: Standard. Joss, ME, et al own everything, I'm taking them out for a drive and making nothing from it.
A/N: Slightly AU from Chosen on.
Buffy stared at the crater that had once been Sunnydale as the comment by Faith sunk in. "You're not the one and only Chosen any more. You just gotta live like a person. How's that feel?" Wow. She's right. Not only is the First all toasty, but I'm not alone in this job any more.
It felt good to smile again, even just a little. Then she heard Rona cry out from the bus while Vi kept her awake, turned and saw Xander and his eye patch, and the twinge in her gut reminded her of the insanely high cost of it all. Time to get moving again.
"Dawn, get on your cell, and call Angel. We need a place to stay, and some of the wounded are going to need to get hospital care," Buffy said loudly as they got back on the bus. She slumped in a seat, her head in her hands. I'm, as Faith would say, totally wiped. Everything that's happened this week, everything that's happened this month. All of my friendships turning upside-downy, and losing both good friends and potentials...gotta start calling them sister Slayers now,
she thought; all that added to the train wreck that had been her personal life the last few years made her just want to sleep and not wake up for a few months. But I can't do that just yet, can I? Willow's still coming down from her big spell, Xander's playing den mother to everyone else, Giles is working out how to deal with the Watcher's Council, if he can get it going. Faith is still wigging over how close Robin came to dying, none of the potentials come close to having the experience to cover things...and that leaves me.
She sighed as the bus got in gear and started moving down the highway. Yay me. No rest for the wicked.
She had almost drifted off when Dawn came and plopped down next to her. "I just got off the phone with Angel, he said to go straight to the Hyperion and he'd have 'medical care' waiting. He wants to talk to you and Giles as soon as we get there, though. He also said to tell you he was glad the second front wasn't needed."
Buffy smiled. "Me, too. Listen, Dawnie, I need to get some sleep. Could you help Xander while I nap? I think he got hit a lot harder than he's letting us see when Anya died."
"Oh, my god! I didn't even think about that. Sure thing, Buffy." Dawn hopped over to where Xander was refereeing a fight between Andrew and Vi about Rona's dressing, and Buffy managed to close her eyes, finally.
The sun was just going down as the school bus rolled up to the Hyperion, where ambulances were waiting to take the gravely injured to a hospital that dealt with metaphysical injuries. Buffy was awakened by the bus's lurch as it made the turn in front of the decades-old white 5 story hotel. She noted with relief that Dawn, Xander, and Kennedy had started the work of getting the wounded to the ambulances without being told, and stood up to go talk with Angel. Buffy and Giles had just started towards the lobby when Buffy put a hand on Giles' shoulder. "Wait. Angel hasn't been around us in a while, and I don't think he knows how the Scoobies do things, now." She waved towards Willow, Xander, and Faith, and together they walked into the lobby and followed Angel into his office.
"Buffy, I'm so glad you made it." Angel went to her and hugged her tightly. "I was just a bit worried, especially when I heard what you were facing." He let go and shook the Watcher's hand. "Rupert."
"Angel. Good to see you again."
Angel nodded and turned towards Xander. "Xander. I hope getting fun and games jokes is the worst of what you went through."
Xander reached out his hand to shake Angel's, and tilted his head slightly. "How can I say this so that you'll understand, Deadboy? Hmmmm....No. I wish all that I had lost was my eye. Anya died in the fight, and that hurt me a whole lot. Of course you would know that....Oh, that's right, You. Weren't. There. Were you?" And pulled his hand back.
"I'm sorry. I wanted to be there, but that was Buffy's decision, not mine; and I'm very sorry that you lost her. The times I've seen you two together, you seemed very much in love." Angel turned once again and hugged Faith. "Are you doing OK, Faith?"
The fact that she was looking at the ground, and the mumbled, "Five by five," foretold a serious talk in their futures.
"Angel!" The souled vampire smiled as a red-headed missile launched herself into his arms. "I'm so glad to see you and Wesley and Gunn, we had a heck of a fight, and we were our own worst enemies for a while, well, not with swords and stakes because, hey, violent, but we listened to the First too much and threw Buffy out and got a lot of us blown up, but at least Buffy came back, and we activated all of the potentials, and Spike burnt himself up, and..."
"Willow, Breathe!" Angel chuckled as found himself the target of Willow-babble. " I'm glad you're here, too. Actually," he said, looking at all of them, "I'm happy that all of you made it. In fact, the only reason that I had invited just Giles and Buffy is that they've been the decision-makers for you."
