Epilogue: Where all roads lead.
See prologue for disclaimers/warnings, Alias
At last, the end. Many, many thanks to all who took the time to review, especially those of you I could count on for a helpful thought or encouraging word chapter after chapter. And to those whose thoughtful speculations occasionally gave that bit of inspiration when the blank pages offered none.
“People who have tried it, tell me that a clear conscience makes you very happy and contented; but a full stomach does the business quite as well, and is cheaper, and more easily obtained.” Jerome K. Jerome
Everybody has got to die, but I have always believed an exception would be made in my case.
The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze- William Saroyan
Epilogue: Where all roads lead. -LOS ANGELES-
Lauren Reed closed her eyes and sank back into her new chair and breathed deep the scent of quality leather. She pressed a button and the chair began to gently knead her lower back. She had decided, for sake of appearances, that she would let Lindsey keep the best office, so she had treated herself to the chair in compensation. It had lived up to every claim in the brochure, so she was going to order one for Michael as well.
She opened her eyes. Lindsey was still sitting there, wating to be dismissed after his morning briefing. He sat slumped, staring at the wall, perhaps at the safe where Lauren had his balls in jar. That now apparently permanent curve in his spine, she’d watched it form as she showed him the video of him giving up Tippin to Sark. A federal crime. And worse, proof that he had been so easily taken.
She’d decided to keep him around. He’d be useful. Whenever she decided to do anything really illegal, he would sign off on it, for one thing.
“You can go, Bob,” she said, and he slumped out.
She leaned forward and perused the papers on her desk. These she wanted to sign off on, for the record. Marshall’s promotion. Marshall was …dangerous. But she could handle Marshall. There was Carrie’s promotion. The increased budget for his department. The day care center. She would see to it that Michael took him to lunch from time to time. She could handle Marshall.
She looked at the next folder. Jack Bristow’s retirement. That was … a relief. She actually rather liked Jack, if it wasn’t for all the complications revolving around his daughter she liked to think they could have worked well together, she could have learned a great deal from him. But under the circumstances, this was for the best. Letters from Kendall and Lindsey in his file, officially clearing him of all charges, full benefits, he would have no reason to resent her. Maybe she would even use him as a consultant somewhere down the line.
She’d saved the best for last. Sydney’s resignation. She had the letters too, that cleared her name, which was fine. Lauren had no need to hurt her, just defeat her. This was better, Sydney was free and clear of her own choosing, so there would be no reason for Michael to see her as any kind of martyr.
No Bristows. The office was her kingdom. Everything was perfect.
Lauren signed off and closed the folder and pushed back, she touched another button on her chair, this one released a catch and allowed the chair to swing freely on its base, Lauren gave her desk a kick that sent her spinning in giddy circles,
“I win,” she thought, “I win I win I win I win!”
Michael Vaughn looked at the letter again, for the umpteenth time.
Dear Michael. Love always, Sydney.
She had her memory back, she said it gave her perspective, she apologized for any and all harsh words there had ever been between them. She thanked him for being there when she needed him, for being more than just a handler.
But it was time they both moved on. She was free now, that had always been her goal, remember, take down Sloane and SD-6 and out. He didn’t need to know the details but that job was finally finished.
She would always remember ….
Dear Michael. Love always, Sydney…… Bye.
He sat back and wallowed in the melancholy, knowing it had to end. He had turned the blackmail materials Marshall had provided over to Lauren and she had really run with them. He hadn’t looked so he had no idea what she had on Kendall but the man had come out of her office white and shaking like a leaf, and wholly obedient.
He had been promoted, there was a bit more deference in the halls, he was Mr. Vaughn to a few more people, but if he didn’t suck it up and get busy he was going to be Mr. Lauren Reed if he wasn’t careful….
Even Weiss had been acting weird lately, the man couldn’t hold a serious conversation. Not that solemnity had ever been his trademark but now he was prone to suddenly dissolving in laughter that he refused to explain…
His PDA bing-binged at him, time for lunch with Lauren.
He picked up Sydney’s letter, glanced around to make sure no one was watching, held it to his face and breathed in once more the faint perfume, then gently fed it to the shredder.
He straightened his tie, went down the hall, tapped on her door and went in and she launched herself at him, her energy contagious, she was so beautiful when she was happy. Vaughn moved on.
Robert Lindsey stabbed angrily at the metallic keys of the pay phone. Enough was enough. “You can go, Bob,” my ass.
This was Their
were the ones who’d muffed the hit on Sark, They could damn well make it up to him and take out that bitch Reed….The number you have dialed is no longer in service…
He dialed again, carefully, he must have mis-dialed….The number you have dialed is no longer in service…
It was a bright warm sunny day in Southern California but as Robert Lindsey stepped away from the phone he pulled his coat around him and shivered in the cold.
