Disclaimer: It is still not mine. Again. Joss refuses to sell. So to the people who own Highlander.
Thanks, as ever, to my Beta, Oxnate.
Dead Man Walking
Epilogue: A New Line of Work
The lobby of the Hyperion Hotel, despite its size was crowded. The Battle of Sunnydale was now a week in the rear view mirror, and despite all the costs that had been suffered – death, for some, physical damage for others, psychological scarring and effects for all...despite all the costs, they had won. It had taken all of them, even the most optimistic and hopeful among them, some time to really get that concept through their heads. To really understand that they had won. And then it had taken more time to get past all that had been suffered to achieve that victory.
But now...now they had. They accepted their victory. They had...come to terms, though hardly moved past, all that they had lost. Now was not the time for sorrow, for confusion, for mourning. There had already been time for all of those, and there would no doubt be more. But now...now was the time for celebration. To celebrate their victory. The future. But also to celebrate life. Their lives. To celebrate the fact that they had survived...that they had been through hell, and back. Literally, in many cases. But also to celebrate something more. To celebrate all the lives that they had saved, with their victory. The world that they had saved.
It has been said that life is a sexually transmitted disease. And that is, in the biological sense, entirely true. But it was equally true that life, in some ways, could be called a drug. A euphoric drug at that. The exhilaration, the giddiness one feels after coming through some terrible danger alive. That comes after looking death in the eye, then punching it in the jaw. They were alive.
The people crowding up the Hyperion's lobby would not be staying in the Hyperion or even Los Angeles for much longer. The majority of the Scoobies and Slayers would be flying on to Cleveland soon enough, to set up shop on the Hellmouth there. The work of fighting the forces of Darkness was never done.
There were, however, two of that group that wouldn't be flying off to Cleveland. Giles wasn't going to Cleveland – not yet, at least – because he needed to fly to England and sort out the Council's affairs. Regain access to the Council's accounts, collect what remained of its assets, find surviving Council members and agents, what few might be left at this point. The Council would have to be rebuilt. Though, now, as very different institution, from the way it was run, to its make up. Giles would be Head Watcher so in some ways, the Watchers' Council was still just that, it seemed. But the reality was not that simple, or neat and tidy. For rather than just a panel of watchers directing the international institution, there would also be a seat at the table for Slayers – Buffy and Faith, primarily, at the moment. But also more than just that. Willow, for magic, and Xander, for his...off the wall manner of thinking, and his ability to bring new perspectives on a problem. And the Watchers' Council – or, what was left of it, rather - was an organization that was desperately in need of some new perspectives.
Faith, on the other hand, would also not be going onto Cleveland. But the reason she wasn't was quite different from Giles'. She would be staying in Los Angeles. Angel Investigations' work was not done just because the First Evil had been defeated. Wolfram and Hart was still a worldwide entity, and the Senior Partners were still very much a threat to humanity. If a different one. Faith was staying behind to help Angel. She felt she owed him that much, for saving her from herself...for not giving up on her. Buffy seemed okay – more than okay with it. They may have moved on from the worst that had happened between them, but from Buffy's point of view, not having Faith around was better, most of the time.
Angel, Gunn, Fred, Lorne and Cordelia were sitting at a fold-out card table, one of several that had been set up in preparation for this little celebration. Talking, chatting...simply enjoying eachother's company. They were friends.
Wesley walked over to them. "I apologize for interrupting your conversation," He said softly. "But there's something I'd like to say."
After a moment, Angel nodded. "Alright. What?" He asked.
"Things between us...this last year have been...bad, to say the least. Indeed, to say the most...things have been...terrible. None of us have been particularly admirable people in our conduct with eachother..." He paused a moment. "After everything...I want to apologize. For...stealing your son, Angel, whatever my intentions. I should have trusted you more – or trusted someone, talked to one of you, tried to find some other way. And...well...the way I've...acted."
He paused another moment, then, "Once...a year ago, we were friends. Now...I respect what we had. We were once friends, and that will always be true." He shook his head. "Its over. We're not friends any more. We can't be. Not after everything that has happened. But we were." He sighed. "And that will always be something."
"Do you think..." Fred started slowly. "That we'll ever be friends again. Us and you?"
Wesley shrugged. "I don't know. Perhaps. But unlikely. At least...not for a while. The only one of you left alive at that point may well be just Angel." He sighed. "I'm sorry to dampen the celebrations like this. With this...mood. But its something that I needed to say. Something that needed to be said. And who knows when the next time I'd have a chance to say it would be. Since I'm not staying in Los Angeles."
"Its alright Wes." Gunn said. "Something like this...its a little more important than just this celebration." He extended a hand. "You're always a guy I can trust to watch my back...whatever I've said in the past." Wesley shook his hand, firmly.
"If you want, Wes." Lorne said, "I can read your aura one last time."
Wesley shook his head. "I appreciate the offer. But if I'm going to live forever, I don't want to stop being surprised by the future just yet." Lorne nodded.
Cordelia scoffed. "I was thinking more...your luck with prophecy, you don't want anything to do with it."
Wesley didn't smile, but he did laugh, just a hint of mirth in it. "Perhaps."
"Good luck, Wesley. And remember, you weren't always like you are now. I saw the previous versions of Wes. And...they had something going for them as well. Don't get so caught in who you are now that you lose the you you used to be entirely." Cordelia said softly.
"First rule." Angel said to Wesley. "Don't die. If things are even going to get better...you're going to have to keep on living."
Wesley nodded. "I intend to." He nodded to all of them, then left, looking for Lilah. He found her speaking to Giles.
"Wesley." Giles said as the former Watcher approached. "As I was just asking Lilah, so too shall I ask you. Have you given any extra thought to my offer?"
"Come and work for the Council? I'm sorry Giles, but training super-charged adolescent girls isn't really something that appeals to me any more." Wesley said.
"That's not the only work of the Council, Wesley. Even with the increased number of Slayers. There are just some things that a teenage girl – or a girl like Buffy, regardless of how old she is – is not suited to do, that needs to be done. Like keeping a handle on various governmental agencies when they stumble across the supernatural. So we don't have another government fiasco." He handed a picture to both Wesley and Lilah. A dead Caucasian man with a buzz cut, wearing a United States military uniform – Wesley wasn't able to tell which service – and a symbol carved into the dead man's forehead, his throat torn out.
"Is that-" Wesley recognized it.
"Yes. The symbol of the Blood King. On a dead marine. In D.C. A case that the Naval Criminal Investigative Service has and is working on."
Wesley looked at Lilah, who smiled slightly. "Fancy a trip to D.C?" He asked her.
"What the hell." Lilah said. "Sure."
Author's Note: And there we go. The End of Dead Man Walking. Its been a fun ride, through now 27 chapters, counting this Epilogue – and nearly eleven months. 90,000+ words.
I'd like to thank Oxnate, my beta, for helping me along with this, so much. I'd like to thank each and every reviewer, everyone who recommended this fic, and everyone who read, even if they didn't review. You are the reason I kept writing. Its been fun.
And while this fic may be over, the fun isn't. Keep your eyes peeled for the next installment in the Dead Man Walking series:
Dead Man Walking In D.C. Coming soon to a computer near you.