DISCLAIMER: I don't own any of the characters except for Hopie, everyone else belongs to Joss Whedon.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: It's wrap up time for this fic! LAST CHAPTER. Please take the time to review and let me know what you thought and if you guys would read a sequel. Thanks to everyone for reviewing, and Imzadi thanks for the advice… all I can say is be patient (I love being cryptic…hehehe I'm evil that way).
Connor and Spike threw anyone who dared to come into their path aside with the ease of rage. Buffy was on their heels. Between the three of them, the seething anger was almost tangible, and most of the Wolfram and Hart staff was smart enough not to try to stop them, especially with the rest of the crew backing them up.
It didn't occur to any of them until it was too late that things were going way too easily, such was their outrage.
The recovery group W&H had sent in for Hopie was a motley crew. The Shepora demon was large, green, and mysteriously dusty, intimidating nonetheless. Several vampires practically drooled at the thought of getting a tasty nibble of the Shanshu child, since the executives had conveniently forgotten to mention that they could not bite the child unless she willingly gave up the protection of her magic.
The creepiest member of the group, by far, was Gavin, who was itching to successfully obtain the child and somehow use her to discredit Lilah. Hopie eyed them all warily, and Faith braced for a fight.
"Now, now," said Gavin, "we didn't come here for a fight. We came for a party. Would you like to come to a party, Hopie?" he asked nicely.
Hopie spat at him.
"Now, now, Hopie," Faith said, "it's not nice to spit at people."
"But he feels all evil," Hopie whined, "and empty. If I can't hit him with my sword, can't I at least spit at him?" Faith considered it for a moment.
"What the heck," she said, shooting Gavin a killer look, "knock yourself out."
"The rogue slayer, a family gal," Gavin mused. "Playing house with Lindsey and the child, Faith?" Faith didn't take the bait.
"Uncle Lindsey is nice," Hopie said in Lindsey's defense. "And my Aunt Faith can kick your butt. So can I. Can I say butt?" Hopie asked Faith, scrunching her forehead up in worry. Faith nodded.
"As long as you don't say it around Cordelia and tell her I let you say it," Faith responded, smiling at the fact that her position had been upgraded from Faith to Aunt Faith.
"There's no need for violence, Hope," Gavin started.
"Hopie," the Shanshu and her Champion both corrected automatically.
"We just want to have a little talk." Faith threw a sword at the demon, and Hopie shot two of the vampires in the heart with her crossbow. The other six vamps converged on the two warriors, one the pint sized mirror of the other.
Hopie hid a broad sword that was far heavier than she was behind her back. She crooked her little finger at one of the remaining vamps. He approached her, oblivious to the danger despite the fact that the child had just killed two of his friends. When he stood in front of the child she whispered "Come down here, I have a secret to tell you." The idiot vamp shrugged and bent down, and Hopie made quick work of decapitating him.
Faith took out two vamps with the same stake in under a second. She had never felt a rush like this before. She wasn't just slaying, she was protecting: a child she loved and the future the child held in safe keeping for the entire world. Adrenaline didn't begin to describe it. Pure purpose was flowing through Faith's veins, and she knew that this was what she was born to do. She was The Champion.
Lilah sat, talking to a very miffed Dawn, who was tied to a chair. "Why don't you just tattoo 'bait' on your forehead? Honestly, sweetie, you're just too easy to kidnap. Did you ever consider, you know, not being so pathetic? Look at you, you're shaking in your boots right now."
"I'm not scared of you," Dawn said, glaring back at Lilah. "Glory was scarier. And prettier. And less skanky, even though I didn't really think that was possible."
"Teenagers," Lilah said. "They can't take a little constructive criticism."
Two vampires ran at Hopie, and she jumped into the air, splitting her legs far apart and kicking both of them with an incredible force. After knocking them to the ground, Hopie was satisfied to see that both vamps were well within staking range. She couldn't wait until she was tall enough to stake vamps while they were standing up without jumping. It would make things so much easier.
Humming while she worked, the child staked the first vamp and then danced over to the second in that little-kid-jumping-up-and-down-with-excitement kind of way. She delicately thrust the stake into the second vamps heart before he even realized that she was standing over him.
Faith, finishing the others, walked up to Gavin. "We don't like to talk," she said in way of explanation.
