Pulling his final bag out of his small Muggle car, Harry Potter eyed the large stone structure in front of him. It was a type of house that his relatives, the Dursley’s, would call a mansion. Harry was sure their small house on Privet Drive would be dwarfed by the massive home. The stone structure looked to be at least three floors tall, and wide steps seemed to skip the first floor all together, ending on a wide porch of sorts that stretched all across the front, several rooms opening up to it. Climbing the stairs, he stepped between two massive columns to reach up for a knocker on the front door.
Before Harry could even knock, the door was thrown open. One of the girls from the other day, Kennedy, smiled, “Come on in, Harry. Willow is finishing her packing and then we are off to the airport.”
Harry looked about. “This is impressive.” They were in a grand meeting hall, a large spiral staircase stretching to the second floor.
Kennedy nodded. “Isn’t it grand? This is Adam’s other home. He never uses it so he let us stay here.” Shaking her head, she added, “I don’t understand how he can stay in his small flat when he has a home like this.”
“Oh, you’ll meet him when we get to LA. He, Remus and Sirius already left. There was some talk about needing to leave on a private flight – something about Remus not having the proper paperwork to travel for a werewolf and Adam wanting to bring along some of his prized swords.” Shaking her head, she added, “Kind of strange if you ask me.”
From above, a male voice yelled out, “Willow, take that bloody owl out now!”
“Sorry!” a voice called out apologetically. A few seconds later Willow came running down the stairs, an owl sitting on her shoulder. Seeing Harry, she ran right towards him. “Great. You’re here! I think this little guy is here to see you.” Handing Harry the owl, she then pulled a letter out from her back pocket. “He came flying in and dropped this right on Giles’ head.”
A voice from up stairs yelled out, “Willow, are you ready yet?”
She turned and yelled back, “Almost. I need to go back up stairs and fetch my bags.” Taking up off the stairs, Willow once again disappeared.
Harry opened the letter and smiled.
I just want you to know that I wish the best for your trip to LA. Remus had sent an owl to us last night, and I didn’t get it until after arguing with you. He knew I wouldn’t trust these people and wanted me to know it is okay. Apparently, he and Sirius think this will be good for you. Just like Ginny, a change in surroundings may help. Plus, there is going to be plenty of work to do in LA. Remus said they are establishing a new watchers base there. Can you imagine all the volumes they are going to have? If it wasn’t for Lizzie, I would be following you there. Think of all the information you are going to be privy to. How exciting!!!
Well, I need to go. Ron is trying to drag me out the door to get to his mum’s. Molly said she would watch Lizzie while you are gone, and George is going to help part of the time. I think he gets bored all alone at the shop, being school is still in session. He’ll have plenty of time with the lack of customers. However, today Lizzie will be spoiled by Grandma. I would tell her not to give her so many chocolate chip cookies, but it won’t work. Oh well.
Ron’s actually giving me a dirty look. Funny, this is reverse than usual. Have fun, and oh, Ron said you better bring him back a cool present from LA. Have fun and good luck!
Harry folded up the letter and placed in his pocket. Carrying Pig to the door, he let the owl out and watched it fly away. As an older man and Willow came down the stairs with bags, Harry couldn’t help but wonder what was ahead of him in LA. How would he keep in touch with Hermione and Ron?
Liz, shaking, woke up. Looking at the clock, she sighed. It was barely four in the morning. Getting up, careful not to wake up Max, she grabbed a blanket and headed for the kitchen. Trying to be quiet, she sifted through the dishes they had unpacked. Finding her mug – for they didn’t have many being on the run – she ran herself some water and then heated it up in the microwave. Much to her delight, Max had already unpacked her stash of Cocoa. Pulling out a packet of powder, she opened it and as soon as her water was heated, poured it into the mug. Hot chocolate filled the air, and cradling the cup, she journeyed to the living room, sitting on their couch in front of the big bay window.
It was so quiet, and she sipped her cocoa, just listening. It was almost too quiet. She couldn’t hear a peep. Placing the cup down on the coffee table, she stretched out. Closing her eyes, she tried to fall back to sleep, if just for a while. However, the silent room bugged her. Sitting back up, sighing, she looked to the window. It was frosted on the edges. Why was it frosted? In the quiet night, she reached out to touch it when her hot chocolate crashed to the floor.
