. He wanted to give Buffy and her husband time to flee from Scotland with their child." Elsmeth reasoned smoothly. She hoped her explanation would give both women a chance to cool down.

Olivia's eyes widened. "They have her. She's safe." Olivia covered her face with her hands. Willow and Elsmeth exchanged surprised looks.

"This is wonderful news." Olivia announced, her voice hoarse with suppressed tears. "Yvonne will be pleased."

"Who's Yvonne?" Willow asked. Too many unknown players in this game, and she didn't like it one bit.

"My boss." Olivia watched closely as the wheels began to turn within Willow's brain. The moment Willow made the connection, Olivia braced herself for her ire.

"Your boss? Is this the same person who gave the order to lie to Giles about Shackleford? The same person who knew Xander was being used and said nothing? The same person who knew Travers was harboring a dangerous psychopath, and did nothing to protect the Slayer?"

Olivia shifted, uncomfortable on the cold marble and from the ire. There was nothing she could say to defend Yvonne, and she also knew Willow would not be reasonable and listen to the very valid reasons for their actions. So she decided in that moment to push on, to ignore the rather large elephant in the proverbial room.

"There is a belief among... many members that Buffy's child is evil." Olivia met Willow's eyes, momentarily shocked by the flash of black in the green. "If she's with Buffy, then she's safe from them and Travers."

"They would kill a baby." Willow stated incredulous. She shook her head. "Of course, they would. They've done it before."

"Mistakes have been made." Olivia acquiesced. "We're trying to prevent another one from happening." Her arms were crossed over her chest in a purely defensive stance. "Before you judge us too harshly, you might want to remember who's been fighting the darkness for more years than you've been alive. No one was prepared for the baby's birth or the ramifications of it. So please give us a moment to adjust." Olivia blinked, realizing in her zeal that she'd gotten in Willow's face, their nostrils a hair's breadth away from each other.

"Sorry", she said, scooting back a reasonable distance. "They are concerned her birth has started a chain reaction to end the world as we know it. I read a report this morning documenting a rise in demonic activity since the birth. As you can guess, people are connecting the dots."

"Incorrectly. Incorrectly." Willow stood, resisting the urge to rub the numbness out of her butt. She only hoped the blood rushed quickly back into her backside because she was really close to feeling herself up. "Bitty is eight days old. Eight days."

In eight days, the world could be destroyed and made over again. Eight days was nothing in the life of a powerful being. Elsmeth sighed. "Are your fellow Watchers making plans to go after Buffy and Spike?"

"Not at the moment. Though, Yvonne wasn't exactly forthcoming with information. These latest attacks have her concerned, more concerned than I've seen her since we started this plan to oust Travers." Olivia murmured, fumbling in her pocket for her keys.

"She knows we're dealing with a more powerful force than a mere human." Elsmeth shook her head. "She knows the only thing it can be is the First Evil. I'm sure that sent her and the rest of those codgers into a tailspin." Elsmeth's step faltered a bit. A full on war with the First would… She wouldn't…couldn't think of the consequences. The stakes had been risen indeed, no wonder in this day of enlightenment, the council was quite willing to kill the child to protect the world. It was, unfortunately, a better trade-off.

"We must hurry. The full coven must be convened. We're definitely going to need more help."

And that Willow though, was the understatement of the year. Goddess, she missed the simplicity of Sunnydale's apocalypses.


"You could have been killed, Edgar." Yvonne shouted, which was a testament to how annoyed she truly was with him at the moment. She paced, her agitation showing with every step. "What did you hope to accomplish? We had everything under control."

At the utterance of that ridiculous statement, Edgar arose from behind his desk. "Under control? Travers has operated without impunity for months, years. Do you really believe talking to him, stripping him of his position, possibly jailing him, will stop Quentin from doing whatever he pleases? I had to do something to protect my son. To protect all of our children from this mad man."

Yvonne slumped against the edge of his desk. "Edgar… I know you're still grieving, but you can't allow that to cloud your judgment in these matters."

