I'm real sorry about the delay here, but because this turned into a series instead of a simply trilogy the original ending I had for this fanfic didn't really work. Parts of it still worked, but unless I actually wanted to close everything down I had to change some of the stuff, which took longer than it should have, but that is mostly my fault. Instead of just rushing in and writing like I sometimes do, I decided things would be better if I actually just took some time to let the ideas bounce around in my head before I wrote/edited this chapter.Consequences III - Convergence
As they walked away, Anita almost called them back. On the other hand, if those four went up against the Vampire Council they would probably lose, and that would be four of five problems out of her hair.
Anita shook herself. No matter how she felt about them, or the Council, it wasn't right to let them go off to try and take on the Vampire Council by themselves. Having made her decision, she stepped out into the hall and opened her mouth.
She blinked. The four were no where to be seen. Anita didn't panic, because while they were gone they couldn't have gotten far.
She almost caught up with them as they were leaving the Circus. Would have caught them if they'd been stealing the car like she'd assumed, but apparently they'd gotten the keys from someone.
Anita headed to her jeep, she had no choice but to follow them. She knew she could go back and tell the others, but by the time she did that it would be to late. Her best hope was to just continue to follow them. She was bound to catch up with them at some point.
Anita was almost stunned when they stopped at the Lupanar. Then she almost laughed. It seemed like now a days everything took place at the wolves full moon gathering place.
"Damn!" Her minor distraction had cost her, because before she could get the seat belt unbuckled the others were disappearing into the woods.
Finally, she freed herself, drew her gun, and entered the woods. Hopefully, she could find at least one of them before things went bad. If necessary she'd fire a warning shot to get their attention, though that was a last resort because she didn't want to draw the attention of the Vampire Council unless she had no choice.
To her surprise, she actually found the Council before she found the others, or at least she found Padma and one other vampire that was clearly old enough and powerful enough to be Council.
Anita felt her gun hand flex, as she realized she was seeing the Queen of Nightmares. The woman looked fairly harmless, but the power Anita could feel was anything but harmless. What was probably most shocking was the fact that the Queen of Nightmares was dressed normally enough. She could have gone anywhere and fit in. That was shocking because according to Jean-Claude the Queen of Nightmares had grown tired of the world and retreated to Council chambers long ago.This is bad
, Anita realized. This was very bad, because the whole Council rarely traveled together, but if the Queen of Nightmares was here then it was likely every single Council member was here.
What was perhaps most interesting was the fact that the Queen of Nightmares wasn't beautiful. She wasn't ugly, but she was nothing compared to the vampires Anita had grown used to seeing.
Slowly and carefully Anita backed away. It was more important than ever for Anita to find the others. The newcomers might have some advantages, but Anita knew they didn't stand a chance against the full Council. No one did, and Anita really didn't like realizing that meant her as well.
As Anita moved, she considered her options. Jean-Claude needed to know that the whole Council was in town, but Anita couldn't actually leave because Xander and the others were very likely to start a war.
Anita took a deep breath, and reached out with her power for Jean-Claude.~ * ~ * ~
By the time Anita found the others it was way to late. They were all ready fighting, but thankfully only one of the vampires in the fray was old and powerful enough to be a Council member.
Said Council member was moving toward the human Xander, and Anita felt herself tense. The others were to busy with other minions to come to his aid.
However, before she could move in to assist, several things happened. She felt Jean-Claude and others step up behind her. A quick glance made Anita feel better, practically all of Jean-Claude's people were with him.
Jean-Claude gave a quick nod, and Anita stepped forward to assist the human Xander.
Two steps later she stopped as she realized that the human Xander was neither moving or panicking. However, as the Council member began to rot, Anita could practically taste Jason's fear on her tongue. While Anita didn't like these vampires, she was rather glad that he'd started to rot because that let her know that he was Morte d' Amour, the lover of death.
She looked over, and realized that Jason was beside her. He'd been moving along side her to help, which was something of a surprise. Anita knew that he was scared to death of the vampire Xander, and while he was deeply curious about the human Xander he hadn't really interacted with him. It was brave of him.
Anita felt a flutter of fear as she watched the human Xander smile at the rotting Council member.
A moment later, he reached down and picked up a sword which just happened to be by his feet. Without pausing, he spun around and removed the head of the rotting vampire.
The head laughed as it fell to the ground, and Anita knew she'd have nightmares of that sight for some time to come. Rotting heads flying through the air simply shouldn't be able to laugh.
