Author's Note: Well, ladies and gentlemen, I'm back in the game. This time, I decided to sort of re-fabricate my ideas for "On This Side of Life" into something that I can really work with. As usual, this is a BtVS crossover, but – also as usual - it's in the Angel category for various reasons that I don't have the energy to mention right now.
In this fic I elaborated on the idea of having all the main Buffy and Angel characters living under one roof. After Cordy disappears and Angel Investigations is officially disbanded, Angel, Fred and Gunn join the Sunnydale Scoobies. Angel's old Shady Hill mansion is renovated, and the entire group moves in. The first chapter takes place two months after the group moves in together, and six months after the actual renovation.
So far, things are running smoothly for the AI/SS crew – but things aren't going to stay smooth for long; just to start things off, Willow is struggling with an inner conflict, and Fred suddenly takes ill – is it just a cold, or something worse?
Chapter I: Sunrise, Sunset
The town of Sunnydale was a small, quiet place, nestled in the lush green hills of South California; it had an estimated population of a few thousand people, a good welfare program, and a tiny blue dot of its own on the state map. In other words, it was the perfect place to find a job, settle down, raise a family, and grow old in comfort.
Or so everybody thought. Somehow, people seemed to overlook the many frequent deaths and sudden disappearances registered on the town's statistics; they overlooked, also, the town's incredible total of twelve cemeteries, all but one completely filled with graves recently dug over the last twenty years or so.
And since people overlooked the strange and mysterious aspects of Sunnydale, they also overlooked its dark secret: that this sleepy, snug little suburban town housed the very gates of Hell, and that 'Sunnydale' was just a pleasant nickname for Boca del Inferno – the Hellmouth.
And when the sun finally set over Sunnydale in a deep, throbbing autumn glow, setting the sky on fire in bands of crimson and gold and tainting the clouds with the colors of flame, few people were around to see the glorious transformation.
Most of them wanted to hurry home, so they would be safely locked behind their front doors before nightfall. They told themselves it was because they had work to do, or because they wanted to spend the evening with their family, or because drunks wandered around the streets at night.
But deep in their hearts, they knew better. They knew that whatever they were hiding from, whatever it was that wandered the streets of Sunnydale after dark, it certainly wasn't human.
And it certainly wasn't out to do them any good...
Thirteen bedrooms, seven bathrooms, a large reception area, a library, a training room, a kitchen-dining room, and a huge main living room. All in one mansion, under one roof, separated into two floors.
Everything was gorgeously decorated; the first floor specifically in a modern, professional style, and the second floor in a more pleasantly homelike way, with soft pastel wallpapers, matching carpets and furniture and ornaments contributed by the mansion's occupants.
It had taken the hired renovation workers only four months to do it, but somehow in those four months they had managed to transform an old building verging on dilapidated into any homeowner's dream. And they hadn't even asked for too much in return; thanks to the combined budgets of the nine adults paying for the renovation, it had been reasonably affordable.
In other words, the old mansion standing near Shady Hill cemetery was now a living space that was nothing short of perfect. And, judging by the constant supply of coffee cups, brown paper bags and partially eaten doughnuts that littered the smooth marble kitchen counter and the polished, glass-inlaid mahogany dining table night after night, it was quite safe to say that the place was well inhabited.
But somehow, there never seemed to be anybody at home after nightfall.
It was vampires. Again.
Buffy Summers held a tall, wiry male vampire in a tight leglock around his neck, balancing with her hands on the ground and keeping her body curved in a slanting handstand. "So, anyway, you were saying?"
"Maybe this isn't just a random feeding-frenzy," Angel continued, his voice hoarsened by the vampiric features he had instinctively morphed into during the battle. He backhanded the vampire closest to him and brought it down with a powerful kick to its midsection, breaking a few of its ribs in the process. "They could have a purpose."
Buffy pushed off from the ground with her hands and used her momentum to swing her body forwards, her legs still tightly gripping the struggling vampire. She managed to balance onto his shoulders and then, seizing his head with both hands, quickly snapped his neck. The vampire's body slumped to the ground and she staked it, just in case he tried to rise again.
"We should look into it," she agreed, dusting ashes from her new leather mocha jacket and matching boots. She paused to look around. "Are we done here?"
Angel nodded slowly, his face morphing back, becoming smooth and human. Becoming Angel, instead of the demon that dwelled constantly inside him.