“I guess you’ll be glad to get your room back,” Carrie said.
“Yeah,” Tracy said, “but we’re gonna miss you guys. You sure you have to go?”
“Thank you, but it’s past time. The new house is ready, I want to get to know it a little bit before I pop.”
“Marshall,” Dwayne said, “before you go, I’m supposed to give you a message from Dawn.
“First, you know how she told you not to upload any files from the base in Panama?”
“You know how you did anyway?”
“Yes. No! …. I mean….. Yes?”
“She says that when you go to find them and they’re gone, it was for your own good. She also says she promised to tell you how she beat your firewalls.”
“What? What do you mean, magic? Is that a program or an acronym…”
“Hey. I’m just the messenger, you know the dread machines mystify me. Although the girls tell me I should thank you profusely for all the upgrades.”
“The car’s here,” Taariq announced from the window, “come on, we’ll walk you down.”
They got about twenty feet along the corridor when Carrie slapped her forehead, said,
“Ohh, I forgot something, you go ahead, I’ll catch up...”
“Tell me, I can….” Tracy started.
“Thanks but it’ll just be simpler if I get it.”
Back in the apartment Carrie called out,
“Hey Dennis, you didn’t think I’d forget, did you?
…..Yes, well, Marshall lives in his own world, he still thinks you’re a big magnet. Give him time….
…. So, I just wanted to thank you for everything….. especially my lower back thanks you, for a guy with cold fingers you’ve got a magic touch. …….
…Well, of course we will. I promised the girls, and I meant you too. ….You’ll have to give me a little time to heal and stuff, but as soon as we’re up around and going out I promise we’ll come visit….
….I need to go, I know you’ll take good care of Dwayne and the girls….. so…. See you soon…. So to speak,” she grinned.
They were all waiting for her in the hall of course, Dwayne with a knowing grin. They went down, Marshall helped her into the car and got in himself, accepted the basket of baked goods Dwayne insisted on sending with them.
“We should invite them to the wedding,” Marshall said.
“What wedding is that, Marshall?” she said, mostly out of habit.
“You know what wedding,” he said. And she did.
Eric Weiss was at loose ends. The guard was changing at the office, Lauren was staging a coup and, through Vaughn had asked him cut his “vacation” short and come back. Basically to be a warm body on her side of the aisle for those rare meetings where she didn’t actually have all the participants hearts and minds in her pocket. It was funny, in a way. She really had no idea what she was threatening Kendall with… but that didn’t even slow her down.
There was a time when he would have seized the opportunity, been in there scrabbling to see how much of the pie he could get for himself… but somehow he just couldn’t be bothered now.
He spent most of the time in his office, practicing his … sleight of hand, he couldn’t call it magic
any more with a straight face. But damnit, it was a skill, in its way just as real as what the witch did. Ostensibly he was practicing for his command performance in Cleveland… if that ever really came to pass. He’d talked to Renee on the phone, she was still all “So when are you coming to see me?” but she was young and he knew out of sight out of mind applied. He’d chatted with some of the other girls too, got the “You’re not a pervert are you?” third degree from some British harridan called Georgianne and it seemed he’d passed. But so did time, and he didn’t really feel he could just show up without a specific invitation and, well…. He’d really only known them for a day or two and if it was a world-rocking, life-changing couple days for him, it was just a day-in-the-life to them. He was, he knew, easily forgotten.
Speaking of which he’d had a nice letter from Syd.
Dear Eric, Your friend forever, Sydney.
She was so grateful he’d come to her rescue, it meant so much. She was sorry they’d never got a chance to have that “Holy shit, vampires?
” talk. Someday…
Someday when she got her life in order she’d drop by and they’d have drink together.
Dear Eric, Your friend forever, Sydney. …… Bye.
Well, he’d never really had any hope anyway. It would be easier to let it go without having her around the office, salting the wound with her smile.
He glanced up and saw the lunch-bound Vaughn and Lauren and he dropped down behind his desk and hid, just in case they felt compelled to invite him along. He waited until he was sure they were safely past, then slipped away in the other direction.
He caught a cab and rode down to his new lunch habit, an Indian place Jack had recommended to him once. He could smell the spices as he approached the restaurant, his pavlovian response kicking in, his mouth watered, he could already taste the panchratni dal followed by his usual rogan josh and the pale ale to wash it all down. Loosening his tie with one hand he opened the door with the other and stepped…..
….into the set of British murder mystery. Books covered the walls up to the high ceiling, at the far end of the room a fire blazed, fighting the damp chill of the air to standstill. Behind him there was a musty corridor.
“Ah, Mr. Weiss,” a voice with a BBCish accent called, “do come in.”
Weiss took in the desk then, the high-back chairs, a rather battered couch, all leather and oak, then the rather distinguished looking man putting the finishing polish on his glasses, then standing to come and greet him.
