Title: "Episode 83 & 1/2 - With A Little Help From My Friends".
Part: 12/12
Author: "A Gentleman Of Leisure".
Summary: There's a stranger in town and the world's about to end. Who you gonna call?
Story Type: In-Canon adventure set between Episodes 83 & 84 (hence the title).
Rating: PG-13
Spoilers: Up to Series 5, Episode 83 (of course).
Pairing: In-Canon.
Disclaimer: The-Powers-That-Be own everything. 'Nuff said?

Author's Note: I'm a British writer, so there may be some terms (and spelling) not used in the US. OK? Now read on...

*

Part Twelve - 'Tomorrow Never Knows' - The Beatles.


"Well, I suppose it's time for explanations", Michael said, leaning back in his chair with a cup of Giles' best Lapsang Souchong tea.

Except for Spike they were all sitting round the table again in a strangely undamaged Magic Box, in the centre of the somehow totally restored town of Sunnydale. Buffy glanced at her watch, then outside, and realised that in some manner, although time had apparently passed, everything that had occurred was as if it had never happened at all.

"What did you just do?" she asked. "I distinctly remember this place falling down on top of me as I jumped out of the window into the street. Which by the way also seems to be entirely undamaged. How come?"

"And also why?" Willow added.

"And _how_ did you manage it without us noticing?" said the rest of the Scooby gang.

Giles looked at them all and shook his head, still a little bemused, and at that moment the shop bell clattered as an indignant Spike arrived and threw himself into the last empty chair.

"So where the hell did you lot get to? You tell me that. Why was it only me that had to walk back? I only stopped to talk to some friends, and when I looked you'd all bloody gone".

"Exercise is good for you Spike, did your mother never tell you that?" Buffy said.

"No, and she didn't tell me to eat my greens either", he snarled.

"Dead Boy's in a temper", said Xander. "We got a ride back in Giles' nice shiny red sports car".

"Strangely restored nice shiny etcetera", Giles said.

"I loved it when that traffic cop pulled you over".

"Yeah", said Dawn. "'Listen bub, don't you know you're driving on the wrong side of the road?'" she added, using a deep voice to impersonate the police officer.

"'Sorry ossiffer' says Giles, 'do you mean as opposed to the right side of the road?'", Xander recited in his best fake Giles accent.

"'Yeah. Don't you British know that over here in the good old US of A, the left side is the wrong side?'"

"'And the right side is the right side? I'm terribly sorry constabule'".

"And then the cop tells him to get out and put his hands on the roof!" said Dawn, giggling.

"And then Michael points out there isn't a roof, 'cos it's a rag-top and it's folded down. I loved that! So cool".

"And then he tells Michael to get out as well! I was nearly in hysterics!"

"Well, thank you both so much for that little action replay recitation", Giles said. "I'm just glad Michael was able to simply tell him to get back in his patrol car and make him drive away and forget he'd even stopped us. After all, we did have seven in the car".

"Well, we had eight up before", Dawn pointed out.

"Yes, but that was when the world was about to end. I think the police were rather busier then".

"Well, I had to bleedin' well walk all the way back, not like some people I could mention!" Spike complained for the second time. "I'm going to have to go out and steal some new shoes. These ones are worn out, like me. Do you have any idea how difficult it is for a vampire to get the right sized shoes? No going shopping during daylight hours and actually getting served. No chance of being offered a choice of colours and styles. Oh no, not for poor old Spike".

"We are getting sidetracked, so I suggest poor old Spike had better shut up. Poor old us want to hear some explanations from poor old Michael, who is probably just as bored with your whingeing as we are", Giles said sternly.

"You're just cruel, Rupert. Us Brits ought to stick together".

"Well if one of 'us Brits' calls me by my first name again, there will suddenly be one less of 'us Brits' round this table", Giles told him firmly, and Spike subsided, still grumbling under his breath.

'Although I suppose he doesn't actually need any breath', Dawn thought, and for some reason that idea gave her a little shudder.

