Conversations in a Hotel Room
Cordelia stood in the corner of the sitting area of the lavish hotel suite, watching as her friends - old and new - filed in. Beside her, Wesley leaned against the wall, his face unreadable. They were both invisible to the other inhabitants of the room.
An awkward silence hung in the air as the two groups avoided looking at each other. The Sunnydale survivors clustered together on the couch. Bruce and his reporter friends, Clark Kent and Lois Lane, stood on the other side of the sitting area. Everyone started when Alfred entered, wheeling in a coffee and tea service cart from the kitchenette.
Bruce cleared his throat. "Let's start with what I know. You," he motioned to Buffy, "are the Slayer, a mystical warrior destined to fight demons." At her nod, he moved on. "So that means you are Faith," he pointed towards the brunette, "another Slayer." He was silent for a long time as he studied the remaining three. "Willow, right?" he finally asked.
The witch nodded, her eyes narrowed slightly as she studied the man who had just identified her.
"Which makes you Xander," Bruce said towards the one-eyed man, "and Dawn," he added, turning towards the younger woman.
Cordelia giggled slightly at the petulant glare Xander gave Bruce. "So you did your homework," Xander said. "You get a shiny gold star."
Alfred began pouring cups of coffee. "If I may be so bold," he said, "perhaps we should try to rise above the innate suspiciousness that is necessary in our lines of work."
"And just what does a butler have to be suspicious about?" Dawn asked.
Alfred smirked. "You have no idea, young Miss Summers."
Dawn scowled in return and slouched down, crossing her arms over her chest. Before she could respond, Buffy stepped forward. "Enough," she said. "Alfred's right. We all have our secrets here, and we're all used to keeping them."
Xander leapt up. "And this is a time for the big reveal?" He started pacing the strip of floor between the sitting area and the bedroom. "God knows I trust you, Buffy, but we don't know these guys! Sure, one's Superman, but he's also a reporter. What's to keep him from making us front page news?
"And you!" He pointed at Bruce. "I'm still not sure what your game is, Mr. Rich Guy who gave us a ton of money. What do you want?"
As he was talking, Willow and Dawn both nodded along and glared at the Bruce and Clark. Bruce sighed and move his arm suddenly.
Faith leapt up and snatched the projectile out of the air. "Hey! What gives?" She started to move forward before Buffy stopped her. Wordlessly, the blond slayer took the hand that had caught the object and showed it to the other three Sunnydalers.
Beside her, Cordelia heard Wesley inhale sharply.
Willow reached out and gently traced the edge of the batarang and hissed when it cut her finger. She stuck her finger in her mouth and looked at Bruce with sudden understanding. "You're Batman," she said quietly.
Bruce said, "We have some mutual acquaintances who would rather keep their identities unknown. But they have assured us that you can be trusted, else we would not be standing here. We have the same goal: the preservation of Earth."
Buffy shook her head. "Slight correction. We aren't trying to preserve Earth, per se. That's your job, the big picture. We deal with the things that no one else wants to deal with because they don't want to acknowledge they're real. You guys fight out in the open, in big knock-down blow out battles on the streets, in the air, or in outer space. We fight in back alleyways, sewers, abandoned factories, and places no sane person would ever want to go after dark."
"So you save lives, too," Clark interjected, only to be brought silent by Buffy's look.
"Yes, but it's more. You save Earth. We try and save humanity." She sat back down and leaned into Dawn. "Slayers have been fighting for longer than there have been written records, one after the other." She slumped against her sister, weariness outlined in every muscle of her body. Xander reached over and clasped her shoulder, and Willow squeezed her hand.
Cordelia sighed wistfully at the closeness that they had, that she had never really been a part of even when she had been a Scooby. She noticed that Faith also had a slight yearning expression on her face as she watched the other four.
Willow looked up suddenly. "Wait, you said someone told you about us. Who?" She sat up, curiosity and a hint of suspicion back in her eyes.
Cordelia tensed, and felt Wesley do the same besides her. Both stared at Bruce, waiting for his move. They had decided before that if Bruce wanted to reveal just who his sources were, they would not interfere. The time for secrets was fast approaching an end.
But the billionaire shook his head. "That's something you'll have to find out on your own." Beside him, Clark sent him a puzzled look but did not speak.
Willow frowned and glared. "But--" Buffy stopped her with a hand on the arm. "It's okay, Will." She looked over at the other group. "Oddly enough, I trust them."
Xander shook his head. "No offense, Buff, but sometimes your gut instincts aren't very on the mark."
Buffy sat up and glared. "And just what is that supposed to mean?" she demanded.
Dawn spoke up. "He has a point. I mean, look at some of your exes. Not exactly shining examples."
"Says the girl who went after the guy with the enchanted jacket."
"You're one the talk." Dawn scowled at her sister.
Clark cleared his throat, stopping the bickering. "I think we have some things we need to discuss before we all leave here tonight," he said mildly. "For one thing, what are we going to do about your friends? I don't think they're going to stop trying to go after Luthor."
"I think you're right." Buffy sighed and rubbed a hand over her face. "Angel is nothing if not stubborn, and Spike is only more so. I've never personally had to deal with Illyria before but from everything Lorne's told us, she's worse than the other two put together and multiplied by a hundred."
"Just what is Illyria, anyway?" Alfred asked as he started handing out coffee. Everyone accepted gratefully.
Buffy looked at Willow for an answer. The witch took a sip of her drink. "It's complicated. And understand that we got most of this information second-hand. Illyria is an Old One, an ancient demon-king from the time when demons ruled the world. Her essence was recently resurrected and took over the body of a friend of mine." Willow briefly closed her eyes and her mouth tightened. "She is kind of an ally but I'm not convinced that she won't turn on us at a later date. Lorne was not sure just how stable her loyalty to Angel and Spike are."
"So she's an unknown." Bruce sat down in a chair and leaned forward.
"Yes and no." Willow shook her head. "I told you, it's complicated. She was closest to a friend of ours named Wesley, but he's now dead. If Wesley were still alive I would be more inclined to believe Illyria was solidly on our side. I think that she has transfered her loyalties to Spike and Angel. However, if Angel and Spike are dusted..." Her voice trailed off and she bit her lip. "Illyria can be extremely dangerous in her own right and she has little sentiment for humans. Her time with Angel gave her a focus. I don't want to think about what would happen if that focus was gone."
Clark asked, "Any chance we can get her onto our side?"
Buffy spoke up. "We'd need to do it through Angel and Spike. It's possible, but will be hard. They're pretty bitter and jaded at life right now and don't want to listen to us."
Cordelia and Wesley looked at each other. "I know how to get them to listen," Wesley said.
Cordelia nodded. "You realize that this is stretching the rules more than a bit, right?"
"Well, what else are we supposed to do?" Wesley smiled sadly before disappearing in a flash of light.
Cordelia cast one last look over the group in the hotel suite and sighed. Light pulsed around her form and when it dissipated, she was gone.