Chapter 40: Enemy Mine
***For notes, warnings and disclaimers see chapter 1***
Chapter 40: Enemy Mine
Shortly after I promised them that I had a plan to deal with the Council the girls went up to their rooms, even though it was what could normally be described as 'early' considering their metabolisms... of course, tonight that was not really all that relevant. They are exhausted, especially Buffy who is both hurt and weakened by the drugs in her system. Even though her wounds have been patched up her healing is still off-line and she is having a hard time coping with that. She is not used to the pain not going away and even though she was trying to put up a brave face I could easily see that doing so was taking its toll on her... and after tonight's events it was apparent that Faith wasn't about to let her sister out of her sight any time soon.
The thing is that with the girls safely tucked away for the night the time has come for me to keep my word and do *SOMETHING* about this. The time has come for me to do the only thing I can do to put an end to this once and for all, to do the only thing I can do to ensure not only my slayers' safety but also that of the girls that will someday follow them. I know what I have to do, I don't doubt that this is the right course of action for me to take under the circumstances and I know this is the moment I had been waiting for, the best chance I'm ever going to get to do what has to be done, but that doesn't mean it is an easy thing for me to do.
I'm looking at the phone I hold in my hand, a device that is so deceptively ordinary that at times it is hard to believe how much power it can actually wield... how much a single phone call can change and that's what makes this so hard. I am well aware that the call I'm about to make is necessary but that does nothing to change the fact that at times this whole thing still feels like a betrayal.
I am aware that the Council is too far gone and there's just one way left for me to solve this but I still can't help but wish that there were another way for me to end this... unfortunately I know there isn't, not if I want to keep my girls and the ones who will follow after them safe. In that regard Buffy was right when she said that time is on Travers's side and unless we do something, sooner or later the line will revert back to him or others like him. Even if Buffy and Faith were to live to be one hundred years old they are mortal and that means that in time the line would eventually go back to the Council. I'm not willing to allow that to happen. Yes, if we do nothing they'll eventually regain control but that doesn't mean all is lost, it just means that we have to do something to avoid that particular outcome.
I've known this moment would come for some time now, I've been dreading it ever since shortly after Buffy's return. I think that was the turning point for me, the moment in which I realized that my priority was to protect and guide the girl, not the slayer. After that things almost accidentally fell into place, from Faith's arrival into our lives to Ethan's little stunt with the tainted chocolate and my unexpected relationship with Joyce... and from then on a plan began to take form in my mind, a plan I knew had to be postponed until *AFTER* Buffy's Cruciamentum. It was a plan that couldn't really be set in motion until tonight.
The only problem is that even though so far things have unfolded according to plan, that doesn't necessarily mean that we are out of the woods just yet, it doesn't mean that the danger is past or that we will prevail. I am well aware of that fact. The Council is a dangerous enemy and even though from now on the main battle will hopefully be fought by others --others who will be far from here-- that doesn't really mean that we are safe. The fact that the battle will be fought by others in other places doesn't mean we won't be hit by the shock waves and it certainly doesn't mean that we are safe or that we won't be pulled into the resulting chaos.
I know that by having severed our ties with the Council we have made our position as safe as it can be, that with a little luck they won't even connect us to what's coming until it's too late, but at the same time I know better than to rely on luck when there are lives on the line... and especially when those lives are the lives of my daughters.
The thing is that even if Buffy is still trying to come to terms with why I did what I did, even if she is still struggling to understand why I was willing to do what the Council demanded of me, to risk her life, there was a method to my madness, a purpose that made it all worthwhile. I did it to buy us some cover and it worked.
Proving once again that he is a bureaucrat and not a strategist at heart, that he would be completely lost if he were ever to find himself anywhere near the battlefield, Travers left convinced that he had seen everything there was to see in Sunnydale. He left believing that even though for the time being he has lost control of the slayer line, it is only a matter of time before that control is handed back to him. He left convinced that he had fooled us... just as I had hoped he would.
As usual he failed to account for all the variables. He is still convinced that he is up against a renegade watcher and a group of children who don't know what they've gotten themselves into... and he is convinced that just because we are tied to the hellmouth our hands are tied. It was a sense of security I was hoping I'd be able to count on, even though never in my wildest dreams did I expect him to play so easily into my hand.
Yes, my place is here on the hellmouth as is that of my slayers, there's nothing we can do about that. Yes, it is true that by firing me Travers has effectively stripped me of whatever power I might have had once the next slayer is called, but he was so busy looking forward that he never thought to look back. Right now the only thing that's causing me to hesitate, even if it is only for a moment, is the fact that, in spite of everything that's happened, I still find myself reluctant to betray the institution I have sworn to protect.
