Disclaimer: I don't own a thing.
Summary: Post AtS and BtVS, Faith and Xander are approached by a secret government agency. Surprises all around.
Chapter 30: Ways and means; the epilogue
Faith recovered slowly, groaning and pulling herself upright. She glanced around and saw Xander and crawled over to him slowly, feeling the cuts on her right knee scratch across the sand.
When she reached him she curled up into the crook of his shoulder, pressing her face against him and breathing deeply, inhaling his scent. "I am sick of getting beat up like this," she groaned.
"I think Spike is almost done," wheezed the barely conscious Xander, glancing at her with eyes that weren't quite right. It took her a moment to realize that one was larger than the other, and he was clearly concussed.
A boot appeared in front of her face, and she glanced up at Angel, who towered over her.
"I think it's over now," he said.
Faith glanced back, wrapping her arms around Xander. Illyria stood beside the altar, and Spike was standing beside her, laughing.
Faith felt a little tug of resentment that the blood-stained ex-vampire could laugh so easily about this. Illyria had thrown them all around a moment ago, and now he could make jokes about it? That didn't seem right.
Xander's hand curled in her hair, holding her against him as best he could. "I need a vacation," moaned the young Watcher.
Angel sighed, squatting down beside him. "You have a collection of prophecies?" he asked quietly.
Xander stared up at him. "Y-yeah," he stuttered, his eyes narrowing. "Why?"
Faith sat up, pulling Xander with her. "Dana!" she shouted.
The crazy Slayer vaulted the altar, kicking Illyria, knocking the Hell Goddess to her knees. Dana let out a shriek, pulling back an arm to punch Illyria.
Spike grabbed Dana's arm, whirling her around, and punched her in the face, knocking her down. "Stop that!" he said harshly. "Trouble's over now. No need for that." He looked angry, decided Faith, pulling herself to her feet.
Angel moved closer. "Dana, are you all right?" he asked, bending over her.
She pulled herself to her feet shakily. "You hit me!" she snapped at Spike, anger in her eyes.
"You hit Illyria!" he retorted.
"She hit me first!" snapped Dana.
Spike rolled his eyes. "Haven't you been paying any bloody attention? She wasn't in control. They were using her, turning her against us."
"But with my High Priest's assistance, I was able to regain control," said Illyria haughtily, glaring at the Slayer. "If you should strike me again, I would have to tear you apart."
Spike laughed, clapping Illyria on the shoulder. "I think she likes you, pet."
Faith moved closer, staring at Spike. "Are you all right?" she asked suspiciously. "I remember an explosion…"
"Who are these females?" asked Illyria, sneering at them both. "I do not care for the way they seem concerned for you. Have you started a harem in my absence?"
Spike chuckled. "Oh, I wish," he sighed. "No, these are Slayers. This is Faith, and that's Dana. You remember Angel, of course."
"I don't understand!" said Faith. "Why'd you explode when you touched her? And who was her High Priest, the little grey guy who she killed?"
"No, that was the bad guy," said Spike. "I'm her High Priest. And when I touched her I was able to channel back the powers she gave me, and break through their control of her."
Illyria sighed. "I still feel the world ending through my presence," she said.
"What?" asked Angel, suddenly concerned.
"It'll be all right," said Spike. "D-boy and I were researching it."
"Yeah," said Connor, from behind Angel. Angel gave a little start, glancing back at his son. Not many people could sneak up on him, but Connor had inherited all of his sneaky genes, apparently.
"And we can fix it," concluded Spike.
"Hold on, Spike is her high priest?" asked Dana, scowling at the others. "Am I the only one who doesn't like that?"
Spike sighed. "No, you're not," he said, glancing at Angel, who was glowering down at him.
"Of course I don't like it." Angel's eyes narrowed. "You've entered into service to a Hell Goddess, Spike!"
Spike shook his head. "Service is such a harsh word," he said. "We made a pact, a deal, to help each other out. And since I didn't have the power any more, she gave it to me. She helped me out when I needed it."
"All I asked in return was that he serve me."
Angel stared at Illyria. "Serve you," he repeated, the words filled with sarcasm.
"You know, protect her, worship her, be loyal to her… help her tell right from wrong, find her a spot of violence, occasionally act as her Jiminy Cricket. The whole nine yards."
Angel sighed. The handsome lines of his face arranged themselves into an unhappy brood, and he glanced back at Connor, looking for clues from his son.
