A Bolt From the Blue

Author: Niklarus <Niklarus[at]earthlink.net>

Crossover: BtVS/The Flash TV series/DC Multiverse

Rating: PG (mild language)

Spoilers: Slight Buffy Season 6 spoilers, nothing detailed. I have no UPN station where I live, so I haven't actually seen anything past Season 5, but I have read about it. No real spoilers from the Flash TV series (1990-1991). For my purposes, Barry (John Wesley Shipp) and Tina (Amanda Pays) did eventually marry, as did Julio (Barry's partner at the Central City Police crime lab, played by Alex Desert) and his girlfriend Sabrina. No major Teen Titans spoilers.

Relationships: Xander/Tara friendship, Xander/Supergirl romance, Barry/Tina (The Flash), maybe eventually Tara/Donna Troy. We'll see if the story develops that way.

Disclaimers: Joss Whedon/Mutant Enemy/etc. own all things Buffy. AOL/Time Warner owns DC Comics, The Flash, the Teen Titans, etc.

Notes: Okay, for purposes of the DC Universe stuff, think in terms of the pre-Crisis Multiverse and let's call this Earth-Hellmouth or Earth-H for short. So this doesn't in any way, shape or form fit into current DCU continuity.

Secondly, I'm thumbing my nose at the bastards at DC who killed off the One True Supergirl all those years ago. In my universe, by God, Kara lives!!!

Third, with exception of adding Kara to the roster, I'm using the original lineup of the Teen Titans back when they comprised the "sidekicks" of the main JLA members. So you'll be seeing Robin, Kid Flash, Speedy, Wonder Girl, Aqualad (if I can get a good enough grip on his early-years character to write him in) and Supergirl in this fic. For the most part, they'll be out of costume and using their real names.

Also, since Xander's life took an unexpected turn during his road trip, he turned Anya down when she originally came on to him later that year and they did not end up as a couple. They are, nonetheless, friends.

Finally, the developments in Buffy and Willow's characters over the past year have put a strain on his friendship with them. Through it all, he and Tara have become as close as brother and sister.

I put the bowl of Doritos between the bowls of chips and pretzels on the coffee table in my living room. Well, it wasn't always mine. It's still technically not mine in an ownership way. I'm renting it from Jesse's parents. *sigh*

God, I miss you, man. How could she not even have come to visit them once in all the time since you died? I told them in the end, you know? They even believed me, after I found a way to show them. Of course you know. You've probably been watching from up there the whole time. Say "Hi" to the Big Guy for me. And if he's still listening to someone whose faith's become beaten down and tattered, tell him I'm sorry I didn't argue harder against Willow's plan to bring Buffy back. I let my guilt at not being able to save her override my conscience, Jess. I blew it and I'm sorry.

Huh. Listen to me, talking to you like you're actually here. I wish you were. Hey, think you could haunt this place every now and then? Just to say "Hi." Nah, didn't think so. Listen, bud, I gotta make sure the place is spotless before everyone gets here. It's their first time visiting since I moved in and I want it to be perfect. Okay, maybe not "perfect." Would you believe "lived-in but tidy?" How about "less disastrous than a trailer park after a tornado?" Okay, I swear I'll leave the Maxwell Smart impressions to someone who actually sounds like him.

Now, where was I? Right, the checklist. Snacks on the table. Soda chilling in the fridge. Guest bedrooms done up and ready. Pillows and blankets for those sleeping down here. Soap and shampoo enough for everyone to take a shower. Hot water may be a problem, but can't do anything about that. Steaks! God, tell me I remembered to take the steaks out of the freezer. Dash into the kitchen. They're there and thawed. Dash back into the living room. Resume checklist. Grill is on the deck and the charcoal is already in it. Now, if I can light it when I need to without having to douse the charcoal in enough lighter fluid to set the entire town ablaze, things will be just fine. Did I remember to plug in the stereo system? Yep.

Hurry up and wait. Not sure about when they'll be arriving. Wonder if they'll be taking a commercial flight or if Robbie borrowed one of Big Scary's corporate jets for the trip. But it should be soon. Early afternoon they said. Might as well sit down, veg out in front of the tube for a while.

Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. Okay, what was the name of that song? "57 Channels and Nothing On," right? Try two hundred channels and nothing on. Why am I paying for this again? Hark, what sound through yonder kitchen breaks? It is the phone and I am saved. (And our English teacher thought I wasn't paying attention when we read that play. Ha, I say. Ha.) I picked up the cordless and pushed the talk button.

