Disclaimer: If it's part of the Buffyverse, it's not mine on so many different levels.
Pairings: Buffy/Spike, Angel/Cordelia, Wesley/Fred, Gunn/Faith, Connor/Dawn, Willow/Tara, Xander/?, Lorne/?
Author's Note: I got a little tired of beating around the bush, so I've written this fic as the way I think things should've happened post-NFA and Chosen, and I'm ignoring any cannon complications that might get in the way.
The people I want to be alive are alive, all others stayed dead (meaning Anya), and the combined Scooby-and-Fang-Gang are running a help-the-helpless/slay-the-bad-vamps-type operation from a Wolfram & Hart-ish corporate headquarters in New York. Plot and major events will be made up as I go along, pairings may be subject to change, and as always, feedback makes my day.
1. Table Conversation
In the luxuriously decorated restaurant dining room, the soft muted lighting gave everything a pleasantly blurred glow, as though people and things were being viewed through the eyes of someone who was determined to see beauty in all of them. It would have reminded most people of a scene in an old, glamorous movie: gorgeous screens had been set up to separate the occupants of polished dark tables from each other, giving them at least the semblance of privacy while neatly uniformed waiters passed silently between them like ghosts.
The Scarlet Phoenix wasn't the most exclusive restaurant in New York City, but it came reasonably close. It chose its clientele with care, and for the average person, they could never quite seem to find an empty table. But for the not-so-average, not-so-human person, they were much more accommodating. For the right price, of course, since neither luxury nor exclusivity comes cheap.
And the very height of both luxury and exclusivity was the back room of The Scarlet Phoenix – a room usually booked months in advance by customers not afraid to pay the shirts off their backs for it. Tonight it was reserved for a group of fourteen, and everything inside had been set up and polished to a high shine in preparation for their arrival.
The doorman who had been posted at the door of the back room specifically to greet the guests (people paying for the back room were never customers, they were 'guests') arriving for the night had been hearing voices raised in animated conversation and the occasional burst of laughter coming from the other side of the door for the past half an hour or so. Ten guests had already arrived, and he was only waiting for the final four to walk through the restaurant's front doors and into the back room before he could finally leave his post.
And when the four last guests did make their appearance, he had no doubt at all that they were the ones he had been waiting for; mainly because of the subtle stir they caused among the restaurant's other diners.
The fair-haired couple was the one they noticed first. She was a petite, fine-boned creature wearing a knee-length gown in pearl white satin, with a large ornamental white rose tucked into the waves of her honey blonde hair. He was almost as striking, with his high cheekbones and unusually pale hair color more than making up for the lack of elegance in his all-black outfit of a collared buttondown dress shirt and trousers.
The dark-haired couple followed them through the restaurant. The woman, a statuesque brunette in a stunning violet silk sheath dress, leaned comfortably on the arm of the man, whose pale skin offset his brown eyes and darker brown hair admirably. Unlike the other man, he wore a tailored dark suit.
They passed the doorman on their way in to the back room and as the door closed behind them, he heaved a sigh of relief.
Everyone else was already seated in ten of the fourteen chairs surrounding the long, polished table and the usual rapid-fire conversation was already in full swing, with everybody talking at once without any kind of noticeable break or pause.
It was Fred who noticed the new arrivals first, and she rose without hesitation to hug each of them in turn. "Y'all look just amazing! I love your dresses, girls, they're gorgeous – and our boys look as handsome as always, but Spike, you really should've worn a suit tonight –"
"I agree completely," Buffy told her, "but I couldn't talk him into wearing one –"
"Although believe me, it wasn't for any lack of trying," Spike groused. "Been on at me all night about it."
"At least you held out," Angel said. "Cordy finally got me with her 'it's not just about you, it's about us' speech."
Spike groaned. "And you fell for it? Sorry to say it, mate, but in that case you almost deserve to be stuck in one of those things all night."
"Only you guys could possibly see wearing an Armani suit as some kind of punishment," Cordelia said, in tones that indicated just how hopelessly fashion-clueless she thought they were. They had settled into their seats by now and the waiter who'd been on stand-by so far was coming around to take orders for drinks.
