Slayer Central 1: Slayer Central
Timeframe: Just after "Chosen"
Summary: Buffy comes to Angel with a plan.
Angel's eyes snapped open, and he turned his head to check the clock. 6:30-- he had been asleep for eight hours. He had left orders to awaken him at the first sign of trouble from Sunnydale, and he was unsure of whether the lack of interruptions was a good sign or an ominous one. He glanced at the windowshade--the sun had dropped low enough for him to peek outside. He pulled back the shade and looked out. All seemed normal--the sky was clear, there were no signs of imminent demonic invasion, and he noticed pedestrians walking by the school bus parked in the alley.
Angel blinked, and looked at the bus more carefully, and raised an eyebrow when he saw the words "Sunnydale High School" on its side. Clearly, something had happened. He dressed quickly and headed downstairs. He was annoyed, and his tone reflected it as he called out, "You know, it would be nice if someone would keep me posted on what's happening--we've got a potential apocalypse here--" The main staircase and lobby of the hotel came into view, and Angel quickly spotted Willow and Faith--they looked tired and a bit worse for wear. It was the other new arrivals that caused Angel to stop in his tracks and stare, heedless of manners.
There were about thirty young women in the lobby, also looking rather tired and bruised, sitting on the furniture, leaning against the walls, and lying on makeshift bedrolls. Having seen the school bus and read the report on recent events in Sunnydale, Angel was pretty certain that the young women were the potential Slayers who Buffy, Faith, and the others had been protecting. It was the way the young women were moving that caught his eye-- the slender brunette who was hefting a two-handed axe like a toy ... the redhead who was doing standing backflips that would have made any acrobat turn green with envy ... the good-natured sparring match between two of them that would have made a heavyweight champion turn white in fear. He consciously attempted to disbelieve what he was seeing, but his own instincts--which were screaming at him to flee--forced him to abandon the attempt. There were thirty-odd slayers in the lobby of the Hyperion, and it was with a growing sense of unease that he realized that Buffy was not visible among them. He dashed down the stairs with a speed that had half the Slayers tensing against an incoming attack and ran over to Faith, demanding, "Faith, where's Buffy? Is she all right?"
"Just great. Had to make a run to the bathroom--getting stabbed doesn't do much for the personal hygiene thing. Don't be mad at them--I told them to let you sleep."
Angel turned and saw Buffy. She was bruised in several places, and a large cut was faintly visible under a bandage on her forehead. She wore a grey sweatsuit that was two sizes too large her, and she was visibly exhausted.
Angel had never seen anything so beautiful in his life. Mindful of her injury, he walked over to her and stared at her with a vacant smile on his face for a moment before saying quietly: "Hey."
Buffy snorted at Angel in irritation. "Who are you--Oz? Give me a hug, damn it."
Angel complied, carefully avoiding the area that Buffy's body language indicated was the location of the injury. He held her for long moments in silence before releasing her and stepping back. Buffy had teared up a bit, but her voice was calm as she commented, "That's better. I called from the road six hours back--we're done in Sunnydale, Angel. The Hellmouth's not an issue any more."
Angel blinked. "You sealed it?"
Buffy looked vaguely embarrassed, and she hesitated momentarily before replying, "We kind of blew it up, along with the rest of Sunnydale. There's a ten mile wide crater where the town used to be--good thing most everyone had already cleared out." She looked up at Angel and added, "The amulet was the real deal--thanks for bringing it."
"Always glad to be of service." Angel smirked just a little, and was rewarded with a dirty look from Buffy before he leaned down and whispered, "Buffy ... mind telling me why there are thirty Slayers in my lobby? Or, more to the point--how?"
"Thirty-five, including me and Faith. We lost two of them in the fight." Buffy blinked, and a tear fell free before she composed herself and continued, "Take all of the potentials that Giles was able to track down to protect them from the First, add that nifty axe you saw me with, stir with the most powerful Wicca in the Western Hemisphere, and serve warm." Angel glanced over at Willow--who smiled at him--and turned back to Buffy, who was nodding as she added, "They're just the tip of the iceberg, Angel. Willow's spell went worldwide ... we think that it activated every potential out there between puberty and menopause, including ones that neither the Council nor the First had a clue about. Willow can feel them out there, and she says there's at least a thousand of them scattered all over the place--maybe more. We need to find them, Angel. Every one of them's a weirdness magnet and doesn't know it."
