So I was listening to an old Interpol song the other day, Pioneer to The Falls, and I realised the entire tone and lyrics fit this story incredibly well. Like freakishly well. It's definitely my anthem for this fantastic alternate universe and I would recommend anyone reading this to take 6 minutes to listen to this song. The last minute of the song is purely instrumental, but it has that final fight with Glory and Doc written all over.
Show me the dirt pile
And I will pray
That the soul can take
Girl I know you try
You fly straight into my heart
But here comes The Falls
WOW. That's eerily accurate... especially since I've never heard it before. I'm listening to it now, and haven't even made it through the whole song yet. I was sold on the fit just from the bits you quoted, but this sold me: "I felt you so much today. And know you tried, you tried." Yeah. WOW.
Loving the story!!!!
Now that's dirty pool TPTB's!!!! You took Spike and left the Mate's Bond in place??!!!??
Dirty pool? Or a hint that plans are still in place? And what exactly IS the PTB's plan? Hmm...
I love how supportive Angel and Giles are not being part of the initial group. I hate how things are turning out for Willow. I geniuinely like her although I agree she has no patience and keeps wanting to speed thing along. But the fact that I can see the two of them, Tara and Willow, distancing themselves and that Willow has basically lost everyone she cares about except Xander. I don't think she was given a fair chance not that I blame them either its hard to forget what one has experience even when technically it hasn't happened in this time.
I am happy for Faith she deserves this second chance and I hope it works out for her.
And I can't wait for England, I'm glad Giles will be going with them.
Again, I feel bad for Willow. Here comes William Folly (love the name).
I feel sorry for Willow, too. She wasn't given a fair chance by Buffy. She wasn't given much of a chance at all. But I don't think it was pure bitterness on Buffy's part. I think it was mostly that Buffy had grown away from Willow over years, and didn't feel a NEED for that specific friendship, so she didn't really try, knowing how much work it would require. Honestly, in Buffy's place, I'd have done the same thing, as mean as it sounds.
Wouldn't you? Let's see: It's a friendship you've outgrown in some ways (made worse and much more obvious by the time travel bringing you to a less mature Willow). She's the one person you can't spill your guts with, no matter what (again, because of the time travel stuff). Her initial reaction to your new boyfriend is to try to magic away the "problem," not talk to you about him. She doesn't know you. She CAN'T know you. And she's a little dangerous to keep too close. Saving that friendship really doesn't sound like it would be worth the effort.
Of course, it never looked that way to Willow. To her, it just looked like a cold shut down that happened right around the time Spike started getting close to Buffy. No girl talks. No explanations. Just her relationship with her best friend landing on an off-switch she didn't know was there. And that sucks for Willow. She didn't deserve that . Even now, after the time travel explanations, she's only staying at Buffy's house because her girlfriend lives there, and she knows it. She's the outsider in her best friend's house, the only non-Time Scooby, the only one not grieving, the only one Buffy isn't confiding in.
"The little weasel was right about one thing: We've been a terrible influence on you." made me laugh.
Also just when I was thinking Angel was acting a smidge out of character, the next line had him pouting about real estate.
Not at all sure what is going to happen next, and very excited to see how Spike comes back.
Also continuing to worry about Willow - sounds like she's going to be left behind, and that magic school hasn't cured her lust for meddling (nor have the letters!) as much as we would hope.
Angel's being really great. Super supportive. And honestly? That makes him difficult to keep in character. The occasional grumbles that show his irritation at Spike for who he is -or display a little jealousy- keep him anchored. His expressions of his wish to go to Buffy, -to keep bringing it up, but still not be pushy or insistent about it- are the core of the balancing act between what I need from the character and who we know him to be. Slowly, years and years after it should have happened, and triggered by a terrible situation, things are finally changing between Angel and Buffy. It took her demon choosing someone else (and revealing themselves as travelers) to get Angel in a different frame of mind, and her losing him to make him act on it.
We haven't seen post-semester in Devon Willow do any magic in a sneaky way, or go off half-cocked with any spells, following her impulses. Very, very good progress. But those witches didn't change her personality. They taught her restraint, but the impulse to help, and use her own perspective as the primary (or only) guidepost for what "help" means, is unchanged. To her mind, if she follows the rules (not altering anyone's mind behind their back, for example), she can still use her magic to fix what she sees as broken.
