Speaker-to-Customers (speakr2customrs) wrote,
Speaker-to-Customers
speakr2customrs

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Birthday greetings, fic, and Coming Shortly

Happy Birthday to diabola79


makd posted a list of BtVS Season 7 recs last night, and reading it reminded me that I've never done a canon S7 story other than drabbles. That's because the Roxyverse is an alternate S7 and writing it pretty much filled all my S7 needs. Most of it revolves around OCs, and even the crossovers where they encounter the Sunnydale crew don't altogether stand alone; except for the last.

In "Fight For The Right To Party" Harmony has a soul bestowed upon her by the Powers and comes to Sunnydale to help in the fight against the First. She has very little idea about what's going on, and the story is from her POV, and so it doesn't rely upon knowledge of what has gone before. About the only thing that isn't explained within the story is that she has been given a ring that is like a Gem of Amara Lite. It grants a vampire the ability to walk in the sun, although with only the strength of a human in those circumstances, and to withstand holy water and crosses, but none of the other benefits of the Gem of Amara. There are five such rings in the Roxyverse; Spike also has one, and Angel did have one but the Powers took it from him when he signed the deal with Wolfram and Hart and gave it to Harmony instead. Harmony arrives in Sunnydale right at the beginning of 'Chosen', but the timing runs slightly differently from then on. I got totally Jossed by AtS S5, of course, and the Roxyverse became much more AU than I'd expected. I have only just recovered enough from my stressful time at work to restart work on "Angel of the Morning" today, and so I'm posting this as a stopgap.


Fight For the Right To Party


Sunnydale was almost deserted. The few vehicles we passed were all going the other way, heading out of town, and they seemed to be piled high with possessions. People leaving town for good, the way my family had. No wonder they couldn’t sell the house.

I felt scared and sick as we approached Revello Drive. It was going to be so hard to face everybody; Spike, Buffy, Xander, Willow, Dawn, and Mr. Giles; but at least it would mean an end to this dreadful car journey. There was nothing more I could say to Angel, nothing he could say to me, and the whole trip had passed in silence. Nothing to do but think, and my thoughts weren’t fun.

Well, except for the thoughts about the Governorship of California. Apparently the media were blaming the Governor for the whole Los Angeles thing. Not that they knew what had really gone on; pollution, street gangs, and religious cults is what they blamed the chaos on; but he was getting the blame, and they were all for recalling him and electing a replacement. Arnold Schwartzenegger had just announced he was going to stand. What they thought he would be able to do about any repeats is beyond me. He isn’t really the Terminator. Anyway, if the Time of Darkness had really been down to pollution, someone who drives a Hummer isn’t exactly Poster Guy for the Greens.

Not that I was deep into politics, but thinking about that was much better than thinking about other things. Like Cordelia, in a coma and not likely to wake up any time soon, if ever. Angel, hating and envying me so much I could almost cut it with a knife. God, how bad off must he be if he can envy me! He wouldn’t talk about whatever had made him lose his ring, but it must have been something terrible. He scares me.

Sunnydale scared me, too. All the street lights were out, the only houses with lights showing looked like it was candlelight, and there were damn few of them. The power was out, and it was like a ghost town. 1630 Revello was the only house brightly lit, probably because witches always have lots of candles. I rang the bell, and nothing happened. D’oh! No power. Angel gave me a patronizing look and knocked on the door.

I felt all tense as the door opened. I was expecting it to be Buffy. It wasn’t. Anti-climax. It was some guy I remembered vaguely from High School, the kid brother of one of the guys in our year.

“Can I help you?” he began, and then recognized Angel. “Angel! The Vampyr With A Soul!” He managed to vocalize the capital letters somehow. “Well, not the vampyr with a soul any more, but still a vampyr with a soul.”

“Who on earth are you? Where’s Buffy?” Angel asked.

“Tucker Wells’ brother, right?” I asked. “Randy or something?”

“Andrew,” he corrected me. “Are you a vampyr, too?”

“Yes she is, Andrew,” Willow told him, appearing over his shoulder. “Hello, Angel. What are you doing here, Harmony?” She didn’t sound friendly, not that I could blame her.

A dark-haired girl who I knew vaguely came up behind Willow, then rushed out and hugged Angel. She had to be the other Slayer, Faith, who’d hung round with Buffy for a few months and then gone whacko. She started talking to Angel, and I was left facing Willow by myself.

“I’ve come to help, Willow,” I said. “If you’ll have me, and I don’t blame you if you won’t. And I’m really sorry I bit you and everything.” I’m shaking. I remember when I first tried to be good, and I went to Cordy, and Cordy helped me all she could, and I really tried, but I failed and she chased me away. And Cordy was my best friend for ten years, and I’d only made friends with Willow in the last couple of days before Graduation, and I’ve made a big mistake coming here and I’m scared and I’m going to cry.

“Okay,” Willow said. “Come on in. I live here now, so I can invite you. I’ll introduce you to everybody, except the ones you know, like Xander and Dawn and Anya and Giles and Spike and I’m babbling, aren’t I? And you’re crying.”

Angel didn’t come in. I tried to repair my tear-damaged make-up while Willow gave him directions to where he would probably find Buffy, and Angel left carrying the mysterious briefcase he’d brought with him from LA. I was alone with the Scoobies, no support, not that Angel had been much support anyway.

Willow took me into the living room. I’d been right about the candles, plus they had battery powered lamps as well, and it was easily bright enough to read by. The room was totally full of people, most of them teenage girls who were strangers to me. She introduced me as “the newest of the Ringbearers” and told me that the girls were Potential Slayers. Just what a lone vampire needed to hear, not.

I apologized to Dawn for the time when I’d kidnapped her. She gave me a sniff and a glare, but at least she didn’t stake me on the spot.

Xander was there, with his left eye covered by a black patch. I didn’t think it was part of a pirate costume. He’d been injured.

“What happened to your eye, Xander?” I asked.

“Like you care,” he responded in a hostile tone. “It got gouged out by a maniac super-strong serial killer with delusions of being a priest. Happy now?”

“No, not happy!” I snapped back. “I never wanted you to get hurt. You were really nice to me that night when I burned Spike’s records. You’re a friend. Okay, I did try to kill you that one time, but you were teasing me and I was having a big try at being really evil.”

“And you’re having a big try at being really good now, are you? Think you’ll be any better at that?”