Cursing, “damn,” under her breath, she ran to the kitchen. Grabbing a paper towel, she returned to the living room. The mug was back on the table in one piece, full of the bubbly hot chocolate. “What the?” Kneeling down, she touched the floor where it had spilled. It was dry. “Okay, so maybe all this traveling has my nerves worn. Then again, I could still be asleep and dreaming.”
That was when the footsteps started. Jumping up, Liz looked around. Was she going crazy? It sounded like there was someone walking around in the kitchen. Running to the kitchen, she listened as now the footsteps were in the bedroom. Following slowly, she came to the bedroom as they entered the bathroom. The door swung closed and Liz stood stock still. Should she tell Max? Would he think she was just going crazy?
Slowly heading to the bathroom, she reached out to the doorknob. It was ice cold. Pulling her hands away, she cupped them around her mouth and breathed into them, warming them up. Then, taking a deep breath, she stepped into the bathroom. The light was on and the shower was going. Steam was already filling the room, and she gasped as she noticed words written on the mirror, “Where’s Cordelia?”
A chill was filling the air again. As steam filled the room, Liz noticed an icy cloud coming from her mouth as she breathed out. She felt frozen, but for some reason, she asked, “Who are you?”
Slowly a name was etched into the steam-covered mirror, “Dennis.”
“Uh, hi, Dennis. I’m Liz. I’ll try to help, but I don’t know who Cordelia is.” From nowhere a card dropped to the floor. Bending down, Liz studied it and asked, “Is this how I find your friend?”
Suddenly the shower stopped and the air was once again warm. The door opened and Max asked as Liz jumped, “Is everything alright in here?”
“Yes. I was… I was just about to take a shower. It was a bit cold and I thought it would warm me up.”
“Liz, it’s still hot in the apartment. Are you well? You’re not sick, are you?”
“I’m fine.” Kissing him on the nose, she added, “I’ll be out in a minute. Don’t stay up for me.”
Max nodded and left, going back to the bedroom. Sighing, Liz whispered, “Dennis?” When there was no answer, Liz added, “I’ll check on this. I promise. Just don’t try freezing me out again, okay?”
Gunn sat in his truck, resting his head against the steering wheel. Once again it was another day at the office – the new office. He felt so useless. Fred was the scientist. Wesley was the demonologist. Angel was the champion. Brains and muscle were taken. What did that leave for him? Angel’s henchman when he was busy? Was he second best, not really needed?
Frowning, he sat back, grabbed his basketball from the passenger seat and then got out of the truck. Locking it up, he headed through the garage of Wolfram and Hart to the elevator to the main building. No one was around. It was early morning, and even though lawyers were known for being work driven, the parking garage was almost completely empty. Knowing these lawyers, they probably had some spell they could set on themselves to make up for lost time – either that or they had their flunkies do it.
Bouncing the ball, the sound of it echoing through the garage, Gunn paused for a moment, looking around. There was actually one car around, and he was for sure he knew whom it belonged to. He had seen her leave a few nights before when she had introduced herself to Angel. Seeing her car here didn’t surprise him. Eve gave him the heebie jeebies. No, he didn’t trust her one bit. Not at all.
Stepping into the elevator, he pressed the button for his floor. He would stop by his office, look through a few files Wesley had left on his desk last night as he was leaving, and then head down to the Big Cat. If there was anyone here that understood him, it was the Big Cat. Part of him enjoyed that aspect of the job. The other part of him wondered if it was wrong to enjoy it. The Big Cat was just a form taken by an evil being. What was to say that the Cat wouldn’t turn on him, no matter how many times he visited the White Room?
The doors to the elevator opened in front of him, and he stepped out onto his floor. His office, next to Wesley’s, was wide open. The light was on, and he was for sure had shut the door and turned off the lights. Going into attack mode, he readied himself, balancing the ball in one hand as the other was ready to strike. He decided to sneak to the office, peering into the office and then shaking his head as he noticed what was waiting for him.