"I like to fight," Hopie said, "but I'm not allowed to hurt people who are weaker than I am." Hopie pouted. Gavin breathed a sigh of relief.
"I am," Faith replied, punching him hard in the stomach.
The door to Lilah's office burst open while she was talking on the phone. "Send in everyone we've got," she said as she saw the forces of good entering her office en masse. "Hello," she said conversationally. "I suppose you'll be wanting this back." Lilah gestured to Dawn. Dawn harrumphed.
"Something's not right," Cordelia said worriedly.
Connor walked up to Lilah and carefully slammed her into her desk, his hands around her throat. Angel put his hand on his sons shoulder. "Let her go," he said after a moment. "We don't kill humans, although we may eventually make Miss Morgan here an exception." After a tense moment of silence, Connor unhanded Lilah and went to embrace Dawn.
Buffy slammed Lilah down on the desk in exactly the same way Connor had. "If you mess with my little sister again," she said, "you're going to wish that I let Angel handle things for me." Spike put his hand on Buffy's shoulder after a moment.
"Not to criticize, pet," he said, "but the lawyer lady here is turning kind of purple." Buffy released Lilah, who started gasping for air. She tried not to smile. She was going to get what she wanted, and nothing any of them did could stop it.
A vast army of W&H employees surrounded the Hyperion in numbers so large that even the combined forces of the Shanshu and the rogue slayer could not stop them. "Are you feeling chatty now?" Gavin asked smugly. He turned to Hopie. "Would you like to come with me now, Hopie?" The child shook her head.
"If you don't," he said, "Connor will die. So will Faith. So will everyone, and all because you let us kidnap Dawn."
"It's not my fault!" shouted Hopie. "Faith said so." Gavin knew the Shanshu lore. In the child's biggest moment of need, her biggest test, only her champion could save her, and Connor wasn't there. He could taste victory.
"Hopie," Cordy gasped. "They're going after Hopie. They'll try to use Connor if they have to. They'll use us all."
Lilah clapped. "Congratulations, Captain Obvious," she said smugly. "You get the gold star. By the time you get back to the hotel, the kid will have given in, and without Connor dearest there to cheer her on, she will be ours. All those destinies, right in the palm of our hand. Victory is so sweet." Cordelia punched Lilah.
"You stay away from my daughter," she said. Lindsey looked at Lilah, thinking about how pathetic she was. Lilah recognized the smile. He knew something she didn't.
The Wolfram and Hart emissaries grabbed Faith, bringing a knife to her throat. Hopie screamed. "Be brave, Hopie," Faith instructed. "Be brave, kiddo. Say no."
"Will you join us, Hopie?" Gavin asked.
"No," Hopie whimpered.
"Louder," Faith screamed, willing the words to Hopie after someone covered her mouth.
"NO!" Hopie screamed. Gavin signaled the man holding Faith to begin cutting her.
"Slowly," Gavin instructed. "I want Hopie to hear her screaming."
Lindsey walked over to Lilah and slammed her down into the desk. "What can I say," he said. "It looked like fun. Plus you have to pay for making my girlfriend bleed."
"Don't you mean die?" Lilah gasped, tauntingly.
"Oh, she won't die," Lindsey said confidently. "You know as well as I do the power of the Champion's blood." Lilah's face contorted in horror. Faith was the Champion. The oversight would cost them and cost them dearly.
A stream of blood dripped from Faith's neck, but she refused to take the silly smile from her face. She wouldn't worry the child. Just say no, she told her mentally.
"NO!" Hopie screamed. As Faith's blood hit the ground, Hopie's entire demeanor changed. "No," she said calmly, and the universe shook with the power of her will, amplified magically by the blood of the Champion. A wave of light radiated out from the child, and the W&H warriors began to disappear until only a few of the most demonic and least susceptible to magic were left standing in the hotel.
Lilah saw a bright flash, and every one else in her office disappeared. They reappeared instantly by Hopie's side.
"I was hoping you'd come," Hopie told them seriously. "I wanted it real bad."
Gavin looked around. After a moment of silence, a quick but fierce fight broke out between the Fang and Scoobie gangs and the remaining demons. Angel swung a sword, killing three demons at once. Cordelia ran to Hopie. Connor took Dawn away from the action, convinced that the others had it covered. For the first time, he walked away from a fight, and his lips and Dawn's made contact sweetly, in that first kiss of exploration, wonder, and deep seeded emotion.
