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Chapter Data

Chapter Seventeen

Fan Fiction: From the Shadows

Chapter Seventeen: Unsettling Revelations

"Words, like nature, half reveal and half conceal the soul within."
~Alfred Lord Tennyson


The tense mood of the group only got more tense when they left the confines of the Wolfram and Hart basement and joined Faith, Gunn, and Fred in the sewers. The two slayers instinctively dropped into a combat-ready position as they faced each other, and nearly everyone else backed off without needing to be warned. Jonathan watched from behind Groo, still rubbing the deep bruise on his back where Buffy had accidentally kicked him. He was probably lucky she hadn't broken a rib.

"So," Buffy said, clipping off her words, all the muscles in her face tense. "Faith. They let you out of jail."

"B," Faith replied, nodding solemnly at her. "They let you out of heaven."

Buffy stiffened, her green eyes sparking in anger. "I was taken out. What the hell are you doing here?"

Let out of heaven? Taken out? Okay, that was something else Jonathan had missed. Buffy had been dead? When?

"Slayer, she's not the enemy here." Spike stepped forward and settled a hand on Buffy's shoulder. She shrugged the hand off immediately, giving him an angry look, but she seemed to lose a little of her aggression at his words.

"As I suggested earlier," Wes butted in, "I think it would be best to explain everything at once, back at the Hyperion. The sooner the better. I'd prefer to have Dawn a little farther out of the firm's reach before we stop moving."

Buffy looked away from Faith and met his eyes for the first time. She froze half-way through a nod of agreement and stared at him for several seconds, then narrowed her eyes. "Okay. What are you, and what have you done with Wes?"

"He's still Wes," Faith said casually, hooking a thumb at him. "But he's Connor, too. It's a long story."

Buffy shook her head. "Connor who?"

Faith's eyebrows shot up. "Connor who?" she repeated in tones of outrage, and gave Angel a questioning look. "You didn't tell her?"

"Didn't tell me what?" Buffy asked sharply, staring at her ex-lover.

"Uhhh...." Angel winced.

Oh boy, thought Jonathan. Just exactly how many secrets were these people keeping from each other?

"They don't exactly talk," Wesley told Faith, ignoring Buffy and Angel. "Obviously. Otherwise she might have known that Wolfram and Hart was not the sort of law firm to bring one's little sister to."

"Hey!" the two under discussion exclaimed at the same time.

"Yo!" Gunn said suddenly, disrupting the tense little circle. "You, old guy. Where do you think you're going?"

Everyone's eyes went to Ethan, who had been quietly creeping away towards a cross-tunnel. "Well, it seems like this is my stop." He gave the assembled group a thin smile.

"Not so fast," Angel said, moving to block Ethan's path with an arm and an impressive glower. "I don't trust you as far as I can throw you. You're not going anywhere until we're ready to let you leave."

"That's IT!" Cordelia yelled. "We are going back to the hotel RIGHT NOW, before I have to go medieval on all of you. You'll just have to get along like good little children until then." She stormed past them all, much as Buffy had done a few minutes earlier, then stopped suddenly and gave Wes the evil eye. "And someone who isn't me should probably be doing the leading."

Somewhat sheepishly, although not without a lot of muttered comments, Cordelia's orders were obeyed. Faith took point, studiously ignoring Buffy, and Wesley walked by her side; the rest straggled out behind. Jonathan kept half an eye on Ethan as they went and noticed Spike and Gunn doing likewise. The rest seemed either lost in thought or else concentrating heavily on watching where they stepped.

The peace held until they got back to the hotel and climbed the stairs into the lobby, and sent Groo to deposit Dawn on one of the hotel's beds. Then everything fell to pieces.

"Okay." Buffy said, leaning against the counter with her arms crossed in front of her. She looked very fierce, despite her small stature, and Jonathan made himself as small as he could in the shadows against one of the walls. The less she thought about him while she was in this kind of mood, the better.

"Now. Tell me everything," she demanded, "starting with Angel."

The vampire in question looked around at the others for support, and discovered, unsurprisingly, that none of them were willing to make eye contact with him. "Well," he said, wincing again, "it all started a little over a year ago..." His voice trailed off.

"Yes?" Buffy prompted, impatiently.

Gunn cleared his throat and spoke up. "What Angel's trying to say is, Wolfram and Hart brought Darla back. He went dark and fired us all, then slept with her and got her pregnant."

