"Well," came a familiar voice from behind them, "there's always Cleveland." The Scoobies and Slayers spun to spot the First, sported out as Spike.
"Yeah, wait," Xander said to Giles, "'Cleveland'? What about seven years of 'the' instead of 'a'? If ours was 'el Boca del Infierno', what's theirs - 'the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame'?"
"Never mind," said Giles. "The Cleveland Hellmouth is in very good hands. A retired Watcher who's now abbot of a Trolfg monastery. Oz lends them a hand when he passes through town. Just pretend I never brought it up."
The First took on Eve's aspect. "There are all those newly-empowered Slayers who need to be hunted down before they turn to lives of crime or professional sports."
"That's as good as in hand, actually," said Amanda. "Caleb took out the Council, but most of the Watchers' field operations are still in place. Giles and Robeson'll put together a new Council in no time."
"And guess who they'll be taking nominations from," said Faith, "right, B?"
"No," said Buffy, still scratching her head, "that wasn't it ..."
Anya walked up to Andrew. "What about you? You're on borrowed time now, and you missed your shot at redemption to boot."
"I am Redeemed," said Andrew, just like that, capitalized. "I've experienced sincere regret for my evil actions and have embraced a life of good and niceness, not because it's cooler than evil - cuz lots of times it's not - but because I finally realize it's right." Faith high-fived him.
Its accustomed confident demeanor slightly cracked by miffedness, Tara confronted Willow. "I understand you've fallen off the wagon again."
"You know, my mom hates it when her roots go white." Willow shrugged. "I just don't understand."
Now definitely perturbed, Tara asked Kennedy, "Does she make that noise for you?"
"I've counted seven different ones," said Kennedy.
"Kennedy ..." said Willow in not-in-front-of-company singsong.
"That is, a new one each time."
"What about you, huh?" Robin's mother demanded of him. "Gonna give up on your righteous vengeance just cuz honky told you so?"
"Coat looks better on the other guy," said Robin.
"'Sides," said Faith, hanging an arm around Robin's shoulder, "princi-pal has other challenges in front of him now."
"Ah, my poor little girl," said Mayor Wilkins, "I guess you've paid your debt to society now. But I don't think tales of closing the Hellmouth are going to cut you any slack with the Department of Corrections."
"Hah! They haven't built the prison I can't break back into."
Next in line was Dawn. Joyce tsked, "I told you she wouldn't choose you."
"You were right," said Dawn. "She didn't choose me, to die a horrible mangled bloody undeath. What a crummy sister, huh?"
"What she said," said Xander.
Now Anya was back. "I guess you're happy now. No more ball-and-chain."
"There are plenty of demons in the ocean." Xander winked, but the effect was lost.
Travers strutted up to Giles. "You think you know so much. The student surpasses the master, eh?"
Giles looked it in the eye. "''Tis a dishonest ghost, methinks'."
Inevitably, Buffy confronted Buffy. "All right. You won, with your brain as much as your brawn. But now you've got what you always wanted and you can't even think of what to do with yourself."
Dawn went to Buffy's side. "I was thinking, maybe -"
"Too late," Hank Summers smirked. "The secretary was only after his money. Lost her temper when she learned there isn't any."
"I didn't want him dead," Dawn said. "Not right away," she added.
Buffy sighed, puffing her cheeks out. "I guess all that leaves is the Disneyland thing. Though I can't get rid of this feeling that I forgot something ..."
The entire assets of Wolfram and Hart-L.A., now Angel Investigations, idled mobilized on the grounds. The first floor lobby was one huge pentagram surrounded by top wards experts. Demon and human assassins engaged in target practice while on alert in the south parking lot. Witches, warlocks and seers paced on the balconies. In the gardens ogre and dragon trainers exercised their charges and exorcisers trained theirs. Every manner of magic-user, supernatural being or Ph.D. that could be recruited by evil for the eternal struggle, now stood ready to battle Evil if it should come.
In the executive suite, the original personnel of AI (less those fallen over the years to coma or to, uh, falling) were gathered, each glancing at least once a minute toward their leader, in the fanciest leather chair, behind the desk. Rising to stretch hours' kinks out of his legs, Wesley asked, "How will we know if we can stand down?"
"Buffy'll call," said Angel.
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