"Uh, I don't think so," Spike argued. "Take Carpenter Boy over there. I doubt he's a big suit fan."
Xander grimaced lightly. "Not really. I put one on and suddenly I'm a one-eyed Sponge Bob. It doesn't exactly make for instant success with the ladies."
"If I was the only dateless person here tonight, I wouldn't be bringing it up so soon." Faith grinned across the table at Xander. "Just goes to show you've got more guts than I do, Xan-man."
"Thanks for the compliment," Xander said dryly. "Anyone else want to take a poke at the poor lonely single guy?"
Wesley disentangled himself from Fred long enough to ask, "Well, when you put it that way, how could we possibly resist? And besides," he added casually, "you're not the only single person here. I don't see Lorne with a date."
"Oh no, my annoyingly observant compadre – you said person, which nicely excludes little old me. I may be the only single demon here, but that makes me a whole different kind of loser. The less pathetic kind."
Xander considered protesting against that comment, but decided to let it go. "I'm going to let that one pass, since by general consensus I am pathetic. But it wouldn't kill you guys to show a little mercy."
"If it's any help, I think you're your own kind of cool, Xand. Like Homer Simpson. Or that weird-looking guy who does the Hugo Boss commercials." Buffy gave him an encouraging smile. "You just need to find the right kind of girl to appreciate it."
"Or guy," Willow added helpfully. "You know, if you ever decide to try that route."
"No," Xander said, sighing. "Except for that one time after the whole Lissa debacle, I haven't really thought of myself as a … man's man. I don't have the wardrobe for it."
"Lissa debacle?" Angel asked questioningly. Buffy and Willow started laughing while Xander reddened.
"His date tried to kill him," Buffy explained casually. "It happens a lot."
"You should really think about doing a background check on your honeys," Gunn said. "You know, play it safe when it comes to the ladies."
"Yeah, because dating a Slayer is really safe," Faith said sarcastically.
"I wasn't talking about me, I was talking about him." Gunn bent to kiss Faith's cheek and gave her a wolfish grin. "I like my girls dangerous with a dash of criminal."
"Speaking of criminal," Faith said, turning to Buffy, "where's that ex-kleptomaniac sister of yours? I thought she'd already showed up with loverboy."
"Oh, they showed up all right," Lorne said wryly. "They've just been a little too busy playing tonsil hockey to join in the general conversation." He jerked a thumb towards the far end of the table, where Dawn had vacated her own seat to sit in Connor's lap – and they did indeed seem to be far too engrossed in each other to notice anything going on around them.
"All right, that's it. Break it up, you two!" When they didn't respond to Angel's voice, he picked up a bread roll and prepared to toss it at Connor's forehead.
Buffy reached across the table to catch hold of his arm. "Angel!"
"What? We can't let them do that in here."
"Why not?" Cordelia demanded. "They're old enough to do pretty much anything they want to, and you know it."
"Yeah, but not in front of their –" he had been about to say 'parents' and stopped himself. "Legal guardians!"
Buffy shrugged. "I don't mind. Cordy, do you mind?"
Cordelia shook her head and smiled. "Well, I guess that settles it. Two against one. You're officially outvoted, Mr. Stuffed Shirt."
Angel put the bread roll back and contented himself with grumbling disapprovingly and throwing dark looks at his son. Eventually Connor and Dawn needed to surface for air and stopped kissing, but even then she stayed on his lap and they were more interested in toying with each other's hair than focusing on the current topic of conversation.
"Young love," Faith said, laughing. "Ain't it grand?"
"Almost makes me wish I was eighteen again," Fred agreed, sighing.
"Why?" Xander asked incredulously. "What's there to miss about all those pimples?"
"And the bad hair days," Tara added. She had been silent up until that point, being more interested in listening and playing footsie with Willow under the table than speaking. "It always seemed especially frizzy in yearbook pictures."
"Not to mention bloody low self-esteem," Spike said in an undertone. Then he noticed the way everyone was looking at him. "What? I was young once too, you know. Can't remember all of it, but puberty isn't the kind of thing a body forgets easily."
"Unlike a five o'clock meeting with Kaufur demon clan leaders, which you seemed to forget very easily."
