The End is Only the Beginning
Buffy, Angelus and Connor walked away from the Tribunal as a united front. The very air surrounding them crackled with energy. Anyone looking at their small family knew they were a force to be reckoned with. Questions bombarded them the second they joined the others.
"Give them some room!” Gunn shouted at the teenaged girls who only seemed to know how to talk all at the same time.
Since his arrival on the Hellmouth, he’d only heard them complain, and nothing else. It had him wondering if it was their normal behavior, or this town’s own personal torture system. He frankly thought Buffy getting kicked out was the best thing to happen to her. It was probably the first quiet time she'd gotten in a while. Their constant yammering made his hair hurt, and he didn’t have any hair.
Ignoring everyone else, Buffy walked up to Spike, Wesley, and Gunn sending them understanding looks, as she moved past them. She spoke over her shoulder to them, while steadily moving toward the house.
"We need you to cover our backs.”
She pulled Angelus and Connor along with her into the house. Buffy knew she could trust the guys do as she asked. She saw them move into position behind her. They didn’t ask question, simply did as she asked. It had been a long time since she could say the same about the Scoobies or Giles. The trust lost between her and her watcher hurt, but it was just another mark against the Tribunal. It didn’t surprise her that the others tried to follow her into the house. The entire group shouted questions at her with each step she took. Normally, she would have stopped to try to explain what was happening, but not today, and probably never again. This was the end of her life in Sunnydale, the end of being the Slayer really. She had no choice in her return, and the results of others machinations had cost her dearly. Buffy had no intention of losing anyone else, and she admitted if only to herself that included those screaming at her. Her dark thoughts disappeared when Connor slammed the door in their faces. Laughter pure and clean burst from her lips, and somehow she knew everything would turn out for the best.
Xander stared at the door in shock. He then proceeded to pound on it with his fists. Everything was a mess and he wanted answers – NOW! He had thought putting Faith in charge would have jolted her back to reality.
"Buffy, let us in. We need to talk. You can't just come back here and take over like this. Come out here, damn it.”
He kicked the door, cussing under his breath when he hurt his foot.
"Back off, Whelp, it's her house. She can do what she wants. Never understood why she let you bunch of wankers throw her out in the first place," Spike shouted at them from the front yard.
"Butt out, blonde wonder, this is between Buffy and her friends
A derisive snort burst from Spike's lips. "Friends?! Yeah, keep telling yourselves that. Right bunch of “friends” you are! Now, get away from the bloody door," he growled at them, pushing them away and blocking any further attempts. Gunn and Wesley did likewise with the backdoor.
Buffy pulled her family down the basement steps. They didn’t say anything, just followed behind her, happy to follow where she led.
"We have to prepare. This is all out, no holds barred, war. Anything goes. You don't stop until your opponent is dead."
Angelus shifted into Angel, while concern filled his chocolate colored eyes. He pulled her close, and stared down at her.
"Buffy, are you going to be able to kill Caleb? He's still human, and Slayers don't kill humans."
"That's where you're wrong, Angel. This is too important, not to mention it won't be Caleb I'm fighting," she explained passionately.
"What do you mean, Mom?” Connor watched her expressive face, trying to understand what she was trying to say.
"The First isn't going to sit on the sidelines while its one chance at taking over could die in a fight. Nope, it's going to put on a Caleb-suit for real.”
She gave them a Cheshire cat grin. Buffy leaned back and waited for them to catch what she was throwing.
"You planned this!" Connor exclaimed.
"Youbetcha.” She pulled them down to the hard cement floor. "Take a load off, we don't have much time. While the Partners choose who you fight, I need to prepare for the First."
"How are you going to do that?”
Two pairs of eyes, which except for color, looked at her with the exact same expression. They waited for her to explain. She couldn’t keep from smiling at them. Buffy didn’t know how much she had missed having someone ask her opinion, and then wait patiently to hear it.
"Had a little visit from a friend on the ride here. They helped me understand what the First has been trying to hide from me. See, it's all about power. I have it, or I will, if you help.”
Buffy turned to Angel. Her hand came out to cup his cheek, as she gazed deeply into his eyes before continuing.