I started crying again. “Okay, I sucked at being evil, and I tried to be good before and I sucked at that too, but I’m having another try, right? They said ‘all you have to do is wear the ring and not eat anybody, except maybe drug dealers’, and I was going to do that, and I bought the bikini and was going to hit the beach, but then I started feeling really guilty and I couldn’t just lie there and sunbathe while the end of the world went on without me. So I might not be much use, but I’ve been practicing with a crossbow and I’m not a total klutz any more. I can at least make up the numbers, and maybe give you a chance to punch out some serial killer while he’s occupied staking me or something.”

“That was mean, Xander!” Willow scolded him, much to my surprise, and she gave my shoulder a squeeze, even more to my surprise.

“Sorry, Harmony,” Xander mumbled. Then he gave me a big grin. “Anyway, my eye hurts a lot less now since that bastard Caleb got a taste of his own medicine. April gouged his eye out yesterday.”

One of the Potential Slayers, an African-American girl with her arm in a plaster cast, spoke up. “Yeah, and Caleb broke my arm when we first met him, and April broke his arm last week.”

“Way to go, April!” I said. “Who is April, anyway?” I assumed she must be one of the horde of teenage girls, and looked them over. Unless she was a Vengeance Demon like Anya used to be, the doing unto him what he’d done unto others sounded that way, which brought to my mind that one of my gang had broke Anya’s arm once and inspired some uncomfortable thoughts.

“April’s our robot Slayer,” Willow told me. “Warren made her to be a sexbot, but we repaired her with a few changes.”

“Robot? Warren?” I asked, somewhat lost. Willow’s explanations were interrupted by the entrance of a dark haired girl, very pretty, who turned out to be the robot in person.

“Hello!” she greeted me with a beaming smile. “You don’t have a heartbeat, and your body is at room temperature. Are you a vampire? I slay vampires. Except for Spike, of course.”

“I’m a good vampire too,” I told her hastily, backing away. “I used to be Spike’s girlfriend. Tell her, Willow.” I had a feeling that a robot Slayer who could take apart super-strong serial killers wouldn’t have any problems dismembering me.

“Yeah, she’s good now. Leave her alone, April. Hello, Harm.” It was Spike.

“Hi, Spike,” I began. I was going to say a lot more, but April interrupted.

“Buffy has killed Caleb,” she announced brightly. “She was fighting him, and Spike ran to fetch me, but when we got there she had cut him into two pieces vertically. So she didn’t need my help.”

There was a general cheer from everybody. This Caleb must have been big trouble; even Willow looked happy he was dead, and she was always like totally against killing humans, same as Buffy was. Maybe he hadn’t really been human.

“I’ll catch you later, Harm,” Spike said to me. “I’ve got a lot to apologize to you for. Don’t feel like it just now. Sorry.” He headed off to what was probably the basement, assuming Buffy’s house had the same layout as my parents’, and slammed the door behind him. My vampire hearing picked up him muttering to himself once through the door, something about ‘sodding poofter and his sodding brooding hair!’ in venomous tones. I had no idea what “poofter” meant, apart from being some sort of British insult, but I knew it was one of his names for Angel.

I was tempted to follow him, but Mr. Giles came over to me and started asking me questions about my ring. Also Willow brought me a mug of blood. I’ve always hated pigs’ blood, I’ve just been forcing it down because I couldn’t get much human in Cancun, but this was really nice although not human blood. I asked her what it was, and she told me it was baboon. Sunnydale Zoo had been closed down, and the animals they couldn’t pass on to other zoos had been slaughtered. I went “Eww!”, but drank it anyway.

“Just call me Giles, girl. You’re not in High School any more, and I’m not the librarian any longer, you don’t need to bother with the ‘Mr.’,” Giles told me. “Unless you want me to call you ‘Miss Kendall’. Now, tell me how you got your soul.”

“I didn’t know I had,” I admitted. “I was trying my best to be good, maybe not making much of a job of it but I was trying. Then a few weeks ago I had a strange dream, and after that it got a bit easier not eating people and not stealing. Guess that must be when I got the soul, huh?”

“A strange dream?” Giles asked, taking off his glasses and polishing the lenses. “Tell me about it.” He sounded really interested; I guess dreams and prophecies are what Watchers live for. Well, that and staking vampires.

“I dreamed I was in a desert, in bright sunshine, but I didn’t burn,” I explained. “There were three people there. One of them was this weird girl with dreadlocks and face paint, sort of like an Australian Aborigine out of ‘Crocodile Dundee’. She didn’t say much, except something about ‘Love. Give. Forgive.’ Then there was an Irish guy, said his name was Doyle and that he was a friend of Cordelia’s from LA, although I didn’t meet him when I visited Cordy there, and I asked Angel about him and he said that he was dead. The other one was Willow’s friend Tara.” I looked around. “Where is she, anyway? I thought she’d be here.”

“She’s dead.” Willow’s voice was strained, and she suddenly looked ill. “She died last May.”

“Oh, God, Willow, I’m so sorry. I hadn’t heard.”

“That’s okay, Harmony, you weren’t to know,” Willow replied sadly. There was a moment of awkward silence, and then Willow asked “So, what did she tell you?”

“She said she was a Spirit Guide, and she had been sent to help me. She said I’d never been really bad, and that I could be good if I had some help. I don’t think I ever spoke to her in Sunnydale, although I saw her with you a couple of times, but she seemed really nice in my dream. I liked her.” Willow didn’t reply, just gave me a weak smile, and I went on.

“The Irish guy did most of the talking. He said that there was an apopaclypse or something coming, and that there were people and vampires who had an important part to play in stopping it, and that the Powers needed reserves in case anything happened to them beforehand. I was going to be one of those reserves, in case anything happened to Angel or Spike. Tara said that I wasn’t the first choice, the prophecy had been about a vampire called Sandy originally, but she’d been murdered by Riley Finn before the time of the prophecy arose, so the Powers had chosen me as a replacement. Second choice to be on the bench, huh? Makes me feel really important, not.”

“Wait a minute,” Willow interrupted. “I knew Sandy. The vampire version of me killed her in the Bronze. Tara said Riley murdered her? Not ‘killed’ or ‘dusted’, but ‘murdered’?”

“That’s what she said,” I confirmed. “I knew Sandy, too. The only vampire I ever knew who’d never killed any humans at all. Even I killed some, well five to be exact. Which I’m really sorry for, even though they were all total losers who nobody missed.”

