Greater Good: Epilogue
Two Months later...
Wolfram & Hart was difficult to get around in. The place seemed like a maze with never-ending halls and stairs. But Dawn had taken a liking to it. The activity and hustle and bustle took her mind off the usual things that haunted her in her waking nightmares.
Wesley had made it his mission in life to accommodate every whim of the survivors of Sunnydale group, especially Buffy. He'd even gone so far as to offer up his own office to her as some kind of personal sanctuary away from others. Unfortunately, Dawn felt it did more harm than good. Wesley's taste in décor reminded Buffy way to much of a certain other Watcher. The grief-stricken Slayer would spend hours in there, staring blankly at the books carefully situated on Wesley's desk. Wesley would check in with her at times but most often avoid any real contact. Dawn wondered if he'd felt guilty for not realizing what the amulet would do to its wearer. Angel also seemed to keep his distance. It was obvious he didn't know how to handle Buffy's sorrow and mourning. But Dawn was glad he was there, Buffy needed someone. And of all the people who could understand, Angel could.
As the elevator doors opened, Dawn was greeted by the friendly face of Fred. Though she had a strangely masculine name, Dawn immediately took a liking to the nerdy young lady. Fred was instantly fascinated with Spike, or at least what was left of him. The ill-fated vampire had never woken up. Fred theorized it was a self-induced coma, a way for Spike's demonic form to go into a kind of stasis as it attempted to piece him back together. Dawn preferred the idea that the coma was a trap of guilt for what Spike had done to Giles.
"How are you?" Fred smiled as she freed her hands of her files and clipboard. "Those nasty headaches still bothering you?"
"Nope. Not today. Achy head is taking a break." Ever since Sunnydale sank into the earth, Dawn had suffered from debilitating headaches. Ones so powerful, she swore her head would explode. But Fred had been there to help her, to offer up a smorgasbord of painkillers and anti-inflammatorys to dull the throbbing that had settled in, striking when she least expected it. What was most disturbing about her recent condition was the fact that when she was suffering from it, she saw things. Glimpses and flashes of things she couldn't understand and didn't want to. Even though Fred's regimen of pills seemed to help at first, Dawn could tell the attacks were getting worse. But she'd never let on how bad they'd become. She didn't want Buffy to know. "Have you seen Buffy?"
Angel came out of his office, holding the door for Buffy who smiled shyly as she passed him. Dawn could tell she'd been crying again. It was all she seemed to do lately. But at least she looked healthy. She'd finally regained some of the weight she'd lost over the last year and she had a kind of glow about her skin now that she'd been able to enjoy some days off in the sun. Maybe Los Angeles agreed with her. Buffy wiped her moist eyes as she noticed her younger sister.
"Harmony, call everyone down here. I want a meeting." Angel ordered excitedly.
"But boss, I think Gunn's busy with a client..."
"Now!" He barked and returned within his office. "I have important news..."
"What's this about?" Dawn asked nervously as Buffy lifted her gaze to meet her taller sister.
"In a minute... he wants the others to hear this." Buffy offered a subtle smile as the troops slowly appeared from all angles and doors of the large lobby. They moved into Angel's office as Dawn stood by and watched each one pass her.
Wesley and Willow walked side by side toward Angel's office. The strange pair had become fast friends since their arrival. Willow was granted access to Wolfram & Hart's mystical library and her and Wesley often discussed topics that could melt the most intelligent of minds. One of which had to do with the rebuilding of the Council of Watchers. Wesley gave Willow a smile as he separated from her and walked over behind the group of newby Slayers. He gave Dawn a helpless smile as he passed her.
"I did such a bloody good job with my first two Slayers that I fear I'll doom the world if I spend too much more time with these impressionable young ladies."
"They survived an apocalypse. And from what I've heard, so did you. Besides, I'd say you have other things to worry about, like running an evil empire."
"Some might say the council..."
"Come on... hurry it up. I have a meeting with some Mouseketeers..."
"Misscouters, Angel..." Wesley corrected.
"And how's myDawnie today?" Willow asked with a slight smile. "Did you sleep well?"
"I got about four hours worth." Dawn shrugged. "Then, again with the nightmares."
"Wow... I only managed three. But hey... new post Sunnydale record. Right?" Willow always tried to make things seem better than they were. She was a self-contained cheerleading squad for everyone getting on with their life, though Dawn heard her crying at times when she was alone in the executive bathroom.
Dawn was impressed by the group that crammed within the ample-sized office. Almost everyone was there, except Xander and Anya who were probably off in some closet, busily trying to make up for lost time. Dawn never realized what an aphrodisiac cheating death could be. Oz also seemed to be absent. Probably off on one of Lorne's booked gigs again.
Sure enough, Lorne came in with a dance in his step, giving Dawn a little pinch on the cheek as he passed by. "Hey Button, has the Big Bad Bird sang yet or am I in time for his cock-a-doodling?"
"Just about to start." Dawn smiled as everyone tried to settle into the suddenly restricted space. "You seen Oz?"