"Are you all right, baby?" Cordelia asked Hopie, picking the child up.
Hopie squirmed. "I'm fine, Momma. Can I go play now?" Cordelia looked at the surrounding battle and sighed. Her baby was a fighter. She sat Hopie down, and the child joyfully picked up her crossbow and a glaive and skipped off to join the fray.
Buffy finished off the last demon and then watched in horror as a stake came flying directly at Angel's heart. Gavin sneaked out the side door as the stake pierced Angel's heart.
Hopie saw what was happening. She shook her head. "No," she whispered. "Not my daddy. Not again." As if in reverse, the stake came back out of Angel's heart, and the wound closed itself. Hopie ran to Angel. He was fine.
"Up, Daddy," she commanded, lifting her arms toward him. Angel, a tear in his eye lifted the child who had held off those words for so long. He had considered her his daughter ever since before she had started referring to Cordy as Momma, and now, finally, he was Daddy. He hugged Hopie.
"You're a pretty amazing kid," he said. Hopie snuggled happily, in a good mood from all of the excitement.
Faith ran to Lindsey, who literally swept her off of her feet into a hug. She lifted her mouth to his, and the two of them kissed, softly at first, and then passionately with a fire made of hope, faith, and love. Cordy approached Angel, and the two of them kissed over Hopie's head, the child looking on in fascination. All around her, couples exploded into passionate embraces.
After a moment, Hopie became bored. "I know something you don't know," she sang. Everyone reluctantly stopped kissing. Lorne's eyes opened widely as he listened to the child's innocent, high, and clear singing voice.
"Angel Cakes," Lorne said. "I think congratulations are in order."
"For what?" Angel asked.
Hopie cut Lorne off. "Shanshu!" she cried joyously, throwing her arms up in the air, like a little kid who managed to stay up until midnight on New Year's Eve. Angel looked amazed.
"Meaning," he said slowly, "that my soul is mine now, no conditions, no curse?" Lorne nodded.
"That's not all it means," he said. "Apparently Hopie thought Daddy should be able to look in the mirror and play outside sometimes."
"The sun doesn't affect me?" Angel asked joyously.
"Now that doesn't seem fair," Spike said.
"Sorry, Angel-Bear. Even Hopie couldn't work a full relief, but if it's the day of a full moon night, you have temporary protection," Lorne said, revealing the last bit of information he had gleaned from Hopie's rendition of 'I know something you don't know.'
"Well, that's a little better," Spike said. He saw Dawn kissing Connor again. "Bloody hell," he said, going to break them off. Cordelia, Angel, and Hopie quietly left the room. A moment later, they stood in front of a mirror in the bathroom.
There they were, all of them, in the mirror in front of them. They were a family: mother, father, and child, miracle child. Connor silently crept into the bathroom, having been pushed away from Dawn by Spike. Angel put his arm around his son, and then the Destroyer carefully pressed a kiss to his soul-sister's forehead. They were destined to fight side by side, but today, they were just family.
"Ew," Hopie said, breaking the wonder of the moment, "you just kissed Dawn with those lips. You're still my Connor, but she can have the lips, 'cause that's just gross."
Cordy laughed. "You won't always think it's gross," she said.
"Yes you will," Angel and Connor both commanded. Like father, like son, and if it were up to them, Hopie would stay a warrior baby forever.
Not far away, the Champion felt Hopie's happiness in her heart, and felt herself crushed to Lindsey's chest in a tight embrace. "We'll have that, too," he whispered. "Some day."
"Promise?" Faith asked. Lindsey nodded. In many ways, everything was just beginning.
OKAY… yay! That's the end of this one, people, but I'm already working on a sequel. Just to give you a sneak preview… Hopie's going to kindergarten, Connor takes Dawn on a midnight roller coaster ride, Angel spends a day outside with his family for the first time, Faith and Lindsey keep an eye on Wolfram and Hart, and Lilah and Wesley come into the picture as Wes gets a visitor from England in the form of his twelve year old sister. Look for it coming soon, entitled Le Bella.
PLEASE READ AND REVIEW!!!!!!!!