Pairings: B/A hinted at, F/A hinted at
Feedback: Please. Constructive criticism is always appreciated.
Disclaimer: I do not own anything associated with BtVS and AtS and no infringement is intended.
Distribution: Please ask and let me know where it's going.
Summary: The Watchers' Council has received a request for Buffy's services on another planet. What will be her reaction when she finds out what the services are? What about her friends here on earth? What about her estranged relationship with Angel?
A/N1: This story is strictly AU. I have greatly altered events and time lines from the original shows. Seasons 1 through 4 of BtVS happened up through 'Who Are You' and AtS season 1 happened up through 'Sanctuary'. Of course I might exaggerate the happenings along the way.
A/N 2: Thoughts are in single quotes ('').
Giles was not a happy person as he turned on the lamp next to his bed. He looked at the clock that sat on his bedside table. 'It's three o'clock in the morning; who in the bloody hell would be call…oh gods please don't let this be about Buffy, please let her be all right.' His heart almost stopped when he looked at the caller ID on the phone that sat next to the clock; it read Quentin Travers. 'What does he want?' In as pleasant a voice as he could muster at 3 a.m., he picked up the receiver and said, "Rupert Giles."
Politeness aside and without preamble Travers said, "The Watchers' Council has received a most unusual request from emissaries from the rulers of the planet Altare. They are requesting the services of your slayer for a period of three of their years. Considering how much they have done for earth over the centuries, from the Council's perspective we cannot say no; however, the final decision must be left to Miss Summers."
Travers continued to detail the request and the conditions of the agreement that the Council had made. Giles was appalled. "How can the Council expect her to give up her life here on earth to accommodate such a request from a bunch of aliens," he demanded of Travers.
Travers spoke in a most condescending tone, as only he could, when he said, "Mr. Giles, life here on earth would not still exist without the help of this particular 'bunch of aliens'." He went on to describe what had happened thousands of years ago when earth was on the verge of losing its sun. It had been these same aliens that had intervened at the last minute and stabilized the sun, allowing life on earth to continue. "Humans made a pact with them then that if either of our worlds ever needed help from the other for any reason, we would answer the other's request for assistance. It is only fitting that we fulfill that promise."
The two men continued to speak at length about the impact of the current intergalactic agreement on all involved here on earth, particularly those here in Sunnydale. If Buffy decided to go, she would be allowed to take three or four of her closest relatives and friends with her. Once the proposition was presented to her she would have not more than 24 hours before she had to leave. Giles did not think she would need that much time once she had decided to go; when Buffy made up her mind about something, she acted on it. He figured about 12 hours to decide upon and get agreement from those that would accompany her, a couple of hours to pack the personal items that her group wanted to take and say their private goodbyes to their families and another hour or so to say goodbye to their friends. He expected that this last hour would be most painful of all for Buffy; she had no immediate family except her father and she had not heard from him in over five years. She had friends, but she could only take so many of them with her.
Giles hung up the phone, the sun was up, and there was no way he was getting back to sleep now. He was meeting with the alien emissaries at ten; he had a few hundred questions that he wanted to ask. There was no way he was letting Buffy walk into a potentially dangerous situation unprepared. After a shower, shave and breakfast, he called Buffy on her cell phone and asked her to meet him at his house at 2 p.m.
The meeting with the four alien emissaries went well. They were polite, well educated, and in Giles estimation a step above humans on the evolutionary scale. All of his questions were answered openly and honestly. It seemed to him that the visitors to their planet would be treated royally and Buffy would be looked upon as the savior for their race. After their meeting Giles was anxious to meet with Buffy and get her reaction to the Council's proposal. The meeting didn't go as he had expected. After hearing what Giles had to say regarding the Council's proposal and the details regarding life on the alien planet, Buffy readily agreed to go and she already knew the people she wanted to take with her.
"Buffy, don't you want to think about this? This will be the last time you see any of the friends that you are leaving behind."
"I can't wait to get away from here."
"You mean 'away from him', don't you?"
"Giles, please, I just can't do this anymore. This may be the Powers' efforts to give me some peace. I want to take them up on their offer and I need you to go with me."
"Buffy, I'm honored, but you don't need me; why don't you ask Angel….'
