Batman is Better
AN: Whew. Hi guys. This chapter is almost twice as long as a normal chapter, and writing
it was like pulling teeth. Very determined teeth. But I am very determined to finish this
story in at least an attempt at a timely manner, and was also determined to get this out
before Fic-A-Thon assignments. I always have fun getting carried away by those.
Anyway, I'll do the whole responding to reviews for this chapter and the last in a few days.
Use the handy review button to let me know what you think if you so choose. I have a
tendency to rush endings and am trying to give you guys the written ending you so deserve for
sticking with me through this all.
And 200,000+ hits (plus the 100,000 or so this story lost during a site glitch). Blaspheming
That is all, until Chapter 42.
**************************** Trick or Treat: Chapter Forty-One **************************
Colonel Jack O’Neill had thought he hated hospitals before. But not even Janet the Dragonlady
compared to the awfulness of this particular stint. Xander laughed as he bolted from the lobby
into the parking lot without pause. Jack could hear Daniel joining in with the good natured
ribbing but it felt so good to be outside and out of that damn building that he was feeling
generous enough, even as Daniel’s commander, to overlook such insubordination.
They made a motley crew of misfits, Jack thought critically, as the Slayers, Special Ops agents,
SG1, and assorted personnel followed at a more leisurely pace into the parking lot. The other
older Slayer, Faith, was still plastered to Teal’c’s side, although the big alien was regarding
the human woman with a mixture of amusement and fear instead of pure blind terror. Jack could
tell because there was just the hint of a smile curling the jaffa’s lips as the brunette purred
and blatantly rubbed herself against him as they walked.
Willow, who had rapidly been reclassified as at least in the top three of Jack’s personal
Scariest People EVER list, was leading a shell-shocked young blonde man by the hand as a few
of Xander’s girls hovered around them, lending, Andrew he believed it was, emotional support
for some sort of trauma that, near as Jack could tell, revolved around Star Trek and Teal’c’s
brand. Carter was deep in discussion with Agent Finn and his counterpart, who had Finn’s
daughter Haley resting unselfconsciously against his hip as she laughed, obviously as happy
about leaving the damn hospital as Jack was. Daniel, who had finished coming up with smart
ass remarks with Xander, was rapidly drifting back to conversation with the Watcher Giles, and
Buffy’s sister Dawn.
Jack wasn’t close enough to hear everything that was being talked about so intently, but there
were a lot of mentions of demons, Goa’uld, and well, he was fairly certain that they were
speaking in some ancient form of Sumerian. Really, if the government knew what was good for
it, it’d just dispense Daniel on every diplomatic and interrogation mission on planet and off.
That puppy like earnestness was better than any truth formula or show of force.
Jack would have suggested it years ago if Danny boy hadn’t quite the track record he did for
getting himself kidnapped, tortured, or killed. And then resurrected. Usually all at once.
The only way Jack had of guaranteeing his favorite Geek didn’t end up with any permanent harm
was to keep him mostly a secret, and firmly ensorcelled in the protective forces that was
The vehicles, including a modified one with blacked out windows, that Jack had requested were
waiting for them outside. Xander ambled to his side. “Well,” Jack said into the silence, “I
wish I could say that it’s been fun but, well, it hasn’t.”
Xander shoved his hands into his pockets and rocked back on his heels, looking unconcerned.
“I’m not the one who let the snake off the mountain so it could escape and crawl down my
Jack pursed his lips because, unfortunately, the kid had a point. “You know, once this all
processes, I think Stargate Command is going to have a collective nervous breakdown.”
The younger men snorted, amused. “I wish I could say the same. I’ll be hearing about this
for MONTHS from Andrew once he recovers. Years even, if the idiot lives that long.”
Jack took a deep breath. “You know Xander, I… we can’t promise anything, even off the
record, but if you guys ever need anything. Just… well, we don’t have an army of small, very
deadly girls, but we’re not entirely without resources. And, meddling government agencies
aside, SGC, we’re good people. And you’re good people, and, well…”
“If the world is ending and we need deep space telemetry to solve the crucial prophecy of the
hour, we’ll give you a call.”
“Yeah?” Jack asked softly.
