And here we are, the last chapter. Counting this one, 26 pages, according to Word Perfect. I’d like to thank those who left reviews. As we all know, getting told you’re doing something right is a big help.
WARNING: This chapter had pretty much nothing but talking in it.
At first I wasn’t sure what to do with Willow, but I think I got it right. She got to be a hero in this one, even if she had to be tortured first. Also, I probably have the continuity wrong with the Dark Dimension, but my sources had it so different I’m not certain there is a right continuity anymore. Never thought I’d wish Marvel would do a ‘Crisis on Infinite Earths’ but it might be best to just start over.
(Gary Owen’s voice) And now, the conclusion of “Supreme.” Starring Xander Harris as Morgul, the Friendly Drelb. (End Gary Owen’s voice)
If Willow hadn’t told him where she’d be, Angel would never have found Buffy hiding in the back of the library. She was on the floor with her back to the wall. Her arms were wrapped around her knees as her head drooped forward.
“Hey,” Angel said as he knelt in front of her. A barely audible grunt was the only sound. “You okay?”
Buffy looked up in confusion. “Okay? How can I be okay?”
“Well, you could not be hurt or sick,” he replied.
“Oh. Well, in that case, I guess I am.” Buffy gently tapped her head against the wall behind her a few times. “I can’t believe I miss it.”
A chuckle escaped her. “I was so not of the happy when I found out my so-called ‘destiny.’ And now, they’re gone. All the powers of the Slayer, poof.”
“At least they didn’t vanish all at once,” Angel pointed out.
Buffy sighed as she nodded. Her Slayer powers had faded quickly in the week since Halloween. Now she was back to being ‘normal-girl,’ as she’d phrased it. “Willow gets to be all magical, Xander is missing, and I’m not of the ‘one girl in all the world’ set.”
“Willow said that the other one still has her powers, though,” Angel pointed out.
“Yeah.” Buffy let her feet slide until her legs were flat against the floor. “He said something about the Slayer Spirit concentrating on the last called or something.” She looked at the floor, then at Angel. “Before this I didn’t know about what happened at night. Now I know too much to just walk away. I don’t know how to be all disbelievey about it.”
“Xander and Willow didn’t have powers,” Angel pointed out. “But they stayed and fought.”
“And now Xander is gone and Willow’s not Human.”
“You noticed that, huh?”
“The white hair kind of gives it away.”
Angel glanced down the aisle as he asked, “When did that happen, anyway?”
“Night after,” was the reply. “She woke up with it. She finally dropped the illumination spell on it yesterday.”
Ignoring her use of ‘illumination’ instead of ‘illusion’ he said, “So that’s why I didn’t notice.”
“Have you found him?” Buffy looked down again as she changed the subject.
“No. There’s no sign. Wherever Xander is none of the undead of Sunnydale have seen him.”
“What about Spike and Drusilla?”
“They left town. Seems Dru was terrified of whoever it is that Willow is talking to these days.”
“That won’t last,” she grumbled. She was about to add something but a shape at the end of the aisle caught her attention.
“Guys,” Willow said in a voice that would normally be too loud for a library, “we got a message from Xander!”
“Yeeeaaahh,” Buffy drawled as she and Angel reached the steps leading to the table below, “that’s, um, some message.”
Giles looked around from where he’d been scowling at the foot-high letters that had burned into the table. “I should just buy replacement tables in bulk,” he complained.
“It’s an address,” Angel pointed out as he tilted his head to read it.
“Uh huh,” Willow agreed. “And he signed it.” A scrawl barely legible as a signature indeed followed the address burned into the table.
“In fact,” Giles told them, “it’s the address of a house where Buffy cleaned out a trio of vampires two months ago.”
“I did?” Buffy gave a sad smile as she shrugged, “Yay for the ol’ former mojo-me.”
“So when do we go?” Willow asked. “Can we go now?”
“We should be certain that it is indeed Xander before we,” Giles stopped as he saw Buffy and Willow collect their things and head for the door. “Or we could just charge in blind,” he corrected.
“It seems to have worked so far,” Angel pointed out before turning to catch up with Buffy.
As the Watcher grabbed his own effects he begrudgingly admitted, “Sad, but true.”
“I do remember this place,” Buffy said as she climbed out of Giles’ car. “Small rooms, no basement. Not a lot of places for the undead to hide.”
“And, apparently, the current location for Xander Harris.” Giles looked at the front of the brick house over before looking at Angel. “Do you sense anything?”
“This place is majorly warded,” Angel told him. “Part of me wants to run from it until I hit the Atlantic Ocean.”
“Can you go in?” Willow asked.
After a nod, the vampire said, “I can make it to the door, but barely.”
