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The Meaning of Heroes
Book One: Chapter Seventeen (8,826 words) 
17th-Jul-2006 09:50 pm
wes/fred/giles OT3!, heroes

Wes drove the jeep silently, not even sure where they were going. Everything was numb. His best friend was dead, killed by a parasite months ago, by their main enemy. And now the closest person he had had to a sister was dead by the hand of a former friend. “Where—it’s been awhile since I’ve been here. Where are we going?” he asked the blonde Slayer sitting in the passenger seat with him.

“We should bury her in one of the older cemeteries – there’s not as much vampire activity and it’s less likely that someone will notice an extra grave,” she told him. She thought for a moment about which of the cemeteries she normally patrolled would be best. “Go to Oceanview on the west side of town off Randolph Street. That one’s been the quietest.”

She paused for a moment and looked in the rearview mirror, seeing Xander’s car behind them while Giles was bringing up the rear. They were all taking this hard, but it was obvious that Wes was having the most difficult time of all. And after everything he had done for her, she found herself wanting to reach out to him the way he had to her. “Wes...are you going to be okay?”

“I....” Wes didn’t really want to talk, but he knew he should. It was a weird feeling to be talking about personal things with Buffy, given their past, but the more he thought about it, the more he was okay with it. “Cordelia...last year, Angel fired us – me, her and Gunn. Some misguided attempt at protecting us. We kept the agency open, still handling cases, and the three of us became close. Gunn...he was killed months ago by Wolfram and Hart. And now Angelus has killed the closest thing I’ve ever had to a sister. I know I should feel blessed since I got my son back and I have Fred and Rupert...but I feel like I’m slowly losing my sanity.”

He could feel his voice thickening with emotion. “I can’t lose anyone else, I don’t think I could bear it,” he confessed, steering the jeep toward the graveyard she mentioned.

Buffy understood where he was coming from. She had lost her mother twice now, and she had lost Merrick to Lothos. Not wanting to lose anyone else, most especially her sister, had been the reason she had sacrificed herself instead to close the portal to Glory’s hell. Reaching over, she put her hand on his upper arm. “I won’t let you lose anyone else, Wes. We’re a family now, and we’re going to fight this as a family. Angelus won’t get you or Fred or Giles or Connor. I won’t let him.”

“Thank you,” he replied sincerely. “But, honestly, another part of me feels guilty for bringing this to your door. You and Rupert and the others, you faced Angelus once. I feel like I’m forcing you to relive that hell. You deserve a chance to heal from your own trauma without being subjected to our problems.” He punctuated his thought with a sigh as he pulled into the graveyard, heading toward the rear of the cemetery.

“And would it be better if you and Fred were out there facing it by yourself?” she asked, raising her eyebrows at the thought that he was feeling guilty about this. “Wes...I won’t lie that facing Angelus was one of the hardest things I ever had to do, but I also learned from it. I learned that it doesn’t matter what we hope or try to do, he’s going to do what he wants to do. I’m sure he would have headed this way sooner or later. And as for what happened to me...” She shrugged a bit. “Having all of you here has helped far more than I could probably say. You said you didn’t want to lose anyone else? For me, losing one of you would be the trauma for me now. We’ll get through this. All of us.”

Wes nodded, knowing she was right. If it was just him and Fred, trying to protect Connor alone, things would not turn out well for them. It didn’t help his guilt at the idea that he had brought this to Rupert and Buffy’s door, but she was right about that too. They were family now. And family didn’t balk at protecting each other, no matter how hard it was.

“I’m glad...that we’ve been able to help, truly.” He placed his hand over hers briefly as he parked. “I...I appreciate this. She...she deserves better, but right now, it’s the best I can do.”

“Cordy and I didn’t always get along, but I have to admit, she never backed down from a fight either. I guess that’s something else I’ve learned – even the most unlikely person can be a hero. From what you and Fred have said, it sounds like Cordy was one of them.”

“She was. She grew so much. More worried about others than her own pain,” Wesley said before allowing a smile to cross his face. “Although she could still have small bouts of selfishness.”

Nodding, she reached over with her free hand and patted his. “Come on. The others are going to wonder what we’re doing.”

Reaching down, she grabbed the weapons that she had brought with her and climbed out of the car, holding up her hand to tell everyone in the other cars to stay where they were for a moment while she did a quick check of the surrounding area. Once she was sure the area was clear, she indicated that it was all right to get out of the cars.

“There’s a small area past those trees over there. That might be the best place.”

Getting out of the car, Wesley moved around to the back, lifting his friend out in his arms. He headed over to the area Buffy had suggested, where he looked around. After a moment, he decided on a spot under the oak tree. It would be a little harder to dig a grave, but he liked the idea of the shade protecting Cordy from the sun, and eventually, she would help extend the tree’s life.

Setting Cordy down off to the side, he saw Xander approaching with three shovels. “Right here. We’ll bury her here,” he said, standing on the spot.

“Here, give me one of the shovels,” Lorne told Xander. Once Wesley took one of the other shovels, the three of them set to work digging while Buffy walked over to Giles and Spike.

“You said we should set up a triangular perimeter. I’ll take the area over there,” she pointed to the left where several old mausoleums stood. “Spike can man the bluff just beyond that tree, and Giles, you take the area by the trees we came through. Yell if you need help.”