"Wide World of Weirdoes, what do you want? Barry, hey! How are things in the big Double-C? You and Tina are what? That's great. Boy or Girl? Twins? Congratulations, man. When is she due? Of course I'll be there. All the Rogues in the Gallery couldn't keep me away from this. I hope this means things are finally taking a turn for the better. Yeah, she's still on the edge. *sigh* We...we grew up together, you know? Maybe I was too close to see it. I believed in her too blindly. In her innocence. I never doubted or questioned that she would do the right thing. I didn't think she could fall like that. Now.... When everyone gets here, I'm gonna see if Roy'll talk to her. With what he's been through, maybe he can reach her in a way I can't."

I stood up and paced like a caged animal while I listened to what the voice on the other end of the line - my friend, mentor and surrogate uncle Barry Allen - had to say.

"Now hold on, Barry. You're right, Willow did make her own choices and, as much as I wish I could have talked her out of them, her choices ARE her responsibility. You know I can't argue with you there. But dammit, I SHOULD have been able to save Buffy. Not directly, I know that was physically impossible at the time. And yeah, the gang was off-planet and the League was busy. Except for Her Royal Highness and she did everything she could. It was almost enough. There has to have been something 'more' I could have done. Something that would've worked. Dammit, Barry, I'm not gonna hear this. Yes, it WAS my responsibility to keep her alive! I swore two things when I first started helping her fight. I swore that I'd never, ever quit and I swore that I'd make damn sure she'd die of old age and natural causes. Before I'd ever heard of Central City; before I met you; and before that damn lightning bolt ever hit me and those chemicals. I swore I'd keep her safe, Barry. I failed and nothing you can say will ever convince me otherwise. *sigh* I don't want to argue, either, Barry. Especially not today with that good news of yours. Is that your doorbell I hear or mine? Guess I'd better answer it, then. Give Tina and the kids-to-be my love. Julio and Sabrina too. Yeah, see you soon. Bye."

I pushed the off button and tossed the phone on the couch as I walked over to the door. Opening it without even looking to see who was on the other side, I smiled as I saw my unexpected guest standing there.

"Tara, hi. Come on in. Not that you need an invitation. You being human and it being the middle of the afternoon and all."

She smiled and I took in how well she looked considering all the stresses of this past year and what Willow had done to her. For a while after the breakup, she'd taken to hiding herself once again in sweaters and loose, form-concealing clothing. The agonizing shyness had also made a reappearance. But over the past two months or so, the real Tara MacLay had broken through all that and before me stood a woman who was blossoming again. She was wearing a light blue blouse that, while not tight by any stretch of the imagination, certainly showcased her form more the sweaters and slacks that hinted not-too-subtly at her curves. On Buffy or Cordy, these might have been job-interview clothes. On Tara, it was a "dressed-to-kill" look.

"I didn't know you were expecting company," she said, nodding towards the bowls on the coffee table as she stepped through the front door and I closed it behind her. "I can come back later."

"It's just some friends from the East Coast visiting for day or two. They wanted to see the new place. Why don't you stay? You'll get along great. They probably won't be here for a while yet, anyway. Besides, I always did want to be able to say I had a sexy blonde lesbian witch all alone in my place with me," I quipped, waggling my eyebrows and twirling a pretend mustache at her.

She laughed one of her extremely rare full-on belly laughs and stood there shaking her head at my antics. "Xander, you're incorrigible."

"Encouragable? Why yes, I am," I replied. She just smiled and rolled her eyes towards the ceiling. "I've really missed that smile of yours. It's good to see it again," I told her. She responded by reaching over to hug me. I hugged her back, then led her into the living room. "Feel free," I said, gesturing towards the snacks. "So," I asked, "do the light colors and attention-getting clothes mean you're dating again?"

She shook her head negatively as she nibbled on a pretzel. "I haven't actually had any dates yet. But I'm finally ready to start looking again."

"Good," I replied, raising a Dorito in a mock-toast. "To finding the women of our dreams."

"As long as it's not the same woman," she said, 'clinking' her chip against my Dorito.

"Here, here."

"Where, where?"

"There, there," I finished, patting her on the shoulder. As we'd become real friends over the past months, this had become our routine whenever one or the other of us raised a toast. It never failed to make us smile. And this year, those smiles were sometimes the only things keeping us sane. "I'm glad you came over. So was this a spur-of-the-moment kinda thing or is something going on?"

"Dawnie wants to see Lord of the Rings again. And, if you weren't busy, we thought you'd like to join us. But since you are..."

"Maybe I can talk the others into it. I know there's at least one of them who hasn't seen it yet. And, hey, it beats the vampire-hunting and Legends of the Hellmouth walking tour I had planned. See the famous mansion where the stone demon Acathla almost sucked the world into Hell! And over here we have the ruins of the old Sunnydale High, blown up by its own students to save the town from a demon Mayor! Yes, the dream of every high school student who ever lived came true that day! Scenic Sunnydale Tours. Late night hours only. Crosses and stakes handed out to everyone who gets on the tour bus."