Eve sat on his desk. She was wearing a skimpy red outfit with matching red shoes. Her legs stretched out forever it seemed – well, stretched out to where she was crossing her ankles. Smiling at him, she remarked, “Good morning, Sunshine.”
Throwing his ball through a hoop he had on one of the walls, he then stalked towards her. “You’re sitting on my files.”
Eve leaned to the side. Pulling some of the files out from under her, she handed them to Gunn. “So is it just a formality for Wesley to hand you the files? Does it make you feel important looking at them before Angel decides which case to follow? Just wondering, since this really isn’t your forte, if you know what I mean.”
Throwing down the papers, Gunn pointed to the door. “Out.”
Pushing herself off the desk, she sauntered to him. Reaching down, she pulled a small card from the top of her dress. She let it slide seductively over her bare chest and then tapped it against him. “I can help you.”
“I don’t need help from you.”
“Just think about it. How would you like to hold your own, to be valuable? This is a law firm, not the streets. Angel doesn’t have anyone that knows the rules of this playground. You could.” When Gunn just stared at her, she then placed it in one of his shirt pockets. “I’m not trying to help Angel. I’m just trying to help you. Think about it.”
Gunn watched her leave and then reached down in his pocket as he placed his files back on the desk. It was a business card for a tailor. Staring at the card and then the files on his desk, he placed the card back in his pocket and headed for the door, leaving the files behind. Damn her. She knew he felt useless. Was she just playing him? What would the Big Cat have to say about it?
Graham groaned in his sleep. It was the dream he had been repeating. He had escaped from the research ward. They were chasing him, and with a thought, they were being thrown away from him, many of them hitting the walls in sickening thuds. The end of the hall was coming. He was close to escape. However, as he crossed the threshold, not minding the blinding agony of electricity that surged through him, he only thought he was closer to freedom. A whole unit was waiting for him on the other side, their guns aiming. With just a thought the deadly blood bath began. He was faster, quicker. Guns flew out of their hands while others backfired, killing them. Graham grabbed one as it flew through the air, firing it. As he shot at them, taking time every once in a while to feel the glory in physical fighting – a kick or a punch here and there, fires started breaking out. He was causing it. If they didn’t let him out, then he would burn them all. Bodies were strewn about him and a voice called out to him. It was Sam. She begged him to stop, and then as he threw her against a wall of boxes with his powers, something strange happened. He was somewhere new – somewhere not related to him.
It looked like he was in a basement. There was death and blood everywhere. Girls fought all around him. Buffy and Hostile 17 – no Spike – were just getting up, trying to help people out from what looked to be a mad man dressed in the cloth. Xander had just run down the stairs and was scanning the place, helping people escape. A dark headed girl ran past him, a girl over her own shoulder. Not far away another girl was getting up from where a wine rack had crashed around her. Xander ran to her, helped her. The girl looked dazed, but she nodded and then ran for safety. Following, Xander paused by the stairs. “I really hate this part.”
Graham turned. Beside him was also Xander. This one looked straight at him. “Are you talking to me?”
“Yes.” Xander looked at him like he was crazy. “Who else would I be talking to?” Looking around, Xander added, “This nightmare frequents my dreams, but out of all the times I’ve relived this night, never have I been joined. Even so, this dream, not so with the warm and fuzzies. Are you sure you want to stick around? I could just give you the cliff notes version.” He pointed to his patched eye.
Graham found his attention back on the scene in front of him for some reason. The priest had grabbed Xander by the neck. “You’re the one who sees everything, right? Let’s see what we can do about that.” In that instant, the priest had reached out and was pressing his thumb into Xander’s eye. Blood was pouring out. Graham wanted to turn around. He didn’t want to watch, but yet he felt he had to. The priest was going for the second eye when Spike slammed into him. Xander fell into Buffy’s arms as Spike started to punch the priest and then everything went white.
There was silence all around him. Then, a throat cleared. “Not to be nosey or anything, but what is up with this dream sharing thing? Not that I don’t mind the company, but it’s kind of freaky.”
