Author note: Wow, this is it. Tell me what you think. I've enjoyed this adventure. Thanks a bunch. I know this has been a long fic. It's been a long haul. Someone stop me before I write again. AHHHHHHHHHH!
Chapter Twenty-six – Begin Again
"This is so not what I was expectin'," Gunn said from the hospital room door.
Wesley's eyes flew open, glad that his friend was there to see him. But the woman who had wrapped herself around him was another story. Damn, Gunn had terrible timing. And Faith had even worse timing.
"Faith, wake up," he implored her, poking her to move.
Her hand moved through his hair as she snuggled her face against his neck. If he wasn't breathing heavily because of the lung, now he was breathing heavily because of her closeness. And the fact that Gunn had entered the room.
"I can come back, English," Gunn told him.
"No, that's alright, Gunn. Just stay. She was just sleeping, I swear."
Gunn just smiled a little, still sitting in his wheelchair at the door. It did bother Wesley that Gunn was now in a wheelchair. He hoped that there was not any permanent damage done. He had been in a coma for weeks, according to Angel.
"Faith, Gunn is here," Wesley said to her again, shaking her to wake up.
"Hey, Chuck. Come join us."
"What?" they both shouted.
"Just kidding," she managed to croak out, peeling herself off of Wesley to sit up at the side of the bed.
He sighed in relief. His mind could not quite wrap itself around Faith and her tenderness.
"You two are so gullible. You know that. What's up, Gunn?"
"Just came to see how Wes was doing. And I needed to get out of that hospital room before Helga came back."
"Helga," both Wes and Faith mouthed.
"Physical therapist. She's killing me, man. I can't wait to get out of here."
Faith snickered a little. "We could break you out."
"Faith, he needs to recover well enough to leave," Wesley chided her.
Not that he wanted Faith to break him out of the hospital soon. He hated them with a passion. Seeing the inside of one too often caused him to break out in a rash.
"And I wanted to see with my own eyes. You have more lives than a cat, Wes."
Great, one of his best friends was comparing him to a cat. Gunn smiled at the look that Wesley shot him. Were they still best friends? He wondered that about Angel also. Things had changed significantly. It would take time and lots of effort to repair all the relationships. He didn't know if he wanted to stick around. The memories might get the better of him.
"I've used up all nine of them."
"And I'm protecting him, so no dying," Faith added with a grin.
"Not everyday you have a slayer watching your back," Gunn finished.
He had told Angel that he needed to discuss with Faith what her next move was. He knew from Angel that she had quit her job, so she was free to make some decisions.
"Uh oh, Gunn. He's thinking again. Find me something to whap him upside the head."
"I did need to discuss with you what you intended to do," he told her.
"Hey, I need to go back before Helga puts out an all points bulletin and she ties me to the bed."
"Thanks for putting that vision in my brain, Chuck."
"You're welcome, Faith. I'm just down the hall. Don't be a stranger."
Gunn rolled over to shake Wesley's hand. Their secret little handshake came back to him instantly. Gunn smiled in return. Maybe they could get back to some semblance of peace between them.
"Didn't you stick a knife in him?" Faith finally asked after Gunn left.
Why did she have to remind him about his failures? He was in such a rage at that time, right after Fred had died, that he didn't know how to feel, much less contain the rage he felt against his friend. He lashed out, not thinking of the consequences. Just as he had lashed out at Angel too. Maybe it would be best if he just left the city.
"It's complicated," he responded after a moment's hesitation.
"Yeah, because you don't do easy. OK, ask me again."
"Oh, about what you might do now?"
"I'm not sure what to do, Wes. I can stick around here, watch all of you beat on yourselves until there's nothing left or I can see the world, maybe find some hot body to be my sugar daddy."
Wesley tried to laugh, but it hurt too much. His chest was still so sore.
"Hey, are you choking or do you think that's funny?" she asked as he wheezed.
"Quite funny, actually. At least you have the beginnings of a plan."
"Well, since yours is 'let me lay here until I die', I thought I'd be proactive."
"A proactive Faith. Now that's a scary thought if there ever was one."
Faith lightly tapped him on the shoulder with her fist. "Hey, when I get those slayer powers back, and you're healed, I'm gonna have a few words with you."