Giles nodded, moving off into position. Briefly, he glanced over his shoulder, still worried about his Slayer. But he had to stay alert. The group on the inside were counting on them to make it safe for them to bury Cordelia.

“We should go at least six feet down,” Wesley managed to say to Lorne and Xander, his voice breaking slightly with emotion as he worked. “I don’t want to make it easy for anyone to disturb her.”

Both of them nodded in agreement. Reaching over, Lorne rested and hand on Wesley’s shoulder for a moment before returning to digging. His eyes flicked over to Cordelia, and for the first time, he actually got a good look at the outfit they had dressed her in. He then looked over at Fred, who had knelt down on the ground next her body, and caught her eye. His expression clearly said, ‘Dear Lords, what have you put her in?’ She just shrugged, biting her lip before looking back down and fussing with a stray curl of Cordelia’s hair.

Meanwhile, Buffy headed over to the area she had staked out for her patrol zone and stood still for a moment, taking in the sights, sounds and smells around her. Everything seemed quiet at the moment and that was good, but she knew that she couldn’t allow that to fool her. She wasn’t about to let anyone hurt the others here, and that meant keeping her guard up.

*****

After thirty minutes of digging, Wesley withdrew a handkerchief and wiped the sweat off his brow. “This should be deep enough,” he said. “Xander, if you could pass her to us, we’ll get her situated before we crawl out.”

He waited, watching Xander lift Cordelia, then pitched the shovel out of the hole, waiting for the younger man to pass her off. Taking her gently from Xander’s hands, he situated her down at the bottom with Lorne’s help and crossed her hands over her chest. Once he had pulled himself out of the hole, he turned to extend a hand to help Lorne before looking over at Xander, noting the funny look on the boy’s face. Xander seemed to be trying not to laugh as he stared down into the hole.

“You know...no offense, Tara...” he began, not taking his eyes off of Cordelia. He chuckled with a kind of gallows humor. “But Cordy would slap us hard for burying her in that.”

Lorne snorted in agreement with Xander, glad that someone had finally brought it up. “It’s a lovely outfit but very much not our Cordelia.” He shook his head as he brushed the dirt of the slacks and shirt he was wearing. “I kind of wish she would come back and slap us, though.”

“Me, too,” Fred said softly, wrapping her arm around Wesley as he stood looking down into the grave.

*****

Over near the tombs, Buffy got a prickly sensation in the back of her neck, causing her to roll her eyes. “You have got to be kidding me,” she whispered to herself. “Not one vampire in this cemetery for years, and one shows up tonight?”

She hurried over to one of the mausoleums, following the sound of the footsteps she had picked up around to the far side. A flash of blond hair rounded the corner in front of her. Quickly, she ran after it – the vampire was heading in the direction of the others. Without thinking, she launched herself into the air, colliding with the vamp’s back and sending both of them down to the ground.

“HEY! Watch the outfit!” an indignant voice squealed, causing Buffy’s eyes to widen in disbelief as she looked down at the girl underneath her. “I just got this.”

“Harmony?!”

*****

Giles’ head snapped to the side as he heard Buffy take off like a shot. He moved to cover both positions as she dealt with whatever it was. “Buffy? Are you all right?” he called out, ready to lend a hand if she needed it.

“I’m fine,” she called back to him, glaring down at the blonde ditz looking up at her. “We just have an uninvited guest. What the hell are you doing here, Harmony?”

“Well...uh...it’s sort of a long story, but I just got back from Mexico and wanted to see my Gol—Spike. I saw you guys heading out here, so I thought I’d follow and see what was going on, and here I am.” She tilted her head back to look toward where the others were standing around the hole they had dug. “You guys taking to digging up vampires now? ‘Cause I have to say, that’s sort of creepy.”

Buffy looked at the stake in her hand, fighting with herself over whether to just plunge it into Harmony’s heart and put both of them out of her misery. “We’re not digging up a body, you dingbat. We’re burying someone.” She then remembered how close Harmony and Cordelia had been in high school – well, as close as a follower could be to her object of worship – up until Cordy’s relationship with Xander had become public. “Cordelia’s dead, Harmony. We’re burying her.”

Harmony let out a gasp and tried to get up, but Buffy’s strength kept her down. “What happened to her?”

“Angelus,” she said simply. “Angelus is back, and he killed her.”

*****

Giles felt his body coiled tightly when she said unwanted visitor. Every instinct he had was telling him to help her, but wounded or not, just like with Wesley, he needed to let Buffy stand on her own feet. “Buffy?”

*****

Spike growled when he heard the wretched voice. He did not need this aggravation. Bloody Harmony Kendall. That one was about as sharp as a mashed potato sandwich. What the hell was she doing here?

*****

“Angelus?” Harmony repeated. “But that would mean...did you sleep with him again?”

“Oh, that’s it,” Buffy growled, raising the stake just as she heard Giles’ voice calling to her again. She paused and sighed, getting up off her. There was no way she was going to post a threat to any of them – Harmony couldn’t fight worth a fig. If she tried anything, she’d be dust in a second. “It’s just Harmony, Giles. She’s stalking Spike again.”

“For God’s sake, just stake her, Slayer, and be done with it,” Spike growled impatiently, ready to march over there and dust her himself. “We don’t have time for Airhead Barbie; we got bigger fangs to fry.”