“No need to be sorry for killing Brad Konig,” Xander cut in, and actually smiled at me. At this point Buffy walked in, just in time to catch Xander’s comment and give him an odd look. “Hey, Buffster! Way to go with the Caleb slicing,” Xander greeted her. She was still giving him that look. “Look, Buff, Brad Konig used to beat me up and steal my lunch money,” Xander explained, “I’m not going to …” then he was drowned out by a mob all trying to talk to Buffy at once.

Buffy was carrying a strange-looking sort of pointy axe thing, which she stood against the wall, and the briefcase which Angel had brought, which she laid on the table. “Hi guys!” she said to everybody in general. “Yes, ding, dong, Caleb is dead,” she confirmed. “Angel’s gone back to LA after leaving a little something for me to look into – research coming up, Dawn, Will, Giles – and I need to e-mail Jocasta. Hello, Harmony.” She looked around. “Where’s Spike?”

“He’s gone downstairs,” Willow told her, with an uneasy look. “He didn’t look very happy. Is something wrong?”

“We saw you kissing Angel,” April announced cheerfully. “I think he’s upset, because you’re his girlfriend so you shouldn’t kiss other men. Or vampires.”

I spluttered out some of the baboon blood. “You’re going out with Spike?” I gasped.

“Err, yes,” Buffy admitted. “I take it you haven’t had a chance to talk to him yet? Sorry it got sprung on you like that.”

“Oh, it’s okay,” I said, dabbing at the blood on my blouse. “I knew he wasn’t my Blondie Bear any more, I wasn’t planning on getting back together with him, and I knew he was in love with you. I just had no idea he’d actually got anywhere with you. Last I saw he’d chained you up in his crypt and threatened to feed you to Droodzilla if you didn’t give him some hope. Don’t tell me that actually worked.”

“Way to go, Harmony, tell all the Potentials about it,” Buffy muttered, blushing. “Oh God, Andrew heard! Don’t you dare put that into any of your stories!” She glared at Tucker’s brother, and then turned back to me. “No way! He kept trying for another year before he got anywhere.”

“That’s one hell of a long time to be chained up,” I commented, still somewhat stunned. Buffy laughed.

“He didn’t chain me up ever again!” she corrected me. “Well, there was that one time – oops!” She blushed again. “No, I mean he was really good, and helpful, and stood up to torture for me and Dawn, and was there for me when I really needed someone, and eventually it worked out. So didn’t want to go into this in front of everybody. Right, I need to see Spike, but I need to talk to you first, Harmony. Angel told me he’d brought you here with him. I need you to tell me about Angel and things in LA, and I need you to tell me in private. And we need to find you somewhere to sleep that isn’t down in the basement with Spike. Although Spike doesn’t really need to sleep in the basement with the ring, just stayed there out of habit I guess, and for that matter you don’t need to be in the basement either. Will, bang off a quick ‘Caleb is dead, details to follow’ e-mail to Jocasta, would you? Then start going through the papers in that briefcase. Harmony, come with me.”

Buffy took me upstairs, to what I supposed must have been her bedroom. I’d only been in her house twice before, and once was only for a few seconds and doesn’t really count. The other time was for the big party when she came back from having run away from home, and I never made it into any of the bedrooms before the zombies attacked and we all ran away. Anyway, it had a bed, and stuffed animals, and Buffy clothes, and a picture of her mother and Dawn, and one of Spike, so it being her bedroom is a fair guess.

She sat me down and started asking me questions about LA. I told her about Angel now owning Wolfram and Hart, who I wouldn’t trust as far as I could throw their skyscraper, and how the whole gang seemed not the same as when I’d met them before. I told her about Cordy being in a coma, and I cried again. Buffy held me while I cried, which was of the good but a bit creepy too. I’d never have believed that the Slayer would ever give me a hug.

“Okay,” she told me. “I’d better fill you in on a few things. First, Rule One. Touching. We’re fighting the First Evil. It can impersonate anyone who’s dead, or who has died and come back to life, but it can only do the visuals, it can’t take solid form. It can be you, or Spike, or Angel, or me, because I’ve died twice and been brought back to life. Probably Cordy, difficult to tell. Even someone you think is alive could have been killed ten minutes before. So, trust no-one unless you can touch them. Lots of hugs, handshakes, that sort of thing. It can even make it look like a bed sags under its weight, like it’s pulling a blanket over itself, or whatever; but it can’t move anything for real, so we sometimes do things like tossing a ball around the group. Join in or you might get punched.”

“Second, it’s going to come after you. It will search out your weaknesses; try to drive you mad or to trick you into doing something stupid. Anything in your past that you can’t face, it’ll drag up and replay for you. It made Spike kill. It made Teresa – you met her, right? – try to kill her friends. It made Andrew kill his best friend, and tried to get him to shoot the Potentials. It tricked one of the Potentials into running away to her death, and talked another into hanging herself. It tried to get Robin to kill Spike.”

“Who’s Robin?” I interrupted.

“Robin Wood, Principal of Sunnydale High these days, except that it’s shut now, demon hunter, son of a Slayer. The tall African-American guy with a bald head who was leaning against the wall downstairs,” she explained. “Anyway, it seems to really hate vampires and ex-vampires turning good, so I guess it’ll go for you next. And it won’t be fun.”

I swallowed. This didn’t sound good. “I’ll be ready, and I’ll do my best,” I said nervously. Buffy gave me a big smile.

“That’s all anyone can ask,” she said. “Next, chain of command. We all answer to Jocasta McStay, Head of the Council of Watchers, but she’s in England so you probably won’t need to bother about her.”

“Hey, wait up, Buffy,” I broke in. “I thought the top Watcher was some guy called Quentin somebody. He came over to Sunnydale year before last, while I was still with Spike, and all the other top Watchers with him were all guys too, except a girl called Lydia. Spike told me all about it; he thought it was funny ‘cos the girl had a thing for him.”

“Quentin Travers is dead.” Buffy went really serious again. “So’s Lydia. The First Evil had someone blow up the main Council building, and its minions have been going after all the Watchers who weren’t there at the time. As far as we know there are only nine Watchers in the world now, and two of them are downstairs. Giles, and we made Robin a Watcher. There’s them, and one woman in Pittsburgh, and six in England, and that’s it. All the others are dead, maybe two hundred in all. The First plays for keeps. It’s killed more than a hundred Potential Slayers worldwide, nine after they made it here to Sunnydale. It wants to wipe them out altogether.”