“Oh, dear,” the man said, taking in Weiss’s still stunned expression, “Willow’s been playing tricks on you again, hasn’t she? I am sorry, I did ask her to give you some warning this time. I’m Giles…”
“Rupert Giles? Then I’m…, “ he paused, forced the quaver out of his voice, “where the hell am I?”
“In London, yes,” Giles answered, “do come and sit down, I believe you know Mr. Tippin….?”
As they passed behind the chairs Will rose out of one, held out his hand,
“Mr. Weiss, long time, no see.”
Weiss numbly accepted his hand, shook, said, “Yeah, um, it’s Eric. How are you?”
“Good. Almost as puzzled as I guess you are, but at least they let me arrive in a cab.”
Weiss eased himself down into the offered chair as Giles resumed his seat behind the desk.
“Okay, aside from giving Willow a laugh, why am I here?”
“To discuss your possible employment.”
“Yes. I can only offer the usual enticements, low pay, long hours, chance of being eaten.”
“You want me to be… a Watcher? I’m not exactly qualified… ”
“Ah, but you come highly recommended,” Giles said holding up a sheaf of papers. “I have your reference letters here. This one, as you can see, was written on pink notepaper with a picture of a pony in the corner. We always take those particularly seriously. This one says you’re cute, clever, and good with your hands. I’m not sure I want to know…”
“Card tricks,” Weiss said. Giles raised an eyebrow. “I do mag... illusions. Flowers out of ears, coins out of noses.”
“I see. That could be quite useful, actually.” He turned to Tippin, “You don’t have quite so many recommendations, but yours do come from high places. I gather you escaped from a rather nasty prison and killed a vampire in the process…”
“Actually, it was the girl that killed him…”
“Ah, a natural instinct for the job, then. Splendid.” They chatted informally for a little longer, Giles wanted to know why Weiss had entered the CIA, they talked a little about Tippin’s newspaper days and how they ended. Then Giles leaned back, said,
“Gentlemen, this meeting is mostly a formality, a courtesy paid to a doddering old figurehead. If either or both of you are foolish enough to be interested….” He paused and the two men nodded, “Good. Then I’ll have Toby give you the tour and some idea of the boring bits, and take a few personal particulars. You understand, you don’t have to decide today. Take some time to think about it. Toby!”
A slim young man with sandy hair and a serious need to see a dentist entered and stood waiting.
“Afterwards,” Giles continued, “I’ll be glad to answer any questions. Then I believe there is a pair of young ladies waiting to take you out to dinner and perhaps dancing. Possibly in Rome.”
They stood and shook hands and started to follow Toby toward the door when Giles called,
“Wait, I almost forgot, this is for you, Mr.Weiss. And just to be clear, it’s not contingent on what you decide here, it just is what it is.”
“What is it?” Tippin asked, then smiled, “Sorry, reporter’s habit. I’m starting feel like me again.”
“It’s okay,” Weiss said. He opened the envelope. “It’s an invitation,” he said, unable to stop the grin, “to a Halloween party. In Cleveland.”
“That’s a weird word, Giles. Doddering,” Buffy said, entering the room after the two men left. “Dah-der-ing. I mean old and figurehead I get…”
“Thank you so much.”
just sounds odd. I mean, how do you dodder? Do you dodder down to the corner? Can you dodder by yourself cause that actually that sounds kind of ewww….”
“Yes, quite. I shall never use the word again. Now, they both seemed very much as advertised. You’re sure Dawn’s …. personal feelings aren’t influencing her judgment?”
Buffy smiled, “She does have quite the crush. It’s so cute. But no, if it was just that she’d have just tried to find some excuse to keep him in Rome. That was a pretty nasty place he escaped from and when we arrived he was doing his best to protect that girl…. I think he’ll be a good Watcher. Weiss too… I know the CIA thing is kind of weird, but if both Dawn and Xander like him anyway….”
“So,” Giles said after a moment, “how are you?”
“Fine. Bored. I never really thought I’d say this but it is possible to do to much shopping. It’s not near as much fun if you aren’t supposed to be doing something else.”
“I’ve heard that.”
“Don’t mock, Giles, I’m serious. I was thinking. That … Initiative the Sequel, that was just ugly. We really need to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
“Agreed,” Giles said drily.
“But that other place… well, that was ugly too, but the fight, that was kinda fun. I’d sorta forgot how good it feels to really let go. Look, Giles….”
“Yes, do I discern the point of this conversation approaching?”
“What? Yes. I think. Look, I don’t want it to take over my life completely or anything, but maybe I could come back, you know, from time to time. Like, maybe when the girls find a big nest of something you could let me know?”
“You’d have to train. I wouldn’t want to send you into something if you were rusty. And I mean real training, with the girls, not just toying with your local kung fu instructor. It’d be good for the girls too, you know.”
