About That Time Again
Title: For A Good Cause
Chapter Title: About That Time Again
Author: Restive Nature
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to BtVS. They belong to Whedon & Mutant Enemy. Nor do I own any rights to other shows represented through the rest of this fictions. All shows belong to their respective owners. No infringement is intended and this fiction is for private enjoyment only.
Rating: Various, up to R
Chapter Rating: PG
Type: BtVS/ Various
Summary: When threatened by an old foe not their own, how else can the combined forces of the Scoobies and the Fang Gang respond? By having an auction!
Spoilers/ Time line: This is post series for both Buffy and Angel. Other shows will be discussed within each chapter that it pertains to.
Feedback: Always welcome!
Distribution: Ask first please.
A/N: This is a response to the Twisting the Hellmouth “The Bachelor/ Bachelorette Challenge. Please see Chapter One for challenge details.
For A Good Cause
About That Time Again
There had been losses. Huge losses, Xander knew. Of course there were going to be when a battle as large as the one in Los Angeles occurred. An apocalypse that Angel had jump started it turned out, on a vision passed on from Cordelia before she went into the light, or whatever it was that back from the dead seers did when their time was up.
They had actually kind of won this one, though both Angel and Spike admitted it wouldn't have happened if Willow and the Slayers hadn't shown up. Willow, shuddering through the telling, had told Xander in a private moment, that LA had very much been in danger of being dragged down to hell. And not Sunnydale go boom with the Hellmouth kind of way. It would have been a city of millions thrust into the darkest kind of horrifying nightmare with no idea how to survive.
As, much to the relief of Xander, Dawn and Andrew, their people started to filter back, through various methods of transportation, because as Kennedy had rightly declared, the porting in of such large groups and then the fight had drained Willow too badly to use that method any time again soon. The others had been in vehement agreement. And so some flew, some drove, some bussed it, but they were all back, gathered together on the Cleveland Hellmouth, in the large house that Giles had managed to snag through an auction when the house was repossessed by the bank for mortgage payments that hadn't been made. It certainly wasn't large enough for all their needs, but it served as a base of operations for whatever slayer was monitoring the Hellmouth.
Andrew had been happily employed in the week that it took to get everyone back, cooking, feeding, tending to wounds that had, for the most part, already healed. Xander and Dawn had the more important task of tending to the wounds that weren't visible to the naked eye, helping those slayers that experienced their first apocalypse, to deal with the losses of civilians, sister slayers and other good people.
Of course the trio left behind in Cleveland had been inordinately relieved that they hadn't lost any of their people, but there had been a palpable grief when they learned that Wesley had been lost prior to the battle. The God-King that had once been Winifred Burkle, was still swearing lusty bloodthirsty vengeance on the demons that had gotten away from her at Willow and the Slayers interference. Xander couldn't help but count themselves lucky that she hadn't blamed her lack of carnage on them instead.
And now, with everyone gathered in the 'war' room, the Vampires, Slayers and other key players were trying to work out how to handle things now. But Xander could see that it was too much for them. They had just come through the apocalypse and needed to de-stress, not immerse themselves in the logistics of dealing with the fallout. To that end, he'd directed Andrew to return to the kitchen and come up with some finger foods, since the young man had been disappointed that no one was ready for the gourmet meals he had whipped up. Experience had taught Xander that people were more likely to eat if it just happened to be there and just a little at a time. That's why snackage always disappeared so fast, whereas meals were only picked at.
It also got him out of the vicinity when Xander pulled out his other distraction technique. The urn that he had brought back with him from Australia. He and Dawn had had a good look at it in the light of day while they were waiting for word of... well, anything. Both had agreed that there was something off about it and there was a demonic language of some kind that Dawn couldn't make out. Nor was she able to match it to her books that she had available. She thought that there might be something in one of the libraries that Giles had stashed in certain areas of his life. Like his home in Bath, or Rome or wherever his other allies might be that he didn't discuss with the “children”. They had discussed the idea of Andrew looking it over, but when Dawn had approached him with the sympbols she had painstakingly copied out, the young man hadn't recognized it. He had promised to look in a few areas of references tools that he had, but so far nothing had come up that matched.
There were a near consensus of dispirited heads drooping as people slumped into their chairs around the round table that they had taken to meeting at. Xander suppressed a smile when he realized that things had kind of evolved to us and them mentality again. Angel, Spike, the man known mostly as just Gunn and their pet God-King Illyria sat huddled together, while the Sunnydale alum were seated together. For the most part.
He pushed the door shut behind him, carefully cradling the urn like on would a baby, before settling it in the center of the table. “And I say, voila,” he offered, gesturing to the artifact before him.
“Huh?” Buffy grunted, raising her head just slightly from where it was resting on her arm.