I picked up one of Buffy’s stuffed animals and hugged it to me. I wasn’t liking this at all.

“Anyway, back to the chain of command. So, there’s Jocasta at the top, but you’re not likely to meet her, so you can concentrate on Sunnydale. I’m in charge here. You do what I say. You can make suggestions, and ask questions, but if I give an order you carry it out first and argue later. Next comes Giles, then Spike, then Faith, then Willow, then Robin, then Xander, then Dawn, then you and Anya equal. You can’t give Anya orders, she can’t give them to you. Anybody above you in the chain, you do what they say unless someone higher up says otherwise. April’s not in the chain. She’ll only take orders from me or Willow, but she doesn’t give orders to anyone.”

“You can give orders to the Potentials, and to Andrew, but don’t abuse the privilege. Don’t make them do things you should do yourself. The same applies to the higher-ups giving orders to you; like if Dawn tells you to iron her shirt, do it first then tell me, and I’ll probably ground her for a week. Kennedy, she’s Willow’s girlfriend, is in charge of the Potentials, so if you want to get a Potential to do something and you don’t care which one, tell Kennedy and she’ll pick one out.”

“Seven of the Potentials don’t speak any English. Spike and another Potential, Nella, can speak to Chao-Ahn, Spike can speak to Yelena and just about make himself understood to Banka, Giles can speak to Minori, Anya can speak to Sigrid, and you speak Spanish so you won’t have a problem with Gladiz, but none of us have the remotest idea how to communicate with Praphasi except by pointing and drawing pictures. Still, it works out somehow. Some of the Potentials are just scared kids, but a few of them are pretty tough. Kennedy could maybe beat you in a fair fight, same with Chao-Ahn, Vi, Nella, and Praphasi. Amanda hasn’t got the skill but she’s tough and she just keeps on coming, so don’t take too many liberties with her either.”

“Last, the opposition. The First’s main minions are Harbingers, also called Bringers. They’re priests in robes, dumb and blind, human but with their eyes sealed shut with mystic symbols carved into their faces. They don’t need to see, they can fight quite well without eyes, and they’re killers. They use axes and curved knives. Some of their knives carry an invisible parasite called a Soul Sucker which preys on the undead. If one of them gets into you, you’re probably dusted or their zombie slave. Jocasta’s vampire Jack survived an infection, but he’s four hundred years old with extra magic powers. I don’t think we could save you, so try not to get stabbed.”

“Then there’s the Turok-Han, or Ubervamps as we call them. Sort of prehistoric vamps, in permanent game face only uglier. The First is bringing them in through the Hellmouth from a world where the vampires won against the humans. They’re stronger and faster than you. The first one I fought kicked the crap out of me, but I can handle them these days. Spike’s killed them in that other world, Dawn too, Faith should be able to beat them as well, and a bunch of the Potentials killed one as a group effort, but don’t you try taking one on. They’re hard to dust. Their chests are extra tough, and an ordinary stake won’t go in far enough. The light crossbows we usually use won’t do either, it has to be a proper hunting crossbow. Spears work, or javelins, and cutting off their heads works very well. The trouble is they won’t stand still to let you do it.”

“Its real heavy hitters are humans so totally in love with death that the First can put a part of itself into their bodies. Caleb, who I just killed, was one of those. Stronger than me, almost impossible to hurt, but April isn’t affected by the Evil part and can take them apart. The shiny new choppy thing I’ve got works pretty well, too, but only a Slayer can use it. If you meet another Caleb just run for April or me. And, of course, there are the usual ordinary demons and vampires. Any questions?”

I put down the stuffed animal, which was a pig. “Only one. How come you’re trusting me so easily? I mean, me vampire, you Slayer, and I kidnapped your sister and plotted to kill you. I thought you’d probably stake me as soon as I showed up; maybe if I was really lucky you’d let me tag along with someone watching me the whole time. Yet here you are trusting me, telling me I can give orders, and being so nice I’m wishing I’d been more of a friend to you when we were at school.”

“It’s not really easy for me, Harmony,” she explained, taking the stuffed pig and putting it back on her pillow. “Every instinct in my body is telling me that you’re a monster and that I should shove a stake through your heart. But Spike has taught me that a vampire can be good, even without the soul; you did try to protect Dawn from your gang after you kidnapped her; and also you are a Ringbearer, one of the Fellowship. If the Powers gave you one of the Rings I’ve got enough faith in them to trust you. And, as they took Angel’s ring off him, I’m not going to trust him without double-checking everything he brought me.”

I leaned towards her. “So, if you don’t trust him, what was with the kissing?”

“Oh, bugger!” she exclaimed. She definitely had been spending a lot of time with Spike. “Yes, there was kissing. He was my first love, he was all romantic and things, and there was kissing, and I still have feelings for him. But it wasn’t real. I just wanted it to be the way it was in High School, everything so simple, Buffy&Angel4ever, and when I stepped back and looked at him I knew it wasn’t like that any more. I couldn’t tell him, because that would mean closing the door on it for ever, so I babbled about maybe one day, when I’d finished baking, we might, which is totally nonsense because I’m a girl not a cookie, and are we having a girl talk moment?” She grinned at me.

I grinned back. “Guess we are. Why not, anyway? Okay, you Slayer, me vampire, and Spike did dump me for you, but we were classmates.” It was a bit weird, and I wasn’t really as comfortable with it as I was trying to make out. I’d been terrified of Buffy for a long time, I was even a bit scared of her before I became a vampire, and I kept getting the feeling that I should hide under the bed.

“Oh shit! Spike! We’ve been up here for ages, much longer than I meant to, and he’s probably brooding, or getting drunk, or wrecking the basement. Got to go. You want to take a shower, maybe? We’ve got gas heating for the water, so plenty of hot, but with so many girls in the house you’ve got to grab showers whenever there’s a chance. See you downstairs later,” and she was off.

I took a shower, as she’d suggested, put on clean clothes, and put the ones I’d been wearing back in my suitcase as I had no idea where else to put them. Then I headed back downstairs.