Even after everything that has happened at times I still find myself having a hard time trying to separate the reality of the Council from the ideal, the corrupt institution from the fight it is supposed to represent, a fight I am still deeply committed to. I know I am in no position to bring down the Council myself, to rid it of men like Travers and to turn it back into what it should always have been but at least I know someone who might be able to get things moving in the right direction... and with a little luck in doing so I may also rid my slayers of yet another threat against their survival.
I am aware of just how ironic this is, how amusing he'll find the thought of me turning to him for help to ensure my slayers' safety after everything that he's done but in spite of the difficulties I know I can count on him... I know he is the *ONLY* person I can truly trust to do what has to be done. Even if his actions have at times been misguided, even if he's jeopardized my girls more than once, I am well aware of the fact that he doesn't really hate them, he never has. If anything he pities them for their fate, though he's certainly not above using them to get to me.
I remember back in the old days when he was the golden boy of the watcher academy. Even then it was all a game to him and in the end that's what led to his downfall... of course, for him this is still a game and I do know better than to expect him to change, but in spite of that I know that if he has a chance to reclaim what was once taken from him he will go for it. He may seem like an unlikely hero but the fact remains that very few people can ever hope to understand our fight as well as he does. He knows not only of black and white but also of shades of gray and that is what we need if we intend to prevail in a war that is far more complex than most people would like to believe.
The point is that he understands humans and demons... and he hates Travers and everything he represents. I am well aware that it is more than a little ironic for me to think of him as the ace up my sleeve but that is what he has become... even if he doesn't know it just yet. The truth is that in spite of the problems he's caused me over the years, I still owe him a debt I know I can never repay. For the first time in many years I am truly happy with my life and the fact remains that it is a life I never would have had if it hadn't been for him... and now the time has come for me to help him reclaim the destiny that was stolen from him all those years ago. It is only fair.
Yes, the time has come for me to set things right, to mend some fences, to right a wrong and to deal with the power-mongers who have taken over the Council with a single phone call. I know his battle will be as hard as the one we face every night here on the hellmouth but I also know that if anyone can handle it he can.
Gathering my courage I take a deep breath, close my eyes for a moment and then I dial Ethan's number.
Okay guys that's it, at least for now. I want to thank you for your encouragement and support as I wrote this thing, I have to admit that this was not an easy story. I know the end may seem a bit abrupt, for anyone who is wondering where that came from, I'd suggest you go back to Chapter 7. This situation was going to be fully explained in the first of two sequels, unfortunately right now both of those sequels are looking more than a little iffy.
The first sequel got scrapped, at least temporarily, because it had too little to do with the slayers themselves and I felt there was not enough material in the show to fully develop a coherent portrait of Ethan. He was shaping up to be a major player in that particular story and that turned into a major obstacle. In addition to that there was the fact that while the plot had some twists I felt were interesting, the outcome itself was too predictable.
The second sequel was supposed to take place during the fifth season of the show and it was going to deal with Joyce's illness and death. My main problem with that one was that I kept getting annoyed with the whole Glory storyline and pushing it aside... which led to something that was reading too much like a soap for my liking because the fact that Buffy and Faith were slayers was reduced to being little more than a footnote. Another problem was that, unlike what happened with this story, I couldn't really avoid the whole issue of Buffy's love life and truth be told I'm not too fond of the idea of having to deal with rabid shippers. I know that's a big part of this particular fandom but I admit it is one that bothers me sometimes and that was a serious deterrent as far as I was concerned when the time came for me to sit down and write part three of this thing.
I haven't entirely ruled out the possibility of writing either one of those stories but the truth is that right now they don't really seem particularly likely, at least not in the short term (if there is an interest I may reconsider though, I do have them planned after all).
A more viable scenario to keep this universe alive would be a series of parallel scenes dealing with the situation between Buffy and the Scoobies. I've had some people complaining that those scenes were missing, but this was not done because I think the Scoobies don't matter but rather because the friendship between Buffy and the Scoobies was not all that relevant to this particular plotline. In addition to that there was the fact that, seeing how the story was told primarily from Giles's POV, there was no real way for me to incorporate that aspect of things without breaking the rhythm. Simply put, those stories had to be told from the POV of Buffy, Xander and Willow. If I do decide to write these side stories, I have to admit that I don't have a clear time frame for when they'd be posted. Unlike what was the case with the two major sequels these short scenes have never been fully planned... of course, since those stories would be mostly a series of standalone ficlets the absence of a defined project doesn't really mean that much.
For the time being I am probably going to take a short break from this universe --in fact my next project is to go torture the characters of a different fandom altogether-- but that doesn't mean I won't be back eventually... and as I said, short fics remain a strong possibility.