Final Count Down
The Final Count Down –
Coming home to a place that was to be their home, but that they had never seen, was both a momentous moment, and a bit of an anticlimax. The flight was long, but they spent every minute of it working, and by the time they were done, not only did they have a game plan to lay in front of everyone, but they even had a charter. Both of them were pretty sure given the topics of conversation with Willow and Buffy that this would be supported whole heartedly, their only worry was Giles and if he would see this as a betrayal, which it wasn’t. It was just a change in direction, walking away from the secrecy and the idea of controlling the Slayer rather than working with her.
The plane was on time, they landed at the airport, and since they had purposely not communicated any flight plans there was no one to meet them. Grabbing a taxi they were soon on their way to their new base of operations, their new home. They did make a quick stop at a Kinko’s as they were going by to print off some of the stuff they had come up with. Faith and Xander were quiet on the drive there, not talking, just looking at, getting impressions of their new area. Neither of them noticed the inquisitive glances from the taxi driver, but they did nothing, just smiling and tipping him as they stepped out in front of the campus. The layout met with approval from both of them, lots of clear lines of sight, and the buildings were in a rough circle, making it easier to defend. They looked at each other not sure what to do and started walking into the middle. There they saw the chalk words as Erin had and a smile rose to both of their lips, brows arching a bit when they realized they would be sharing a duplex, both of them silently wondering ~is there a connecting inner door~ but they just walked towards the admin building.
As they approached the front doors opened and a young woman walked out, carrying a few books and some papers, she looked up and a smile of joy crossed her face and the books when flying as she launched herself at Xander with a cry, “You’re HOME!”
Xander barely had time to drop his bags and catch Dawn, even though it wasn’t until she yelled his name that it clicked. The little girl had become a beautiful young woman. His arms wrapped tight around her, “Heya Dawnie, good to see you.”
Dawn pulled back a smile on her face as she kissed his cheek. “I’ve missed you, so glad you’re back.” The stress and worry had faded from her face and she had put on some weight like her sister giving her curves again. All in all she looked much healthier and happier than she had been when they all went their separate ways. After another tight hug she pulled back and turned to Faith, pulling her in a tight hug also, much to Faith’s bemusement. “I’m glad to see you too F.”
Faith returned the hug, “Believe it or not, I almost missed you too kiddo.” They all laughed and Dawn turned to pick up her books and papers.
“Come on you two, we’ve all been wondering when you would get here, everyone else is inside.” She spied a young slayer walking by, “Amber, would you take their stuff to their place, and bring their keys back, please?”
“Sure Dawn,” the young girl waved, grabbing their bags and trotting off, just barely giving Faith and Xander time to grab their backpacks that had the computer and all their notes, leaving Faith and Xander standing there looking at Dawn expectantly.
“Come on you two, we didn’t know when you would get back so we’ve just been gossiping. Giles will be glad to see you.” Dawn had a huge smile on her face as she walked leading them through the building, “They are in the conference room, I was running out to get some documents, but that can wait now.” She pushed through to large doors to reveal Buffy sitting chattering excitedly as Willow nodded listening and Giles and another woman sat on the opposite side of the table smiling listening to her. They spied Luna standing looking out the window a cup of tea in her hand, a soft smile on her face and a faraway look. She noticed them first, turning to give the oddest of smiles, then looking back out the window at something.
“They’re HEEREEE…” Dawn announced in a bad parody of Jack Nicholson in The Shining, causing everyone to look up and smile at them.
Willow just waved as she had seen them only two days ago, Buffy on the other hand, full of energy and life, jumped up and moved over to them, hugging them both quickly. “Hey you two, come meet Erin, and we’ve just been going over all that we learned during our break, and tossing out ideas about how to do this with so many slayers. I was mentioning some of the stuff you and Faith had talked about, but it kept being jumbled up when I tried to explain.”
Xander smiled, “Breath Buffy, apparently Willow is contagious.” Everyone laughed and Xander and Faith exchanged lightening fast glances, and the tiniest of nods, then they turned to Giles, “Giles it is good to see you.”
Rupert had stood looking at the last two of his children to come through the door, and once again he was blown away. When Buffy had walked through the door for a moment he had not recognized her, she had changed so much. She had put weight back on, the lines and stress were gone, there was laughter and joy on her face, and for a moment he wanted to cry realizing how close he had come to destroying this girl that was all but his own daughter.
Then Willow with her strange lover in tow, had more joy and peace than he had seen since she was a shy high school student. Now peace all but radiated from her, and people seemed to rejuvenate in her presence. He had not realized how much blocking magic had cost her, and now seeing her here with magic an integral part of her life, she was blooming like a flower turned to face the sun.
Faith the wild child, he had failed so badly, moved like a goddess of war. Every muscle in her body was outlined, and she glowed with health and vitality, and a sense of who she was. She no longer tried to prove anything with the sex kitten act; she was death on two feet and okay with it. Her self confidence all but radiated out from her, and once again he was stunned at what had almost been thrown away.
Then there was Xander, the grief, anger, and most of the darkness was gone. There was purpose and confidence that he had never seen on this young man, but most of all there was that iron will that he had hidden for years behind the joker, and Rupert realized that it was no longer hidden.
For a long moment Giles stood looking at them, then moved quickly to pull first Xander into a tight hug, then Faith. He pulled back a bit and looked at them, “Welcome home, it is good to have my family back.”
Faith and Xander blinked, the simple comment striking them as they looked around the room, they realized he was right, this was their family, their home. Not because of the place, but the people. They were home. The tiniest bit of weight evaporated, and for both of them, home was a place they wanted to be.
Rupert, missing most of this turned to the woman who had stood up. “Xander, Faith, I’d like to introduce you to Erin Hunnicutt, a psychiatrist who has agreed to work with us.”
Faith grinned, “Ah you must be the doc the Bellows told us about, glad to see you made it.” The hand shake was friendly and firm, and Faith was very glad to see her. Rainbow had taught her how important the health of the mind was, to keep the body and ego in check.
Xander smiled at her shaking her hand next, “Good to meet you, I’ve heard good things about you.”
Erin had been watching the last two since they entered the room. The dynamics of this bunch were enough to make her itch to write a paper on self determined families, forged in the fire of battle. But she had missed little about any of the people as she had met them and was amazed at the strength of these young people, especially given the losses they had faced. Family members, loved ones, permanent maiming, yet they were here laughing and ready to fight again. The human spirit never ceased to amaze her, and she wished BJ was still around, she would have put him here just to watch these people live and love.
“I’m glad to meet you both finally, the women here have been talking about you two non-stop.” Her grin was wicked and Willow, Buffy, and Dawn all turned red.
Faith laughed, “Well let’s see, I believe the last bet was we would be sleeping together by New Year’s? Nope sorry not yet, but we already have offers for his stud services being considered.” Xander just shook his head smiling softly.
Giles sputtered, while Erin started laughing, when Luna’s clear voice commented, “Remember the offer is open for both of you to join us in that effort.”
There was shocked silence then the room broke up laughing, and Erin was amazed at the love and acceptance. She knew Luna was deadly serious and just let people enjoy the funny part, while she watched the entire room with a slightly distant look. Erin still didn’t know what to make of her, except she had chosen this family with full knowledge of who and what they were, and still she loved without condition, Erin was frankly amazed, never realizing she was doing the same as she got closer and closer to Rupert Giles.
The next hour was spent catching up, then topic turned to the functioning of their new group and Xander cleared his throat getting everyone’s attention. “I’ve been thinking about this for a while, years really, and I have talked about it with Willow, Buffy, and Faith a lot. On the plane home we talked some more, and we have some ideas about how we have to change things.” Xander directed his gaze to Giles, “This isn’t that we don’t love you or trust you, but we can’t do things the way the tweed set did before, they treated Slayers as tools to be used and discarded, and that will not happen again. Also we are now in the eyes of the government, and that is not going to change in fact it will happen more and more. We have to bring Slayers and Watchers up to speed with the current times; that means computers, databases, programs, working with governments, and changing the way things are done.” Xander took a deep breath still watching everyone, “With that in mind Faith and I created a charter for the Slayer House, and we want to discuss it with you.”
Xander reached in and pulled out the piece of paper that they had printed earlier; it had the rough outlines of a charter and he handed one out to everyone, having made lots of copies. “This is what we came up with on the flight.” It was a rough document, but you could see that both of them had thought a lot about it. There was a Watcher, Slayer, Magic User, and Battle heads to help make sure the council ran cleanly, there were provisions of salary and the rights of slayers. There was a lot of nodding and murmuring as people read it, Giles reacted first.
“Xander, Faith this is excellent, and trust me my feelings are not hurt, if anything I am overjoyed to see that you are building something that will stand for life times. And I was trying to figure out some way to avoid the mistakes of the past, and now you have solved it for me. Thank you.”
Xander relaxed, he had not realized how worried he was about Giles taking it as an insult. They discussed it more but finally Dawn spoke up.
“I like this, a lot, Xander. But there is something missing.” Everyone looked at her and she bit her lip trying to work it out. “We need one more person, right now one it is even so you could have a tie, but we need someone else as part of this…” she trailed off trying to define what she was thinking.
“What a political liaison?” Asked Buffy, thinking about what she had been learning.
Dawn shook her head, “No we need someone not magical, not a watcher, not a slayer. Someone to keep us sane; who cares more about us than we do ourselves. I watched my sister almost fall apart because of the stress of this calling. We need someone to protect us from ourselves and our own sense of duty.”
Luna by this time was sitting at the table listening to all of this, and spoke quietly, the slightest smile on her lips. “You need your protector, and that person is here in this room. “ When everyone looked at her curious, she pointed to Dawn, “What do you see when you look at her.” Her finger moved to Buffy.
Confused Dawn answered, “My sister.”
“What do you see Willow?”
“My best friend,” came the confused answer.
“The Chosen One.”
“Female, early 20’s.”
All of the answers were quickly given but the confusion was evident as she moved from person to person. Luna then turned to Xander, “What do you see?”
Her finger moved from person to person as he answered, “Buffy, Willow, Dawn, Faith, Erin, Rupert, Luna.”