"Are you going with me?" She interrupted and Giles knew that she spoke more harshly than she intended. He didn't know what had happened when Buffy had rushed to LA in an attempt to save Angel's life, but he could see the hurt that she tried to hide. His slayer was in pain and there was nothing that he could do about it because she would not tell him anything.
"Yes, of course."
"Then let's get Willow and Tara over here; they're the only others that I want to go with me."
When Willow and Tara heard about the education system and the magic users on the visitors' planet, that alone sold them on the idea of going with Buffy. "Guys, you do remember the part about this commitment being for three of their years and how long that will be here? If you leave you will be saying goodbye to everyone and everything that you know today. When you return your family and friends here will have been dead for centuries." Buffy wanted to make sure her friends understood the extent of the commitment they were making.
"We got that, Buffy, but we will be so far ahead of the rest of humanity when we return; we will be able to help them so much more than we can today. Just think of all the diseases we will be able to cure, the wars we will be able to stop, the people we will be able to feed."
"I know, Will, just remember, that knowledge will be too late to benefit anyone that we know now. Their gift to earth in exchange for my services will be natural cures for the three top diseases that plague mankind today. We cannot ask for more than that."
"And by the time we get back there will probably be other diseases that we can cure."
"Buffy is right, Willow. We can use our newly acquired knowledge and skills to benefit those on earth when we return in any way we see fit, but we cannot expect the aliens to cure all of our ills. That would have taught us nothing about sharing the wealth and knowledge that we have and living productively in the global community that is earth."
"Okay, Tara, I see your point."
Buffy smiled. Tara spoke exactly the idea that Buffy herself had been trying to express.
Before the end of the day the 'away team' (Buffy, Giles, Willow, Tara) had taken care of everything necessary for their trip, including packing personal items to take with them. Each person carried a small case not bigger than an overnight bag. Of course Buffy's bag included her class protector award, the silver cross that she often wore, Mister Gordo and Mister Pointy. Even though she understood, as Giles reminded her, that there were no vampires where she was going, she did not feel dressed without a stake. The four of them visited Xander and Anya and explained the situation briefly.
Anya wanted to make it clear how she felt about the matter when she said, "You can't take Xander with you; he has to stay here with me."
"I know," Buffy told her. She turned to Xander and handed him an envelope with a legal document inside. "That is why I am signing my house over to you. I know that you two will fill it with lots of love and lots of kids; that's what mom would have wanted."
Xander and Anya hugged her tightly although for different reasons. They were both grateful for the house, but Xander was also very sorry to be losing his best friends.
Later that evening the four of them gathered in Giles' living room with the rest of the Scoobies (including Spike), the Angel Investigations Team (that now included Faith), excluding Angel and Faith, and the four members of the alien delegation. Giles introduced the visitors to the rest of the group (the aliens had each one's name and their relationship to Buffy memorized instantly); he then turned the meeting over to Mr. Harkins, the leader of the alien group who started to speak just as Angel and Faith came rushing through the door.
"Sorry for the interruption." Angel spoke apologetically.
"But you know how it is when you first wake up." Faith spoke pointedly to Buffy with a cheeky grin on her face.
Most of the group turned to glare at Faith for her rudeness. Angel kept his eyes on Buffy who ignored them both, apologized to Mr. Harkins and asked him to continue.
"We are a delegation of emissaries from earth's sister planet in another solar system. We have been monitoring your progress for many centuries; in the last three years we have been watching your slayers very closely and we are here at the behest of our rulers to request the services of one of your slayers for a period of three of our years. We have finally found a slayer that embodies all of the characteristics that we require: strength, courage, heart, beauty and many others. We have met with your Watchers' Council and they have agreed to our request. We will answer any of your outstanding questions before we depart."
Angel did not like what he was hearing; he knew immediately which slayer had been chosen. "How can you make such a decision based on three years of observation? In the past three years you have only seen two of earth's slayers."
Before Angel's question could be answered, Spike spoke up and asked, "What do you mean by three of your years? How much time is that here?"
Both questions were so basic that Mr. Harkins was taken by surprise. "I'm sorry; I thought Mr. Travers would have answered your more basic questions. A year to us is approximately 100 years here. We have been observing your slayers for at least 300 years."