But right now, the bigger issue with Willow isn't her magic, or the loss of her close connection to Buffy. It's the gigantic gap between Willow and Tara. She's been getting hints of it for a while (the closeness and subtle 'team' vibe of Tara's interactions with her housemates in Right There, the phone call in Solid Bonds), but now she knows how big the gap truly is, complete with time travel stuff. Tara is very different, and the relationship is struggling because of it. Poor Willow.
I can't tell you how I don't miss the Willow and Tara relationship. Tara, Dawn, Spike and Buffy made a great little family and right now that family is broken. They need each other and it doesn't seem like Willow has learned anything from her time at the coven with her first response was the try and come up with a way to 'fix' Buffy. I hope that the team can find out how to get Spike back. I don't like that the PTB are playing with them in this way. I hate that Buffy is going through this but maybe knowing that the bond is still there will help with their plan. I hope that the team really gives Faith the support that she is going to need now that they broke her out of jail.
The best thing about the "Slayer Scoobies" is their dedication to the mission. They will work to keep Sunnydale (and the world) safe, because they're good people who want to. Adjusting to a new slayer taking point may not be easy, but they aren't being given much of a choice. There's no denying that Buffy is right: Sunnydale needs a slayer, and that slayer needs Scoobies. Buffy's quitting. That leaves one slayer. If they don't support that slayer, things could get very bad in Hellmouth City. And they would have themselves to blame, for walking away from the mission they've dedicated years of their lives to.
Buffy's choice to abandon the mission makes sense, given her losses, but it also puts the Slayer Scoobies in a bind: accept and help Faith based on Buffy's word that she's a good slayer... or risk a thousand possible bad outcomes. Xander and Willow really like being heroes, being a part of the team that guards the Hellmouth. We know this from canon. They aren't just on the mission for Buffy, but for the mission itself, and a little for themselves (not saying that's a bad thing). If nothing else was achieved from the mutiny, it was that Buffy learned that about her friends, and learned a little about Faith, too.
Oh, dear. Willow still doesn't get it, and still doesn't understand that she can't fix everything with magic. Something tells me that she and Tara aren't going to betogether much longer. Not that they really are now. I dread to think what will happen when Tara tells her she's going off to England for the summer, and she's not invited.
Aha, the game's afoot!
So Angel is Buffy's safety valve this time. Thankfully on the end of a phone rather than in a crypt, this time. Typical of him to keep suggesting he come and look after her. She doesn't need him for that!
Can't wait for developments!
Angel is a connection to Spike, in an "'Aurelian' is code for 'dysfunctional vampire family'" sort of way. He's also sort of an outsider, someone not too close, but close enough to know stuff. Nocturnal is a nice bonus. He's a good nighttime babysitter for Spike's drunken widow.
Thanks so much. I like the name Garrison and Hope by the way, nice touch. The drunk calling Angel is also pretty fun. I like that he is supportive .
I hadn't originally planned to give the demon estate management firm a name, but when I found myself needing to, that was the first thing that sprang to mind. My brain is pretty good at surprising me.
Drunk Buffy with sober Angel conversations are some of my favorite moments of this section of the story. I got them into a rhythm of mixing chit chat, supportiveness, and work talk, keeping the bleached blond ghost between them as a constant undertone, and it just flowed, rolling from serious to casual to funny as if they'd been talking to each other that way for years. Maybe all they needed to learn to talk to each other like friends was an immoveable buffer (Buffy having a chosen mate being the core of the buffer, of course).
Loved it! The suffering! The beginnings of a hint of a plan! The late night drunken failing to deal telephone calls! It's great! Can't wait for the next step!
I love the phone calls. I had no idea when I started them that they'd become my favorite scenes of this section of the story. I don't generally like Angel and Buffy as a pairing of any kind, not even for casual or work-centered conversation. Lack of chemistry, much? But something about Drunk Buffy and Sober Angel with the Spike-shaped buffer between them (and on the phone) really smoothed things out, made something click. Those phone calls were FUN to write, even the more depressing parts.
A nice flashback, we can see how comfortable they were even early on.