“He is the one who sees, not because he has special powers or can see the future, he sees the person, and only the person, the rest of it, the slayer, the magic, the watcher is immaterial to him, because all he sees is the person. He is your protector and always has been at the cost of himself. I said once he is your sword and your shield, and he is, not just for the slayers though, but for the people he loves, they just happen to be slayers and watchers and magic users.”
As she spoke people were nodding and the smile on Dawn’s face was growing. “Of course he has always been the one to protect and love us.”
Giles nodded, “It makes sense, he was the heart when we cast the spell to join us, and I think he always has been.”
Buffy smiled, “They voted me Class Protector, but you have always been my protector, even before you saved my life.”
Xander was turning red and didn’t know what to say while Faith arched an eyebrow. “So new cabinet position, the tie breaker, and the one who cares more about us than we do, I say we need a Protector, and I nominate Xander to be the first one.”
The motion was carried swiftly much to Xander’s embarrassment, but at the same time it felt right to him in a way he had not known. He wanted to so much to make sure that no girl ever suffered as Buffy and Faith had, and this was his way of trying to make that true.
The next three hours were spent hammering out the details of the charter, but finally it was agreed upon, and they all sat back with a feeling of accomplishment when Luna threw another wrench into the works.
“So what will your oath be?”
She received blank looks from everyone and smiled enjoying their confusion. “Well you have to say a oath when you take office, so what will your oath be, after all you have the stone to swear it on.”
Again blank looks from everyone, Willow finally spoke, “What stone?”
“Well the oath stone of course,” then she closed her eyes for a moment, “Oh, silly me I haven’t given it to you yet.” She dug into her pocket and pulled out a few items and laid them on the table. “The Ministry approached me before we left asking me to present these to you, with lots of blah blah involved, something about working together and future efforts and prosperity. All political hot air, but I thought the gifts were nice, and it let me add one.”
The items looked like toys and everyone was confused, “What are they?”
Luna frowned a bit looking at the toys, “Oh yes… I forget sometimes we are present and not future.” She lifted one off and set it on the floor, then pulled her wand and cast a quick enlarging spell. On the floor a stone pedestal basin appeared, while on the desk there was a book, a beautiful green crystal globe set in a base with five sections on the base, each one currently gray, and a necklace of a sword and shield.
Willow spoke with her eyes wide in astonishment, “The Ministry gave us a Pensive? Wow they must really want to get on our good side.” At the confused looks Willow quickly explained what a pensive was and how you used it, everyone’s eyes lit up, a way to see what had happened, not just the confused jumble of words trying to explain it, that alone made it almost priceless to them.
Luna shrugged, “Always fun to look at the dreams of others, gives you interesting insight and ideas.” Erin’s eyes lit up with how that could be used in counseling, and already had ideas that would make that almost priceless to her.
Buffy looked at the other two objects, “But what are the others.”
“An Oath stone, you activate it by saying the oath once, then when you take office you place your hand and swear the oath, the name of the swearee, I love that word – swearee, appears in one of the spaces on the base. As long as they keep their oath the stone around it is white, if they purposefully break it, it turns red, if they die it goes black. Swearee, such a nice word.”
All of them turned to look at the oath, but it was Xander that spoke next, “Purposefully you said. So if they break it via trickery or don’t know they broke it, there will be no reaction.”
“Swearees must break it, if they think they are true it will not change. But as soon as the swearee,” Luna grinned again drawing the word out, “realizes it, the stone will change.”
You could see the thoughts going through everyone’s heads as they thought this through, while Dawn doodled on her scratch pad. “Okay guys I think I have the oath we should swear,” she read while everyone listened to her.
I solemnly swear to protect and support the people involved in the Slayer House, and that I will faithfully fulfill the role I have accepted of __________. I swear to fulfill my duties and responsibilities to the best of my ability. I swear to honor the sacrifices of those who died before me and those that may die during my watch. I swear to do all of these things on my life and honor.
A series of smiles spread around, then they looked at Luna to explain the next two items, “Well these don’t have any swearees so not as much fun, but this is a Slayer book.” She opened it and pushed it to Faith, who was the closest slayer to her. “It is a modified version of the Hogwarts Students’s list, it lists every Slayer who has ever been, the date they were called, their physical location, I tried to get latitude and longitude but it refused so you only get rough political areas, and the date they died. When a new slayer is called their name will be written here.” She smiled at Buffy, “It is your ultimate list of all of those who were Chosen, and when they lost their battle.”
Giles and Buffy both reached for it, their hands reverent, moving closer so they could both look, “Look here they are the Amazon queens, look how long they lived.”
Giles touched another one, “Look, she only lived an hour, we never knew her.”
They both found Buffy’s name, but she had three lines, one for each re-birth, the last one still blank waiting for her death. There was silence, but it wasn’t sad simply reflective as they looked at the history before them.
Erin broke up the quiet, “So what is that last item?”
Luna grinned, “Ah that was my gift to the future father of my children and the protector, it was the most likely outcome as you made it this far.” Faith and Willow snickered while Xander just blinked not sure how to react or not react, either way he knew this battle was way lost, so he just pretended to ignore that part.
“A gift for me? Thanks Luna but fried Twinkies would have been just as great.”
Luna grinned tossing him the necklace, “But a Twinkie belly would make some of the kama sutra poses impossible.”
Giles took off his glasses rubbing them furiously while Dawn, Willow, and Faith almost slid under the desk laughing, Buffy just blinked a bit wondering if she really wanted to know, while Erin watched and marveled at Luna’s skills at pulling them all together with laughter and love and family.
Xander caught the necklace looking at it, a miniature great sword behind a shield with a emblem that looked like the superman symbol on it. It almost glowed and Xander looked up at her curiously.
“It is mage crafted, I called in a favor,” she shrugged a little, “It is thrice blessed and sanctified, and created with blood, tears, and semen – freely given all. It will heal and help to protect the Protector, and will only stay where a heart is true. It seemed right given what I have seen.” She shrugged again picking up her tea.
Erin had not missed one of her see comments, and resolved to ask at a later point, meanwhile thinking she had seen the name Luna Lovegood somewhere, and made a mental note to check it out.
Xander put it on and the chain automatically adjusted to the correct length he would want when Luna commented, “Oh did I mention it will only come off on death or the falsity of the heart?”
A quick glare from all around, but Xander realized it felt right, just like the title had and somehow didn’t mind.
The rest of the day and into the evening was spent going over the charter, the gifts, and as they were leaving Willow mentioned tomorrow she would bring the prophecies with her, and Dawn said she would bring their also, and they would start on that.
Giles had gotten some good people to run the Slayer House, teachers for those who needed their GED’s, the rest were either signing up at the local high school or the college nearby. When Faith heard about the GED option, she decided to go that way, working with Rainbow had awakened a hunger for knowledge that she had not realized before, and if Ding could be working have earned his Masters, and currently working on his PhD, then there was no reason she couldn’t earn a Bachelor’s, she already had some ideas about what she wanted to study. They had a cook that came in to cook dinner, breakfast was generally available via cereal and grain products, and lots of microwavable protein, or cold cuts for those who preferred a protein start.
That meant in the morning, most of the people showed up at the cafeteria. Even those who while their stuff was here, the cabinets were bare, and even Faith and Xander were considering a major grocery run. But that meant everyone straggled into the cafeteria around eight am, bleary eyed, only to be confronted by wide awake and energetic Faith and Xander, both chowing down on it looked like half the breakfast offerings.
Buffy and Willow were focusing on the coffee, looking at them with something approaching hate, as Giles and Erin drifted in, both of them heading for tea, with Dawn trailing, still half awake even with her hair still wet. Luna was already sitting watching the pair eat, sipping on hot chocolate watching the others as they came in.
Buffy muttered into her cup of coffee “How can you two be so awake so early?”
Faith and Xander glanced up and started laughing, “Buffy we’ve been up since 4:30, we’ve done a hour run, and another hour of hand to hand practice, some random weapons work, and showered. We figured we had better keep in shape, and this is the only way to do it.”
Most of the original Scoobies looked at them with their jaws slightly open and stunned looks on their faces. Erin and Luna simply smiled hiding behind a cup of tea, Erin because she knew this was healthy, they were both warriors and warriors needed to stay fit and the energy release that came with exercise. Luna because already possibilities were becoming improbable, and the chance of survival was rising, she wished she could see clearly what was coming, but for now this was of the good.
“Eww… “ Buffy sighed, then compared her body to Faiths, Buffy was not fat never had been, just she finally had curves again, looking soft and holdable. Faith on the other hand was long lean and sexy as hell, every muscle outlined, reminding people of a cat on the hunt. Xander just looked good, fit and cut, and there was the slightest wondering of what he looked like under that shirt.
Giles was the one who rounded everyone up and back to the office, where Willow produced the green prophecies, and Dawn the ones they had gotten from the Vatican. Copies were quickly made and they were all passed around, letting everyone read and discuss each prophecy.
Dawn finally spoke, “I think we can ignore the Green prophecies, unlike most they are not about death, but about the growth of what we have started here. I think they are important to us, but they are what we need to be, and I think we are fully on the way. The Nostradamus prophecies, I think we are fine on, everything except two have already passed I believe. The last two, I don’t see that we can do anything about them, so that leaves us with the Lucia prophecy; that one worries me the most.”
Everyone quickly agreed, though no one brought up the prophecy Luna had made about Xander, mainly because it really only affected him, and his children. But no matter what nothing could be figured out, so all the prophecies were labeled and filed, and life at the Slayer house truly started.
Faith and Xander got settled into their duplex, but the door between never really was shut, their lives quickly becoming one, though they were still moving slow. Buffy got all moved in and started to get the steps in place to work with various governments, starting with Lara’s contacts to get information and laying the ground work for becoming the visible head of the Slayer House.
The party at New Years was quiet, with promises of a bigger one when the next year came around, but this year they simply enjoyed turning the school into a home and learning about the people in each other’s lives. Erin had quickly become a favorite with everyone, she was blunt, but had tact that Anya had never learned, and mostly she cared so much. About two weeks after Buffy came back she had a long session with Erin, she was crying by the end, but healing deep wounds. For a while she and Erin had a regular session. Giles thought she hung the stars, and within a very short time most of the people there agreed with that sentiment.
