Darkness Rushes In
Author's Note: I'd like to send a big thank you to Shevita for her wonderful Beta job:)
A year had passed since the final battle of Sunnydale had taken place and changed the world as Buffy knew it. Giles had returned to England with ex-principal Wood in hopes of reconstructing the Watchers’ Council. Willow and Xander had joined Faith in Cleveland, setting up a training academy for the new Slayers. Spike was dead to Buffy and the eldest Slayer now lived in the small riverfront town of Covington, Kentucky with her sister. Despite a few slayings in the local graveyards and along the riverbanks, life was pretty quiet for the Summers women. Of course, she kept in touch with the gang through email and phone, but had yet to see anyone in person.
The day started like every other day. Breakfast at seven, school and work by eight. Everyone home by five. The vampires and demons that used to fill every aspect of their lives in Sunnydale had now dwindled down to a small trickle. Sometimes Buffy would go a whole month without slaying anything.
"How was school?" Buffy asked as Dawn dumped her books into the nearest chair.
"The usual. Lisa and I have this major exam we have to study for and World Civ. wants us to watch CNN and write a report on what we see."
"Oh." Buffy arched a brow, a small smile playing on her lips as she pointed the remote control and switched the TV to the news channel. "Better late then never."
"Now?" Dawn looked up at her sister in disbelief. It was Friday and CNN was the last thing she wanted to watch. "But I was gonna watch TRL. Justin Timberlake’s supposed to be on today."
"Sorry, but Justin is just going to have to wait. You know the rules."
Dawn flopped down beside her sister, her face clearly exhibiting her distaste. “Yeah, yeah. Work before play. I know, but it doesn't mean that I have to like it."
"But you still have to do it,"
Dawn's frown turned into a look of surprise as she fixed her eyes on the screen. "What's wrong?" Buffy asked. She turned her head to see what had caused her sister's pouting to cease. She blinked in utter shock as she was confronted with what had, for many years, been her hometown. She closed her eyes and opened them again, staring at the familiar landmarks that should by all rights be lying at the bottom of a giant crater. It was like the apocalypse had never happened. Sunnydale was whole again, good as new, baffling the state of California and its officials.
"Are you seeing what I'm seeing?" Dawn's voice trembled with disbelief and fear as Buffy turned up the volume.
Buffy and Dawn clutched each other's hand as they listened to the report.
"No one knows how this happened. One year ago, an earthquake destroyed the small town of Sunnydale, leaving behind an enormous crater. There was no known effort to rebuild the town. But just this morning, the town mysteriously reappeared, as if the earthquake never happened. The President, the Governor, and other officials do not know nor do they have any idea as to how this happened. We'll have more information in an hour. Back to you, Jim."
Buffy and Dawn gaped at one another, not really knowing what to think. Their lives have taken on a much calmer pace. The reappearance of their former home could change everything.
"What are you going to do?" Dawn asked, fear of the answer clear in her voice. She enjoyed this semi-normal lifestyle that she and Buffy had found. She didn't have to worry about vampires and demons at every turn like she did in Sunnydale. The creatures of the night in Covington stuck to the more run-down side of town, so as long as she she was fine. The only danger to her at night came in human form. She didn’t want to lose that. She didn’t want to go back to jumping at every little thing that went bump in the night. She just wanted to be a regular girl.
Before Buffy could answer, the shrill ring of the telephone effectively shattered the uncomfortable silence. Buffy sighed. She suddenly felt very tired. She didn’t know how to answer Dawn’s question. She didn’t want to go back to Sunnydale either, but if she was needed, she just couldn't refuse. Fighting the good fight was a part of her. She just couldn't turn her back on it.
"We'll see," was all she could say as she got up to answer the phone. "Summers' residence."
"Buffy! Hurry, turn it to CNN," Willow's voice came through the line, both excited and fearful.
"I already know, Will," Buffy glanced back at the screen. "Looks like the Hell mouth's back in business"
"What do you want to do about this? I mean, the girls are eager to check this out, but --"
"Listen, just come down here to Covington and we'll discuss it then. I’m not saying I’m in, but I’m not saying nay either."
