Author: Drake Roberts
Rating: R, mostly for Faith and Dawn's language. But nothing too emotionally scarring, I promise.
Disclaimer: What do you mean these characters belong to someone else? What are they doing in my head then? Ok, ok. I'll give them back after I'm done. Thanks for the great show that gets my brain to working Mutant Enemy.
Disclaimer: I don't own the characters of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Angel. You really don't want to sue me. I have no money, and you cannot have my oversized Xander T-shirt.
Author's Note: I really should be working on Outside Humanity but this idea has been bouncing around in my head ever since I watched the finales of Buffy and Angel. This demonic bunny hasn't given me a moment's peace in four months. So, here it goes. Please excuse my insanity.
Xander, beaten and dusty, surveyed the building in front of him. A cold chill crawled up his spine and he shuddered. In high school, he would have pushed aside his sudden case of the heebie jeebies and gone on about his day. But the last seven years had shown him the consequences of such actions. So he made no move to mask his reaction from himself or from the others around him. He was tired of masks.
"What is it?" Dawn asked as she came to stand beside her friend.
Xander continued to stare at the building. "I don't like this place," he answered simply.
"Oh, come on. It's better than the bus. There's firm ground and you've lost the green tinge from the bumpy ride," Dawn argued in an attempt to lighten Xander's mood.
"Something happened here, Dawnie. Something bad." Xander repeated closing his eye.
Dawn watched him in concern. Ever since his ill fated encounter with Caleb, he'd become quieter. It was completely understandable, but she still worried.
Xander started slightly at her question and blinked heavily. He turned to her, a half smile on his face. "Don't worry, Dawnie, I'm fine. It's just this place. . . ."
Dawn gave him a smile before tugging lightly on his sleeve. "Come on. If we stand here much longer we're going to miss all the fun."
With that, the two entered the front lobby of Hyperion Hotel.
* * * * *
"Buffy?" Angel sputtered. "You're here."
"And apparently you've brought friends," Wesley continued.
Buffy shrugged. "So it would seem." She was too tired to offer any kind of witty comeback. After the battle, the bus ride, and finding medical aid for the injured, the last thing the golden haired Slayer wanted to do was explain herself to her ex-boyfriend, despite his genuine concern. "Thanks for the amulet, by the way."
"So it worked?" Angel asked tentatively. "Or do we need to prepare for some unfriendly visitors?"
Buffy smiled sadly. "No, it worked."
Angel frowned. If she'd had the energy, Buffy might have snickered at the bewildered expression that came to his face. "Then, not to be rude, but why are you here?"
Buffy looked at her feet, not exactly sure how to explain the chaos that had been the last twenty four hours. Because of her hesitation, it was Xander, who was just entering with Dawn, who spoke up. "Well, we'd crash at Buff's house, but, you see it's kinda not there anymore. While we were fleeing the sinkhole that once was Sunnyhell, we made a list of every one of our LA friends who owned hotels."
Dawn stood beside her friend and folded her arms across her chest. "It was a really short list. So, you got room for a party of thirty, preferably with cable? There's a new episode of Smallville on tonight."
That statement seemed to snap everyone out of whatever stupor they'd fallen into. The potentials turned Slayers began looking to Buffy, Willow, and Giles for guidance while the members of Angel Investigations started figuring the logistics of harboring over two dozen teenage girls in a hotel that had seen better days. For the first time, Angel saw himself thankful that they'd fixed up the place when Jasmine had first made her appearance. Otherwise, there would have been no way to provide safe living space for so many. Buffy and Willow fell into their leadership roles with the ease of ones accustomed, with Giles not far behind and started assigning roommates, taking a weapon inventory, and sending the more able bodied girls to help unload the bus.
Dawn watched the groups start to break into groups from the background, Xander still at her side. They seemed to have everything handled, so she made no move to volunteer for packing duty. Her entire body ached, and not for the first time, she wished a little of Buffy's healing ability would have been passed along with Buffy's blood when the monks had given her human form.
"Ah, the life of the super powered. I wonder what it's like to fight evil without the accompanying full body sprain," Xander mused.