"This isn't about grief, Yvonne." Edgar took her hands in his. "It's about doing what's right. And you know I'm right. What Travers has started is slowly rolling out of his control. He just doesn't know it yet. The First has his eye on our dimension. These reports", he reached around her to pick up the file, "prove it."

Yvonne pulled the file from Edgar's fingers, glancing down briefly at the evidence she knew all too well. Edgar, though, misguided was right, but it was hard to alter course once things were started. (I know that doesn't sound right) "All of this may be futile. There's nothing to say the First will go meekly back into hiding once the Powers stop Travers. It's about more than him, Edgar. It's about the child. The power she possesses cannot be ignored. She is a threat. As long as she lives, the balance will always be tilted in our direction."

The Balance…the balance between good and evil was a thin line that many had crossed and returned to their respective sides. How many acts deemed good by the Council were actually nothing more than acts of evil? How many young girls had been killed to allow another to take her place, to become the Slayer? It was all relative, really. Reginald had committed crimes as Travers' assistant, but in the end, he was a good man, who only wanted to protect the Slayer. Rupert Giles had killed the human form of the hellgod, Glory, yet, he was praised. It was all relative.

His back was to her, his hand disappearing into the bank of books lined along the shelf. When he pulled out the bottle of Glenlivet, Yvonne smiled. It was only 11:30, but she could use a stiff one and gladly accepted the proffered glass.

"The balance," Edgar told her, after taking a long swig, "is always shifting, Yvonne. We have the power to make sure she does not become an entity in this long-suffering war. If we do nothing, then we are condemning this world to anarchy."

Yvonne sipped and thought. "Dramatic. That's so very unlike you, Edgar." She smiled, her features softening, the crow's feet around her eyes highlighted.

"Circumstances have pushed me to loosen my tie, so to speak." Edgar sighed, tapping her fingers against his glass.

"Have you spoken to Olivia today?"

"We were supposed to meet, but she wasn't in her office when I stopped by on my way in this morning."

Yvonne searched his face for deception and found none. "Willow Rosenberg is in London. I'm assuming with Rupert. The question now becomes did they follow the Slayer or is he following them? Either way, we may be able to use their presence to force Quentin's hand."

Edgar's eyes narrowed, attempting to see the machinations going on in Yvonne's mind. "Meaning? We use Ms. Summers and her baby as bait. To bring Travers to London? He's already coming back here."

Yvonne shook her head, her smile no longer comforting. "To deliver him to the Powers. To end this once and for all."


One minute she was staring at the walls of their stateroom, comparing it to the bayou shack they'd hidden in during their honeymoon, and the next thing she knew, she was rolling over into Spike's solid chest.

Spike's arm was sliding around her waist, pulling her hips into his pelvis.

"Hey." She said drowsily.

"Hey. Didn't mean to wake you." He mumbled into her hair. His arms tightened around her waist, his hand stroking her stomach.

"I wasn't asleep." Buffy countered, her eyes closed.

"And yet, there's evidence to the contrary." She could feel his chuckle from her shoulder blades down to her thighs and wiggled against him in retaliation.

"Minx," he moaned, his hand drifting down to hold her thighs still. He'd been tempted earlier when he walked in, and was presented with the pretty sight of her ass, ripe and lush and his for the tasting. But he could hear Emma, could smell the soap Buffy had used to clean her. Unfortunately, he could also smell the soiled nappy, its scent fairly strong through the closed bathroom door. As the reality of sex and parenthood hit him, he cracked his neck and restrained his libido. He might not be able to ravage his wife, but there was nothing to keep him from feeling her up while she slept.

"I never imagined it could be like this."

Spike had nearly fallen asleep when Buffy's softly voiced words drifted to his ear.

"What's that luv?" He said, shifting gingerly.

Buffy eased onto her back, lifting her arm so that it laid above Emma's head. She turned her eyes towards their sleeping daughter.

