Setting: Season 6, AU after "Gone"
Word Count (this part): 3206
Summary: What if the second social worker actually paid a visit to Buffy and Dawn after the incident in “Gone,” and Dawn and Spike convinced Buffy to set up house with Spike? (Eventually, it's a bit of a crossover fic with AtS.)
Thank you: Extra special thank you to enigmaticblues for beta-ing the final chapters of Setting Up House.
Dedication: This story is written especially for aimeedee, who believes in me! I also dedicate this to _sin_attract, inxsomniax, zarrah04, indiana_jane_, jenniepennie, roxyw, ghostgirl13, lilith77, eyesthatslay, musing_mia, sweet_ali, and Aydin.
Chapters 1-15 can be found on here on AO3.
Sixteenth, Be Honest with Your Ex. . . and Yourself
Seventeenth, Be Civil to Uninvited Guests. . . Within Reason
“What the . . .” Xander’s voice echoes through the cavernous lobby. He halts his descent on the staircase when he spots me and Spike . . . me and Spike holding hands. Poor Anya smacks into him, her after-sex smile evaporating.
“Spike, get away from Buffy,” he demands.
The Hyperion’s vaulted entry way is filled with people that weren’t there earlier when I came looking for Angel. Lorne and Gunn are lounging on the sofas and sipping glasses of what looks like water. Fred is peering over Wesley’s shoulder as he flips through a giant, ancient-looking volume. Faith is perched on the front desk, one leg dangling and the other propped up and topped with her left arm. Angel is alone to one side with a grim expression on his face.
All of their gazes fly toward the stairs at Xander’s exclamation.
Spike sounds much more confident than he did a few seconds ago. “I don’t think so, mate.”
Xander finds speed to race down the steps and march up to us with an embarrassed looking Anya, trying to hold him back. “Xander, slow down,” she protests as she stumbles a bit.
He halts without looking back at his fiancé. He glares at Spike as he speaks to me, “Buffy, Willow has cast another spell. This is not good. . . not good at all. I knew we shouldn’t have left her in Sunnydale.”
I don’t know where to begin with Xander. He’s always been my biggest supporter, and he hated when I was with Angel, but Spike is worse. In his mind, at least Angel has a soul. He’s also a big believer in the soulless–evil correlation, and part of me wonders if his immovability on this issue has anything to do with what happened to his friend, Jesse, becoming a vampire. He had to stake one of his best friends and that does something to a person. I know from firsthand experience how much killing someone you care about hurts.
“It’s not Willow, Xander.” My tone is quiet and gentle because I know he’s worried for me. . . worried for Willow.
“Buffy and Spike are shacking up,” Faith offers, clarifying the situation beyond a shadow of a doubt. “If that isn’t obvious, I don’t know what is.”
“No.” Xander shakes his head in disbelief. “No, no, no, no, no.” He breaks away from Anya and puts both his hands into his hair, gripping clumps of it as if he might rip it out. He suddenly looks me right in the eye, his expression pleading with me to tell him what he is seeing and hearing isn’t true. “Why?”
“Xander.” I have a feeling a repeat of the conversation I just had with Angel is in store for me. . . with an audience of avid viewers. Oh fun.
Anya tries to help by tugging on Xander’s arm. “I-it’s okay. Really. He’s asked us to he. . .” Hesitating, she glances at Spike who gives her the smallest shake of his head, and she claps her mouth shut.
I’m about to ask what this fragment of communication is about when Wesley firmly clears his throat. “I hate to interrupt this. . . confrontation, but we really need to discuss what we’re going to do about Faith.”
“He’s right,” Gunn agrees, rising from the sofa. “We don’t know how much time we have until the Watchers or their lackeys show up. We should plan something besides the flimsy perimeter alarm we got going outside.”
Setting his drinking glass to one side, Lorne follows Gunn’s movement except he claps and rubs his hands together. “I think that is capital idea. I frankly don’t like the idea of being caught without something in place. I hope it doesn’t involve too much fighting.”
“And I hope it does. I’ve been itching for a fight for a while now,” Faith adds, swinging her left leg down to meet her right.
Fred pipes up, briefly standing on tip toe, “Wesley and I have been workin’ on an idea.” She glances at Faith. “And it doesn’t involve fightin’. . . well, not in the classic sense of the word.”