* * * * * * *

“So, she looked at us and said ‘Is there anyone here who hasn’t slept together?’, and Xander and Spike just looked at each other, and Spike rolled his eyes,” Anya chuckled, and I laughed with her. We were sitting on the couch, and she was bringing me up to date on the tangled love lives of this strange crew, being really funny. Probably not what I needed to know first, things about the opposition would be much more practical, but this was more fun. I’d apologized to her for my gang breaking her arm that time, and she’d just laughed and said that she’d forgotten all about it. We were talking as if we were friends, and maybe we were. She wasn’t Cordy, but she was the next best thing.

She went on to tell me about the return of Ampata the Mummy Girl, and Xander came over and joined us on the couch. He handed Anya a mug of coffee, and me a mug of blood. “Hope it’s the right temperature,” he commented. “No power, so no microwave. Camping stove. We’ve got a big stock of blood in, but no fridge working, so no knowing how long it’s going to be edible. Or drinkable, whichever.”

I took a sip of the blood, and it tasted weird. Pretty nice, I guess, but not like anything I’d ever tasted before. “What sort is it?” I asked Xander.

“Aardvark,” he answered. I managed to avoid spluttering it on my dress the way I’d spilled the baboon blood. Just. Xander gave me a big goofy grin, and for a moment I thought he’d been kidding me, but no. “Willow told you about the zoo, right? We’ve got everything from A to Z. Andrew wants you to try everything in alphabetical order, and he’s upset that Willow gave you the baboon first instead of second. Although it’ll probably have gone off long before you get to the zebra.”

“Like, what have you got beginning with X?” I asked him.

“Had to cheat on that one,” Xander admitted. “Scientific name for anteaters or armadillos or something, Will tells me. Or there’s me, but you’d have to ask really nicely.”

He joined in the conversation, and he and Anya told me about Teresa turning out to be Buffy’s stepmother’s aunt, at least if you stretched a point about the generations. I was beginning to think I’d been drafted into a daytime soap. Then Giles, who’d been in another room studying the papers from Angel’s briefcase, came back in, and Anya leapt up and went to join him. “Oh, yeah, and if you hadn’t guessed, Anya’s with Giles now,” Xander said, not looking at all sad about it.

Xander asked about what I’d been doing with myself, which I told him. “So, you never got to wear your new bikini, then?” he asked me. “Bet you’d have looked good in it. Maybe you could give me a show some time.”

“Xander Harris! Are you flirting with me?”

“No! Well, maybe. You may be an undead vampire, but I’ve got to admit you’ve got an ass that would put J-Lo to shame, and you’ve got some nice curves in other places,” he replied, his eyes twinkling. “Seeing you in a bikini, not exactly major hardship.”

I would have blushed, except hello, vampire, no blushes. Well, I don’t think I blush, not like I can check it out in a mirror. I smacked his hand, not hard, and giggled. It occurred to me that Xander was actually pretty cute, and he must have something going for him because Cordy went out for him for a whole year, even sneaking behind our backs to be with him at first because he was majorly uncool in High School. “Okay, maybe bikini viewing could be arranged,” I conceded. “You still got the Speedos from when you made the swim team?”

“No, but I’ve got Calvin Klein boxers,” he responded, and the look in his eye was definitely naughty.

“They’d go better with my Victoria’s Secret undies,” I went with the flow. Then Buffy and Spike came in, followed by Willow and Dawn holding old papers, parchments or papyrus or something, and we had to stop with the flirting because they wanted to discuss prophecies and make announcements.

* * * * * * *

The next couple of days were pretty strange. The town was getting to be like a ghost town. Almost all the shops were shut, pretty well all the people had gone, and there wasn’t a lot to do except scavenge and train. The power came back on a couple of times, but didn’t stay on for long. There was hardly anyone left at the power company, and eventually it went off and stayed off.

April was really pissed, ‘cos she had to recharge from cars, and then she had to act as a power supply to charge Willow’s laptop. Actually I got friendly with April; she was really nice, and always cheerful apart from about the recharging thing. I got really friendly with Anya too, although I thought it was a bit creepy her being with Giles cause he was like old. I know she’s more than a thousand years old really, but she was in my class at school so it still wigged me out a bit. Okay, so Spike was old too, but he never seemed it.

Spike gave me this big apology about how badly he’d treated me, and how sorry he was, and it just wasn’t like my Blondie Bear at all. Anyway, I am so over him, and I told him it was okay. Then he turned up again and started saying really nasty things, so I thought ‘hey, this is what Buffy warned me about’, so I hit him and my fist went right through him because he was the First Evil. So I stuck my fingers in my ears and went “la la la, I’m not listening,” until he made mouth shapes like Spike saying “Sodding Hell, Harm, you’re an idiot” – Spikey used to say that a lot, so I know what he looked like when he said it – and gave up and went away.

Me and Kennedy bumped into three of those Bringer things while we were out scavenging, and we killed them, which was good. Kennedy’s pretty unpopular with a lot of the gang, but we got on okay. She knows a lot about clothes and shoes.

Xander ‘fessed up that they didn’t really have a full alphabet of animal blood, some of it was Willow being creative with an encyclopedia and a marker pen, although some of it was true. I had capybara, and dingo, and elephant, and lots of other weird stuff. When I was drinking the dingo, Xander said “Dingoes Ate My Baby – now we get our revenge!” which made me laugh so much I ended up with another blood-splattered blouse. Spike was drinking mainly lion. I tried some mountain lion, and it was great. Better than human. Not a great prospect as a long-term substitute for human, unfortunately.

There was more flirting with Xander, and it got to be a lot of fun, and I gave him the bikini viewing. Which got to be more than viewing, there was touching, and kissing, and then there was more than kissing. I’ve known Xander since we were in first grade, and would never have dreamed we’d end up doing more than kiss. Still less that it would be absolutely incredible.

Later, I overheard Spike and Xander talking on the porch. I had been going out there myself, but I stopped and listened when I realized they were talking about me.

“I hope you’re going to treat the bint right, Harris,” Spike was saying. “I was bloody horrible to her, and she deserved better. She’s not bright, but she’s warm, and loyal, and if you’re just going to use her for a shag and break her heart – like I did, got to admit - I’ll poke your other sodding eye out.”

“Hey, easy there, Evil Dead,” Xander replied. “It’s a bit soon to be making with the ‘don’t go breaking her heart’ talk, isn’t it? I’ve only been making out with her for a couple of days.”

