The Bumpy Book
(A/N: Actually, I've done the whole several years post-series starting point before; most notably with 'Faith Manages', 'The Green Goddess', and 'The Courier', but they were all written before the challenge was issued, so if you like the challenge, go back and have a look at those... this is also my second response, after 'Nine and a Half', and does NOT exist in the same world as that one, although this one is kinda similar in its theme.)
Disclaimer: all things Buffy belong to the owners. (And although it's only mentioned, the Anderson Cooper show belongs, I suppose, to himself and to CNN.) Just a little bit of playing in their sandbox.
The war had been raging for nearly ten years, by some reckonings. Some said eleven, twelve, sixteen, or seventeen. It was all in how you counted.
What could not be disputed was what it had brought. Prophecies had come and gone, an army of Activated Slayers had come and gone, retirement had come and gone. (Retiring at twenty-five had been quite nice, actually. Having to un-retire at twenty-nine kinda put a damper on it, though.)
Buffy was well past weary of it all. Nearly everyone she knew had fallen to darkness, with only two exceptions. Well, one, really. Faith stared across the room, same as she did, when the door creaked open.
Clem hadn't set foot in the States in nearly ten years. When he'd left Sunnydale, he'd kept driving all the way to Halifax, Nova Scotia, then snuck aboard a container ship a couple times, eventually finding his way to South Korea. It was about as far from all that as he could manage. But now he was back, in the New Council's own building, a nondescript warehouse (Buffy must have gotten the idea from all those vampire lairs back in the 'Dale) wedged between shipping facilities for some of the world's biggest internet retailers in North Las Vegas.
He wasn't surprised to see Buffy and Faith, weapons in hand, and raised a hand himself. Holding the Book of the End of Days. "Nice to see you girls. Fancy a hand of kitten poker, or shall we get down to business?"
The New Council had its day in the sun. The thousands of Slayers suddenly cropping up around the world just could not be ignored, and so the media hadn't. Slayers had become local heroes, and the New Council had come out of the shadows and become a sort of international police force for the demonic. Those demons and vampires willing to be registered and play by the rules (no world-endage, no killing humans, minimal violence) were allowed to live in peace; the rest were hunted whenever they broke those rules (and they often did).
The vamps and demons had come out of hiding as well, and when the more violent ones' abilities were married with modern technology, scary things happened. A shadowy network of demons had woven itself together and, four years after Sunnydale and a year after Buffy's retirement, had taken out a Super Bowl commercial declaring war. Even worse, they'd had the sense to camouflage their declaration, running clips of the Red Cross shelters and declaring war against the 'destroyers of Sunnydale'.
The Avengers had gained a huge wave of public support, support that turned to horror when the public discovered the deception, three years later. That was when Buffy herself came out of retirement and went on Anderson Cooper to explain. She explained the truth about Sunnydale, that its destruction was collateral damage caused by the Slayers closing the literal gates of Hell itself.
By then, most of the damage had been done. The Avengers of Sunnydale (tm) had destroyed eighty percent of the Slayers in three years. They continued, and in the process, the New Council had dwindled to nearly nothing. Most of their hired employees - even those who were just running the administrative buildings and such - had been killed off or scared away as well, and now all that was left was two Slayers and a handful of Watchers. They'd even had to give up the pretense of a receptionist.
Buffy looked up, the weariness of the deaths of the Slayer army in her eyes, and said, "This is no time for games, Clem."
Clem nodded. "Quite right." He kept walking forward, ignoring the fact that Faith was adjusting her grip on a sword, and Buffy's thousand-funeral stare. "It's the end of days."
"Again?" Buffy and Faith both whined. Though they were probably both thinking, 'Still?'
Then Buffy shook herself out of it. "Where have you been, Clem?"
"South Korea, mostly." He shrugged, and his ears flopped a bit. "Seemed as good a place as any, when I was leaving Sunnydale. Stayed 'cause, well, South Korea's pretty quiet, demonically. Too many demons don't want to end up on the wrong side if the North gets antsy again. Nobody was recruiting for those Avengers, so I felt comfortable. Helped a few Slayers along the way, once I learned the language."
Buffy nodded. "You look... well not good... but not any more floppy than you used to."
"Thanks, I think." He reached the table, and set down the book between the three of them. "Took that off a guy... well, demon... who couldn't keep his mouth shut. Said he had a book of prophecies on the end of days, that was about to come to pass."
"So what's it say?" Faith said, impatiently.
"Pages are blank." Clem said, poking at it. "Probably need some of the Red Witch's mojo or something."
Buffy sighed, collapsing into a chair. "It'll have to be the 'or something'. Willow's gone, same as Dawn and Giles and pretty much everyone else."
Clem pulled out a chair, spun it backwards, and sat down. Faith smirked as she did the same. "What happened to the witch?"
"She bound herself into the spell that activated all the Potentials into Slayers. Every time one of them died, she felt it. By the end, it was like... she was the last survivor of a close-knit family. She said it was like being one of a set of telepathically bonded triplets and having the other two brutally killed in front of you, over and over. Last week, she followed the last of them into Cleveland. Left a note, that she thought Erin's death would kill her anyway."
Clem sighed. Cleveland was the headquarters of the Avengers of Sunnydale (tm), everyone knew that. "Well, the book's yours. And my sympathies."
Faith spoke up. "You don't want nothin' for yourself?"
Buffy shook her head. "Clem's a good guy, Faith. And besides, he just wants to live in the world. Which is what we're fighting for anyway, and he knows it. No point in him asking for anything for himself."
Clem nodded. "I'll just be going. Good luck."
Buffy and Faith spent an hour leafing through the thick, wavy pages, trying to make sense of the book. Why would Clem, of all demons, bring them a blank book and say it was full of prophecies of the end of days?
Finally, Faith snapped her fingers. "I got it."
Buffy looked at her. "What?"
"The pages aren't blank." She prodded the page the book was laying open to. "They're bumpy."
"And..." Buffy shook her head. That really didn't help them, did it?
"And who do we know who can read Braille?"
"Well, Xander, of course. Ever since that demon in Medjugorje poked out his other eye and... oh."
Faith scooped up the book, closing it, and running for the stairs.
The room was dark. It didn't matter anymore, not unless someone came calling. Xander had memorized his way around the New Council's complex long ago, but he hadn't come out of his suite since hearing word of Willow's death. He'd nearly gone catatonic, and someone who didn't know he was blind would say he was just staring into space. He was sitting on the edge of his bed, with no motivation to do otherwise.
He started a bit at the sound of the door being slammed fully open, and for a moment, tensed and reached for a weapon. Old habits; he couldn't handle a weapon anymore, not with his blindness, and all he came up with was his red-tipped white cane.
"Oh, Xander." Buffy *tsked* as he heard a flick, followed by the faint hum of flourescent overhead lights.
"What's new?" He croaked; this throat was dry, and his voice cracking from disuse. He didn't remember speaking since he'd heard of Willow's death, and had lost track of how long ago that had been.
"Clem came by." Faith remarked; Xander's head jerked up in response, the automatic reply of one who hadn't always been blind.
"He's fine. He's been hiding out in South Korea all these years." Buffy sat on the end of the bed, and said, "Xander, he brought us a book of prophecies on the end of days. Or at least, that's what he said it is. We need you to read it for us."
Xander choked out a laugh. "In case you've forgotten..." He waved vaguely at his face.
Faith settled onto the other end of the bed. "Won't be a problem." She set the book on Xander's lap. "It's in Braille."