"OK. We’ll see you tomorrow then," Willow sounded a bit distracted as a loud crash sounded in the background. "I better go before they tear the place down. See ya."
"Bye," Buffy replied before she hung up. She turned back to Dawn to find that the teenager had disappeared. She must have gotten upset and left.
As Buffy turned off the blaring television and gazed out the window, her thoughts turned to Spike. She hadn't really thought about him in months. Every time she did, she felt like someone was pulling out her heart. He’d made such a big sacrifice: his life for the world’s well being. It had all been for her. His love for her was what had motivated him to become a champion, and in the end, he didn’t even believe her when she finally confessed her true feelings. Hmmm, maybe he did believe her. Buffy closed her eyes as she remembered their last moments together. She’d never felt so helpless as she did when he insisted on staying, even as the cavern began crumbling around him. The look in his eyes as she took his hand in hers, when they caught on fire, was something she would never forget. His eyes were so full of awe and love. Buffy’s eyes welled with even more unshed tears as she thought of the town that had destroyed the one person who’d never, under any circumstances, doubted her. Spike's sacrifice had been for nothing. The
Hell mouth was back, despite his attempt to close it for good.
Los Angeles, California
Offices of Wolfram & Heart
Spike stared at the television screen, his face revealing none of his inner turmoil. It was back. The bloody town was back, which meant that the Hell mouth was open once again. His sacrifice had been for nothing. He’d died, or something like it, to give Buffy and Dawn the normal life they deserved, and now all of that was being threatened. When it was found out that Sunnyhell stood once more, Giles and the rest of the Scoobies would send for Buffy, thrusting her back into the life she had tried so hard to escape.
Well, he wasn't going to let that happen. He had saved Buffy from her calling and he would continue to do so. Even if it entailed his own death, again.
"I think we should head to Sunnydale and investigate. This can’t be good," he said, getting to his feet. He lit another cigarette, hoping that the toxins would calm his jittery nerves.
"I agree," Angel replied, flipping the TV off. "We have to find a way to close it again, before it becomes the monster free-for-all it used to be."
"And if it does? I mean, why does this concern us?" Gunn asked, glancing at each vampire. Then it hit him: this wasn't for them. It was for her. Buffy the Vampire Slayer. They wanted to keep her as safe as possible. But the news was on CNN, so she’d most likely already seen it and was preparing to go back to Sunnydale.
"It has everything to do with us," Angel snorted. "I’m leaving tonight. Anyone with me, meet me at the Hyperion. Anyone against me, I'll see you when I get back."
"I’m in," Fred raised her hand.
"Count me in, as well," Wesley joined in, stepping forward, eager to get out of LA for a while. Hopefully this trip to Sunnydale would clear his head about his position in Wolfram & Hart.
"Hey, don't want to miss all the action," Gunn shrugged.
"Don’t count me out, Sweet cheeks," Lorne nodded.
"Spike?" Angel turned to the other vampire. He couldn’t help but consider Spike his rival. Things were better between himself and his grandchilde, but there were the affections of a certain Slayer that would always come between them.
"Don’t be a pillock. You know I’m coming along. It was my idea after all," Spike shot back, rolling his eyes.
"Just be ready when we leave," Angel growled before disappearing into his office. He picked up the mug of blood he’d forgotten that morning and sipped it as he thought about Buffy and their last conversation...
*Six months earlier*
"Why Europe?" Angel frowned, a bit hurt that she wasn’t staying in LA. He’d hoped he could help her stop baking, but she obviously had other plans.
"I need to be away for a while," Buffy sighed, her voice full of exhaustion, stress, and grief. "I need to put an ocean between myself and California right now. Besides, I promised Dawn I'd show her the world. There's no better time than now. This isn't good-bye forever, Angel. Just for a couple of months, maybe."
"I understand," Angel bowed his head, unable to look her in the eye as they bid each other farewell yet again. "Are you...what are your plans after Europe?"
Buffy smiled serenely, though her eyes were sad. "Ordinary life sounds good. No slaying, no research. School for Dawn, a regular paying job for me."
Angel could only nod in understanding. She was heading for something he had always wanted for her and pleased him that she was finally able to achieve it. "Good luck," he hugged her tightly, understanding that it may be for the last time.