Dawn shook her head. "Man, it's creepy how you do that."
"Know exactly what I'm thinking," she answered.
Xander gave a half hearted shrug. "Great minds think alike," he offered, then grimaced. "and ache alike. What say we leave all the heavy lifting to the professionals? I see a really comfy couch right over there with our names on it."
Dawn brightened. "You think there's a TV over there too?"
Xander turned to face her. "This is Deadboy we're talking about here."
The young girl sighed. "I should have known that comfort and entertainment was too much to ask for in one day."
Xander put an arm around Dawn's shoulders. "We're shirking responsibility here, Dawnie. Just go with it."
* * * * *
"Life really sucks, you know?"
"For as long as I can remember," Xander answered. "But you're usually a lot more optimistic. What brought on this revelation?"
"Nothing specific," Dawn responded.
"Lying doesn't suit you, Dawn Patrol. Spill it."
Years of crush-induced observation had made her an expert on all things Xander, and she knew that tone of voice. Once Xander knew something was bothering one of his girls, he didn't let it go. If she refused to answer him, he'd respect her decision. . .for about five minutes. Then he'd drag the answer out of her whether she liked it or not.
She sighed. "We're sitting here staring at the Hyperion's peeling wallpaper instead of talking about what's really on our minds."
"And what is that?" Xander asked.
"The dead," Dawn answered bluntly. "We won, but we paid for it in the blood of our friends. If we don't talk about it, they'll never be mentioned again. I want to remember them, and I know you do too."
There were unshed tears in Xander's remaining eye when he faced Dawn, but a hint of a bittersweet smile touched his lips. "Do you know what I did last night?" Dawn shook her head. "I played D&D until the sun rose. Amanda was a master. Andrew went into the game thinking he'd rule and she crushed him under her thumb like a bug. The look on his face when she obliterated his character was the funniest thing I've seen in years."
Dawn giggled softly. "I would have liked to have seen that."
"By four in the morning, everyone else had crashed; we were the only two left awake. So, we got to talking. Did you know that her parents have been in London for the last four months? They didn't have a clue about anything that was happening in her life."
"I always wondered how she got away with staying with us when she was actually from Sunnydale," Dawn said in a quiet yet stunned voice.
"Yeah," Xander agreed just as quietly. " I wi. . . .I'd like to have known her better."
"I'd like to have known all of them better," Dawn added. Xander nodded in agreement. "All these people shared a house with me for months, and I barely knew some of their names. It should have been different."
"But it wasn't," Xander told her. "And it's no one's fault. Sometimes things just happen too fast for anyone to keep up."
The two sat in silence for a few moments, letting their emotions settle. Both offered up a silent prayer that their newest friend had found a better place, her and all the other barely known Potentials that had briefly entered their lives.
"Anya pulled me aside yesterday afternoon after Buffy's last big hoorah speech."
Xander looked at Dawn curiously. His ex-fiancée hadn't said anything to him about talking to anyone.
"She said that if she was going to go into almost certain death, then she had to impart some of her knowledge to a younger generation, since it was the only form of immortality available to humans. Apparently I'm considered the younger generation."
Xander grinned even as a silent tear slid down his cheek. "What," he stopped, swallowing the lump that had risen in his throat. "What words of wisdom did she impart?"
"She. . . ." Dawn paused, and a grin came to her face. "She gave me the sex talk."
Xander's jaw dropped. He really should have seen that coming. He'd almost married the woman, after all. Dawn saw the young man's expression and laughed out loud, though the sound was filled with the weight of unshed tears.
"She pulled me into my room, sat me on my bed, and point-blank asked me what I wanted to know about sex. I was so shocked that all I could do was stare. None of you had even acknowledged the fact that I was old enough to know what sex was, much less discuss it with me. It took me a full minute to realize she was serious."
"What did you tell her?" Xander asked, his voice barely above a whisper.
