Chapter Seventeen – Epilogue

It was lunchtime the next day before Dawn returned. She launched herself into the kitchen to tell Buffy about her night and stopped dead as she saw Spike smiling at her. "Hello, Niblet," he said. Dawn was stunned for a second or two before she ran at Spike, almost knocking him down. She threw her arms around his neck and squeezed, tight. After a few seconds, she backed away, puzzled. "Y..you're warm!" she whispered. "Well, yeah, when your sister decided to bring me back, she decided to change me a bit. Typical, isn't it. They say they love you and then try to change you," Spike joked.

Buffy playfully hit him on the arm, "You know I wasn't trying to make you human, it's just – that's how that ritual works. It's not for bringing back vampires, it's for bringing back humans."

After that, a virtual party ensued, as Dawn insisted in calling the rest of the gang, and before long, they were all there. Some brought food, some drinks, and Buffy put on her slushy CDs. Buffy and Spike spent most of the party dancing together, the music perfect for the way they felt. She could see the concern on Xander's face, but she hoped it wouldn't be long before he accepted that she and Spike were together now. Giles looked thoughtful, but decided that now was not the time for his news. Tomorrow would be soon enough.

Early next day, Buffy decided the time had come for her first training session. Spike insisted on coming along. "I know I won't be able to keep up with you any more," he reasoned.

Buffy threw him a wicked look and whispered in his ear, "No complaints so far!"

Spike blushed as he saw Dawn had caught at least the tone of the exchange. He continued, "but if you think I'm going to let you patrol alone, they you'd better think again."

Buffy sighed, she wasn't ready for an argument with Spike, but she'd had this problem with Riley after he was back to normal. There were times when patrolling with someone else was simply a liability. She let it go, for now.

When they got to the Magic Box, they found Anya there alone. "Giles had some things he had to do, but asked me to tell you he wants to see you before you go," she greeted them, obviously considering message passing not one of her duties.

Buffy and Spike headed to the back of the shop, changed and started with the simplest of Buffy's warm up exercises. As they gradually increased the pace of the session, Buffy was surprised to find Spike keeping up with her. She knew Xander normally faded right about now when he trained with her, and Spike had hardly broken sweat. "Let's try something," she said, launching an attack in his direction. She deliberately held back a lot, but knew none of her friends could have coped with what she was doing. Spike easily side-stepped the attack and launched one of his own. She did a back flip to evade that and tried harder to get past his guard. Soon, neither of them was holding back and although some shots landed, it was obvious they were quite evenly matched. Each lost in their own thoughts they towelled themselves off and changed. When they emerged, Giles had returned. Quickly, they explained what they had discovered. "It could be that business with the Halkrew demon," Giles mused. "I've always considered the Slayer power to be simply an excess of life energy. If you," he looked at Spike, "absorbed all that spare life energy, you could well now be imbued with exactly the same abilities as Buffy. We'll have to see what happens. But, that wasn't what I wanted to speak to you about. I've been talking to the Council and hearing some very interesting things. Firstly, Lydia Watkins has resigned from the Council – not because of her dealings with you Spike, because I've only discussed your version of that matter with a select few in the Council. It seems that when you were staked, all that remained was your chip. She retained that, and intelligence suggests she's looking to implant it in another vampire. We're not sure of her ultimate plans, but suspect that since she failed with you, she's planning to try again."

"And here, I thought she was only after my body," smiled Spike, winking at Buffy who gave him a not-so-playful slap on the arm.

"I was going to suggest that I go over to investigate, but in light of your new discovery, perhaps you, Spike would like to come along?" Giles looked questioningly at Spike.

"Whatever happened to those demons I was after?" Spike changed the subject.

"Oh, they sent in a crack team and finished them – but they lost two operatives and the Northern line was out of business for a week!" Giles replied. "How would you feel about another trip to London?" Giles pressed.

"I'll let you know," answered Spike as he propelled Buffy to the door.

After they got home and had showered, Spike asked Buffy, "How would you feel about a trip to London? We could clear up that unfinished business and maybe have a holiday too. Dawn could come...."

Buffy smiled as she came and put her arms around him. "I thought you were going to suggest going alone and I was bracing myself for a fight," she replied, kissing him. "A holiday sounds great."

Giles was perturbed when Spike insisted he, Buffy and Dawn didn't need a hotel for the stay, but made reservations for the flights anyway. Giles had a friend he could stay with while his own flat was opened up again. Dawn was ecstatic when she heard the news. She'd never been abroad, and couldn't believe her luck.