Faith crosses her arms in disappointment. “Right.”
“Right.” Wesley traverses the room and lays the heavy book down next to Faith.
Spike runs his thumb gently over my knuckles before dropping my hand. We join everyone who is gathering around Wesley. Xander casts us a wide berth, and Anya follows, conveniently wedging herself between me and Xander. I’m not sure if it’s to protect me or Xander. Given her odd acceptance of the situation between Spike and me and the weird looks they gave each other, I’m starting to think that Anya, Spike, and I have a lot to talk about later. . . or at least Spike and I do.
Angel still refuses to look at me or Spike, and instead focuses on Wesley and the book. “What did you find?”
Wesley is eager but also calm and confident in a way that is such a far cry from what he was like as Faith’s watcher in Sunnydale. “Well, I,” he gives Fred a small glance, “we’ve been reading about the Slayer line and how one Slayer rising is connected to the previous Slayer’s death. It seems that there’s a built in safety valve of sorts for extra Slayers.”
“What does that mean?” Faith asks before I can.
Fred nods at me. “Slayers tend to . . . well, die sometimes. When Buffy died the first time with the Master, Xander revived her.” Xander fleetingly makes eye contact with me, the corner of his mouth lifting up in a way that gives me hope we might be okay. “But she was still dead long enough to lead another Slayer-in-waitin’ to become the next Slayer.”
“Kendra,” Spike says, and I wonder if he’s thinking about Dru killing Kendra.
“Right,” Wesley picks up where Fred left off. “Buffy was still alive, and she and Kendra were both active Slayers with Slayer powers. So an imbalance was present then. I was in England and at the Council. No one balked at two Slayers. No one said a word about an imbalance causing some sort of threat that needed to be addressed. They were perfectly okay with two Slayers being out there in the world, fighting evil. Because Buffy had already died, Kendra carried on the line, and Buffy no longer did even though she didn’t lose her powers. When Kendra died, Faith took her place, and now she carries the line.”
“Better believe it,” Faith interjects, leaning back on one hand.
Wesley looks slightly annoyed but continues, “Again, no one at the Council cared about the dual Slayers, and I was sent to train Faith. But when Buffy died again and was brought back, something in the line shifted.”
Angel shakes his head. “I don’t understand. How would that even matter if she isn’t carrying the line anymore?”
“Good question,” Fred nods at him this time. “Somethin’ about the way she was brought back caused a shift. . . something in Buffy changed.”
Hidden behind the desk, Spike reaches for my hand again, a far cry from how he handled figuring out that I was different when he discovered he could hurt me without his chip going off. I am grateful for his response this time. I glance up at him and see the apology in his eyes. We’re both in the same place. Maybe something has truly accelerated a change between us in these past few days and weeks.
“In a bad way?” Xander’s voice carries guilt.
Wesley shakes his head. “We don’t think so. We just think that something about the way she was brought back made the Slayer line shift so that Buffy *and* Faith carry the line.”
“Do what?” Gunn sounds confused, but this is sounding like what Giles told me not too long ago in our extremely awkward phone call.
Wesley gives an impatient sigh. “Meaning that if Buffy or Faith die, another potential Slayer will become a Slayer.”
“Meanin’ that there are two active Slayer lines,” Fred adds. “So there could potentially be three or more Slayers at any given time. . . if one or both of them dies and is revived.”
“So, what does *that* mean?” Angel asks.
Wesley places the fingertips of his right hand on the cover of the book he was reading earlier. “The fact that there are two lines now means there is an imbalance, and an imbalance, Fred and I think, means that there is a greater potential for an equal shift in power for the truly evil to break through into our world. . . for it to gain a greater foothold.”
“A greater chance for an apocalypse that could lead to hell on Earth.” Fred grasps one elbow and pushes a stray strand of hair behind her ear.
Despite already knowing she and my friends had a hand in our current calamity, Anya is visibly shaken by the details. “I can’t believe what we did. . . caused this.”
“That’s why you don’t mess with magic that you don’t understand. There are *always* consequences, and I’m surprised an ex-vengeance demon didn’t realize that,” Angel retorts.
Spike comes to life beside me. “Hey, that’s what I said!” When Angel glares at him, he mutters, “More or less.”