"Remember what the Mohra told us; together we're strong. It wasn't only talking about us. The reason that I was still a Slayer after I drowned, and even after coming back four months later, is because I've become the source. I'm where the Slayer power comes from. That's why Faith was always weaker, but seemed stronger whenever she was around me."
"But what do we have to do with it?” Connor felt more confused than ever.
"If I use you and your father as a focus, I think I can pull the power back to me. Not just Faith and the SiTs outside, but any girl who has the possibility to become a Slayer. Eventually, Faith's healing ability will kick in and she'll recover. The Potentials will return to being ordinary girls and won't have any association with the line. Are you ready?"
Buffy knew this was the right route to take, the only one that could change everything not only for her family, but everyone. She didn’t hate the Scoobies, she really didn’t. They had just outgrown each other, and weren’t mature enough to let each other go. Buffy knew where she belonged, and who she wanted to spend her life with. Her time as the Powers’ pawn was over and it was time for her to take her stand.
She looked at Angel and Connor, and knew where her future lay. Buffy understood that it would get ugly before it got better, and knew she would appear the bad guy, but was willing to accept whatever was thrown at her if it kept her family safe and together. She held their hands firmly in hers. Taking slow, even breaths, she fell into a hypnotic state. Buffy felt her senses expand around her, before racing out into the yard. The shattered power acted like a vacuum, seeking out the pieces inside the others. It literally sucked the essence from the Potentials, causing them to scream and collapse to the ground.
Faith ran over to help the girls, not realizing she was the next target. The force hit her like a ton of bricks, literally knocking her off her feet. Those watching had no idea what to do. The force left quickly and the girls started to get up. Complaints and groans came from everyone, the loudest from Kennedy about the strange feeling that something was missing. They stared up at the night sky in time to see lights surround the house before shooting inside.
Faith got up, groaning loudly. "What, the hell, just happened?”
Gunn rushed from the back to see what had happened. He stopped next to Faith, and extended his hand, while his eyes swept over her, looking for injuries.
"Are you all right?"
Robin ran over, snatching the dark haired Slayer away. "I'll help Faith if she needs anything.”
Each men had an arm as they argued over who would do what. The dark haired Slayer got angry, deciding to resolve the issue in true Faith fashion. She went to jerk her arms free, but found she couldn't break either man's grasp. Trying again with more effort, she succeeded only when their grips loosened as they lost themselves in their argument. She decided to test herself further by shoving her palms into each man's chest. It should have sent them flying; it didn't. Faith sucked in a deep breath, tears pricked her eyes, and she wanted nothing more than to cradle her injured palms.
Putting on a brave face, she shouted over her shoulder. "Yo, G, we got a problem in a major way. Whatever knocked me on my ass sucked out all my Slayer juice. I'm as weak as a real girl."
"Oh my stars."
Giles pulled off his glasses, and immediately started wiping them. He replayed the events in his head before turning to glance at Buffy's house. It clicked together what must have happened. Faith watched him and came to the same conclusion. She took off for the house, only to be stopped by Spike and Wesley. The two men joined forces to bar the door.
"Let me by," she growled.
"Not gonna happen, number two. Run along like a nice little Slayer puppet. You wanted to be a Scooby; looks like you got your wish.”
Spike smirked at the woman who had caused Buffy so much pain, intentionally or not.
"I'm going in there, and you're not going to stop me.”
She tried to push by the bleached blonde vampire. Spike took a single finger, placed it on her forehead, and pushed. She went flying off the front porch to land in a heap on the grass. He chuckled, took out a cigarette, lit it, took a deep drag, and leaned against the door daring anyone else to try. He'd protect Buffy this time. No one was going in the house to stop the Slayer from doing whatever, the hell, she was doing.
"Hurry up, pet, you're running out of time," he said softly.
Glancing up, everyone watched as storm clouds rolled in, while lightning and thunder filled the sky. A cleared field appeared, replacing the cracked ground before the Tribunal. During this time, Buffy stayed locked away with her family, the field grew and changed. It smoothed out until no grass grew. The smooth area spread into a large circle split down the middle, one side colored black and the other white. Strange markings framed the outermost edge in alternating black and white shapes. The Tribunal sat center stage able to see the strange area in its entirety.