“Yeah. I guess I could teach them some moves and stuff.“
“Well, I suspect that simply watching out for your sister is going to keep you fairly active, but I’m sure we can arrange for you to kill something every now and then.”
“Cool. That’s all I want, really. You know what would really be neat, Giles? A dragon.”
“I know, I know. But she’s with Xander now and she seems all stable. Wouldn’t hurt her to have a little friendly competition.”
“Just as long as it’s friendly.”
“Well, of course. Not that there’s any competition, really. She hasn’t even saved the world once by herself. She’s got a long way to go before there’s any competition.”
“Yes, what? Well, she hasn’t.”
“It’s nice to have you back.”
DARIEN RAIN FOREST, PANAMA
The squad leader steadied himself on his tree branch, held onto the trunk with one hand and his radiophone with the other.
“No, sir,” he shouted. “There’s nothing here, sir. Well, there’s pigs, sir. Peccaries. No sir, not peckerhead, sir, peccary. Wild pigs. No, sir. No buildings, no ruins, nothing. It’s the fucking forest primeval, sir.”
“Yessir, I’m sure, we’re at the co-ordinates you gave us, sir. No, sir, I don’t know sir, all I know is that we are at the co-ordinates you gave us and there’s nothing here but about two hundred peccaries. Yes, sir.” He turned off the radio.
“Peckerheads,” he said. Damn deskjockeys couldn’t find their cocks with both hands if you stapled it to their foreheads.
Oh well, pork tonight. It would make a welcome change from the damn bony Amazon fish.
Irina Derevko topped off her daiquiri with a little more rum and took a sip. She was sitting by the pool, staring out past the beach at the dark water of the sea, wondering idly if the feeding frenzy over Sloane’s empire had run its course yet. Normally she would have swooped in and taken a good share, but she just couldn’t seem to care about it, and that wasn’t a fight you wanted to get into if you weren’t in all the way.
Oh, she hadn’t come out completely empty-handed. As soon as they left the cemetery she had, discreetly but quickly, shorted some stocks she knew would take a big hit when word of Sloane’s death reached certain ears, and picked up a quick three or four million. But that was chump change compared to the main prize. But her daughter wanted her in hell and if she told Jack the sky was blue he’d get a second opinion and she just didn’t care about business right now.
She figured she’d get over it in time, but well, she’d get over it when she was over it. Right now she wanted to stare at the sea and drink just enough to keep the edge off.
She was vaguely aware of movement beside her and she looked up and saw Faith standing over her table, shaking her head.
“So, I’ll get my own glass then, yeah?” she said and strode off toward the house. Moments later she returned with a glass she poured half full of neat rum. She sat, slapped her cigar case down where Irina could reach it and lit up one herself. They sat in silence while Faith got her cigar going properly.
“So,” she said then, “Milo Rambaldi was dusted in 1654 by a slayer named, believe it or not, Daisy. According to this Daisy his last words were, ‘How beautiful you are.’ Of course, Giles says Daisy’s a bit of joke in Watcher circles, ‘cause according to her all the vamps she dusted by herself said something about how beautiful she was before they died, and all the vamps she dusted in her watcher’s presence said something about what a little bitch she was, or just ‘Oh, shit,” or something. Who knows, maybe when her watcher wasn’t around she flashed them first…
“You mean Rambaldi was a vampire?”
“Yeah. He never did find the immortality thing. The council had a couple copies of that book. I guess they lost one when the First blew up the place, Giles found another, in some Watcher’s personal collection. Anyway, the last chapter is about how he gave up and got himself vamped there at the end. So I figure, maybe the reason Syd never told you the secret of the book is she was afraid you’d go and get yourself vamped, you know, while you’re still hot an all.”
“Did she say that?”
“No. I’m just guessing there. But she didn’t say she wanted to see you in hell, either.”
“You have talked to her, then?”
“Yeah, me and Xan bumped into her couple times down in Jamaica. Look, about getting vamped, don’t,
yeah? I mean we like to say when you're vamped you die and a demon takes over… me I don’t know if it’s that simple, but I do know the soul’s a real thing… and you get vamped, you lose it.
“And look, I got this idea, that maybe immortality, it’s just not possible except through reincarnation or something like that. I mean, think about it, the only things I know that live, you know, hundreds of years and stuff, vamps and demons, don’t have souls. I did know one human guy lived…. well, he was in good shape well over hundred… but the thing is, he’d sold his soul. So I got this idea, maybe the soul is the thing that wears out, yeah? I mean, I’m thinking that maybe if you trap a soul in one life, you’ve really
fucked yourself, yeah? But hell, what do I know?
“But if that don’t scare you, well, Xander, and me too, we both figure you’d be pretty badass as a vamp, so we got you on a list, we’re gonna keep tabs, you disappear, we’re gonna come lookin’ full force. And we put the word out too, you get turned, a squad of slayers is gonna go on a serious search and destroy.”