"Which means you'll have to stick around for that to happen. It could be a while."
Faith grinned at him. "You want me to stay?"
"It is up to you."
He really wanted her to stay, if just to help her find her place in the world. And the fact that she made him forget just for a moment what he was missing in his life.
"I just wanted to tell you I'm sorry about Fred."
"Thank you. That's means a lot coming from you. She was special."
"I know," Faith added, taking a hold of his hand to show how much she cared. "And she'd probably kick your butt if she saw how you've been acting."
"Yes, you are right. She would."
"So I'll hang with you on one condition."
Great, she wanted something from him. It wasn't like he had much to begin with to give her.
"You'll be my watcher again," she stated emphatically.
He really didn't know what to say. He had been a complete failure at it before. Now she wanted him to try again.
"Faith, I'm not sure I'm the best candidate."
"Listen, you're the only one that ever gave a damn. Robin was just wacko, and Giles already had Buffy. Now you have me. No, what I mean is I have you. No, that didn't come out right. OK, we need each other. You know what I mean," Faith rambled on, getting worked up by the second.
They really did need each other to get through this mess. He didn't know what he would do. But if she was there to give me a reason to go on, then it might be worth a shot.
"I'm not guaranteeing anything. You'll have to listen to me."
"You'll have to listen to me."
"You'll have to follow orders."
"You'll have to make sure those orders are ones I can follow."
"So the next question is, do we stay here with Angel?"
Faith bowed her head, like she didn't want to answer that question. He didn't know whether he did either. Her shrug didn't tell him anything.
"Do we have to decide today?"
He smiled at her logic. She was correct. They didn't have to make any more decisions today.
"No. I think one is enough."
"Good. Then let's see if they'll spring you. Go make sure your apartment hasn't been looted or anything."
Having a purpose after all he had gone through in the last two years actually felt good. It made the worry and heartache lift just a little. He just wished that all his friends were here to share this newfound purpose.
"Thought maybe I'd find you up on the roof tonight that big pile of dust you so happily refer to becoming," Angel called out to Spike as he sat in the basement, huddled in a corner.
"Just thought I'd come down here to think is all."
"Sulk is more like it. I'm sorry about Illyria, Spike."
Coming from the poof, that was a first. Angel never said he was sorry about anything to anyone, from what Spike remembered.
"I liked her. She had spunk. Kind of like the slayer. Except a little scarier at times."
He really didn't want Angel trying to make him feel better. Illyria had been special. She had sacrificed herself for the greater good. He knew what that felt like. Maybe the watcher had done his job after all. Spike bloody well knew he didn't. Illyria was just coming into her own before all this happened.
"So what now?" Angel mused as he sat down on the stairs leading up to the lobby.
"Don't know. Wolfram and Hart will still be gunning for us, that's for sure. Maybe we should disappear for a while. Go to Europe."
"Oh no, you don't. We're not going anywhere near Buffy. I thought we had that settled."
The big poof really didn't get it, did he? Spike just wanted to get away from all the memories that the place had created. It wasn't like the place had been sucked into a great, big hole like Sunnydale. Spike shook his head back and forth.
"Not what I was suggesting. I just thought we should keep moving. The big boys will figure out how to come after us again. Might as well be on our terms. Of course, we could just go to the Watchers' Council and see what's up."
"Why would we want to do that? They're just way too scary."
"Oh really. And I just thought two vampires were enough to frighten most of the population," Giles called out from the top of the stairs.
"You should have told me, Spike," Angel growled.
"You're getting old, mate. You didn't even hear him coming."
"God, maybe I am getting old."
"Will you two tell me what the bloody hell you've done with Faith?" Giles yelled at them. "And Spike, why are you alive?" he added at the end.
"I have to remember that Andrew keeps secrets well," Spike said, pulling himself up off the ground.
"We haven't done anything with Faith, Giles. She came to us."
"Robin Wood tried to kill her. You want to tell me what has been going on?"
Angel chuckled from his perch. "You are not going to believe us if we told you."
"Hey, mate. You might give ole Giles a heart attack if he knows."