The front door opened, and Angelus stepped out first, followed by Connor. Everyone turned to see what was happening. Still unused to the changes in the normally unobtrusive vampire the cocky walk and smirk took them off guard. Seeing Connor with a similar self-confidence gave the AI team an eerie feeling of deja vu. Buffy finally walked out to join her small family. The three walked lockstep towards the cleared area.
Kennedy decided it was time to confront the blonde Slayer. "What happened to us? I know you’re somehow responsible."
Not batting an eyelash or taking her focus from her destination, Buffy punched the other girl in the jaw. She stepped over the Kennedy’s crumpled body as if she were nothing. As far as Buffy was concerned she wasn’t her problem, not anymore.
"So wanted to do that for like - ever. No way any part of me will ever be in that girl."
Angelus gave a throaty laugh. He loved it when his girl played rough. Thank goodness she talked Angel into letting him fight, otherwise neither would get to enjoy seeing what the future had in store.
"Kennedy!" Willow screamed, rushing to help her lover.
Everyone watched in stunned silence as Buffy, Angelus and Connor walked up to the circle, with Spike, Wesley and Gunn following close behind them. Not knowing what else to do, they followed suit. They stopped mere feet from Buffy’s appointed bodyguards. No one seemed able to meet the three pairs of eyes that looked at them as if they were nothing.
Across the circle on the opposite side stood their opponents. Caleb glared at Buffy, beside him stood Lindsey McDonald with strange tattoos marking his entire body, and last but not least - Sahjhan.
A deep growl erupted from the dark vampire. They each wanted vengeance on this particular demon. Too bad, they couldn't trade with their boy, although a chance to taunt and beat on Lindsey wouldn't be a bad thing in their book.
Each pulled a sword from a scabbard at their backs and stepped into the circle, and their opponents followed suit. When they faced each other in the center, the black and white symbols flared to life. They glowed with the same light and darkness as the Tribunal judges.
The High Judge's voice rang out. "The rules of combat are simple. Only one combatant from each pairing may walk away, no combatant can help another, no outside interference allowed, you may only use what you bring into the circle and cannot leave until the victor is clear.”
His wings folded together then unfurled spreading light over the entire field.
"Let the battle begin."
Angelus leapt at Lindsey testing his opponent's metal. He wasn't surprised to see the tattoos start to glow. His one advantage was that the other man thought he was fighting Soul Boy.
"Lindsey, looks like you went out and got yourself some mojo."
"Something I picked up in Nepal, you like?”
The smaller man smiled wickedly, his blue eyes narrowing with hate for the souled vampire.
"You can buy that crap in the airport.”
He smiled when he saw the smaller man turn red with fury. Swinging his sword, he was careful to fight like his souled half, with less flare and ruthlessness. Lindsey met the thrust with his own sword, throwing off the blade and swung upward for another strike. Angelus dodged under the swing, allowing it to brush his shoulder. He kept his face somber and his eyes serious, never allowing the light of battle to enter them.
Lindsey smiled, feeling the power rush through his body. Today on this battlefield, he would lay to rest the pain and humiliation he'd suffered because of the souled vampire. He, Lindsey McDonald, would kill this son of a bitch and become the Partners golden boy once more.
"What's the matter, Angel, not used to having to fight a real man?”
The former lawyer spun around, slicing downward with his sword while he kicked Angel in the kneecap at the same time.
"Don't know, haven't found one to fight," Angelus shot back, swallowing a grunt of pain while he faked falling to his knees.
Deciding to step up his game, he shot straight up from a crouched position, dragging his sword point along Lindsey's body as he landed behind him.
Clutching his stomach as blood seeped from the wound; Lindsey dodged the strike meant to take his head. He didn't understand. Angel never fought this way. Lindsey knew Angel's moves and hadn't seen that one coming. Shaking his head to clear his thoughts, the smaller man barely brought his sword up in time to meet the blade coming at him.