"True, but there's only so much weirdness to go around--that should keep the pressure off until we can track them down." Angel's head was spinning at the concept of a thousand Slayers being loose in the world, but another thought occurred to him: "Did you lose anyone else, Buffy?"
Buffy looked down, and the sadness was visible in her eyes as she replied, "Anya died saving Andrew from the Bringers--we didn't have time to get her body." She hesitated, and Angel waited quietly as she looked up at him and whispered, "Spike wore the amulet, Angel. It vaporized all of the vampires left in the cavern and brought everything tumbling down--we got out just in time. He didn't."
Angel felt a pang of guilt, and thought for a moment before placing his hands on her shoulders and saying quietly, "It's never a good day when you lose four friends, Buffy. I'm sorry."
Buffy smiled softly at him, and changed the subject slightly: "Principal Wood suffered a nasty gut wound--we dropped him off at a hospital in Glendale. I'll introduce you when he's feeling better--you'll like him better than Snyder." Angel chuckled, but sobered as Buffy added, "Most of the girls got banged up pretty good, but they're Slayers now, and they're all healing nicely--including yours truly, though I don't recommend getting impaled as an everyday thing." She glanced around and asked, "That reminds me: where's Cordelia? The others have been great at helping us out, but I haven't seen her yet."
Angel closed his eyes: the tension of the past few days had almost driven recent events from his mind, and the sudden reminder was like a slap in the face. When he opened his eyes, Buffy was watching him anxiously, and he sighed before replying, "We should really have a meeting, Buffy. We've got a lot to discuss."
Buffy frowned, but chose not to press. She walked back to Faith and Willow and whispered to them momentarily before running up the stairs. Willow walked over to Angel and explained, "She's getting Xander and Giles--what's happening with Cordelia?"
Angel shook his head, "I'll go over it at the meeting, Willow. Excuse me, I need to speak with Wesley." He slipped off, and Willow exchanged puzzled looks with Faith before she reached into her shoulder bag, looking for some notes she had taken on the trip to Los Angeles.
Angel stopped speaking, and looked at Buffy with concern: "Are you all right?"
Buffy looked up at him and managed a reassuring smile before replying, "You know, the last few years I've been pretty sure that whenever I saw you I'd have weirder stories to tell you than vice versa, and this time I was really sure--but this has me pretty well beat." She paused, visibly gathered her thoughts, and continued: "Cordelia is in a coma after an evil pregnancy with no apparent source, which unleashed the incarnation of an extra-dimensional goddess who wanted all people to live together in peace-- so she could eat them. You stop the goddess--and I know from experience that is not easy and fun--and your old playmates at Wolfram and Hart are so grateful that they've given you the keys to a multi-million dollar law firm with information sources that make the late great Council of Watchers' libraries look like a newspaper rack, and a lab that would make Q sell his soul to Beelzebub to get his hands on it. That about sum things up?" Angel began to speak, and Buffy held up her hand and added, "Willow already briefed me on the Angelus stuff--don't go there again."
Angel nodded, and Xander called out, "I thought it was my job to boil down all this terribly significant stuff into the Readers' Digest version, Buffy- -just because I look like a pirate doesn't mean I'm going to sit in the corner going 'Arrrr!' for the whole meeting."
A few chuckles were heard, and Buffy turned to direct a fondly annoyed look at Xander: "I'll let you take the next one--I just had to say it." She frowned and turned back to Angel: "Angel, you know these evil lawyer guys better than any of us do, and I don't want to second-guess your move--but I'd be lying if I said that I thought this was the greatest idea since sliced bread. They've got to be playing you somehow, don't they?"