"Damn!" Anita whispered softly and with reverence as she watched Xander proceed to grab chucks of rotting flesh from the still standing body. He was trying to tear the vampire to pieces. Of course, Anita knew that no matter what Xander was doing it wasn't coming close to killing the vampire.
Still Anita could admit that she was impressed that the human Xander hadn't frozen with fear. More so when she realized that Jason was whimpering beside her. This was pretty much his worst nightmare, and for a moment, she couldn't help but wonder how the human Xander would react next time he was faced with a rotting vampire.
"You're no fun, human," the head at the bodies feet spoke.
The human Xander titled his head to the side. In that moment he looked more scary than his vampire self. "Most humans would be pissing in their pants at this point," and that was weird, Anita decided, and it wasn't because a rotted head was speaking. No, it was because a French vampire was speaking American. Anita almost laughed.
"You, on the other hand, are still trying to kill me."
Anita realized that the vampire was actually annoyed that Xander wasn't afraid. That couldn't be good.
"On the scale of scary things I've faced," Xander said nastily. "You don't even rank."
Anita really didn't like the sound of that, and apparently Morte d' Amour didn't either because the head frowned.
"You are strange, human."
Xander suddenly stopped trying to rip the vampire apart. Anita wondered if he was finally giving up.
"Yeah," Xander said with a grin. "I get that a lot."
Anita almost jumped as the sounds of fighting all around finally reached her ears. She couldn't help but wonder how she'd missed it. Even still she could not take her eyes off the slowly rotting vampire. However, out of the corner of her eye, Anita could see that none of her people were fighting.
After a moment, she decided this was probably a good thing, because Jean-Claude could always deny that the ones fighting were his people. Though despite everything she really didn't like the idea of leaving the others hanging out to dry, which surprised her.
"Hmm," Xander said suddenly as he closely examined the rotting vampire. "I will admit that this
Anita was amazed at the lack of fear in his voice, because even she was just a little bit afraid.
The vampire head smiled.
"If you can fall apart," Xander continued thoughtfully. "I'm assuming you can pull
yourself together again somehow."
Without waiting for an answer, Xander shook off the pieces of flesh stuck to his left hand, and reached into his shirt. He pulled out a flask, which was a bit of a shock. On the other hand, Anita couldn't really blame him. While she didn't drink herself, if there was ever a situation that called for a drink, Anita could accept this was it.
The head on the ground began to laugh as Xander took a drink from the flask.
"Strange," the head said. "You must be terrified, and yet I can't feel it."
Anita tensed as the human Xander pulled out a lighter, suddenly his intent was clear, but before she could move or even call out a warning - any human killing a Council member would be hunted down and killed, no exceptions. At least if what Jean-Claude had told her was true - Xander brought the lighter to his lips.
He kicked the body over and it landed next to the head. Then a stream of fire flew from his mouth engulfing the head and rotted body of the Council member.
Everyone froze, except for the vampire Xander, Buffy, Spike, and Angel. They only stopped fighting when they realized everyone else had stopped.
"Bad move, human!" The Queen of Nightmares said, though she sounded almost friendly. Of course, the glare she was directing at Xander was anything but friendly. That glare promised horrible things, and even though the glare was not directed at her, Anita found herself taking a step back.
When she felt Jean-Claude touch her shoulder, she could admit (at least in her own mind) that she was grateful.
Xander, however, held his ground.
Anita waited for the attack, and was surprised when the Queen looked around at everyone gathered.
"Does anyone claim this human?"
"Yes!" Anita was surprised to hear four voices reply. Three, Buffy, Spike, and Angel were not a surprise, but the vampire Xander was a big a surprise.
The vampire Xander made no secret of the fact that he actually loathed his human self, and yet here he was ready to claim his human self to protect him from the Council.
Xander suddenly looked afraid, and Anita almost laughed. He'd faced down one of the most feared Council members ever without an ounce of fear, but now he was terrified.
He started inching his way toward Buffy, who was also slowly moving toward him. Anita found it strange, if she were Xander she would have chosen to have hidden behind one of the vampires. On the other hand, she had seen Buffy fight, so maybe Xander had the right idea.
Suddenly the Queen looked amused, but Anita wasn't sure that was a very good thing. Still it was certainly better than her looking pissed.
"It would appear all of our problems have just been solved," the Queen said, and then turned to the other Council members.
Anita couldn't make out what they were saying, but after a moment she could tell they'd reached an agreement.
The Queen turned back to face the crowd. She was smiling, but the look in her eyes caused the blood in Anita's veins to run cold.
