While the children pleasantly entertained Buffy, the AI team started discussing the benefits such a powerful new team member would add to their group.
"I say with someone of Buffy's caliber as part of the team, Angel Investigations could no doubt expand to a much larger scale," Wesley opened the conversation.
"What do you mean?" Tara asked.
Cordelia rolled her eyes, sighing heavily. "He means since Miss Super Power is here, she can handle all the bad stuff, and we can sit on our butts and sweep up the scraps."
Willow sent a short spark across the table. Cordelia's fork rattled, shooting carrots across her shirt. The seer squealed, immediately wiping away the mess with a napkin. She stared across the table into black eyes that dared her to complain. The red-haired witch nodded, allowing the dark to fade from her eyes.
Giles finished cleaning his glasses. He slowly put them back on his nose, took a slow breath and released it. "Perhaps that's why she's returned to us. Buffy was always an unusual Slayer. To imagine she would be any less with her newly gained powers would seem foolish. She is, first and foremost, a protector. Having her join the team would greatly improve our odds against evil."
Fred said excitedly, "Buffy could take out W&H for us, and we wouldn't ever have to worry about those pains in the behinds again."
Everyone started talking at once, listing everything they expected Buffy to handle for them now she was back; especially, since she had gained additional powers.
Constantine turned to Chas with a hard glare. "Are those people for real? They act as if she's a piece of furniture they can move around any way they want. Those are 'friends'? The ones she couldn't wait to see? Your moms seem cool, but I can't say much for the other ones. I don't think they have any idea what Buffy is now."
The young man felt torn between his hero and the urge to defend his extended family. "They've fought demons for over fifteen years, Constantine. They see only one way, and that's their way. I never could understand why they didn't like you."
"I refused to get involved in their war. It angered Angel and spread to the others. Just because he's a vampire and has lived here for the past thirteen years, he thinks he knows about everything that happens in this town." Constantine gave a dry laugh. "He has no idea about what I do, and I plan to keep it that way."
"Boundaries, huh?" Beeman nodded his head in understanding.
Chas didn't understand it all, but was starting to. A glimpse of gold and white caught his eye. He glanced up at the stairs to see Buffy floating down them. She wore a peaceful expression on her face. He took a deep breath as he felt his heart skip a beat at the sight.
The others noticed the younger man's face. They turned to see what was wrong, then sat in frozen silence as they admired the golden beauty that descended the stairs. Buffy felt the worry and anger coming from her new friends intensify the closer she got. Her enhanced senses would take some time getting used to. She hadn't noticed a large difference during her stay in Hell. The need to survive had pushed aside Sanctuary's residents other feelings and her Slayer side had seemed on constant alert.
"Since she's here and has even more super powers, Buffy could have LA a demon-free zone in no time. Just think, Gunn, we could actually raise Lon in a normal city like real parents. Maybe even give him that baby brother he's been asking for," Cordelia said.
Buffy raised an eyebrow in question toward Constantine. He nodded his head as his frown became more pronounced. They watched the joy leave her face, sorrow, along with what looked like regret, replacing it.
"Would you guys wait for me in the car? I'll only be a few minutes," she said, giving them a small smile to let them know she was okay.
"B-buffy, sometimes you outgrow f-friends and it's best to r-remember them the w-way they were." Beeman gave her a sweet smile.
She stepped closer, leaned over and kissed his cheek. "Chas is right. You are the smartest man in the world. Thanks, Beeman."
Spinning back around, she marched into the dining room with her head held high.
"Go on, I'll wait for her in case it gets sticky," Constantine ordered.
They nodded, reluctant to leave, but slowly walked through the lobby doors to the waiting cab.
Doors slammed open, startling the excited people sitting around the large table. They smiled when they saw who stood in the doorway. No one noticed the light of battle in the newcomer's green eyes.
"Buffy, you're back," Willow said excitedly. "Come sit down, I still want to hear more about Sanctuary and the people." The redhead desperately wanted her best friend back in her life. She didn't care if Buffy sat in the lobby eating grapes, as long as she was alive.
