He was back on the bus out of hell. He sat up straighter and looked around. Everything was as it had been when the colorful mist had first descended on him when Mike, Frank, and Steve pulled him into the "real world".
Had that even happened?
Most of the surviving mini-slayers were sleeping, or staring out the windows, still recovering from the fight in the high school.
"Pull over," someone called, from about midway up the bus. "Pull the fuck over right NOW."
The bus screeched to a halt on the desert road and Giles spun about in his seat behind the wheel. "Faith, what--"
But Faith had jumped to her feet and was running for the front of the bus by the door, her hand over her mouth in the universal gesture for "I'm going to spew". Xander pushed himself to his feet to follow, as did the rest of the Scoobies.
Faith knelt by the side of the road, her hands gripping her biceps tightly. Giles managed to get to her side first. Xander stopped just to the side of the door to the bus. "Faith,"
She shook her head. "Don't know. Maybe a side-effect of Red's spell. Felt like I was being ripped apart."
"Seems that twenty- seven different teams all tried to summon her at the same time. The moderators of the Masters challenge had to disqualify her to keep her from being ripped apart and eradicated by the energies."
It was real, alright.
Faith let go of her own arms and stood. "Fine now, though. Let's get going."
Xander nodded slightly, then looked over to the rest of his friends.
Giles was cleaning his glasses. With rather furious intensity. There was soft *snap*, and then Giles was cursing softly. He'd snapped the bridge. He looked up and caught Xander's eye. "That was . . . most strange."
"So cool you mean!" That was Andrew. He was practically vibrating. "I met James Bond!"
He went on, but Xander stopped listening. Instead, he turned to look for Buffy.
She was standing off from the group again, staring off into the desert with that small, half-smile, like she was relieved that something was over and looking forward to what might happen next.
"Guess she didn't feel like fighting. Said something about having done this twice before."
Three times, now. Xander couldn't help but wonder if letting herself die in the first battle had been really smart, or really, really foolish.
Then again, he could say that about a lot of the things she'd done, lately.
A hand landed on his arm, and Xander turned. Willow looked up at him with a slightly mournful expression.
They both asked it at the same time. Then they both shrugged.
"You disappeared from the field. I thought you'd died."
Xander shook his head. "I won. They dragged me out to . . . meet myself."
"You mean, like a Toth way?"
"Kind of. He was kind of a prick, though. What happened? On the field? Who won?"
Willow smiled slightly. "No one. Once SMG Teacozy was told to stop, we all just kind of realized that the whole thing was really, really dumb. Good guys and bad guys. Then this weird color-storm kind of swept over everything, and we were here."
"Seems that way."
". . . and Wolverine," said Andrew, as they piled back onto the bus. "And Luke and Leia and Spiderman and. . . ."
And they drove off, into the sunset, and a giant sign reading