AN: Whoah. With the finishing, and the done, and the epilogue after this chapter.
Read, review, eat chocolate, repeat.
Huge, long Author Notes and Thank Yous on my LiveJornal (link off my profile).
********************* Chapter Forty-Two Part B ***************************
Samantha Finn held her arms across her chest as she bit back the words that could
do nothing but make things worse. She watched, throat tight, as her husband
walked through rooms of the house, efficiently packing everything he considered
vital. Most of it was Haley’s toys and clothes- Riley rarely thought much for himself.
She wet her lips once, twice, but her self-righteousness had finally failed her.
A single phone call had destroyed two lives- Ashley’s and her own. She watched,
and couldn’t make herself look away from the taunt line of Riley’s shoulders, from
the cold distance in his eyes.
She felt like a ghost in her own emptying home, trailing behind a man who had
once made her whole. Wanting desperately to be able to return to life but knowing
she would never be able to do anything more than haunt his memories. She
couldn’t touch him anymore, even if she tried.
Sam watched, and watched, until she couldn’t stand it anymore. With a quiet sob
she took herself to the kitchen where Graham sat, stony-faced, a cup of cooling
tea in front of him in a chipped mug. She hesitated before sitting down across
from him. The silence here was of a different quality. Still blaming, still
painful, but without the rage Riley harbored. Graham just seem resigned, and,
most of all, tired.
“I am sorry, you know,” she said softly. Voice a strangled thing of emotion
Graham reached out, no longer looking at her, and cradled the mug with his
hands. “I’m not the one you should be telling that too. We both know that.”
She laughed bitterly. “And we both know he’s not ready to hear me apologize.
May not ever be.”
Graham shrugged gracefully. “And that is something you’re going to have to live
with. We all deal with our demons in our own way. Some days I wonder if any of
us are really human at all.” He paused, and despite himself, his voice
softened. “You take a leave of absence from service?”
Sam nodded distantly, her eyes fixed on the bright morning of her front yard as
she stared out the kitchen window. “I’m out. I don’t think I can go back in.
Don’t think I’m strong enough. Don’t think I ever really was.”
Graham laughed roughly. “Funny how sometimes it takes fucking up and getting
fucked to really understand our own weaknesses.” Our demons.
Riley entered the kitchen silently, a large military duffel bag slung over
one shoulder, Haley’s favorite stuffed animal tucked under one arm. Graham
rose as well, softness forgotten, as he fell in-line behind her husband. Riley
didn’t look at her when he spoke, and Sam knew with a clarity that was so clear
it HURT, that nothing she said could ever make him really see her again.
“I’ll have Haley call on her birthday.”
She nodded once and started to rise as well before thinking better of it and
sinking back into the kitchen chair. Her husband readjusted the weight of the
bag over his left shoulder and walked towards the front door. On the way past
his hand slipped into his jacket and removed a knife which he placed on the
table. Graham, who was following him, stopped and swallowed, almost wide-eyed,
at the knife.
And Sam suddenly knew what that knife was. And who it had been used on.
She shuddered as the front door slammed behind them. Shuddered and stared,
throat tight, at the knife Xander Harris had used to kill Senator Robert Kinsey.
And sometime, after the morning had faded to night, she laid her face against
the table and began to cry.
“Happy birthday to you, you smell like a zoo, happy birthday dear Lindsay,
happy birthday to you!” Xander laughed as Lindsay made a face at Francine and
the rest of the girls laughed. Francy was leading the song with a gusto you
only usually saw in their youngest Slayer when she was knee deep in demon goo
and feeling particularly bloodthirsty and Lindsay, well, Lindsay looked so
pleased, even with the exasperation, Xander thought she was about to burst.
The dining room had been transformed into an explosion of color. Francy’s
fashion sense was haphazard at best and her sense of coordination, or lack
thereof, translated into the color scheme of Lindsay’s birthday party. Hot
pink, brown, and navy blue were the predominant colors. The crepe paper was so
thick you could barely see the ceiling, and there was confetti on every flat
surface in the room, plus most of the girl’s hair.
His youngest and oldest were beaming though, and Xander gave himself a mental
pat again on the back for having thought of having the youngest Booty gang
member planning the oldest one’s final day in the house all those years ago.