"What?" Buffy stared at Gunn, green eyes wide. If she had been angry before, she wasn't now; she looked hurt instead, and deeply bewildered. "But he'd never..."

"Never what, Buffy?" Faith snapped. "Cheat on you? Move on? Or how about try to commit suicide? 'Cause that's what he was doing, you know."

"I never said he couldn't move on," Buffy protested. "But..." She turned back to Angel. "Darla? How? Why? I don't understand..."

Spike plainly did understand. "You bloody bastard!" he said angrily, moving menacingly closer to his grandsire. "You arrogant, self-centered git! There are easier ways to do it, you know. Ones that don't lead to evil wankers in leather pants who like to torture every sodding thing in sight."

"That wasn't what it was about," Angel growled, slipping into gameface. "And you'd do well not to challenge me, William. Helpless or not, you're still evil and I will put you down."

"Stop it, Angel. Spike. Both of you." The vampires broke off their mutual glare and turned towards the golden Slayer like chastised little boys. How much of this confrontation, Jonathan wondered idly, was because both of them were always trying to protect Buffy?

"So," she continued, swallowing down her anger. It still burned behind her eyes and wrinkled the lines around her mouth, but to her credit, she was keeping her voice calm. "You fucked Darla. Obviously you didn't go all Angelus, because you're still here and I haven't gotten any nasty presents. What happened next? Who's Connor?" Then she gasped suddenly, realizing the answer to her own question, and her eyes went wide again. "You had a kid? With Darla?!" Her voice rose in horror.

"It was only that one night," Angel protested weakly. "I had my epiphany, and she left. I didn't see her again until she came back, seven months pregnant."

Spike snorted. "It figures. We were the Scourge of Europe; the biggest of the baddest. Might as well have painted prophecy-targets on our arses. And of the four of us, of course it's the two with no humanity who were chosen to create it. Poetic, almost."

"Poetic?" Wesley blinked. "It hasn't felt poetic, from my perspective."

Buffy's stunned stare turned to Wesley. "Are you saying... but... that's... how is that possible?"

"A bit of dimension hopping, a time-traveling demon who hated Angel, and a lot of strange coincidences," Wesley said, heavily abbreviating the story. "It's all rather ironic, really."

Buffy stared a few moments longer, her eyes tracking back and forth from Angel's face to Wesley's and back again, then shook her head. "Okay. Buffy brain on meltdown. Let's change topics until I have a chance to digest that, or I'm going to do something really stupid. So. What was going on with those lawyers? Why did they want me and Dawn?"

"Just Dawn, luv," Spike corrected her. "They found out she's the Key."

That put some steel in the Slayer's spine. She jolted upright, and her voice went soft and dangerous. "Who do these lawyers think they are? That was all supposed to be over with when we got rid of Glory!"

Ethan, who settled on the couch with a watchful Gunn beside him, whistled softly. "Glorificus? Do you mean to say you children stopped a Hellgod?"

Buffy glared at him. "Remember that, next time you try to cross me."

"That explains a great many things," Ethan said, ignoring the threat. "If Dawn is indeed the Key she would be very valuable to any number of occult groups. There has been plenty of time, over the thousands of years of the Key's existence, to discover ways to access its energy."

"In this case," Wesley added, "Wolfram and Hart seem to have found a ritual to relocate the Hellmouth."

"They can do that?" Cordelia asked. "Move the Hellmouth? God. I wish they'd done that years ago; I might have actually had a normal life." Then she glanced over her shoulder at Groo. "Not that I'd want anything to happen to Dawn, or that the weirdness doesn't have its benefits."

"And what does my dad have to do with all of this?" Buffy demanded.

Wesley looked at Spike, and Spike sighed. "He wasn't your dad anymore, Slayer," the vampire said, gently. "Hadn't been for more than a year."

Buffy stared at him for a minute, processing that, and then her face crumpled. "No," she pleaded. "Not him, too. God! Is there anyone in my life who's safe from my calling? I know he wasn't perfect, but he was my dad!" She moved restlessly, pacing a few steps back and forth, then slammed a hand down on the counter. "Damn it!" Tears began welling up in her eyes.