"So, explanation time?" Michael said again.

"Oh, goody", said Willow. "I always enjoy this bit. My favourite part of mystery and detective stories is the last chapter where everything is explained. I want to know the meaning of it all".

"You know", Giles said thoughtfully, "a famous writer once said that if anybody ever discovered the Meaning of Life, The Universe, and Everything, it would immediately be replaced by something even stranger - and that some say it already has!"

"How would we know?" Dawn asked, a little confused.

Giles smiled, and shrugged. "A very good question".

"OK, Michael", Buffy said, "I've got a question myself for you - I want to know who the hell you really are?"

There was a moment's slightly embarrassed silence, but surprisingly it was not actually Michael who responded, it was Giles.

"Why don't we follow Willow's favourite literary genre, and see if we can work it out by deduction. I know Tara's already guessed, and so have I, but let's see what we know. OK?"

Michael smiled and nodded, and the others settled themselves comfortably, and tried to look serious.

"Right, well what _do_ we actually know? One: we know that Michael is a messenger from The Powers That Be. Two: we know he has special powers - we've seen them in action. Three: he had a quest. Four: well, I could go on, but let's be brief and cut to the chase instead. It's all very simple really, if you think about it". He paused to gather his thoughts before continuing. "Now, we met Satan, didn't we? And Satan is just another name for the Devil".

"I always thought the Devil was a mythical character", said Xander.

Giles looked at him as if he'd just been bitten by a bowl of custard - with an expression of total astonishment.

"And you grew up in Sunnydale? Well really, Xander. I'm ashamed of you!" Giles shook his head in disbelief. Then he pulled himself together and continued.

"Right. Now, Satan. Well, what do we know about him? Firstly, anyone, of what hierarchy is he the leader?"

Most of them looked at the ex-Watcher blankly. This was worse than being back in High School. Only Willow and Tara put their hands up, and it was Tara who answered, somewhat diffidently. "The Fallen Angels", she said quietly.

"We already know one of them, don't we Buff?" said Dawn in a stage whisper out of the side of her mouth. Buffy merely made a sour expression and said nuffin'.

"Correct", Giles said, pretending he hadn't overheard. "The Fallen Angels. Thank you Tara, absolutely right. And we saw that he already knew Michael. And who is the leader of the Angels who did not Fall?"

"Michael", said Tara, again very quietly. "The Archangel Michael".

There was a moment's pause while they all absorbed this information.

It was Buffy who responded first.

"Hey! Whoa! Now wait just a minute there, people. Let me get this straight please, Giles. Do you mean to say that You-Know-Who, up there, sends an Archangel, an actual, genuine, real live Archangel, down here to ask for _our_ help; the help of two witches, a Slayer, an ex-librarian, a construction worker, an ex-demon, a chipped vampire, and a schoolgirl?" said Buffy. "Get real! Things like that just don't happen!"

"Actually Buffy, if you think about it, things remarkably like that seem to happen every other week here in Sunnydale, at least as I seem to recall", Giles replied mildly. "Mind you, I have always suspected that the creator of this universe (and I suppose we now have to say of all the others too) had a somewhat warped sense of humour. Now I'm convinced of it".

"So where do The Powers That Be come into it? I don't understand", Willow said.

"Remember Michael said we worked for the same organisation? And I said we also knew them by another name? Well just ask yourselves where Michael must come from, if we accept he's an Archangel, and that he works for You-Know-Who".

The assembled Scooby Gang turned their heads as one to stare at Michael again, as if to say "Is that really true?"

Michael looked round at them all gravely for a moment, one at a time, and then bowed his head slightly in acknowledgement, and smiled enigmatically.

"So why couldn't you simply get The Spear and deal with this Other Universe thing by yourself?" Buffy asked. "You've obviously got powers we haven't - you can do things that not even magic can do, can't you?"

