Author's note: This fic is an alternative 3rd installment in my "Not-So-Blithe Spirits" series (another sequel to "Apocalypse, Now and Then" which can be read in place of "What Are Very Old Friends For?") and is dedicated to Smallville-HarryPotterfan13, who suggested a rather different Buffyverse identity for a certain heroic soul from the Hercules/Xena pantheon.

Disclaimer: As usual, I own nothing and make no profit from playing with these characters. Any theological implications from this work should not necessarily be taken at face value. Readers are advised to consult the religious professional of their choice before trying this theology at home.

"The Trouble with Archangels"

Spirits when they please
Can either sex assume, or both.

John Milton, Paradise Lost. Book i. Line 423.

The trouble with archangels thought Faith, the Vampire Slayer, as she brought her motorcycle to a screeching halt in the middle of a Los Angeles street a few blocks from the Hyperion Hotel – is that they only seemed to show up on the mortal plane at the most inconvenient of times.

For instance, when you open up the Hellmouth and take on an army of primeval vamps and the freakin' First Evil with only a handful of Potential Slayers and some normal humans with more guts than brains for back-up, does anybody with wings and a flaming sword show up to lend a hand?

Nope. Not a chance. No effing way.

But when you're racing to try and save the lives (or un-lives, as the case may be) of some less-normal friends (also possessed of more guts than brains . . . both of which were likely to be splattered all over the city pretty soon, if they weren't already), who shows up to block your way, carrying a sword and glowing at you in a disapproving way like you're effing Balaam riding on a motorized donkey and up to no damn good?

Why, an archangel, of course!

And a suspiciously familiar-looking archangel, at that.

Not pausing to wonder how the heck she happened to recognize an archangel (as opposed to any other kind of angelic being), much less how she came to find this particular archangel so familiar in appearance, Faith strode toward the winged figure with stake in hand, exuding as much menace she could under the circumstances and trying not to think about how much better she'd feel if she had the Scythe with her just then. She bet that the Scythe could do a great job at slicing and dicing the odd archangel, if need be.

But that particular Slayer weapon was currently with Buffy on the other side of the Atlantic, along with the rest of the reinforcements who were waiting for a mass-teleport from Willow. So, for the moment, Faith was on her own and making do with what she had. Just like old times.

Faith really hated 'old times.'

Speaking of which, . . . .

"Yo! Bible-Boy!" she yelled, as politely as possible. "You wanna get yerself and yer obvious overcompensation outta my freakin' way?" She was especially proud of the 'overcompensation' comment about his weapon of choice and only wished Robin could be present to hear how her insults had improved over the past year. "I got places to be and people to save . . . not that you'd know anything about that!"

The archangel in front of her actually had the nerve to smile, then, and Faith was gearing up to kick his smarmy, actually-holier-than-thou teeth in when – faster than the human or even the Slayer eye could follow – he reached out and placed his hand over hers where it clutched the stake, saying, "Peace, Faith. Your friends are safe, for the most part, and the battle's been won. Be at peace."

The moment that the archangel Michael's hand touched hers, Faith's head almost exploded with memories from more than a score of previous lifetimes, including her first lifetime, when she'd been known as her people's champion, the hero to inspire all heroes, the demigod whose journeys through the world in search of good to do would become legendary . . . .

Faith couldn't help but say the first words that came to her mind after the initial head rush had passed: "Whoah! Even as a dude I had a spectacular chest on me!" And then, "Hercules? I was freakin' Hercules? No way, man! I mean, . . . seriously?"

"Seriously, Herc," replied Michael, trying to keep a straight face and mostly succeeding. He couldn't help it – Hercules was sometimes a lot more entertaining to deal with in this incarnation, for all his/Faith's tortured past and rocky path, and she/he certainly had a unique style of speech this time around. "In the words of your most recent persona, 'I shit you not.'"

Faith drew herself up to her full height, which (even with an assist from the killer heels on her biker boots) was far short of the physical stature she'd once enjoyed as Hercules, but still managed to give the impression that she was looking down on the much larger archangel, as she solemnly warned him, "If this is a ruse to keep me from helping my friends before it's too late, Michael, there won't be anyplace in heaven or on earth that you can run to and be safe from my wrath."

Then Faith grinned with a touch of her own menace as well as Herc's patented 'I'm-a-really-nice-guy-with-super-strength-but-don't-press-your-luck-too-far-or-I'll-kick-you-into-low-earth-orbit' smile, as she added, "Just so we're clear. 'A vague disclaimer,' and all that."

"No ruse," Michael promised. "No half-truths or deceptions for the sake of the greater good, or anything like that – not this time around. You have my word as an archangel on that.

"I just stopped by to set your mind at ease, Hercules – or Faith, if you prefer. The battle's been won, the latest apocalypse averted, and Angel, Spike, and Gunn survived, so you don't have to worry."

Michael paused, and then continued, speaking at a slightly faster speed than she'd ever heard from him before - very different from his usual, extremely deliberate and more than slightly condescending manner when addressing mortals. "And I also wanted to sort of warn you that your half-brother Ares may need some extra help getting his head back on straight in days to come, now that Angel's unconscious mind has been reminded of who he used to be. But since you volunteered to be reborn this time around mainly in hopes of being able to aid Ares on his road to redemption (as well as lend Xena a helping hand, if the occasion should arise), I'm sure you won't mind that a bit. Okay, bye now, gotta fly."

Faith/Hercules glared at the space where Michael had been standing before the big chicken had dematerialized his sorry butt back to heaven, without giving her the chance to lay even one punch on him for dumping her back into this family mess.

If Michael had said or done anything to throw Ares/Angel back into full-on brood mode, she swore she'd have her pound of flesh (or feathers – she didn't really care which) out of his angelic hide. No matter what happened, she vowed, there was no way she was going back into Angel/Angelus' mind on another drug-inspired mystical vision quest to drag his head out of his butt again after this - not with dear brother Ares' memories so fresh in his unconscious again.

She really felt the need to hit somebody right now, and it didn't look like she'd get the chance, if the fighting was really all over for the moment.

"Very DISAPPOINTED!" she yelled at the night sky, sounding more than a little like her alternate universe counterpart, the Sovereign.

That was the real trouble with archangels, she thought to herself: they were never around to pound on when you needed them . . . .

The End (at least for now)