“I never thought I’d hear myself say this, but Spike is correct,” Giles admitted with a resigned sigh.

“Hey!” Harmony responded. “I’m right here, you know!”

“Shut up,” Buffy hissed at her.

“But Cordelia was my friend. Don’t I even get a chance to say goodbye?”

“You can’t be serious.” Buffy stared at her for a moment, telling herself that she should just stake her and be done with it. But then Harmony stuck out her lip in a pout. “Ohhh, no, you’re not going to pull that with me, so just stop it.”

“Please, Buffy. I can even help you. If Angelus killed Cordy, then he’s no friend of mine. I want to help get him for what he did to her.” She backed up when she saw Buffy’s hand tighten around the stake. “C’mon. You let Spike help you. Everyone’s been talking about it.”

“Spike’s been chipped. You haven’t.”

“I promise to be good.”

Thinking about it for a moment, Buffy couldn’t believe she was actually considering letting Harmony help. Had Spike’s presence screwed up her view of vampires that much? They could use all the help they could get, but this was Harmony Kendall. “Giles, she wants to help us against Angelus!”

Giles sighed, knowing the others would be angry, but he couldn’t help but think that allowing Harmony to help them would put another body between Angelus and his loved ones. “Let her help. If nothing else, she’s extra muscle if Angelus decides to recruit. The condition is no feeding on humans if we allow this. One slip up, and Spike gets his wish.” Returning to his position, he knew he didn’t need to be psychic to know that Spike would be fuming over the decision.

Buffy looked over toward where she could vaguely make out Giles’ shape. He was agreeing to the idea? The world had gone mad while she had been gone – she was going to let another vampire help them, and he was agreeing. “All right, Harmony, you heard the man. One mistake, and you have a date with Mister Pointy. Understood?”

“Yes! But I promise to be good. If Spike can do it, so can I.”

“We’ll see about that,” Buffy said, wondering if the others had heard and whether they had buried Cordy yet.

“Can I go say goodbye to Cordy?” she asked as she looked in the direction of the others.

“Stay away from the others.”

“Okay,” she said, hurrying over to the other group.

*****

Wesley wiped his brow as they tossed the last shovel of dirt on the pile. It was done; his friend was buried, gone. His head snapped up as he heard someone approaching, and his blue eyes narrowed when he saw who it was. Harmony Kendall. The last he had seen of her, she had tried to sell them out to her vampire pyramid scheme.

“What the hell are you doing here?” he growled, driving the handle of the shovel across his knee, snapping the wood. Wrapping his hand around the makeshift stake, he moved in front of Fred, intending to protect her.

Harmony put up her hands and stepped back. “I’m here to help. Buffy told me what happened to Cordelia. Said Angelus killed her, the bastard. She and Giles said that I could help you so long as I don’t drink from humans, which I’m totally willing to do, so that should tell you just how serious I am about this.” She looked at the pile of dirt. “Is that...? Is Cordelia really...really under there? Really dead?”

“Yes, she’s there,” Wesley responded, his voice tight with pain. He was curious as to why Giles felt this nitwit could be of use, but he trusted his lover.

Fred wondered who exactly who this girl was although she obviously was a vampire known to the others. “Wesley? Who is this?”

He sighed, his fist still wrapped tight around the stake. “This is Harmony Kendall. She was a groupie of Cordelia’s at Sunnydale High, who was turned at Graduation. At some point the others can brief you on how much graduation was something akin to Vietnam, complete with demons, vampires and a giant demonic snake. The last time we saw Harmony, she tried to sell us out in some kind of vampire pyramid scheme,” he growled. “For Cordelia, and for the friendship you once had, you can stay. Stand there, and shut up. One word, and I’ll dust you myself.”

“I pro—,” she started to say before realizing that she was uttering a word, so she shut her mouth and put her hands at her sides, standing stock still.

Willow reached out to Lorne and took his shovel from him. “I’ll watch her,” she said. Part of her was actually kind of hoping Harmony would try something so she could lay her out for what she had done to her a couple of years ago. “Did I tell you, Harmony? I’m a witch now.”

She could have sworn Harmony actually gulped.

Fred, meanwhile, cupped a hand to Wesley’s face, wishing she could take away the pain she heard in his voice and saw in his eyes. “We should say a few words,” she told him softly.

“We should. We should say something from the Scoobs too,” Xander said weakly. “Wes, if ya don’t mind, I’d like to go first.” He nodded when Wesley did.

“What to say about Cordy,” he laughed softly. “She was a Scooby by default. At first, I think she hated that – being stuck with the people she considered losers. But even then, I could still see she cared about the town, the people in it. No matter how hard she pretended not to. I think she realized this was bigger than all of us. We fought, like cats and dogs. All that turmoil had to go somewhere. I know when we started dating, she didn’t want her friends to know, and I sure as heck didn’t want mine to know. But I cared about her, a lot. And then I did something stupid...I hurt her. Not intentionally, but she ended up in the hospital because she ran from something she saw, something I did.”

Willow bit her lip when Xander mentioned that, knowing what he was talking about and remembering that night quite vividly. She had always felt badly for what had happened, especially since she and Oz had managed to work things out while Xander and Cordelia hadn’t. She had never really gotten to clear the air with her and tell her she was sorry for what had happened.