"Of course he has", Willow said. "We wouldn't have been able to even make a portal without him, let alone one into the Vatican. We don't know enough yet - that's major league mojo, that is. I don't think even good magic would ever be able to do that, however strong it was - the Church has always been very anti-magic".

"I was told what I had to do" Michael said, "and what I was not allowed to do. I was not told why - we often aren't.

"I couldn't make any permanent changes to this world, I had to leave things just the way I found them, as if nothing had happened. I was simply told to save it from destruction, and told the single thing I needed to find in order to do so. However I _was_ allowed to ask for help here.

"I have to do what I'm told - that's just the way it is. I have no more choice about it than Buffy has in being the Slayer", he finished.

"So that's why Sunnydale is now back as it was", Giles said thoughtfully, "and my car, and everything else? Does that include us? What about our memories? We took part in everything that happened, saving the Universe. We were part of that whole process - you couldn't have done it without us, or at least a group of people like us. Or could you?"

"As I said, we aren't told what might have been, or will be", Michael replied. "Just what is. We're told what to do, and we go and do it. We don't ask questions".

"What, never?" asked Willow.

"Well, not usually. But", he added with a slight smile, "I wasn't told _I_ couldn't ask _you_ questions".

They all looked at him in some surprise. An Archangel wanting to ask _them_ something?

"What can we tell you, Michael?" Giles said uncertainly. It was a situation even his extensive training as a Watcher had not prepared him for.

"Well, for one thing, did any of you start to have second thoughts about me and my mission while the three of us were away getting The Spear?"

"We certainly did", Xander said firmly. "But Giles seemed to have worked out who you were - are, and so had Tara. They told us not to worry about Dawn and Spike, that they'd be perfectly safe".

"Hah! Well, let me tell you, it didn't feel particularly safe when that red-hot lava demon dropped in on us through the portal. He was not a happy bunny!" Spike said forcefully. "If our Niblet hadn't found The Spear in the corner of the cellar, I for one would only have been fit for a Fire Sale!"

The others looked at Dawn. They hadn't heard all the details of the visit to the Vatican, and she had the grace to look slightly embarrassed.

"'It was nothing, folks. Just doin' m'job'", she said, borrowing a famous quotation.

"So you were discreetly manipulating our thoughts and emotions while you were here", Giles said quietly. "I see. And then while you were elsewhere, the effect lessened. Makes sense, I suppose - you had to be sure we'd do what was needed without being distracted by everyday thoughts and worries".

"Hey, yeah. I've just realised that I haven't thought about Riley at all", said Buffy. "Boy, won't he be sick when he realises what he's missed!"

"And we haven't been worrying about Mom either". Dawn sounded quite surprised.

"I apologise", Michael said. "I had to keep everyone calm and focused on what had to be done. It was absolutely essential that my mission be completed successfully".

Everyone looked at each other uncertainly, and murmured that it was cool, quite OK, they understood.

"Any more questions?" Michael added.

"Yes", Giles said. "You didn't answer mine a few minutes ago - about remembering tonight's adventures".

"Yes, will we? When you've gone?" Buffy said. "An awful lot's happened".

"I have to tidy up, put everything back the way it should have been if there had been no Other Universe, no D'Yah Ba'Wuk, and no earthquakes to destroy Sunnydale".

"And no Satan's tail, either. Shame, that".

"Oh, I think it would be alright for you to keep that, and the lava monster's finger if you really want to, as a souvenir. Except that you won't remember what they are - sorry about that. Just pickle them in alcohol - I'd suggest Southern Comfort for a hundred years or so ought to do it".

"Why not scotch?" Spike asked, lounging back in his chair again.

"Oh, just a matter of personal preference. Actually, I don't like Old World whiskies very much. I prefer New World ones".

"Well, really!" said Giles indignantly, and the others fell about laughing. Except for Spike, who's personal taste at the moment was for Bushmills Irish Whiskey, preferably the older the better. Mixed with AB negative of course - the fresher the better.

"So we aren't going to be allowed to remember what happened, then?" Tara said quietly, coming back to the most important question.