Angelus pushed his advantage. The blood that scented air brought out his demon. A malicious smirk graced his lips as he disarmed the smaller man. Throwing his own sword away, the Master vampire stalked his prey. Lindsey threw himself at Angel intent on showing the vampire that he didn't need a sword to beat him. Spinning in the air, Lindsey’s foot hit Angelus’ face, knocking him back.
The two started exchanging blows at a fast and furious pace. Exhaustion finally started to catch up to them. Even vampires could only last so long. Their blows slowed, and each kick and punch seemed to take a little longer than the last. Lindsey got in a lucky punch, and then picked up Angelus. He tried to line up the vampire so he could bring him down over his knee and break the larger man's back. He then planned to grab a sword and relieve one vampire of his head. Problem solved.
Before the other man knew what was happening, Angelus flipped over mid-air pulled him up into his own arms and sunk his fangs into Lindsey's neck.
"Stop! What are you doing?”
He struggled in Angelus' arms, feeling his life slipping away and knew that he would spend eternity enduring horrible punishments for his failure.
Angelus dropped the limp body on the ground. He watched the body disappear then turned and walked away from the battlefield.
"Stupid boy, a vampire carries his weapon with him everywhere he goes.”
He kept his head down, not daring to see how Buffy or Connor fared; knowing anything his instincts would press him into doing could cost their lives. He stepped through the glowing outer ring, before turning back to see if his family still lived.
Spike placed a hand on his grandsire's shoulder. He knew Angelus well, and could practically hear his thoughts.
"Your boy's doing right well for himself."
Connor stared at the demon responsible for sending him to Quor-Toth. Holding his sword loosely in his hand, he circled Sahjhan, looking for a place to attack. The draped cloaks the demon wore disguised his body making it difficult to determine his weaknesses.
"So, we meet at last," Sahjhan said. "The Destroyer is here to destroy me.” His mummy wrapped body swayed as he talked. “How'd Quor-Toth work out for you, anyway?"
"Better than going to Disney World, gotta thank you lots for that," Connor answered sarcastically.
His confidence had the time demon off balance. Sahjhan hadn’t expected to combat a cocky teenage. He expected facing the person responsible for sending him to hell, would put the advantage in his court.
"Let's see what you got, kid."
"I'm not a kid."
Connor rushed in with an upward slice, which Sahjhan easily parried. He had to jump away when the demon reversed his sword midway, thrusting it at his stomach.
"You sure about that?” The time demon brought his sword down, slicing a long gash in Connor's arm. "Thought you were supposed to be some big, bad prophesy child. The only thing you're destroying is my night. Why don't you just stand still, kid, and I promise to make it quick?” Another flick of his wrist left a cut on Connor's chest. "This is sad, really. They don't write prophecies the way they used to.”
Ugh. He grunted when he felt a solid kick to his side.
"That wasn't very nice, I was talking here.”
Turning, he punched Connor in the jaw, sending him flying, and stalked after him. He waited until Sahjhan stood directly over him, ready to crush his head with his foot, before twisting back around to stab the demon in the stomach. The time demon looked down in shock at this turn of events. Connor punched him in the face, knocking him backward several steps. Pushing forward with his sword, he swung it with as much force as he could muster. Sahjhan could barely keep up with the blows they were coming so quickly. Connor saw his opening and took it. Following a brutal strike with a right cross, he pulled the sword back around before Sahjhan knew what had happened. The time demon's head bounced as it hit the ground, his body toppled down after it, both disappeared soon after.
The Destroyer fulfilled the prophecy that Sahjhan folded and unfolded time trying to thwart. He turned and walked away to join his father on the sidelines to await his mother's fate.
Buffy quietly studied Caleb. The fanatical preacher's lips curled into a malicious grin and he looked ready to smack them together. He was so hungry to get his hands on her that she could see them clenching and unclenching around his sword. The grin changed to an all too familiar smirk, but it was gone in the blink of an eye. Buffy knew the First wouldn't show its hand before the Tribunal. She had to force it to lose its temper and show its real face. The trick was getting Caleb to slip his hold enough that the First couldn’t help but show everyone that it was there all along. It would take a lot of fancy footwork, but she'd always liked to dance. She twirled her sword in a lazy manner, allowing the blade slowly to increase its speed until it was nothing more than silver blurs whistling in the air.
