Authors Notes: I had several more chapters written for this, but I looked back on them recently and found myself hating them. Instead, I've decided to end this one here with the hope of writing a sequel.
Whistler knew that being a balance demon meant that there would times when he had to do things for the bad guys on occasion; that was the nature of balance after all, showing no favourites. While he didn't like it when he did so, there was little that he could do to change it, but never before had Whistler wanted to be able to refuse a job more than the one he was on at the moment.
The problem came from recent events, specifically the defeat of two major players for the bad guys. The fact that their defeats came within days of each other, and that they were defeated by the same group, and one man in particular, meant that the balance of power had shifted heavily in the good guys favour. As far as Whistler was concerned that was a good thing, but his bosses most certainly felt differently, which led to his latest mission.
Whistler had to wonder if the Big Guy upstairs actually knew what the Powers That Be were getting him to do, because he couldn't believe that He would go for it if He did, but ultimately it wasn't for him to worry about; he had about as much control over what he did and didn't as a toothbrush. Right now, he'd rather be a toothbrush, because at least then he'd be removing the nasty taste from other people's mouths, instead of leaving one in his own.
He walked into the rundown hayloft he'd been sent to, and barely got six feet inside when a knife was pressed against his neck. Normally it wouldn't worry him, as he was made of sterner stuff than most, but the person holding the knife had major power behind them.
"While I might not walk the path of the righteous any longer," the man said, "it does not mean that I want to confer with things like you."
"I know," Whistler replied carefully, painfully aware of the razor sharp edge resting against his jugular, "believe me I know, but I'm here on behalf of the Powers That Be to offer your boss a deal."
"Let him go, Caleb," another voice said from the far side of the loft, hidden in the gloom.
They stepped forward and Whistler was momentarily shocked to see Buffy Summers standing before him in a damp white dress, before he remembered who it was he'd actually come to see. After a moment's hesitation, Caleb did as he was told and removed the blade from Whistler's neck and stepped back, and Whistler breathed a sigh of relief.
"So, Whistler, what do your… employers want to offer me that I cannot get on my own?" The First asked, changing its form from Buffy to a male Whistler didn't recognise but felt that he should.
"A corporeal body," Whistler replied, wanting to get this over and done with as soon as possible. "With The Source and Glory gone, the balance has shifted too much for their liking, and they want to provide you with the means to level the playing field."
"I lost my physical being to Barbus, and I cannot see him being willing to give it back, especially now" The First pointed out. "Barbus has his own designs of grandeur, and knows that there is little or no chance of them coming to fruition if he were to return my ability to fully enter this realm to me."
"I never said your body, I said a body," Whistler corrected, before pointing to Caleb. "His, in fact. Too many people will notice if they were to give you a new body, and what they propose can only happen if the body in question is given freely, something they doubt anyone else would do."
"What makes them think I will say yes?" Caleb asked. "I quite like having a body, and there are so many more dirty, wanton women in the world for me to cleanse."
"They already know how much you enjoy the power you get when The First merges with you, and the feeling the merger provides," Whistler told him, not bothering to hide the shudder the image produced. "Anyway, it would be more like a timeshare deal than The First actually taking over, given that people would also take notice if your soul ended up in Lucy's domain while your body kept walking and talking here on Earth."
"I'm not very good at sharing anything," The First pointed out. "But to be able to touch again, I might be persuaded."
"I'm not here to persuade you, I'm here to make you the offer; whether you take the offer is up to you. If you don't take up the offer, you'll be stuck as nothing more than a jumped up poltergeist for all eternity," Whistler replied with a shrug, and made no effort to hide how pleased he would be by that. While he had no choice but to carry out the Powers orders, that didn't mean he had to do it with a smile on his face. "The One Who Sees has put paid to your plans to further weaken the Slayer line without even trying, and now that he has power out the wazoo your boy here is no match against him no matter how many times he comes to you for a fix. This offer is pretty much your only option, unless you like falling over every time you go to lean up against a wall."
"I have an idea I know what the answer is but I have to ask anyway; what do the Powers That Be get out of this?" The First asked.
"Balance," Whistler replied with a grimace, which only intensified when The First began to laugh uproariously.
"Oh, you can't help but love the dumb ones, can you?" The First said after getting the laughter under control. "They do so enjoy making my job that much easier." The First turned to Caleb, who had stayed suspiciously silent through most of the conversation. "Would it be so bad to share your body with me?" he asked, morphing once again into Buffy.
Caleb looked at The First for several long moments before he smiled. "No, not at all. You once told me I would be your right hand; this way I will be that and so much more."
"So you'll do it?" Whistler asked the pair, silently hoping the answer was no, but knowing that he was hoping in vain.
They didn't even have to say the words; the moment they both agreed mentally the process began. The First morphed out of Buffy's form and into a black mist that then moved towards, and inside, Caleb. Unlike other times when this occurred, a blinding flash of light enveloped the former man of the cloth, and in an instant Whistler could feel that the bonding had finished.
Whistler could more than feel it a moment later when he found their hands around his throat, and a moment later felt nothing at all as they ripped his head from his shoulders.
"Free at last, free at last," The First/Caleb said as they wiped Whistlers blood off their hands onto their shirt, and an ironic smile appeared on their face, "praise the Lord, I'm free at last."