Xander flashed him an annoyed grin. “Yeah.”
“I’ll call when I get back. I’m sure the officious office toadies will want you all to fill
out confidentiality forms from kingdom come and back.”
“That pesky matter of national security. Don’t worry, once Wills has a few days to strew over
some of the secrets we let out of the bag she’ll probably have a few forms of her own she’ll
want signed, likely in blood.” Jack shuddered and Xander punched his arm. “No, its way cool,
she has this pen magicked so that it just takes the blood out of your body when you give a
quick chant so you can sign with no fuss, no muss. It’s the magical contract’s answer to
inadequate laundry detergents and some people’s deep rooted fear of needles.”
“You people frighten me.”
“It’s what we do best. Well, except for Buffy, she’s too short to frighten people easily.”
They both turned to watch the blonde in question hug Angel goodbye under the shade of the
hospital’s roof. “You really think he and Finn and anyone else we find are going to actually
help us in this fight?”
“Maybe. I hope. If anything introducing Angel to Anise should provide hours of entertainment
Jack’s eyes gleamed as he chuckled and punched Xander’s arm too. “Scary, yet strangely
appealing when it comes to devious logic. I like how you think Xander.”
The younger man shrugged ruefully. “That’s why Wills keeps telling me to do it more often, but
its such hard work.”
Dawn hung back with the rest of the Booty Gang as they approached the house. The crowd of
people that had congregated in the hospital had been thinned down. The space cadets had scooped
up Riley, Graham, and Angel to head back to Colorado Springs with the kind of desperation for
normalcy, even alien battling normalcy, only achieved after being locked in close quarters with
a bunch of hormonal Slayers for over twenty-four hours. Not that that’d be the last of them.
The Scoobies had a kind of magnetism. Once you got let in on the club, it was hard to escape
without a stake in your back pocket and an invitation to the annual Non-Denominational Holiday
Faith had taken Emily back to the Big House with no little rumbling, and Willow had gone to
crash at Buffy’s place with a still shell shocked Andrew and an exasperated Giles. Years of
continuous exposure had given the Watcher more immunity to the intellect crushing power of
California speak that most, but even Giles had his limits.
The White Fortress was likely breathing a sigh of relief at Willow’s continued absence. All
the little witches and wizards didn’t deal well with their White Witch’s other life. The one
involving fangs and way too much death for their tender sensibilities. But Buffy liked having
her dearest near after hard times. It was a mark of Buffy’s trust in Xander and his girls that
Dawn had been allowed to go home with them, concussion and all. Usually after Dawn got banged
up in related Slayer scrapes she spent at least three days being driven nuts by a smothering
Damn her and Dawn’s inability to stay pissed for longer than an hour.
Morgan stayed close to her though, the taller girl’s arm brushing Dawn’s own on the way to the
Booty House, and she knew the young Slayer was responding to the unwritten directive of all who
lived in the world of Scooby: protect Dawn, because SOMETHING was always out to get her. That
would have annoyed her too, if it hadn’t been so freaking true.
Just last month that Irap demon had decided that the skin of slim brunettes was essential for
its winter coat, because apparently even demons were slaves to fashion, and had plucked Dawn
off a Seattle street on her way home. What a little slice of life, pardon the pun, that messy
adventure had been
All the kidnapping attempts had to be some sort of cosmic payback for not throwing herself off
of Glory’s tower like the good little human sacrifice she had been.
Dawn slowed momentarily as she involuntarily closed her eyes, remembering those horrible minutes
with a clarity she’d pay to numb. The pounding of sure feet on the leaning steel platform, that
perfect, hanging leap, and the wet crunch of flesh hitting pavement, a sound that still haunted
her, when she dreamt of her sister’s death and woke screaming. Only now she scared the hell out
of a college roommate in the process instead of bringing a veritable army of Potentials and baby
Slayers into her room.
Ah, the joys of college life. Of course, even at college she didn’t totally escape the world of
weird. Seattle’s Vampires were a bit more cultured than most, every one within the city limit
had at least developed a taste of coffee and alternative music, but in the end they still sucked
blood, and still had to be slain. Just like in every other major city in the world.
