A/N: Thank you to Truthmaker for Recommending my story. That really means a lot to me.
They weren't done setting up things in the States. Not by a long shot. But the Queen was ready to knight them and there was a bunch of stuff to do in England to get them lots and lots of money which would be useful in reestablishing the council worldwide. Rona was left in charge of the Cleveland house and all the new Slayers they had collected up until that point, mostly because her arm was still healing and she had been doing the boring logistical work like ordering food while the other girls went out to patrol or were sent to look for other Slayers. Three other Slayers from Sunnydale were being sent on long-term recruiting missions. Violet to the north-west US via Wisconsin and Minnesota. Shannon was sent on a tour of the southern US and Kennedy sent to recruit all along the east coast.
So it was that the four original Slayerettes plus Dawn and Wesley boarded a plane (first class of course, thanks to the Crown) bound for England. They arrived late at night, local time, and all of them were tired from traveling anyway so they went to bed straight away.
The next morning, Dawn shared breakfast with Buffy in the room they shared. Buffy hadn’t said a word since they left America. Dawn was pretty sure they could count every word she’d said since arriving in Cleveland on two hands. Dawn had finally allowed herself to cry herself to sleep over the loss of Spike that night. She wasn’t sure if Buffy had cried. Her sister hadn’t come out of her room for two days.
There was plenty to do, but no one had asked anything of Buffy. Her friends at least knew enough that she needed a break, and short of an Apocalypse, were willing to give her the time to recover.
But seeing her face to face again, without someone shouting for her attention to solve a new crisis, Dawn could see. Buffy was empty. She suppressed a shudder at the way it reminded her of when they’d brought Buffy back from the dead. “So, what are your plans for after the ceremony?” she asked instead.
Dawn recognized the façade when it went up, the ditzy blonde act she played so well in high school. She wondered if the others would see past it as well. Dawn put on her own fake smile and nodded at Buffy’s plans for shoes and shopping. Fake it until you make it had gotten them through before. Perhaps it would work again.
The first thing they all did together as a group was to go down and see for themselves where the old council headquarters had been. There wasn't much left. They really couldn't what what could have been destruction from the First Evil and what had simply been construction crews clearing away the rubble.
Then it was off to Buckingham Palace to ready themselves for the knighting ceremony. The actual ceremony took less than half an hour for all five of them even though the preparations had taken over three hours.
“That was... short.” Xander said as they sat in a restaurant later waiting for their food.
“She didn't even say 'Arise, Sir Giles'. I was waiting for that part.” Buffy complained.
Giles closed his eyes to stave off the headache that might otherwise erupt from Buffy’s antics. “Buffy, first of all, that was never a part of the actual ceremony. Secondly, the proper address in public is Sir Rupert Giles, or Sir Rupert if you insist on being informal. And had you listened to the instructions we were given from the Lord Chamberlain before hand, you would have known that.”
“I did listen. Didn't I go in from the left and exit to the right, just like you guys did?” Buffy argued.
“There were a lot more people there than I expected.” Willow tried to change the subject.
“Yes, about 25 people receive investiture each year. Ours was a particularly large group with the five of us being added at the last minute as it were.” Wesley answered his wife.
Buffy waived off this new information as if it didn't matter. “Whatever. So, when are we going to do the touristy thing?”
Dawn tried not to wince at that. This was still an ongoing crisis and no one, with the exception of Buffy, was going to get so much as a day off for the next few months. She looked around, expecting to see anger on the faces of Buffy’s friends. Instead, everyone just looked sad. Maybe resigned. Hopefully that meant that they got it.
“This isn't exactly a holiday, Buffy.” Giles chided gently. “We have to meet with representatives from the Prime Minister's office this afternoon to start transferring deeds and bank accounts to the new council.”
“So, you'll be busy. Xander?” Buffy asked.
“I'm... going with Giles.” He said sadly. “I need something productive to do and sightseeing isn't going to help me right now.” He hoped Buffy would take the hint and ask for some work too as it might help her more than sightseeing, but wasn’t banking on it.
“As much as I love shopping, Buffy, this is too important and too urgent. I already have a whole to-do list that looks like it'll take months to get done.” Dawn answered. She was just glad that the others seemed be so understanding. No one was upset or angry that Buffy needed some time off. More than the rest of them.
“Will?” Buffy pleaded.
Willow cringed, sad to disappoint her friend. “Sorry Buffy. Wes and I are going to that meeting too, then while they get started on the actual work, we have another meeting with the Border Agency about fast-tracking my dual-nationality application. Being knighted helps,” she stroked the medal pinned to her lapel, “but we still have to fill out all the proper paperwork.”
Their food arrived and conversation was put on hold for a minute while it was distributed.
Willow waited until Buffy had already started to dig in before continuing. “Wesley and I talked about it, and we're going to be staying in England for the near future.”