“Don’t hear either of you complaining now.” Xander sounds exasperated, but I know he’s covering his anguish about my revelation regarding heaven. My insides are swirling with a mix of emotions ranging from anger at my friends to relief that I’m here with everyone.
Faith breaks the silence that has descended on the group. “Great. So what do we do about it?”
“Excellent question,” Lorne says brightly.
“Well, with what we’ve been readin’, we need to shift the line of succession back to one Slayer,” Fred explains. “And it requires some magic.”
“And a shift in dimensions,” Wesley tacks on.
“How does that work?” Faith asks, sliding forward in interest. “I’m not down for living in an alternate dimension like the Council wants. I’d much prefer my comfy prison cell in this dimension.”
Wesley looks at her evenly. “You won’t have to do that. It’s a onetime shift into another dimension and back.” He glances at me. “A one time shift for both of you.”
“Couldn’t that lead to badness? Like one second passes here and a hundred years passes there?” I’m thinking about my trip to L.A. the time that Angel died.
“We can control that. . . we think,” Wesley tries to reassure me and not very convincingly. “But we’re not sure if the Slayer who loses the line will keep Slayer powers.”
Faith’s eyes widen. “You’re *not sure*?”
“Wait.” I realize something. “Who were you guys thinking of shifting the line to?”
“Good question,” Faith acknowledges.
“Well, obviously, Buffy,” Anya sounds like she’s talking to little children. “Faith’s in prison.”
“Hey!” Faith’s eyes blaze. “Not fair.”
“We’re also not sure if we can control who the line shifts to,” Fred clarifies.
A loud shrieking alarm suddenly fills the room, piercing and steady. Everyone jams their hands over their ears, faces crumpling in pain. Almost everyone makes some sort of noise, but I can’t hear the sound. Lorne doubles over and sinks to the ground until he is in a fetal position. Apparently, his ears are extra sensitive.
Just as quickly as the thundering noise started, it abruptly stops. My ears ring for several seconds.
Wesley is the first to regain his senses and react. “That’s the alarm.”
“No joke,” Gunn says, running for a large wooden trunk that looks almost exactly like my trunk of slaying tools at home. “Time to weapon up.”
Faith opens her mouth and wiggles her jaw as if this will clear her ears. “Did you have to make it so . . .” She rubs both ears with the palms of her hands, fingers splayed out.
“Bloody loud?” Spike completes her thought for her but watches me, making sure I’m okay. I smile at him. He cocks his head to one side, which makes my heart beat a little faster, and he offers me a small smile in return.
Wesley shrugs. “Didn’t have time to calibrate it.”
With the exception of Fred who is helping Lorne regain his feet, we all cluster around Gunn as he passes out weapons.
He gives me a nod as he slaps a stake against my palm. I stuff the bit of wood in my pocket and accept and brandish the crossbow he offers me next. I sling a sheaf of arrows over my shoulder and back away to allow the others to obtain necessary defenses while loading the weapon.
Spike manages to nab a slim quarter staff with a blade on one end and small club-like feature on the other. He runs his hand along the wood and murmurs, “Nice.”
The sound of sliding metal and scraping wood fills the lobby as we fan out into a defensive position, each of us with a different vantage point. Only Angel breaks away from our formation.
“Got to find Cordy and Connor.” His voice is urgent and tight as he takes the stairs two at a time.
As soon as the words leave his mouth, the front doors to the hotel fly open, and a stream of large bodies enter the room, moving with much more speed than humanly possible. The scent of magic and damp earth flows in with them. We’re surrounded within seconds, and I realize that these dark-cloaked beings have swords raised against us. Spike squints at them, confusion crossing his features, and he frowns. I study them closer.
Wait a second. They all look like. . .
“It’s tha-that guy. . . you know, from the motorcycle,” Anya calls out, looking from Xander to Spike and me for our verification.
Xander is confused, “Huh?” Well, he was driving after all.
“From the drive here. Don’t you remember?” She waves her long knife up and down. “You know!”
Three of the big guys press toward her, pushing swords into her face, and she backs down, Xander moving closer to her side.
Disbelief fills my gut as my eyes dart from one figure to the next. “Mr. Helmunde. They’re all. . .”