Dawn wasn’t particularly close to Vivian, the Northwestern Slayer who was based in Seattle, or
her Watcher, Thomas, but Dawn gamely went out for coffee with them every week or so and
conveniently overlooked the fact that they were blatantly checking up on her under what had to
just as blatantly be Buffy’s orders. She would have minded that more too except for the fact that
it kept Buffy from showing up on her doorstep unannounced, and ensured that Dawn got recreational
Slaying in once in awhile.
You could take a girl away from Sunnydale but, well… maybe Vampire Slaying was the new yoga.
The motley gaggle of adolescent girls, one eyed-carpenter, and Key to the Universe paused in front
of the house so many of them would always, no matter where they ended up, think of as home. Damn
Xander for doing the den mother thing so well. She smiled with bittersweet fondness at the back
of his shaggy head.
The Booty House looked the same as ever, slightly dilapidated but clearly loved, with the banners
the girls had put out front by the porch waving cheerily in the slight breeze, but even though the
police tape had been removed it wasn’t hard to see that, as much as the house was still and always
would be home, their perceptions of it had been fundamentally changed. The place that had been a
safe haven for some of the only people in the world to know how dangerous this world really was
couldn’t be that safe haven for them ever again.
Despite Buffy and Faith and Xander’s desperately brave actions girls still died. Most lived to be
eighteen, to vote in a Presidential election and buy cigarettes in a grocery store if they dug the
whole lung cancer thing, but Dawn had gotten her fair share of quiet phone calls on nights that
never seemed to end from Buffy, Faith, and especially Xander. Knew that Xander had held lifeless
children in his arms and swallowed the kind of blame that only leadership brought.
But men had broken into the House. Had brought guns and a side of humanity girls who slew the
Forces of Darkness should never have to know. People had their own brand of evil just as tangible
as any demon.
The girls milled around Xander as they all stared at the house silently. Dawn read the brief
hesitation in tense line of Xander’s shoulders, the nearly imperceptible tightening of his fists,
before Francine stepped forward and slipped her small hand in his. “Xander, can we go home?” the
youngest Slayer asked, her small voice thin with an exhaustion that was purely emotional.
Dawn’s throat constricted as Xander looked down at the child with a warm smile and a brief ruffle
for her hair. His one eye glanced back, met Dawn’s with a gravity usually reserved for kidnapping
rescues as he answered Francine. “Yeah, Francy, let’s go home.”
It was a cold day out, but sunny, and Xander was glad for it. If he’d had to pick a day to put
Ashley in the ground, a day like today represented her memory better than any overcast afternoon,
no matter if rain and snow would have fit HIS mood. Xander used to think funerals were only for
the living but, after Buffy had clawed her way back to the life in all its dubious glory, after
talking to his fair share of ghosts and spirits in the years since Sunnyhell had sunk beneath the
ground, he knew that life and death wasn’t nearly as clear cut.
Hell, the whole living undead thing should have been a blinking neon hint. As he got older, Xander
had begun to give a bit more notice to that gray line between life and death, instead of just
wishing Vampires dead, and had finally figured out that funerals were for those they honored too.
Took him all of twenty-five or so years to learn that little nugget. He was a bit slow at times.
And thick. And, well, really, it was amazing he’d ever graduated from high school, though burning
down the school hadn’t hurt. How many underachievers got to wave that around as their favorite
memory of high school with all its silly attempts to make slackers into productive, worthwhile
Not many, no siree. Of course, most slackers hadn’t grown up on the good ol’ Boca del Infierno.
The funeral was taking place in one of the oldest cemeteries in Cleveland, closer to downtown than
the Booty House. It was more like a park than a place where dead people (hopefully) rested, with
huge trees providing shade for most of the graves. Because it was older it saw very little
Vampiric activity and most of the girls who weren’t buried at their homes Xander put to rest here,
mostly because the natural serenity of the place, even in the bustle of downtown, just seemed so
While the line between alive and dead was definitely more of a squiggle than, well, a line, if
the people wanted their bodies to stay in the ground and their souls in heaven… well Xander had
grown up enough to respect that choice.
Not to mention the fact that Buffy would happily use a cheese grater to, well, grate anyone alive
for even thinking the word “resurrection,” let alone trying it out.