"I told her the truth," Dawn answered. "I wanted to know everything. And she told me. We talked for nearly two hours. When I asked her about blowjobs, she didn't act like I was some kind of slut for being curious. I asked her if she'd ever been tied up during sex, and without blinking an eye, she shared a couple of her more adventurous times in bed. She answered everything so matter of fact that I forgot to be embarrassed and asked any question that popped into my head. And she answered every one of them with more honesty than Buffy ever would if I'd have asked her about it."
Dawn stopped suddenly, wiping her eyes. "After about an hour and a half when all my morbid curiosity had been spent I asked her what she thought was the best thing about sex. She got kind of quiet, and for a second I didn't think she was going to answer me. Then she smiled. 'In the thousand years I've walked the earth in one form or another, she told me, I've used sex for many things: to manipulate, as a bargaining chip, as a means of torture, and in acts of vengeance, among other things. What makes sex good is not what you do; it's how you feel. A night of inexperienced lovemaking with a man or woman you love with your entire heart is a million times better than a night of meaningless pleasure spent with the most skilled lover on the planet. Sex is empty until it stops being about you or your lover's interlocking body parts and becomes a declaration of the way you feel about each other. Sex is nothing if you don't put your heart into it. Without that, it's not worth getting all sweaty and staining the sheets. I've only met a few humans who truly realized that without a thousand years experience. You've known two of them. Does that answer your question?' I sat on the bed and she looked down at me, her expression completely open and sincere, and I nodded. She smiled, completely thrilled simply because she'd helped me, and pulled me into a hug. . . and for an instant, I remembered exactly what having a mom felt like. I'll never forget it."
Dawn trailed off as she pulled herself out of those thoughts and back into the here and now. She reached for Xander's hand and pulled herself against the shaking body beside her. Tears fell into her hair like raindrops as she laid her head on Xander's chest.
"I miss her so much," Xander choked out.
"Yeah," Dawn whispered as the tears she'd held back for what seemed like forever finally broke through. "Me too."
* * * * *
"And the amulet killed all of the Turok'an by manifesting a pillar of light through Spike?" Wesley asked.
"Yeah," Buffy answered wearily. "It burned him alive from the inside." She paused. "I could hear him laughing as he turned to ash while we made our escape.
Wesley smirked. "He was probably struck by the profound irony." At Buffy's glare, he felt the sudden need to clarify his statement. "William the Bloody, feared Master Vampire, killer of two Slayers in the last century sacrifices himself so that an army of Slayers can live to fight another day. If that doesn't strike you as ironic, I don't know what possibly could."
"Huh," Willow mused from where she was cuddled up on a couch with her new girlfriend, Kennedy. "I never thought of it that way."
A couple of the new Slayers tittered nervously as the image struck them. "A vampire saved us all," Rona spoke aloud with a snort. "Almost makes me feel bad for not trusting the guy further than I could throw his skinny ass. Almost."
"Whatever power was in the amulet caused Sunnydale to collapse around itself creating a town-sized sinkhole. I wonder how the government will explain that one?"
"Probably the same way it explains two weeks of inexplicable world peace," Fred answered snidely. "With as big a lie as they can make up."
The conversation trailed off, and an uncomfortable silence descended on the group. The younger Slayers didn't know anyone from the LA group well enough to ask any questions and the rest of the Scoobies had let too much distance come between themselves and the members of Angel Investigations to be completely comfortable around them. Both groups wanted answers, but neither was willing to start the inquisition. Thankfully, this was solved by the next arrival.
"Yo, B. What's with the long face?" Faith taunted. "We just saved the world, again."
Angel smiled. "It's good to see you in one piece, Faith."
"I told you she was too stubborn to die," Gunn said, also directing a smile toward the raven haired slayer. "What kept ya?"
"I was checking up on a friend," she told Gunn. "All the injured are bedded down for the night. The slayers should be up and around in the next couple of days. Robin will need to stay a little longer. But everyone's outta the woods."
Buffy smiled in relief. "That's good to hear."
Faith smirked. "So what did I miss?"
"We've just finished filling everyone in on what went down in Sunnydale," Willow told her. A lot of their animosity had faded over the past week or so. They still had a hardy dislike for one another, but they seemed willing to put it aside in favor of the greater good.