"No, I'm afraid not", Michael told her. "When you go to sleep tonight, the memories will fade, and by tomorrow it will just seem like something you read about somewhere a long time ago, about other people, in another place. It's necessary".

"I suppose you can't really have us running around, knowing what we know about You-Know-Who, and about you. It might tend to upset the status quo", Giles observed thoughtfully.

"Exactly", said Michael. "But before I go, there's one last question I would like to ask you, Giles, if I may".

"Go right ahead", Giles said with interest. "Be my guest".

"Thank you. It's this - what on earth was making you laugh so hysterically up on the crater rim, while Dawn was doing her stuff down there? What did you see that was so funny?"

"Oh yes, that". Giles smiled. "Well, it's a bit difficult to explain, but you see, when you first mentioned the D'Yah Ba'Wuk, for some strange reason it did seem vaguely familiar".

"But Giles, you couldn't find any reference to it in your books - you looked", Anya said.

"True", he replied, "but that didn't stop me from wondering why. Anyway, after that we were rather busy, as you may remember, and I didn't have time to think any more about it until we were standing on the rim of the crater watching Dawn get ready to throw The Spear. Then, when the thing began to hatch and I actually saw it clearly for the first time, something suddenly clicked..."

"Oh!" said Dawn suddenly. "Yes! I forgot! Giles! That happened to us too. When we were down in the Pit. Wait!" and she dived under the table, coming up again with her school book bag. She rummaged in it while Giles politely waited for her. Eventually she triumphantly produced a book which she handed to him.

"You'd just been looking in the wrong place", she said.

He glanced briefly at its title, smiled, nodded, and put it down on the table.

"Absolutely right, Dawn. Well done. Spot on".

Everybody else peered at it.

"'Through The Looking Glass'? What's a looking glass when it's at home?" Xander asked.

"It's a mirror - old word for", Willow told him. "Mirrors are very important in magic, you know. Wait a minute though... there's more. 'Through The Looking Glass'..."

"...'And What Alice Found There'" Dawn finished for her. "It's the sequel to 'Alice In Wonderland'".

"What's that got to do with anything?" Anya asked. "It's just a children's book, isn't it?"

"It's only one of the most famous books ever!" Dawn told her enthusiastically. "After 'Alice In Wonderland', and the Harry Potter books of course", she added. To give him credit, Giles managed to look only slightly pained.

"But what has that got to do with the D'Yah Ba'Wuk?" Michael asked.

Giles picked up Dawn's book from the table, opened it, and leafed slowly through until he found the page he wanted. He cleared his throat and they all looked at him expectantly.
"'Jabberwocky', by Lewis Carroll", he said, paused for a few seconds to let them settle, and then began.

"First verse:
'Twas Brillig and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves
And the mome raths outgrabe'".

He paused to look at them over his glasses. "Second verse", he said.

"'Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that snatch!
Beware...'"

He didn't get any further because Dawn interrupted his reading. "Giles, don't bore them all to death - just show them the picture!"

Someone took the book out of his hands and laid it open on the table where everyone could see an old black-and-white illustration. It showed a small valiant figure with a sword battling a large ugly creature that looked exactly like the D'Yah Ba'Wuk - huge wings, long neck, scaly claws, great big teeth, and immense eyes - every detail true to the original. It was as if the artist had drawn it from life.

Then they were all trying to speak at once, until Giles banged on the table and bellowed "Quiet. Please".

"You have to be kidding!" Buffy exclaimed.

Giles smiled. "You can see for yourself - the D'Yah Ba'Wuk", he said, "is the Jabberwock. Has to be, don't you see?".

There was a short silence.

"I know it's just a nonsense poem by Lewis Carroll", said Dawn, "but when we actually saw the monster clearly I suddenly recognised it".

"D'Yah Ba'Wuk?" said Michael thoughtfully. "D'Yah Ba'Wuk - Jabberwock. Of course".

