Disclaimer: I own nothing. All Buffy the Vampire Slayer characters and DC Comics characters are the property of their original owners.
There was a naked woman in his bed.
Okay, Xander had absolutely no idea how this had happened, but he at least had the excuse of the last twenty-four hours being the most stressful day of his whole life, what with defeating the First Evil and Sunnydale’s collapse afterwards into an enormous sinkhole. There’d also been the trivial detail just before this latter event of him committing suicide by using Wildfire’s anti-energy to destroy all their enemies inside the massive Hellmouth cavern. Xander had really not
expected to wake up anywhere else except hopefully outside Heaven’s pearly gates, where he’d be promptly scolded by an angelic Joyce Summers over doing something so stupid.
Regaining consciousness while lying down on a seat in a school bus driving its plodding way towards Los Angeles was naturally a complete surprise to Xander, and it didn’t stop there. Wrapping his mind around his own survival was hard enough, and it became even more difficult when the man realized the others on the bus were all the people who’d made it out of his forever-gone hometown. Among the dead left behind had been Anya, who according to a weeping Dawn, had been killed by one of the Bringers attacking the school’s defenders. One more blow to the shell-shocked remnants of the Scooby Gang had been Robin Wood suddenly succumbing from his wounds.
During the ultimately unsuccessful attempt to get the high-school principal to a hospital in time, Xander had been called over to the rear of the speeding bus. There, a pale-faced Faith was gripping Robin’s bloody hand. His normally dark features already turning grey, Robin managed to whisper to Xander, “Heard you took out Spike, down there. That right?”
Xander couldn’t trust himself to do anything but nod.
Incredibly, Robin had managed a faint smile and a final word: “Thanks for that, from me and Mom. Wanted to tell you--” A choking cough interrupted whatever else he’d meant to say, and Faith gently lifted up the body of her lover and hugged Robin to herself, as this brave man breathed his last. Xander stumbled back to his seat, hearing Faith starting to cry behind him.
Several hours later, Xander had maintained his total numbness throughout the rest of their trip, up to when he’d finally fallen into his empty bed inside one of the hotel rooms given to the exhausted Sunnydale survivors. If Deadboy or anyone else of his little group at the Hyperion in Los Angeles had ever spoken to him since the bus and its passengers arrived, Xander didn’t bother to recollect this before thankfully passing out on the bed still dressed in his borrowed, ill-fitting clothes.
Now…without being able to remember anything about it, Xander found himself standing at the foot of this piece of sleeping furniture, staring down at the supremely beautiful woman placidly sleeping in his bed, all while she wasn’t wearing a single stitch of clothing. Spread out on top of the pillow she was resting her head, this unknown female’s pure silver hair matched perfectly another patch of hair on--Whap!
“Quit perving on Nura Nal, and PAY ATTENTION!” yelled a female voice directly into his left ear at the same time Xander got painfully whacked on the back of his skull by someone’s hand.
Managing to simultaneously leap straight up a full foot in the air in his guilty panic over getting caught ogling a total stranger, while also hastily rubbing at his aching head, Xander spun around in mid-air. Landing on his socks, the man then gawked in sheer astonishment at the other woman now standing just out of arm’s reach and keeping her fists planted on her hips while sardonically regarding him. He had absolutely no idea who she was, either.
Continuing to gape at his latest unexpected visitor, a bewildered Xander saw before himself a tall woman with her amused gaze meeting his at the same eye-level. Ignoring the niggling thought that those eyes somehow seemed a little familiar, the man further examined a strong, handsome face borne by someone a decade older than him, with beginning laugh-lines around the corners of her mouth matching the faint wrinkles on her brow. There were some other minor details about the woman that Xander knew he’d been far too long around the estrogen set in order to recognize these; namely, she wasn’t wearing any makeup but the woman was still dressed in a comfortable and sensible but yet stylish outfit of flat shoes, good slacks, and an expensive silk blouse. Dark hair fell in loose waves to her shoulders, and--
*Wait a minute!*
Abruptly remembering exactly what this woman had said a moment before while walloping him, Xander then looked over his shoulder in total disbelief at the nude female sleeping on his bed. Only, this time he concentrated his attention upon her striking face, while he now instantly identified. Turning back to look at the expectant figure before him, Xander groaned, “That’s Dream Girl of the Legion of Super-Heroes…” Trailing off at his guest’s pleased nod, the man ended his doleful recognition by glumly asking, “…so, this is some kind of a dream?”
“More like a dream inside a dream, since you’re both dreaming at the same time,” happily corrected the woman, whose cordial tone abruptly shifted into something else, as she added in irritation, “And if you’d only changed into her right off the day after that Halloween, or even any time before now, my job would’ve been a lot easier!” Glowering at a very confused man who had no idea what the hell she was talking about, this stranger then sighed, and continued, “But even I had to wait until Nura showed up, however long that took, for me to be able to talk with you at last.”
Alarm bells beginning to loudly ring inside his mind, Xander warily risked, “You, uh, have something to do with Janus?”