“Is that why you came, to warn me?”
“No, not really. I got an offer for you. Xan thinks I’m wasting my time. But considering he used to date a vengeance demon with a kill record that makes yours look pretty minor, and he’s hanging with a reformed murderer now, he can’t say much, yeah? It ain’t that he don’t like you, it’s just he don’t trust you… and I don’t either, really. But I gotta think, I got into some bad shit a while back, and … well, you don’t need the details, but I got lucky. The guy that was really leading me to the darkside got himself killed and I had Angel to bring me back. Long story. I got lucky, but I gotta think, if it’d been something like the KGB that I got into instead of the Mayor, I might be a lot worse bitch than you are by now…
“Look the thing about heaven and hell, unless you know something we don’t, it ain’t all that clear, yeah? I mean we know there’s a heaven of some sort cause Buffy’s been there. And we know there’s a bunch of hell dimensions cause well, I know Angel had been to two or three, and Connor lived in one. I mean none of them were nice places really, but they weren’t lakes of fire either. Angel told me about a couple people he knew still working for this evil law firm after they were dead. So, I mean, eternity in middle management has got to be hell for some people, yeah?”
“I just don’t think the Powers That Be are all that damn efficient. I mean, if there ain’t no justice in this world, why should there be in the next, yeah?”
“So, you don’t think it matters what we do.”
“No, I ain’t sayin’ that. I’m just sayin’, who the fuck knows? Angel used to say if nothing we do matters, then all that matters is what we do, which kinda makes sense after you take a couple aspirin. But in the end, I think he believed it mattered. He believed in redemption, that if you did good stuff, it made up for some of the bad. You just never knew how much was enough. In my case, I kinda figure it ought to be up to Lester...
“Yeah. This guy I killed. Everybody else I did wrong was either a pretty bad guy, or I got a chance too make peace with them in this life. But Lester… There ain’t nothing I can ever do to fix what I did to Lester, so I figure, when I die, it really oughta be Lester I go to and show him my life and let him decide what happens to me. Not that I think it works that way, but it oughta… But I do figure this, if
matter, then every good thing I do, then Angel gets a little credit, cause I wouldn't have done it without him. An if you do good things cause I give you a little push, well, Angel ought to to get some credit for that too, yeah? So I figure I owe it to Angel to give you a chance to do some good here. Plus I’m thinking maybe if you had an Angel at the right time, maybe you’d be in a better place, an well, better late than never…”
“You’re offering me redemption?”
“No, just a chance to… I dunno, score some points, yeah? Look, here’s the deal. This ain’t a shakedown. You say no, that’s cool, I’ll split and leave you alone. You say yes, well, you’re still on the watch list. You say yes and then fuck with us and give Xan something to say “I told you so,” about and I’ll come after you myself and believe me, you’ll wish
you were in hell, got me?”
“First, I figure you know a lot of shit about the human underworld mixing with demons that maybe we oughta know too, yeah? We ain’t looking to be the fucking World Police, but places like that island, we oughta know about, yeah?”
“You want me to turn informant?”
“Yeah, pretty much. It ain’t like we’re asking you to testify, just give Giles and the geeks a good educatin’, yeah? Second, me an Xan figure we need to set up some kinda slayer presence in the islands and we need a base. And well, this place is just about perfect. Cuba’s good, gives us a little space from the US government, which is handy sometimes. We’re thinking four slayers and a Watcher based here, you got plenty of space for that. You got the beach and the pool. Could be a bit of an R and R place for girls needin’ a break from the Hellmouth or whatever, yeah?
“And it ain’t just the place. I saw how easy you and Syd could move from one world to another, with the clothes and the manners an shit. That ain’t something most of the Watcher’s even think about. Not all the girls are street trash like me, but still, I figure most could do with a few lessons on how to order shit in french restaurants and stuff like that. I may be wrong but I think you’d get off on that.”
Irina smiled. “You want me to be a Watcher?”
“Ah….no. Xander wouldn’t go for that. You don’t get the training, you don’t get to know all the secret handshakes and that shit. You’d be more, I don’t know, waddya callit, den mother?” Faith grinned, “I bet you’d get to like having the girls around. It ain’t like you’re having a big party here now, yeah?”
“Well,” Irina said softly, “The Irina Derevko School for Girls. That would give Sydney a jolt, wouldn’t it?”
“Yeah, well, I’m thinking we’d call it Camp Kendra, but whatever. Here, this is Giles’ card. You think about it, give him a call if you want to do it. And just to be really, really clear, you try to…. recruit the girls for your own purposes, I’ll feed you to the fishes piece by piece while you’re still screamin, yeah? Now, why don’t you go get cleaned up, we got a party to go to.”
“It’s a wedding, kinda. Wear something you can dance in. And sexy. You’re gonna want to look your best.”