Tara read the small blonde's aura. The blazing colors hurt her eyes. She never thought to see a person filled with so much light and power. Once she thought about it, she realized she couldn't really put Buffy in the person category anymore. The truth was that her friend, the young, happy person wasn't back. In her place stood a being of light, a Power, or to put it simply, a living, breathing angel that chose to stay on Earth to spare others from suffering. Tara hated that Willow didn't realize this and only saw her former best friend. The others saw an end to their years of struggle. Wise blue eyes glanced across the table to stare into red ones. Lorne nodded his head at her in agreement. The anagogic demon didn't need anyone to sing for him to see the future disaster about to happen.
A small apologetic smile crossed Buffy's face. "I'm sorry, Willow," she said softly. Her words held a wealth of meaning. She slowly went around the table, staring into each person's eyes. Some had the decency to look away, given the discussion prior to her entering the room. Others meet her gaze head on, expecting her to do her duty as she had in the past.
"Couldn't help but overhear the big pow-wow going on in here. Sorry to disappoint you with the future expansion plans you have, AI and," she glanced at a certain seer, "your families. Case you didn't get the memo before, we don't fight on the same team anymore."
"What do you mean?" Cordelia yelled.
Angel jumped to his feet, exclaiming the same words as his girl Friday. "Buffy, I'm not sure what Constantine has filled your head with, but your place is here, fighting with me, err-us."
"No, it isn't. I'm sorry you don't understand that. I love you, and all I could think about was seeing you again. It was selfish wish and a mistake that won't happen again."
She turned away without another word, closing the doors behind her. Tears gathered in her eyes as she softy whispered, "I'm sorry. Remember I'll always love you."
Her eyes closed while she concentrated on carrying out what needed doing.
Angel stared around the room, wondering why he was standing up at the dinner table. "Not sure why I'm standing, but since I am, I think I'll take the opportunity to make a toast. Buffy has been on my mind a lot lately, please raise your glasses. I'd like to toast to Buffy Summers, may you find the peace you so richly deserve." He clinked his glass with the people next to him.
The others rose to echo the toast. "To Buffy."
They each smiled sadly, thinking of a special time they had shared with the blonde Slayer.
"Are you going to be okay?" Dark eyes searched her face.
She shook her head, before hooking her arm in his. "Yeah, let's blow this joint. Guess I need to find a place to live. Wonder if there's an abandoned theatre anywhere? Between you, me, Beeman and Chas, we'd have a monopoly on the weird housing." She giggled at the look he gave her.
They walked out and climbed into the taxi. Chas exploded with questions the second they settled into the back seat. "Why were you in the Hyperion? Do you know anyone here?" He felt strange, as if he should know the answer. Although he couldn't see his home life meshing with the profession he chose. According to Angel and one of his moms, Constantine was a dirty word.
"I thought I did, but it wasn't them. Good thing they had the doors closed. Bet Connie and I make an odd pair." She bumped Constantine's shoulder in jest.
He wondered if she already regretted her deal with Luci. What did she plan to do? More importantly, what did he plan to do now he had a second chance at life?
"Spit it out, Connie, you have something face."
"You know the face you make when something's on your mind. Almost couldn't tell it from your, I'm pissed at the world face, until you got that confused look in your eyes."
"I'm not pissed at the world." Everyone coughed or snorted. "I'm not," he protested, "I'm pissed at the ones in charge."
"Wasn't Him, Connie. Some in-betweens pulled a fast one and ole Luci took advantage."
Lon woke up, crying from a nightmare. Buffy gathered him close, chasing his fears away. He smiled at her, knowing she would be there for him, just as she promised, just as she always was. She kissed him on the forehead, disappearing when they heard his parents coming.
Cordelia and Gunn rushed into the room ready to soothe their son's fear. They found him with a glorious smile on his face. "Mommy, the angel came back and chased the bad dream away. See Daddy, I told you she would come, just like she promised."
"That's great, buddy." Gunn advanced into the room, sitting down on the bed. Cordelia came to stand beside him. "Can you tell us more about this angel? Does the angel talk to you, or just appear to make the dreams go away?" He felt his wife's nails dig into his shoulder.
Lon laughed at his father. "Course she talks to me! It would be silly to come see me and not say nuffin."
