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Fan Fiction: They Also Serve
Chapter Nineteen: A Sense of Family
We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
During Wesley's long explanation-- assisted at times by Giles, who apparently knew the first half, and Buffy and Dawn, who'd been there for the rest-- Tara kept checking the others for their reactions. She'd barely been there for Faith's last appearance in Sunnydale, knew Angel mostly as Buffy's ex, had never known Wesley or Ethan, and hadn't gone to school with Jonathan, so it was difficult for her to be as invested in the story as the rest of them were.
Giles' primary reaction, of course, was concern. The free-floating Hellmouth was an unknown quantity, a threat unlike anything the Watchers' Council had encountered before. He paced, polished his glasses, fingered books on the shelves, and shot worried looks at Buffy and Dawn when he thought they weren't looking.
Anya was fascinated with the story, and kept relating anecdotes from her own (long) past whenever she felt they were appropriate. Usually, of course, they weren't, but as Wesley seemed equally fascinated with the concept of a vengeance demon that actually liked humans, no one had the courage to ask her to stop.
Amy barely reacted at all; if Tara hadn't seen her take a chair to a corner half-hidden by a set of shelves, she wouldn't have known the girl was there. She just sat there with wide eyes and her knees pulled up to her chin, trying not to be noticed as she took everything in.
Willow reacted with dismay and anger. She clutched tightly to Tara's hand as she objected and questioned, telegraphing a fear of change that Tara whole-heartedly understood. Xander and Buffy were Willow's best friends; she had almost lost the one today, and if Wesley's prophecy were true then the other was going to be taken from her. Willow could be a very strong woman, but she had very little in the way of an internal support structure, relying instead on those she loved for her encouragement and self-worth. She reacted badly to anything that might disturb that.
Dawn, for the most part, was quiet, in an introspective way. This was huge news for her, after all; she was just fifteen, had only been real for a little more than a year, and already she was being saddled with another enormous destiny. It couldn't be more than a few more weeks before her Slayer abilities were scheduled to activate, and once that happened she would never just be Dawn Summers, high school freshman, ever again.
Buffy was tense, radiating distress, but despite that she was making an effort to be a voice of reason in the conversation. It might have been the shock keeping her calm, but all the same, it was encouraging to Tara. Whatever else happened, at least Buffy wasn't sunk in her self-destructive, inwardly focussed world anymore. She had been given a fresh cause and a new responsibility toward her sister, and she was making an effort to rise to the challenge.
Xander was another story. He mostly just sat there, watching and brooding, turning something over and over in his hands. The expression on his face reminded Tara a lot of Aragorn in the recent movie, "Fellowship of the Ring", when he first encountered the hobbits-- intent and serious, with ominous thoughts going on behind his eyes.
When he finally did add something to the conversation, it was completely unexpected. "How soon do you need us in L.A.?" he asked, calmly, watching Wesley for a reaction.
"Well... I don't, really," Wesley said, drawing his brows together in puzzlement. "We've closed the Hellmouth again, and it's trapped under a heap of rubble for the time being. It won't be that difficult to keep it under control while it remains in the city."
"And what about when it moves on?" Xander pressed.
"We follow it," Buffy said, matter-of-factly.
"Right," Xander said, nodding thoughtfully. "And when it moves again? And again? Buffy, you're not going to be able to hold down a job, or keep Dawn in school, if you keep chasing this thing all over the place. You heard Giles-- no one even knew this was possible, they're not gonna have any idea how to stop it anytime soon. You could be on the go for the rest of your lives. What are you going to do about money? What's going to happen to your house?"
Buffy stared back at him, dismayed. "I... I hadn't thought that far ahead," she said, plaintively, and turned wide eyes on Giles. "Giles? Will the Council help?"
Her Watcher sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose, his glasses dangling between his fingers. "No. It's doubtful whether I should even tell them what's going on; the first thing they're likely to do is send a black ops team after Wesley, and we can't allow that to happen."
"The thing is," Xander said, butting back in, "you guys are used to planning for the short-term, and you're good at it. Target the next crisis, and then take care of it. But this crisis is going to keep going for the indefinite future-- that prophecy doesn't have a limit on it, or an end-date. You've got to look at the big picture."
"I understand what you're getting at, but what does your coming to Los Angeles have to do with it?" Wesley asked, curiously.
Xander tilted his chair back on two legs and began gesturing expansively with his hands, really getting into his explanation. "Look, there's four of you, right? More or less in two pairs. You and Faith, Buffy and Dawn. You can't all just keep chasing the Hellmouth, you'll run yourselves into the ground that way, so why not form two teams? You and Faith, and Angel, and whoever else from A.I. that wants to go. Giles and I could travel with Buffy and Dawn, and possibly Spike if we absolutely have to include him. Wills and Tara have another year of college, but maybe after they could join in too?"
He shot a questioning look at Tara as he spoke her name, and she nodded at him, caught up in his logic. It was a good plan, a hopeful one, although she did see a major flaw in it. "What about your job?" she asked. "What about money?"
"See," he said, "that's where the move to L.A. comes in. Whichever team's not out can keep running Angel Investigations, and bring in money that way. Plus, if Anya agrees, we could move the Magic Box down to the hotel and staff it with anyone that wants to help but not be on the fighting teams."
