DISCLAIMER: I don't own any of the AtS or BtVS characters. Nor do I own any of the lyrics that appeared in the previous chapter. I do, however, own Hopie, Anni, Leo Bunny, Chance, Kendall, Maddy, Nicolaa, Colette, Joss, and Clay. If for some reason you'd like to borrow one of them, please ask first, by emailing me at Zcheer1054@aol.com. I can be contacted at the same address for permission for distribution.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Okay, I'm gonna respond to a few reviews. Answering some questions… Yes, the Senior Partners typically exist on a higher plane, but for the purpose of this story, Lilah killed the avatars of the partners, their human forms in this realm, and by doing so, she disconnected the other realms from this one, giving her sole power.
Dawn is not a Potential. When the monks were making Dawn, they took the non-slayery part of Faith and the non-slayery part of Buffy.
Chance was not/ will not be called as a typical slayer. Since the monks gave her Buffy's genes, along with her slayer essence, for purposes of calling, Chance IS Buffy, and therefore has and will develop more slayer powers. The same goes for the other demi-slayer (for a little more info on her, check out the 'spoilers' afternote on my upcoming projects)
So sorry, but there will be no Wes/Gunn subtext. As a general rule, I don't do slash, and I think the Lilah/Willow/Wes love triangle is complicated enough.
Yes, I realize the number of characters makes this a little confusing, but hopefully I'll be able to take care fo that by differentiating the Potentials a bit. Some of them will be going to Sunnydale and some to LA, so as a general rule, you'll only have to deal with two or three of them at once.
I'm sorry I can't spend more time on Buffy/Spike, but I'll try to get a bit in here and there, and there will be more Spike with the Sunnydale Potentials. Additionally, after the Cordy/Angel wedding, I'm sending Hopie to Sunnydale to stay with Buff and Spike, and she's a great little matchmaker.
Okay, if you guys still have any questions, let me know… and now let the FLUFFINESS begin.
Imzadi: The wedding may not be quite how you pictured it, but I hope you enjoy anyway
THINGS UNSEEN: Epilogue: The Faith and Lindsey Wedding
Hopie Chase Angel stared in concentration at the image before her, trying to decide just what she thought about the girl looking back at her. She cocked her head to the side and smiled at her reflection.
"Pretty," she said after a moment, as Cordy fussed with her hair a bit.
"You look very pretty," Cordy said, happy that the little girl wasn't complaining about her flower girl's dress. When it came down to it, Hopie had every bit as much of Cordy's love of fashion as she did Buffy's super strength or Angel's enhanced senses.
"Momma," Hopie said, batting her eyelashes innocently. "You know how you always say that accessorizing is very important?"
Buffy, recognizing the look in Hopie's eyes, stifled a grin. The little girl wanted something, and chances were, she would find a way to get it.
Cordy grinned down at her daughter, knowing quite well where this conversation was heading.
"You know what would look bea-u-ti-ful with this dress?" Hopie asked, her eyes opened wide.
"A crossbow?" Cordy asked.
Hopie shrugged. She sent Cordelia a little smile. "Just a little crossbow?" she asked pleadingly.
"Hopie, baby, this is Aunt Faith's wedding. How about you just throw your flowers and watch while Aunt Faith and Uncle Lindsey get married?" Cordy suggested.
Hopie heaved a very big sigh.
"Jeez, Cor," a teasing and distinctly nervous voice drawled from behind them. "Let the kid have a little fun."
Cordelia, Buffy, Anni, and Hopie all turned to look at Faith.
The white dress sparkled a bit in the light as the fabric draped gently over her shoulders. The design of the dress was simple and understated, and Faith hadn't bothered with an intricate hair style. Instead, her dark locks hung free down her back.
Hopie looked at Aunt Faith. "Very pretty," she said. "I think it's kinda a good thing that you and Uncle Lindsey are getting married, Aunt Faith. I think maybe he really needs some special alone time with you, and now you look so pretty…"
Cordelia put her hand gently over Hopie's mouth. "That's it," she said out loud, "Anya and I are going to have another little discussion about what she can and cannot discuss in front of Hopie."
Anni blushed a bit.