And then she was gone. Never to be seen or heard from again. Angel was a bit hurt that she seemed to have forgotten him so easily, but then again, a vampire friend didn’t really fit into the scene of an ordinary life. Buffy deserved the life where she didn’t have to worry about supernatural affairs. As far as he was concerned, there was no reason to let her know of Sunnydale's return. He was going to make sure that she had the life she’d always wanted. Even if it meant taking care of the Hell mouth himself.
Inside an old mansion situated on top of a hill just on the outskirts of town, the domestic noises of girls’ shouting and laughter rang through the building. The old building was now the new Slayer Training Academy, run by Willow, Xander, and Faith. So far they housed six girls, all of whom were being properly trained to go out and battle the forces of darkness. But right now these girls weren't fighting the creatures of the night; rather, they were packing their bags for a road trip to a town called Covington, Kentucky, to have a meeting with the woman who was ultimately responsible for their Slayer-hood. The eldest Slayer to ever live, other than Faith, of course. Buffy Summers. To say that the young Slayers were excited was an understatement. Faith and Buffy were legends. It was a thrill to meet Faith, so to finally meet the Slayer that predated their teacher…that was a dream come true.
"Is Buffy expecting all of us?" Xander asked, watching the giggling teenagers carry their bags to the car. "I mean, is she going to have enough room?"
"She has plenty of room. She told me so herself," Willow nodded. "Everything’s taken care of."
"So B's ready for all this?" Faith stepped into the room, hefting a gym bag over her shoulder.
"Yes, she is," Willow sighed, becoming irritated. It was as if no one could believe that she’d actually talked to Buffy. Sure it had been months since they'd heard from her, but the idea wasn’t entirely foreign. "Is everyone ready? Time to go!" Willow called out to the girls.
"I have five more bags," announced a worried voice from inside.
"Reese, you only need two. Now get down here! It’s time to roll!" Faith went back into the house, real irritation in her voice. Sometimes she had to remember that the new Slayers were still kids. They didn’t have all the experience that she did. To them, there was still nothing more important than wearing the right outfit or having the right hairstyle.
Willow took one last look at the place she had come to think of as home. It had been a long year of settling down and making adjustments. There had been times when she felt like giving up. But she never did. She just remembered the huge feat she’d accomplished and kept going. Now she ran a successful Slayer Training Academy, alongside Xander and Faith. She had a home and a purpose in life. Silently, she wondered if she'd ever see the building again. After Faith and a sixteen-year-old blond emerged from the building, Willow locked the door and hoped for the best. Whatever was going on with Sunnydale’s return, she was almost positive that the old Scooby Gang could solve it in record time.
Watchers’ Council HQ
Rupert Giles rubbed his eyes once again as he hung up the phone. He stared, unseeing, at the wall of his new office, unable to believe the news he’d just received from the States. California’s Hell mouth had returned. Sunnydale stood once more.
"Bloody hell," he cursed as the ring of the phone disrupted his troubled musings. "Watchers Council Headquarters."
"Giles?" Her voice was a cool balm to his frazzled nerves. It had been a year since he saw her last, and to hear from her now meant more to him than the world.
"Buffy. Thank God you called. I just heard the news."
He could hear the relief in his surrogate daughter’s voice. "What do you make of it? What would cause it to reopen? Do you think the First had anything to do with it?"
"I’m not sure, but I’m looking into it as we speak."
"Giles, can you come here? Please? I need you. I've already talked to Will and Xander. They're on their way. We're going to talk about investigating this mess."
"Buffy, I really don’t think that's wise --"
"Well then come here and tell us it’s not wise. Giles, we need you. I need you."
He sighed. Only on a few rare occasions had he been able to say no to his Slayer. This was not one of those occasions. Buffy needed him, so by her side he would be. "Just tell me where to go and I’ll be there."
Inwardly, he wondered what they were getting themselves into. This was dangerous and anything could be waiting for them; but it was with Buffy he belonged, helping beat back whatever new evil may have risen, if any.
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Cleaning his glasses with a white handkerchief, Giles he dial tone after Buffy had hung up, and dialed his traveling agent. Not allowing himself to think about the dark times ahead, h