Spike was jesting with the watcher. He always liked to remind the man that he was getting older. Not that the man hadn't aged well, but nonetheless older than most of his friends. And the fact that the man tended to survive a lot of battles.
"Let's go to my office. I'm the only one who can brood around here," Angel told Spike.
"Did you copywrite it or something?" Spike threw back.
"Just tell me the story so I can find Faith, you two," Giles shot back, clearly annoyed with them.
Giles almost choked when Angel told him that Wesley was alive. He had never seen the man get that surprised by something. He thought that Giles had seen just about everything.
"That's not possible," Giles concluded.
"Just like two souled vampires wasn't possible. Makes you wonder, now doesn't it, Rupert," Spike added for emphasis.
"It does, William."
The three men had settled down in Angel's office, going through the whole story with Giles. He watched as Spike threw Giles the very American gesture of the middle finger. Faith's influence, no doubt.
"I think I've figured out how to restore Faith's abilities. Do you know where she is, by chance?"
"Hospital, with the younger watcher. And I thought that the older you ponces got, the more cautious you became. I really have to say the man's a bit daft."
Angel knew that Spike was joking about Wes. Would the two of them drive him crazy if they stayed together? He wouldn't blame Wesley if he wanted to disappear and lead a more normal life at this point. Not many people could be brought back to life and not be evil to boot.
"Robin is in our custody now. We'll take good care of him. Seems one of the slayers found some very interesting writings that Wood had done. Although it was totally wrong for her to read them, it appears that Wood was trying to bring back his mother."
"Damn, now that's scary," Spike said.
"And I believe he would have attempted it with Faith. Nikki didn't deserve that."
Angel saw how Spike shivered just a little. Since he had killed Nikki, her coming back to life would not have been good for him.
"You'll help him?" Angel asked.
"As best we can," Giles answered back, rising to leave. "I should find Faith. I've devised a ritual to bring back her powers. I do believe the sooner I perform it, the better."
"Have Wes do it," Angel quickly added before Giles could get out of the room.
Giles tilted his head like he was seriously thinking about doing just that.
"I have a feeling that Faith's going to want him to be her watcher again. It might help."
"It's a complex spell. I'm not sure he has that kind of power."
Both Angel and Spike chuckled. They had seen how much power the man had. If he developed it correctly, he just might rival Willow in power, but Angel didn't tell Giles that. He would have that discussion later, when things were quiet.
"Faith, I'm fine. You don't have to mother me."
Yes, she thought she had to mother him. He had saved her life from her crazy, sort of watcher. She thought she owed him big time. Why didn't she realize that she didn't? She placed a pillow behind his head on the couch to make him more comfortable and had made him a cup of tea.
"At least no one could enter still. Thank goodness your landlord fixed the door."
"Yes, along with the eviction notice tacked to it. Thirty days is better than being out on the street."
So, he would have to find a new place to stay. What would happen to Faith? Neither one of them had a job now. Could they just travel around and freelance?
"OK, now food. The doctors said to keep up your strength, so I'm gonna go fix something. It might just be tuna fish, but that's protein, right?"
Wesley thought that maybe she was fattening him up so she could punch his lights out when he got better. He really did need to start researching a cure for her lost powers. Faith walked into the kitchen finally. He breathed a sigh of relief. He had to remember to not get hurt as often, because this would be the scenario he would have to live through. Only Cordelia had ever fussed over him, and her idea of comfort was to slap a bandage on and tell him to not get hurt again. The banging on the door drew him out of his thoughts about the past.
Before he could reach the door, Faith had come out of the kitchen.
"Who?" she mouthed.
Wesley looked through the peephole, hoping that it was just Spike or Angel. The man on the other side didn't surprise him one bit. As a matter of fact, he was hoping that Giles would come calling sooner, rather than later.
"Giles," Wesley said out loud.
"Don't let him in," Faith said, loud enough for Giles to hear through the door.
"I have to. He might know of something that could help you."
Faith snarled up her nose, like there was something she didn't want to do, but would do it if he said so. Wesley opened the door to reveal Giles, who was not too pleased to see him.
"You put her in danger," Giles started off.
