I Love My Mom
Author's note: I've slightly edited the end of the last chapter. Remove Claudia from the meeting. Insert Ryan Fletcher.
are you really angry
i don t know
what is the matter with me
you make me cry
and i need your love
and i love my mom
-- I Love My Mom
, The Roches
Nikita started, “I’ve got my own grievances with the Shop – they nearly got Michael killed – but they’re not my priority.”
“Or any of ours,” Alex said. “We want Amanda. Preferably dead.” Willow flinched at that.
Birkhoff nodded in agreement, and Michael said, “Not that we wouldn’t like to drive them out of business. They experiment on people. And they helped Amanda frame Nikita.”
“Which would explain why they have managed to remain beneath our radar,” Giles said. “The Initiative as originally constituted did their experiments on individuals they believed non-human, and therefore, unworthy of ethical considerations. Vampires are evil –“
Alex said, “Whoa. Vampires?”
Right. No one had ever told Alex about the supernatural. Or Birkhoff, for that matter, though he didn’t look like he was having nearly as much of a problem with it. Ryan had obviously been read in somewhere along the way.
“We don’t really have time for the full speech right now,” Robin Wood said. “Magic is real, vampires are real, demons are real, werewolves are real.”
“Will?” Xander asked. “You up for a quick demo on the magic part at least?”
Willow stood up and, muttering a couple of words in Italian, drew the name “Alex” in the air in sky-blue calligraphy, then sat back down. “Good enough?” she said, in tone that implied it had damn well better be. Xander leaned over and said something to her Nikita couldn’t hear.
When Alex hesitated before answering the question, Nikita said, “Even if you’re not convinced, trust us. It’s all real. We’ll give you a longer explanation later. Promise.”
Alex didn’t look happy, but she said, “Alright.”
“As I was saying.” Giles said, “Vampires are almost universally evil, and we disapprove of experimentation on even them. A Slayer’s job is to kill vampires, not to brutalize or torture them. As for the rest, not nearly every supernatural being in the world is evil, which is what made what the Initiative did so appalling. Why they think we’d countenance their remnants using humans for their test subjects instead of demons, I have no idea.”
Nikita had been thinking about this. “I do,” she said. “When I was in training, Division told us about vampires and demons – but it was literally a one-day training course. Basically, “If you see something like this, run, and tell someone in authority at the first available opportunity. We deal with humans, and humans only. And here, you don’t deal with renegade humans all that much, right? That Russian mob thing was just like the situation today – a fluke. Right?”
“They ain’t flukes,” Faith said, “But I wouldn’t put them anywhere in the top ten, either.”
“And those that you do pay attention to tend to be involved in magic or the supernatural in some fashion. You don’t stop muggers. Am I right?”
Giles said, “You are, by and large. We are not the police; we are not even superheroes –“
“Though if Andrew had his way we’d all be wearing costumes,” Xander said.
“You agreed with him!” Robin said.
“Hey, spandex. What’s not to like?”
“In any event,” Giles said firmly, “In general, you are correct. We do not worry about human-on-human crime. We are not so callous as to pass up a crime being committed directly in front of us, but we leave the investigations to the actual police. Who are far more competent than our experiences with those in Sunnydale would have made us believe.”
“Corrupt?” Michael asked.
“Half directly under the Mayor’s thumb, half so incompetent you couldn’t have trusted them to spot a crime being committed directly in front of them,” Xander said.
“And that’s why,” Nikita said. “They figure that by sticking to experimentation on humans that they’re not going to run into you.”
“And in general, they were correct,” Giles said. “None of us here had so much as an inkling that the scientific remnants of the Initiative were still active and working together.”
“I’m surprised Smallville didn’t clue us in,” Faith said.
“Smallville?” Birkhoff asked. “Don’t tell me Superman’s real too.”
“Faith is referring to an acquaintance of ours in the military – one who was involved in the military end of the Initiative. I would be very much surprised if the Colonel knew anything about it, though, because if he had, he would have informed us, if only after the fact. The Colonel would be, if anything, even more appalled than we were, because –“
Xander said, “He’s not just an agent in the gene-tampering club for men, he’s also a client.”
“They experimented on him too,” Alex said with disgust.
“He’s lucky he’s still alive,” Willow said; her first contribution since drawing Alex’s name in the air. She still didn’t look happy. Just to be on the safe side, they should probably clear the air about what they intended to do with Amanda/Sheila Rosenberg before they were done.
