Buffy and Spike sat huddled together, about five metres away from the main group of Potentials and Watchers. They sat beside the rest of the Scooby Gang not at the hospital at the moment. No one was talking. At that moment, Buffy was aware that the group, especially Willow, were giving her worried looks, perhaps worried that her blank look meant that she was slipping back into catatonia. She wasn't though. Her mind was just busy planning, trying to work out their next step, where to get weapons from… because no matter how bad this was, there would have to a next step.
They had to realise that, didn't they? All of them? They could retreat but of course the First and its minions would only follow them wherever they went. This latest attack changed nothing. Aside from the obvious detail of burying sixty four bodies…
That was a tricky one, right there. It wouldn't be right to bury them together after all – it's why the idea put forward by one of the Watchers of getting Michael to say words over the destroyed building and letting it serve as a mass grave had been so completely vetoed by everyone else – even Travers had looked disgusted at that idea. "Allow the Vampire to take photos of the faces if you must but they will all be brought to the surface and shown the proper courtesy of a burial."
That had been the end of that discussion, the idiot Watcher walking away with her tail between her legs.
As Buffy turned her head to look over at the man, she couldn't help but notice the way that Willow sagged in relief when the Slayer moved, losing the slightly spaced-out look she had had on her face. She sighed softly and turned to look properly at Willow, giving her a reassuring smile. "I'm still here, don't worry."
Travers noticed the Slayer looking his way, said a few words to her and moved over to inform her of what they had discovered. It was not pleasant.
Buffy stood out of Spike's embrace as she noted Travers walking over to them. The rest of the gang followed suit. The Slayer's gaze took in the list in the man's hands and frowned, noting that his hands shook quite noticeably. "What did you find out?" Her voice when she spoke was surprisingly compassionate but she already knew what he would tell her. Not who was to blame specifically but certainly that it was a Watcher.
Quentin looked down at the paper in his hands then straightened resolutely, making eye contact with the blonde woman. "We… have done a full roll call of those both present here and at the hospital as well as the recently deceased…" He sighed heavily. "All of the Potentials are accounted for – plus you and your friends, obviously. In fact, the only one missing is one of my Watchers. I trained him personally, Miss Summers. Alexander Cameron… He has links to the British Royal family you know." It wasn't said in a bragging fashion – at the time that he had come to the group, it had been quite the coup but this… if he was the one, it was unthinkable. "A cousin of his even has his eye on being Prime Minister…"
Buffy understood why he shook – for Travers to accept that someone so high-born could betray him; betray the Council and all they stood for – not to mention the girls he was meant to train; all of humanity even…. That was unthinkable.
The Slayer sighed, reached out and patted his arm. "It may not have been him, Quentin. We can't know for sure. Not yet. He might be elsewhere, a hostage or something." Even to her the words sounded hollow and false but Quentin brightened a little. "Yes. You're probably right." He nodded slowly and wandered off, still looking shell-shocked.
Spike frowned and wrapped an arm around Buffy's shoulders. "You really think he could be innocent, love?"
Buffy sighed and sagged. "No. I don't. Who else could it have been? It's just… Travers looks like a shell of his usual self. I couldn't quite bring myself to deliver the final blow."
The Vampire nodded in understanding. "Yeah, fair point." He sighed and pulled her into a hug for a moment. "So what now?" His words were a little muffled as he spoke through her hair a little but his lover heard anyway. "Now… I need you to steal a really big bus."
Spike blinked and pulled back a little, holding his girlfriend at arm's length to look at her properly. "You wanna run that past me again, love? Think I missed something."
Buffy shook her head. "You didn't. I need you to steal a bus. We need to get the rest of the Watchers, Quentin and some of the younger Potentials out of here," she paused, "and you." She hated the thought of being away from him, hated it completely but this made sense to her.
"Now just wait a min-!"
The Slayer interrupted him. "Now don't get angry, Spike. I'm not sending you away to get rid of you and I'm not saying goodbye – I fully intend to meet you soon enough. I just… I need you to go with them and keep them safe. You're the only one I trust that I can spare."