“Got as far as the shagging, though, haven’t you? And don’t try and deny it, I’ve got ears, and I know what Harm sounds like when she’s getting a good seeing-to. Also I’m not blind, and I can see that she’s looking at you like the sun shines out of your arse.”

“She is?” Xander asked, sounding pleased. “Okay, you got me, Harmony and me are doing the sex thing, and it’s pretty amazing. She’s the best. Ahn was so damn pushy, y’know, always wanting me to do things for her, and Harmony just wants to please me. Which makes me want to do the things for her anyway. I’ve even found myself thinking that you must have been crazy to dump her for the Buffster. And her being my girlfriend is a hell of a lot of fun. I’ve known her like forever, and we always used to call each other stupid, but I guess we’re just both as dumb as each other. She even laughs at all of my jokes.”

“My love, you didn’t need to coax,” Spike half sang.

“Huh?” Xander was obviously as baffled as I was.

“Rod Stewart song lyric, child,” Spike explained. “Follows on from what you said. So, you’re serious about Harm?”

“Yeah, guess I am,” Xander told him. “I don’t know about love, too soon, but it’d hurt me if she left me. I’ll give that a big ‘maybe’. I promise you I won’t lie to her. I won’t tell her I love her if I don’t mean it, and I won’t ever leave her at the altar. Good enough for you?”

“Well, it’s pretty much what I get from Buffy, so, yeah, it’ll do. You dealing okay with Harm being a vampire?”

“Y’know, sometimes I forget that she is. I mean, she’s not exactly the Big Bad, is she?”

Spike laughed. “You don’t know the half of it. I think maybe she didn’t turn properly. I mean, it was in this big battle, not exactly time for the whole ‘I drink your blood, you drink mine’ routine. Probably she just got bit by someone who’d got punched in the face and had a mouth full of his own blood. She used to try to be bad, but she never really got the hang of it. Never even mastered smoking, let alone killing. I remember one time she came into the crypt with a load of bags, said there’d been a sale on, and I said ‘Don’t tell me you paid for it!’ and she said ‘No, I just killed the clerk’, but I thought ‘hang on, everything’s all wrapped up proper, they don’t do that until you’ve paid’, so I looked later and the dozy bint had kept the sodding receipts. She’d paid, all right, but she was too ashamed of not being a proper vampire to admit it.”

Xander laughed. “That’s my girl. But that was you, too. If you hadn’t been going on about ‘I’m still the Big Bad, if I ever get this chip out of my head I’ll rip all your throats out’ then we could have really been friends last year. Maybe then Buffy would have been honest with us about you, and a whole load of bad stuff wouldn’t have happened. I’d have jumped down her throat about her going out with the Big Bad, even chipped, but not about her going out with my pool-playing buddy, which is what you would have been if you’d let yourself. Hell, you were good then, you just wouldn’t admit it.”

“Giving yourself too much credit there, Harris. You’d have just thought I was lying, and that I’d have eaten you if I got rid of the chip anyway. I needed the soul for you lot to trust me, and I’d never have gone and got the soul if I hadn’t royally fucked things up.”

“Almost forgot about the soul, y’know,” Xander told him. “See, you’re not really any different with it. Bit quieter, maybe, bit less of the swagger and ‘I’m the Big Bad’, but that’s about it, now you’re over being mad.”

“Oh, it matters,” Spike replied. “Without it, there was always a feeling that I should be bad. Sure, I could be good. Was good, tried to be better, but it never felt natural, and when I felt really down the demon took over. Anyway, if I didn’t have the soul the First wouldn’t need to play sodding games with my head to get me to kill people. It could just tell me, and I’d do it. And I wouldn’t even feel guilty afterwards, unless it was one of you lot. I’d think ‘Buffy’ll be really disappointed in me’, and I’d be upset because of that, but that’s all.”

There was a long silence, and I didn’t think I was going to hear anything else interesting, so I opened the door and went out to join them. “Hi, what are my two favorite guys up to?” I greeted them.

“And my two favorite guys,” came Buffy’s voice from behind me, and I wondered how long she’d been there.

“Guy talk, while Spike has a smoke,” Xander replied. “Just wishing the Bronze hadn’t shut down, so we could have a game of pool. Wanna join us?” The two men made room between them, and Spike flicked his cigarette end out into the garden.

I sat down next to Xander, who put his arm around me, and Buffy joined us and Spike put his arm around her. We sat peacefully and looked at the stars in silence for a while, and then Buffy spoke.

“Hate to break up the mood, but we’re going to have to go in soon. I’ve been cooking something up with Willow, and we’ve come up with a plan. I wanted to clear it with Jocasta first, but the phone service has gone off now, so we’re going to have to go with it. Big announcement in a few minutes. And I know I suck at making speeches, but this one really is important, so no zoning out. I’m sick of reacting to the First’s moves, sick of hanging on in a town that’s falling apart while we get weaker and he gets stronger. We’re going to take the fight to him, and we’re going to do it tomorrow.”


* * * * * * *


Dawn. The time of day, not the girl. The school bus pulled up in front of the new Sunnydale High, and we all got out and headed for the doors. As we went in, Principal Wood made an announcement.

“Welcome to Sunnydale High. There’s no running in the halls, no yelling, no gum-chewing. Apart from that, there’s only one rule: if they move, kill them.”

“He’s pretty cool, isn’t he?” I commented to Xander. “If he’d been Principal instead of Snyder, I might have worked harder, got better grades, got into some decent college. Well, apart from the having my throat ripped out by a vampire and joining the undead thing, which put a bit of a stopper on the whole further education option.”

Xander laughed. He was looking cool himself, swinging a baseball bat in one hand, an axe in the other, with a pistol thrust into his belt, and he was wearing his construction worker hard hat for a bit of extra protection. “We’re all looking cool, Harmony. Apart from me not having a parrot for my shoulder. Let’s go to work.”

We took our places. I was teamed up with Anya and Andrew. Well, mainly with Anya, Andrew was just there because he had to be somewhere, whereas Anya might actually be some use. Xander was by himself to start with, but Dawn was going to join him after she’d opened the Hellmouth. Giles was with Robin Wood. Kennedy was with Willow. April was going to be at this side of the Hellmouth, and the rest were going through it.