She was shaking her head, fighting the urge to eat and laugh at the same time. "Somehow, Xander, I think your friends could handle themselves really well on that tour."

"You say that now, missy. You'll change that tune when you actually meet them."

"Xander?" she said in a questioning, suddenly serious tone.

"Yeah, Tara?"

"I've got a confession to make."

"This doesn't have anything to do with that song-and-dance demon, does it? Cause I kinda thought I was covering for Dawn on that."

"I kn-know your friends -- the ones who are coming over -- they're the Teen Titans."

Oh shit. I need to breathe. Breathing is good. Breathing is my friend. In, out. In, out. In, out. Oh God, what do I do now? Deny it? Laugh it off and pretend I don't know what she's talking about. Or maybe, just maybe.... Pop quiz, Alexander Lavelle Harris. The woman who's snuck in under your radar and become your best friend in the whole world just told you she knows about the part of your life you thought you've been hiding. What do you do? What DO you do?

"How did you know?" I asked, making my choice.

"It's your ring," she said, lifting up my right hand and running her finger lightly across the ring I wear there. The ring I've worn for so long that it's become a part of me. The ring I've worn for so long that I never even thought of it as a clue. Eighteen-karat gold, a yellow lightning bolt against a circular field of red on top. Our insignia, Barry's and mine. Practically a coat of arms for us. "It's very unique," I heard her say as I realized just how I'd blown it. "Only two people in the whole world have a ring like this. The Flash is one, and you're much too young to be him." Considering that Barry's been doing this since I was only ten years old, that's kind of a gimme. Her eyes caught mine and I could tell she was looking for some sign of what I'm thinking. A sign of whether or not I was angry at her. My initial panic and fear had already vanished and I found, to even my own surprise, that there was no anger there at all. So I just smiled at her, made a leap of faith and trust and pronounced her conclusion for her. My emotions had been all over the map in just the past couple minutes. Now only calmness remained.

"You're right. The Flash has one of these rings...and Kid Flash has the other."


"Soda?" I asked. "This'll be easier to talk about if I've something to sip at and drink while I'm talking and I'm guessing you have a lot of questions and I'm gonna be doing a lot of talking and my throat will be visiting Dryville. Population: Me."

"Not a lot of questions. A-actually, you don't have to tell me anything if you don't want to. But if you do, well, doesn't need to be said, remember?"

I smiled. When we'd first started really becoming friends -- sadly, not 'til AFTER she and Willow split up -- I told her that if she ever needed someone to talk to, I'd be there. She just looked at me with this wistful half-smile thing of hers and told me that she knew and it didn't even need to be said and thanks for saying it anyway. It was part of our personal shorthand now, that "doesn't need to be said." I think it was then that I knew that if I could only pick my own family, I'd choose her to be my sister over Buffy and Willow any day.

"It's okay. I don't -- Would you believe you're the only person outside of the Titans and the JLA, well, SOME members of the JLA, that knows anything about this? As much of a friend as Anya's been, I haven't even told her. And Giles, the closest thing I've ever had to a REAL father? Even if they knew or found out somehow, I don't think I could talk to them."

Tara's forehead smoothed out and her eyebrows scrunched together as she digested this. "Why haven't you ever told us yourself? At least Buffy or Willow."

"Did Willow ever tell you about our high school graduation?"

"Where the mayor turned into a big snake you had to blow up the school to kill him? She told me a little, but she always went off on a tangent about how evil this Faith was and all the bad things she did."

I sighed. "Willow.... For a long time, Will was Buffy's only real female friend. Her confidant. Then Faith showed up and Willow's jealousy meter went off the charts. Faith and Buffy, they had this instant Slayer's connection between them. Will's insecurity just gorged itself on that. Could be wrong, but I think Faith could tell that Willow hated her and really enjoyed pushing her buttons."

"And then you and Faith...."

"I blew that one big time. I shouldn't have slept with Faith. Slept with. Yeah, right. Like she let me stay in the room long enough to fall asleep. I should've said no. She felt like she was being deliberately left out of our whole Scooby Gang 'family' thing. So was I, which is a whole other story. If I stopped things when they started getting sexual, been the friend she needed instead.... She didn't do the Anakin-to-Vader deal out of hate, whatever Will thinks. She was desperate, scared and feeling alone. She fell into the darkness and I, we, couldn't reach her. There are only two things I regret more than that.