Whatever Buffy's startled gasp would have been was choked back behind her full mouth. This allowed Willow to continue mostly uninterrupted for a while as her friend tried to breathe again.
“There's just so much to do here. Some of it's stuff that can be done anywhere, but some of it's stuff that can only be done here. Plus I really need to talk to the Devon Coven again in person soon. Tomorrow, probably.” she looked to her husband, who nodded. “And... it's Wesley's home. Since my home just got sucked into a hell-dimension, I figured we'd give Wesley's home a shot.”
“We should have enough time sometime next week to pay my parents a visit.” Wesley added.
“They'll be proud to see that you've been knighted.” Willow said.
“I sincerely doubt it. I sent them invitations to attend and they weren't here.” Wesley countered.
Willow sighed. “Mine didn't come either. Must run in the family.” she joked.
“Back to the not coming back point.” Buffy interjected. “Xander, how can you sit calmly and accept this?”
“I'm... not going back either.” Xander replied. He knew this denial was Buffy’s coping mechanism, but it hurt. “I don't know if I'll stay in England for too long, but someone needs to find these Slayers. And before they meet a vampire in a dark alley.”
Buffy turned to her sister. “Don't even say it.” she ordered sternly.
“I'm going with Chao-ahn to set up the Chinese Slayer house just as soon as the Cleveland house is finished.” Dawn said defiantly. Just daring her sister to contradict her.
“Speaking of which. How is your French, Buffy?” Giles asked quickly. At one point in time, he remembered it had been quite good. And he was hoping to offer her a new purpose. After some time to get herself back together, of course. “We'll need a similar house set up on the continent.”
Buffy stood up, panic in her eyes. “I can't- I can't- I just can't...” she said as she left the table and the restaurant. Giles was fast on her heels.
“Is everything alright with the food?” a waiter asked.
“Everything's fine.” Wesley assured him. “Just some traumatic news, I'm afraid.”
Once the waiter left, the group started talking again.
“That went well.” Xander said sarcastically.
“Perhaps Buffy is still in need of a holiday.” Wesley opined. He wished he had thought to check the council records before they were destroyed. He knew Buffy was probably one of, if not the, longest active Slayers in recorded history. That Buffy had lasted as long as she had under the amount of strain she had was nothing short of remarkable.
“I could... take her with me when I visit the Devon Coven?” Willow offered. “They really helped me when I...” she trailed off, not willing to say the words.
“Not this time.” Wesley said. “Though you can ask tomorrow while you're there. There is good reason why the council and the coven are separate and it would be unwise to simply show up there with her in tow.”
“I think what she really needs is some time off the front lines.” Xander offered. No soldier ever survived constantly fighting like Buffy did. She needed some down time, yes. But in his opinion, she needed to be given a new job soon whether she wanted it or not. Something mindless and easy, but most importantly, no fighting.
“You could take her on your recruiting drive.” Willow said.
“Right. Because the two of us would never attract any demons.” Xander replied. If they insisted on that, he would just take her away and not do any recruiting. Find some factory jobs for the two of them for a few months.
“You'd attract them anyway. And that way you'd have protection.” Willow countered.
“I can take care of myself.” Xander shot back icily.
“Ahem.” Dawn cleared her throat. “And we need to get Buffy away
from demons anyway. So let's think of other ideas.”
After a couple of minutes of eating silently, Wesley spoke up. “It's not the demons that are the problem, it's the fighting, is it not? She needs a break. Some place where she wouldn't be attacked by demons or even humans.”
“You know of a place?” Willow wondered.
Wes nodded. “It's not well known- It wasn't
well known in the council, but there are places with peaceful demon enclaves. The council attitude was to leave them alone... for now. They had bigger fish to fry as it were, though the idea was that they'd get around to them eventually. I had Violet go through one on her way to her recruiting drive to say hello and to leave the number for the Cleveland house in case they had anything they couldn’t handle.”
“Well, don't make us wait.” Dawn leaned forward.
“Madison, Wisconsin has probably the largest and most peaceful community. Self policed. Buffy wouldn't have to lift a finger while she was there, at least not when it comes to fighting demons. And with the money we're getting these next few days, we can afford to host her there for as long as she needs.” Wesley finished.
Xander looked gobsmacked. “So, your idea for a Slayer retirement home is a demon
Wesley frowned. “First of all, it's not a retirement home. Buffy just needs a break, as I understand it. Secondly, it's the safest place for her. The demons police themselves so there's nothing for her to do. Anywhere else, she would be expected to deal with any demonic issues as the Slayer. There, any issues are not her problem or her purview. She can be a normal person again. A dream she's expressed more than once in my own presence; and that was years ago. Plus the overall crime rate there is quite low. Perhaps because of demons patrolling to keep the peace, or perhaps simply because it’s Wisconsin.”
Each of them turned their attention back to their food to digest those words.