The preacher had finished the brief service, leaving the girls and Ashley’s family gathered around
the freshly dug, freshly filled, grave. Xander hung back, by the trees, granting them all their
time to say their private goodbyes. His girls, for all their trust and love in him, needed their
space sometimes. Whenever one of them died, it cut a little close to home. For all Xander did for
them, for all he gave them, he couldn’t guarantee that one day he wouldn’t be burying them either.
Not that he didn’t need his space either. The rage had mostly dissipated, leaving Xander feeling
raw and even more sensitive than usual after he lost one of his charges. He knew that he’d find
Giles at the house in a night or two. Knew they’d find a dive bar and drink until Xander puked in
the equally dive toilet. Knew Giles would merely polish his glasses and make sure Xander got back
to the House without any of the girls seeing them so that he could cry manly in the relative peace
of an alcoholic induced daze.
The Wards were huddled together. Evelyn hadn’t stopped crying since she had gotten off the plane
and Ashley’s siblings, who had always regarded Slaying with a joyful exuberance they had gleaned
from their sister’s endless enthusiasm were wan faced and in shock, with glassy eyes that followed
Xander with betrayed trust whenever he drew close.
He took in a deep, slow breath and willed the burning of his eyes to abate.
“Nice day out, for a burial.”
Xander’s head jerked up at the voice in his blind spot, his hand reaching automatically for the
stake he had put into his suit coat. Spike laughed and flicked the end of a burning cigarette
towards Xander, letting ghostly ashes drift into his face. “Gee, jumpy much, Whelp?”
Xander ignored the question, and therefore Spike, as his shoulders hunched inwards and he turned
back to the group of grieving people he was responsible for in so many ways.
Spike was silent for a long moment before he sighed heavily. Xander heard the creak of leather as
the dead Vampire shifted and finally, tentatively, stepped closer. “She would have liked the service.
Thought it was right nice myself, as these things go.”
The shaggy hair human huffed in annoyance and dragged a hand across his face. “Is there a reason
why you’re here Spike? Playing Powers message boy again? Got anything else to tell me about how
they’re going to try to put my girls in the ground again to teach me a fucking lesson about my
place in things?”
Ohhhkay, maybe the rage wasn’t totally gone yet.
Spike, as always, was unperturbed in the face of his anger. Xander watched out of the corner of his
eye as the Vampire took a deep drag of his cigarette before tossing it to the ground and grinding
it with a non-corporeal boot.
“You know, the Powers may be in charge of a lot of things. They sit up there, on their poofter
clouds, playing a bloody game of chess with Champion pawns, but some things, some people,” his
face gaze skittered to Xander, “Pillocks though they may be, are beyond that.”
Oh yeah, the rage was still here.
“So what?” Xander demanded, “That’s it? They give up on their little crusade to make me a warrior
for the Side of Good? All the doom and gloom and Ashley’s fucking death means NOTHING?”
Spike glared at him. “You git, what do you think the pigeon’s death DID? You think you’d really
be standing here today, making whatever pathetic excuses you have for free will if the Ponces to
Be hadn’t sent themselves your own personal Champion wrapped in a bloody bow?
“That girl,” a look of indignant admiration crossed the blonde’s sharp features, softening them,
“that girl is yours in every sense of the word. She lived for you both in life and death, and
that means more than just about anything in the world, mate. The Powers may make little girls
Chosen, but damn, if you don’t make them Slayers and Slayers answer to no one.
“A few days up there and the Powers were caving to her demands so fast it left their wings and
“They have halos?”
Spike waved an agitated hand in Xander’s direction. “I’m a bloody poet, I have creative license.”
Xander bit back his automatic retort through a monumental effort of self restraint. Really
monumental. “Now pay attention. The Powers, do the whole free will bit for most of humanity.
You were such a good little lapdog for the Slayer and Red you got yourself noticed though. Got
them thinking maybe you’re malleable enough to be pushed, prodded, made into something better than
just a regular old Happy Meal. Got your loyalty to thank for that.
“So, they pushed, they prodded, and all they got was one brassed off mini Slayer causing mayhem,
the loss of one of their stupidest and most biddable Champions, and one immovable rock named
Xander Harris. Even the Powers know when to cut losses and move on.”