Buffy was worried that the Ubervamps might be right up against the Hellmouth on the other side of the seal, and start coming through the second it opened, or that a big thing with tentacles would come through. If that happened Dawn was just going to close it straight away, and we’d all join in fighting whatever had got through and then rethink the plan when they were dead. It didn’t, though. Willow started her spell, Dawn opened the Seal, nothing came out, and Buffy went through the Seal followed by Spike, Faith, and the Potentials. Who weren’t Potentials for long, because that’s when Willow’s spell kicked in and they were all Slayers.

I couldn’t see the Hellmouth itself from where I was. I could see April, and I saw Dawn come out of the basement and head for Xander, grinning all over her face and yelling with excitement. Kennedy ran past her in the other direction, carrying Buffy’s pointy choppy thing, which had been used in the spell but was now going back to Buffy. I didn’t see much of interest for a while, only heard the distant sound of shotgun blasts and clashing swords. Then a whole bunch of Bringers turned up, and I let one have a crossbow bolt through where his eye would have been if he had them, snatched up my sword and was fighting.

A few Ubervamps started coming out of the basement. For a minute I was scared stiff, I thought the people who’d gone through must have been wiped out and we’d lost. Buffy had told us that she believed that if the First got his whole army through then they’d be able to do something to the sun, like had been done in that other world which Spike and Dawn had gone to, and Earth wouldn’t be habitable by humans any more. So if the Ubies came through in hordes and Dawn couldn’t get the Hellmouth to close then we had to run for it, rely on the sunlight to keep the enemy trapped in Sunnydale for the rest of the day, and contact Riley Finn to try to get the authorities to napalm Sunnydale before it was too late. I was starting to wonder how we’d manage to do the convincing, then I realised that there were only a very few Ubies, who must have dodged round the sides of Buffy’s group, no big rush of an army at all.

I couldn’t watch or think about it much, as the Bringers kept coming, and a couple of Ubies dodged past April rather than fighting her and came for us. Anya slashed the head off one, but as she did so a Bringer got behind her and stabbed at her back. I didn’t think, just threw myself in the way, and the dagger went through my right breast and into my lung. It hurt, and I thought “Oh God, please don’t let there be a Soul Sucker on the knife,” and vamped out and ripped the Bringer’s throat out and threw him aside. I pulled the knife out of my chest and stabbed another Bringer with it, and then something grabbed me by the neck and lifted me into the air. I turned my head to find myself facing an Ubervamp, its mouth open and teeth much bigger than mine heading for my throat. I was sure I was dead.

“Let go of her, you monster!” Andrew squealed, and lashed out with his sword. He hit its arm, and it dropped me and staggered back. He hit it again, clumsily, but he hurt it and it turned to him. I leaped on its back and drove the knife into its throat, then sawed away until the head came off and it turned to dust. Anya killed a Bringer who was making for Andrew, and then there was nothing fighting us any more.

The whole building was shaking. Tiles were falling from the ceiling. I looked down towards the Hellmouth, and saw April pinned to the wall by a sword. Smoke was coming out of her mouth, and sparks were shooting from the sword. There was a pile of dust a foot high on the floor beside her, and knives and swords lay all around. She looked me in the eye, and spoke. Not in her normal voice, but like that Professor Whatsit guy in the wheelchair who wrote that history of time book and was on Futurama.

“Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by, that here, obedient to their word, I lie. It’s getting dark again; but I know why, this time. Did we …?” Her voice ran down and stopped, just as the Potentials – Slayers now – started coming out of the basement.

They were bloody, wounded, but they weren’t defeated. They were jubilant, cheering, victorious. Faith came behind them, and shouted to us “Get the fuck out of here! The whole place is going up!” She turned to April, and tried to pull her from the wall, but April’s plastic skin burst into flames and Faith had to give up. Something shot up from the basement, blowing half the roof of the school off, and Faith yelled to us again. “Run, you morons!” So we did.

We made it to the bus. Me, Anya, Andrew, Xander – thank God – and Dawn, Principal Wood – who was in a bad way, knifed in the stomach – and Giles, Faith, Willow, and the ex-Potentials. Only fourteen of them. I don’t know exactly how many there’d been before, they were just a pack impossible to count, but I would guess over thirty. No Buffy. No Spike.

The ground was shaking like a major earthquake, and buildings were starting to fall down. The bus raced through the streets, the road collapsing behind us, then there was a yell from Dawn. “It’s Buffy!” We didn’t slow down. If we had, the collapsing road would have caught us up. Then there was a thud from the roof of the bus, a scraping noise, and part of the blade of Buffy’s pointy choppy thing came through the roof. “Yay! Buffy!” Dawn squealed, and there was a cheer from some of us. Most of us were in too bad a way to do any cheering, including me.

I slumped down in a seat and cried and cried. Part of it was because of the pain from where I’d been stabbed, part of it was because of the Potentials who’d died, a lot of it was because of April dying, but most of it was because of Spike. He was dead, I knew it. Xander made his way to me and hugged me, but I kept on crying. Then the bus stopped, I heard Buffy climbing down off the roof, and people started getting out. Xander and I made our way out, too, and joined the others in looking back at where Sunnydale had been.

It wasn’t there any more. There was just a big crater, like there’d been a meteor strike or a really big volcano. The ‘Welcome to Sunnydale’ sign was right at the edge of the hole; as we watched, it fell over and plummeted into the pit.

Buffy was standing watching it, Giles holding her shoulder, and she laughed as she saw it fall. Not a happy laugh. “Spike always used to knock it down, every time he came to Sunnydale,” she said, in a horribly empty voice.

“Buffy, what happened to him? The prophecy …” Giles’ voice died away mid sentence.

“I don’t know. He was in flames but not hurting, the amulet was going off like the Death Star, and he told me to get out. He wouldn’t come, and I left him. I don’t know what happened to him. Oh, God, I hope he just dusted. If he became human, and then …” she waved at the crater. “So cruel.”

I choked up. Spike becoming human, and then the building crashing down on him and collapsing into the pit – she was right, much worse than just dusting. Xander held me close, and I rested my head on his chest. “You’re bleeding, Harmony,” he said, concern in his voice.

“I got stabbed by a Bringer. No biggy,” I assured him. “It’ll heal. Vampire, remember?”

“She saved my life,” Anya spoke up from behind me. “It was meant for me.”

“And Anya saved my life, and I saved Harmony!” Andrew joined in, excitedly. “We were like the Three Musketeers! One for all, and all for one!” He scampered off towards the crater, camcorder at the ready. Xander and I followed him, and more of the survivors got off the bus and came with us.