“That's the thing I was telling you about last night,” Dawn supplied helpfully, sitting next to her sister and studiously avoiding looking at Spike. She still wasn't over Spike not contacting her, even if he couldn't bring himself to talk to Buffy. “You know,” she prompted. “The urn that was giving Xander the freaky vibes.”
“Urgh, urn, right,” Buffy sighed and blinked her eyes tiredly. She turned to regard one of her oldest friends dejectedly. “Do we have to do this now?”
“Nah, not really Buff,” Xander smiled as he took a seat available next to Willow, but leaning forward so that he could see the blond. “Just thought I'd bring it around in case anyone was interested. Better to be safe than sorry, right?”
“Was there any reason that you thought this was important?” Giles asked as he retrieved his glasses from the table where he had dropped them and easily replacing them on his face.
“Not sure,” Xander shrugged. “The Aboriginal tribe elders were wary of it. And there's some writing.”
“We thought that if there was a timetable on it,” Dawn offered helpfully, “it might help to know it before it went kablooey.”
There were grimaces all around at her word and when she looked puzzled, Illyria made a sort of grimacing smile. “I believe they are reminded of the weak natures of their digestive organ that made itself known when the dragon which we battled was destroyed in an explosive manner, raining it's viscera upon our heads in a bloody shower, the likes of which I have not seen since-!”
Her steadily growing enrapture with the demise of the dragon that Dawn and Xander had already heard about was cut off from many quarters with gags and protests before the God-king went silent, with a cool, arched eyebrow.
After a long moment as the main occupants of the room regarded one another, Giles cleared his throat once more. He reached for the urn and pulled it closer to himself. Peering intently at the piece of pottery, he then inhaled and blew softly over the surface. There were small puffs of dust rising up from where it had collected in the lines of carving that had been etched into the surface. He glanced up once at Xander, still sort of hovering behind in his chair, uncertain about having sat down.
“How did you manage to get this through customs?” he wondered aloud and Xander shrugged, finally settling in fully.
“Special dispensation from the aboriginal tribe leaders,” he explained quickly. “From what I was told, normally people aren't allowed to remove treasures, national or otherwise from Australian soil.”
“Which is true of most countries,” Giles nodded, the British curator in him rising to the surface.
“But since the aborigines are a first culture,” Xander went on, moving his legs restlessly, thus causing the rolling chair that he'd chosen, to mimc that agitation, “they have a system of governing themselves.” He allowed himself a grin. “They don't really have a policy of allowing other people to take their treasures. But from what the chief told me, they don't want this urn around. So they told the customs officials that they had chosen an organization to study the artifact and after we've made our report on the findings of what it all means, then we'll be returning the artifact to it's native soil.” He allowed his lips to soften into an amused grin. “Of course, what King George didn't say, was that he could care less if our study over this thing lasts a hundred years or more.”
“They bought all that?” Dawn chuckled, not having heard the story yet, since it hadn't even occurred to her that there could be trouble transporting the thing. Xander nodded.
“Governments, particularly politicians like to step carefully around Native peoples,” Angel noted tiredly and when he put it in that perspective, Dawn nodded in understanding.
“So do we know what we want to do with it first?” Willow asked as she, even with her body slanted sideways to rest at the table, reached one arm out to point at the urn. She glanced back at Dawn and Xander. “Have you guys done anything?” she asked quickly, looking just slightly worried. Both of the pair in question shook their heads.
“Just looked at it,” Xander sighed, partly in relief. As he had hoped, interest in this minor matter was picking up.
“I was thinking about cleaning it,” Dawn piped up and glances around the table flew to her. “With that kit that you got me,” she explained, directing herself to Giles, who had allowed her use of his old museum kit. “But I wasn't sure where to start and Xander said it'd probably be better to practice on something that was um, not valued.”
“Quite right,” Giles smirked and winked at Xander. First time in a while, but Xander felt almost accepted as a thoughtful adult in his own right under the man's eyes. “Well, if you're interested in that venue,” he had turned back to Dawn, “I can certainly provide you with instruction and practice pieces.”
“Cool,” Dawn breathed out. “But um, still, should I get the kit? There might be more writing under some of the dirt on that one side.”
“Dirt?” Giles asked as he began to carefully turn the urn in his hands to see where Dawn was indicating. The others leaned in a little to see as well, as Dawn very carefully set her finger against one area, not as smooth as the others and carefully ran her finger along it. A small spate of fine red clay crumbled away and Dawn quickly retracted her hand, glancing guiltily up at their friend and mentor. “Oh yes, I see,” Giles nodded as he peered closely. “It does appear that there is some discoloration there that does not match the viable material the urn seems to be made with. Very good Dawn.”