Faith looked around. "Where did Anya go?" she asked.
Buffy spoke up. "The others wanted to give you some time with just us," Buffy replied.
Faith swallowed the nervousness in her throat and thought about how a year ago she would have never pictured herself in this position. Buffy, once the object of her envy and hatred, was standing by her side not only as another slayer, but as a bridesmaid. Cordelia, who Faith had never noticed other than to scoff in her general direction in their Sunnydale days, was her maid of honor. The two women had bonded over their joint interest in Hopie: Faith as her Champion and Cordy as her mother.
The Shanshu child herself, currently twirling around a bit and watching her lavender dress poof out at the bottom, was as much of a child to Faith as her own children would be.
Anni grimaced just a bit, feeling out of place among these people she had known for such a short time. She'd never expected to be included in Faith's wedding party. Honestly, she'd never expected to be included in much of anything at all.
Faith, forgetting her own nervousness for just a moment, walked up and put her arms around the girl, liking the junior bridesmaid's dress on her.
Faith held out her left hand and showed Anni her engagement ring. She indicated the yellow jewel. "That's you," she said. "Whether you like it or not, you're a part of this, and I want you here."
"Are you ready?" Cordy asked Faith, feeling her own heart flutter at the idea that someday soon, she would be the one in the white dress.
Tears came to Faith's eyes. She shook her head a bit. "I don't know," she said. "I never thought I'd be here, doing this, with all of you. I sure as hell don't deserve to be." She held up her hand when Buffy would have broken in. "But I thank whatever power exists in this world that I am, that I'm here, with all of you, about to throw up because I'm so nervous. Because when it's all said and done, I'll have Lindsey. It's funny. I never really thought redemption would be so good looking."
Faith shook her head again as if to clear her thoughts. "And I definitely sound like a coffee commercial or something." She picked up Hopie's flower basket and handed it to her with a wink.
Hopie beamed back and then ran up to hug her Champion. "Don't worry Aunt Faith. I think Uncle Lindsey wants to throw up too. Johnny C. threw up in kindergarten one day during art class. We were making pretty pictures with glitter and…"
The room erupted into laughter. Sometimes, it was nice when Hopie was just a kid, and not the vessel of the world's oldest magic.
Angel straightened his tie, grinning at his own reflection.
"You look goofy," Gunn told him seriously. "You really shouldn't smile. Now I see why you do the whole broody thing."
"I'm still not used to actually having a reflection," Angel said.
Gunn snorted. "From the amount of time you spend locked in your bathroom, you should be."
Connor stood next to them, glaring viciously at his bow tie.
Angel helped him straighten it, and Connor transferred the glare to his father's general direction.
"This feels like a leash," Connor commented.
Lindsey smiled at the room. "Don't start talking about leashes in a room full of attached men," he advised the younger boy. "That conversation cannot end well."
"If Faith heard you say that, she would kick your ass," Connor commented.
Lindsey grinned. "That's part of what I love about her," he said. The two of them had come a long way, to count as friends those who were formerly their enemies.
"Are you ready?" Angel asked.
Lindsey looked at him seriously. "I'm not ready to get married," he said, crinkling the edge of his eyes slightly, "but I am ready to be married."
In the sanctuary, Lorne prepared to conduct the wedding. He'd been thrilled when Faith and Lindsey had asked him. Fred looked at him.
"Nervous?" she asked.
"Me?" he asked. "Do Bashyka demons wear spandex?" He paused for a moment. "Well," he said, "in a perfect world, the answer to both of those questions would be no. I am a bit worried that the princess brigade over there might cause some problems."
Fred looked toward the Potentials, who were sitting near Dawn. As the men entered the back of the room, every single one of them turned around in their respective seats.
"What harm ever came from a crush?" Fred asked.
"That's what they said about Helen of Troy," Lorne commented.
Kendall rolled her eyes at the way Maddy and Chance looked at Connor. She personally thought he looked a bit like a malnourished prairie dog.
She cast a much more subtle glance in Oz's general direction. He acknowledged her gaze without moving her head.