Angel moved restlessly, half-reaching towards her and then pulling back, as though he wanted to comfort her but didn't think it was his place. Spike wasn't so hesitant; he immediately stepped forward and gently brushed a tear from her cheek with a pale hand. "Not your fault, luv. Not your fault. Blame the lawyers, blame Angel, blame Darla. Don't blame yourself; you did your job."

Buffy sniffled. She didn't lean into the comforting embrace Spike offered, but for once she wasn't pushing him away, either. Jonathan was pretty sure she wasn't even aware of most of her audience anymore. "Darla turned him?" she asked, her voice bleak, and glanced over Spike's shoulder at Angel. "She's dead again, right?"

"She staked herself to save her child, actually," Wesley said quietly.

Buffy gave him an uneasy glance, then tracked back to Spike's face and searched it wit her eyes, looking for something. "And I suppose he's dead, too?" she asked softly. It took Jonathan a second to realize that she was talking about her dad, not responding to Wesley.

Spike just nodded, slowly.

"God." Buffy leaned forward, resting her forehead on Spike's chest, and the chipped vampire's arms went carefully around her. Angel almost said something, but shut his mouth before any sounds could come out; Jonathan guessed that he didn't want to disrupt Buffy in the middle of her grief. There'd be time enough to flambé Spike for touching the Slayer when he wasn't serving as her buffer against the world.

Wesley sighed. "Buffy... would you like to go sit with your sister for a little while? There are decisions to be made, and I know this has all been very hard for you..."

She sniffled again, but didn't move. "No, I'll be okay. Just..." she sighed. "Could someone else call Giles and let him know what's going on? I don't think I'm up to it."

"He's not here?" Jonathan spoke up, puzzled. "I thought he was bringing you guys."

Buffy looked up from Spike's chest, finally registering Jonathan's presence. He shrank back, kicking himself for opening his mouth, but thankfully she didn't seem inclined to thrash him. Instead, she summoned back her Slayer glare and pushed Spike away. "You brought him down here, didn't you?" she accused. "He was supposed to wait until I got a chance to grill him, and you were supposed to do the patrols while I was gone. Damn it, Spike!"

Spike sighed and stuck his hands in his pockets. "You're getting off-topic again, Slayer. What happened to your Watcher?"

She took a deep breath and scrubbed the remnants of the tears out of her eyes. "Xander called him with something important just before we got into town," she said. "He said it wasn't Slayer-urgent, but since we didn't know how long the meeting would take, he thought he should drive back and help with whatever it was. I have cab money, and I knew we could probably crash here if we had to, so I said it was fine. Why? Do we need him here?"

"No, but another pair of trained eyes would have been useful," Wesley answered with a sigh. "I don't suppose any of the rest of you read Latin, or any other demonic or ancient languages?"

"I can help a little," Fred said softly. She'd been pretty quiet during the whole conversation, snuggled up against Gunn, but she perked up a little at the mention of research.

Gunn groaned. "Ain't there anything else we could be doing, like bashing some heads in?"

"How about securing the hotel?" Angel said. "Groo, you think you and Cordy can help him? Spike and I can put in some time on the bookwork, then start breaking out the weapons. If they want Dawn so bad, they'll be back for her, and we need to be ready."

"What?" Spike objected, loudly. "Me, doin' research?"

"Oh come on," Angel glared at him. "I know you, remember? And I remember exactly how much education you'd had before Dru turned you."

Spike scowled.

"I'll keep an eye on Ethan," Jonathan volunteered, before anyone could think to assign him a task. He had the feeling everyone might forget about the chaos mage if he didn't, and the man was kind of Jonathan's responsibility. Even if it should be the other way around. Why couldn't his birth parents have been normal people?

Faith sighed. "I'll keep you company, J. If I sit with the books too long I'll end up trying to slay them, and that wouldn't be pretty."

Wesley gave the dark Slayer a tired, amused smile. "Thank you, Faith. I appreciate your restraint."

That took everyone into account except the sleeping Dawn, the grieving Buffy, and...

"Hey everyone, how'd it go?" Lorne stepped into the hotel through the main doors, unwrapping a scarf along the way. He had a wide-brimmed hat on over his horns, and a non-descript coat over his flashy clothes. "Whoa, whoa... what's wrong? You're all radiating enough negativity to choke a thousand llamas."

Faith laughed suddenly. "Everyone, repeat after me..."

"...It's a long story."


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