“Looks like the Hellmouth is officially closed for business,” said Faith, staring into the pit.

“There’s another one in Cleveland,” Giles pointed out, “and in Pittsburgh too, although that one may also be permanently shut. Not to spoil the moment.”

“We saved the world,” Xander breathed. “Again.”

“We changed the world,” Willow corrected him. “I felt them. All over. Slayers have awoken everywhere.”

“Jocasta is going to kill me,” Buffy replied, with another horrible empty laugh. “What have we done to the wages bill?”

“Well, only the ones here and in Whitby count as official,” Willow said seriously. “There were seven, fourteen new Slayers here, three in Whitby if I remember right, making twenty-four. So that’s three and a half times what it was, but then Kennedy’s the only one over eighteen, the rest will be on the lower rate…”

“I wasn’t asking a serious question, Will,” Buffy told her. “Wait. Fourteen? Only fourteen? I took twenty-six down there, not counting Kennedy. We lost thirteen Potentials, and Spike. What about the surface party? Who else did we lose?”

“April,” Faith informed her. “No one else dead. Robin got stabbed, could do with a doc, but he’ll live.”

“April’s dead?” There was shock in Buffy’s voice. “What happened to her?” I think she’d believed April to be indestructible.

I told her what I’d seen, and repeated April’s final speech. “What did she mean?” I asked.

“It’s one version of the inscription on the tomb of King Leonidas at Thermopylae,” Giles replied. I looked at him blankly, as did Xander, Buffy, Faith, and Dawn.

“The Three Hundred Spartans,” Andrew explained.

“Oh, yeah, I saw that movie,” Xander said. “One bunch of Greeks against a million Persians. Guess that was us, right? That’s what she meant?”

“Yeah, we held the pass,” Buffy agreed, obviously recognising the movie. I vaguely recalled having seen it on TV too, although I hadn’t taken all that much notice. “April’s dead,” she went on. “My fault. April. Spike. Thirteen of the Potentials. The entire town is destroyed. Somehow I can’t see this as much of a victory.”

“So much for our plan to celebrate with a shopping trip,” Dawn put in. “We destroyed the mall. Maybe we fought on the wrong side.” I think she was trying to lighten the mood, but it fell flat. No-one spoke for a couple of minutes.

“So, where do we go from here?” Willow asked eventually.

“I think we can let the Potentials – Slayers - return to their homes now,” Giles announced. “Although we’ll have to do something about finding the other new Slayers and guiding them in the right direction. Teach them to use their powers for good rather than evil.”

“I’ll leave that to you, and Jocasta, and the others,” Buffy told him. “I’m out of it. I just get people killed. Jocasta can keep my salary. Maybe I’ll go back to College.”

“Hey, what about our trip to Spain?” Dawn reminded her. “We’re going to see Dad, and Linda, and Tia Teresa is going to show us around.”

“I got Spike killed. Teresa will probably kill me on sight.” Buffy was sunk in depression. I left her to it, and walked a little way off with Xander.

“So, are you coming to Seattle with me to meet my parents?” I asked him.

Xander sighed. “I’ve met your parents, Harmony. Loads of times, starting with when I was sick on the carpet at your eighth birthday party.”

“Hey!” I snapped. “Not so much with the dumb blonde patronizing. I know you’ve met them, okay, but not in the ‘my boyfriend’ way.”

“Sorry, not thinking” Xander apologised. “You know me, foot in mouth. Sure, Seattle here we come. Wonder if there are any jobs there for a one-eyed construction worker? Happy to meet your parents in a boyfriend capacity, Harm. I mean Harmony.”

“It’s okay if you call me ‘Harm’,” I told him. I’d wondered why he always used my full name, when he called Anya ‘Ahn’, Willow ‘Will’, and Buffy ‘Buff’ or ‘the Buffster’, but now I realized that it was because it had been Spike’s name for me. “I promise not to call you ‘Blondie Bear’, Xan.”

“Yeah, right. On account of me not being blond, and not being a bear.”

“You are so a bear. Big, and cuddly, and cute.”

“And savage if you wake me from hibernation. Okay, that’s where we go from here; Yellowstone Park. Smarter than the average Xander, Boo Boo.”

I giggled, and punched his shoulder. “Right. So, where are we really going to go? Cause, you know, post acopa - apopa – end of the world – party, sort of traditional, right? Okay, people died, not of the good, but we didn’t, world saved, which is of the good. I think we’ve got the right to party. Only a couple of hours’ drive to LA. Although, not going anywhere near Angel.”

“First stop, a gas station a couple of miles down the road,” Xander announced. “My car’s there. Not that I expected a crater, but I did think we might have to get the Air Force to napalm the town, and I was so not wanting to get my car cremated when it’s not even a year old, so I stashed it there last night and cycled back to town.”

“Xander, you’re a genius!” I complimented him.

He gave me one of his big grins. “So, no more of the ‘stupid Xander Harris’ from you, then?”

“No more ‘stupid Xander Harris’,” I promised. I was going to say more, but was distracted by a noise from the sky.

Rotor blades. A helicopter. Two helicopters, in fact. One with the insignia of the California Highway Patrol, the other the logo of KNBC News. Xander and me walked back hand in hand to meet the others.

“So, we’re going to be on TV,” Dawn said. “How are we going to explain this one?”

“Gang related, PCP?” suggested Buffy. “That’s the usual, right? Somehow I don’t think it’s going to work this time.”

“Gophers. Really big gophers,” Xander cracked, and I chuckled. No-one else did.

“I don’t think we need to explain anything,” Giles said. “Let the Government come up with some story. We escaped as the town collapsed. That’s all we need to say. They’ll explain it somehow. After all, this is California.”

“So,” I whispered in Xander’s ear, “After we talk to the reporters, how about some Californication?”


FIN



In other news; Something else I've never done is an AtS S5 fic, apart from the post-NFA stories. Reflecting on that thought a plot bunny attacked me and it was too good to shoot, so look out in the near future for "Shellshocked". Fred doesn't open Illyria's sarcophagus, someone else does. See icon for a clue as to who it is! And I bought a Permanent LJ account.

curiouswombat's Dawn fic is coming on really well; the most recent chapter that I beta-read had me rolling around laughing. She's much more patient about posting than I am, she has a stockpile to be posted, and so it'll be a couple of weeks before you see it.
Tags: birthdays, fic, roxyverse
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