"You know," Kendall said, "there's something sexy about someone who can go through the entire emotional spectrum using only two facial muscles." She adjusted her gaze to look at Spike, who was sitting next to Wes and Willow. There was also something distinctly sexy about a vampire with lots of confidence and a particularly fine body.
Chance followed Kendall's gaze and decided there was something rather alluring about Spike.
I shouldn't like him, she thought, but I do. She wondered if that had anything to do with the Buffy genes.
Nicolaa looked at Connor briefly, and then rested her eyes on Lindsey, who she admitted looked stunning in his tuxedo, but she was, after all, a sensible girl, and she knew that he was taken. She'd never been given to silly flights of fancy anyway.
Clay balanced his attention between glaring at Connor for receiving Maddy's attentive stare and shooting his own appreciative looks in Nic's direction. There was just something about that girl.
Lindsey took his place near Lorne, and as the small, intimate gathering settled into their seats, Colette let out an audible sigh.
Buffy joined arms with Gunn, feeling a bit awkward because she barely knew the man, but his smile put her at ease. Behind her, Cordy and Angel joined arms as well. Anni's heart quickened just a bit as she took Connor's arm, but she quickly turned her attention to looking at Jordy across the room.
Connor frowned. Anni was moving a bit too fast with this Jordy character for his taste.
Faith bent down and whispered in Hopie's ear. Hopie nodded vigorously. The music started. "Are you ready, Hopie girl?" Faith asked.
"Five by five, Aunt Faith," Hopie replied.
"That's my girl," Faith said.
Hopie walked down the aisle and delicately scattered a few peach rose petals as she walked. After building up a little confidence, she put more energy into it, tossing the petals up into the air and giggling as they came floating back down. Her hand went back into the basket and rested for a moment on the Chinese Stars Faith had snuck into the basket for her. She pulled some flowers out with it and sent it flying toward Spike, who was nodding off just a bit.
He dodged it as his eyes snapped open.
"It's not nap time yet, Mr. Spike," Hopie said in a stage whisper before throwing some flowers in his general direction.
Several petals landed on Spike's head.
Anni and Connor came next. Connor smiled at Dawn and Kendall as he passed, and then glared briefly at Jordy.
Buffy and Gunn came down the aisle, and Buffy wondered if she would ever be the person to walk down the aisle.
Angel and Cordy walked slowly, as one. Hopie waved at them both from the front of the church. Their solemn expressions broke as they waved back at their daughter, the child who had paved the way for their family.
At the back of the room, Faith's mind was flying.
She could hear dishes breaking, curses being yelled out. She was four years old and sitting beneath the kitchen sink, waiting for her mother's drunken rage to pass.
She was seventeen and realizing for the first time that being a slayer didn't make her any less the inadequate brat her mother had accused her of being.
She was a murderer.
She brought her head up, and from across the crowd, Lindsey's eyes met her. Not even waiting for the music, Faith walked toward him, her bouquet held loosely by her side, her hair blown away from her face by a slight breeze of unknown origin.
The others watched, each wondering how it had come to this point. Faith didn't see any of them, or hear the Potentials' whispered words of awe. She walked, her step solid and true, toward Lindsey, toward the person who understood her demons and loved her anyway.
He wasn't just marrying Faith the Champion. He was marrying Faith, the abused child, Faith, the stupid girl, Faith the murderer, Faith the redeemed. He was marrying Faith the Vampire Slayer, Faith, the only girl who made him drop his exterior confidence, Faith, the girl who knew his demons as well. She took his hands, and the two of them looked at each other for a moment, silent.
"I love you," Lindsey said, his voice gruff with emotion.
Faith looked at him, and said the words that she never thought she'd be able to say, the words she had never before deserved to utter. "I love you, too."
Lorne put his hands on his hips. "Go ahead," he said with a smile, "steal my thunder."
The resulting group chuckle died down after a minute.
Lorne began talking again. "Where I come from," he said, casting a quick look at Fred, "love is like music. It doesn't exist." He let the words hang in the air a minute. "Well, those Pyleans may be as wound tight as Shirley Temple's curls, but they're right about one thing, even if it is in absentia. Love is like music. The tempo may vary, the notes may change, but there are no boundaries to either. Music exists as much for the poor as for the wealthy."