We could see how much the tension between Willow and her is draining Tara. It doesn't look good for a relationship. I do feel sorry for Willow, she's trying to make it better but so much has changed and Tara with it, that they are more or less strangers.
Buffy is sure that Spike will return, Tara is supportive, but tries to keep the high expectations down a bit. The dream gave Buffy some ideas about what to do and where to go. I thought the persons i it was Faith and William, but then I saw that he had dark hair, the hair doesn't have to matter though. Faith telling her that the PTB needs the twins and William telling Buffy to go to his home. Buffy plan to take Tara and Dawn with her and one more. I hope she ment Willow otherwise I think Willow will break down. I wondered if the trees in the dream would mean her or if it was overthinking.
I like the phonecall Buffy has with Angel. She has clearly told him a lot, but I can understand that he's worried. I also liked the talk with the receptionist, that felt nice. Now Faith is free too, good.
The talk between Tara and Giles was another thing I liked.
There was definitely some comfort in the relationship early on. Because of the friendship they'd built in season seven? Because of the bond having been altered when they time jumped? Because she already knew she loved him? Because they were in a safe place, and totally alone? All of the above, to varying degrees.
You're right. The gaps between Willow and Tara make them almost strangers in some ways. It's kind of sad.
Chapter 44 reveals the names of the people in the dream.
Tara's attempt to keep Buffy from putting all her (sanity) eggs in one basket is smart, kind, and gently done. But Buffy's not known for taking advice... at least not fully. Weak attempts? That's kind of her thing. (Which is part of why Lover's Walk was referenced in this chapter.)
The fourth party Buffy wanted to take along was featured in the following scene. :)
Really sweet flashback.
I don't see Tara and Willow making it. Tara seems annoyed just by Willow's presence. Did Willow really suggest a girl's night for Buffy to get over losing her husband? Really? Tara was right she didn't break up with her boyfriend her husband died! Willow is still trying to take control. Control of Tara and her summer activities and Buffy's grief. Researching spells? Unless you are going into battle why would you need spells at the ready? Well in Willow's case so she can use them. And despite Coven training I just know once she had picked out the perfect spell she would use it even without permission. To have a spell sitting there all researched, ingredients waiting? She wouldn't be able to help herself. And it was damn insensitive of Willow to suggest a day at the beach was going to make it all better. Yeah yeah I know she wasn't there didn't see the depth of their relationship. But still getting a tan is going to fix losing your husband?
I don't think that Willow realizes that she is still a Scooby. Just not Buffy's Scooby anymore. She is still necessary to the fight. But the difference is Buffy isn't anymore at least not in the guard the local hellmouth way. Buffy has had some life altering things happen to her recently. Not even counting the time travel. She has grown and changed as a person because of them. High school friendships don't often last through a persons life. And Willow isn't Buffy's best friend anymore and I don't think she likes that or is willing to stand for it. She wants everything the way it was and for her Spike being gone makes that possible. Spike was one of the walls standing in her way of BFF position. So suggesting bonding time with Buffy is a way to get that back. Coached as helping Buffy with her grief. But Willow doesn't change she doesn't grow as a person. Normally its Xander that wants things to stay the same. But he managed to grow this last year while Willow hasn't. Expecting to have Buffy snap right back to happy perky Buffy after this shows that Willow doesn't really think beyond her own wants and needs. To even suggest it shows how little she cares for Buffy and Dawn's pain. She just wants her spot back and is trying to make that happen with all her suggestions. And seriously did she think everyone was going to say YAY! Sign me up!
Good Faith is going to be there. With Buffy, Dawn and Tara out of town the newly reformed Scooby's will have time to settle in and get used to each other. Willow, Xander and Lydia will get the time to become a group with Faith. And without Buffy hanging around they can make new relationships with Faith. It'll be good for them all. Faith seemed glad Buffy survived. I guess she used the time between Christmas and now very well.
So Whistler tells them they are on the wrong track. Why don't I believe him? I'm not quite sure what Buffy thinks going to the farm will accomplish. Although I do agree that the PTB have a plan. They admitted it. One way or another both of them were going to come back after the battle with the first. The PTB need them both. So yeah Spike is coming back but Tara is right it could be years before that happens. So yeah I probably missed something that gave Buffy the idea that this would speed his return along. But that's okay I like to be surprised!