Buffy held Angel’s hand as they reached the door. “Be brave,” she teased as she smiled up at him.
“For you, always,” he promised.
Before they could knock, the door slid silently open to reveal only darkness. A figure stood and looked at them for a long moment before saying, “You may enter,” then turning and walking further inside.
“Well,” Angel commented, “that means I can go in, anyway.”
“Quite,” Giles agreed.
“You know,” Buffy said as they walked down the corridor, “this place was smaller the last time I was here.”
“That would have been before the Master moved in,” the figure ahead told her without turning.
“I-I know that voice,” Willow muttered as she gripped Giles’ arm. “But it can’t be him.”
A lit doorway appeared in front of them and the figure turned to enter. Following him, the group found themselves in a good sized room decorated with neutral colors and a sofa, loveseat and chairs arranged around a large coffee table. On the far side of the room sat Xander. He was simply dressed in blue jeans and a white polo shirt. He smiled up at the figure who had led them in.
“No problem, boss.” Before anyone could do anything else, however, he was tackled to the ground by a white-headed blue.
Willow was kneeling on his chest and glaring down at him as she asked, “Who are you?” When Xander started laughing the glare was turned on him. “You just let him wear Jesse’s face?” she demanded to know.
Jesse,” Xander told her. “He was sent by the Vishanti to help me with my new job.”
“It,” was as far as Willow got before turning to look closely at the teen beneath her. “It is? I mean, it’s you?”
“Looking good, Wills,” her other lifelong friend told her as he smiled. He grimaced as a high-pitched squeal of delight was emitted by the girl who then proceeded to hug him tightly.
“Jesse McNally, correct?” Giles asked Xander.
“That’s right.” Xander stood and, before Giles could protest, embraced the older man. “It’s been too long, Giles,” he said before letting go.
“It’s been a week,” Buffy told him. Then she slapped his arm. “It’s been a whole week!”
Xander laughed as he pulled her into a hug. “It’s been longer for me, Buff.”
“I thought you looked older,” Angel observed.
“Yes,” Giles agreed. “I thought maybe it was simply stress from whatever happened, but you do appear older.”
Buffy pulled back and looked up at him. The last remnants of his teenage years were gone, giving Xander the look of someone in their twenties. She glanced over to see that Willow had risen from the floor and was also looking at the changes in her friend. They shared a surprised glance before Willow choked back a sob.
Xander looked over at her and smiled. “Don’t worry,” he told her, “you won’t be alone.”
“Alone?” Giles looked from Willow to Xander then back. “Why would she be alone?”
Xander let go of Buffy and pulled Willow into a hug. Looking over her head, he said, “How about we share stories about what happened then I’ll do the big reveal.”
“Sounds good,” Buffy agreed as the others nodded.
“Good. Now,” Xander smirked over at Jesse, “if my faithful manservant will bring out the tray of goodies, we can get started.”
Jesse rolled his eyes and headed for the door. “I should’a stayed dead,” he grumbled.
By the time Jesse had returned the group had situated themselves. Buffy and Angel took the loveseat, while Giles had taken the chair Xander had been sitting in. Willow had dragged Xander to the sofa and seated him on her right. As soon as Jesse had set down the tray she’d pulled him down on her left. She took one of their hands in her own and refused to let either go.
Giles watched Xander carefully as they took turns telling him what had happened Halloween. He had listened carefully then asked only a few questions. He’d given Giles a look that told the older man that his editing of how he’d gotten Ethan Rayne to divulge how to break the spell had been noticed.
“Sounds like she did a version of the tendril psychorisis
spell,” he told Willow after her description of what Umar had done to her. “Most people would have been left a comatose heap after that.”
“If the bit of Clea that was left hadn’t been there I would have been,” Willow admitted. “But after we merged I had enough strength to escape.”
“And I’m glad you did,” Xander said, giving her hand a squeeze.
“Yeah.” Jesse gave a squeeze of his own.
Willow gave them each a smile before Xander spoke again. “So how much do you remember?”
The smile faded as Willow looked down. “I-I,” she paused and shrugged. “I remember pretty much all of it.”
“The night or her life.” When Willow turned to him in surprise, he smiled at her. “I’m figuring when you merged you must have each gotten more than memories. After all,” he reached over with his unattached hand to brush her now-white hair, “you’re not exactly all Human now.”
Buffy was the first, but not the last to blurt out, “Not Human?”
“Part of me became the same as Clea,” Willow admitted without looking at them. “She’s descended from the Faltine.”
“Let me guess,” Angel spoke up, “they live a long time. That’s why Xander said something about you being alone?”
“The Faltine are energy beings,” Xander explained. “Her mother and uncle were kicked out because they focused themselves into matter. How long they live in undetermined. I know her uncle is probably thousands of years old, along with her mother.”