Graham shook his head. “I don’t know.” Turning to Xander, he added, “Can’t say I’m really happy about sharing part of my life.” The two stared at each other for a minute and then Graham added, “You’re brave, you know?”
“Me? Brave? You should see all my other memories. Basically there’s me, and a big cloud of dust behind me as I run away. Buffy, now she was the champion.”
“Why don’t I believe that?”
“Trust me. Just ask any of my friends. I’m just butt monkey Xander.”
“Butt monkey Xander?”
The two fell silent again. Finally, Graham broke it by asking, “Are you coming by today?”
“As soon as I can pull Faith out of bed.”
Xander headed down to Faith’s room. His head was full of thoughts. How was he sharing dreams with Graham? Did it have something to do with what the army had done to Graham? Then again, maybe it had to do with what that doctor had said. Hadn’t he mentioned a gift? That was crazy though, wasn’t it? Xander was the simple one. There wasn’t anything special about him.
Faith’s door opened before Xander could even knock. “Hey. You ready to go?”
She was dressed in plain jeans and a t-shirt, which was nothing new. Her eyes were a bit puffy and had dark circles under them. Pulling her hair up in a ponytail, she grabbed the keys Angel had handed over to her a few days before when they had arrived in LA. She shut the door as he asked, “Are you okay?”
“What’s it to you?”
Following her down the stairs, Xander frowned. Faith, even though usually not a nice person, hadn’t been that gruff with him for some time. Sure, she was sulky, but something was off. “Just trying to be a friend.”
Turning to him, Faith stared. Her eyes were searching him, trying to find an answer. Finally, she started, “When all this was coming to, Robin and I…”
Xander held out his hand. “Please don’t give me all the details.”
Faith nodded. “I broke it off, but then Robin played a little reverse psychology on me. We agreed that if we both got out of everything alive then we would start all over by having a proper relationship.”
“Sounds like a nice idea to me.”
Smiling, Faith remarked, “It does, doesn’t it. For an escaped convict like me it actually sounded pretty decent. Can you see me in a proper relationship? Think about it. I could actually have a date.”
“A date?” asked Xander. “Compared to what?” As soon as he asked, he knew the answer.
“Yes, a date. You know, a dinner and a movie. Not a one night stand.”
“I must admit that a dinner and a movie sound good.”
“But I’m not a dinner and a movie kind of girl.”
Xander shook his head. “Sure you are. Who said you weren’t?”
“No one.” Faith led him outside to the SUV Angel had given them to use. It had been one of the vehicles that belonged to Wolfram and Hart. He hadn’t thought twice about loaning it out. Getting in, she waited for Xander to get in. As she pulled into the street, she added, “I’ll just drop you off.”
“You’re not coming in?”
“I’ll stop by this afternoon.” Smiling at him, she added, “Someone has to make sure that you make your appointments.”
Xander frowned. When they got to LA, Willow – before heading off with Giles and Kennedy – had made sure he visited the doctor. Today would be his second appointment. It wasn’t something he looked forward to. Going there and having someone once again confirm his fears that the eye would need to be replaced after it healed enough wasn’t what he needed.
“So, who is this Graham you’re going to visit again today?”
“Someone from Sunnydale.”
“Okay. Going secretive. Got it.”
“So are you. What happened with Robin?”
“He wants to go back to being a principal.”
“That sounds great.”
“He wants a break from the fighting and being I come with the fighting… I guess almost dying has given him some time to think.”
Xander frowned. Part of him understood what Robin wanted, but another part remembered how happy they had seemed even over the last few days. “Maybe you can patch things up.”
“Yeah. We can be friends. Then, if that goes well, maybe he’ll reconsider and we’ll date a bit – date without the vampires and demons and… well, you get it.”
“I’m sorry, Faith.”
Faith reached out a free hand from the steering wheel and placed it on his. “I know. Just promise me something.”
“Next time you have a chance for love, don’t give up on it.”
Xander thought back with pain, remembering as Andrew told him Anya didn’t make it, that she had saved him and fought to the end. Anya. She had been so much to him. However, she wasn’t the one. She had been a part of his life he treasured and loved, a part that he greatly missed. Maybe he should have taken the plunge, had a year by her side. Maybe he had screwed up. If anyone knew not to give up a chance now, it was Xander. He had lost someone dear, and if he was ever in that position again, this time he would know that he had given that person his all. It was only right. “I won’t.”