It was subtle but I liked it. Buffy telling Angel that the bond is still there. Part of me never trusts Angel. I could be totally wrong and he is actually trying to be a friend to her right now. But deep down I keep thinking he is reading a lot more into these phone calls than Buffy means. Offering to come to Sunnydale offering to go to England with her. Glad she nipped that in the bud quick. Buffy won't say it. Because saying it makes it real. Making it real means there is a chance he doesn't come back and that's not something she is willing to do.
I could just picture Giles face when Tara told him to go home! LOL But yeah I'm thinking the Summers' girl would need some help over there. The driving alone!!! I know she's driven in Sunnydale but in England they drive on the other side of the road. The steering wheel is on the right side. Badness.
I wonder how Willow will take the news that Tara is going with Buffy, Dawn and Giles to England just days after Willow gets back from there? That's going to be interesting to watch!!
I'm glad that particular flashback has been well-liked. I knew I wanted one of them set during their brief time at the safe house, but I didn't have a plan for it. So I sent Buffy down there in the middle of the night and let them start talking. I didn't realize this conversation was the core reason for Spike's smirking confidence in his conversation with Giles in Freedman's Chains until Buffy spit out the words. (This flashback is set roughly around the end of Fair Trades and the beginning of Freedman's Chains. In the latter, Spike very cleary tells Giles he knows himself to be part of the reason Buffy has just dumped Riley.)
Willow's reactions to everything post-tower have been centered on Tara. Buffy was a friend she felt she'd pretty much already lost. Willow wasn't even remotely close to Spike. They had what? Two decent post-time travel conversations? Three at most? But Tara... Tara changed. Tara became this strong, occasionally forceful, independent Time Scooby, who is super-close to Buffy, Willow's (former?) BFF. That's rocking Willow to her core. Her girlfriend is a stranger.
Meanwhile, the relationships of the old Scooby gang (and the member themselves) have matured, mostly without Willow. Xan and Anya are secretly engaged, and have been living together for months. Dawn's legal guardians are Spike and Buffy. Little Dawnie is a Scooby, even beginning combat training. Giles isn't Buffy's watcher anymore, just a friend and ally. Buffy basically customed ordered a fresh watcher from the Council, and got her, with a minimum of fuss and drama. Then Anya hired that watcher, too, to suit the needs of both Lydia and the business. Dawn and the time travelers were orphaned, losing their collective mother figure, and quietly carried on after. Buffy and Anya have occasional girls' nights wherein the conversations are definitely rated R at the lowest. Xander has a weekly guys' night at a bar, with friends he is close enough to to worry about, and mourn the losses of. And now Buffy's a widow. In short, they're all grown ups now, living grown up lives. A year ago, they were college freshman, still looking at things through a much less adult lens, living lives that were much more 'high school' in the day to day vibe.
But now? Between the time travelers themselves and all the influence they've had, it's a much more mature group and group dynamic. Willow has fallen behind. She's still thinking of teen break ups with ice cream, and fixing things with beach time and/or a silly spell that might go wrong, but that could probably be fixed with apology cookies. Her approach is jarringly inappropriate to the others, who are living in a different world. They got pulled into the travelers' war, influenced by their different attitudes, and came out different people. Willow rejected what she saw of the initial changes, and then left town for five months. She missed the accelerated maturity process the rest went through.
Faith's "Well at least it wasn't you" is one of those awesome multi-purpose lines. She's acknowledging 3 things in those few words: She's glad to not be "the one girl in all the world," she doesn't count herself as Buffy's enemy anymore, and she can tell by Buffy's appearance (expression, tired, bloodshot eyes) that SOMEONE went down in the Hellgod war.
I very nearly had Buffy hold the back of her left hand up to the glass as an explanation, to tell Faith in a single gesture who she had lost (though Faith would probably assume the late husband was Riley) and why she was quitting. The idea was that it would help motivate Faith's immediate agreement to go to Sunnydale. But I decided not to add it, because it would indirectly diminish Faith's last six months of considering a future in Sunnydale, and diminish her as a slayer.