“Wait,” Buffy held up a hand. “I just remembered, isn’t Doormouse the ruler of that dimension?”
“Dormammu,” Xander corrected. “And he was overthown a few years ago. Clea took over temporarily, then there was a series of uprisings ending with Umar in charge.”
“Anyway,” Giles cut in, “you haven’t told us what happened to you, or should I say, Doctor Strange.”
Xander took a sip of his tea then sighed before beginning. “It was a dark and stormy night.” After the chorus of groans and at least one thread of bodily harm, he grinned. “I missed that,” he told them.
“Stephen knew if things continued here the way they were the ‘Powers That Be,’” Xander said the name with obvious disgust, “would just keep things as they were, which would be bad for us and everyone else. You see, these beings might have a lot of mojo when compared to mere mortals, but they were small potatoes to other beings like themselves. So, they kept this universe bereft of really powerful forces for good so they wouldn’t draw attention to themselves.” He glanced at them as he added, “Even the forces of evil, some of whom were part of the group, had to be kept weak to some degree.”
“Ah,” Giles said as he nodded, “they did not want any of the more powerful beings to find this dimension so they could remain hidden.”
“Yep. Stephen knew the status quo had to be broken. He could sense that the Vishanti wasn’t present here, so he knew they must have been barred somehow.” Xander glanced at Willow. “Just before he gave the false Eye to you he used it to contact the echo of my memories still there. He’d been tapping into them for a while but this time he told me what needed to be done.” Xander sighed, took a sip of tea, then went on. “He also told me what the price might be, but I agreed anyway.”
“Price?” Willow’s grip on his hand tightened.
“Yeah. I’ll get to that. Anyway, when the spell was broken I found myself back in my own body and with the knowledge of what needed to be done. You see, a spell needed to be cast by a native of this dimension while in their seat of power. It was why he taunted them. If they’d had time to think it over they might have banished us to some random or remote place. I needed to be there in order for the spell to work.”
“I take it that it did,” Angel said.
“Yeah. But they didn’t just stand there while I cast it. They’d been beating the crap out of Stephen before, but stopped when he wasn’t there anymore.” Xander grimaced. “By the time I got done with the spell I’d been fatally wounded several times over.”
“But you’re still alive,” Buffy pointed out as Willow, whose jaw was moving up and down, failed to make a sound.
“As I finished the spell I passed out,” Xander continued. “Just as I did, though, I thought I heard a lion.”
“A lion?” Willow’s eyes were wider than ever. “You-you-you mean he
“Ooh,” Buffy teased, “you got a triple.”
Xander joined Buffy in a quick chuckle. “Yeah, Wills, it was Hoggoth himself. He and Agamotto showed up right after the spell. Or that’s what they told me later.”
“Two-thirds of the Vishanti showed up?” Willow swallowed hard.
Buffy spoke up again. “I think I speak for all the non-spellcasting guys when I say, ‘who?’”
“The Vishanti is a union of principalities. Hoggoth, Agamotto and Oshtur, also called the ‘Gracious Lady,’ join their power for the good of others.”
“Yeah,” Jesse spoke up, “she is.” When everyone looked at him, he shrugged. “I don’t remember anything after being killed by that vampire until I heard Oshtur’s voice asking me if I wanted to help Xander. And suddenly there I was.”
“As I understand it, Hoggoth basically broke up the ol’ boys club of the Powers That Thought They Were while Agamotto healed me.” Xander looked over at Jesse before going on. “Then I was brought here with Jesse.”
“And we were told the price,” Jesse added.
“Price?” Giles quietly asked.
“The Vishanti were engaged in a war,” Xander told them. “They needed soldiers, mystics, sorcerers to fight with them. The price was that I fight at their side.”
“They saved you so you could serve as cannon fodder for them?” Giles was aghast. “How is that better than the Powers?”
“Because I wasn’t cannon fodder!” Everyone flinched at the sharpness of Xander’s tone. “Sorry,” he told them. “I have the memories of one of the most powerful sorcerers in history, with the power to use them. My help facilitated the end of the war.”
“You said it was longer for you,” Angel reminded them. “How long?”
“Three thousand years.”
“You don’t look it.”
“Thanks, Buff. Honestly, I don’t remember most of it. I remember some of the preparations for it, including Oshtur giving me a much prolonged life, but the actual fighting I don’t remember a lot about.”
“I was here getting things ready,” Jesse told them. “They told me to get the house set up. Food, furniture, that kind of thing.”
“I got back yesterday,” Xander said. “I wasn’t sure how much time had passed so I sent you a message to meet me here.”