A hush fell over the room; no one spoke. When Angel could finally speak, he asked in a choked voice, "Which slayer have you chosen?"
'Another basic question with a most obvious answer' was Mr. Harkins' thought as he replied, "Why, Miss Summers, of course."
Faith was livid. "What do you mean, 'Of course'? Why does everyone just naturally assume that it's B? I'm a slayer too you know, and she's no better than I am; hell, she's not half as good."
"Faith, let it go," Angel said quietly.
She ignored the rumblings around the room and turned to look at him. "Why should I let it go? And what about you, huh; have you been secretly pining for that bitch while living with me?" When Angel did not reply, she slapped him hard across the face muttering "You bastard" as she stormed out of the room.
A few chuckles came from around the room when Spike spoke up and said, "So much for putting your best foot forward in front of company."
"And she wonders why she wasn't chosen." This came from Cordelia accompanied by more chuckles.
Angel still hadn't taken his eyes off Buffy who remained stoic, unmoved by the previous actions. After all questions were asked from the floor and answered by the emissaries, they turned the meeting over to Buffy and left for their final session with the Watcher's Council. She stood and invited Giles, Willow and Tara to join her in front of the group.
"These are the friends that I have asked to accompany me. We leave tomorrow morning and we wanted to say goodbye."
Angel could hold his tongue no longer. When he spoke his voice was urgent, pleading, "Buffy, aren't you going to need someone to watch your back? Please let me go with you."
For the first time since he arrived Buffy actually looked at him; she saw the hunched shoulders, heard the pleading in his voice, but more than that she remembered the events that transpired when she had rushed to LA to save his life from Faith and had walked in to find her in his arms. He had refused to let her explain why she was there and had actually punched her in the face to protect Faith from her. When he told her to get out of LA and not to come back, she vowed then that he would never hurt her again and she never ever wanted to see him again. She stopped short of admitting to herself that he was the reason for her decision to leave and given the option, she would never come back. The curtness of her reply caught the others in the room by surprise.
"If I needed someone to watch by back, why would I ever consider asking you?" With that she turned her back to him.
One by one the AI Team and the remaining Scoobies said their goodbyes, some with hugs, some with kisses, and some with tears. Near the end of the line Cordelia and Xander engaged in their usual verbal sparring. Angel was the last one in line; he wanted to put off his goodbye as long as he could.
When Cordelia reached Buffy she hugged her and whispered, "He told us what happened when you came to LA Buffy; I know things look bad, but he really does love you."
"I bet he didn't tell you everything."
"What do you mean?"
"I was still weak. I had not recovered from the spell that Willow had to use to get the filth out of my body that Faith had put into it after she pulled the switch."
"There's more. She told Giles that she would get me one way or another and the best way was to kill Angel. She left here headed to LA to do that. When I woke up from Willow's spell and Giles told me what Faith had said, I knew I had to try to stop her. To my surprise when I walked in he had his arms around her and his shirt was open; it was obvious that they were not fighting. I tried to tell him what had happened but he wouldn't let me; he said that she had already told him and he believed her. He proceeded to punch me in the face so hard that he split my lip in the process to stop me from getting to her. He then told me that I didn't belong in LA, to get out and never come back."
"Oh gods, Buffy, he didn't tell us anything like that." She hugged Buffy again. "I am truly sorry."
Buffy gave her a weak smile. "Thanks Cordy. Remember, don't give up your dreams of Hollywood; success is within your reach."
"Thanks, Buffy. Be well." She followed the rest of her AI friends out of the door.
Xander was still saying goodbye to Willow, his lifelong friend. Angel stopped briefly to speak to Willow and Tara, shook hands with Giles and proceeded to Buffy. When he reached her, he begged, "Buffy, please, please don't leave me, please let me go with you."
Buffy fought to keep the tears in her eyes from falling. She said a quick "Goodbye, Angel," then turned and walked over to join Xander, Willow, Tara and Giles.
When Angel reached the door, he turned to look at Buffy one last time. "Buffy." When she did not respond, he left, closing the door behind him.
Tara spoke to Buffy. "He was being sincere, Buffy; I could see his aura and his heart was breaking at the thought of your leaving without him."