The compliment allowed the teen to breath a sigh of relief that she hadn't broken away something that might be part of the urn, or important in and of itself. Xander, feeling an antsy sort of clenching in his gut, pushed away from the table. He held up his hand to volunteer himself. “I'll go get the kit. I wanted to check on Andrew anyway.”
“Yeah, it's about grub time, ain't it?” Faith piped up. She'd been curled up in her chair, knees drawn up, situated in a seat that was between the two camps of groups. Xander knew from the little he'd overheard elsewhere that Faith was actually taking Wes' death pretty hard. Considering that the man had been her Watcher, along with Buffy's for a time, and that she had kidnapped and tortured the guy, who had then later broken her out of prison, then died before she could redeem herself totally in his eyes... Yeah, Xander could only imagine the wrath that Faith had dealt on the other guy. And knowing how Slayers operated well enough by now, figured she had turned that rage inwards. So hearing anything from her, even as quiet as it was, he counted as a good sign.
“Yeah,” he nodded his agreement. “I'll send him up with whatever he's got. Dawn, where's the kit at?”
“In the downstairs study,” Dawn was thoughtful for a moment. “I think I left it in the desk. But uh... if it's not there, look on the book shelves.”
“Study, desk or shelves,” Xander repeated as he headed out with what he hoped was a reassuring grin. He made his first stop the kitchen, as promised to the others, to check in on Andrew, who was happily arranging several trays.
“Ah, Xander,” he smiled, glancing up as he realized that he finally had some company in his domain. “Here for the party trays?”
“Actually,” Xander gestured over his shoulder with this thumb. “Just checking to see if you were ready to go. I've got to grab a kit from the library. Why don't you take a small tray up and see if you can get some help.”
“Roger Wilco,” Andrew snapped off a salute that was mitigated from it's seriousness by the fact that he was wearing a floppy white chef's hat, neon orange apron with an alien being from some show Xander wasn't familiar with, airbrushed on it and a hideously clashing purple oven mitt.
“Uh huh,” he sighed as he watched the potential disaster in the making as typically, Andrew tried to grab the largest of the trays. With a defeated sigh, Xander stepped forward and gently pulled the tray from his hands, where it was already slipping, and settled it back on the counter. “Seriously Andrew, don't want all your hard work to go to waste if there was an accident. They girls won't mind helping. They're finally getting hungry.”
“Right,” Andrew nodded. “That would be a tragedy.” Taking Xander's advice he turned instead to a small fruit platter he had made up and counting silently, but with lips moving, added a few more clusters of green and red grapes before stepping out from behind the island counter.
Xander, sure that Andrew was on the correct path now, turned and followed the younger man out of the kitchen. But as Andrew moved off to the staircase, he turned the other way to get to the library. Unfortunately, the kit he was to retrieve was in neither of the specific places Dawn had mentioned and Xander was forced to search the desk. For the life of him, he could not remember just how big the kit was, which would have helped, because then Xander could cut some of the locations by knowing that the kit wouldn't fit.
It took perhaps ten minutes before he located it, half wedged under the sofa and only found it because he stubbed his toe on it. Grimacing at the minor pain, Xander scooped the kit up, flipping the latch up with his thumb to make sure he hadn't disrupted the contents. They seemed fine to him. Little miniatures of tools that he had been working with for the last several years.
Also unfortunately, the moment he exited the library, the yelling began. With a groan, Xander knew exactly where it was coming from and what he feared happening had probably happened. Determined to help, he jogged up the stairs, taking several at a time. There was yelling, Andrew's name and the lanky reformed demon summoner denying that he had done it, or at least he had not meant to. There was a howling sound, like going through a wind tunnel and flashing lights could be seen from under the door. Determined to find out what in hell was going on, Xander threw himself to the door, but it was locked, or jammed or something, because for all his pounding and yelling of his friend's names, he couldn't get in. This all, along with an eerie laughter that Xander was quite sure didn't belong to any of his friends unless Angel was maybe channeling some hell beast, took another few minutes before everything finally quieted and the door seemed to open of it's own accord.
Xander pushed the door further in and cautiously peered around the gaping opening. Everything was almost as he had left it, except Andrew was now cowering in the corner while all eyes were turned to him angrily. The fruit plate he had brought with him was in disarray and as Xander caught sight of the rest, he groaned.
“If there was one thing,” he muttered as he pushed the door wide, “one thing! Don't break the urn. Don't touch the urn. Don't let Andrew near the urn. Who let Andrew near the urn?!” he yelled, when no one seemed to notice his arrival. It was then that all fingers in the room pointed in unison.
Directly at him.
Xander's eye widened at the room wide accusation and the resigned sighs from the majority of people present. Well he knew what that meant.
It was apocalypse time again.