As it stands, Faith is told Buffy is quitting, and knows full well that Sunnydale needs a slayer. So she's going. It's that simple, and both the character and the moment are much stronger for it. I'm glad I talked myself out of those edits.
Buffy's reveal that the bond is definitely still intact in her conversation with Angel confirms to the reader that the earlier suspicions were right, confirms to Angel that her new, developing mission to get Spike back isn't a drunken daydream, but a legitimate goal, and also serves to quell any lingering hope he may have had about a future her for himself.
Finding out she and Spike were chosen mates back in March was a blow, the end of all his hopes. Buffy would stay in his life, but in the sense of being claimed into the clan, nothing more. He'd be her elder by (demon) marriage, never hers for himself. Old Broodypants barely had time to settle into that reality before he got hit with an armful of crying Dawn in May. Was there some renewed hope in the background of the worries he expressed to Lorne? Probably. This IS Angel we're talking about.
But if PTB interference is keeping Spike and Buffy's bond alive, that hope has been dashed, too. He's got two choices: Bail out of Buffy's life completely and (probably) permanently, or keep taking Lorne's advice: Be a friend. Behave like a clan elder. There isn't a third option on the table. He's right back in the "holy crap, Buffy and Spike as a mated pair is pretty much inevitable" place he was thrown into in March. Only right now, she needs him involved, not silently sulking someplace, as he likely did after Joyce's funeral.
Tara's "go home" line to Giles was pretty cool, but my favorite part of that scene was her closing the books. He's changed his perspective. He sees how wrong the books are, even his own. She's asking him to take the next step, to change his perspective a little bit more, and she's doing it in a typically Tara way: quiet but firm, strong yet gentle, and with everyone's best interests motivating her. When she's telling him he's not a watcher, the other half of that sentence is left unsaid, left to be spoken in later actions. The silent portion of the line is "You're a Time Scooby." That conversation was an invitation not just to go home and a request for him to assist them in Bath. It was an invitation to prove himself true to his word: That he will help take care of Buffy's family, that he will help them put that family back together. But here's the catch: he doesn't know that part yet.
I have a feeling Buffy is barking up the right tree approximately, but somewhat skew with her ideas about the possible future kids being a big deal.
Willow 2.0 does not feel tremendously more stable to me. Good intentions are often Willow's biggest downfall. I'm now kinda wondering what would happen if she could get to be friendly with Dru and Faith, and engage in a life of crime. Trying to be openly selfish and self centered might do Willow a world of good.
The thought of Dru, Faith, and Willow on a cooperative crime spree cracks me up.
Just envision a bank robbery: They'd plan to have Dru enthrall the bank manager to get them into the vault, but she'd start singing and wandering around all the cowering bank patrons in the lobby. Faith would be yelling at her to get her butt into gear before the cops show up. Willow would jump into try to help, by opening the vault with magic and/or explosives. Something goes wrong, shrapnel from the vault door gets blown into the bank employees, who are on the floor nearby, and Dru's distraction gets even worse at the smell of all that fear-laden blood in the air. Faith and Willow start loading up cash from the vault, yelling at Dru to hurry up and help, so they can make a run for the getaway car. Sirens in the background. Dru stops licking at and sniffing the bank employees to dance to the sound. Willow says she'll try to teleport the rest of the cash. Faith runs for the car. Willow makes the money disappear, grabs Dru, and runs to the exit to throw Dru into the car with her. They take off, just before the first police cars round the corner. During the whole drive, Faith is throwing a screaming, cursing fit-- at Dru for having the attention span of a goldfish and at Willow for not thinking of teleporting the money *before* they tried a traditional bank robbery. Dru is off on her own planet, rambling about the bank teller who tasted like marshmallows. Willow keeps assuring Faith the money is waiting for them in the house they're renting under the name "Edith Rosenberg." When they get to the house, the money isn't there, but -for some unknown, magical-screw-up reason, there's a donkey standing in the living room. While Willow stares at it in shock and confusion, Faith looks at her like she wants to kill her, and Dru claps her hands exictedly. "Ooh! Will there be a pony ride?"
You really, really, shouldn't put these thoughts in my head.
Yes! Yes I should!