“For weeks, I tried to let her know how sorry I was. I will always wish I could take that pain away for her. We went back to our fighting, and we were suited to it. We both wore it like a second skin. Even through it all, though, she still helped the Scoobs where she could. Then this Watcher guy showed up in town...” Pausing, Xander smirked at Wes, but the sadness was clear in his brown eyes. “And she saw her chance to make me pay for what I had done. We all know Cordy wasn’t one to be messed with. She did, too. Twisted the knife at every turn and relished the pain she inflicted. But it trailed off when I surprised her at prom. I won’t spill the secret; I promised her I wouldn’t, and especially now, I’ll take that secret to my grave. By the time she left for LA, we were as good a friends as we would ever be, but I was glad for the healing of that friendship. Cordelia Chase was a hell of a woman, so to our fallen Scoob, rest in peace, Cordy, ‘cause I know you’re giving hell to anyone that crosses your path in heaven,”

“That’s our Cordy,” Lorne said when he finished. “Kicking butt and taking names, even in paradise. And you know she’s going to get us for that outfit as soon as she has the chance.”

Everyone that knew Cordelia chuckled, knowing that was the truth. Wesley then raised his head, looking around at those there to pay their respects. “I....I wish all of you could have seen how much she had grown. When I first met her again in LA, she was already working with Angel and had inherited visions from a half-demon friend of hers that had given his life for them. I think his loss forced her to grow up some...but we could never have known how much those visions would affect her. Seeing so many people hurting, needing our help...but she never saw having the visions as a burden, she saw it as a responsibility. That no matter how dark her lot in life got, there were always those that had it worse.”

Wesley felt his tired voice cracking with emotions. “We fought, constantly, like a brother and sister, our disagreements sometimes having to be mediated. But I loved her. She was the sister I never had. She could be brash and wouldn’t hesitate to literally thump you if she thought you were wrong or out of line, but she had one of the purest hearts I have ever known. Her ultimate goal was to better things in this world, and there is no goal that can ever be more selfless. Most of the good was because of Cordelia lighting a fire under us.” He smiled, but tears were shining in his eyes. “I, for one, intend to continue on where she left off – to love my family and to help beat this darkness back where it belongs.”

He looked up toward the sky. “God speed, Cordelia...our sister, our family...you shall be missed, more than you could ever know.”

“Goodbye, Cordy,” Fred whispered, leaning down to touch the dirt-covered grave, tears coming to her eyes. “Thank you for everything you did for me, even if we didn’t get along totally well to begin with and I drove you nuts with the way I acted.”

She straightened up and wrapped an arm around Wesley, watching as the others also said their goodbyes. When they were done, Lorne took the cane Fred had been holding on to and drove it into the dirt at the head of the grave, pushing it in until the head was just visible about the ground.

“Sleep well, Princess,” Lorne said softly.

Wesley draped his arm over Fred’s shoulders, keeping his senses attuned to Harmony’s location, his other hand still wrapped tightly around the stake. He guided her back toward the cars, meeting back up with Rupert and Buffy. “Rupert? Harmony?” he asked.

Giles nodded, feeling all eyes on him, waiting for some kind of explanation. None of the gazes were as demanding as Wesley and Spike’s, though. They all knew Harmony’s history. He held up a finger, waiting for the airheaded vampire to join them by the cars.

She had watched, however, as the others walked away toward the waiting cars and then walked closer to the grave. “Hey, Cordy...are you really in there? Because if this is a joke and I’m talking to nothing but somebody’s dog, I’m going to be really mad.” Harmony paused and looked at the others, realizing that they wouldn’t be this upset over a dog. Besides, why would they lie to her? “Seems weird to think you’re dead now. Seems weird to think I’m dead. But I guess you’re not coming back like I did. They wouldn’t let you. I’m sorry this happened, though. Despite what I did to you, you were a good friend. So I guess...bye, Cordy.”

Shrugging, she turned and walked over to the others, wondering why they were all waiting around. Where they getting ready to go after Angelus now maybe? “So what’s the plan? We going searching or patrolling or whatever it’s called?”

Giles gripped the sword in his hand, and the moment she was close enough, he gripped her by the shirt and pivoted, slamming her against the jeep. In the blink of an eye, the blade of his sword was resting against her throat. “Let’s get something straight, Harmony. What you want here, is irrelevant!” he growled. “The only reason I didn’t let Buffy dust you is you serve a purpose. Don’t assume for one moment that we trust you; I know full well the headache you have not only caused my family, but what you did in LA as well. You’re a body, plain and simple. One more target between Angelus and my loved ones. You’ll accept your position here because even a dimwit like you can understand we’re the only chance you have to get your revenge for Cordelia.”

“Hey, I’m a vamp, you know! I can break your hold just like—.” She stopped abruptly when the sword dug into her throat. “All right, all right! I get it! Just let me go.” She glanced over at the others, a pleading look in her eyes. “Guys, tell him to let me go!”

“I’m actually rather enjoying this,” Willow said, crossing her arms.

“Oh, come on, Willow. You can’t still be mad at me about that!”

“What, trying to drain all my blood? No, Harmony, I’m not bitter about that at all.”