Not a hello, how have you been, or oh, I see that you're alive instead of dead greeting. Giles was thoroughly pissed off at him. Would nothing ever change? When Giles tried to step over the threshold, he hit a barrier, so he couldn't enter. Faith giggled a little from behind him.
"Good one, Wes," she announced.
Wesley hadn't wanted anyone from the Council entering his apartment after he was dead, just so they wouldn't take possession of anything he owned, especially his diaries. Those he had wanted to give willingly.
"You can come in," Wesley told the watcher.
Giles was able to step through then. He carried a sack and a large spell book underneath his arm. Wesley almost salivated because now he knew exactly why Giles had tracked them down.
"You know how to help Faith?" Wesley asked the older man.
"Exactly. I found a way to reverse what Robin did to her."
"Hey, you two. I'm standing right here. Why do watchers have to be jerks and English? Makes it even more difficult to get through to them."
Wesley smiled at her, knowing she just wanted to rant. Giles handed the materials over to Wesley.
"Where would you like to set up, Rupert?"
"No. You should perform the spell. I came to the realization just a few hours ago."
"He's been hurt, Giles. I'm not gonna cause him to go back into the hospital," Faith wanted Giles to know.
"I'm also here to offer the two of you jobs."
"I knew you shouldn't have let him in," Faith told Wesley, scowling at Giles.
"Faith and I have not decided what we will do."
"I see. Angel and Spike are going to England. Just thought you should know. To brief the new Council on the battle that was staged."
Wesley couldn't believe his ears. Angel and Spike were going to cooperate with the very organization that a few years before would stake them on sight.
"Not an elaborate plan to just dust them, is it?" Faith asked the question that was on the tip of his tongue.
"No. It's a very different group of people."
"Not with my father in it," Wesley added with a bit of venom.
"He's officially retired as of a week ago. I started to research some things from the past and it occurred to me that many of the issues that the Council had in the first place were caused by many of the edicts that your father had put into place. He and Quentin Travers were quite the twosome."
"Good. So Dad's out. What's to say that there aren't others?"
He was letting Faith speak for him, since his brain was turning over and over with the thought of becoming a real, honest-to-goodness watcher again. Was it something he really wanted? He had worked so hard to even banish the thought of becoming the very thing that made him a failure in the first place.
"We don't know that for sure. We will never know. I can guarantee that the two of you will operate with as much autonomy as you wish."
"Oh, that means we get to do what we want," Faith said, happy with herself that she knew exactly what Giles was getting at.
"In a fashion, yes. You would only answer to me. If that would be agreeable."
Wesley was practically shaking inside. On the outside, he was as cool and collected as he could be. They would have to discuss this at length to see if it was right for the two of them.
"OK, sounds good to me," Faith answered for him again.
"I, we, well we haven't discussed this, Faith."
"OK, trial period then. If we don't like it, then we blow."
Giles smiled at the slayer, knowing that she would probably get her way.
"That might be acceptable. Not like we can stay here. Let's just get through the spell and we'll discuss it."
"Sure," Faith acquiesced.
Wesley performed the spell without much effort, with Giles assisting him. When it was finished Faith looked a little green around the face, for which she promptly ran for the bathroom. Going after her, he waited until she had emptied the contents of her stomach before knocking on the door.
"OK, now that officially sucked," she told him as he opened the door.
Running some water, he handed her a wet washcloth to wipe her face. As she rinsed her mouth, he just stood back until she gathered herself together.
"Better?" he asked her quietly.
"Yeah. Let's just hope it worked."
"A test then?"
Faith swung out and put a deep hole in the bathroom wall. She grinned back to him.
"Nice spell. Just next time tell me if I'm gonna barf."
"Giles's fault. Not my spell."
"I could spar with him?"
"Faith," he warned her.
"OK, so I won't break him. I so wanted to, though. So you OK with the set-up?"
Wesley didn't know if he was. He would have to play it by ear to see if it really would work.
"We will see. Are you?"
"You'll be there. So it'll be fine. Partners?"
Faith put her hand out to shake. He took her warm hand into his. If he wasn't mistaken, a slight spark passed between them. But he must have been mistaken, because Faith just smiled at him like she had just won the lottery.
"So those are my choices? I don't just get to pick from anyone?"