Ah, denial. How else would our dear Buffy react? Not that I think she's wrong that he's coming back, but drinking & not saying it out loud... How did Willow react to the news they're going back to England? Or does she not know yet? I have to say I'm quite a bit annoyed with her right now. Trying to rush Buffy's grieving process is just stupid. I'd hoped she would have matured a bit while with the coven, but it looks like magic is still her go-to cure-all.
We'll see Willow's reaction to the plans to leave.
And no, she hasn't matured as much as we may like. On the plus side, her approach to magic use is noteably more responsible.
Even though I agree with Willow getting help from the Coven and that everyone (especially Tara) is really firm with her regarding her use of magics, I can't help feeling a some sympathy how Willow was pretty much thrown off the Scooby island. Yes, Giles suffered the same fate in a way, but not as much as Willow. I'm fearing this will cause a backlash that nobody is anticipating.
As always, amazing chapter.
It definitely isn't Willow's fault that Buffy disconnected from her and triggered Willow's fall down the list of "important" Scoobies. But it is her fault that she dragged her feet to adapting as Buffy's life changed, failed to make an effort to understand (before Devon), and failed to offer to have those big girl talks... while blaming Buffy for not instigating the girl talks herself.
Neither one of them has handled the situation perfectly, even if you look at it from their very different perspectives. Maybe, sometimes, friendships just don't survive the changes in your lives, at least they don't survive in the way you expect them to.
Things are still changing. The Scoobies are splitting into two separate teams, and Willow has a place in one of them. But her old BFF and her girlfriend? They're on the other one.
Ah the grand leap through the prison window (I always did like that scene). Welcome back Faith ;)
Hah, Whistler as Buffy's least favorite person is my fave (though I gotta say that I kind of winced when Buffy sent him away without listening to whatever it was he was there to say. I mean yeah, it would have probably been some cryptic crap, but still... migh have been better to hear them anyways).
It's a bit strange to see Buffy drinking to numb the loss, but still clinging to the fact that Spike isn't GONE gone. Then again though Jack Daniels is new, the rest is right in character. One other interesting thing I noticed: Buffy hasn't told any of Spike's contacts that he's dead. I mean I can see the logic behind it if she knows he'll be back, but I'm wondering if it also has something to do with the fact that she CAN'T say it?
Oh and Tara's and Willow's relationship is starting to look more shaky by the moment. Not sure how I feel about that. On the one hand it makes me sad. On the other... I'm not all that sure how it could be saved.
Aaaanyway. I gotta say, this update AS ALWAYS was amazing.
I love that "step away from the glass" was so memorable, I didn't even have to tell you how Faith got out of prison. Those words tell you everything. I love that scene, too. But then, I have a serious love of "Faith doing bad ass things" scenes in general. She's my favorite slayer. :)
Not telling people Spike is dead: I think it's mostly about her clinging to hope, but that hope also serves as an excuse to keep not saying it... And keeping the illusion of Spike going with people like Charlie and Lucy only fuels the hope in her head. "Hey! They're talking about him like he's still around, so he will be, right?" It's a cycle of something very denial-ish. On the plus side, if Buffy is right, and she can get him back, it doesn't count as denial... right?
Sooooo. Is Whistler lying or telling the truth for once in his miserable existence? Really enjoyed Buffy punching him. Willow's outlook is becoming more and more worrisome. It looks like it's only a matter of time before she does something stupid and potentially dangerous for all concerned.
Willow may be defaulting to the line of thought that "magic could fix it," but her focus right now is more emotional than magical, over all. The gap in her relationship with Tara is her primary issue. She's gotten used to closed-off Buffy at this point. The biggest Buffy problem in Willow's world at the moment is about Tara's close ties to her, as an example of how much Tara has changed. More on that soon.
A plan and Giles is part of it. I like it.
So much to love. Angel and his conversations. Buffy suffering from the loss and the bond issues. Giles rethinking all he ever believed, seeing things quite differently than the first time (Hurrah!). Most veiled clues (you are evil). Hope and challenge and the dubious "help" frmo Whistler....
The farm being there butting up to the Council property in Bath cracks me up! I can see Spike snickering about that over the years.