It gave the younger ones a sense of pride and a connection with one of the
older girls. Theoretically, it might one day transfer into teamwork and
battle tactics, but as far as he was concerned, the fact that it made them
so damn happy made it worth it all by itself.
The girls were perched all throughout the room, wearing a variety of hats and
gaudy plastic jewelry Francine had bought to decorate with. Lindsay had a pile
of presents nearly as tall as Xander opened on the ground next to her, the CD
he had given her shining in its cellophane wrapping on the top of the
unstable mountain of stuff.
The same CD she had been asking for on Halloween all those weeks ago, right
before an alien life form decided to crawl down his throat and play havoc with
all their lives.
He laughed as Angelique and Valerie, the knife lovers of the bunch, argued
over who got to cut the cake and only interfered when Paula, their sugar fiend,
got involved after getting impatient and almost got herself gutted. “Hey, now,
give the adult the knife!”
Valerie snorted, a twinkle in her eye. “What adult?”
Xander rolled his eyes but grinned as he managed to reach out and grab the knife
out of the girl’s hand even before her Slayer reflexes could kick in. Sometimes,
he thought smugly, all those years of Willow and Buffy playing keep away from
him really paid off. “I win!” he chortled as the three of them scowled at him.
Lindsay reached over suddenly and wrapped her arms around him tightly, face
buried against his side. Xander stilled as the girls got quiet in response to
the sudden mood change in the room. Without a thought he handed the knife back
to Valerie and turned so that he could offer Lindsay both arms, which she
blindly threw herself into.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered as he felt hot tears soak through the front of his
shirt, “I just… I don’t want to leave.” Didn’t want to leave her home, him.
Emily had cried for the entire week before her graduation and had given
anyone, including him, a black eye who commented about it or asked if she
wanted to talk. Of course, Emily had always been startlingly like Faith.
He brushed the back of her hair as he rocked her softly, and damnit, tried not
to start crying too because Lindsay, Lindsay was the first girl who had come to
them after Sunnydale, when everyone was raw and hurting. And she had been
hurting too, an eleven year old with powers she couldn’t begin to understand,
and fear and mistrust of adults that had sent her screaming every time someone
had tried to touch her. It had taken months for Xander to break past the years
of neglect that both of them had suffered, months before the Scoobies could
sleep a full night without their newest recruit waking them up with her
Xander had watched that child become the woman before him, and even though it
killed him to have to push her out his front door one last time today, even
though he’d give anything to be there for her whenever, wherever she needed
him, Lindsay was ready. Not just ready to be a Slayer. Frightened though she
had been, at eleven she had come to them deadly and perfectly lethal.
No, now she was ready to become more than a Slayer.
A friend. God knows he had few enough of them, and having another one with
combat training would never hurt. Xander’s lifestyle tended to be a bit rough
on those he loved.
He kissed the top of her hair. “Linds, you’ll never be able to really leave us,
you know that. Every time we screw things up we end up having to call the Big
House anyway. You’ll be seeing us once or twice a week at that rate.” She
giggled slightly, through her tears, and Xander gently disengaged her from his
embrace and turned her, snot nosed and runny eyed, back to the kitchen table.
“Now how about we slice, dice, and devour this uhh… lovely… Justin Timberlake
The cake actually kind of reminded him of a haunted portrait that had decided to
try to decapitate him in a mall once, over on the east side of town, but Xander
wasn’t going to say anything about it. Not unless the damn thing started chasing
He wished they still used candles on the birthday cakes but even since Zina
had accidentally started that kitchen fire, the only candles allowed in the house
had to be for summoning purposes. Proper birthday tradition or not, Xander
really didn’t think a Lo’kil demon would be pleased about being summoned on top
of a Justin Timberlake cake.
They were weird about weirdness like that which was funny because, hey, three
Lindsay managed to shoot Francine another dirty look as the normally shy girl
looked smug. “I can’t believe you really got a Justin Timberland cake.”
The twelve year old sniffed primly. “It seemed appropriate.”
Good girl. Maybe his youngest would be all right after all.
“Okay, kids,” he nodded at Valerie, “blade out. We got to get as much sugar in
Linds as possible before Faith gets here and the animal sacrifices begin.”
Francine blanched. “Animal sacrifices? No one told me anything about those!