Connor nodded happily. "Spike and I researched it afterwards. It seems like a good deal for both of them. An earthly anchor for her, powers for him."
"Wasn't any good to anyone as a human," muttered Spike.
"Dealing with the devil," whispered Angel. "Didn't you warn me about that?"
Spike glowered at him, putting an arm around Illyria's shoulders. "Shove it!" he instructed Angel. "I said I'd protect her. To do that I've already had to cut her up and bury her, and fight her. I think that speaks volumes about what we're doing. Sure, I've traded masters, but I think I'll get more done this way."
Angel sighed. "Let's head back to town before the sun rises," he suggested.
Spike glanced back. "Three cars," he muttered. "Me an' Blue will take Buffy's. Angel, you take D-Boy and symbolic-girl with you, eh? And you two will follow, right?"
Faith glanced back at Xander, taking his hand. "Sure. Back to the warehouse?"
"Nah. It's time we reported back to headquarters," said Faith. "We'll stop at a motel. And get separate rooms for everybody."
Xander frowned at her. "Okay," he said.
As they all walked back to their cars Dana shook her head. "I don't like this at all," she said. "A deal with the devil?"
Angel sighed. "He just got away from having one demon in his head," he said nastily. "He must have missed it."
Connor shook his head. "You guys have no idea," he said. "Things were falling apart. She was going to destroy the world, and we couldn't stop her, and she couldn't stop herself. We needed a way. It was the only way."
Angel sighed. "What will we do now?" he asked.
"Prob'ly back to England," said Spike, following Angel.
"Oh. Do you suppose we could stop in Brazil first?"
Xander waited till he and Faith were in the car. "Any particular reason you want separate rooms for everybody?" he asked carefully. It felt an awful lot like she was pushing him away, but he didn't want to jump to any conclusions.
"Yeah," she said firmly. "Look, I heard your whole 'not-just-another-notch-on-your-bedpost' speech, and I liked it. I did. I respect that. And I want us to have more than just a physical relationship, really, I do. But I'm only human, you know." And her hand was on his knee, suddenly, as she started the car lefthanded somehow, her hand snaking around the steering wheel. "And I almost lost you back there, I thought I had, and back with Drusilla too, and I'm getting sick of feeling like I'm about to lose you, and I want you so bad it nearly hurts. So I want the others out of our hair for a few hours."
Xander's eyebrows went up. "A few hours?"
She grinned, the hand on his leg moving around in a decidedly aggressive way. "Say six or seven." She leaned over and kissed him, hard and hungry, and if Xander felt a little panicked it was only because she wasn't watching the road.
Buffy and Dawn were waiting at the airport for the flight. It wasn't crowded, since few people came in on the red-eye if they could help it.
Angel was the first one to get off the plane, and Buffy discovered for the first time in her life that she could see him without her chest constricting like her heart was going to explode. It was curiously liberating.
It helped that a leggy blond was hanging off his arm, she decided.
Behind them came Faith and Xander, who seemed to be attached at the hip. Buffy felt her blood run cold at the sight of them intertwined, and she had to force herself to breathe normally, glancing at Dawn to see if she was freaking out too. There was the slightest crease between Dawn's eyebrows, which Buffy took as an 'also freaking out.'
Behind them came Dana, blinking owlishly at the bright sun. Spike followed her, chatting with the stewardess who was escorting them off, a skinny brunette on his arm with a wide, happy grin on her face.
The sight of all the couples nearly drove Buffy into convulsions, but she forced it down. She was just feeling this was because two of the three were her exes, she reminded herself, and the other one was her best friend and the woman who'd tried to kill said best friend.
Dawn greeted them all while Buffy stood there with a frozen smile on her face.
"Hi, Buffy," said Angel, just a bit shyly. "This is Nina. She's, um, she and I are, um, a couple. We're together, I mean. Um. Nina, this is Buffy Summers, the Slayer, and her, um, sister, Dawn."
Dawn smiled at them both, and Buffy managed to nod.
"Oy, nibblet! Okay if I call you nibblet still?" said Spike loudly, pushing past Xander and Faith.
Dawn responded by grabbing Spike in a hug. This caused the skinny brunette to suddenly frown imperiously, and Buffy had to hold back a sigh.