Michael waved his artificial hand in the air. “They gave me this artificial hand – with a deadly bunch of nanotech inside ready to kill me in minutes if Nikita didn’t do exactly as Amanda told her to do. That’s when she was told to kill the President.”
“Amanda wanted me humiliated, alone, and eventually dead, with my reputation in tatters.”
“And,” Alex said gently, “It worked.”
Nikita turned around to look at her, but any protest died in her mouth before she could say it. Alex was right, except that Nikita wasn’t dead. Amanda’s scheme might not have gone off exactly according to plan – Nikita had managed to escape, and originally Amanda had wanted to present the public with her corpse and proof of her guilt – but it was close enough. Amanda was nothing, if not inventive, and she had backup plan upon backup plan. Sensing, for instance, that maybe Nikita either wouldn’t be able to bring herself to go through with killing the President, or that her friends would figure some way out of it – which they had – she’d somehow set the President up to kill herself, using the very gun Nikita had brought with her. (And if Nikita hadn’t, rather stupidly now that she thought about it, put the pistol on the President’s desk, there was no doubt another weapon in the room, with Nikita’s bleeding corpse readily available to put the necessary fingerprints on.)
So, since Nikita had escaped, Amanda had simply moved on to plan B, which was drawing out the torture.
And she’d come damn close to conceding Amanda’s point by running, by shutting herself off from everyone, by taking everything on herself. That love only hurt, it never helped. Because she loved these people and Amanda wanted to show her how wrong that was.
It had hurt to leave. It would have hurt to stay.
“Almost,” she finally said. “It would have, except you guys were too stubborn to let me get away with it.”
“You gonna be dumb enough to try again?” Alex asked. “’cause next time I might just have to kick your ass.” She was grinning as she said it, though.
After a moment of silence, Giles said, “Well, now that that matter is settled, can we return to what we are going to do about The Shop?”
“And this is more of Amanda’s plan,” Ryan said.
“How do you mean, Mr. Fletcher?” Giles asked.
“Nikita came here asking for help. You agreed to give it to her. And now you’re talking about how and when to go after The Shop instead of Amanda herself.”
“Presumably, if we find The Shop, we will find Amanda,” Giles said.
“Sure. But then you’ll be concentrating on shutting them down, not capturing or killing Amanda.”
As Giles nodded his head slowly, Willow said, “Could we please stop talking about killing my mother? I realize she’s evil, but I don’t want her dead.”
“After everything she’s done –“ Nikita began.
“I know what she’s done!” Willow said. “I know what she’s done to you; I know what she’s done to me for my entire life! I know my father’s not really my father! That doesn’t matter. Catch her. Throw her into a deep hole somewhere. But she’s my mother and I don’t want her dead.”
And this, even Amanda hadn’t planned for – Nikita couldn’t imagine she had, at any rate. “I understand that,” she said. “But I can’t make promises. “ Nor would she. She couldn’t imagine what Willow was going through, but Amanda was far too dangerous, too evil, too manipulative to be allowed any chance of getting away with everything she’d done.
“None of us can,” Alex said.
“And none of us will,” Michael said.
“Slayers don’t kill humans unless we got no choice,” Faith said. “I got no issues if I’m forced to take out some wizard getting ready to bring about a demon apocalypse. I get that you ain’t Slayers, though, Nicky. And I get what she’s done. And I get that she’s your mother, Willow.”
“Do you?” Willow said. “Considering your mother –“
Faith blinked. “Low blow.” After a second, she said, “But anyway, my mom was a negligent, abusive, drunken bitch, and she was a better mother than yours is. Sure as shit she was a better human being. Least she didn’t spend her whole life trying to fuck with as many people as possible. At least she didn’t get the freaking president killed.”
“She didn’t manipulate you for years,” Nikita said to Faith, then turned to Willow. “Willow, she’s been manipulating you your whole life – and that’s one of the least bad things she did.”
“I know,” Willow said fiercely. “I’m not defending anything she’s done. Ever. To me, to you, to anyone. But I can’t stand around and watch people kill her.”
“Then stay behind,” Alex said bluntly.
“Look –“ Willow began.
Raising his voice, Giles said, “That is enough. Willow, we have no intention of killing anyone at all, and we cannot control what Nikita and her friends do. These are not the kind of people whose deaths I will waste one second mourning, by and large. That said, it seems we are at an impasse.”