Spike turned to Angel. "Do you have to bring that up again? Said I was sorry, didn't I? And you handled it all right in the end."
"'All right'? I had to spend an entire hour trying to convince them that you hadn't missed out on the meeting on purpose as a sign of disrespect!"
"And the language barrier wasn't helping," Lorne chimed in. "At one point I thought they were gonna do you in for sure, stud-muffin. Although I can't blame them; telling them that their mothers were a bunch of hairy pirates wasn't exactly friendliest opening line I've ever heard."
Spike almost choked on his mouthful of salted peanuts. "You said that? Guess you didn't need me around after all, then. Sounds like you managed to bollocks it up all on your own."
"Boys," Buffy said warningly as Angel glared at Spike. "Behave."
"We promised we wouldn't talk business tonight," Cordelia reminded them. "You can argue about the Kaufur clan meeting tomorrow. Okay?"
"And when you do, remind me to bring up the need for more translation texts in the library of the Research department," Wesley said.
"Well, if Wesley's getting translation texts, then the Magickal department could use a few spell ingredients," Willow said. "We're already out of hellebore and running seriously low on arrowgrass."
"Arrowgrass?" Fred repeated, hesitantly. "Isn't that poisonous?"
"Only if ingested," Tara told her reassuringly. "Otherwise it's pretty safe."
"I though all resource requests were supposed to go through Accounting," Angel said.
"Yeah," Spike agreed. "But we kind of are Accounting. That bloke you hired last week got eaten, remember?"
"No," Faith corrected him, "he ate someone, so we killed him."
"Oh, right." Spike grimaced. "Last time we ever hire a 'reformed' ghoul."
"See what I mean about background checks? Forget honeys, we should start doin' them on all future employees."
"Sure thing," Xander said in mock eagerness. "'Hi there, do you mind if we check up on you to make sure you're not a human-eating psycho'? Great way to make people want to work for us."
"It might not even be very effective as far as weeding out the bad guys go," Buffy pointed out. "Because honestly, which one of us wouldn't look seriously of-the-bad if someone decided to go digging around in our pasts?"
"Good point," Cordelia agreed. "I mean, let's face it: we've all either killed someone, planned to kill someone or helped to kill someone. And at least two of us went all destroy-the-world-y. Not that I'm mentioning any names or specific hair colors."
"And wouldn't it be kind of, I don't know, un-constitutional?" Tara asked. "Isn't there some kind of law against it?"
Gunn grinned at her. "Not as far as I know."
"Which means that there isn't, because you're a big old lawyer-ed up mastermind, blah blah." Faith rolled her eyes. "When are you gonna stop showin' off about it?"
"When Spike agrees to wear a suit."
"Yeah, you just had to bring that up again, didn't you? Couldn't bloody well leave it alone."
"I'm just sayin', you might look good in one. I mean, just look at Angel. He's got a whole 007 thing going for him now."
There was a pause while all eyes focused on Angel.
"You know," Lorne said slowly, "man's got a point. There's a flattering resemblance to Pierce Brosnan going on."
"Or George Lazenby," Willow said. "Except, you know, with more hair and less of a tan."
Buffy tilted her head to look at Angel from another angle. "Definitely not Sean Connery, though."
"Nah," Xander agreed, "but nobody except Sean Connery looks like Sean Connery."
"Yeah, his look is really unique," Faith quipped. "Kind of like Spike's."
"Which brings us back to the suit," Wesley pointed out, grinning.
"I am not wearing a suit."
"It wouldn't have to be black," Tara told him encouragingly. "You could get a grey one."
"Or navy. It would really work with your eyes," Cordelia added, in a moment of rare graciousness.
"Could you just drop the subject, please?"
"How about a two-piece suit?" Fred suggested. "No vest."
"I said no."
And it went on like that for quite a while, until the doors swung open to admit a team of waiters bringing in their orders, initiating the actual 'dinner' part of the first official celebratory dinner of the newly-founded Slayers & Champions Incorporated (otherwise known as the SCI).
Author's Note: Next chapter will be less dialogue-oriented and focus more on a few characters, but I wanted to include all the characters in the first chapter. Typos etc will be dealt with if I spot them. :-P