And Irina went, wondering just when the total control over her life she had spent so many years obtaining had suddenly slipped between her fingers. She went with a new lightness in her step, her heart suddenly filled with hope. This life wasn’t over, after all.
The cemetery was not really to her taste, far to crowded to get a good run and stake in, but she wasn’t here tonight to slay, not if all went well at least. The granite and the marble glowed in the moonlight as she led Irina down a wandering path toward the circle of torches in the center of the southern section. As they neared the flickering torchlight stone angels and crosses, Madonna’s and Jesus’s seemed to shift and jockey for position. The smell of rum and tobacco, the blood of the sacrifices and the nervous sweat of the small group of people filled the air.
She saw Jack standing there, stiff-backed, tense and irritated, and Xander beside him, grinning as he saw them approach. She felt Irina hesitate behind her and she reached back and took her arm and brought her forward, whispered,
“Now don’t go chicken on me now,” and smiled at her glower. In revenge Irina reached out and took Xander’s hand and purred,
“How are you, Xander,” but the years of Anya and now Faith had inured him to such provocation and he smiled, said,
“Hello, Irina, I believe you know Jack?”
She held out her hand then, just slightly tentative and Jack left it hang just for a moment, then reached and took it, said,
“Yes, we’ve met.”
Then Xander shifted to Faith’s side and forced the older couple together. The drums started then, first slowly, then Laline entered at the head of her coven, all dressed in vibrant primary colored finery, Laline crying out a chant that the others answered with a ululating echo. For a time they circled as the drumbeats grew faster, Faith felt a presence rise and hover over the crowd a moment, only to fade and be replaced by another stronger power. The drumbeats speeded into frenzy, the ululations became a steady wail, Faith felt the presence seeking, then it found her, she felt her muscles tense but she held them and stared up into the night, just for a moment she saw the figure of an enormous woman, a round head on rolls of rubbery fat, a wide grin with sharpened teeth … and then the woman nodded slightly, Faith felt more than heard the word, a greeting, “Slayer,” caress her ears and she knew suddenly to bow, ever-so-slightly in return, then there was laughter that she felt and knew no one else heard, and the woman form was gone and only the power and the incorporeal presence remained.
The drums were beating slowly now, Laline’s coven arranged themselves in two rows behind her, Laline chanted again, a sing-song melody beneath the words and Dayami entered in a wedding gown, her face covered by a thick veil. She walked once around the circle clockwise, then kneeled before her aunt. The chant changed then, took on a minor key, discordant and Javier entered in bridegroom formal attire, his pallor all the more evident in the moonlight, notes of red from the torches only serving to exaggerate the pale. He walked once around the circle counter-clockwise, then kneeled beside Dayami. The drums beat faster, Laline started yet another chant, this one answered by the coven in counterpoint, the drums beat faster, Faith felt the presence descend, and then Dayami began to glow, then she was surrounded by a swirl of twinkling white light that rose up into a ball that hovered over the two kneeling figures…. Again the chants sped on, quickening until merging into a wail surfing on the ever faster beat of the drums.
And then the white ball descended on the pair, swirled twinkling for a moment and then was absorbed into each of them and abruptly the drums stopped, as did the wailing and Laline sagged into the arms of the man waiting behind her. There was silence as slowly Javier stood, reached down and helped Dayami up, and pushed back her veil.
Faith unsheathed a stake and held it ready, but he moved into her lips and not her throat and they kissed as if each was dying of thirst and thought the other to be water. Still the silence lingered and they turned and came to Faith and stood before her and she saw the eager hope in Dayami’s eyes and in Javier’s eyes she saw … she didn’t know, she had hoped it would be obvious if the shared soul had settled, truly engulfed them both, made them soulmates in the strictest sense of the word. She’d thought that she would feel something certain, but she couldn’t…. his eyes were eager, they pleaded, but she had seen that look in both men and vampires….
“I would never hurt her,” he whispered so softly only she could hear… and she decided to believe him. Love, she thought, always a fucking gamble. And she nodded and the crowd began cheering, the drums began again, this time with a happy, dancing beat.
Dayami threw her arms around Faith and thanked her for coming, then did the same for Xander, then startled Irina and Jack with the same. There was a short receiving line then, and sandwiches, rum and beer were served at tables set up by the cemetery gate. The happy couple made a fast as politely possible exit, Laline’s coven began to gossip and Faith grabbed Jack and Irina and half-threw them into Irina’s SUV.
“You guys go on home now,” she said, “Xan and I are walking, the night is young yet and so are we.”
They stood together and watched the old spies drive away.
“I hope you’re right,” Xander said.
“I am,” she said, “you watch, this time next year the girls will be playing volleyball on the beach, Jack will be tending the grill in a tee-shirt and speedo…”
“Gah, don’t even say that….”