"Show at the Plaza. That boy has it. Whatever 'it' is. But I know it when I see it!"
"Thank you all for coming. Sorry to pull you away from... um, whatever you do around here, but this is important. Well... at least to me it is." Angel offered a discomfited smile. "I have an announcement to make," he continued and reached out to take Buffy's hand. She joined him in the center of the office, hesitant to be the center of attention. She hopped up and took a leisurely seat on top his desk. "I know this is sudden, but in the overall history of things, it's not, really."
"Enough of the vague-sque lead-in, Sweet Cheeks, I've got places to go, demons to see..." Lorne interrupted.
"Yeah... um... right..." Angel looked to Buffy and then back to his impatient audience. "Buffy is staying. Staying here, with us... with me..."
"Not that big of a whopper there boss..." Gunn interrupted.
"And we're getting married."
"I retract that last statement." Gunn shot a stunned look to Wesley who responded in same.
"Married? Can vampires get married?" Willow also looked to Wesley.
"Sure can, dumplin'..." Lorne said awkwardly. "But the pre-nups can be tricky. Thick with the provisions. You two kids sure you thought this thing through?"
"Angel, that's... that's quite the... it's so, um... it's ..." Wesley didn't know where to begin.
"It's such... swell news." Fred smiled uneasily. "Isn't it? Good news... of sorts..."
"It's beyond stupid!" Dawn said harshly. "We just got here?"
"Two months ago, Dawn," Buffy said weakly, hinting her wish not to argue.
"Feels like two minutes ago..." Dawn interrupted.
"I know this will be awkward for you... all of you." Angel stammered. "We'll take it slow. See how we all adjust to the idea."
"Spike will be pissed!" Dawn growled.
"I couldn't care less." Angel said in a huff and Buffy nodded her agreement.
"I thought this is what you wanted. You keep telling me to accept my new freedom," Buffy said uninspiring. "So... I'm accepting."
"The first offer you get? Marrying a vampire?" Dawn said harshly.
"With a soul," Angel amended defensively. "Why does everyone skip that part? It's an important part."
"Like you're the only one... but... but what about Gi..." Dawn halted but it was too late, Buffy's eyes had already fallen to the amulet still hanging around her neck.
Angel noticed her reaction and gently squeezed Buffy's hand in his. "Sadly, this is long overdue. We are having a proper burial for all of those lost in the Sunnydale victory, including a special memorial to Rupert Giles." The sullen faces filling the room seem to somehow lighten with the idea. "Since we don't have... um, remains... I suggest we use this." His hand lifted toward the amulet and Buffy instinctively jerked back, protecting it from his intrusion. Her eyes glanced around as the mumbling voices rose to a gossiping chatter.
"Um... I... I guess we should do something. He deserves something. This is all I have left of him..." After a weighty sigh, she lifted the chain up over her neck, gave it a gentle kiss and handed it over to Angel who smiled sympathetically at the Slayer's action.
"We won't let the world forget him, Buffy. He was an amazing Watcher, a champion... and most of all, he was a good fr... shit!" Angel dropped the amulet as smoke danced from his fingertips. "Damn things' hot!"
Buffy saw the injured and smoldering flesh of Angel's skin and glanced down at the amulet which began to glow with an unnatural radiance. An unearthly hum stretched the length of the office and the crowd began to grow more agitated by the sound. The ringing reached a deafening tone and the crystal pulsed within the center of the necklace. There was a burst of light and a cyclone of cinders and smoke poured out from the crystal, twisting with a furious wind as half the crowd scattered to escape the chaos. Wesley moved to block Dawn from harm but she moved sideways to avoid his protection. She wanted to see what was happening just as he did.
The twister of ash and flame began to coalesce into a pillar of fire and light. It shrank and began to form a shape as the hot winds spun around it, threatening to scorch those who ventured too close. Then, in a blazing flash, the cloud solidified into the charcoal body of a being. Buffy stood motionless, breathless, watching as the being's flesh fashioned and healed before her eyes. There was an agonizing roar from the figure as it collapsed to the floor, still so hot that it melted the rug beneath it. Dawn moved forward, as everyone did, in awe of what was happening. From out of the ashes and flame, a man was created. Fully nude, sweat-glistening and on all fours, shivering with intense pain and shock from the experience of being born by such elements.
"Oh... my... God..." Buffy fell to her knees and reached out to the shuddering and sweat-speckled man. "Giles?"
He lifted his head and opened his eyes to the most beautiful sight he could have prayed for. "Buffy?" He barely managed a note, but his voice wouldn't be denied the sound of her name. His parched and cracked lips curled back to a slight smile as he realized she wasn't just a dream. A tear fell from his eye. "Always... and ..."
"Forever..." She went to take his trembling hand in hers and watched in astonishment as her flesh passed right through his. The Slayer's and Watcher's eyes locked in bewilderment at what had become of him.
"Giles... your back..." Dawn woke up out of her daze, finally feeling tears trickling down her cheeks. "And you're a ghost..."