"We would, of course, be willing to allow your line to flourish here," she said to the demonic vampires.
Apparently, Anita wasn't the only one who picked up on the condescending tone, because Angel openly bristled. On the other hand, Spike and the vampire Xander looked more amused than anything.
"That is if you were willing to make certain concessions," the Queen finished.
"Such as?" Angel asked, he sounded pleasant, but Anita could tell he was ready to attack again.
The Queen laughed. "Nothing as horrible as you imagine, I'm sure."
Buffy and the human Xander were sharing a look.
"Since your human killed Morte d' Amour," she said to Angel and Spike. "One of you must take his seat on the Council."
For a moment, Angel looked shocked, then suddenly he was looking as though Christmas had come early. As Angel's expression lightened, Spike's darkened. Now Spike was glaring at Angel, and Anita suspected they were about to fight over which of them took the Council seat.
"Of course," Bella Morte said, and Anita saw a wicked gleam in her eyes. "That still leaves that little matter of the Earthmover's seat," she looked hungrily at Jean-Claude and Asher.
Anita knew that Jean-Claude was beaten, they were out of options. If Jean-Claude again refused the seat, Anita knew he wouldn't survive. There wasn't any way out that Anita could see, and she knew Jean-Claude was thinking the same thing. The Council would force him to take the seat whether or not he wanted.
For a moment, Anita forgot to breath. She couldn't lose Jean-Claude, she wouldn't lose Jean-Claude. For better or worse she did love him, which meant that when the Council was ready to return to France, Anita would go with them. She didn't want to leave behind her life in St. Louis, she loved her life, but somehow she knew if she stayed behind she would never see Jean-Claude again.
"You've left me little choice," Jean-Claude finally said. "I accept."
Bella Morte smiled, and Anita felt her heart drop to her feet. She knew Jean-Claude didn't have a choice, but she didn't have to like it. She liked her life as it was, and she wasn't eager for everything to chance. Of course, Jean-Claude was right, he had very little choice in the matter.
She knew it wouldn't be long before someone challenged Jean-Claude, and probably Angel (or Spike), though she only cared about Jean-Claude, and she knew the reason he hadn't taken the seat before was because he didn't believe he was strong enough to hold it. Anita hoped he was wrong.
As Belle Morte circled Jean-Claude and Asher, Anita knew she had to look away or she would say something and make an all ready bad situation worse. She looked across at Angel and Spike, they'd been joined by the two Xander's and Buffy. It seemed that the human Xander and Buffy were trying to tell Spike something, but Spike kept looking at Angel as though he wanted nothing more than to pound his face into the dirt.
After more hushed conversation, Angel smirked, and then turned to the Council.
"I also accept," Angel said.
Spike looked deeply unhappy, but the others seemed satisfied.
Before Anita turned away, she realized with a jolt that Angel was the logical choice. The Queen had made it clear that the vampire Xander wasn't even up for consideration, which actually made sense since he was so young, but Anita was surprised that the vampire Xander was taking it so well. Somehow he didn't strike her as the kind of vampire that took rejection well, but thankfully he didn't seem ready to start a fight.
Of course, Anita thought Spike would have been a better choice, but apparently the others had disagreed. It was strange to see both Buffy and Angel looking smug.
The Queen smiled, and suddenly the air around Anita felt lighter, and even though it was night, things seemed just a little bit brighter.
"You should get your affairs in order. A month from now we will meet again."
Anita looked around, but no one looked as upset about this as she did. Well, Jason didn't look thrilled, but Anita knew that if Jean-Claude insisted he join them that the young werewolf wouldn't object.
As Jason drove them back to the Circus, Anita realized she was feeling a bit guilty. She knew she was going to insist on Micah and Nathaniel, at the very least, coming with her. She wanted to insist all the cats come with her, because there was no telling what might become of them if she left them behind. However, she would give the others a choice - they could come with her or remain behind - she realized that whether she liked it or not she would honor their choice.
She looked around, Jean-Claude, Asher, and the vampire Xander were riding in the back seat, and simply by the fact that Richard had chosen to return in a separate car he'd made his position clear - he would not be coming to France with them. That thought made her sad, but for some reason didn't make her angry.
As they pulled into the Circus, Anita wondered if she wasn't angry about his choice because it was on some level the choice she wanted to make.
Anita smiled as she got out of the car. Did this mean that for once she actually understood Richard?~ * ~ * ~
It was almost funny, Buffy thought as she looked around the large office.