Willow is a loose cannon still I think and I'm a bit worried that she is going to back slide. She is still looking for the quick fix for everything. Still looking to order other peoples lives to her liking. Still not REALLY getting the depth of the connection between Spike and Buffy (or Tara for that matter). I don't see her continuing with Tara unless she makes real changes and she does not appear to want to do that at all. I think she is a wild card here.
So they all believe he'll be back but are planning to force the PTB to bring it about NOW not some future time that meets THEIR needs but not necessarily Buffy's.
Blasted Whistler with all his barking comments ... don't trust him in the least but it looks like he is trying to dissuade Buffy and Tara from their plans.
The dream...was it their kids? I almost thought it was Nikki there for a moment. Hum....going to have to think that dream over.
Faith is out. Good. Well unless things really have changed a lot the worst she'd have to deal with are the Trio of nerds.
Buffy ... er Spike's ... drink of choice. Gotta wonder what is causing that specific craving.
You've structured this story so tightly it blows me away. There really are no "throw away" bits. Kudos.
Can't wait for more.
It was about time Giles was brought more fully into the Time Scooby fold. He and Buffy have worked through the worst of their issues, and come to an understanding. He's known for a long time who the travelers really are, and he can be helpful. A retired watcher from Bath who is already an ally? PERFECT. Tara standing in for Spike (the one who has previously talked to Giles about staying close to Buffy) to ask him to go home just fell into place naturally.
Right now, Tara is the closest thing to a lieutenant Buffy has, and she's working hard to fill the role properly. She's strong and supportive, but insisting on balance and reason. She's the one to speak to the other member of the team about joining up. She's considering Dawn's needs. She calls Buffy General when she needs to. She's standing in like a pro, because she's already close enough to understand how, to understand what Buffy needs. The three travelers became best friends over the months they worked together, so it's a natural fit.
But Willow is left out in the cold, even after being told who these people really are. And she doesn't know what to do about it. She's focused mostly on the gaps in her relationship with Tara right now, but she's simultaneously being pelted with more details of the family that has formed in the Time Scoobies, and that she isn't a part of it. Even Xander seems much closer to them. I kind of feel sorry for her.
Buffy will identify the curvy young woman and the dark-haired man in the long coat from her dream, and you'll probably want to go back, reread the dream with that information, and slap yourself on the forehead for not seeing it. Either then or later, you'll slap yourself on the forehead about that dream for another reason. Yes, I truly am evil.
The drink of choice -like Buffy's verbalization of the Spike words she's admitted are in her head since Flash Forward- isn't mystical. It's practical. She's keeping him close. She's talking to him. She's talking like him. She's drinking his favorite hooch. She's keeping his coat where it belongs. The continuing feeling of connection to him from the bond gives her hope, but the little day-to-day things are still necessary to make the situation tolerable. At first glance, this frequently drunk Buffy doesn't look like she's dealing with it at all. But she is, in her own typically indirect way.
The Folly, its location, and its proximity to the new Watcher Training Academy (both near Bath's weak Hellmouth) are details borrowed from an unfinished WIP set in a sister universe. Most of the OCs (Trixie, Tinker, Rowena, Rudy, Carlos, and Lucy) are from that story, as well. Echoes Whistler has implied a bit about that universe in some of his "maybes" and we saw a glimpse of it in one of the flashes at the 2003 end of the time travel spell.
What happened is that I started Echoes, then walked away from it (at the chapter that is now Fair Trades). When I started writing again, I spent some time developing that other story, building its universe, but I wasn't happy with it as a whole, and set it aside, too. When I went back to Echoes, I brought that universe with me. It didn't take me long to see the natural fits built in, and continue to allow them to evolve together. Unfortunately, there are other writing projects on the docket, so I won't get back to the sister story right away. But I'm itching to. Finishing Echoes has given THAT story better direction, and a richer world.
I don't specify the age of the academy in Echoes, only referring to it as "new," but the land grab to construct watcher training ground near a Hellmouth was in the early 90's. In the other story, it's stated as having been about a decade before Chosen. I also go into more detail about the layout of the campus. Eventually, the Council was able to get the land they wanted, for a perfectly planned, exactly square-shaped campus. All except that one southern corner. Lucinda Varnes (on behalf of her client) would NOT budge, no matter how much money Travers offered. Spike hasn't had too many years to snicker about it, but you know he's enjoyed every one of them. hehe