Dawn was going to turn 18 that summer, but she was waiting to let Jack know; she could feel that something was going to happen, and she wasn’t sure what it was yet. The next few weeks of the New Year passed by with nothing much to mark them.
The charter was ratified, with a few small tweaks on the names, and the oath stone was set in the hall, where anyone walking in could see the status. The round clear crystal ball sat on a small granite pedestal, that Willow refused to explain, but it was anchored to the earth, not even the Slayer would budge it. Around the crystal were five trapezoid plaques in a different color for each office. The Battlemaster was Hematite, Merlin was Malachite , Watcher was Amethyst, Slayer was Red Jasper, and Protector was a solid Lapis Lazuli. Below that office plaque was white quartz crystal. Each officer position was clearly labeled on the plaque and the name of the person holding that office had appeared as they took their oath, their names had appeared on the crystal, written in brilliant green script. Luna had told them if the person betrayed their oath their name would glow blood red, and if they died, it would go black.
Slowly they worked on getting the place and their plans together, and for the most part everyone was working well together. The slayers took to Xander and Faith right off, and soon they were safer and more efficient than a slayer had ever been. Willow and Luna got use to trans-Atlantic portkeying, while Xander and Faith worked on strategies and the morning workout, that put most of the slayers into the ground, but yet no one missed a morning session, including Buffy and Dawn. Dawn usually brought up the rear, she wasn’t in the shape the slayers were, but if Xander could do it so could she, and after only a few weeks the difference was noticeable. After patrol reports were set up, and sessions with Erin after any incident that involved someone getting hurt or dying.
The only major incident in the first few months was the death of Kennedy. She had never been happy since Buffy and Willow came back, barely tolerating Faith, feeling like she was owed. Everyone tried to show her how much she was needed and appreciated, but Luna treating her like she treated everyone was something Kennedy just didn’t know how to handle. Kennedy had expected, in fact wanted the jealousy and wondering if Kennedy still had a hold on Willow’s heart. All Luna gave her was warmth and the same gentle attention almost everyone got, and Kennedy couldn’t stand it.
She had seen signs of a vamp nest on a patrol, but rather than reporting it, she decided to come back and deal with it by herself; after all, one slayer could handle a vamp nest.
She was wrong. The proof of her error was given by her body on the front lawn the next morning, with her sword stuck in her heart. After all reporting was done, the ultimate cause of death was stupidity. Faith found Xander crying in the shower the next day, and held him, letting him grieve at trying to figure out what he could have done differently. It was Erin who finally convinced him of the truth of the matter. “Xander, you can train and prepare and educate them, but no one can cure someone of being stupid and jealous. There was nothing else you could have done. Use her as an example, and show how that is a stupid, stupid reason to die.”
Things were slowly fitting together, the Slayer House becoming a living community, and governments were slowly realizing that things had changed, but the Scoobies and the Slayers were ready for that change in awareness. But that was when things started to happen.
March 3rd, a series of small earthquakes hit the Atlantic ocean, all of them under 5.0, but they caused a recently discovered island to start to rise from the ocean bed.
The ring tone was cut off by the phone being answered, “Buffy speaking.”
“I see you have finally learned to answer the phone properly, Hilary would be most pleased.” Lara’s clipped tones came over the line drawing a smile from Buffy.
“See, even a blonde can learn eventually. So what’s up Duchess?” The last in a teasing voice as Buffy grabbed a coke from her fridge and dropped into a chair to talk to someone who had become a good friend, and she was well aware Lara wasn’t a duchess, but it was so much fun to call her that.
“Well remember before you left I had mentioned that we thought we had found Atlantis, via some deep sea submersibles?”
Buffy shrugged to herself, “A bit, I remember you talking about Atlantis, but not how it had been found.”
“Well it is rising. Atlantis is rising to the surface, so we might get to explore the island that has remained lost for a millennia. I can’t tell you how excited I am, there are a group of us that is waiting to see it, we think it might reach air by May 1st.”
Something about that set Buffy’s slayer sense tingling. “What do you mean it is rising?”
“The small earthquakes we have had lately have been a symptom of that part of the crust becoming active again, and this island is being thrust back up again. Most likely by active magma beneath it, but as long as it remains intact I don’t care. This will be the exploration of a life time.”
“I bet… Lara, I have to go, I need to go check something, talk to you later?”
Confusion was clear in Lara’s voice, but she didn’t push it, “Sure, let you know when it breaks to the surface. Ta!”
Buffy hung up the phone and threw on some shoes heading for the library and the prophecies they had looked at a few months ago, something struck her. Within minutes she read the Lucia prophecy and her blood went cold. Turning she went and hit the meeting alarm. This had been set up, so that everyone would get a text that someone had found something of serious importance and needed everyone at once. Ten minutes later Dawn, Willow, Xander, Giles, Erin, and Faith were there looking at her expectantly as Buffy read the Lucia prophecy –
“When the old ones awake they will come, from the depths of our souls and oceans. Hungry and seeking they will not be bargained with nor assuaged. Fear is their food and worship their requirement. The armies of the world will fire their weapons and they shall move through the smoke and fire, dying yet uncaring as there are more waiting to rise. They will become rulers of Earth, all shall bow before them. One chance is give, that the Slayer House stand at the rising of the first. Should he be defeated before he leaves the doorway, the door shall close for the next millennia. All colors, all creeds. Family shall stand as the door opens, giving all they can to stop the door for ever. May god have mercy on our souls should they fail, for they never shall. You shall know the time is near when a government is destroyed through an act of honor, when instead of one there are many, the hand of a carpenter holds the heart of faith, and the lost island is found.”
Buffy looked up at them, “Our government was destroyed by a man trying to honor the loss of his son, instead of one slayer there are many, the lost island Atlantis has been found, and is slowly rising to the surface, and our carpenter holds the heart of Faith.”
Xander and Faith both turned beet red, but neither said anything, and it sunk in a moment later. “So it has begun.” Xander said quietly, “Now we just need to figure out what these old ones are and how we stop them.”
Buffy nodded, “Let me call Lara back and see if she can get me any pictures they have so far of the island, if the rest of you can start researching the old ones, and maybe we can get permission to be there when it rises.”
“What territory is this island rising in?” Was Erin’s insightful question, as one hand lay on Giles arm, supportive and loving.
“I don’t know, another question for Lara, maybe I should call her now from here?”
Moments later Buffy was dialing Lara’s cell phone number on the conference room phone, “Lara Croft.”
“Lara, it’s Buffy, and I’ve got everyone else here. Lara, we think the island is reference in a prophecy, one of the apocalyptic kind. Do you have any pics of what is on the island, and where is it rising at.”
There was a long pause on the other end, “So this discovery is going to bring with it blood and tears?”
“I fear so,” Buffy’s answer was quiet but full of certainty.
“I have pictures, I’ll send them over immediately. The quality is poor as it is still over a mile down, but as we get more I’ll include you on the distro. As for location, currently it is at -25, 69. International waters.”
“Okay thanks Lara, keep us in the loop, and let us know who has jurisdiction on this?”
“Right now no one, it is going to be who can afford to investigate, but as it is rising slowly, already the UN is scheduled to have a discussion about it next month.”
Grimly Buffy nodded, “Thanks Lara, I guess I am going to get to practice my skills sooner than I thought. Talk to you later.”
The line cleared and Buffy looks at everyone grimly, then a brief smile crossed her face, “welcome to Apocalypse Season.”
There was a brief startled laugh from the Scoobies, but then they got to work. Buffy immediately started to see how she could get entrance to the UN meeting, that proved to be surprisingly easy, as the old Council had obtained a seat decades ago, it just hadn’t been used in since. She once again blessed the luck of finding Alan, who was still tucked away in England, acting as a liaison between the States and the contacts in England. Xander and Faith stepped up the drills, hoping that whatever this was could be taken down by strength, and the slayers caught the tension and their efforts redoubled.
April 13th –
Willow re-read the prophecies and researched the old ones, but that was such a vague term that she was overwhelmed with results, and nothing showed as prevalent. Sighing, she went to a quiet part of the compound, there was a weeping willow there, and she loved to sit and think out there. A blanket quickly spread out, Viri in her hand, and she settled down to meditate. It had seemed more needed since her connection, she needed to touch Gaia and let her awareness permeate the area around her.
She sank quickly into meditation, listening to the birds and insects all around her.
Buffy was finalizing her trip to New York, half listening to Dawn and Erin talk about battle med kits, both mundane and magical, when a scream that all but shook the walls grabbed them. Without thinking Buffy had a sword in her hand and was running towards that scream. People streamed out of the buildings, everyone at a dead run towards the source of the scream, Faith and Xander in the lead with the slayers catching up quickly.
Everyone came sliding to a stop, handing covering their ears as pain began to lash at them, as they saw Willow floating in the air, head tossed back, screaming non-stop. There was nothing there, the day calm and warm, but for the screams that until this moment Buffy would have sworn a human throat could not produce. Blood was leaking from her eyes and nose, and her nails were shredding through the jeans she wore to ravage the flesh underneath. No one could get near her as the pain radiating from her had Slayers down on their knees covering their ears. Shuddering she went tearing back to Willow’s home, as fast as she could move, and grabbed the mirror, “Luna NOW!”
An image of the rooms where Luna resided popped into view, but there was no one there. “Damnit she is in class, what now… elf, house elf. DOBBY!” Buffy screamed, praying that this creature would hear. There was a strange crack, and there looking at her curiously was the strangest creature Buffy had ever seen. If the situation had not been so dire Buffy might have reacted more, but as it was “Willow’s hurt I need Luna NOW!” Every bit of Slayer command was in her voice, as was fear and worry.
The creatures’ eyes widened and he disappeared in another crack, and Buffy had just enough time to worried where he had gone when Luna appeared with Dobby holding her hand. “Mistress Willow hurt, need you.. go... “ and with that the creature was gone.