Spike sat quietly, watching the people around him at a fast food place called McDonalds. He knew that he should know of this place, that the term ‘happy meal’ was familiar. There was also this strange feeling that he really shouldn’t care for the food. The hamburgers lacked and the fries were greasy. Very unhealthy. However, here they were. Lindsey had said it was the easiest place to find on a road trip and was also dirt cheap, whatever that meant.
Reluctantly taking a bite of his cheeseburger, which just tasted wrong, Spike sighed and leaned forward. His eyes closed and all of a sudden he was in a new place. He was in what looked like a basement. A girl with long golden hair stood across from him. She was looking up at him, remarking, “Angel said the amulet was to be worn by a champion.” Walking to him, she handed it to him.
“I’ve been called a lot of things in my time,” he started when all of a sudden he was back in the McDonalds, Lindsey sitting down across from him.
Laying his keys on the table, Lindsey asked, “You ready to head on out?”
Spike shook his head, trying to get the cobwebs out. Who was that girl? For some reason the name Buffy came up. Buffy Summers. Beautiful Buffy Summers. The Slayer. Instead of answering, Spike muttered her name. “Buffy.”
“I remember her, or at least I remember her face and that beautiful smile. She was giving me something. I think it was an amulet of some kind. Angel had brought it to her.”
“So you remember Angel now?”
Spike shuttered. “Not really. I just remember feelings towards that name. Anger. Pure rage. And believe it or not, a touch of respect.”
“And Buffy? You remember the slayer?”
“Buffy – yes. But she’s not the slayer, she’s one of many.”
Spike shook his head. “Don’t ask me how, but the numbers have changed.”
“Not just Buffy and Faith?”
Spike smiled at the name Faith. “No. There’s more. They’re everywhere.”
“How do you know this? Yesterday you didn’t know your own name.”
“The name is William, not Spike as you’ve been calling me, and it’s not that I remember. I just have this feeling.”
The two stared at each other, Lindsey slowly letting out his breath. “We probably should get back on the road.”
Spike nodded. “Right. Back on the road.”
Ginny slowly emerged from her room, fresh from a shower and one of the best night’s sleep she had had in a long time. Even the strange dreams she had been having in the last week were gone. The hotel was quiet, but it was about ten in the morning. People should be up by now, but where were they? Feeling like she was in an abandoned building, she made her way to the lobby, almost jumping as the front door to the hotel opened. Turning, she found herself eye to eye with a dark haired woman with deep brown eyes. The young woman smiled. “Are you here for Angel?”
“Ginny. Ginny Weasley. I’ve been hired to help answer the phones. Fred said she would show me the ropes this morning.”
“Oh. Okay. I’d forgotten all about that. Angel had mentioned something the other day at the hospital, but I’d forgotten.” Holding out her hand, she added, “I’m Faith by the way.”
“Do you happen to know what I’m supposed be doing?”
“Not really. I know when I was here earlier in the year, there wasn’t much time to answer the phone.” Going behind the desk, she looked about. “Now where would Cordelia have kept a message book or something?” Sifting around, she popped her head up. “Maybe she put it all on the computer.” Sitting down, Faith stretched, popped her fingers, and then asked as Ginny came around the desk to join her, “Any idea where the power switch is?”
Ginny shook her head. “No. I know nothing of computers.”
“Same here. Haven’t had time for them. If only Willow were here.” Pushing buttons on the front, she finally smiled as the screen and CPU started whirling.
“So what do we do now?”
“We wait for something to come up on the screen and then we use this mouse thing to…”
From above a voice remarked, “Faith, I thought you knew more about computers. Shame on you.” Fred came down the stairs and joined them, asking, “Aren’t you and Xander supposed to be at the hospital?”
“Xander’s there. I’m going back later,” answered Faith, a strange tone to her voice.
“Is everything okay?”
“Sure. Five by five.”