“Okay, maybe not a speedo, tee-shirt and bermudas… slacks, whatever, not the point, yeah? Irina will be walking around, making sure everyone has their sunscreen, or sitting at her desk designing stylin’ holsters for the girls’ stakes, making sure everyone has enough condoms before they head on into town.”
“One big happy family?”
“Yeah, why not? It could happen. Let’s go see who’s playing at the Montaña,
She felt it start again as they were walking and she heard the distant music growing louder, the problem with her ass. It began in her tail-bone and spread into her hips and suddenly her stride was gone and the side-to-side was back, rolling to the rhythm, she reached out and took Xander’s hand and held it as she sashayed along beside him. She felt the urge to skip but with some effort she was able to contain it.
Dr. Ziti walked upon the covers. Dr. Ziti walked upon her face and sat. And soon Syd erupted snorting and laughing and cursing him for a foul disgusting cat that she then reached out to grab and cradle between her breasts as she lay back and soon heard the sound of purring,
“You know,” she said, “I wish I could do that, cause if I could I would be.”
Carlo leaned up on one elbow and reached his other hand down between her legs to caress her,
“Go ahead, my little pussy,” he said, “go ahead and purr,” and she clamped down with her thighs and held him, said,
“Stop that, no more, please, I mean it,” but she didn’t and he knew it and soon the cat was on the covers, impatiently waiting for his damn heated pillows to settle down and coddle him as nature intended that they should.
“Oh, God, I’ve missed you,” Carlo said.
“I’ve missed you too, couldn’t you tell?” she said.
“Missed me. Sure you have, you come back all happy from the Caribbean with an all over tan, sure you missed me.”
“Yeah, and this one’s even real,” she said.
“The tan. All me, not a drop from a spray can. This is my natural hair color too. Mouse brown.”
“Nonsense. Auburn. …You are happy, aren’t you? You seem… different. Maybe we should all try a spot of amnesia now and then.”
“I am. It wasn’t the amnesia… It was something I had to do. I never realized… how much not doing it had weighed on me every day. It was like... taking off a coat and finding out there had been lead weights in the pockets. I feel like I’m floating.”
“So, are you going to be floating around here long or are you just jet-setting by to see Dr. Ziti?”
“I don’t know. I may have a job here for awhile. I need to go see the Summers’ sisters and see if they mind if I use the apartment.”
“Oh? Why, they’re sweet girls and all but what do they have to do with it?”
“Oh, you’d be surprised.”
“They don’t own the building, do they? Oh god, and I’ve been calling the young one Dawn Trotsky and I’m pretty sure Buffy thinks it’s a scatological reference, just at the moment I think she’d just as soon evict me as look at me.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t worry about that… if Buffy was really mad, you’d know it. Dr. Ziti, I know you think my neck is your carriage but I am going to take a shower now… thought so.”
Dawn answered the door, “Oh, good, you made it….Buffy, it’s …. what do I call you now?”
“Syd, it’s Sydney from now on. I hope. So, can I come in…. Oh, right,” she added as Dawn, who had stepped away from the door, raised her eyebrows.
“Hey Syd,” Buffy said, coming in from the kitchen, “you’re looking tan.”
“Yeah, I’ve been sailing, the sun gets you twice, direct and off the water.”
There was small talk and friendly noises and Sydney began to relax a little.
“You guys aren’t mad at me, then?” she asked, finally.
“No, why would we be?” Buffy asked
“I just thought… what I did, you know, without warning any of you guys, then running off and leaving Xander to help clean up….”
“Nah, it sounds like this Sloane guy had it coming, Xander thought the whole thing was pretty cool, really, right out of The Godfather. We’re good.”
“Oh. Good. I’m…. you don’t know how big a relief that is. Cause I was gonna ask if you minded if I moved back in upstairs.”
“Are you gonna be killing people?” Buffy said, “cause I know it sounds cool to like live downstairs from a hitman but… I think that would kind of bother me, I mean we try to stay out of human crap but still….’
“No, no, no killing….”
“You could still steal stuff, though,” Dawn said, “we’re okay with that. I mean as long as it’s from the rich, totally cool with the whole Robin Hood approach. Or since I guess you don’t need the money, you could like break into museums and, like switch the Manet and the Monet and see if anyone notices…”
“No, no, nothing like that… “
“Oh. Well, that’s too bad,” Dawn said.
“Actually Dad and I were thinking about starting a security consulting firm, you know, where we could test security systems by breaking into them, that way I get to play with my toys and be all legal at the same time.”
“ Cool,” Buffy said.
“Boring,” said Dawn, but with a smile.
“But then Dad and Mom started talking and… well, I think it would be best if I just gave them some time together. And I think maybe I could use some time on my own, too, you know?”
“Yeah, I can see that,” Buffy said.