Blinking confused Luna started to ask, but the screaming registered and she went white and disappeared. Buffy swore and ran out of the house towards the willow tree again. Most everyone was in tears trying to block the sound, Xander and Faith being the only two still standing, shouting trying to get Willow to snap out of it, and she saw Luna waving her wand, and of all things a bucket appeared above Willow’s head, and splash water soaked her.
The scream cut off so sharply Buffy’s knees gave, and a few slayers passed out, the release so great they couldn’t maintain consciousness. Willow hit the ground in a slump, blood trickling from multiple parts on her body. Luna walked over to her, sitting down beside her and lifting her head into her lap. “Beloved, it is over, wake up now.” Her voice soft, intimate, and uncaring of the friends and strangers watching her show her love for this woman.
Buffy moved over, shivering as she touched the wet clothes on Willow, Luna must have had the water at arctic temperatures. “You didn’t see this?”
An odd smile, “It was not probable, but madness never is.”
Erin pushed her way through the girls with a dry blanket in hand, “Shock therapy to get her out of her dream?”
“Noz a drem…” Willow’s mutter came from her now shivering form. Luna waved her wand and instantly the clothes were dry and Willow slowly stopped shivering as Erin draped the blanket over her. “Waz medit’ing, trap’d their dreaming, couldn’t break madness.” Her words rambling a bit as she struggled to speak, her voice a raw rasp from her screams. She shuddered slumping against Luna, “t’ir insanity, t’ir wants, so close they taste t’ir freedom.”
“Who Willow, who are they?” Buffy asked urgently, hoping for a clue as to who they were fighting.
“Don’t know… “ Willow coughed a little, the sound haggard and raw. “Older than time, so old, so other.”
“Let me get her back to her room, let her sleep, once she has recovered we can ask, now is not the time.” Luna’s voice was low but there was no arguing as she cast a mobilicorpus spell on Willow, who didn’t even have the energy to care, wrapped in blankets, blood still visible under her nails. A silent caravan followed back to the duplex, with Luna slipping inside, Willow ahead of her, Buffy stopped at the door looking at the crowd of Slayers and staff.
“Xander, Faith, Giles, Erin, you guys come with me, everyone else, back to work, this is just the first parley of the battle we know is coming.”
Grim looks of determination on the faces as they slowly dispersed, including a grumbling Dawn, but she had stuff she had to do, so she left, though Buffy had no doubts she would have to relay every whisper that occurred.
By the time the remaining people entered the house, Luna had Willow ensconced in a chair with a large mug of tea liberally laced with Fire Whiskey in her hands. Erin hid her smile of approval, best way to get someone out of shock so they could talk about what happened, but this group of people never failed to deal with the chips were down. Maybe that is why she liked them so much.
Xander and Faith flopped on the floor, looking at Willow with narrowed eyes as the rest took seats. Willow looked at them over the tops of her mug, the whiskey and tea helping to soothe her throat. She started to speak her voice still hoarse and rough. “I was meditating, listening to the planet, to Gaia, and had slipped into a trance just feeling all the life around me, when they slipped in, feeling like cold tentacles of darkness, but not dark like I know it.” She glanced up at Giles apologetically, “When I absorbed all the dark magic, it was raw, brutal, all about anger, rage, and selfishness, but clean and sharp the way a knife is. This was slimy and oily, and twisted and tainted, not absorbing, but corrupting for the pleasure of corruption. It laughed as I struggled in it grips, not even caring if it could defeat me, only enjoying the pain and agony. It is the most terrifying thing I’ve ever felt.” She took a deep breath. “I don’t know what else to tell you, they, it, don’t think or comprehend the way we, or even demons do. I don’t think they are from this universe, this reality, possibly not even this dimension. And they are so glad the door is opening, because they don’t think there is anyone that could stop them.”
Will took another big gulp of the tea, steam whistling from her ears slightly and looked at Buffy, more broken than since the day Tara died. “We have to stop them, because if we don’t, Gaia will break herself apart to get them off of her.”
The words stunned everyone. Gaia really didn’t notice much; even volcanoes and major disasters were like pimples or scratches, something that you really didn’t notice. For Gaia to be aware and willing to react, when no one knew the last time she had proactively done anything in regards to the creatures living on her surface, was gut wrenching to behold.
Buffy spoke first, “When was the last time Gaia reacted to something?”
Willow looked bleak, “65 Million years ago, when an asteroid hit, she created thousands of caves so creatures could escape and find shelter from the ice age that hit. She just didn’t react fast enough to save the dinosaurs”
Cold hard silence filled the room finally broken by Xander, “Well that is why she has us right? Cause we are going to do something about it, and she can go back to pondering the stars.” He stood. “We know it involves Atlantis, so that gives us a starting point. We are going to need weapons and back up when it comes up, because anything this big is going to make the mayor look like an ant. I think,” He looked at Faith and smiled, “it is time to call in some friends and favors, and see what we can do to be ready when we need to be at the door.”
April 15th –
Xander had made all his plans and now was about to start calling in favors, or maybe the promise of future favors, he wasn’t sure which. Prior to all of this he would have thought they could handle it, but one thing the military had taught him, there was no such thing as over kill.
With that in mind he first called Jethro, smiling a bit as the familiar voice answered the phone.
“Hey Gunny, how goes the life of crime?”
A surprised delight filled the voice on the other end, “Xander, had thought you had forgotten us. It goes, same scum as usual. What about on your end.”
“Pretty quiet at the moment, nothing more than the occasional dust on the wind. But that is why I was calling.”
There was a long pause on the line, then his voice somber and serious, “What do you need? Men, weapons, you name it.”
Xander blinked, “No, we have that, or I have other resources better suited to that. What I really needed was maybe Abby’s help. We have an object about to be seen on the surface for the first time in a very long time, and we are struggling trying to analyze it, I thought that if we could place the material and age maybe we could figure out where and when it hailed, and that might give us some more information.”
“I take it that this is not something minor that you should ship to her, or just a side project of research?”
“I would never be that lucky Gunny. This probably on the Richter scale, a 11.5 of apocalypses, so needless to say we would like to shut it down before rather than after.”
A bark of laughter, “Tell me when and where and she’ll be on a plane to you.”
“Thanks, I should know in a week or so, ask her to pack heavy, we’ll need to do as much as possible there on the ground.”
“Will do, let me know if something changes.”
“Thanks Gunny. Later.” With that Xander hung up, marking off one task on this list, then prepared to call one John Clark.
With a deep breath, and resolutely ignoring the desire to get Faith to call, Xander dialed the number. Clark and his record were a bit intimidating to say the least. The phone rang and Xander breathed through his nose slowly.
“Yes, may I help you?” There was no identification of the voice or where you were calling, and perversely it made Xander feel a bit better.”
“John Clark please.”
“Whom may I say is calling?” the proper grammar with the English accent made Xander smile.
“One moment sir.” There was a pause, a series of clicks and then he heard the rough voice of Clark on the phone.
“Harris, Faith okay?” Blunt and to the point, and Xander was very glad Faith was just fine.
“Yes sir, busy running the younger girls into the ground.”
“Good to hear, so why the call?”
“There is a possible situation developing, that may require some extra trained back up. I was hoping some of your associates might be available if that support is needed.”
A thread of humor at Xander saying absolutely nothing at all, “I take it that this has to do with the other job Faith has?”
“Yes sir, seems like some big bads are thinking of staking a claim on our planet, and the consequences would be extinction level bad.”
There was a long pause, and the humor had drained. “I see, given what I now know about you and your group, that does not sound good.”
“That would be correct sir. I would prefer to believe I… we would not need your assistance, but if so can you.” The question was accurately phrased, desire had nothing to do with it, the ability to slip the leash of the masters and move men and equipment was a matter of capability, so Xander was a bit surprised to hear a bark of laughter.
“My command, I can make them fly to Baskin Robbins if I want, the justification of the expenses might be a bit hairy afterwards, but still my command. When and where.”
Xander released a large sigh, “The location will be -25, 69 latitude and longitude. As for the when, sometime in May, at this point the date has not been determined yet.”
“Empty water in the middle of the Indian Ocean?” The voice had a bit of humor, as if he expected Xander to correct the coordinates.
“It won’t be water come May sir.” The flat tone of Xanders voice caused chills to go up Clarks back.
“I see, you call well be there. And call me John, never was an officer.” The phone hung up with a click.
John Clark looked at Ding and Oso who were standing in his office, “Find out what is there in that stretch of water, and what is so bad that a man who helped take down a demon the size of a train at the age of 18, would need to be calling in us.” The week after Faith had left Clark had broken down and called in every favor he had to find out more about Xander Harris and the group of people Faith was leaving Rainbow for. What he had found out had put more gray into his hair and raised his estimation of the Scoobies. They had faced stuff that he wasn’t sure he wouldn’t have turned and ran from. That they were this worried set every sense he had on full alert.
April 18th –
Willow had been thinking and having Erin help her out with what she had seen and felt, it was beyond even the darkness that had consumed her at Kingman’s Bluff. Finally she was ready to talk and give suggestions. She had slept for three full days after the incident just to recover to the point she could function again. Her voice was still rough from the level of damage done to her vocal cords; even the best med-witches advised to just talk only a little and let her natural magic heal the damage.
“We won’t find much about them, they are not of our world, our reality.” Her voice cut through the babbling at the meeting. “They were here once long ago, and Atlantis was sunk to keep them away for all these millennia, but no spell lasts forever, and now we must fight them again.” She swallowed sipping a tea blend to promote healing. “The archway we’ve been seeing in the images from the submersibles is the key. We must study that and what is inscribed on it. Giles, Dawn, ignore the human accounts look for anything demon written prior to about 600 or 700 BC. These creatures even the demons feared, madness is the key word. Madness and death.”
Luna watched Willow carefully, the paths ahead were so black she couldn’t see many, but still the ones that did not end in death all had this group of Scoobies at their core, intact and healthy. All she could do was help as best as she could.
Xander and Faith both took point on the technical end, focusing on friends and being ready if everything went south. The phone calls were in, all they needed was for the arch to be visible to examine.