“We’re good friends,” cheerfully responded the woman, now really making her listener nervous. Especially when she went on in her brisk voice, “It helps that neither of us can stand my detested counterpart, or any of those other Powers. Those idiots think of nothing but their precious balance, or even worse, they seek to turn everything to their advantage in order to win for once and all. Janus and I, we far prefer to set up a level playing field, where any human can be whatever they want, do as they will with their freedom of choice -- including telling us to shove it where the sun doesn’t shine and going off to be more than they ever thought possible.” A most merry grin from the woman accompanied that last surprising statement.
Backing up until the backs of his knees hit the front edge of the mattress, a very stunned man abruptly sat down upon his bed. Mouth hanging open in his shock, Xander then stuttered, “Who…why…what’d you mean, your counterpart?”
“Oh,” nonchalantly responded the woman, “before you personally gave him the worse drubbing of his entire existence, one which he’s going to spend millennia sulking about before he can do more than frighten a single cockroach, he conceitedly termed himself the First Evil.”
Over the increasing roaring in his ears, Xander feebly prompted, “Which makes you…?”
The woman beamed at her favorite human, and she answered, “Call me the First Good.”
A couple of minutes later, Xander Harris was actually shouting at a very patient deity: “WHY DIDN’T YOU HELP?”
“Couldn’t, not openly,” was delivered in the woman’s very succinct reply. Seeing how that was about to make him explode again, she expanded on this to an angry Xander: “Listen, the both of us, we’ve got our own specific capabilities and limitations. Neither of us can directly act on the physical plane where you mortals spend your short lives, but the First Evil could still do more there than I can. Even intangible and manifesting as someone who’d previously lived, he could nevertheless talk people into his schemes. I can’t even ordinarily contact humans, unless under very special circumstances, like now in the dreamscape you and Nura are maintaining.”
Pausing to smirk at her dubious listener, the First Good reminded Xander, “Though, when it happens, I can exist as someone who hasn’t been born yet, and actually give other people a good shot in the chops. Want me to come over there and start tickling you?”
“Ah, no thanks,” gulped Xander. Cautiously eyeing the First Good giggling to herself, the Scooby Gang member suddenly became annoyed, resulting in him vehemently protesting, “What exactly was the whole point
with the wacky Chaos magic? Couldn’t you have done more, or made it turn me full time into somebody useful and a real powerhouse, like Mon-El or Superboy? Instead of those really ridiculous instances when I changed into one of those guys, and didn’t even get their full abilities! Or any!”
Tolerantly waiting for his rant to be over, the First Good pointed out, “Xander, I’ve told you, my powers work best when used as subtly as possible. Plus, anybody who tries to go up against them still has to deal with their sheer randomness, when anything at all might happen.”
“Yeah, and it did!” burst from Xander.
Lifting an amused eyebrow, the First Good chuckled, “Do
try to remember how some of your changes into a Legionnaire were exactly what you needed at that point. Needed, not wanted, if you please. There’s an actual difference.”
Xander grumpily retorted, “And all the other times, when nothing happened or when things got really silly? What was that
With more than a hint of laughter in her voice, the gleeful woman answered, “I provided a million-to-one chance and gave you a million chances during it all, to boot. It’s not my
fault that among those results, there were one or two outcomes that had an equal possibility of being downright hilarious.” Pausing to start softly humming under her breath, the First Good continued her tune until Xander at last recognized she was performing Mötley Crüe’s homage to strippers, the sexy song known as Girls, Girls, Girls.
Reacting by throwing up his hands in sheer disgust, Xander then growled at his now-chortling companion, “Oh, great! I finally learn from the horse’s mouth herself, that I really am
the universe’s favorite butt-monkey!”
“I can’t possibly comment on that,” imperturbably remarked the First Good, all while maintaining a truly superb poker face.
“Ha, ha,” sarcastically retorted Xander. The man then guardedly asked, “Hey, is that all? I mean, is it over, me turning into DC comics characters?”
Becoming a bit more serious, the woman informed him, “Yes, you no longer need the bit of Chaos magic in yourself, Xander. However, there’s something else instead you can do with it, if you desire.” Waving a commanding hand, the First Good directed him, “Get up and look at the bed now.”
Blinking in his response while obeying anyway, Xander got up onto his feet and he glanced at the head of the bed, to immediately recoil and yelp in shock, “Cordy?!
As he stared at another and very familiar woman who was presently resting upon the bed, with only her pale face showing above the white sheet covering her body, Xander heard the First Good gently telling him, “This brave and strong young lady was treated in a most vile manner by those claiming to assist humanity. Now, with what you have in yourself, Xander, you can bring Cordelia Chase out of her coma with no memory of whatever torments she underwent in the past. Nobody else will ever be able to meddle with her, and she can freely chose what to do next. Make your decision, Protector of Man!”