When they arrived at Heathrow, they got in a black cab and Spike gave his Kensington address. He'd managed to keep his financial situation under wraps so far, but he was hoping it would all be a pleasant surprise. He'd sent instructions ahead to Mrs. Atkins, warning her of his changed requirements and the fact that he would not be alone. Giles came up with them to flat 16. Buffy and Dawn walked around with their mouths open; the whole place was so beautiful. Giles took Spike aside while the girls explored and rather irritatedly asked, "Do you have to involve Buffy in your illegal activities? This," he pointed around him, "can hardly be legally acquired."

Spike looked hurt, as he'd almost become used to being trusted by Giles. "Actually," he answered, "it's pretty nearly legal. It's family money. My brother found a way for me to inherit it which, while not exactly legal, certainly didn't hurt anyone else – except maybe the Government."

Giles started to say something, thought better of it then said, "Sorry, Spike, not trusting you seems to be a bit of a habit."

Much later, when Giles had left and Dawn was sleeping in her room, Spike explained his situation. Buffy seemed a little surprised that he had all this money available and had chosen to live in a crypt. "It's different when you're a vampire, Spike explained. "You need blood, you like a few extras, but really it's a very simple way of life. It was only when I got my soul back that I lost the taste for helping myself to what I wanted – that's why I came here when I left Sunnydale. But things have changed, I'm human now, and I'm hoping to make some other changes. I plan to have some extra responsibilities from now on, and maybe all this," he pointed around him, "will help. Buffy, I've already promised that I won't leave you again. Now, where I come from, or maybe that should be 'when' I come from, that would be considered a statement of intent." He looked at the ceiling, took a breath and said, "William always had trouble getting to the point! What I'm making a mess of asking is, will you marry me? Not right away, if you want to wait, I mean you're still young and if you want to wait I'll understand and..." Buffy silenced him with a kiss. "Of course I'll marry you, William," she replied.

They spent the first week in London recovering from jet lag and exploring the sights. They visited Buckingham Palace, The Tower of London, the Houses of Parliament and a couple of the bigger museums. They went shopping in Oxford Street and bought gifts for the rest of the gang. Dawn was left with Giles one day while Spike and Buffy visited Hatton Garden to buy an engagement ring. Giles looked embarrassed but pleased when Buffy told him she'd like him to stand in for her father and give her away. They planned a Christmas wedding.

When they met to discuss the Lydia Watkins situation, Giles had some disturbing news. Lydia was dead. Her death had been reported as an accident, but the cause was clearly not natural. Even more disturbing was the fact that the chip was missing. Efforts by the Council to get access to Initiative files on the chip had met with denial that the Initiative had ever existed. For now, they had hit a dead end. Giles made the difficult decision to remain in London when the others returned to Sunnydale. With Lydia gone, they needed another experienced Watcher in London and the Council agreed that with effectively two Slayers in Sunnydale, they could manage without a Watcher for a while.

The day before they were due to fly back, Buffy and Dawn were busy trying to cram all their purchases into the suitcases they'd brought. Spike took the opportunity to speak to Giles privately. "What are you going to do about the Magic Box while you're away?" he asked.

"I don't know," Giles replied. "I mean, Anya does a lot there, but she can't manage on her own."

"How would you feel about a business partner?" Spike asked.

"A business p... What do you have in mind?" Giles questioned.

"Look, Giles, I may have money, but I'll go crazy back there once school starts again. I'm going to need something to do – and I thought, maybe you'd let me buy half the business and keep it going 'til you get back?"

Giles considered for a moment then said, "Forty-nine percent of the independent valuation – I retain control." Spike smiled and offered his hand to seal the bargain. Giles had learned a lot since he gave up being a librarian.

Later that evening after Giles had left, Buffy sat in the lounge admiring her ring. Dawn was working her way through Spike's music collection and Spike was sitting at a writing desk composing a letter to his solicitor. He was trying to arrange to have his name changed by deed poll back to the original – William Stevas. His newly bleached hair glinted in the light from a table lamp. Buffy thought about Spike and his dual personality. The closer they came to going home, the more of Spike she saw. Not that she was complaining, it was Spike she fell in love with in the first place. Spike had all the confidence, but he shared William's strength of character. William had all the gentleness and she loved that too. In fact, she especially loved the way that gentleness seemed to only be for her and Dawn and was at least partially hidden from the rest of the world.

She was sad that Giles was staying in London, but he had promised to come over for the wedding, and she found that she was really perfectly content.