Faith turned her gaze toward the Angel Investigations team. "Well you heard about the Fall of Sunnydale. Any questions?"
Everyone was silent for a few moments before Fred tentatively raised her hand in the air. Faith rolled her eyes at the childish display, but nodded toward her. "What is it, Fred?"
Fred backed off slightly when everyone's gaze focused on her. "Uh, w-where is the amulet now?" she finally managed to ask.
"Buried with the rest of Sunnydale in the sinkhole," Willow answered. Fred felt a little more at ease when Willow offered her an encouraging smile.
Faith nodded. "Anyone else? Faith surveyed the room. As she searched out all the familiar faces, she noticed a very glaring absence.
"Hey, where's X?" Faith frowned. "Please tell me you didn't send the poor guy off on a donut run."
Buffy, Willow, and Giles all looked around as if only now noticing their missing member. Faith's face reddened. "You've gotta be kidding me. You guys know where he is, right?" She looked at the Sunnydalian refugees' expressions and her fears were realized. Everyone from Angel Investigations jumped when the desktop in front of Faith was cracked in two by her fist. "I can't believe you guys! How could you be so fucking irresponsible?"
Angel frowned, not understanding Faith's extreme reaction. "What is it?"
Faith turned to him, fists clenched. "His ex, Anya was killed during the battle. These guys more than anyone should know what that does to a person. And they left him ALONE!"
A hand landed on Faith's shoulder, and she turned around only to be confronted by the calm face of Lorne. She wondered how a demon could look so reassuring. "Don't worry, doll face. The boy's not alone."
Faith's anger stilled. "What do you mean?"
"Finish looking around the room, honey. Who else is missing from this picture?"
Faith scanned the room again. Buffy and Willow saw the tension fade from Faith's frame before a smile came to her face. "Should have known. Those two are always looking out for each other." Turning back to the group, she pinned Buffy and Willow with a chilling glare. "At least one of you has a some sense."
Willow looked around the room and sighed with relief. "Dawn's with him," she told Buffy.
"Where?" Buffy asked.
"So now you care?" Faith asked disdainfully.
Buffy's face flushed as she stalked toward the dark slayer. Angel decided to step in before things got way out of hand. "This isn't solving anything. " He turned to Buffy. "They snuck off down that hallway over an hour ago when everyone else was unloading the bus." Faith saw Buffy's smirk as Angel turned to address her.
"Faith, you and Lorne go check on them."
She also got the distinct pleasure of seeing her gape in shock after that declaration. But apparently the blonde Slayer had gotten smarter over the years, because she didn't offer any protest as she and the green skinned lounge singer headed down the hallway Angel had indicated. It took them a few minutes to get their bearings in the dimly lit room, but when they finally spotted the missing two they got a surprise.
"Oh, my," Lorne whispered. He looked at the two young people asleep on the sofa. They were literally wrapped around each other, Dawn's head on the boy's chest, Xander's cheek nestled against her hair. They still held hands, and Xander's other arm was wrapped around her smaller body, holding her to him. Their legs and sock clad feet were intertwined, their shoes abandoned on the floor. He could see the evidence of crying on both of their faces, but at the moment they looked peaceful.
"Xan's lucky B didn't come up here with us," Faith mused just as quietly as she also took in the scene. "She'd be killing him right now."
"Why?" Lorne asked. "They're so cute together."
Faith smiled. "You got it all wrong, Greeny," she told him. "They may look like a sweet couple all cozy like they are, but it's not like that.
He grinned. "How can you be sure there's nothing going on between them, doll?"
"It's not that I don't think they're close," Faith started to explain. "The entire time I was in Sunnydale, I rarely saw them more than three feet from each other. And it's not that I think the idea is out of the realm of possibility. I mean there's really not that many years between them and I'm not stupid."
"But how do you know for certain?"