Once they'd returned to the Circus Jean-Claude had called a meeting to decide who would be leaving with them and who would be remaining behind.
At one time, Buffy would have been giddy at the thought of visiting France, but that ship had sailed long ago. In the end, she'd found Rome more to her taste than France.
"But I thought Asher would remain behind as Master of the City," Anita was saying.
"If the decision were mine, of course he would," Jean-Claude replied. "But the Council decides these things."
"And the Council will not choose me," Asher said, his tone was bland, but somehow Buffy knew he wasn't happy.
"But you are powerful enough," Anita insisted.
Suddenly Buffy understood what Anita was missing. St. Louis was like vampire central, and the Council would want someone in charge that was more visually appealing. It wasn't that Asher was ugly, but because he was so badly scared humans would be more likely to fear and mistrust, and the Council couldn't have that. No, they'd want someone like Jean-Claude in his place, someone that could easily seduce the masses.
"Then why can't you be Master of the City?" Anita asked.
Jean-Claude looked at her with despair in his eyes, Asher looked resigned, but Vander looked angry. What surprised Buffy was that Xander seemed angry as well. A moment later, Buffy got it. Xander wasn't as badly scared as Asher, but he didn't have two eyes, so he was in a better position to understand than Anita.
"You should let it go," Buffy said, and when Anita turned to face her Buffy was almost surprised. For once Anita wasn't glaring, she simply looked confused. Buffy almost smiled. Maybe Anita wasn't so bad after all, because Buffy knew now that the reason Anita didn't understand was because despite everything she thought Asher was beautiful.
"She's right," Xander said firmly. "For once in your life just let it go!"
Asher and shockingly enough Vander turned to smile at Xander.
Angelus and Spike were smirking as though they hoped Anita wouldn't let it go. Spike really didn't like Anita, so Buffy understood, and Angelus just loved pain. But Buffy realized that for once Anita wasn't trying to be a pain in the ass, she really didn't understand.
"They know the Council better than you," Buffy said softly, and she could tell her soft tone was shocking everyone. "If they say the Council won't choose Asher, just this once please take them at their word."
Anita blinked, and Buffy knew the pleading in her voice on the last had shocked the other woman.
Anita turned to look between Jean-Claude, Asher, and Vander. Buffy smiled as she saw Anita have a light-bulb moment. She got it, although she looked even less happy now, but Buffy knew she'd let it go to keep from hurting Asher.
"But if not Asher who?"
"That I do not know," Jean-Claude replied, and he was looking back and forth between Buffy and Anita. Buffy almost laughed, he knew something had changed between them but he didn't seem to understand what.
"Then I'll be bringing all the leopards with me."
The ones that Buffy knew to be leopards appeared happy with that.
"I'm not going," Richard said, and Buffy almost laughed. If she didn't know better she'd have said just from the tone of his voice that he was about six years old.
Jean-Claude and Anita smiled at him, which was weird. Then again they knew him, so they might not be surprised by his decision.
"You are aware," Asher said to Richard. "That it is likely that the Council will sit up another vampire here with wolves as their animal to call?"
Richard nodded, but Buffy could tell his mind was made up.
"What about you guys?" Jason turned to Buffy and asked.
Buffy shrugged. "We've decided to go," which wasn't exactly true. The Council was rather insistent that all those that weren't native to this reality join them. Buffy didn't like being told what to do, but she didn't really care enough to object. France was nice enough, and Rome was close enough that if she got bored in France it would be easy enough to sneak into Rome.
However, considering the weirdness between Angelus and Xander, if it weren't for the Council they wouldn't have been going. Xander might be tempted by Angelus, but he'd also made it clear that he had no interest in becoming Angelus' butt-monkey. And Angelus had made it clear that while he might back off for a moment, he wasn't going to give up.
Still, Buffy smiled. Since vampires weren't legal in France, and therefore not under human rule in any way, Buffy was hopeful that Angelus would find something to distract his attention.
Buffy frowned. She knew what type of things Angelus would do to distract himself. He clearly wasn't out to destroy the world like the Angelus she knew, but at the core he was still Angelus. He would torture and torment with a song in his heart, which should bother her. After all, she was the Slayer, but somehow the idea that he might kill a few people simply didn't bother her.
Buffy was pulled out of her thoughts when Anita rose to her feet.
"I need some sleep. I've got a lot to do tomorrow."
Buffy knew she wasn't happy about leaving St. Louis, but Buffy knew that unless something major happened, when the rest of them left Anita would be joining them.~ * ~ * ~
Until Part Four!