"So, Cal, didn't think you were going to get let off your leash, at least not to come play all by yourself. You sure you're allowed out this late? Maybe they should've sent someone who doesn't have such a major hang up with women."
His face purpled with rage. "I don't need help to beat you, you little whore. I've already proven that twice before and today is the final time. You'll die at my feet in a matter of minutes. I'm even stronger now that my master's power runs in my veins. I'm their vessel and they have filled me up. I was barren and they gave me..."
"Oh, for crying out loud enough already. Are you going to talk me to death? I thought you were the man, the one, the Neo of Evil. Well, show me what you got. Oh, ye of no dick."
Caleb rushed forward, his sword held high intent on cleaving Buffy in half in one fell swoop. She quickly ducked at the last possible moment, rolling her body away as her own sword came into play. He roared in anger, spinning back around like an angry bull. The weapon in his hand moving back and forth rapidly, getting closer to her with each step. She waited as long as possible, allowing him to think that he would once again have the chance at an easy kill. Buffy propelled her body up and over the swinging blade to land behind him. Smiling gleefully, she planted her foot on his backside and shoved with all her might, sending the First's vessel crashing into the ground face first. Her laughter rang out in the arena.
"Oops, my bad."
Caleb got to his feet, brushing off his clothes, his eyes darkened with an evil light, making his face even more menacing. He turned back around to run at her before she knew what he was doing. In the blink of an eye, he tackled her to the ground and started punching her in the face.
"You think you have power over me. That you can treat me like I'm one of your lowly men who crawl after you, begging for your touch. I'm my Master's vessel. I'm the one who'll rule through them. I'm..."
A fist came flying, slamming into Caleb's head knocking him to the ground. She jumped up in one liquid motion, her fist and feet never let up as she attacked the downed man. She knew that her time was running out and that the First wasn't going to let this go on much longer. Buffy intended to make every blow count, as her body never stopped moving. Spinning around, her feet slammed into Caleb's back with such force that it spun his body around. She followed up with a fist to his jaw, causing him to twist back in the other direction. It was the last straw when teeth and blood spewed over the arena floor.
Shrieking erupted from the beaten preacher's mouth as he stumbled, only to right himself. Renewed strength surged through his body when he willingly allowed the First to have total control. The sword he lost in the earlier struggle suddenly appeared in his hand. Walking purposefully toward Buffy, he swung the blade smoothly causing the air to sing with the stroke.
She stumbled backward, trying to move away from the deadly blade. She had to think of something more to push the First over the edge, the last little bit needed to force it into showing its face.
"Caleb, I wanted to ask you how it felt being with such a loser?"
His steps slowed, but didn't stop their single-minded journey.
"What do you mean? The only loser I see is you. You're the one without a sword, who's about to die."
"Didn't the Big Bad tell you about the last time it tried to beat me and lost?” Her grin brightened when she saw the anger leap into 'his' eyes.
"I…my Master didn't lose to you. The vampire wasn't a worthy vessel. My Master decided that it was best to wait for one who was more worthy.”
"Yeah, huh, keep telling yourself that. Funny how the only way your master could come back was if I returned from the dead. Wouldn't that make me more powerful? You know I never really thought about that before."
She stopped backing up, ignoring Caleb while she struck a pose. A finger tapped her temple.
"That must be why it wanted Angel to kill me.” She crowed with laughter. "Here I thought it was the 'ooh', big scary evil, and it was really scared of little ole me.”
Buffy started dancing around, looking more cheerleader than Slayer. Her blonde ponytail bounced in time with her steps.
"I'm bad, and I know it, who's bad, uh, that's right. Uh, huh. The Slayer, that's me. Uh, huh.”
She felt a pain in her side, knowing that she had sent the First over the edge; faintly she heard her family yelling on the sidelines as she sunk to the ground.
The First squatted beside the Slayer, the bloody sword still clasped in its hand. It leaned down low, so that only Buffy could hear.