He cast a look at Cordy and Angel. "As much for the demon as for the human."
He brought his look back to Faith and Lindsey. "As much for the flawed as for the saint. Those who find love and appreciate it are blessed, and that blessing in and of itself is pure." Lorne paused for a moment. "I understand you kiddos have written your own vows," he said.
Faith cleared her throat, pushing down the tears that wanted to come. She took a deep breath. "I take thee Lindsey to be my husband," she said. "To have and to hold, to protect, to be protected by. I promise to love you and to believe in you. I was lost in a place where the only thing I knew for sure was that I didn't even deserve to be breathing the same air as normal people. I guess I lived my whole life in that place, waiting for someone to tell me that I was wrong. A few people tried, but I didn't believe them." She took a deep breath and looked into Lindsey's finely lashed eyes.
"When you tell me, I believe you," she said softly. Her voice grew stronger. "I love you for needing me and for being needed by me. I love you for the man you are, for the father I know you'll be. I want to spend the rest of my life loving you."
Lorne dabbed the corner of his eye with a light pink silk handkerchief. He turned to Lindsey.
Lindsey looked at Faith, forgetting about the rest of their friends. "I take thee Faith to be my wife, my partner. I promise to love you always, because loving you fills a part of me that I didn't even know was empty. You make me want to be a better man, because I see what an amazing person you are and in your eyes, I see the man I might one day be. I love you because you're brave and strong and sweet. I love you because you have a Champion's heart, but most of all, I love you because you're Faith, and that in itself is the most amazing thing."
"I promise to love and cherish you as the person you are, for as long as we both shall live." Lindsey leaned in and brought Faith tenderly into a long, slow kiss.
Lorne harrumphed a bit. "I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may now come up for oxygen and continue kissing the bride."
Hopie was the first one to let out a cheer, a joyous war cry. Soon the room was filled with joyous noise, and Lindsey picked up Hopie, holding her in between him and Faith.
"So what do you think, Hopie-girl?" he asked her.
"I think getting married is fun," she said. "And I'm glad nobody threw up, because this one time, in art class…"
An hour later, the reception was full under way in the hotel. Connor, mildly exhausted after having been dragged out onto the dance floor by both Maddy and Dawn continuously, frowned as a certain Britney Spears song came on over the speakers. He glared at Gunn, the current DJ.
He excused himself and made his way over to Jordy and Oz.
The three of them stood there for the entire duration of the song, saying absolutely nothing. Connor raised his eyebrows just a bit.
Jordy barely altered his facial expression in response.
Oz moved his chin slightly, indicating that this argument was between the two of them.
Connor narrowed his eyes a bit.
Jordy stuck out his chin slightly in an almost imperceptible movement.
"So," Connor said.
Jordy understood perfectly. "So," he said.
Oz said nothing.
"Anni," Connor said.
"Anni," Jordy agreed.
Oz said nothing.
Connor gripped Jordy's arm. Jordy growled a bit in the back of his throat. Oz did nothing.
Without saying another word, Connor turned and walked off, confident that he had gotten his point across.
Hopie, a gift bag in her hand and an excited looking Anya in tow, ran up to Faith, interrupting her dance with Giles.
"Sorry, Mr. Giles," she said, "but Faith needs to open my present." Hopie yawned a bit. Cordy sent Faith an apologetic look.
"Sorry guys," she said, "but I know one little Shanshu who's about to go to bed."
"I'm not tired," Hopie insisted, yawning. She thrust the package at Faith. "Uncle Lindsey too," she said sleepily.
Lindsey cut out of a brotherly dance with Fred to come stand next to his wife. Subconsciously, their hands entwined together. With her free hand, Faith took the package from Hopie. With his free hand, Lindsey reached in and pulled out something that looked suspiciously like Hopie's original work of fiction "If you give a Vamp a cracker."
Spike, seeing the book, groaned. "That better sodding well not be me," he said, recalling his starring role in Hopie's earlier book.
"Nope-nope," Hopie said. "This is a new book, just for Uncle Lindsey and Aunt Faith."