“So anyway, I got a call from this international law firm with offices here in Rome, they were interested in maybe hiring me to do some security work for them, I’ve got an interview tomorrow….what?”
“Oh no, it couldn’t be,” Dawn said.
“I bet it is,” said Buffy.
“What? You guys are scaring me.”
“Please tell me it’s not Wolfram and Hart,” Buffy said.
“How did you know?”
“Oh, shit, Syd, I’m sorry,” Dawn said. “But they’re evil. They’re like, Hell Incorporated.”
“Sorry, wish I was. Really, we’re not kidding. They’re bad news. Look, Syd,” Buffy said, “I’m not supposed to say anything, but we talked about maybe you becoming a Watcher, and we all kinda agreed that you weren’t really ready. Maybe in five, ten years, if you were interested… but in the meantime… I mean, it’s not really about the money, is it? Cause we couldn’t pay much…”
Syd shook her head.
“But I’m sure we could use some upgrades on our security systems and since you already know about…… Hey Dawn, the buzzer went….”
“Lasagna,” Dawn explained, “it’s an amazing thing, if Buffy takes it out, it’ll be burnt. If I do it, it’ll be fine. Back in a jif.”
She went into the kitchen, found the hotpads, opened the oven, pulled out the steaming dish and put it on the island to cool. She opened a bottle of Chianti and set it on the counter to breath. She set the table for three, grabbed the anti-pasta plate Andrew had prepared and took it with her back out into the livingroom and found Buffy sitting by herself on the couch reading a magazine.
“She had to go.”
“Buffy, what’d you do?”
“Look, it was nothing. All I said was, since she was trained spy and all maybe she could take the job at Wolfram and Hart and work for us too, you know, undercover.… What?”The End-
Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx AppendixCast: -
Dayami – Recently widowed Cuban women runs one room guesthouse, rented by Xander/Faith
Laline – Dayami’s aunt, witch
Javier --- Dayami’s (ex)husband, guitarist, recently turned vampire,
El Viejo ---- guitarist, vampire
Carlo -- “Julia Thorne’s” friend-with-benefits, lives in Buffy/Dawn’s building
Dr. Ziti -- cat shared by Carlo and Julia Thorne
Dwayne – Watcher of LA slayer house, vegetarian
Tracy – LA Slayer, zebra fanatic
Taariq – LA Slayer
Caridad, Vi ---- semi-OC, Sunnydale potentials, now senior slayers in Cleveland
Zoey -- Mechanically minded slayer, Cleveland based
Shad, Isobel, Jacquie, Renee –Cleveland slayers
Rafael Quinones –unfortunate Panamanian banker
Dr. Frederick Martin --- Initiative II director
Dr. Yvonne Fields --- Initiative II researcher, worked on Sydney Alias-
Sydney Bristow – AKA Julia Thorne, amnesiac CIA Agent, recruited by Sloane who convinced her SD-6 was CIA when actually it was a criminal organization. Sydney joined actual CIA and became a double agent when Sloane had her fiancé killed and she learned the truth about SD-6
Jack Bristow – Sydney’s father, CIA, also double at SD-6
Irina Derevko – Sydney’s mother, one-time KGB agent, current criminal without known loyalties, married Jack Bristow, left when about to be uncovered as double, when Sydney was 6.
Michael Vaughn --- Sydney CIA handler, boyfriend, married Lauren when Sydney was presumed dead
Will Tippin -- Syd’s friend, caught in the crossfire he’s in Witness Protection
Arvin Sloane ---- Ex-CIA gone Rogue, long-time friend of Bristow family, recruited Sydney into SD-6, ordered hit on her fiancé, Daniel Hecht
Sark—Criminal Jack of all Trades, noted for his flexible loyalties
Allison Doren -- gifted child, spy, doubled to resemble Syd’s friend Francie, vampire.
Lauren Reed --- Vaughn’s wife, ambitious NSC agent
Eric Weiss – Vaughn’s friend, sidekick type, loves Sydney from afar.
Marcus Dixon --- Sydney’s usual mission partner, very competent
Marshall Flinkman – CIA computer genius
Carrie ---- Marshall’s girlfriend, pregnant with his child, NSC computer geek
Robert Lindsey -- sleazy NSC honcho, orders brain damaging surgery for Sydney
Director Kendall – head of Dept. of Special Research, current home of the InitiativeBTVS/AtS-
Xander --- older wiser and a bit scarred, walks with a limp, recently hooked up with Faith
Faith -- older, wiser, but still Faith, somewhat stabilized by Xander
Buffy -- just as Buffy as I can make her.
Dawn -- has discovered systematic economic inequity, also her own leadership abilities
Giles --- is Giles
Willow --- uber-witch, mellowed, a bit playful if still dangerous
Lorne -- empath demon, now running karaoke bar in Panama City, Panama
Dennis -- a ghost -30-