It was Faith's turn to smile. "Because both of them still have all their clothes on," At the Host's bewildered expression, the dark Slayer decided to elaborate. "This is a wake. The rest of the Scoobs, they have all the fire power, but these two are the group's soul. When someone dies in the fight, most suppress it, or try to reverse it, or ask the eternal question, "why?" These two remember it. Neither one of them would let their hormones get in the way of something that important."
"I'm getting that, honey. The energy in here is thick enough to cut with a knife," Lorne responded. "A lot of sorrow was brought to light, but there's love there too." Lorne sighed. "Man, what I wouldn't give to hear those two sing."
"How about we just let them sleep instead?" Faith suggested.
* * * * *
Everyone in the room looked up when the Slayer and the lounge singer returned to the lobby.
"Well," Buffy said after a few moments of strained silence. "Where are they?"
"They're sleeping," Faith retorted shortly. "After a fight like we had with no Slayer powers, I figured they needed the rest and left them to it." She'd have to remember to snag the two of them tomorrow, she told herself mentally, and make sure they weren't banged up too badly. Neither of the two of them were big with the sharing when it came to injuries.
"I want to check on them," Buffy said, making a move for the door.
"Relax, B," Faith told her. "They're taking care of each other. That's what you wanted them to do when you convinced Xander to leave Sunnydale with her."
Buffy frowned. "How do you know about that?"
Faith shrugged. "It's a small house, B. You gotta watch where and when you have conversations. Besides, how do you think lil' sis got a taser?"
"Buffy sent Xander and Dawn away? What are you talking about?" Angel asked.
"B decided that she wanted her sister away from the First, so she convinced Xander to take her somewhere safe and stay there while they fought the big fight. He chloroformed the kid, and drove out of Sunnydale. Dawn tasered him and drove back. After that, B decided to let her sis hang around."
"Faith!" Willow exclaimed upon hearing the girl's summary. "How could you do that? Xander was doing what Buffy asked him to do, and she's Dawn's guardian. It wasn't your decision to make. It was Buffy and Xander's, and they'd made their choice."
Angel tensed, fully expecting to have to restrain Faith from going after the redheaded witch. He was totally surprised by the sly grin that came to the raven haired Slayer's face. By the look of Willow, she was startled as well.
"Oh, you think so, Red?" Faith asked, grin firmly in place. "Then answer one question for me."
Willow eyed her former enemy with trepidation. "Ok. What?"
"Who do you think gave me the taser?" Willow's eyes widened and Faith nodded to the silent question.
"Damn," Gunn commented. "And I thought our lives were complicated."
Buffy looked equally stunned. "But. . . .but why would Xander do something like that?" she asked, her mind frantically putting the scattered pieces of the puzzle together.
There was no anger in Faith's voice when she spoke, just a sense of resignation. "If Dawn had wanted to run away, escape all the craziness of Sunnydale, he would have left with her and never looked back. But he would never hold anyone back if they wanted to fight. It's not his way. Thing is, he never could say no to you or Red. So, he did the only thing he thought was fair to everyone. He did your dirty work for you, but he gave Dawn something you never did: a choice."
Faith was beginning to realize that some things she observed and took at face value, especially about Xander, went completely unrecognized by the others. She wondered when Buffy and Willow had become so focused on their own lives that they were blind to what he, and Dawn, did for everyone. She didn't fool herself into thinking she knew everything that he did behind the scenes to make sure that the Summers' home didn't fall down around the Slayer's ears, or get taken away by the bank. She'd seen Xander sorting through the mail with a methodical familiarity that spoke of experience, remove the utility, cell phone, and internet bills, and grab Andrew before heading off for the supermarket without a word or request for funds. The only indication she got that anyone had any idea of what was going on was Dawn giving Xander a smile and a hug before she helped the two boys unload the groceries. He wasn't making with the powerful mojo, or pummeling the First into submission, but she doubted their army would have been of any use if everyone were homeless and starving. But Xander didn't feel the need to bring attention to any of his actions, so she would respect his decision, for now. However, she could only watch him being blatantly neglected for so long.
"He would have left them?" The question came surprisingly from Angel. Faith met his eyes and nodded. "What's happened since I left Sunnydale?"
* * * * *
TBC. . . . .