“You're trying my patience, son.” General Hammond growled.
Riley Finn nodded. “I'm aware of that, sir. You probably aren't used to lowly Lieutenant Colonels disobeying a direct order. But I have higher orders and they state that I have permission to brief you on the Initiative project if and only if I think that you need to know about the former project. And to put it bluntly, sir, battling aliens from other planets is... nice to know, but not terribly shocking to me.”
“The entire Sunnydale incident-” Carter began.
“The Initiative was closed down and mothballed long before that happened, like I said. I'm sorry there was some oversight that didn't allow satellite images of the town before sinkhole, but there's nothing I can do about that.” Finn said.
“Oh for cryin' out loud. Does the name Faith Lehane mean anything to you?” O'Neill finally asked.
Finn tried and failed to control his reaction to that name.
“Why don't you start by telling us what you know about Faith?” the General said.
“Why don't you start by telling me
what you know about Faith?” Finn countered.
“Well, first of all, she's now Faith O'Neill.” Jack said. “We got married a little while back.”
Finn looked like someone had just told him that his puppy had just eaten a crocodile. Very confused with a side order of gobsmacked. “Excuse me. I need to make some phone calls.”
SG-1 and General Hammond crowded around a monitor. Even if they could only hear one side of the conversation, it was still possible to learn a lot that Lt. Col. Finn didn't want them to know.
“Who's this?” Finn said into his phone.
“This is Lieutenant Colonel Riley Finn of the US Army. Can I speak to Buffy Summers, please?”
“Well, where is she?”
“England? Can I get a number for her there then?”
“No, I didn't think of the time difference. Just give me the number and I'll call her tomorrow. Do you happen to have Angel's number then?”
Riley wrote something down in a notebook. Then he frowned. “What do you mean you 'can't'?”
“...” It was a much longer pause than normal.
Riley took the phone away from his face before he let out a half sigh/half growl. “Fine. I can look that up myself. Thanks for your help.” He hung up and dialed information. “Angel Investigations in Los Angeles. Yes, please connect us.” After a short pause he went on. “Uh, I asked to be connected to Angel Investigations. Oh, you merged. Well, yes, I'd like to speak to Angel please.”
He sighed yet again. “Fine when he gets out of his meeting, tell him that Colonel Riley Finn called and- Oh. Thank you.”
“...” Another long pause.
“Angel, it's Riley Finn. Do you- Okay, good. Listen I'm calling about Faith. Apparen- Oh, so you heard. Yeah. So, what happened?”
“Well, it's not like a jail could hold her if she didn't want it to.”
“Oh, so she helped you with the LA thing?”
“And then went to Sunnydale and helped close the Hellmouth.”
“And then turned herself back in again. Interesting. That's a different Faith than the one I met. Did Buffy tell you about that?”
“Well, she was wearing Buffy's body at the time. Didn't do our relationship any good, I can tell you that. Anyway, thanks for your help.”
“So, what you really want to know about is Faith? I can't say I knew her that well. And I can honestly say that she was never involved with the Initiative project.” Finn said when he returned.
“Now, when you say ‘wearing Buffy's body’, you mean like a body swap, right? And not like she was wearing Buffy's skin or something? Because body swaps? Been there, done that. Interesting, but not terribly shocking to me.” Jack smirked as he threw Finn’s lines back at him.
“So, where did your body swap technology come from?” Jack pressed.
“I don't know. I was never told.” Finn replied.
“But they switched back in the end, right?” Jack said.
“Yeah. Faith's back in her own body.” Finn kicked himself for mentioning something like that over an open line. “Listen. Let me break down what I know about Faith. She went... rogue, is the best way I can put it. Ended up fighting against the good guys and I don't know why or how that went down. But she ended up in a coma before the fighting was over. Eight months later she woke up and didn't realize that the war was over. There was some new fighting. But in the end, she changed her mind, saved some hostages, gave Buffy back her body, and then took off. That was the last I heard of her. What I just found out was that she turned herself in to the cops shortly thereafter. And there she stayed until that stuff in LA started going down and they needed help clearing it up. And since she was already out, when Sunnydale started acting up, she went up there to help again before turning herself in again. Any questions?”
Jack raised his hand. “Yes. Who's 'they'.”
are people you don't need to know, Colonel. But tell you what. If your aliens are ever about to invade Earth again. You give me a call and I'll have them whip up an extra special Welcome to Earth present for them. It actually might be the only way you learn who they
are. That, or asking your wife.” Finn said.
“She didn't want to tell me either.” O'Neill mock pouted.
“Good luck with that. Sl- That type of girl can be stubborn.” Finn said. “I'm sorry if those weren't the answers you were looking for.”
“No, Colonel. I think you answered most of the important questions we had.” General Hammond stood.
“By your leave, sir.” Finn came to attention and saluted.
Hammond returned the salute. “Dismissed.”