Without even bothering to reply, Xander smoothly bent down and kissed Cordelia on her lips with all the tenderness he possessed. When their flesh pressed together, the man sensed a speck of actual, inner magic -- the Chaos magic that had been part of him for so long -- drift from himself into its newest host. Right after that, Xander felt Cordelia’s lips stir on his mouth, and as he hastily jerked his head back, the man stared into eyes that slowly fluttered open and blearily gazed upwards at him. In a rasping whisper, Cordelia delivered a few drowsy words, before she returned to sleep in a restful dream, until waking up a few hours later in the presence of a joyful Fang Gang summoned to her hospital.
“Your kissing’s improved, doofus.”
Xander wandered along the hotel corridor, on his way downstairs. Just an hour ago, he’d woken up with an immense start in his bed, fully alert and remembering everything after changing back from Dream Girl. Staring into the room’s darkness, Xander at last had the opportunity to fully mourn everyone he’d lost over the past few days -- Anya, Robin, the Potentials. Curling up in the bed, a young man finally wept for them all.
Eventually, his grief subsided, but Xander was unable to go back to sleep. Deciding a walk might do him some good, Xander got out of the bed, still dressed in his mismatched clothing that he’d never removed, and put on his shoes (a spare pair borrowed from Giles). The man then headed out to visit the lobby of the Hyperion Hotel. The very moment he stepped onto the lower landing of the main staircase, Xander heard a muted greeting, “Hiya, Xan.”
Looking around in puzzlement at what seemed to be an empty room, Xander finally located where the voice was coming from, and he walked over to one of the lobby couches. There, Faith was lying down, hands interlocked behind her head and staring blankly at the ceiling, not bothering to glance over at the man now standing there.
Worriedly examining the listless Slayer still wearing her clothes from yesterday, Xander cleared his throat and carefully asked, “Uh, didn’t you get a room, Faith?”
“Yeah,” barely shrugged the brunette woman, as she continued to lethargically gaze upwards. “Couldn’t stand it after a while, felt the walls closin’ in. After prison and B’s house crammed with everybody, I really don’t like small places anymore. Came down here, managed to grab some z’s, until a half-hour ago, Angel got a call from some hospital with great news about Cordy--”
“I know, Faith,” interrupted Xander, now becoming really concerned about his companion’s total apathy.
Giving a disinterested nod, the Slayer went on in her dull tone, “Well, Fang and the rest, they took off there, and I told ‘em I’d keep an eye on this place, tell the others when they came down. You’re the first, so far.” Once she’d finished those last words, Faith went back to staring blankly at the ceiling, no longer paying any attention to Xander, even when the man took a cautious step nearer the woman’s couch, and for the first time he looked down fully into her face--
That startled yelp did manage to momentarily distract Faith from her crushing grief and depression. Turning her head to lock gazes with the astonished man, the supine Slayer blinked at the dumbfounded expression presently on Xander’s features. Frowning at him still continuing to rudely stare at her right in the eyes, Faith irritably grumbled, ‘What, do I got major eye-crud there?”
That sarcastic comment was accompanied by the warrior woman giving that part of her body a good rub with her fingers. Bringing down her hands, Faith glowered at the stunned man, about to give him a large and very annoyed piece of her mind for acting like a total idiot. Instead, with growing bewilderment, the Boston-born Slayer listened to Xander beginning to carefully speak.
“Faith, uh, I really, really need to talk to you. There’s a kitchen here, right? Can we go there, maybe have a cup of coffee together? Because, there’s a kinda long story I think you should know, lasting from a weird Sunnydale Halloween to right now. And after that, when I tell you what I just figured out, please try not to kill me on the spot, okay?”
Her mouth falling open, the astonished young woman on the couch stared upwards into Xander’s pleading face. The most likely explanation for why boytoy was acting so bonkers was for him to have gone all nuts over what she’d watched him do just a day ago, essentially committing suicide for them and then coming back to life. On the other hand, he didn’t look all that crazy, just his normal, steady Xander self who did seem to really want to talk to her-- Oh, the hell with it.
Impatiently getting onto her feet by the couch, Faith paused to eye Xander, who actually quailed under her glare. Shaking her head in sheer exasperation, Faith nevertheless strode off towards a door at the far lobby wall that led to the hotel’s kitchen. Calling over her shoulder, Faith warned, “It better be one helluva story, boytoy, ‘cause I ain’t gonna settle for anythin’ less this early in the mornin’.”
Trailing along after the Slayer, a bemused Xander answered, “Oh, I can positively guarantee it, Faith.”
Seeing his companion’s accepting shrug at hearing this, the man continued to watch Faith’s graceful stride, as this woman pushed open the swinging door and went through the entryway. Catching the door as it swung back, Xander now left the lobby, all while trying to come up with the best way for his body to stay intact during telling his incredulous listener about someone who called themselves the First Good and could manifest into the form of anybody who hadn’t been born yet.
In this case, a handsome woman in her mid-thirties who had eyes absolutely identical to Faith Lehane, and also possessing a very close familial resemblance to Xander Harris himself…