“And here’s the rest of the bitch’s plan,” Birkhoff said. “Though I’ve got to give her credit for pulling this one out of her ass the way she did.”
“Enlighten us, Mr. Birkhoff,” Giles said.
“Happy to. Look, it’d be one thing if we both attacked at the same time with different objectives – ours to catch or kill Amanda – hypothetically, Willow – and yours to take down the people in the Shop; then we could coordinate, at least. This way? She’s just about severed whatever alliance we’ve had, and almost puts us on opposite sides. At the very least, even though Amanda just had a private army attack this place, not giving a shit about whether they killed anyone in the building except for Nikita and Willow, she’s got you focusing on someone else instead of pissed off at her. Trust me, I get how evil The Shop is. I know how important it is to put them out of business.”
“And they’re not focused on us,” Michael said. “And remember, I’m the one they tried to kill.” He waved his artificial hand in the air. “Amanda is. If we dropped off the map completely, the Shop would probably do nothing more than tell people to keep an eye out in case we broke cover, and go on about its business. Amanda, on the other hand, actively wants us either dead or wishing we were dead. She would scour the globe top to bottom.”
“And we mean that just short of literally,” Alex said. “She’s probably got connections at McMurdo Station.”
“Where?” Xander asked.
“A base in Antarctica,” Nikita said. “Really not important right now The important part is that we’re not safe from her, so we have to take the fight to her. The Shop – no matter what they’re doing – is something we can take our time with. We’re not fine with what they’re doing, but we have to prioritize.”
“As do we,” Giles said. “And despite Amanda having been behind the attack, the Shop is committing far greater evils. I realize you are not arguing that point.”
Throwing up her hands, Alex said, “Terrific. So Amanda’s plan worked.”
“No it didn’t,” Faith said. “Not all the way, anyway.”
“What do you mean?” Robin asked.
“Nicky came to me for help,” Faith said. “I promised I’d give it to her and I’m planning on sticking to my word. Rest of you want to take the folks in the Shop down, have it at. But Nicky did us a massive solid back when she helped us get the Russian mob to back off and I’m still figuring we owe her one.” She glared at Giles, Robin, Xander, and Willow, daring them to take issue with what she’d said.
As for Nikita, she was surprised and happy to hear Faith say that. That had been all she’d been hoping for when she came here – God, only 18 hours ago.
As it turned out, no one argued with Faith. “Of course,” Giles said. “I wouldn’t expect otherwise. In fact, it might be preferable – that way we can maintain communications between the two groups, and at the very least, coordinate.”
“I’m going with you, too,” Willow said.
Xander immediately said, “Maybe not such a good idea, Willow . . .”
“If I go with them,” Willow said tightly. “Then I can make sure they don’t kill my mother.”
Everyone looked at Xander, who, after a second, rolled his eyes and said, carefully, “I think what we’re worried about is . . .”
“I know what you’re worried about,” she said. “Look at me. See? No dark. Dark Willow has left the building. I’m ticked and upset, not blinded by rage. Okay?”
Which matched Nikita’s opinion, but she didn’t know Willow nearly as well as these people did. Honestly, she wasn’t particularly interested in having her come with them, both for the reason that she might be a problem if they did need to kill Amanda, and that she wasn’t exactly a trained agent.
Since no one seemed ready to answer Willow’s questions, Nikita raised the objection. “Can you handle yourself in a fight?”
“Do you need me to blast out the front of this room with a lightning bolt?” the witch asked.
“I would prefer you didn’t,” Giles said.
“Yeah. ‘cause I’m the one who usually has to clean it up,” Xander said.
“Well?” Nikita said, after thirty seconds or so of uncomfortable silence. “That’s not quite an answer to the question.”
“And firepower and the ability to use it,” Michael said, “Isn’t quite the same as the ability to handle yourself. We don’t mean this as an insult –“
“No, the part you mean as an insult is the part whether you’re wondering whether you can trust me not to attack you while your backs are turned so my mother will be safe. I don’t love her that much. I want her brought to account for everything, same as you. I’m not going to hurt you. Okay?”
She sounded sincere. Nikita still had misgivings about this, but help that wanted Amanda alive was better than no help at all.
“And if we say no?” Ryan asked.
“I'll come anyway,” Willow said. “And I'll be invisible.”
Nikita said, “Welcome to the team.”