“Oh, good because I thought for a mom—.” Suddenly in sunk in with her. “Oh. Giles, please...I understand. Me between you and Angelus. Got it.”

“I meant what I said as well – one slip up, you take blood from one single human while you’re in Sunnydale, and Spike gets his wish. You die. And just to make certain you behave, you’ll stay with Spike at his crypt,” Giles instructed before sweeping the girl’s feet out from under her as he stepped back so she wouldn’t get a chance to retaliate. “You’ll drink what he drinks.”

“What?! Sod that! Giles!” Spike protested. “I don’t want that twit in my place; I’m not running a bloody shelter! Feedin’ that bint is gonna cost money!” He scowled, actually growling at the old Watcher.

Buffy furrowed her brow at his outburst and knocked him in his back between the shoulder blades. “Hey, no growling at Giles. He’s right – someone needs to watch her, and there’s no way she’s staying with us, so you win by default.” She looked at the others, then over her shoulder, not sure that she hadn’t just heard footsteps in the distance. “We should probably get out of here now.”

Giles smiled faintly at what Buffy had just done, relieved to see that his family was on the same page and was backing his decision. “Lorne, would you mind driving the jeep back? If that’s all right with you, Buffy. I think I should take my car with Wesley and Fred,” he suggested, his voice gentle.

“If Lorne doesn’t mind, I don’t,” Buffy said, looking over at the green demon. She had only met him a little while ago, but he seemed like a good guy, and it was obvious that he meant a lot to Wesley and Fred, especially since they had wanted him to come up to Sunnydale.

“I’ll be glad to drive Buffy back to the house,” Lorne said softly, taking the keys from Wesley when he handed them over to him.

“What about us?” Spike asked, his voice definately softer, the spot between his shoulders throbbing. Bloody Slayers.

“You and Harmony can walk back to your crypt. All of us need a good night’s sleep,” he told him, taking two crumpled twenties out of his pocket and tossing them his direction. “Xander, you’ll bring Willow and Tara home?”

“You bet, G-Man,” the boy quipped, knowing that his friend was worried and exhausted. The older man didn’t even bother to tell him not to call him that.

Lorne held an arm out to Buffy with a slight smile. “I’m sweaty and dirty, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be a gentleman.”

She took his arm and allowed him to lead her over to the Jeep while Xander, Willow and Tara headed over to his car and piled in.

Giles then stepped forward for a moment, drawing Wesley into his arms, placing a kiss on his forehead. “Come on, luvs. Let’s go home,” he said softly, drawing Fred into the hug.

Wesley dropped the makeshift stake, looking at his lover with sad blue eyes. “I’m sorry, Rupert. I’m sorry I didn’t trust your decision,” he whispered, his head instinctively turning into the soft touch of the other man’s lips on his face.

“Wes, all of you are hurting, and the last time you saw her, she tried to kill you. I’m not hurt,” he replied, gently. Tucking a finger under his chin, he lifted the beautiful blue eyes to meet his. “Wesley, I love you. I don’t expect you to cater to all of my decisions. If you think I’m wrong, challenge me.” He looked over at Fred with a smirk. “And I expect the same of you, young lady. We’ll keep each other on our toes and make this family, and this relationship, stronger.”

Fred nodded in agreement, wrapping her arms around both of them. She hadn’t been around when Harmony had last wreaked havoc on the members of Angel Investigations, but she had heard enough to know that the farther Harmony stayed away from them the better. She understood where Giles was coming from, though.

“As long as it helps to keep the two of you safe, that’s all I care about,” she told them. She didn’t want to lose either of them, but she couldn’t bring herself to say it out loud because that would make the possibility that it could happen more true.

“Come on, let’s go home,” he smiled, leading the pair to his car, biting back the urge to laugh. They could hear Spike grumbling all the way out of the cemetery. Getting in behind the wheel, he encouraged both his lovers to sit up front with him. Sure, they were packed in tight, but the trip home was a short one, and the touch comforting.

“Serves Spike right. He shouldn’t have said what he did about you, Fred,” Wes commented as Rupert started the car and pulled out, following Xander. Reaching a hand across her, he placed it on the other man’s forearm and squeezed. “Thank you. I know...I know tonight was risky. And I know you did it anyways. For us.”

*****

Everyone got back to the house without incident, parking in the driveway and then racing up to the house. Anyone passing by would have thought it a strange site – eight adults running full tilt inside – but none of them cared. They just wanted to get into safety in case Angelus was already lurking around.

“Mommy!” Connor cried out when he saw everyone coming in the door. He ran over to her and hugged her tightly. Fred picked him up, holding him to her. “I’m glad you and Daddy and Giles are home. Been worried.”

Wesley stepped forward, gathering both Fred and Connor into his arms. The feel of his love and this amazing little boy with his massive heart, it was calming. “I thought that was our job, to worry about you?” He smiled gently, feeling the emotion well up in his eyes when the little hand touched his face. He looked down into blue eyes that were entirely too serious.

“No, Daddy, I worry ‘bout you and Mommy too.” The little hand settled on his father’s scar, and to everyone’s surprise, Wes didn’t flinch away. “You got hurt protectin’ me, and I don’t want ya to get hurt anymore dealin’ with the bad man that killed your friend. So I worry. Cause I love you.” He smiled brightly when his father told him he loved him too. “I know, Daddy. We’ll take care of each other, all of us.”