Why oh why did Cordelia have to explain this every time someone had to choose. It wasn't like it was rocket science or anything. Or was it for Fred?
"Yep. That's it."
Fred immediately pointed to the one on the far left.
"Oh, honey. Are you sure?"
"Yeah. Definitely. He really does need help. I mean, look at him. He's lost his way."
"How come she got better choices than I did?" Lindsey complained.
"Because she's a nice person, you nitwit. You weren't, need I remind you. You need so much work, Lindsey. And if you screw this one up."
"I know. It's back to the paperwork dimension. Please, no Lilah."
Cordelia truly wished that Wesley had come back to her. Doyle was her friend and Fred was at one point, but her bond with Wes was unbreakable. He understood her like no other did, besides Angel.
"So, what do we do now?" Fred asked.
"You watch. And you learn. And you read the damn book."
"Are you gonna keep remindin' people about it? I really am sorry, sweetheart," Doyle pleaded.
"Yeah. I'm not hearing it, you dork."
Cordelia waved a book into existence in front of the two new recruits.
"A book?" Lindsey asked, not wanting to take on the task.
"Oh, good. A book. And I thought I'd just have ta go at this without anythin'. This is great."
"Good. Maybe I can crib off the smart girl," Lindsey mumbled.
"OK, Fred. Can you see him?" Doyle asked her.
Fred looked at the picture that Cordelia had revealed. "He looks so sad. What do I do? He can't stay that way for long."
"Just be careful," Cordelia answered.
"We don't want to be saddled with someone like Lindsey again," Doyle said out the side of his mouth so only Cordelia could hear.
So that had been their punishment for all the things that had gone wrong this last time. They needed to reform Lindsey. Which meant, they couldn't screw up or something even worse would happen, like Lilah coming back. That just made Cordelia want to puke.
"He learned the brooding from the best, Fred."
"Oh, yeah. You're right. Hey, you need to take care of Mr. Broody Pants too."
Cordelia knew she needed to speak with Angel. But just watching Fred, starting off on a new adventure, being where she should be, made her feel just wonderful. She didn't want to ruin the mood by talking with the damn vampire.
"You take care of your vampire. I'll take care of mine."
Author notes: The end, can you believe it? Should there be a sequel? I left the door open. So they aren't necessarily going to be a team, but they will be in close proximity to each other. Which means they will be. And I haven't resolved Spike and his now broodiness. He really is sad that Illyria died. He just doesn't get a break. And no romance between Faith and Wes because it's just too soon. So they just flirt a little. And Gunn needs to recover still. I like happy endings. So here it is. So tell me what you think of a sequel. If there are enough of you out there, then I'll think about it. Lots of things to explore.
Thanks go out to:
Wow, there are so many people that followed this beast to completion. And lots that hopped in along the way. I know how hard it is to read people's stuff and try to write stuff of your own. I try to do both. And there are a lot of you out there that are just readers because you still enjoy this universe. I hope you keep creating and reading because it can never die if we all do. So thanks to you all for the support, ideas, and everything in between. Even if we didn't always agree, we still had a good time!
Thanks to: OK, these aren't in any particular order or anything. I just want to thank every one of you for putting time into this fic. I really do appreciate all of you for looking at it, if just to drop a line and say hi. WhiteRabbit, tp96, Jill-RenaySimon, Imzadi, Sketchie, shahid, steph, Eternal Dragon101, Jess, Dduck, Slayerfan, Illyria639, pari106, Tariq, peaches&cream, Clodia, Wav, Danielle, qkith, Darklight, Angels Touch, Polyester Rage, Caity, Illiyra, Uberwicca, MadHatter, Mandie, clcountry, futurelyfamous, Andraste2, Maudie, Mary, and all the others, because I'm sure I missed someone along the way.
Answers to questions:
Imzadi—I love Fred/Wes too. Read qkith's stuff. Great Fred/Wes stuff. Maybe you already have.
Pari106—Yeah, typical Wes. SuperWes was fun for a while.
Shahid—a little Giles for chapter twenty-six; he has to fix some things in the Council.
Mandie—I miss Fred too. Sniff, sniff. I miss them all. That's why I write this stuff because I'm still in withdrawal. Aren't we all?