"Sounds more like a shaggy dog story to me", Xander said. "You can not really be serious?"

"Seems to be", Buffy said, sounding a trifle doubtful, "but what I don't understand in that case is 'why?'"

"Does there really have to be a 'why'? You-Know-Who has a strange sense of humour", said Giles with a 'don't-ask-me' shrug.

"You said that already", Willow commented.

*

"So that's it, then?" Buffy said. "We were fighting a monster out of a kids book?"

"Or this guy who wrote 'Jabberwocky' knew something he wasn't telling us", Xander suggested.

"Or it's sort of like the dreams Buffy used to get sometimes - a warning of danger coming. Except he was a bit early with it", Willow said.

"Well over a hundred years early", Giles observed thoughtfully.

"Well at least he wrote it down", Dawn pointed out. "Though it might have helped if we'd known about it in advance, don't you think?"

"I doubt it. We would still have had to do everything we did anyway, is my guess", Willow said.

"Very deep, Will", Xander said, shaking his head.

"Do you mean it was all predestined?" Buffy asked.

"Well, I think it wouldn't have mattered either way - free will or predestination, the result would have been the same, wouldn't it?. The monster would still have existed, and The Spear, and the destruction of Sunnydale would still have happened, and someone would still have had to throw The Spear at The Monster", Willow said. "I don't know if that counts as predestination. How can we tell? Giles? What do you think?"

"Oh, spare me the bloody philosophy, why don't you?" Spike exclaimed, interrupting her. "We went, we saw, we conquered, and that's all there is to it. And boy did we conquer - well the Niblet did, I mean. And a bloody good thing too, I say".

"Thank you, Spike", Dawn said quietly.

"I agree with Spike, for once" Xander said. "We kicked it's butt right back into the other Universe, and I too say 'well done Dawnie'".

"Hear, hear!" Buffy said firmly. "I couldn't have done better myself".

"Wow, actual praise from my big sister! I shall have to write that up in my diary!"

"You keep a diary?" Tara asked. "I used to do that once. When I was much younger".

"So anyway, that seems to be that", Giles said. "And tomorrow is another day".

"Yes", said Buffy, "and I know someone who's still got some homework to catch up with. C'mon, Missy, it's getting late, and Mom will be wondering where we've got to".

"Aw c'mon Buffy, no fair. It's Friday night. It's not as if it's a school night - it's the weekend tomorrow", Dawn complained.

"Yes, I know, but it's late and I don't want Mom to have anything to worry about while she's not well. We'd better get going for home".

"I'll drive you", Giles said. "Don't want you having any more adventures on the way, do we? Er, Michael, do you...? Um, where did he go?"

They all turned as one and stared at the empty chair between Xander and Buffy.

"What...? Where...? How...?" everyone said, looking round the shop, but there was not a single trace of Michael. He seemed to have softly and silently vanished away without anyone even noticing.

"Well, I suppose that really is it then", Giles said slowly.

"But I still remember everything", Buffy said.

"He said we'd forget while we were asleep, didn't he Giles?" Tara reminded them.

"I don't think that matters. It's not as if it's really going to make any difference whether we remember what happened tonight or not - no one would believe us anyway".

"Not even in Sunnydale?" Xander asked.

"Well, what do you think?" said Giles. "I'd say especially not in Sunnydale".

"So what have we really been doing the last few hours?" Anya asked.

"Exactly what we think we've been doing, of course", said Giles, shrugging. "It's just that no one else will remember anything about it".

"Do you think we really will forget too, like he said?" Tara said, but Giles just took his glasses off again and polished them thoughtfully.

There was a short silence.

Then Spike said "What have you got there, platelet?"

Dawn held up an impossibly big white feather. "It was lying on the table where Michael was sitting", she said.

There was a faint spicy scent that reminded Buffy of something she couldn't quite place.

Willow leaned over and sniffed it with her eyes closed.

"Frankincense... and Myrrh?" she said.



THE END.