April 25th –
Dawn and Giles called in favors, begged books, and threatened, trying to find anything written in that time period by demons only, survivors or ones that heard of something that scared them. (I am pretending Angel the series doesn’t exist at this point as I would have to deal with Cordy then. So for now no Jasmine, Cordy as seer, or WRH, so no Codex) They finally got lucky when Clem came by with some books he had found down in the Yucatan.
“You know how uncomfortable people are with my looks, so decided to take a vacation down in the jungle, ya know? Found an old demon there, and he was old, had as many wrinkles as I do and he talked in a language so old I only knew some of the words.“ Dawn looked at him blankly, glad to see him, but the worry about the island was starting to get to her.
“Yeah I know, I’ll show ya the pics later, really was pretty down there. Well he had all these old books, written on real skin don’t you know.” He blushed for a moment, “Both human and demon, but then paper didn’t really catch on with demons until the last few hundred years. Apparently he had heard that I am friends with the slayer.” Clem paused pulling at his ear, “It’s odd, usually other demons get all prickly when they hear that, but he actually acted glad, pushed these on me, and I think he wanted me to get them to you. Well that and I was hoping you might stake me some kittens and point me to a local poker game for them? He kept saying ‘slayer’ and ‘mad’ really the only words I knew, but no one seemed upset when I left with the books if anything they seemed relieved. It was odd now that I think about it.”
Clem shrugged and looked at Dawn hopefully, “So, think ya can get me a litter of kittens?”
Dawn barely heard him, already yelling for Giles and frantically trying to translate the words written on the ancient skin.
Pulling all nighters feeling every second tick away, Giles and Dawn and a few other researchers were red eyed and exhausted by the time they deciphered it all.
April 30th –
“Okay here’s what we found out.” Dawn’s voice was hoarse and her eyes red as she glanced at her notes. “The demon Clem stumbled across, and no I don’t believe that for a moment it was truly random, live on average 2-3 thousand years, but they are rather rare and don’t mix much with humans. His mother kept the records of a ceremony that went horribly wrong a very long time ago. Magic users were trying to develop long distance transportation, when they opened a hole in the fabric of reality, instead of space and time like they were trying to. The inhabitants of that reality were more than willing to consume our world. In a desperate bid to prevent this, their city-nation, did a ritual spell that destroyed their home Atlantis, and sealed the breech.” She swallowed hard, “The death sacrifice of that many people has kept them locked away all this time, but now they are rising again. As best as we can tell, all of there is information about ritual were inscribed on the arch, to give us the time they didn’t have to permanently stop them from coming through. We get one chance and one chance only. There is a Lunar eclipse on May 13th. The island should rise May 5th – on Beltane. We have until the eclipse begins to figure out how to stop it.”
Dawn collapsed down onto her chair, everyone watching her pale but resolved to deal with this.
“May 5th, need her and McGee. It’s going to be bad if we can’t figure this out. I can’t make any promises Gunny.” The voice at the other end of the line scared Leroy Jethro Gibbs, it was the voice of a man knowing he was about to send men out to die, and there was not a damn thing he could do about it.
“Understood, coordinates you passed on before.”
“They’ll be there.”
“Thanks Gunny.” Xander hung up the phone and closed his eye for a moment, then turned to Faith handing her the phone. “Your turn.”
May 4th –
Buffy went to meet Lara on a boat near where there island was expected to surface, hoping to get the bit of information that might make the difference. The helicopter had barely lifted off before she was striding to the dark haired woman watching her with an amused expression. A man standing next to her in a leather jacket and fedora, watching with male appreciation, though Buffy barely noticed, focused totally on Lara, worry clear on Buffy’s face. “It should be breaking the surface at 22:07 universal time on May 5th.”
Lara arched an eyebrow, “We just figured that out, how the hell did you know.”
A bitter smile, “Amazing what record keepers demons are.”
A funny look on the man’s face, but Lara spoke first. “So you know the history? Come on, let’s go down here, really don’t need people over hearing this stuff. By the way, Buffy this is Monte – Buffy, don’t let her looks full you, she can kick my ass.”
A blink of surprised respect, “Well then ma’am I shall remember that, as Lara still kicks my ass on a regular basis, ‘tis a pleasure to meet you.”
“American, gee Lara, I thought I was your only instance of slumming.” Humor and a smidgen of interest in Buffy’s voice, she was in apocalypse mode, not dead.
“I will have you know I slum only with the best, after all I do hang out with Jack when I can.”
Buffy snorted with laughter, “Only you Lara could saying hanging out with the president is slumming.”
The man, Monte, snickered softly, “Really Lara is it so hard to say my full name?”
“Yep, so which do you want, Monte or Ana?”
This time Buffy fought back a smile, recognizing the teasing of old friends, “Monte will do, I would almost think you had been talking to granddad with that sorta answer.”
A soft smile on Lara’s face, “I wish I had known him better, the stories he told.”
An answering grin on Monte’s face, “You have no idea, and when he, dad, and grandma got going, well let’s just say they never had to pay for drinks anywhere. Swear I am such a slacker.”
They entered a room with a desk, few computers and bookshelves, and the humor faded from Lara’s face as she shut the door. “So how serious we talking on an apocalypse scale.”
Buffy grimaced a little bit, “Probably an 11.0.” Lara paled a bit at that and sat down, “These guys aren’t from here, and right now we don’t have the slightest idea how to stop them, except we have to stop them at the door, if they get through the door, the earth is done.” She paused, “You know I really wish I was exaggerating when I say that. So what’s with the boy toy here… oh god I sound like Faith.” Buffy blushed and sank into the chair.
Monte started to a laugh a rich warm laugh of a man that doesn’t take himself too seriously, “Can I volunteer for that job mi’lady? I’ll be your boytoy all day and all night,” winking at her as he grinned.
Both Lara and Buffy broke up laughing as the other two found seats. “Monte here is an old… friend/rival, we work in the same area though he is a bit more uptight about the rights of museums and we argue about that regularly. He is a bit of a wunderkind having two Phd’s by the time he was 25, one in archaeology and one in Dead Languages.”
“Hey not my fault grampa thought it was funny to speak a different language every time I visited and write out my chores in that language, learning them was pure selfishness. I didn’t get any chocolate chip cookies if my chores weren’t done.”
Lara ignored the interruption and kept talking, “But his granddad is the only person I’ve ever heard of to even mention writing like what is on the arch. So I asked Monte to come, he at least knows that there are things that go bump in the night from his dad and granddad, but not sure how much he has seen, but he’s the only person with access to the diary.”
“Ah nice to be loved. I don’t know much, just what gramps wrote down, but some of the symbols are the same. He said he was pretty sure it was the language of the Seraphim, but I never knew how seriously to take it. He would only say it was written on a box he and gramma found long time ago, during WWII.” He paused and reached into his jacket, “He left this to me, and great-gramps diary to dad, though I suspect dad I’ll leave it to me when it comes to that.” He pulled out a worn diary and flipped to the spot. A rough outline of a box with two winged things on the top was sitting there, but underneath carefully drawn out was a series of symbols.
“I’m not sure what they mean, but gramps was pretty sure that it was something along the lines of glory to the one god on high. You can see below the Hebrew he scribbled Elohim and gadol and br below. But he never said anything else about it. I just remember he use to look at this page a lot, and the symbols stuck with me. He said it was a find that was “buried in bureaucracy” a long time ago. So really haven’t thought about it much at all.”
Lara peered over the page, in contrast to the rest of the diary which was meticulous with notes and references, this was a page with only the rough sketch, the carefully drawn symbols, and the Hebrew. Nothing else to give her a glimpse. “Monte, did he ever say when this was?”
“Say no, but I got the feeling that was when he and gramma were getting a bit busy, so would have been about 9 months before dad was born, and that was in 1938.”
“Hmm…“ Lara was silent but shrugged and scanned the stuff. “Here Buffy send this to your friends see if this helps them with the translation, we finally have enough light that we have shots of everything. For some reason the electrical lights just didn’t resolve the symbols as clearly as we would have liked, not sure if it was refraction or something else, but I just sent it to Willow, but it is still fuzzy and not positive about the order it should be read in.”
“So now we wait? We know it comes up in a few hours, but we are pretty sure nothing will break through until the 13th.” Both Lara and Monte looked at her curiously, “There is a Lunar eclipse that night, that is when it all falls apart if we can’t succeed.”
Lara paled a bit but Monte just looked curious, “So what exactly are we expecting to happen on an island that hasn’t seen the light of day in over a thousand years.”
Buffy and Lara shared a long look and Lara spoke, “Yeah he’s trust worthy, with his family he didn’t have any other choice, all adventuring goody two shoes I swear.” She grinned at Monte as she said it.
Buffy took a deep breath, smiled hoping the man didn’t run screaming out the door, “The world is older than you know…,” twenty minutes later, “And we turned into our Halloween costumes…” and hour later “Then I could hear the thoughts of everyone around me… I hit her with the Troll hammer, and the bitch just laughed… Then Sunnydale just fell into the sink hole… and here we are.”
Monte turned to Lara who had been listening just as fascinated, as the explanation of Slayers had developed into a story of Buffy’s life, helped by Monte’s honest enjoyment, “You introduce me to the neatest people, can I keep her?”
Buffy blushed but grinned at him, “You had better be asking if I can keep you, remember I can kick Lara’s butt.” They all laughed and grinned and Lara shared her tale of the Cradle of Life.
Luna knocked on the door of the suite, and smiled at the shuffling and squeak of surprise on the other side, when a very tousled haired Harry stuck his head out. “Oh umm.. yeah Luna.”
“Silencing charms were never your strongest point were they?” She smiled just a bit more as he turned bright red, and the squeak of another woman behind him was heard. “But regardless I need to speak to you and Ginny.”
Harry darted a look behind him and must have received an okay because he opened the door wider and stepped back, “So what is going on Luna?”
She walked in, “Hello Ginny” as Ginny was straightening her robe and trying to brush her hair down. Luna tilted her head slightly, “You two do remember I was involved with Neville for years and am perfectly well acquainted with joys and effects of male/female sex, and am not going to get offended.”
Ginny blinked at her, opened her mouth, closed it again, then just started laughing. “Got it Luna, quit trying to not look guilty because we were making out, and you aren’t my mother.” She walked over kissed Harry deeply then pulled him down next to her. “So… I take it this is not a strict social call?”