"Oh, no... Ow! Mommy, those mortal wounds are...itchy. You pulled a nice trick. You gave me a good run. In fact, I've had so much fun running around being you that after I take your head, I might take the rest of you on a more permanent basis. Oh, and don't worry about your boys, I like them too. You son will make a delicious pet.”
The First got to its knees, raising the sword above its head ready to strike the final blow that would bring all its plans to fruition.
The High Judge's voice rang out. "Stop!”
He stood to his full height, his large multi-hued grey toned wings unfurled as he shoved his inner light out over the arena, forcing the First away from Buffy's downed body.
"You have violated the rules of combat and will pay the price.”
The light grew in intensity, until those watching had to cover their eyes. Buffy rolled over, covering her head while peaking underneath. She wasn't about to miss the chance to witness the First's ultimate destruction. The light hit 'Caleb's' body, knocking it off its feet. The arena floor started to ripple and churn. The First, no longer worried about hiding within Caleb's body, broke free trying to escape. It didn't help. A large hole opened in the floor, sucking master and vessel down, before closing up again, leaving no trace of either. Buffy climbed back to her feet, only to watch the Tribunal slowly start to disappear.
The High Judge's voice floated on the air. "You have won your reward Warrior; your destinies are your own.”
The court and arena faded away, returning everything exactly to the way it looked prior to their appearance.
Angelus and Connor raced out to meet Buffy. They wrapped her between them, intent on never letting her out of their sight again. The small family walked back to the others arm-in-arm. Everyone started talking at once, until Spike let out a loud whistle, which effectively quieted them.
"Buffy, what happened out there? What does all this mean?” Giles asked, taking the lead for everyone else.
"It means that ding dang dong the First Evil is dead. Now, I'm going into my house to pack some things, and then plan to leave with my family. I suggest that you think about doing the same."
"What about the Hellmouth? Buffy, please, I know things got rather heated and things were said in anger, but you still have a duty as the Slayer."
Giles spoke with the soft, disapproving tone that would normally have her towing the line, just to make him stop. Buffy knew she was destined to disappoint him. It was time for them to go their separate ways, and Giles more than anyone needed to find a life outside of Sunnydale.
"Wrong. My life is my own, and so is yours. Make of it what you will, I know I plan to.”
She turned around, walking away from the people who had been her whole life for the last seven years. If she had looked back, she would've seen a sea of stunned faces.
"Did she just quit being a Slayer?” Vi asked Rona.
"Can you quit being a Slayer?” Amanda asked.
Wesley, Gunn and Spike walked into Buffy's house to help pack. They didn't want to stand outside listening to the others arguing. Within a surprisingly short time, the few things Buffy wanted to keep were loaded into Angel's car. She walked out laughing at something Connor had said.
The Scoobies couldn't remember the last time they had seen her looking that way. Before they knew what was happening, she strolled past them, climbed into Angel's car and drove off for parts unknown.
Angel drove to the Hyperion long enough to pack his and Connor's belongings. They were heading out and not telling anyone their destination. He turned the business over to Wesley, and Spike decided stick around and provide some extra muscle.
The new family landed in Ireland two nights later. They found a wonderful old house nestled on a cliffside, where the years passed by quickly. Connor eventually married and had children. The once small family of three grew by leaps and bounds.
A tiny little girl with large hazel eyes looked up at a petite woman with the same eyes.
"Grammy, tell me how you knocked Grampy down when you met him."
Laughter filled the cool night air. "Joyce Anne, you've heard that story a dozen times."
"Tell it again, Grammy. Please.”
A tiny bow-shaped mouth fell into a pout, while expressive eyes did their best puppy dog pleading.
"Okay, don't do the puppy eyes. You're worst than your grandfather."
"Did I hear someone call my name?”
A tall, handsome man, with chocolate colored eyes joined them, lifting the tiny child into the air.
All was right in this part of the world, and would remain so for years to come, at least until this small imp grew into the power that lay dormant in her tiny body. The two people who watched over her protectively would guide her until it was time to fight by her side in the final battle. Then they would join the rest of their family who had passed over the last hundred years. The End