“From the mouth of babes,” Buffy said quietly, in awe of the this little boy that had been with them such a short time and had been through so much.

“Oh, sweetie,” Fred said softly, hugging her son – she couldn’t think of him as anything other than that now – before looking up into Wesley’s eyes then over at Giles. This was her family now, and she wasn’t about to let Angelus take it away. “You’re right. We’re going to take care of each other, and we’re going to get through this together.”

“Well said, young man,” Giles smiled proudly, stepping forward to embrace them all. “Connor, why don’t you take your mum and dad upstairs while I help Buffy get everyone settled down here.” He smiled when the little boy laid a hand on his mother’s face too.

“Come on, Mommy. Come on, Daddy. Time for everyone to rest,” he said, looking toward the stairs.

Giles watched the trio head upstairs, touched at the actions of that small boy. “I think we can learn a lot from him,” he remarked softly, more to himself than anyone. Turning to face his Slayer, he took a deep breath. “If we break out the sleeping bags and the blankets, there should be enough. It’s too late and far too dangerous to chance making it to the other homes tonight.”

Buffy nodded, looking at the others. “You guys don’t mind staying here, do you?”

“No, not at all,” Willow said while Tara shook her head. Anya looked like she was about to say something when Willow and Xander both elbowed her.

“Oh, all right. I guess staying here won’t be the end of the world,” she said with a sigh.

“Good. Dawnie, can you round up all the extra blankets and pillows we have in the house?”

Dawn nodded, apparently knowing that this was a big enough problem not to argue with her sister and disappeared upstairs. Buffy sighed and looked out the window, wondering if Angelus was already there, lurking outside, watching them. She tried to suppress the shudder that ran through her body at that thought as she remembered how he had come into her room that one night and left the drawing on her bed.

“Not this time, Angelus,” she muttered.

Giles stood behind his Slayer, his hands on her shoulders. “Not this time or any other time,” he echoed her sentiment, knowing that after this battle, Angel or Angelus, would no longer be a threat to his loved ones. “Are you all right?” he asked, his voice soft.

She shrugged slightly and glanced back over her shoulder at him. “I’ll be better when this is over. I just want...I just want everyone to be safe.”

Giles wrapped his arms around her from behind, hugging her to his chest. They both looked out the window. “Seems it’s come down to us again, hasn’t it? I let you down last time, and you had to face him alone. Not this time. You and I, we’ll keep them all safe,” He said softly, knowing the others couldn’t hear, but Buffy’s Slayer hearing registered his words loud and clear.

“Yeah, we will.” She then smiled. “Sounds like Connor intends to as well. He really is something, isn’t he? He’s got to be the smartest four-year-old I’ve ever met.”

“Yes, he is,” he replied with a soft laugh. “You shouldn’t be surprised at how smart he is, look at who his parents are.” He still felt bad lying to Buffy like this, but it was for Connor’s own safety. “I think Holtz intended to train him, to send him back to kill his father, but we got their first. Connor worships Wesley. He knows he was lied to, that Wes nearly died trying to protect him. And that in spite of his injury, he still walked into hell to find him. The boy returns the kind of devotion he sees, and he doesn’t suffer fools lightly.”

“He’s going to grow up to be a hell of a man when he grows up. I’m glad that Wesley and Fred got him back.” Turning around, she gave Giles a hug as Dawnie came down the stairs and started handing out blankets and pillows to the others. She looked up at Giles and tilted her head toward them. “I guess we should help them get settled. This house is getting more crowded by the day.”

“Why don’t you head on up? I’ll get everyone settled,” Giles suggested, needing to say a few things to the others that Buffy didn’t need to hear. Besides, she needed to be rested. Facing Angelus was exhausting at best, and fatal at worse.

He waited to hear that Buffy had closed her bedroom door before he turned to see the others spreading out their blankets, and Dawn moving her sleeping bag. Willow and Tara were settling on the couch while Xander and Anya moved over by the television. Lorne was making up an area for himself near the hall to the kitchen.

“We have a lot to do tomorrow, so get some rest. The telly and the game system stays off.” He smirked when he heard both Dawn and Xander whine. “And Anya, I don’t want to hear any more talks about threesomes with Wesley. It’s not going to happen, and I think you’re ‘wigging’ out Xander. Willow, when you’re here, I don’t want to hear you utter a syllable about resurrection, or magic. Do I make myself clear?”

Willow’s eyes opened wide as she sat back, almost as though she had been physically pushed by his words and stern look. “Clear. I—I’ve already promised Tara that I wouldn’t use magic for a month. So I won’t.” She looked over at her girlfriend, taking her hand. “I promise.”

“Fine, I’m holding you to that. You know that I’ll be aware if you cast,” he cautioned her. His green eyes softened when he looked at the redhead. “Upholding your promise isn’t going to be easy, Willow. You’ll go through withdrawals just as if you were detoxing from a drug. Just know that we’ll be here to help you.”

“I will,” Willow responded softly. For Buffy and Tara, she swore that she’d make it through this. Knowing that Giles was actually going to be there for her now made her feel better. She could get through this. She would get through this. A month was nothing.

Anya, meanwhile, looked over at Xander, surprised by what Giles had said to her. “Am I really wigging you out?”