Buffy couldn't stop the tears this time. "He has hurt me so much, so many times; how can I trust him again?" She sobbed in her friend's arms.
Angel walked out with his head down. He found his friends, minus Faith, waiting for him at the car.
"You lied to us," Cordelia accused as he approached. "Buffy told me what happened when she came to LA. And besides that you're still living with Faith. It's no wonder she wants nothing to do with you."
"Let it go, Cordy." They climbed into the car but nobody spoke during the ride to the mansion. When they arrived he got out and tossed the car keys to Gunn. "You guys go on back to LA; I'm staying here until she leaves. I can't let her go like this. I have to convince her to let me go with her."
Cordelia got out of the car. "Then we're staying too.." she started to say but was interrupted by Angel.
"No you're not. If you don't hear from me by midday tomorrow, you know that I went with her. Now go."
Seeing that talking to him was useless Cordelia hugged him. "Good luck, Angel. I'll miss you."
Gunn and Wesley shook his hand and wished him luck before driving off.
"Man, that is some powerful love that he feels for her," Gunn said almost to himself as he steered the big convertible toward the highway.
"You have no idea, Gunn," Wesley told him; then he and Cordelia proceeded to relate what they knew about the relationship between Angel and Buffy from the time the two of them first came to Sunnydale.
Angel sat in the main hall of the mansion staring at the opposite wall. He did not know how to proceed, but he knew that he had to at least try to speak with Buffy one more time. His thoughts were interrupted by what seemed to be an urgent knocking on the front door. He opened the door to find Giles standing there.
"May I come in?"
Without answering Angel stepped back to allow Giles to enter.
Neither spoke at first. Angel knew that Giles had come to him with something important to say, he just had to give the watcher time to get his thoughts together and say it. Giles hoped that he was doing the right thing; he knew that Buffy would be most upset when she found out. He just had to make sure that when she did find out, it was too late for her to do anything about it. Willow, Tara and Xander had agreed with him that something needed to be done, they just didn't know what. So here he was in Angel's house less than 12 hours before they were to depart, when he should be at home taking care of his own last minute details. Still he felt in his heart that he was doing what was best for his slayer.
"Angel, you should accompany us on this mission; Buffy is going to need you a lot more than she'll need the rest of us."
"She doesn't want me with her, Giles; you saw how she was today. She truly hates me."
"And right she should; you've given her every reason to do so. You have hurt her over and over again and she has always forgiven you, but that stunt that you pulled when she came to save your life in LA was the worst. After you left my house earlier tonight she finally told us what happened. You are a bloody fool, Angel, a complete and utter fool; but she loves you and she is going to need you."
"How is she going to need me, Giles? From what Mr. Harkins said I understood that there are no vampires or demons there to fight. If they don't need her as a warrior, why do they need her?"
Giles proceeded to explain to Angel the true nature of the Altareans' request. "Human life on their planet is much older than ours and medically, scientifically and technologically they are eons beyond us; from an evolutionary perspective they are as close to Edenic perfection as humans can get, that is why they live so long, however their females are no longer able to reproduce with their males. With all of their scientific expertise, they have not been able to get around that fact. They noticed years ago that fewer and fewer pregnancies were occurring among members in the extended royal family and in the general population as well; that is when they started looking for a compatible female on earth. That is how they found Joyce. Unknown to Buffy's parents, Hank Summers is not Buffy's biological father. When Joyce was a teenager she was hospitalized overnight for some reason; during that night she was impregnated with the sperm of the Altarean ruler. Buffy is the result."
"So? What?" Angel was outraged. "You expect Buffy to have sex with these men? Her father? Her half brothers? To bear children for them?"
"No. That is not allowed. Unlike humans on earth, at a very young age Altareans marry once, for life, and if they lose a spouse in death, they do not take another. They also do not mate outside marriage. They expect to be reunited with their spouse when they die. What they want to do is remove Buffy's egg every month and fertilize it with sperm from their king or his sons to produce a new generation of royal offspring. The fertilized egg will grow to maturity and at birth will be placed with its parents, the sperm donor and his wife. It is hoped that this new generation will be fully capable of reproducing, thereby assuring the continuation of their royal race. They will do the same thing for the general population, seeding it with Buffy's children and allowing them to proliferate. Of course the new generations will not be purebreds, but since Buffy is already half Altarean, her offspring are acceptable to them."