"Do you remember when we used to sit and argue about diaper duty?" Was this how she imagined their lives would be once Emma was born? In those quiet moments after sex, after patrol, when they could only dream of Emma, they would argue about diapers and feedings. Knowing full well, they'd be climbing over each other to get to the nursery.

Spike snickered. "Yeah. I remember."

"I want more moments like this." Buffy's vow was soft-spoken, but the weight of it was not lost on Spike.

He smiled as he rolled and draped as much of his body as possible over Buffy's tiny frame. His fingers played softly across her face, stroking her brow, her cheeks, her lips.

"The hard part's behind us. We got her back, and it'll take a helluva lot more than Travers and his threats for us to lose her again." He held her stare, becoming lost in the sea green of her eyes. She shifted her hips, so he fell into the cradle of her legs.

"Have I told you I love you today?" She asked, lifting her head slightly off the bunk. Her lips touched his tentatively, teasing his lower lip with a quick swipe of her tongue.

"You might have said it once or twice, but I'm old and my memory is faulty." What he didn't say was that the heat of her body was making it increasingly difficult to remember his name. His hands slipped from their purchase on her face to cup her head and back, supporting her while his lips began a thorough play of her mouth.

When Spike pulled away to allow Buffy to breathe, there was a storm brewing within her body. A storm that was quickly doused by the wet gurgle of their daughter, who it seemed couldn't sleep through her parents somewhat subdued makeout session.

"Oh, my god. She saw us." Buffy gasped, pushing feebly at Spike's chest. He didn't budge, but merely buried his head in Buffy's dark tresses and began laughing.

"Buffy, she can't tell what we're doing. It's all a blur to her. We're nothing more than a Mommy-Daddy shaped Hershey kiss."

Buffy grasped a handful of hair and tugged his head back, looking at him in disbelief. Was it the demon in him that was making him take this in stride or was she really becoming prudish in her motherhood?

"Really?"

"Promise. The only child we've scarred for life is Dawn." He drew back, regaling her with a smile rarely seen by others. "And she's turned out relatively well balanced."

Buffy grinned. "Relatively. Not withstanding all your efforts to turn her into mini-Spike." Once, in what seemed another lifetime, she would have balked at Dawn learning anything from Spike. He was a bad influence she told herself and Joyce and Dawn and Giles and the Scoobies. That wasn't true anymore, hadn't been for a long time. There was a good man inside Spike, the kind of man her mom wanted her to love, wanted her to marry. And Joyce had known all along that Spike was different, that there was more to him than the hard outer shell.

"She is my apt pupil." Spike remarked, rolling nimbly off Buffy. He swayed as he stood, though he tried to cover it before Buffy saw.

"I saw that," Buffy remarked, scooping Emma up in her arms. She sat on the side of the bunk, watching with weary, concerned eyes. "You haven't eaten in nearly two days. I remember our first Thanksgiving Spike. You…you looked like S.H.I.T."

Spike braced his hands on the overhead bunk. "We'll find a butcher in Paris. I'll be alright, and don't you even think of asking me to bite you because I bloody well won't. I'll nibble on your delectable flesh whenever the urge hits me, but I won't drink from you. I'll never drink from you."

From the way his eyes flashed with flecks of gold and his jaw tensed, Buffy believed him, but Angel had thought the same thing, and he'd taken a chunk out of her neck.

"I wasn't offering, but if the need arises…" She didn't want to argue with Spike about this, but if he expected her to watch idly while he wasted away, he had another thing coming. They'd fought too hard to get here for her to lose him because of his exalted sense of chivalry. She'd willingly given her blood to save Angel. Spike deserved that and more.

The silence ticked on for a few more minutes before Spike sat down beside her, his head dropping to rest on her shoulder.

"Emma's asleep." He said, wrapping his arm around them.

"Yeah."

"Wanna cuddle?" He asked shyly and Buffy couldn't help but grin. One more thing they held in common: Fierce protectiveness of the ones they loved.

"Yeah."