Buffy pondered exactly what to say - the weakness of having just the Slayer being the final word on everything had been made apparent when she faced the First Evil, and that was before Willow's spell worked, making it a nightmare for anyone in that position. That much had been clear even before the spell worked, and so Buffy had decided to change things. But this would not only be the first time her plan had been put into action, but also the first time most of those involved knew about it.
"That's one of the things that's changed, Angel," she said. "As a consequence of some of the things that happened just before the final battle, and especially as a result of the effects of Willow's spell, having one or two people making the decisions is not only a bad idea, it's going to be impossible in the near future. So these are the Senior Scoobies, for right now; we haven't had enough time to do more than that. So what's the up?"
"I've got several things to tell you, and an offer or two to make. To start with, does everyone know the firm that we've spent most of our time fighting since I left Sunnydale, Wolfram and Hart?" Everyone nodded. "Well, just before your battle, they offered us control of their Los Angeles branch. Hands off, complete access, control of our own departments, everything. For various reasons, even though we all agree that there's a trap in there somewhere, we agreed. As a matter of fact, it's where the information that you got on the First came from. That brings me to the first offer.
"Since you've lost not only friends, but your homes, and work places, and livelihoods when Sunnydale imploded, and since we are moving to live and work in the WRH building, I'm going to offer this hotel to you, no strings attached, other than keeping it up as a historic place. It will serve as a residence for you all, as well as a place to gather and train."
"Wait, Angel, you've told me what these assholes have done to you, and the kind of scum that they represent. Want to explain why you think they're doing anything but corrupting you?" Buffy wondered.
"I don't, and that's one reason anything that we do for you is going to be no strings. They might corrupt us. But we think that we have a better chance of defeating the evil if we're on the inside. It's a crap shoot. I'll just say that they haven't corrupted us yet, so I think the hotel is a good choice for you. But you all have to accept it. I have the deed right here, whenever you're ready.
"I'll have the area around here patrolled until you get organized. Let me know when you're ready. Before I go any further, did you want the hotel?"
Buffy glanced around at the others before nodding. "Can't see where the lawyers can screw us that long distance. Yes, Angel."
"Good." Angel scribbled his signature on a piece of paper and handed it, along with a set of keys, to Buffy. "It's yours. And now for the most important piece of news."
"Anything, as long as it's not another prophecy!" Faith drawled. "Those things wear me out, yo!"
"Hate to burst your bubble, Faith, but it's a prophecy. It's an... interesting one. WRH has some of the best research facilities anywhere. And as soon as I heard about the implosion, I had the research department come up with anything that referred to the fall or end of Sunnydale.. They came up with this." He handed Giles a large piece of parchment.
In the opening days of the Millennium,
In the Valley of the Sun,
There will arise a force
Harnessing the power of the Sun,
And the Valley shall Fall.
The Hand must search, in her bosom and hearth,
And among the shells of the Bramanda on the Kalachakra,
For her Companions:
The Heart that sees with one good eye
The Spirit that is her truest heart
The Mind, Patriarch, and Troubadour
The sister who is not
The balance wheel, devoted to Maiden, Mother, and Crone
The seer with a heavy load
The mirror of Spirit after a choice gone wrong
The writer on walls
The demon who is not
Should she not find her companions
And bind them in Webs of Eros, Philia, and Agape
before 13 moons have passed after the Valley falls,
A sun will visit the city of the Queen of the Angels.
"Oh, Dear," Was all Giles said as he slumped back in his chair. "Some kind of nuclear explosion?" He asked Angel.
"As far as we can tell, that's what is says. Some kind of fusion bomb or spell." He watched everyone in the room gape.
"And the fun just keeps on leaving," quipped Xander. "What do we do to stop this outflow of nuclear badness?"
"Well, according to our research, love. The problem is, just on the companions that we've been able to identify so far, one is in a coma, and another, according to you, is dead. And we don't know all of the companions just yet." Angel sighed. In any case, you have a year to deal with that or get out of Southern California."
"We'll deal with that, one way or another, Angel," Buffy said, standing up. "I'm sorry to be a bad guest, but we need to talk about this and then I, for one, need to sleep. Call us if you find out anything."
"All right. I'm glad all of you made it." Angel made his way out the door.