He really had the worst taste in women. Drusilla, Harmony, now this woman who seemed friendly but went from smile to imperious glower in no time flat… Buffy was certain that she was only sane person Spike had ever loved.
Actually, she wasn't so certain about that.
"This is Illyria," said Spike, letting go of Dawn. "My Goddess."
Well, thought Buffy, at least he was treating somebody like a goddess now, even if it wasn't her.
Illyria scowled at Dawn. "You are a mystical construct disguised as a mortal. Don't think a disguise like that can fool the God-Queen of the Universe."
Buffy decided that this girl was the worst one of Spike's girlfriends so far.
Spike sighed. "Play nice, love, these are the good guys," he said patiently to Illyria. He glanced to Buffy. "Shall we head back to tweed-ville? I want to get out of here as soon as possible."
"We will leave when I am satisfied," said Illyria.
"Well, I guess we'll be staying a good long while then," Spike shot back quickly.
Buffy found, to her surprise, that she wasn't jealous at all. She actually had moved on. The smile on her face became more genuine. "All right, then, let's head back. We brought two cars."
Giles frowned down at the group in front of him. "So you are the Seer and Champion for the Powers now, traveling across the globe to, er…"
"Help the helpless," said Angel promptly. "It's sort of a mission statement."
"I'd like to go with him," said Faith. "Help out." There was a challenge in her words.
Giles sighed, glancing to Dawn. Dawn nodded. "It would be nice to have a connection to these Powers, especially if they give you advance warnings of the really bad things," she said, glancing at Xander. "You and Faith could be invaluable in that capacity, and I imagine Angel would appreciate your help."
Angel nodded, glancing at Xander. "Especially if you bring along those prophecies about the child of the Cyclops and the Slayer," he muttered under his breath, too low for anybody to hear him.
Giles glanced to Spike and Illyria, who had resumed her natural appearance, complete with bluish skin and haughty expression. "And, er…"
"My goddess and I will be traveling for a while," said Spike. "I'd like to show her around, let her see some of the sights on this planet, while teaching her right from wrong."
Giles sighed heavily. "You know, when you first came to us with the chip, I thought not staking a harmless vampire was the absolute worst moral dilemma you could ever possibly give me," he said glumly. "Since then you have absolutely stretched my moral compass."
Spike grinned unrepentantly. "And, yet, here I am, still on your side," he taunted the Watcher.
Giles sighed. "Again, I think it would be better if you would stay in contact with us… er, especially in terms of your contacts, and keeping us apprised of the world situation, and various minor conflicts, especially your quest to wipe out the Wolf, the Ram and the Hart."
Spike grinned. "Don't we get a Slayer of our own, like Angel?"
Angel glowered at Spike. "Don't push, Spike," he growled.
"I'd like to go with Spike," said Dana quietly.
"What!" said Giles, shocked by her sudden interjection. She hadn't spoken since arriving.
"He understands right from wrong a lot better than I thought," said Dana. "A lot better than I do. He knows things. A lot of things."
"Er…" Giles stared at her, then turned to Dawn, raising his eyebrows, his moral compass pushed far beyond his ability to cope. Dawn sighed, leaning closer to Giles.
"He can help her," she whispered. Giles stared at her, and then let out another aggrieved sigh.
"I guess. But we'll want a Watcher with you as well."
Dawn smiled at him as her mind automatically brought up the only real possibilities. Robin Wood, who hated Spike with a vengeance, and whose mother Spike had killed, or Andrew Wells, who loved Spike with a hero-worship that was embarrassing to behold.
Besides, that way she would have twice as many excuses to visit the two of them.
"Andrew will make a fine Watcher for Dana," she said quietly.
Spike's eyes widened. "No way!" he said unhappily.
Dana frowned, not understanding.
"Don't worry, pet, you're still coming along," Spike assured her. "This just means Illyria gets to learn twice as much pop culture as she would have. And only the geeky bits."
Buffy stood up, grabbing her cup. "I'm just going to get a drink," she said when every eye in the room turned to her. She scurried away, wondering what awful thing she had done to be put in this position. The awkward position of ex-girlfriend to the two morally ambiguous champions of goodness.
She supposed sleeping with both of them would have to be it.
In the kitchen she thought about l'Eterno, the pale imitation of a boyfriend who was safer than an actual relationship, and about the two exes she'd left in the other room, and about Riley. She wondered if she was finally ready to go looking for a relationship a little sturdier than that as she started going through the refrigerator, looking for something to drink.