"What do you want to do?" Giles asked. "How do you want to handle things once we arrive at the house?" Giles' face was unreadable, though his foot tapped lightly on the carpet. He was out on a limb with this plan, making things up as he went along. He had no way of knowing if Shackleford had a plan B in case things went to pot at the house.

"I want to strangle someone. Mr. Timmons, preferably, depending on the amount of effort it takes to capture the Slayer and Catherine. "I know you're of the belief they'll rest on their laurels, but I don't have your faith. Buffy Summers has been anything but predictable since she was called." Travers huffed, tugging on the hem of his vest. These were all reflex motions to him; the watch, the links, the vest. They were supposed to be calming influences. But not this time. This time the rage was too fresh, too strong, and he wanted to kill. Was this streak of rage a sign of growing affection for the child? Or the usual irritation with Buffy Summers and Rupert Giles.

Giles nodded, his mind churning out ideas and plans for delaying Travers from discovering the truth. "Yes… I'll deal with Mr. Timmons. There is another option. You can use the spell."

Mentioning the spell was a gamble, one which Buffy would balk at, but to not do so would raise suspicions.

"No, I want it to be a last resort." Travers shook his head as he answered. "Catherine has been ill in recent days. I would rather not put her at anymore risk. Besides, Mr. Shackleford," he said, his mouth twisting into a grin, "I would rather witness Ms. Summers' devastation when she realizes she's lost."

"Then it is a game." Giles commented, undeniably shocked. "A test of wills and not a desire to change the world to your liking." These weren't questions, but statements and observations of the facts. Travers hated Buffy. Hated him too, for that matter. In spite of all of that, Giles never pegged Travers for holding a grudge, but it was obvious he had. Buffy had thumbed her nose at the Council, its rules and regulations, at the very things Travers held near and dear. No wonder he wanted to take Bitty and remold her into his creation.

Quentin was quiet, thoughtful as he studied his companion. Giles had to wonder if he'd given too much of his real identity away with his words.

"Life, Mr. Shackleford, is a game. It's an never-ending tourney to see who will come out on top." Sagely, as if he were speaking to one of the younger Watchers, schooling him to the truths of the world, Travers continued. "I am only one of many participants. In a game that has been played for eons with each side alternating wins and losses equally."

Quentin guffawed softly. "So you see, I am only doing what comes naturally. And I detest Buffy Summers. She has never shown me, the Council and our traditions and rules the proper respect. She does not deserve to be the Slayer, but…", he sighed, "the alternative is out of my reach."

"Faith." Giles murmured. Killing Buffy would be Travers' best option, but the Slayer line no longer went through her. It went through Faith, and from what little information Giles could obtain on the rogue Slayer, many attempts had been made on her life, and each attempt had been rebuffed. How ironic. Buffy had been killed twice, and Faith could not be killed by the Council's best assassins.

"Yes, unfortunately, all my attempts to reacquire her, to reeducate her, to eliminate her have been unsuccessful. For her sake, let's hope the American penal system has better luck."

"Doubtful. If you want to kill a killer, you have to turn them into the prey." They were his words and they left a bitter taste in his mouth because of they rang true in Buffy's case. The Master and Glory both turned the tables on Buffy, forcing her to be on the defensive and in the end her life was lost.

Giles shuddered. It could not happen again. He couldn't bear. None of them could.

"No truer words have been spoken, Mr. Shackleford." A smile crossed Travers' face. "Thank you." At Giles' confused look, Travers chuckled.

"My faith in my ability to outwit Rupert and Ms. Summers was shaken, but no more. We will find her. I will have Catherine back. Once we arrive, we must move quickly. For now, Mr. Timmons' life is spared. I need him and the others to go into the city. Question everyone. Someone has to know something useful."

The phone buzzed, startling Giles. He answered with a great deal of trepidation. It could be news about Buffy and Spike or even about Willow. Not once did he consider the call to be dangerous to his wellbeing. He listened, letting a small sigh escape from his tightly pressed lips, and hung up.