"Does Buffy know all of this?"
"She does not; all she knows is that they want to fertilize her eggs to produce children for their ruling class."
"I still don't see why she would need me."
"She needs your love, Angel, your moral and emotional support. Why do you hesitate? What is keeping you here? Is it Faith?"
"Of course not. There is nothing going on between Faith and me; she was just trying to get a rise out of Buffy when she implied otherwise. I watched Buffy; her facial expressions didn't change once, no matter what Faith said."
"Did you also hear her heartbeat, feel her emotions when she said goodbye to you? Couldn't you tell that she was barely holding herself together? She fell apart after you left the house. You call yourself her mate and you can't tell when she is completely overwhelmed with grief? What kind of mate are you that you would put someone else before her, that you would believe someone else before you would believed her, that you would strike her to defend someone who came to kill you? I should never have come here. I can see why she wants never to see you again."
Giles stood to leave.
Angel was desperate; he grabbed Giles by the arm. "Giles, please don't go. Tell me what to do. I'll do anything."
The long sigh coming from Buffy's watcher told Angel that Giles wasn't sure that he should help at this point, that maybe Buffy was better off without him.
"Please, Giles. I'll do whatever you say."
Several moments later Giles said, "All right. I have spoken with Mr. Harkens and he is prepared for the possibility that you will be joining us."
"He knows that I am a vampire?"
"Of course. They haven't had vampires on their planet for centuries, not since they discovered a way to remove the demon from them and return them to their human state, but they can still recognize a vampire when they see one. Be at my house one hour before sunrise. They will begin transporting our personal belongings to their ship at that time. They can transport you then. The rest of us will be transported after sunrise to accommodate Willow's request to see the earth in sunlight from space. Of course their ship travels much faster than any human can imagine, so the view will be fleeting. As soon as we land they will remove the demon from you and you will be human. You will be given the option of having the demon held for three years and returned to you when you leave Altare or having it destroyed. You will need an hour or so to recover from the separation, so when we get to our new residences will be your first chance to see Buffy. Good luck with that."
"Giles, does Buffy know that I will be human there?"
Giles left the mansion without another word. Angel couldn't believe it; he was going to be human, he was going to be human and Giles spoke of it as though he was going for a dip in the Pacific. His mind was going a mile a minute; there were so many things he had to do. The last item on his mental list made him cringe.
Angel walked into Spike's crypt and announced, "I'm leaving."
Without raising his head from the magazine he was reading, Spike said, "And you're telling me because…"
"I'll be away for a long time."
"Again I say, 'You're telling me because…'"
When Angel didn't say anything else, Spike looked up for the first time since Angel entered the crypt; then it dawned on him why his grand-sire was there. "You're leaving with the slayer." It was not a question. He stood and faced Angel. "Sire, you're leaving?" If his heart was beating, it would be pounding in his chest right now.
Angel walked over to him and they grabbed each other, holding on for dear life. "You stay alive, boy; stay alive and wait for me. Find Penn and Drusilla, reconcile with them; you'll need each other's protection. As soon as the demon community, particularly the rest of Clan Aurelius, finds out that I am gone, they will target the three of you. Surround yourselves with trustworthy and dependable childer, minions if necessary, but you stay alive."
Spike swallowed hard and nodded, emotions causing a lump in his throat that prevented him from speaking. For the first time in his life he was truly afraid. He and Angel did not like each other, but he always knew that Angel was his grand-sire and when either of them was ever really threatened, each would come to the other's aid. They could stay away from each other for many years, but sooner or later they would always find each other again. They looked into each other's eyes and understanding passed between them. Angel leaned his head to the side, opening up his neck to Spike. They both vamped out and latched onto each other. This would be the last time they would see each other in what would for Spike be 300 years. Each found the thought unbearable.
Hours later Angel returned to the mansion. He would get a few hours sleep before meeting with Giles and the Altareans.
Buffy would be angry when she found out that he was with them on Altare. He was going to be human and Buffy had a kind and loving heart; she would forgive him … eventually … he hoped. Right now he was willing to take the chance.