Luna lost her smile and shook her head, blonde hair flying a little bit, “No, the island is rising, and Willow, the Slayers… “ she paused again uncharacteristically fumbling for the right words, “WE need your help, and any who will come. This is a battle that will have loss, but the choice is fight or we lose everything, and Harry, Ginny, I mean humans lose everything.”
The deadly serious tone of voice struck Ginny and Harry and for a moment they were back to before the final battle, remembering the knowledge that many would die, and the realization that to not fight was to guarantee that death. “How can we help?”
A sad smile, “Bring people who can help, and can face the prospect of death. Here are the coordinates, the time will be sunset on the 15th, that will give us a few hours to prepare.” She handed him a slip of paper, then stood up and kissed him, then Ginny. “Thank you, maybe we can have the future where our children’s children see the stars.”
She left silently, Harry looked at Ginny, “So here we go again, the world to save.”
“Yep but this time you aren’t leaving me behind,” Ginny dropped to one knee and pulled out a box, “Harry will you marry me?”
Harry blinked looking at the simple white gold ring in the box and slowly smiled pulling out his own box, “Only if you’ll marry me too?” showing her an engagement ring with emeralds set in white gold.
Ginny started laughing and fell into his arms; it was a good two hours before they got around to starting to floo people with requests for help.
Luna smiled all the way back to her rooms listening to the castle laugh with delight.
May 5th 22:00 UT Time
The arch broke through the surfaced of the water, rising like an angry god from the sea. Seven minutes later earth touched air for the first time in millennia. An hour later 100 acres of the 1000 square mile island was fully above the surface and still rising; and people started setting foot on what was left of the island of Atlantis. Abby, Tim, and the rest of the NCIS team, much to Xander’s surprise had been waiting on a destroyer since early that morning. Xander met them on board after taking a zodiac from Lara research vessel over to their ship. Willow had set up port keys to a large hold on the ship, and was slowly moving people and equipment over. Xander and Faith had gone first to make sure everything was ready if the worst came true. So Xander was available to head over when he got the message that Abby was waiting for him.
“Abs!” Xander greeted her with a tight hug as she tackled him, barely having both feet on the ship.
Abby grinned, then her eyes narrowed and she pulled back, “You are seeing someone, who is she, I have to approve her.” Glaring at him with a dangerous look as Jethro, Ziva, Tim, and Tony appeared on the deck, all carrying equipment and weapons.
Xander blinked his eye, “What I have a tattoo across my forehead saying I’m dating someone?”
Ziva frowned a little bit, “Gibbs, with detection skills like that why isn’t Abby one of your investigators?”
Jethro snorted, “Cause she would put me out of a job, why else?” A half grin as he watched Xander being greeted, even Tony said hi, though he was out of all of them the least happy about being here. But when the president okays a TDY to an island in the middle of the Atlantic, no one says no, though there were a VERY large number of high ranking officials wanting to know what the hell was going on.
“That isn’t an answer, who is she?”
Xander kissed her cheek softly, “you’ll meet her on the island, but let’s get going, we know the hard deadline, and it is only 8 days, so we have to figure out what the danger is before then.” The smile had faded and everyone responded to his seriousness, and soon enough the zodiac was pulling up on the shore of Atlantis.
They walked up to the arch, it was a dull metallic reminding you of Hematite, it seemed huge, but when measured, the top of the arch was only eight feet high, the opening at the base was only three, giving it a tall narrow feeling. It seemed to hum, but most people there just dismissed it as their own apprehensions. The carvings caught the light and seemed to shimmer calling attention to the strange symbols carved into the metal of the arch.
Twenty minutes later Abby was inspecting the arch, as a three women approached. Tony blinked looking at them, “Jesus Harris, you just surround yourself with babes? How about sharing a little of the bounty?”
Xander turned to look at Willow, Dawn, and Faith walking up to them. “Just warning you now Tony all of the women I hang with, can kill you faster than you can say ‘hey baby’, and I am being literal.” Xander turned to smile at the women, “Ladies I would like to introduce you to the NCIS team I worked with.”
He introduced the NCIS people then the women, “This is Willow, my bestest friend since childhood, Dawn, my honorary little sister,” Dawn mock pouted at this for a moment, “and Faith, a Slayer, and the one you were asking about Abby.” That statement underlined as he slipped an arm around her waist.
“Ooh… “ Abby stared at Faith, and Faith returned the favor staring back, unblinking. They both stood there for a few minutes then they both slowly grinned.
“I like her.” They both said at the same time, then started laughing.
Everyone quickly got down to work Tony immediately hitting on Willow, who rebuffed him with a “My girlfriend has to vet all my boyfriends.” And then on Dawn who just smiled at him and only spoke to him in Latin.
Abby and Tim helped to take pictures of the curving writing going up around the arch, curving and covering most of the surface, though it was often marred by gouges and scars in the metal. Once that was done Abby managed to get a sample and started prepping it, and a few other samples for identification when she got back to the destroyer they were on. It was fully equipped with a lab, and she was already puzzled by the metal the arch was made of.
About the time they had gotten the inscriptions into a coherent line of data Buffy, Lara, and another guy walked up to them.
“Holy moly Harris, I give, can I come work with you, you’re surrounded by babes.” Jethro just shook his head while Tim looked embarrassed. Abby was a bit too busy to notice, and Ziva had wandered around looking at the arch, something vaguely familiar about the writing.
Buffy blinked then looked at Xander, “This would be Tony wouldn’t it?”
“I did warn you.”
Buffy smiled her brightest smile and walked up to Tony holding out her hand, “Hi, I’m Buffy.” In her best ditz voice. Tony instantly shook her hand trying to flatter her.
“Hi gorgeous, wanna have some fun?”
“Ah…” Buffy tilted her head, “I just don’t think your idea of fun would match mine,” and she started to squeeze his hand.
Tony blanched, then looked at his hand, then slowly went white as bones began to squeeze together, and he went to his knees the unexpected pain sapping his strength, “Only warning Tony, no means no, and all of the ‘babes’ around here, can hurt you… badly.” She let go and flashed a smile again “Nice meeting you.”
Xander and Willow were in hysterics, while Dawn was softly snickering, Tim was standing with his jaw open, while Jethro and Ziva weren’t sure whether to drawn their weapons or applaud. Faith just smiled a wicked dangerous smile, “See, she is too nice, me… I might have broken something.”
Lara just shook her head, while the man with her knocked his fedora back a little, “Whoa, I am glad I didn’t try the smarmy charm route, looks like a definite crash and burn there.”
Xander finally got his breath back, “Ladies I think you have a gent to introduce me to, then we need to do the slayer speech, cause I never told them, then,” he glanced at Dawn who nodded, “We have the inscription, translation will probably need to commence.”
The man laughed, “Well I got the speech already, most impressive, Montana Jones at your service.” He offered a hand to Xander, and gallantly bowed to the ladies.
“Montana? I thought it was Monte.” Buffy asked a bit confused.
“Nope, that was Lara insisting that Montana took too long to say, and calling me Monte, though really don’t care.” He winked, “Just don’t call me late to dinner.”
Xander laughed, “I like him Buffy, you having Lara pick out your dates now?”
Buffy blushed and sputtered a little bit as Lara grinned, “What a good idea, her and Monte; at least I can guarantee he isn’t a vampire.”
The Scoobies all laughed at that, while the NCIS just looked at them confused. Buffy shrugged, “Your turn Faith, I just did it a few hours ago.”
Faith sighed, cracking and stretching her back, “Fine but they better be worth it Xander… The world is older than you know…” It took an hour involving explanations, questions, and exhibitions of strength and speed, but when it was finished even Tim and Tony were believers.
Jethro wandered over to Xander, “These are the women you’ve been keeping up with since you were fifteen.”
“Yep, Buffy and Willow, Faith came along later.”
“So Willow is a slayer too?” Willow and Dawn had been focusing on the information Abby was producing and comparing it to the visual impression of the arch, making sure it felt correct all the way around, and had tuned out the explanation and proof. “Wills? No… she is a witch.. which I guess we didn’t cover… meh just watch you’ll see.”
Jethro turned to watch Willow, Abby, and Dawn. Willow spoke, “You are good Abby, let me know what you find out about that metal, it just feels wrong, but I can’t tell you why. We have the writing, and Monte is going to bring his diary with us and help, so we’ll take this copy with us and get to work, I can feel time slipping away.”
The inscription was transcribed on to a sheet of paper in Willow’s hand.
She waved at Lara and Monte, “You guys ready? We need to get back to Cleveland and start researching his, and Buffy said your notebook might help.”
Lara and Monte looked a bit confused but nodded, “Yep, but isn’t that losing a lot of time, traveling back there?”
Willow grinned, “Not really.” She reached out and grabbed Lara’s hand, while Dawn grabbed Monte, and then Willow grabbed Dawn’s hand. “Be back when we have info Xander,” with a sharp crack, she apparated all of them back to Cleveland.
Jethro swore, as Ziva had a gun out looking around, “Where the HELL did they go?” She demanded, as Abby, Tony, and Tim just stared at the spot they had been in.
Buffy shrugged, “Cleveland, she is a witch after all.”
The NCIS team got back to the boat and Abby got to work, while Scoobies continued to prepare.
May 8th –
Abby had set up a video conference with everyone, not really wanting to risk the popping travel of Willow. She looked a lot haggard but vaguely satisfied. “Okay everyone I don’t know if this helps or makes it worse. The metal is non-terrestrial. Which means for the Tony’s out there, it did not originate on earth. It must have come from some meteor or something that landed here a LONG time ago. I got some chips of the tools that made the inscription, and they date back to about 300-400 BC. But that isn’t the really weird part. As far as I can tell this is an elemental metal, meaning it is one element, not a blend metal like steel. And it has some weird harmonic energies going on with it. I ran a few tests and it has some very faint harmonizing energy radiating from it, but I can’t figure out if there is something inside the structure of the arch, or from the metal itself. I hope that helped.”