Travers was watching him, curiously. "Has there been word?"

Giles shook his head, the effort to keep a smile off his face taxing. "No, that was the pilot. We're entering final approach. We land in ten minutes."

Travers' disappointment was evident. Mumbling under his breath, he closed his eyes, letting his head drop onto the seat back.

"Where are they?"

Giles could only shrug. Seemed that was, indeed, the question of the hour. God's speed, Buffy. God's speed.

"They are out there somewhere. We'll find them."

One eye popped opened, and within its depths Giles saw only the coldness of a soulless creature staring back at him. "I have every faith we will. For I shall not leave any stone unturned in my search for Catherine."

Sunnydale… Dawn. Anya. Home.


Standing in the shadow of the building, Buffy watched as the terminal emptied of passengers going out into the streets of Paris. Streets that were familiar to her, though she'd never travelled them. And the memories she had of them were very different from what she saw today. Cobblestone paths lined by oil lamps. Small, non-descriptive shops with carts of fruit and fresh-made breads outside replaced the modern day shops and car rental sites. She could see it all thanks to a vision sent to her as they'd slept on the train. Buffy pulled the crudely drawn map from her pocket. The house was less than thirty minutes from the station. Thirty minutes until Emma would be safe, shielded from Travers' magicks. And though it offered the safest refuge possible, Buffy couldn't forget it was a place of death. She had to let it go. She knew that, but when she thought of what had occurred within its walls, what she'd witnessed, she couldn't help but shudder. Buffy glanced over to where Spike sat with Emma. Her heart melted at the look on his face. Pure unadulterated joy softened his features. The paleness of his hands against the pink of Emma's blanket was endearing. Watching them, her heart hurt with love for them. Her eyes burned with hot tears and she blew all the air out of her lungs through clenched teeth. She couldn't lose them.

"I won't lose them." She said quietly. She wouldn't lose any of them, and that included Giles and Willow, who they'd left behind in England. Or Dawn and Tara, Xander and Anya in Sunnydale. They were family, a rather eccentric and extended lot, but family none the less. While Travers was loose, none of them were safe, which meant Buffy was going to have to leave their safe haven in Paris and return for one final battle against the head of the Council.

"I worry when you're quiet, luv. Seems unnatural."

Buffy spun, surprised. "That had better be a compliment." She teased, hoping to divert his attention.

Blue eyes peered into hazel. He noticed the blush to her cheeks, the red rimming her eyes. Spike could point out his observations, attempt to push Buffy to tell him what had upset her, but from the slightly rigid way she held herself, that way would lead to nothing good. She'd tell him. Or she wouldn't. He had to accept there would be some secrets between them.

"Hmm," Spike whispered in her ear, "compliment or insult? What would you do if I said it was a compliment, luv. Hmm? If I said it was an insult, would those pretty eyes glitter like the most brilliant emerald, forcing me to beg for your forgiveness on my knees? So many choices for a man to decide upon." Her skin tingled from the mere timbre of his voice. The warmth of it flowed over her body, making her feel more alive than she thought possible.

Buffy arched her brow, edging closer to him. "Incorrigible." She whispered conspiratorially.

Spike's brows rose, the very picture of innocence. "That's what you keep saying, Mrs. Develin. Personally, I just don't see it." His hand slid around Buffy's neck, caressing her hairline with his thumb.

"People rarely see their own faults. You taught me that, sweetie." A quick kiss to boost his ego and then she was turning in his arms to stare at the car rental kiosk where Joanna was filing out paperwork.

"What's taking so long?" Buffy huffed.

"Mommy's got to learn patience, Em." Spike whispered. Buffy didn't have to look at them to know the picture she'd see. Spike would have his chin resting on Emma's head, his eyes closed to heighten his senses. She knew he wanted to imprint everything that made Emma, Emma, so when she was gone from his sight, when he had to leave her, she would always be with him.