“They’re all the sodding social worker!” Spike concludes.
How is this possible?
The doors wham open again so hard that the hinges protest and break just as another Mr. Helmunde ushers a struggling Cordy down the steps behind us. She’s clutching a strangely silent but alert Connor in her arms.
“Are you okay?” Angel’s voice carries such concern and emotion that my heart goes to him, but I can’t pay attention to that because two men dressed in various shades of tweed have entered broken doorway. A smaller, hooded, and decidedly smaller and feminine figure trails slightly behind them.
“We’re fine,” Cordy is so calm that I almost can’t believe this is the Cordelia I know.
“Buffy Summers,” the older, balding one bellows.
The Council has without a doubt found us. Well, this calls for. . .
“Where’s Quentin?” I ask, keeping my tone lighter than I feel inside. As a Slayer, I have that down quite pat by now. “Shouldn’t he be here instead of sending his lackeys? And what is up with the clones?”
The older man laughs. “They’re not clones, and Quentin has other matters to attend to.”
“And Giles?” Xander asks the question I was wondering but afraid to verbalize.
“Rupert Giles is not involved.”
I frown. What kind of non-answer. . .
“What does that mean?” Anya steps forward before yelping at the Mr. Helmunde on her right who lowers the weapon at her throat.
“Exactly what it means.” Weapon free, Baldy, as he has now become in my head, casually strolls up to me. He’s enjoying this way too much. “We need to talk.”
“About how you want to send me to some alternate dimension all alone and make Buffy primo Slayer?” Faith’s grip tightens on the sword she’s holding.
The younger Watcher-type steps forward, sounding full of himself, “Actually, we were hoping you’d go willingly. . . for the greater good of humanity. After all, you acknowledge that you have a lot to atone for.”
“Don’t think so, pal,” she snaps.
Even though Baldy is a foot taller than me, I stand tall. “Did you guys even think of trying to talk with us about this plan? Even consider that there might be an alternative to just shoving one of us into some unknown oblivion?”
Baldy smiles at me the way the original Mr. Helmunde did in our house, and I want to throw up a little. “Ours is the most foolproof plan. It carries the least amount of risk to reverse the imbalance caused by your return. The other ways. . . they’re more messy.”
“Messy how?” Spike asks from my left.
With disgust in his eyes, his eyes flick to the vampire. “Messy as in unnecessary bloodshed and death. Something I’m sure you would appreciate, William the Bloody.” He almost casually lifts a hand and snaps his fingers. “Hanna, come. We need to get started.”
With head bowed and trembling all over, the young woman shuffles forward. Spike shifts uneasily next to me.
“Hanna here is going to start the spell, and you are going to surrender Faith to this cause. It really is for the greater good of mankind.”
“Um, no, we aren’t,” Angel calls from above all of us. He emits a roar, and I whirl to see his face shift and eyes glow golden. In a moment, he’s freed Cordy from her captor, pushing her and Connor gently away and gripping the clone’s neck with his other hand.
Baldy draws away from me, pulling Hanna with him, and the younger Watcher blows a high-pitched whistle. The clones advance on us, forcing us into a tighter and tighter circle.
“What are we supposed to do?” Xander worries. “They’re human.”
“Actually, they’re so not,” Lorne corrects, holding up his weapon and doing a shifty sideways dance.
“What are they?” Fred asks, and I wonder if she’s strong enough to manage in this fight, being human and all.
Wesley doesn’t take his eyes off the trio approaching him. “I think they might be golems.”
“Do what?” Gunn asks.
“Clay men,” Spike clarifies . . . as if that helps. “But they’re not detectable by Angel or me, so very well made clay men.”
“And they bleed,” I add, remembering Mr. Helmunde’s blood on my hands from our highway adventure.
“Still not too clear,” Xander bumps into Faith while putting a protective arm up for Anya.
Wesley sighs. “In sum, men made of clay. They’re made by magic and carry out the orders of their creators. They’re strong and rather indestructible unless. . .”
Well, that explains the earthy smell. . . or maybe that’s the magic.
“Unless what?” I holler over the shrill whistle.
“Look for a parchment or talisman of some sort. If you get it from them, they’ll crumble.”
As if they couldn’t get any creepier, the golems grin almost simultaneously.
Then, they attack.