Xander took deep, even breaths, as he watched the Wards mourning with his girls, faces wet with
tears. “So, you liked my little bait and switch with Captain Forehead?” he asked absently.
Spike snorted. “You don’t have a lot of brains Harris, but you’ve always had balls.”
The Vampire’s voice softened. “Winging her way to Heaven without a regret.” Xander let out a
choked laugh and jumped as he felt a ghostly hand on one shoulder. His head shot up, surprised,
and Spike smiled with grim pride. “She lived like she wanted to, and she’ll die like she wanted
to. She may not had enough time with the first, but she’s happy. Or she will be. Can’t see the
perky chit any other way.”
Xander, when he closed his eyes and thought of Ashley Ward, blonde pixie hair gleaming in the
moonlight as her blue eyes danced and her sword decapitated everything within reach, couldn’t
either. He really, really, couldn’t. And that, more than platitudes, more than Kinsey’s dying
breaths and sunny funerals, than of promises of a life led the way he wanted to lead it, let the
anger melt away. Like ice in Spring’s thaw.
“I never thought about Heaven, even when I was human. There’s always been too much here to keep
me occupied.” Yeah, Xander bet, poetry, and after that blood, sex, and one batty Drusilla.
And then an obsession with Buffy that was so strong he’d driven HIMSELF batty over it, never
mind Angelu’s crazy wonder girl. Xander really, really didn’t like Spike. “But there’s
nothing here for me, not anymore. Can’t eat, breathe, can’t touch. Not even sunlight’s worth
this. I’m not the Poofter. I never thought about Heaven, when I was a Vampire, because here
was good enough. A pint of blood, some cards, fags galore.” He laughed harshly. “My soaps.”
The human turned, looked at the Vampire who had been a pain in his ass longer than he could
remember. Watched as the blonde stood beneath the trees of the graveyard, his pale, angled
face tilted upwards as sunlight filtered through him. Watched, and understood what he was about
to say. “Haven’t thought about it much since I’ve been dead either. Powers lapdog and all,
didn’t think I’d ever see it. Ever think someplace so fine would be for me. Didn’t think I’d
want something like it either. I’m a bad, bad man after all.” Spike closed his eyes and rocked
back on his heels. “But, the pigeon, she’s there, and I’m thinking it isn’t right fair to
leave her to such mind numbing perfection by herself.” The Vampire, hesitant suddenly, trailed
“Buffy told me once, that Heaven was peace, all worries, all fears gone. It was a quiet certainty
unlike anything she’s known since the first nightmare called her to be a Slayer.”
“You think Ashley’s in that place?” Spike asked quietly.
Xander closed his eyes. “I think everyone’s Heaven is different. I can’t see her being happy
with quiet, and certainty, and peace.”
“Maybe, maybe I should go with her, just to be sure. In case she needs someone to shake things
up with her. The Powers don’t want much to do with me anyway. Afraid the crazy bint will pop
back out of Paradise to check up on how they’re treating me.”
Eyes still closed, he thought of the sad ghost of a smile that twisted Buffy’s lips when no one
was looking, thought of the rhinestone picture of Spike that Dawn kept at her bedside. His
benediction, his apology, flowed easily from his lips as he gathered those memories to him,
“Maybe, you should. If it’s Ashley’s Heaven, they’ll let you in. Sides, you suck at this
whole Fairy Godmother redemption stuff. Playing Superman has never been your style.”
Spike grunted. “Always preferred Batman. He got all the hot birds for enemies.”
“Plus, a fast car.”
“Bullocks, are we bonding again?”
Xander laughed, really laughed, and stretched his arms out, feeling the sunlight warm his fingers,
even through the increasing cold of the coming evening. “We’ll chock it up to grief and never
speak of it again.”
Silence and then, “Give the Bit… well, tell her to take care.”
The Vampire snorted. “My girl can take care of herself. Its you idiots one has to worry about.
We better not see you up in Heaven for a right amount of time, otherwise the pigeon will be very
unhappy. Can’t have that kind of fuss. Makes all the higher deities nervous.”
“We?” Xander queried, as he opened his eyes, only to find Spike gone.