She heard a glass clink behind her and glanced back to see Nina, Angel's girl, pouring herself some champagne.
"Hi there," said Nina. "Buffy, right?"
"Right," said Buffy, closing the refrigerator. She eyed Nina, wondering if the other woman had followed her.
"Listen, I don't mean to pry, but... you knew Angel, right? From way back?"
"Way back," agreed Buffy, cringing. Was it really that far back? More than a decade, she realized with a start.
Nina looked around. "I've been getting the distinct vibe that there's an ex of his here somewhere," she said. "Do you know anything about that?"
Buffy flexed her fingers. "As far as I know, his last ex was a brunette named Cordy," she said. It seemed safer than, 'yeah, hi, watch out for his whole I-have-to-leave-you-for-your-own-good-routine.'
Nina nodded. "Thanks," she said. "I'm not sure whether to be afraid to meet this ex or not, you know? I mean, on the one hand, he might have feelings for her still. On the other hand, I'd really like to find out if he's used that 'I-have-to-leave-you-for-your-own-good-routine' before."
Buffy couldn't hold her curiosity back any longer. "So, I heard his curse had been lifted." She tried to keep the words conversational.
Nina let out a sigh. "Yeah, and I can't tell you what a relief that was!"
"I bet," said Buffy, nodding. Celibacy wasn't a very exciting option.
"Every time I slept with him before, it was always a little disappointing to realize I wasn't making him perfectly happy… but a little euphoric, too, because he didn't turn evil and kill me. Talk about weird!"
Buffy felt a twinge of superiority, and carefully damped it down. Somehow dancing across the room singing 'I made him lose his soul!' seemed childish. "Yeah, weird," she said.
Buffy found Xander and Faith on the balcony overlooking Giles' gardens, making out. She cleared her throat and joined them, glancing away as they hastily rearranged their clothing.
"I guess it goes without saying that if you hurt him, I'll kill you?" asked Buffy sweetly.
Faith laughed. "Whoa, Buff! You're only the fourth person to say that."
"Really?" asked Buffy, surprised.
"Yeah, Willow and Giles got in before you. And, oddly, Dawn," said Xander. "Though to be fair, both Spike and Angel told me the same thing. Only about her. Y'know, the reverse."
Buffy nodded. "So you two are off with Angel and Nina, off to hunt down evil wherever you can find it."
"Yeah," said Faith. "I think that as soon as summer comes Connor is going to join us. Or maybe he'll join Spike, I have no idea. Although Angel's been threatening to go tutor him in handwriting skills if he can't bring his grades up."
Buffy laughed. "Well, that's good. Angel the responsible father."
Xander laughed in response, grinning at Faith. "Good god, the glint in your eye when she said father scares me half to death," he said.
Faith shrugged, resting her head on Xander's shoulder. "If Robin's any evidence, then Slayers can be pretty good mothers. Think about it."
Buffy giggled at the thought of Xander as a father. "What about Spike?" she asked. "Has he left with his… goddess?"
Xander nodded. "They took off early. Something about evil never resting, or something."
She knows it's nothing but pure luck that Spike managed to get his hands on her before she destroyed the world and restore her to a semblance of normality. But at times like this she's willing to believe that luck is better than good planning.
That's how we'll save the world, pet.
Her strange new high priest doesn't want to serve her in the traditional manner of appeasing her and pleasing her. He wants to make her a better Goddess, to change her, make her as she should be.
She loves that about it. It's a sign that he truly cares about her, and not just what she can do for him.
Don't be thinking those smooth words will cut you any slack the first time you start hitting the crazy Slayer, either. No more of that! You two will just have to get along.
Despite the grey shades he embodies, his moral clarity is quite fierce. Enough moral clarity for a former ruler of the universe, a former slayer of Slayers, and a half-crazed Slayer, at any rate.
Illyria holds back a smile. It would completely destroy her image.
A/N: And we end where we began, with a bunch of scenarios that sound like soap operas. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it.
If you REALLY enjoyed reading this, there are sequels. Two sequels. One focuses on Spike, Dana and Illyria (If I Should Die Before We Wake); the other focuses on Angel, Xander, and Faith (A Child Shall Lead Them).
To confuse matters, although they split up they're meant to be read chronologically. First If I Should Die, then A Child.
They expand and explore, and when all's said and done, I think they're a lot of fun.