"You're so cynical, Buffy--it must be all of those years living in Sunnydale." Angel maintained a deadpan expression as he replied, and was rewarded with a grin as he continued, "I've got good people on the job-- they'll be keeping an eye on things while they get up to speed on the departments they're in charge of." He turned to Wesley, Gunn, and Fred and added quietly: "I'd trust any one of them with my life, and they'll be looking out for each other, too." Buffy nodded, satisfied, and Angel looked over to where Giles was quietly listening and commented, "There's a lot of research material at W & H that needs inspecting, Giles. Wesley could finish it all, given time, but I'm sure he'd be grateful for another pair of eyes--if you're willing."
"Of course." Giles nodded thoughtfully, and looked over to Wesley--who nodded without hesitation. Giles frowned and commented, "The resources and personnel of the Council of Watchers were decimated by the Bringers--I intend to try to contact the survivors in the field to help it regroup, but it will be quite a task. Having a complete library to refer to will greatly facilitate the task of reconstructing the Council's libraries."
Angel turned to Willow and changed topics: "Willow, Fred's better than anyone I could imagine at evaluating all of the scientific elements of W & H's labs--but you're the most talented computer expert I've ever met, and there are mystical elements to deal with that Fred isn't exactly rated for-- dabbling with portals notwithstanding." He didn't see Fred turn pale at his last few words, as his attention was completely focused on Willow. He grinned at her and asked, "Could you give the place a once-over and let me know if you think they're sneaking an evil computer virus or death curse past Fred?"
"Not a problem." Willow replied calmly, before turning to Fred--who had recovered from her discomfort--and commenting, "Fred and I make a good team, and we can take Kennedy along to provide a bit of muscle." The comment provoked a loud swat delivered between her shoulder blades, and she turned back to see a visibly annoyed Kennedy. She paused a moment, then amended her comment: "--to provide a bit of clever, resourceful, and disturbingly sexy muscle." Kennedy's frown vanished, and Willow sighed in relief as she turned back to Angel. "Looks like we have a plan."
"Good. The evaluation shouldn't take more than a couple of weeks--I don't want to interfere with whatever plans Buffy and Giles have for all of you." Angel was relieved to receive the assistance, and didn't notice the worried expression on Buffy's face for a few seconds. When he did, he frowned in concern and asked, "Did I say something wrong, Buffy?"
Buffy looked embarrassed, and Angel waited patiently for Buffy to tell him what was on her mind. After a few moments, she coughed and began, "Angel, we've been housing the girls at my house and at Xander's apartment since the end of last year--we didn't have any other place to put them, and there was just enough room for us to put them. It wasn't easy, but we managed it. Now--"
"Now your house and Xander's apartment building are at the bottom of a mile deep crater, and there's nowhere for you to stay." Angel commented quietly, smiling reassuringly at Buffy. Buffy hesitated, then nodded once. The vampire sighed, then asked, "Buffy, do you really think you have to ask if you can stay here? You did hear Willow say that Angelus had been sent packing, right? My home is your home, for as long as I own it, and wherever it may be."
Buffy beamed, and Xander noticed that several of the Slayers in the room were casting interested looks in Angel's direction. He leaned over to Giles and whispered, "You might want to make sure that the Slayers all read your diaries from--"
"Bookmarked and readied for photocopying." Giles replied without changing his expression.
Xander smirked, then turned back to Angel and called out, "So, this place is going to be Slayer Central? I hope your insurance is paid up."
"We've trained here for three years now--I think we can handle a few more people." Angel replied confidently, before nodding to Wesley and Gunn. They distributed champagne glasses to the occupants of the office, and Fred pulled out several bottles of Dom Perignon from the refrigerator in the corner. Corks popped, champagne poured, and at length Angel was standing in front of his desk with a full glass. He raised it and intoned solemnly: "To the heroes of Sunnydale, living and dead--may their future deeds and their legacy shine as worthy examples to those who follow them."
As one, the occupants of the room raised their glasses and drank the toast. Angel turned to Buffy and saw she was watching him with genuine joy, though it was not untouched by worry. <This won't be easy, but we've been handed an opportunity here, and I'm not going to waste it.> He called out, "Let's adjourn to the lobby and let everyone else know what's going on." He walked to the office door and opened it, allowing the others to file out. When they had all exited, Angel looked back to the office once more before turning to leave. For no good reason that he could discern, he felt uneasy, but he refused to succumb to doubts. He closed the door, leaving the office dark and silent.
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