"So, your angel's a girl?" Cordelia asked, moving closer to touch her son's cheek. His angel friend hadn't bothered her and Gunn at first, but Lon's belief that his friend wouldn't ever allow anything bad to happen to him had changed that. She worried he didn't have a healthy sense of self-preservation, depending on his angel to come through for him.
He nodded, his eyes drifting close. His parents searched his face, then looked about the room trying to feel the angel's presence. They, in fact, hoped someone watched over their precious boy. Their shoulders slumped in defeat when they didn't feel or see anything.
Gunn stood, wrapping an arm about Cordy's waist. "Don't worry, babe. He'll grow out of it soon. Giles said it isn't unusual for kids to go through this. We just have to keep a closer eye on him to make sure he doesn't do anything we can't get him out of, that's all."
"You're right," she sighed. "With us, Angel, two powerful witches and the others watching him, we'll keep him safe." Cordelia tried to sound confident as she peered back over her shoulder at the small head. Her eyes filled with a mother's love and eternal worry. "Promise."
"Promise." He kissed her softy as they closed the door.
The door opened moments later followed by tiny footsteps creeping across the room. As the bed covers drew back, Lon's eye peeked open. "Hurry up and get in for the goodies are gone." Thom giggled, scrambling to get under the covers and cuddle next to her best friend. "Open your hand," he whispered. A tiny hand obeyed, while wide blue eyes twinkled with anticipation. Shimmering golden dust poured from one small hand into the waiting one.
"Ooh, she gave you lots this time." Thom quickly cupped a hand over the golden treasure. A euphoric expression spread across her face. "Wonder how Buffy makes the goodies? I mean where do they come from and how do they make your stomach go g-whoosh in such a nice way? She even knows when the goodies' twinkle runs out and we need more."
Lon snuggled closer to Thom. "Buffy says we shouldn't talk about her anymore, ceptin to each other. She says it scares our family, cuz they can't see her. Cuz they ain't special, like us."
He felt Thom nod her head. They shut their eyes, holding the golden dust assured of only happy dreams tonight.
Constantine stood atop a building, looking out over the city. Buffy quietly walked up beside him. "You're late, which one this time?"
"Lon, bad dream," she answered softy, gazing out at LA. The city looked beautiful at night, so clean and harmless.
"How many kids do you watch over, playing guardian angel?" Dark eyes searched her face for signs of fatigue or injury. He always thought she did too much, took on more than she should.
"Lon, Thom and Joyce Anne, I visit on a regular basis. Not sure about the rest. Just go where I'm needed. If what I do helps them become stronger, then I think that's great." She shrugged.
They watched the city lights in a silence only capable among people who were totally comfortable in each other's company.
"Saw Mr. Broody tonight."
"Pissed him off, of course." Constantine gave her an evil little smirk.
"Let me guess, you bumped into him when he was about to go into a fight. He asked you to help, you declined and he called you mean names." She mirrored his smirk.
"Wow, you're good," he deadpanned, popping a piece of gum (his new obsession) into his mouth.
She stuck her tongue out at him. "Same ole story. Angel thinks LA is his city and everyone should fall in line behind him. It's kinda sad he doesn't understand an even bigger war is going on only a few blocks away."
"Pride goeth before a fall." He snapped his gum at her.
"Oh, stop trying to be all noble. It always did seem odd the Slayer couldn't stop humans from hurting one another. It was the one rule we couldn't break, I guess it makes sense now."
She stepped back, stretching her arms wide. Opalescent wings popped from her back, bringing a happy sigh from soft pink lips.
"That feels good."
"Show off," Constantine grumbled.
She opened the wings wide, drawing one tip down to tickle her friend's cheek. A deep chuckle escaped from Constantine before his normal stoic, expression fell back into place.
Buffy pouted at him, then a bright smile lit her face. "Come on, I'll make you some hot chocolate and tell you all about the Big Bad that is no more."
She grabbed his hand, pulling him toward the stairwell door.
"Did you get any more marshmallows? Chas finished off the last bag."
Her happy laughter filled the air. Buffy wasn't sure about the future or how long she'd have to walk this Earth. She did know her new friends, especially Constantine, gave her the companionship and support she needed as she waited. The End of Days would come and she would fight with everything she was and all she had become. But, until then, she was content to dwell here between Heaven and Hell.~ The End ~