“Xander.” Giles voice, along with him removing his glasses, got everyone’s attention. “You’ve mentioned a job you now have. Is-is it what I think it is?”
“If you think I’m now the Sorcerer Supreme of this dimension, yes.” After giving Willow’s hand a final squeeze he stood. “The Vishanti appointed me the task partly because they know I can be trusted and partly because I already have all the training needed.”
“But mostly because he’s crazy enough to take the job,” Jesse contributed.
The glare was tainted by the smirk on Xander’s face. “Anyway, I found out that many of the gifts given to Doctor Strange were duplicated across dimensions. For example, the Eye of Agamotto does exist here. In fact, Agamotto himself told me where it was. The Vishanti gave me several tools to do my job. They even had Enitharmon The Weaver make me a Cloak of Levitation.” Xander motioned with his hand and a blue cloak with dark red trim floated into the room and affixed itself around his neck. A familiar golden amulet rested over the clasp.
“You already got the Eye!” Willow rose from the sofa and moved to where she could gently brush it with a hand.
“Yeah. Uh, speaking of which,” he looked at Giles and shrugged, “you’re probably going to be getting news of a break-in at the Watcher’s Council.”
“The Council had the eye?”
“You ever hear of the Amulet of Warsaw?”
Giles thought for a moment. “Yes, yes I have. It was in pieces, if I recall.”
“That’s right. It was destroyed by the Powers after they surprised the Vishanti and others and managed to ban them. I brought the pieces here and was able to fix it.”
“Wow.” Willow’s eyes widened again. “But-but does this mean you won’t be back in school?”
“No, I’m not. I don’t have the time, Wills. With the Powers no longer trying to hide this dimension, other beings are going to try to move in and take over. I have to be ready, and doing a history paper is not being ready.” He patted her shoulder. “I’ll take the GED, I promise. Once things slow down I might even go to college. After all,” he smiled at the group, “I have the memories of a man who was once one the top surgeons in the world. That’s got to be good for something, right?”
“Yes, well,” Giles said as he rose from his own seat, “it has been good to see you again, Xander. I for one, however, need time to think about this. But I can tell one thing,” he looked the younger (or was that older, now?) man in the eye, “you have but to call if I can help in any way.”
“I know.” Xander held out a hand and the two shook. “Thank you for everything, Giles. And you will hear from me.” He grinned. “After all, I’m sure someone will try to open the hellmouth again.”
“So glad to see you’re looking forward to it.” The Watcher stepped aside as he noticed others standing as well.
“Angel,” Xander said as he shook hands with the vampire.
“Xander,” Buffy echoed as she was pulled into a hug.
“Buffarino,” was the reply.
“Missed you,” she told him.
“Missed you, too.” As she started to pull away, he stopped her. When she looked up at him, his face was stern. “The Slayer line has passed you by because of what happened with the Master. But don’t be surprised if you’re not contacted by other powers to serve as their Champion. Think carefully and don’t be afraid to ask them questions. Just be nice about how you word them. Oh, and be sure to ask how much time you’re going to spend away from home.”
“O-okay.” She started to move away then stopped to say, “You know who’s going to ask, don’t you?”
“I might.” He grinned at her. “See you later, Buffster.”
“Later.” Somehow feeling lighter, Buffy joined Angel and Giles by the door.
“Uh, guys,” Xander said as he put an arm around Willow’s shoulder, “I’ll make Willow gets home okay.”
“Huh?” Willow looked up at him in surprise. “Oh,” she recovered, “yeah, he’ll take care of me.”
“I’m sure he will,” Buffy teased with a wink at the white-haired teen. Grabbing Angel’s hand, she pulled him out of the room.
“Yes,” Giles cleared his throat, “very well. If we can’t trust the Sorcerer Supreme to protect one girl who can we trust?”
Jesse left to show them out as Xander turned to face Willow. “I missed them all,” he told her. “But you were with me.”
“I-I was?” His eyes held hers as he nodded back.
“Right here.” Taking one of her hands, he held it over his heart. “I know you’re smart enough to have figured out that you’re going to outlive any normal Human by centuries. I’m not normal.”
“Not after three thousand years, no,” Willow agreed.
“While I was gone I realized there was something important I needed to do when I got back.”
Instead of speaking, Xander lowered his lips to hers. When they finally parted he said, “I don’t know how much of this is Stephen and Clea or how much is me finally seeing what was right there all the time. But I want to find out.”
“Um,” Willow knew she was blushing but didn’t care, “I guess that means we need to do some research?”
The widest grin of the night appeared on Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme. “Sounds good.”
Lips met as words were forgotten. Even Jesse’s exaggerated sighs as he came into the room and removed the cups and tray from earlier were ignored. By the time he’d returned, however, the couple was gone.