May 10th –
“GOT IT!!!” Five days of leveraging Monte’s note book, demonic texts, and some unexpected help from a Rabbi in the states courtesy of Ziva, sending them a few words and the Hebrew meaning, finally let them crack the code.
With scant notice to everyone, that they needed to meet NOW, Willow stretched herself, and everyone found themselves in a conference room in Cleveland, much to their surprise. All of NCIS, Lara and Monte, Luna, Harry, and Ginny, and Clark and Ding, found themselves getting ripped from where ever they were with no notice and dumped into a room with Dawn at the front, and a projector screen behind her.
Faith had been in regular communication with Rainbow, so Clark and Ding, and both Rainbow teams were on alert and getting prepared for something to go down, but still when Willow grabbed people it came as a bit of a shock.
“What the HELL!?!” Clark bellowed.
“Not now, later you can yell,” Willow waved a wand and everyone found themselves in a seat, with a sealed mouth, and turned to Dawn. “Go honey.” Her voice still hadn’t’ healed fully, and the stress was telling on her as white and green streaks were creeping into her hair and Viri rarely was out of her hand, linking her to the planet.
“We’ve decoded the inscription and it makes sense, but it means there is no way to prevent this, repeat no way to prevent it, we must stand at the door and defend.”
On the screen behind her the inscription appeared, then was replaced with a few stark lines of text.
Air and night caress, the moon is eaten by the sun, and the door opens. Life forces broken we must rest, let those that fight block the door until the light of the sun has recharged the door. Let the threshold be crossed, and the sacrifices have been for naught.
“From this, it will happen on a lunar eclipse, which is on the 16th of May, starting at 03:40 UT, we have to hold the door until dawn. Almost 3 hours. We believe the strange harmonies that Abby detected are the actual life forces of the Atlanteans, they sacrificed their lives to lock this door, but now are running out of energy, the only way they can recharge is to release the lock on the door and charge up, we have to make sure they don’t make it through.”
Xander stood and took over, knowing the many reactions most of the military would have, and the Slayers. “We’ve run tests and we don’t have anything that will destroy the arch, in fact we think they made it with magic, and then used magic enhanced gemstones and obsidian to actually carve this in, the remnants Abby found were the handles for these tools. We can’t even cut it with diamond cutting tools. Willow thinks she could destroy it, but the problem is that would destroy the door, not what is behind it, and at the point the way would be clear. If the history’s and are suppositions are correct, this arch isn’t so much a door way as it is a dam preventing what is behind it from getting out, and the last thing we want to do is blow up this dam.”
He looked at Buffy, Faith, the many Slayers that had trickled into the room, and the friends who were gathered there. “We have to hold the line, and there will be deaths, all we can do is hope we can succeed. We start our battle plans now.”
With that, mouths where released, questions asked and answered, and planning began in earnest. Harry and Ginny had the Weasely’s coming to help, they had Rainbow, Jethro, Ziva, and Tony – Abby would be staying on the ship. It was time to get ready to fight, with bullets, swords, and magic.
May 16th 00:00 UT
Midnight passed and the arch began to gleam slightly and the slightest opaque shimmer had started to form in the void of the arch.
Xander, Buffy, Faith, and the Slayers were fanned out at what they hoped was the front of the arch, as this was the side with the symbol of the moon on it, while on the opposite side it was blank.
Jethro, Tony, and Ziva were all there in full riot gear, with more ammo and guns piled next to them than they had ever seen, not to mention guns they normally didn’t use. Rainbow had come through, and about the only guns that weren’t there were rocket launchers and SAM’s, too much risk of friendly fire deaths in this close quarters.
The Rainbow teams were going through their check lists, even they were amazed at the sheer amount of fire power piled around them, but the battle was going to be eight hours long, and from the worried looks on the faces of the Slayer House leadership, it might be a solid eight hours, something most military people weren’t familiar with, usually their stuff was starts and stops in fits of explosions, then quiet for a while. Mostly rifles and hand guns, again the friendly fire situation made it worrisome about hitting someone other than what they were suppose to hit. Clark and Ding were honestly worried about the number of young girls here, even if they were like Faith, they were still just children, only the grim and compentent way they handled their swords and freaking battle axes gave them any comfort.
The Wizarding world was represented by Harry, the Weasley’s, Luna, Shacklebolt, and a few others. Even Percy had come, thought it was obvious he thought most of this was big prank. Most the of wizards looked askance at the muggles and their weapons, but the looks on Willow’s and Luna’s faces kept them quiet.
Faith and Xander were busy with the young slayers, each of them offering up silent prayers to any deity that might listen that they didn’t’ lose too many. They handed out instructions, and made sure everyone had their emergency portkey’s on them, that would take them to the med tents at the farthest end of the area where the arch was, a good 15 minute walk away.
Luna, Erin, Giles and Molly were back there trying to make sure they had all the supplies they could think of, pepper up potions, blood replenishment, etc. The last few days had been spent making sure the potions would work on Slayers and non-wizards, and some emergency potion tweaking had ensued to make sure it was effective.
Buffy was standing looking at the arch, and the space under it that was slowly forming a solid door like object. The Scythe was in her hands, and she was wearing comfortable fighting clothes her hair pulled back. She felt more than heard someone coming up behind her, and turned to see Lara and Monte walking up.
“Hey.” Her voice was quiet but she had a strange sense of calm, this fight would be brutual, but somehow she knew the world would survive, even if they didn’t. “You guys ready for this?”
Lara was loaded for bear, with more extra ammo than she had ever carried before, and her katana was strapped to her back. Monte had guns, and a sword with him, but his primary role was going to be grabbing anyone that fell and pulling them back to the med tents. While he wasn’t scared of fighting it was not something he had trained for, and with his 6’2” height and 185lb frame, he was strong enough to grab and pick up most of the people, pulling them out of harms way if needed.
“All I can say is they really wiped this island clean when they destroyed it, I was really hoping for some artifacts or something to study what their life was like here.” Lara remarked wryly, looking at the strange assortment of people getting ready for this.
A snort of laughter from Monte, “Wow you do want a lot don’t you, well there are still area’s we haven’t explored, so who knows.”
By 02:00 am UT, the door was almost solid and Buffy called everyone together, hoping up on a small rock so that most people could see her. “Hey everyone, thanks for coming. I’m not one that is big on speeches, especially given how my last few turned out.” There were muffled laughs from the slayers, “And I really hope that the door opens and something sticks it’s head in and goes ‘oops.. sorry wrong address’ and this was all for nothing.” More scattered laughs this time, “Unfortunately I’ve never been quite that lucky. So, be careful, fight hard, and hopefully we won’t have any funerals to go to when this is all over and done.”
People hugged, muttered last quiet words, ran to the restroom, grabbed another drink, and then everyone turned eyes to the door, ready to wait, not knowing what was coming through the door.
Standing in the front were Buffy, Faith, Xander, Harry, Clark and Jethro. All of them holding their weapons of choice, watching and waiting, not sure if they are suppose to be closer or farther back, hating not knowing anything about the enemy, but all to aware that not fighting was not an option. At 03:40 UT the door snapped into solidity, and the darkness of the shadow of the sun began to touch the full moon over their heads.
A horrible creaking sound that had people swallowing as gag reflexes were triggered by the sound, and the solid door of mist began to push open, Buffy leaned against it, trying to hold it close, but it effortlessly pushed her away as it slid out, magic not letting her hinder it’s progress, and then the first attack happened. The sound intensified, and tentacles slid out. Not the nice clean tentacles of an octopus or like a snake, but slimy oily things that made you recoil, and they lashed out and incredible distances at the defenders, and when they touched skin it burned, like hot pepper oil on your skin.
Guns began to fire, spells lashing out at the tentacles, and swords hitting anything that got too close. The door, or barrier, was wide open, but all anyone could see was the mass of tentacles reaching towards them, testing, touching, burning anything in their path. The cries of pain, and reloading of weapons made the battle field chaos.
Internally Buffy and Xander were relieved, was this it? Standing and hacking for 8 hours, this they could do, but it was too easy and they knew it, this was the first feint to see what they could take. Both swallowed hard, and continued to fight, waiting for the next tactic to hit them.
Already people were hurt, the tentacles had claws on them that ripped at the skin, and the distance they could reach seemed incredible. Bullets wounded, but with no main target they were of limited use. Severing and death spells would cause the tentacle to fall and wither, but another was always there to replace it. They were holding their own, but again, the experienced fighters felt it was too easy.
The next attack hit. Everyone there was assaulted by their worst fears, their failures, and the lines of defenders shattered.
Willow was lost back in that day at Kingmans Bluff, the agony of the world pouring into her, she was wrapped in a green nimbus, but all she could do was spiral in that moment of grief and agony.
Faith screamed as the prison cell door clanged shut, and the key was thrown away. Mocking voices from all sides letting her know she was worthless and abandoned, as she curled up in the corner crying and scream, yelling for Xander.
Percy saw Voldemort win, and he took over Britain, Percy watched his family die, examples of ‘traitors’ to the pure blood agenda. He watched them die over and over again, and the words pounding in his head, “Your fault, you betrayed them. Your fault, you betrayed them.”
Ding watched as Patty and their child died over and over again, his actions always seconds too late to stop them from dying. Nothing he did no matter how many times it played was enough, she died every time.
Hermione, Tony, Ziva, and many of the younger Slayers all lost themselves in madness, horrors where they failed at what mattered most, and saw those that they loved the most die, over and over again. The screaming and shrieking of people trying desperately to stop the actions they saw in their mind filled the battlefield, and the sounds of battle faded.
Buffy felt the scrabbling at her mind, but she had died twice, and been recalled from heaven, she knew what awaited her, and nothing could change that or the fact that she had to protect her friends and loved ones. The scythe moved like light in her hands and tentacles began to fall faster, and a scream of frustration was heard from the other side of the door.
Xander felt the attack, saw Caleb’s hands reaching for his face again, and there was a blur of fur and rage stopping it dead, stopping the attack. Savage tooth and claws made up a wall around his mind, and a thought of ‘mine’ reverberated and his attack picked up the pace, slicing at a foot that had dared to step out of the barrier.