Amy got a significant look from him at that statement, and she jumped in her chair, startled. She regained her equilibrium quickly, however, and bit her lip, giving him a quick nod in response.
"I could go for that," Anya put in, crossing her arms in front of her. "With the Hellmouth gone business is going to dry up here anyway, and the rent and utilities will probably be cheaper in Angel's hotel. Plus, there ought to be less loss due to breakage and theft if we're in the same building as a detective agency."
"Hmmm," Wesley mused, scribbling thoughtfully on a piece of paper. "That could work. There's also a rather large unused area that Lorne could use to reopen Caritas-- with three businesses in the building, we might bring in enough profit to finance the teams."
"Plus," Xander said, "if we all live there, that cuts way down on our own expenses. Even if it's not so livable right now, I have some savings, and we'd have whatever we can get out of Buffy's house to fix things up with."
"Mom's house," Buffy said with a sigh, and a distressed look. She got up and started pacing, working her hands in front of her, then stopped and frowned at Xander. "Okay, I see where this plan makes sense. But I don't see how it has to involve you. Or Amy, or Anya, or Will and Tara, or even Giles. I mean, you guys all have lives and jobs and homes of your own, and just because..."
"It's our choice, Buff," Xander interrupted her, sternly, before she could get too agitated. "It's always been our choice. Besides, if the Slayage gig had paid, I would've quit my job a long time ago. It's not like this is a hard decision."
"Yeah," Anya said, frowning at the Slayer. "We'd have to move the Magic Box anyway, I mean, who's going to come to Sunnydale if there's no more mystical energy vortex or demonic Mayor? No one, that's who. So this pretty much works for me."
"It's not like I have anywhere else to go," Amy added, quietly.
"You can't honestly think I'd let you and Dawn face this alone, do you?" Giles added, gently. "You're my Slayer-- my Slayers. This challenge is like nothing you've ever faced before, and helping you with it is more important than my job with the Council."
Willow glanced at Tara, looking slightly ill with worry, and clutched her hand more tightly. "And we, I mean, I, could transfer to UCLA for my senior year."
Tara smiled at her. "We," she reaffirmed. She wasn't going to make Willow choose between her friends and her lover, so soon after they'd gotten back together. Besides, what did she have to anchor herself to Sunnydale? Only the people in this room. "And we could help run the businesses until we graduate."
Buffy looked around at all of them, her eyes filling up with tears, and turned a watery smile on Wesley. "I guess they've already got it all planned out," she said, with a weak laugh. "Not what you expected when you drove us up, is it?"
Wesley was looking a bit shell-shocked, but he smiled back at her, gratitude shining from his eyes. "No. I rather expected to be shown the door, actually; I don't have the best record here."
"But how could we not help?" Tara said. She squeezed Willow's hand again, then stood up, addressing everyone. "We're all each other has. No matter what happens, we're f-family." She'd learned that lesson last year, when her father came to take her back, telling her she was really a demon and that her friends wouldn't want her. They had, and they'd defended her-- even Spike, in his own way.
"Pretty dysfunctional family," Xander said, with a grin. "So, Wes, what do you think? Shall we freak Dead Boy out and just show up on his doorstep?"
Wesley smirked a little, staring off into the distance, as if picturing the souled vampire's reaction. "Hmm. Perhaps I'd better make a call..."
The rest of the day was spent in a flurry of research and planning. Wesley grinned widely at whatever Angel said on the phone, then spent an hour or so reassuring everyone else in L.A.-- apparently Angel had passed the phone around, with some comment about "what Wesley's gotten us into now." In the end, however, their tentative plan got a green light from the A.I. crew.
The Summers' house would go on the market within the week. Xander and Anya were going to put in their 30 days' notice at their apartments and places of business, and begin transferring furniture or inventory as they had time. Willow and Tara would finish up classes and work on contacting all the various bill companies and the Magic Box suppliers. Giles would make one last flight to England to tie things up there, and Buffy and Dawn would spend the time making peace with leaving Sunnydale and figuring out how to homeschool Dawn while they were on the road.
Tara was amazed at how everyone just fell in together, heartily working toward a major life-changing move. At the bottom line, though, it made perfect sense. Most of them had been feeling trapped or depressed by their current life circumstances, and this was the perfect chance to start over. Tara had the feeling that once they shook the dust of this town from their feet, they would never look back again.
"Just one more question, Buffy," she spoke up, later that night, when they paused for dinner. "What did you wish on Warren and Andrew?"
Buffy's shared a satisfied glance with Anya before answering. "Oh, it was pretty simple," she said. "I wished that for every plan they ever make from now on, they feel their would-be victims' pain-- ahead of time."
Xander whistled. "Nice. Talk about rehabilitation-- they'll only be hurting themselves if they don't change their attitude."
"That was the idea," she said.
"See?" Anya put in, looking intolerably smug. "Justice demon. I don't have to be evil just because I'm not human anymore."
"Hear, hear," Wesley said, a bit more seriously, and raised his cup. "To the Grey Hats: we might not be perfect, but we do our best to make the world a better place."
With the clink of glass meeting glass, a feeling of goodwill spread around the table. They had a monumental task ahead of them, but they were ready. Come what may, they would meet the challenge together.
© 2004 Jedi Buttercup.