Angel massaged his jaw with one hand where a vampire had managed to land a solid blow that would have fractured a human man's skull. "I think that was the last of them."
Buffy checked her watch, pressing the tiny button on the side that illuminated the face. It had been Dawn's idea to get a digital watch, pointing out that "Slayer or not, you still can't see in the dark."
"It's just past one," she reported. "Time to head back home." After all, the sun would be rising soon; and unfortunately, Angel couldn't stay around to see it.
At six thirty in the morning on a weekday, there was no one awake at the mansion. Everyone was fast asleep in their own beds, most of them lost in deep, dreamless slumber. Usually, whoever woke up first would start breakfast and then wake the rest of the group. It had almost been an unwritten rule for the two months that the nine adults and two teenagers had been living under the same roof.
That morning, Willow Rosenberg was the first to awaken. She wasn't really awoken by anything in particular, just the pleasant sensation usually felt by those just rousing from a deep, if not long, night's sleep.
She didn't get up immediately, though. Instead she lingered in bed for a long while, gazing at the blue-flowered wallpaper of her new bedroom and the matching blue curtains that fluttered lightly in the mild early-summer breeze blowing in through the window.
When she did get up, she slowly and carefully made her bed without even having to touch it, her greatly developed telekinesis skills allowing her to smooth out every wrinkle in the bedspread with a glance of her mild brown eyes.
Smiling to herself, she dressed, brushed out her highlighted amber hair in the mirror and slipped across the hallway to use the closest bathroom, moving carefully so that she wouldn't wake anybody.
'That's one of the problems with having so many people sleeping on the same floor,' Willow thought, brushing her teeth after making absolutely sure the toothbrush she was holding was hers. 'You always run the risk of disturbing somebody by being too loud or playing the music on too high a volume or whatever.'
'But then again', she amended, 'the advantages of living here outweigh the problems most of the time.' Willow had never lived with so many other people before, and she really enjoyed most aspects of it – always having someone to talk to, never having to be worried about being at home alone, being able to be completely natural because she was around people who knew exactly who and what she was.
Once in the kitchen, she turned on the new modern electric water boiler Giles had bought – he had finally had enough of kettles – started making a batch of coffee, probably the first of many for the day, and took a large assortment of cereal boxes out of their cabinets and set them on the dining table, along with milk and juice cartons and biscuits for anybody who wanted them.
The first five people to come downstairs were Anya and Xander, who were currently one of the only two pairs sharing a bedroom; Oz, who was naturally an early riser; and Dawn and Connor, who had both woken up with that inbuilt teenage appetite instinct telling them that breakfast was available.
Willow returned all their 'good morning's with a smile, but she let that smile linger on Oz. Lately, the young witch had been going through an inner conflict; although her relationship with Tara and her interest in Kennedy, a potential Slayer, had led her down a supposedly permanent path, she couldn't help knowing that part of her still felt that flutter she used to get when she was in high school and Oz was anywhere nearby.
But she was trying her best to get rid of the flutter. When she met Tara, her friends had eventually come to accept her as a lesbian, but if she fell back in with Oz, it would make her some kind of… weirdo.
In a way, they were all weirdoes, but Willow knew that this was a very different kind of weird. The kind that doesn't even have a definition in most dictionaries.
"Who finished off the cream pies?" Connor asked, pulling his head back from a thorough investigation of the refrigerator's contents.
"You did," Dawn reminded him, pouring herself a glass of grapefruit juice and sliding bread into the toaster.
"But there were two left," Connor protested.
Dawn just shrugged. "You must have been hungry."
"We'll put pie on next week's shopping list," Willow promised, trying to avert a discussion over it.
"Yeah, along with some burritos and a few Ring-Ding packages. And maybe a few packs of cheese tortilla chips," Xander added. When they all turned to look at him, he held up his hands defensively. "What? Fat is a very important part of the human diet."
"Yeah," Dawn snorted, "the Be The First Person On The Block To Have A Heart Attack diet."
"I gave a man a heart attack once," Anya commented blithely. "His fiancé caught him with someone else and summoned me."
"A heart attack? That sounds pretty mild compared to some of the other stuff you've done, An," Xander pointed out.
"Well, it wasn't really a heart attack. More of a slow-working virus that ate away at his heart tissue and left so much inward bleeding that -"
"Point taken," Connor interjected hurriedly. "No need for details."