“Yeah, Ahn, you are.” Xander looked up at Giles with a smile. “Thanks. Look, I can see now that he was right. Wes has changed. But you’re my girl, Anya, and Wes is in a relationship with Giles and Fred. No one is interested in sharing...so let it go, please?”

She glanced down at the carpet. “All right...I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to wig you out. I promise I’ll never bring it up again.”

Giles smirked, looking at the couples. “All right, you lot, try and keep it PG since Dawn is down here as well. And for tonight...” His smile grew as he glaced over at the youngest Summers. “She and Lorne are in charge.”

He chuckled when he heard Xander and Anya’s protests and Dawn’s excitement.

“Goodnight,” he said before turning out the lights and heading upstairs. He checked Connor’s room first, smiling faintly when he saw the boy in his bed, already fast asleep. He quietly backed out of the room then ducked into his own. He frowned at the sight of both his lovers still wide awake. “I hope you weren’t waiting for me?”

Fred shrugged as they looked up at Giles when he came into the room. “It’s...it’s kind of hard to sleep with everything that’s happened. I know I keep thinking of Cordy and Angelus and...” She sighed. “I wish I could be like Connor and just go out like a light.”

Giles locked the door and began peeling off his clothes, depositing them on the chair by the bed. Sliding his boxers over his hips, he tossed them in the chair before getting in on the opposite side of the bed, effectively putting Wesley in between them. He seemed to be taking Cordelia’s death the hardest and would need the extra love and support. Spooning up behind the younger man as he faced Fred, Giles placed a comforting hand on his side, moving it up and down in an attempt to soothe.

Fred reached over and silently touched Giles’ arm before leaning forward and kissing Wesley on the forehead. Then she saw Rupert looking at the pajamas that Wesley had put on when they had come into the room after putting Connor in bed, and when he caught her eye, she understood what he was trying to tell her. Slowly, she started unbuttoning the top. “It’s okay,” she told him when he started a bit at what she was doing. “It’ll be better this way.”

When Fred pushed the top over Wesley’s shoulder, Giles gripped the material, and slid it the rest of the way. “Put your arms back for a tic, luv,” he said softly into the younger man’s ear. When he had it free of his body, he tossed it over his shoulder onto the floor. Gripping the waistband of his pajamas bottoms, he pressed his lips to the back of Wesley’s neck. “Lift your hips,” he instructed, rewarding the man with another kiss on his skin when he complied wordlessly.

Fred sat up a bit and quickly pulled her nightgown over her head, tossing it to the floor. Once Giles had pulled Wesley’s pajama bottoms completely off, she shifted over to press against him, wrapping her arms around him and Giles. She kissed Wesley again, this time gently on the lips. “I love you both,” she whispered.

Wesley felt a wave of warmth pass through him at the touch of Fred’s lips. He could feel Rupert’s solid form at his back, covering him like a blanket. Clutching the other man’s hand in his, he held it against his chest. Blue eyes held brown. “I love you, so much,” he told Fred while giving Giles’ hand a squeeze, letting him know that that statement included him. Surrounded by his lovers, he couldn’t help but feel safe, regardless of the danger he knew that was looming. He could feel himself surrendering to the exhaustion, praying that his nightmares would not include friends lost.

“Sleep,” she told him softly, watching his eyes slowly begin to close. “We’ll be here.”

She glanced over at Giles for a moment, feeling her eyes beginning to finally get heavy as well, so finally, she let them drift shut. Holding the two men she loved most in the world, she allowed herself to find sleep.

Giles waited until he felt his loves starting to doze off. He heard both of their breathings even out, signifying that they had given into their exhaustion. He was notoriously a light sleeper, so he would stand guard over their dreams, just as he stood guard over their lives. Ever vigilant, he allowed himself to slide into a light sleep.

*****

She moved silently through the room, looking over the sleeping people there, her eyes flicking back and forth. She had already decided against the three upstairs – there was no way that she’d ever put this on one them, not after what had happened. But she’d been told she had to pick someone, that it was important to the future, and if she didn’t choose, they’d choose for her. She didn’t want to take the chance of it falling on Wesley, Fred or Giles, so she said she’d do it.

Her eyes fell on the Willow and Tara entwined in each others arms on the couch. She should give it to the Tara for that outfit, but she knew that though she was wise, she was also not right, her temperament not suited to this sort of thing. Neither was Willow. In fact, they both had other talents to bring to what was in store. Dawn, who was sleeping peacefully on the floor, was too young, and Lorne, his abilities as an anagogic would interfere, likely killing him the first time even though he was full demon.

Then her eyes fell on the couple by the television. Walking over, she knelt down beside them, looking at him. Her hand hovered him as she remembered their time together. She smiled softly. She couldn’t give this to him either.

But the woman beside him – she was strong, she could tell. She also had the residues of demon in her despite being human now. Of all of them, she was most physically able to carry this. She just hoped that Xander wouldn’t hold what she had to do against her and reached over, pressing her hand to the other woman’s chest.

*****

Anya’s dreams to that point had been uneventful, harmless. Then suddenly her body lurched, and she found herself face to face with the brown-haired girl...it was the dead girl they buried tonight. “Oh great! It figures Xander’s ex-girlfriend would decide to haunt me,” she said with a scowl. “Why don’t you haunt Xander or Giles or your friend Wesley?”