"I know patience. I just don't do it well." Buffy turned away from her perusal of Joanna. It was a pointless exercise. Staring at her wouldn't make the process go faster, any more than staring at the phone would get it to ring.

Spike agreed. "Especially when every moment spent outside of the barrier means another minute Travers has available to get to Emma."

Buffy cocked her head, studying Spike through hooded eyes. "Are you sure you weren't a psychic in another life?"

That got a chuckle out of Spike. "Must not have been a good one if I didn't know about you and Dru."

Brows arched, hazel eyes narrowed to tiny black dots. Oh, boy, the look of death. "Did you just put me and Dru together in the same sentence?"

Spike swallowed, his Adam's apple bobbing attractively against the paleness of his skin. Buffy wouldn't allow it to distract her. "Now who's quiet?" Buffy queried, snickering.

"If Jayme had kept quiet, would we be here, pet? Would there be an Emma?" Spike leaned over, pressing a kiss to Emma's tiny fist.

It took a moment for her brain to acknowledge the seriousness of Spike's questions. She swallowed past the lump in her throat. "Why… what? Yes," She said, gripping Spike's chin. "Yes. We would be here. You, me, Dawn, Emma. If I believed anything else, I'd go mad."

Spike nodded his agreement, reaching out with his free hand to loosen Buffy's grasp on his chin. He brought her hand to his lips and bestowed a kiss on it. "I do love you, Mrs. Develin."

"And I love you too." Buffy grinned, her smile becoming broader as Joanna stood and shook the hand of the rental car agent. "It's time to go."

Buffy smirked as Spike muttered a soft "finally" under his breath. "And here I thought you were the patient one."

"I waited a bloody long time for you, Buffy. A bloody long time." He reminded her.

Buffy's mouth dropped open, snapping shut as a grin broke out over her face. Spike knelt at her feet, settling Emma into her car seat. Buffy copied him, balancing on the balls of her feet beside him. She glanced repeatedly at him, all the while butterflies took flight within her belly.

"I know you did." He could hear the blush in every syllable of her words. "Thank you." She whispered, shyly.

If she had looked up at that moment, Buffy would have seen that his eyes were brimming with love and admiration for her. Only for her. He nodded, wordlessly taking her hand. "It was worth it."


He was supposed to be strong, stoic, and deadly. Which basically meant standing behind Travers with his hands behind his back, glaring at the stuttering Timmons.

"I don't know how many there were. But they got past the gate somehow and took out Walter." Timmons' head whipped to his right, daring Walter to contradict him. "Then they made their way upstairs. We fought them, but they were able to overtake us. I think that nurse was working with them. She's been talking to herself and…" He stopped his rambling as Giles shifted on the balls of his feet.

"Look…" he shouted, obviously terrified Shackleford was going to kill him. "We tried everything. They were too strong."

Quentin's brow rose, but he continued to stare silently at the four trussed-up men. When he spoke, there was some amusement to his tone. "Really, Mr. Timmons? If you'd done everything, we would have been contacted last night when capturing Catherine's abductors might have been possible." Three steps took him to Timmons, his hand striking like a cobra. Blood trickled from Timmons' mouth where Travers' signet ring hit him.

"Do not lie to me, Mr. Timmons. It only serves to lower my opinion of you, and I'm sure you know Mr. Shackleford's policy on fabrication."

Timmons' eyes went wide, imagining the blade Shackleford carried slicing across his throat. He had to convince them he was not to blame or these might be the last moments of his life. "I…I didn't see them as a threat. She…she was a tiny slip of a girl. You said she was a blonde. We…" he looked frantically at his cohorts, who visibly shrank away from him, "outnumbered them." He offered pitifully.

"Them? Who else was with her?" Travers demanded. His hand struck like that of a cobra, and grabbed a handful of hair. He yanked Timmons' head back, forcing the man to look him in the eye. "He…he…dark haired…strong. I think it was the father."

"Spike?" Travers' query wasn't directed towards anyone. He released Timmons' head. "Chap about thirty years old, slight build?"