"Quite," Giles agreed, having caught the last of the conversation on his way downstairs. The ex-Watcher was already fully dressed; the Magic Box opened early, and so Giles was usually the first person to go to work, driving Anya and Willow with him. "I've already managed to lose my appetite."
Half an hour later, everyone was wide awake and ready to start their day; Giles, Anya and Willow headed for the Magic Box, Xander to his latest construction assignment, and Buffy, Dawn and Connor to Sunnydale High School. Angel slept during the day, and Fred and Gunn were staying back to handle things at the mansion, just in case they had 'visitors'.
'Visitors' was the name the group used for people who came to the mansion looking for help related to the supernatural; somehow, the mansion had earned itself a reputation in the demon society, and so far they had handled eight cases of supernatural investigation. This happened more frequently than any of them had thought, and so Fred had agreed to stay at the mansion full-time during the day with Angel. Gunn usually worked at a professional weapon and arms dealership in downtown Sunnydale that had a very 'special' selection of its own for taking care of demons and unnamed creatures, but he had decided to take the day off because Fred had been feeling sick that morning.
"Ah'm all right, honestly," Fred protested in her rolling Southern accent, after Gunn advised her, for the ninth time, to stay in bed. "It's probably just a little stomach upset. You're makin' a big deal out of nothing, Charles."
"Maybe I am, and maybe I'm not," Gunn said, slipping his arms around her. "Either way, you look tired. It wouldn't hurt you to rest."
"And it wouldn't hurt you to believe that ah'm fine," Fred countered.
"I mean it." Gunn's voice softened, but his expression turned serious. "I'm worried about you."
Fred gazed at him for a long moment, then sighed and reached up to kiss the top of his nose. "Fine. Ah guess I could stand an hour's sleep."
By nine thirty that evening, everyone was gathered in the spacious mansion living room, lounging in armchairs or sofas and holding glasses of Anya's homemade lemonade; surprisingly, she managed to make a decent jug of lemonade, even though she completely failed to master any other culinary skill.
The only person missing from the room was Fred. "She fell asleep almost eleven hours ago," Gunn told them, his brow furrowed in worry. "She kept insisting she was fine, but she threw up this morning and I think she might have a fever."
"It could be the flu," Buffy suggested. "One of those really severe kinds."
"My uncle Marty had severe flu. He coughed up slime for a whole week." Xander shivered, remembering. "His handkerchief wasn't a pretty sight."
"Ew, thanks for sharing," Dawn said, disgusted.
"I could run a healing spell on her," Willow offered, honestly concerned about the young woman she had only met a few months ago.
"But you would still have to know what was wrong before conducting any kind of spell," Giles pointed out. "I think at this point that it would be safest to call a doctor."
Gunn nodded – he had been thinking along those lines himself, even though he knew that Fred would take it as an overreaction.
It only took a few minutes to locate the number of the nearest clinic in the phone book, and it only took two minutes for Gunn to get through.
"Whitman Clinic, how may I help you?" The woman's voice sounded bland and businesslike, as though she was too busy with something else to care all that much about whoever was calling.
"I need to speak to a doctor," Gunn answered shortly.
After a three minute hold, Gunn was put through to a Dr. Bluthe. The others couldn't hear all of the conversation, but they caught the general drift from what Gunn was saying; the doctor would ask a question, and Gunn would respond to it as well as he could, and once in a while he'd raise his eyebrows or mutter something under his breath.
When he finally put down the phone, the entire room had gone silent. The look on Gunn's face was… strange. Confused, disbelieving and totally blank all at one time, which was a big contrast to his naturally cool, confident air. It was easy to see that whatever he had heard, it hadn't been good.
"Well?" Buffy finally asked, breaking the silence. "Did you speak to the doctor?"
"And?" Angel prodded, concerned because of the look on the young man's face, "What did she say?"
"She said… She said…" Gunn let out a deep breath. He still looked stunned, as though he wasn't quite sure what had just happened.
"She said that Fred might be… pregnant."
To Be Continued.Author's Note: Since I enjoy hearing opinions from people who've read my fics, I've decided to put in a voting option at the end of this chapter: I want to bring in a few more characters, so which ones would you like to see come into the story? And should there be any original characters?
(Sidebar: Voting – like reviewing - is, of course, not something you have to do, but I'd appreciate any fic-related opinions or comments.)