Faith looked at the title and almost swallowed her tongue. "If you give a Man a Slayer," she read.
"It's quite good," Anya commented.
Hopie grinned. "Aunt Anya helped me with it."
Lindsey cautiously opened the book, not knowing what to expect. "If you give a man a slayer," he said, "he's going to need some weapons."
Hopie nodded seriously and Faith and Lindsey oohed and aahed appropriately over Hopie's drawings of a dark headed stick figure holding a crossbow and another dark headed unexplainably more feminine stick figure holding a stake.
Lindsey turned the page. "If you give him some weapons, he's going to need big muscles to lift them with." This time, the Lindsey figure was drawn with substantially bigger biceps.
"If he has big muscles, he and the slayer can wrestle together," Faith read off of the next page. She paused to give Anya a very suspicious look as she turned the page.
"If they wrestle together, they will get thirsty (and happy)," Lindsey read.
"If they get thirsty, then they should buy lemonade from Hopie and Anya in the exercise of capitalistic freedom," Faith read, somehow doubting Hopie had written that page.
"See the money," Hopie interjected. "It's green." Anya smiled at her little economic disciple.
"Subliminal messages," Anya whispered to Xander who was standing next to her. He nodded.
"If they buy lemonade, they will get more energy. If they have more energy, then they can 'wrestle' some more." Faith raised an eyebrow almost into her hair.
"See," Hopie explained, "there are quotation marks a-cause…"
Faith quickly turned the page. "If you give a man a slayer," he read again, "they will live happy ever after." Lindsey turned to the last page. Hopie had written 'The End' and crossed it out. In its place, in childish scrawl, were the words 'The Beginning.'
The child was right. It was a new beginning.
"This is a wonderful gift," Lindsey said, trying to keep his mind off of 'wrestling.'
"Oh," Hopie said seriously, "that's not your gift." With that, the little girl leaned over and pressed a kiss firmly to Faith's stomach.
"For good luck," Hopie clarified. "When you wrestle."
"For good luck?" Faith asked, casting a look at the pregnant Willow standing across the room.
Hopie nodded. "For good luck," she said, leaning in and kissing Faith's stomach a second time before skipping off to bed.
Lindsey pulled Faith into his arms and kissed her gently on the lips. "For good luck," he said seriously.
Angel peered at Cordy. "Has Hopie given your stomach a good luck kiss lately?" he asked.
She shook her head. "But," she said as an afterthought, "we might not want the longest engagement in the world. You never know when Hopie will decide she wants a little brother."
Angel pulled Cordy into a deep kiss, oblivious of the Potentials who were currently gawking at them.
Wes, catching the spirit of things leaned over and kissed Willow's stomach and then her lips.
Buffy's lips met Spike's, and his hand gently caressed her hair.
Jordy, a bit nervous, approached Anni. "So," he said.
"Um," she replied. He leaned in and their lips touched for the very briefest instant.
"So," Jordy said, a huge smile on his face.
"Um," Anni agreed happily.
A light breeze came through the hotel then, as two neat friends watched their loved ones rejoice. It was a day of promise, of faith, of hope, and of love. The greatest of these was, as always, love.
THE END Okay, I know that was loooong and way fluffy, but I hope you enjoyed it. Please review and let me know what you think!
COMING UP SOON (TEASERS FOR MY NEXT FICS)
Luck of the Irish: Angel's never been proud of the person he was before he was turned, but when his desire to forget the past leads him to shun St. Patrick's day, a group of leprechauns kidnap Hopie until Angel and Cordy can come to embrace their pasts together. This is an ENTIRELY fluffy piece for all Angel/Cordy people out there. Like A Very Hopie Christmas, it's a companion ficlet and not part of the actual series itself. It will probably only be four or five chapters long, and the first chapter should be posted within the next few days, depending on how much time I have and on how reviews go for this chapter of Things.
Thine Own Self: Buffy and Faith search for the demi-Faith; The Fang Gang discovers the repercussions of Connor's birth, a toddler vampire; Bad Girl Anni; A (slightly familiar) love interest for Oz; Lilah as the head of W Hopie's first loose tooth. Look for it at the end of March.