Cordy raised her eyebrows in response to her question. “You know, if I had my way, I wouldn’t be here at all, especially not in...this.” She looked down at the outfit she was wearing, the cat on the edge of the sweater giving her the willies with its little beady eyes.

Anya couldn’t help but smile. The outfit wasn’t something she would wear, but she had seen Tara in it before. “Yeah, well, they wanted to dress you in something for the burial, and Tara was the only one with boobs big enough to fit you. Dawn’s too skinny, and Buffy is too short.”

She shook her head. “It doesn’t matter, I guess. What does is that I had to come, and believe me, I’d rather be in one of their dreams. I had to choose you, though, so here I am.”

Anya’s head tilted to the side. “Choose me? Choose me for what?”

Cordy ran a hand through her hair as she started to pace a bit around Anya. “Did the others tell you what happened to me after I moved to Los Angeles and started the agency with Angel?”

“No,” she replied. “I just knew Xander dated you in high school. I was the vengeance demon you made a wish with. Other than that, I know you all worked for Angel and had a lot of trouble with a firm called Wolfram and Hart.”

“Wish? I remember you asking me if there was something I wished for, but I don’t remember anything happening from that.”

“You wished Buffy Summers never came to Sunnydale. It was quite interesting really; the town was so different... You died there too.” At the other woman’s expression, she shrugged. She was just stating fact, after all.

“Ahh, right. Can’t say I recall that,” Cordy replied as she shook her head. “Anyway...you say you were a vengeance demon, so that’s what I picked up from you. See, before I died, I was sort of a demon too. Well, at least I was half-demon. Never did figure out what the half was. I had to agree to become half-demon because I was the recipient of a nice little gift from another half-demon friend of mine when he died. He used to get visions – of things that were happening or things that would – and when he kissed me before he sacrificed himself, the stupid idiot, I got them. Now, I have to pass them on to somebody else, and since you still have residual demon in you, you’re it.”

Her brow furrowed at that. “Why would I want visions? And what does my having been a demon have to do with anything?”

“Actually, if I were you, I probably wouldn’t want the visions—actually, I know that I didn’t want the visions, but that’s not the point.” Cordelia then pointed up to the ceiling. “They say someone has to have them, though. Someone has to know what’s coming. And since you were a demon, you’ll be able to handle them better than anyone else here.”

Anya got annoyed when she pointed up toward the ceiling for the second time. “They who? The only people up there is Buffy, Giles and his lovers. And the kid. Besides, why should I take the visions? We haven’t known what was coming before, and we always figured it out. The way you talk about them, I’m not sure I would ever be interested.”

“What’s come before and what’s coming in the future are totally different things, Anya. You may think you can get through, but believe me, you’re probably going to be glad you have them when they do.” Cordelia paused for a moment, remembering how Xander had looked while he had been sleeping, thinking about how she had felt about the idea of him even possibly getting the visions. “And you should take the visions because otherwise, the Powers are just going to choose one of you to take them. That means Xander could get them, and these visions...human brains don’t take well to them. Mine was almost turned to mush before I agreed to become a demon. At least you have a fighting chance with them. Xander won’t.”

Anya chewed her bottom lip. She didn’t want these visions; she didn’t want anything that came from her boyfriend’s ex. But if there was a chance that it could hurt her Xander, even the smallest chance... She took a deep breath and squared her shoulders. She pictured Xander’s face in her mind, the image strengthening her resolve.

“You won’t give them to your friends, but you’ll give them to my boyfriend? Fine...give me your stupid visions!” she snapped, crossing her arms across her chest.

“I don’t want to give these to anyone, Anya. Not my friends, not Xander, not you. I don’t have a choice. But if it saves Wes and Fred and Giles and Xander, then I don’t really care if you hate me for it.” She looked at Anya for a moment and took a deep breath, even though it was probably unnecessary. Then, quickly, she grabbed her shoulders and planted a kiss on Anya’s lips.

“You’re right, I...” Anya started to say with a scowl, but before she could add anything further, the other woman’s lips closed over hers. “Hmph....”

When Cordy pulled back, Anya spit the taste out of her mouth, angrier than she was before. “Are you crazy?! Don’t you ever kiss me again! I like penises! I love Xander’s penis! Nothing else! Well, maybe money...” She shook her head, getting back on the subject. “Yuck!”

“Hey, that didn’t do anything for me either, just to let you know!” Cordy told her. Suddenly, she felt a pulling sensation and knew that since she had done what she had been sent to do, they were calling her back. She felt herself starting to fade from the dream. “I really am sorry, Anya. Good luck. And take care of Xander.”

“Stupid visions. Stupid boyfriend. Stupid dead girlfriend giving me visions,” Anya grumbled, glaring a hole through the head of her sleeping boyfriend. She noticed the dead girl starting to fade and returned to her spot by her boyfriend.

“I swear, Xander Harris. If these things turn my brain to pudding, I’m going to hurt you,” she groused, turning away from him and settled back under the blankets, trying to get back to sleep.

*****

Comments 
18th-Jul-2006 04:07 am (UTC)
Ooo, now there's an intriguing twist. Hadn't thought about what would happen to the visions with Cordelia out of the picture. (Possibly because they never actually dealt with that on the show....)

*applauds*
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