Reaching over, Fred started, “First of all, even though Cordelia liked to put everything in this nice little scheduling program on the computer, she also used the old fashioned messaging system.” Opening a drawer, she pulled out what looked to be a planner and a book of phone message receipts. “She would answer the phone by saying, ‘Angel Investigations, we help the hopeless,’ and then she would write the job down on this slip of paper. If she scheduled anything, she would put it down in the planner, making sure we didn’t have anything else. However, most of the time she would write down the job and we would discuss what would be needed for it before actually scheduling anything. Got it?”
Ginny studied everything. “Got it. Take the message, don’t schedule anything with clients.”
“Right, especially right now. We are in transition, so we’ll just let Angel return all the calls at his disposal. You can either wait for one of us to come get the message, or you can call it in to Angel at Wolfram and Hart, depending on the urgency.”
“So I call Angel only if it is urgent?”
A voice interrupted from the back. “Fred, have you seen my favorite black shirt?” Ginny felt her stomach drop when a very good looking man walked in. “I can’t find it,” he added.
Fred pushed up her glasses. “You moved all your stuff to Wolfram and Hart.”
“I know, but I can’t find it anywhere. I thought maybe it had been left behind in the laundry room or something.”
“Haven’t seen it.”
Faith stepped into the conversation. “Angel, I don’t realize if you know this or not, but all you wear is black. How can you have a favorite? It all looks the same.”
“It isn’t all the same, and hey, I wear color.”
Ginny all of a sudden found herself breaking down in laughter. All the guy had on was black. She tried to voice this in her laughter but only Fred and Faith caught on. They both started to laugh while Angel stood confused. “Okay, what’s so funny?”
Faith pointed and shook her head. “That.”
“All you’re wearing is black.”
“I don’t have to take this.”
Angel, a sulky look on his face, turned to leave when Fred jumped around the desk and caught on to him. “Angel, wait. I want you to meet someone.” Pulling him back over, she motioned to Ginny. “This is Miss Weasley.”
“Ah yes.” Holding out his hand, he added, “Welcome to the insanity that is Angel Investigations.”
Blushing, Ginny nodded. “Thank you.”
Pulling back, Angel added, “Maybe you could check around about my shirt, Fred, and uh, Giles called. The gang is coming back from England. They’re bringing a few with them.”
“A few?” asked Fred.
“Seven people in all. Three of them will arrive early this afternoon at the latest. The rest will arrive late tonight.”
“So I need to open seven new rooms?” asked Fred.
Angel shook his head. “We’ll need five rooms. Open the last three of the suites and then two of the smaller rooms.”
Faith shook her head at Fred. “Wrong, Fred. You need to go to Wolfram and Hart today. I’m sure Ginny and I can get the rooms ready.” Looking at Ginny, she asked, “You in?”
“Sure. Oz can do without me today.”
“Great.” Smiling, she added, “We have it all taken care of. Who should we check in where?”
“Giles, Mr. Pierson, Mr. Lupin and Black receive the suites. Willow and Kennedy get a smaller room and so does Harry.”
Faith counted on her fingers, “Giles, Pierson, Lupin and Black get suites. Willow, Kennedy and Harry smaller rooms.”
“Right.” Glancing at Ginny and noticing her sickly look, he asked, “Are you okay, Ginny?”
Slowly nodding, Ginny answered, “Sure. Fine.”
“Great!” Turning to leave, he added before disappearing, “And Fred, check Lorne’s closet before joining us at Wolfram and Hart, will you?”
The three were quiet for a few seconds. Facing the other two, Fred smiled, “Well, I better hurry. Are you sure everything will be okay?”
“Go.” Faith ordered.
“Okay.” Heading behind the desk, she wrote down a few numbers. “This is all of our numbers at the office and our cells. Call if you need us.”
Watching her leave, Faith turned to Ginny. “You ready to do some cleaning?”
Ginny smiled. There was something about this girl that made her smile, even though Ginny had the feeling that her reaction to Faith wasn’t usual. “Sure. Let’s get to it. Suites first?”
Faith grinned. “To the basement with us. I think that is where Fred moved the cleaning supplies.”