Her lover shook his head. "I don't like it. I've never run away from a fight in my life, Buffy. Why make me start now?"
"Oh my love… I'm not asking you to run away." She pulled her hand from around his waist and moved it up to cup his left cheek. "I'm asking you to protect those who can't protect themselves, that's all. Just until you get them to Angel in L.A. at least. If you think they're okay, you come straight back here."
The vampire sighed but knew when he was defeated. "Fine. I don't like leaving you but it does make sense so I'll go with it for now at least. But as soon as I've left them with the tosser, I'm coming straight back!"
The Slayer shook her head and smiled at the insult aimed at Angel. "I would expect nothing else. I mean, in an ideal world, you'd stay there but that wouldn't be like you at all. And who knows… maybe having all those people there will force Angel out of some of his gloom?"
Spike snorted and pulled her in close to his body again. "Not bloody likely pet."
"I'll miss you when you're gone." He rolled his eyes at the comment. "Well of course you would – who wouldn't miss having me around, hmm? Sex god and all that I am." He grinned as Buffy laughed. "Valid point, Spike."
The next morning, after helping through the night to dig sixty four graves and getting no sleep, all Buffy wanted to do was find somewhere warm, dry and safe to sleep for a good eight hours but of course that wasn't an option. She sighed and moved over to Quentin Travers who was currently sitting in the bus that Spike had brought back some time in the early morning.
She glared at the other Watchers surrounding him until they quickly left the vehicle. She sat down in the seat in front of him, turned to face him and sighed. "I want you and the other Watchers to pack up whatever of your stuff is left and leave."
Travers eyes boggled at that. "I beg your pardon? You can't expect us to do that! Who will keep us safe? What if the First gets us and destroys all the information that we have recaptured over the past months?"
Buffy shook her head. "I'm not talking about going on your own. I'm talking about going with the newest Potentials and Spike. You'll need to get the word out to any more of the Potentials to not come here. In the next week or so, I'm expecting the First to make its move and they're not ready for that level of intensity. They will be able to keep you safe though. Especially while Spike is there – he's good at rallying them… and just in case you have any silly ideas about getting rid of him, forget it. Because I will hunt you down for daring to do something stupid."
Travers looked a little startled at that but got over it quickly enough. "Spike has proved useful, Miss Summers. I see no reason to eliminate anyone who can help us when we have already lost so many – and at the hands of someone I trusted. I will bow to your judgement in this manner."
After a moment of silence between them, Travers spoke up. "So where do you suggest we go?"
Buffy shrugged. "Temporarily at least to L.A. Angel is there as I'm sure you are well aware – plus his group. They can keep you safer than Spike and the Potentials alone. Plus, they can help to train the Potentials. Long term though, are you really telling me that the Council doesn't have emergency premises anywhere else in the world?" That seemed very unlikely.
After a moment's hesitation, Travers volunteered information. "We have… a place in Cleveland…"
Buffy snorted, finding surprising amusement in that information. "Is it on top of the other Hellmouth?"
The man shook his head. "No. It's near it though – purely by chance. It was land left to the Council years ago by a grateful family – one of our Watchers gave their life to save their daughter."
Buffy let herself ponder on the unfairness of that for a moment – she and many other Slayers risked their lives – and gave them too, to save others, yet rarely got so much as a 'thank you'; a Watcher does it once and gets lands enough to set up emergency Council premises. Lovely.
Still, no point being bitter – each can only play the hand they're dealt, after all. Or so Principal Flutie had mentioned to her briefly… before reading through her report from her last school and changing his mind. Still, the sentiment still held.
"Right. Good. Then you all need to pack up and head to L.A. for now. Take the newer Potentials who're here plus any that show up between now and when you leave, send word for the others to come to you rather than here to Sunnydale, take Spike to help out. We'll meet you there soon enough."
Travers couldn't quite believe it. It was almost impossible to believe that they could prevail in any way but then, this was Buffy Summers – he had ruled her out more times than enough yet she had always come up fighting. He sighed and reached forward and patted her shoulder. "If anyone can pull it off, I feel sure it will be you, Buffy."