Timmons nodded vigorously, happy to provide information that wouldn't get him killed. Travers was deep in thought as he motioned Giles over. Timmons flinched as Giles walked past him, fearful still that his life hung in the balance.

"The operation seems to have been a success. How very unfortunate." Travers shook his head in disgust. "Mr. Mears was obviously not as smart as he thought. Unfortunately, this news has changed things. We will have to contend with two supernaturally powered creatures, instead of one. Their assistance will be needed. Untie them."

"Blasted."

Giles watched him go, somewhat amused by Buffy and Spike's continued vexation of Travers. Lord knew they enjoyed twisting him about. He was glad to shift their attention to someone much more deserving.

"Please, Shackleford! We did our best! C'mon, how long have we worked together!" Timmons screamed, girlishly Giles thought, as he advanced on them, knife in hand.

"We need you." Giles said simply, amused by the fear Shackleford invoked in these men. He wasn't gentle as he cut the bonds restraining them. He catalogued their injuries, marveling at the restraint Spike and Buffy showed towards the men standing between them and Bitty.

Leaning casually against the wall, he slapped the blade of the knife against his palm. "I don't have to tell you how disappointed I am. You've made me look bad in front of my employer. Another mistake and you'll join Dewey on the unemployment line…forever."

He stared for a few more seconds, before turning and exiting the room. Travers was at the far end of the hallway, shouting into his phone. He was distracted, not paying any attention to him or the other men. Giles could easily slip away. All he needed was to contact Elsmeth and viola within an hour, he'd be back at the coven. So simple. So easy, and yet, he hesitated, wanting to stay close to Travers to ensure Buffy and Spike's continued safety. If he wasn't going to run, he needed to do something. The phone lines hadn't been cut. That much he knew from Travers continued calls to the house. There was a phone downstairs. He could contact Elsmeth and find out what if anything they'd learned about the spell and Buffy and Spike's location.

Not waiting another moment, lest Travers end his call and see him, he took off down the stairs. He was taking a big risk. Travers or Timmons could catch him, exposing his ruse, but it was a gamble he was willing to take.

He stared stupidly at the numbers pad, trying to remember the city code for London. Cursing his brain fart as Xander would call it, he quickly punched in the numbers to his "second" home.

"It's a blessed day at Devon Coven, how may I direct your call?"

"Elsmeth, please. Tell her it's Rupert Giles." He held his hand over the receiver, listening to the activity on the second floor. Wonderful thing about older homes was the built-in motion detectors of its creaking floor boards. It seemed like ages while he waited, while it was only a matter of minutes.

"Rupert, we've been worried." Luckily for Giles, Miranda had the foresight to mentally call out to her. They were just pulling into the garage as she did. "Are you alright?" She asked aloud for Willow's benefit.

"Yes, but I don't have much time. We're on our way back to London, where in all likelihood, Travers will use the blood ritual to teleport Bitty back to him. Are you prepared to block it?"

Giles heard Elsmeth tell Willow he was on the phone. "Don't need to. Buffy and Spike are someplace safe, where there's a nice barrier that keeps magic, Travers-style magic out."

There was nothing he wanted to believe more, but he had to be sure. "Are you certain?"

Elsmeth chuckled. "This makes the second time you've doubted my word, Rupert. I'm going to start taking offense to it. But yes," she told him, sensing perhaps now wasn't the time to tease her rather stodgy friend, "we are as certain as we can be without invoking the spell ourselves. That's as much of a guarantee as I can give you, old friend."

"And I appreciate that, Elsmeth. I appreciate everything you've done for Buffy and myself."

"Anytime, Rupert. Anytime."

Giles rang off, promising Elsmeth he would call again as soon as it was safe to do so. Left unspoken, though, but definitely implied was the fact that this could be there last call, and if she didn't hear from him to assume the worst. What he didn't know and wouldn't realize until much later, was that the worst had already occurred.

"Why hello, Rupert."