I didn’t buy a lamb, or goat, or anything…”
Okay, so she still needed some more work. He had her for a few more years. At
one point Francy WOULD learn sarcasm. Because no Slayer should be left to fend
for herself against Vampires, demons, and the forces of darkness without
It just wasn’t right.
“I love my job.”
“Sir,” Carter warned in a low voice. Not like anyone else could hear them.
Well, except Janet who a.) was busy writing test results down on her clipboard,
and b.) hated Anise almost as much as he did. Their kindly benevolent
doctor apparently took personal offense to the number of times that particular
To’kra had nearly gotten SG-1 killed.
Besides… it’s not like they were hurting her. Much.
Just because she experienced blinding pain every time Angel touched her, well, it
was all in the name of science and eradicating the Goa’uld, or something like
that. Jack didn’t really care, as long as he got to watch. And bring popcorn.
“I can’t believe you didn’t get Kettle Corn,” Daniel grumped, even as he reached
for another hand out of the bowl Jack had in his lap.
“For crying out loud Daniel, I told you they were out!”
“You should have gone to the grocery store on the other side of town. THEY’RE
never out of Kettle Corn.”
Jack slapped the archaeologist’s hand away as he reached for the bowl again.
“Give me a break, I didn’t want to be late. Janet very specifically told me if
I was even second later than three o’clock that I couldn’t sit in the observation
room and watch. I know for a fact that you got here an HOUR early.”
Daniel had the grace to turn a bit red around the ears. “Well, I don’t have a
very good track record with that whole time thing.”
Jack thumped his hand away again. “Ya think? Remember that time I almost
got sacrificed to the local’s tree god because you got distracted by a purple
rock? Or how about the time…”
“Jack O’Neill, do you really think that this Vampire will provide the answer in
our fight against the Goa’uld?”
Jack and Daniel stopped their bickering and turned to Teal’c, who was regarding
the experiments before him solemnly, so solemnly that his forehead was
creased slightly, right between the eyes. Jack frowned and watched as Angel
leaned forward on Janet’s microphoned instruction and touched Anise’s bare hand
again. Despite himself, he shuddered a bit as the Tok’ra let out another round
of piercing screams.
Okay, so they were reveling in her pain a bit more than might be purely healthy,
but it was for a good cause. She had volunteered herself, or Freya had
volunteered her, one of the two, and they were currently testing to see what kind
of reactions different types of contact provoked. It wasn’t particularly pretty,
but it was pretty entertaining. And useful, for that whole, saving the
Jack couldn’t wait until the Asgard showed back up and he could ask Thor about
what they knew concerning the whole Scourge of the Goa’uld thing.
“I don’t know Teal’c, but the fact that Anise has been here for two weeks and shows
no sign of leaving until we get this thing figured out says a lot. She hasn’t
even offered to take Angel off-world for her own special To’kra tests.” Well,
partly because Angel loathed her but… “I mean, she actually seems serious about
this. Serious about this wacky idea of Xander’s working. Everyone does.”
Graham and Riley had already been cleared for gate duty and were currently
traipsing off to the more Goa’uld friendly worlds in the hopes of making
them significantly less, well, Goa’uld friendly.
“So if General Hammond does approve of the plan Dr. Frasier has recommended, you
would be willing to be… bitten, in order to gain immunization from the Goa’uld?”
Jack shifted uncomfortably in his chair as he shot Janet an uneasy look. The
good doctor was completely absorbed in her tests but that didn’t mean she wasn’t
still listening to everything they said. She was freakily able like that.
“I wouldn’t go that far, I mean, who would you thumb-wrestle with?” Teal’c
arched a brow. “Okay, okay, but what if we wanted to start thumb-wrestling?”
“You know,” Janet broke in mildly enough, “I think SG-1 has been on the front
line often enough. The program, when it is implemented, will be strictly
voluntary, and will also be accompanied by my recommendation that SG-1 not
be considered in its initial phases until the full ramifications are discovered.
Your team is too important to loose, even if this possibility of Goa’uld
immunization is too important not to take seriously.”
Jack beamed. “What she said!”
“And Colonel,” she continued as her eyes never drifted from the window looking
into the experimentation room, “go get some damn Kettle Corn.”