Luna had come up front to apparate pepper-up potions into people’s stomachs, and felt the insanity reach out. She tilted her head viewing it, and all the possibilities that could come from it and said quietly, “No.” She locked her mind on the one path that lead to success and a good future, not the merely survivable one, but the one with her children and her children’s children survived and prospered. Seeing only that there was nothing for the madness to grasp onto, and slid around her as if she wasn’t there.
Harry felt it too, but he had also died, and knew his loved ones were waiting for him, and he had already faced the worst. A childhood with the Dursley’s and then Voldemort trying to kill him, he had Ginny, and nothing not Heaven or Hell was going to prevent him from marrying the woman he loved.
Fred and George fought back to back, the creativity and viciousness of their curses slicing hard and fast at the tentacles that reached for them. The felt the horrors creeping towards them, but they also had each other in their mind, Luna had separated their ids, but she had never touched the bond that let them communicate, to know the other was there, and they drew on it, laughing as their bond protected them from the horrors that tried to destroy them.
Clark and Dawn had ended up fighting next to each other, he shooting at them as they reached through the gate, and Dawn moving the way her sister had taught her with a Katana, slicing anything that got near enough to reach them. Clark had seen too much of the horror the world could offer, and had been through it with the death of his first wife and child, and just accepted everything they threw at him as a possibility but one he would fight with his last breath. Dawn however wasn’t human. She lived in a human body, felt human emotions, but she was not human. When they reached for her mind they found green energy that scared them, knowing a Key when they saw it, and the horrors avoided her, sensing that if they knew how to use what lay there, they would be defeated.
Jethro saw most of his team fall, Tony huddled in a ball whimpering, and Ziva begging Ari to stop, to not force her to shoot him. He felt it ravage through his mind, bring out the images of his wife and children dead, and it didn’t touch him. He had lived through it once, he knew the gut wrenching horror, and images didn’t have the same hold as the reality had once done. With a bitter laugh he kept firing, wishing to see something more than arms and feet trying to get into their world.
Lara and Monte had both gone down, lost in their own horrors, Lara’s eyes blind with rage, screaming at her father, and Monte simply trying desperately to dig for something that to him was being buried.
There were so few left, with Luna trying to keep energies up, putting potions into them, they were fighting covered with blood and wounds, and even friendly fire. Luna had knocked out more than a few Slayers lost in the madness in their minds. There was still an hour left to go, and the defenders were starting to fade.
A blow from a tentacle caught Harry on the head, snapping his head back and knocking him off his feet, slamming him into the ground, where he was knocked out unconscious. Clark and Jethro had moved up, trying to contain the things in a smaller opening, the twins getting faster and faster, not even bothering to say the spells anymore as they cast them, feeding off of each other, but their energy was running down as each spell took more and more out of them.
Xander fought with eyes glowing green, Buffy moved as if she was death personified, they danced across the barrier acting as a moving wall of cutting edges severing anything that got near them. Dawn cut and sliced watching and moving so fast that anyone who had been able to truly analysis the fight would have realized she was moving faster than was humanly possible.
Jethro stumbles for a moment on a loose rock, and a tentacle snaps out at him, throwing him back unconscious. Clark swears as the first head peeks out of the gateway, and he empties clip after clip into the eyes of that face, shuddering as the screams of an entity not of this earth wash over him.
Thirty minutes left until dawn, and the twins collapse drained to the point that their bodies are struggling for the energy to breathe. Luna ports them to the healing tents far enough away they were not affected by the madness. Clark runs out of ammo and picks up a sword attacking, damned if he was going to lose now when they were so close. Luna starts to fire, her spells quick and silent, but they are stepping out, too many people gone, there isn’t enough of them to push them back. Fifteen minutes and Buffy falters, her vaunted energy flagging for a moment, and tentacle lashes out sending her flying backward and slamming into a rock.
There is a collective gasp as Xander, Dawn, Luna, and Clark try desperately to hold them off for a another fifteen minutes, but the first full foot sets across the threshold.
“ENOUGH!” Dawn screams in a voice that echoes, she is consumed by green light, power surging from her as it spreads at the speed of light around the globe, and the earth MOVES, rotating that fraction that is needed to bring the light of the sun washing over the island. The door slams shut on screams that sweep the island, knocking many people out again, severing tentacles, and arms that had been pushing through, then it is gone, leaving just a metal arch there again.
Dawn collapsed, her skin colorless and her heart barely beating. Silence fell over the island, with Xander and Clark looking around, exhaustion in every line of their bodies, Xander had to fight to keep moving, but he went and checked on Faith, slowly coming out of the terror her mind had be locked into, guilt flashing across her face as she realized she had been disabled and useless in the fight. He picked up Dawn and portkeyed to the tent, hovering until Erin reassured him she would be okay, just exhausted past the ability to function, as if every drop of energy had been drained from her.
Buffy, had broken ribs, a concussion, and a fracture in her arm, nothing serious for a slayer. Willow was the worse, her voice broken again, and rips in her flesh where her nails had clawed into it before Luna had stunned her unconscious. Gaia hadn’t been able to protect her from her own fears, and Willow’s mind locked onto the spiral too hard and too fast for the slowness of Gaia to deal with.
Percy was dead, he had stroked out with what had been shown to him. A few of the slayers had drowned in their own vomit when the fears overrode their bodies. Two Rainbow members had died, one shooting himself, the other had ruptured his heart with whatever had been in his mind.
The dead were gathered, the wounded were taken back to the tents, and Xander pulled Erin to the side, “Please set up LOTS of counseling sessions, this is going to really eat at some people, Faith for one, the feeling that they failed. If you can handle it, would you offer to Rainbow too, they wouldn’t be able to talk to someone that wasn’t there.”
Erin had been far enough back that the horror had only been a gut wrenching distraction, not something that invaded her mind, and she nodded softly, “Of course, what about the Wizarding folk?”
“I don’t know, I’ll talk to Luna about them, but I just don’t know if they have anything for this.”
Shacklebolt shook his head when Luna and Xander talked to him, “No we don’t we probably should, but I don’t even know how to start.”
Xander just smiled a sad weary motion of the lips that tore at your soul, “Talk to Erin, she can handle it, and not much will phase her after this, but your people need to talk, if you don’t you will lose more down the road.”
The Weasley’s were grief stricken, but yet proud. Percy had finally come back, and even losing him like this it was better knowing he had been willing to fight for them. They gathered their dead but promised to meet in Cleveland in a few hours for the party, they had survived, and the Weasley’s knew how important celebrating that was for the survivors.
Harry buried himself in Ginny’s arms, this was just a repeat of his life, but this time she was with him.
Lara and Monte had recovered, both looking a bit shamefaced and embarrassed, even more so when Xander yelled clearly, “Erin, set them up on the schedule too..” and just ignored their protests. “you two are going and going to keep going even if I have to have a wizard grab you and dump you on her couch every time. This was beyond what any of us have EVER dealt with and you need to deal with it or there will be some spectacular melt downs.”
The same offer and ultimatum was offered to NCIS and this was taken gratefully, even by Jethro, who knew he had to talk this out, and anyone in the military would have section 8’ed them in a heartbeat.
Ten hours later everyone was in Cleveland thanks to the magical ones, and the first order of business was to inscribe names on the Pillar of the Fallen. The first two names on there were Joyce Summers, Tara Maclay. But there were so many others, watchers, slayers, and friends who had given their lives to keep back the dark. Percy Ingatius Weasley, Tiamora Karen Listbon, and the two rainbow members had their names etches there the flame that watched over the wall spelled to never go out.
Food was provided by house elves, and alcohol was free flowing, even the younger slayers allowed a wine cooler or beer if they wanted one. The older ones sticking to normal and fire whiskey to help ease the pain of lost. Stories of the fight were told, and memories of the ones they had lost, and slowly it sunk into everyone, they had won, the world was still standing.
“Guys do you trust me?” Willow asked with a slight smile, biting her lip gently, her voice barely a harsh whisper. The cleanup had been awful, the victory party fun, but still there had been losses, and everyone still hurt inside if not out.
Xander walked over and hugged her, “You know we do, with our very lives.” Giles, Buffy, Faith, and Dawn all nodded in agreement.
“Well I have a present for you, I need to cast some spells on you, but I think it is worth it, may I?” The very fact she asked showed how far Willow had come from the young overly-powerful witch she had been. Everyone nodded and Willow cast a series of complicated charms that took her a full three minutes, then smiled, “Are you ready? Everyone grab my arm, and take a deep breath, you might be disoriented for a moment.”
Everyone placed their hand on her arm and with a wave of her wand Willow apparated them away. There was a swirling disorientation, and then steadiness, at first they just saw the night sky clearer and brighter than they had ever seen, and a dark gray landscape.
“Scoobies, this is my gift to you, nothing can properly compensate you for what you have done, what you have given for this world, so I decided to give you the world. Turn around.”
Confused, everyone slowly rotated, and there hanging before them in all its blue beauty was their home, Earth. There were clouds moving slowly over the blue marble, green and brown continents below them, Gaia herself hanging in space in all her glory. Buffy leaned against Giles, tears running down her cheek as she held Dawn close, looking at what she had died twice to save. Giles just held her and Dawn as he looked, awed by the scope of the universe around them. Faith and Xander held each other tight, awe and joy on their face as they watched what so few humans had ever been privileged to see firsthand. Luna stood her hand in Willow’s as she looked at the earth her eyes shining with tears.
They were all entranced with the beauty, overcome with joy and shock, and then they heard Willow’s quiet words. “She loves you so much for what you have done, this is her in all her glory, and you have her thanks. All that beauty would have been gone if the Old Ones had broken through, once again you have saved all that live on her.” Her voice echoed in a void with no air, they glanced over and saw Willows eyes had turned solid green, “Thank you for saving my all children, thank you all for fighting.” The green faded away, and for the longest time they just stood there looking at the Earth, then Willow took them all back to earth, back to Gaia, back home.
Authors Note: I hope you enjoyed the ride, I have some stand alone interludes to work on, and a few other things nagging at me. Hopefully I will be able to post them faster than this. This was a hard and long chapter to write, but I hope you enjoy. Please see the series introduction for all the prophecies and the slayer house charter.