"The mayor had this little army put together. Vamps and other nasties. There was an eclipse set for graduation day and they'd be free to run wild with the sun covered up. Well, we knew we couldn't take them out and still take out the mayor, so we recruited the rest of the seniors. Some quick training and weapons and they were our army. My army. They followed my training, my orders and let me lead them." My voice cracked and I had to force myself to breathe, but my breathing was rough and ragged. I tasted a salty liquid on my lips and realized I was crying. Bitterness flared in my heart and voice as I spoke again. "I led them, all right. Led them to their deaths. We stopped the Ascension, but we lost so many. Too many, Tara. So much blood on my hands that I'll NEVER forgive myself for. They trusted me and I got them killed."

I stood up, turned and walked into the hallway. If I stayed on the sofa, Tara would reach out to comfort me and I would let her. And I couldn't accept that comfort. I didn't deserve it. "Willow told you about the Halloween costume soldier possession. One of the many things I never forgot from that is what they call 'The General's Privilege.' The commanding general is ALWAYS ultimately responsible for everything that happens on the battlefield. Every victory, every loss, every casualty. Buffy may have been the one fighting the Mayor, but I was commanding general of the senior class. There's no passing the buck any further. Each death was entirely my fault. General's privilege.

"I couldn't stay after that. I kept thinking about the parents who'd lost their children because of me. The kids who wouldn't get to see their brothers or sisters ever again. Sooner or later I'd run into them somewhere. How could I face them? My road trip was only supposed to be two weeks. That night I decided not to come back. If I hadn't run into Dead Boy and if he hadn't asked me to come back and look after Buffy, well, I'd probably be living in Titans Tower right now, trying desperately to forget the name Sunnydale."

With a deep breath, I closed my eyes, rolled my shoulders and pulled myself together. I could feel her standing behind me and the emotional warmth she gave off washed over me. Living on the Hellmouth, I learned there ain't much you can count on. Having her there when I'd tried, however weakly, to cut myself off from her comfort proved one of those things all over again. Whatever the situation, Tara would always have my back.

"We'll talk about that later. Promise. I made my way across the country AFTER I got done stripping in Oxnard. And details of that are COMPLETELY out of the question. Unless you want to trade hot stories sometime. Wound up in a little place in the Midwest."

"Central City."

"Yep. Home of The Flash. First night there, I'm out looking for a McDonald's when I see these vamps stalking two couples in a parking lot. So I jumped them. The vamps, not the couples. Well, let's just say these guys were even dumber than the usual Sunnydale variety. Didn't have to be a Slayer to dust them. When the couples shook off the shock, I explained about the undead and one of them offered to put me up while I was in town. So I got my stuff out of the motel and crashed in Barry and Tina's guest room. I mentioned wanting to make a little money so I could rent a place of my own when I got back to Sunnydale. Barry and Julio -- the guy part of the other couple -- got me a daytime janitor's job at the police station they worked in. Which is how I happened to be in front of their chemical rack when the lightning bolt came through the window."

"You were hit by lightning?"

"Not directly. The lightning hit the chemicals. The chemicals got a big charge out of this and decided to spread the joy by splattering themselves all over me. The shockwave from the lightning and thunder sent me flying backwards, which is how my head connected with the solid, heavy wood base of the lab table. Not an experience I recommend, by the way. More of a 'Whump! Thud, Instant Unconsciousness' thing than an a 'screaming-in-unbearable-agony' thing. But still not fun. When I woke up, I was in the hospital. Barry and Tina were there when I opened my eyes. After a little accident where I knocked my coffee cup of the table and managed to catch the cup before it hit the ground and catch the spilled coffee in midair WITH the cup, I knew something weird had happened to me. Barry left the room to make a phone call and a couple minutes later The Flash was there. He explained what happened and offered to teach me how to control my new speed. And the rest is, well, the rest."

"Except that still doesn't say why you never told us."

"Things were...not as bad as now, that's for sure. But they were still bad. Somewhere along the way, they decided I was useless. Until what happened after I left Faith that night, I believed them. It's never been like that with the Titans. We've been a family since the day we met. When I got back here that fall, I didn't feel close enough to either Buffy or Willow to tell them. Besides, Buffy would've told Riley. Riley would've told the Initiative and then, as a friend of mine says, the solid waste would have collided with the air distribution device. And if I told Willow, well, back then she couldn't keep a secret from Buffy to save her life. Buffy would then have told Riley. Second verse, same as the first."

"I hate to tell you, but you're not Henry the Eighth," she said with a soft laugh.

"But I am, I am," I replied in my best British accent. She just laughed and shook her head.

I coughed. My throat was dry from talking and swollen from my earlier crying. "I'm gonna get those sodas now. Back in a minute."

"That long?" she asked, smiling wickedly.

"Hey, even I can't make gravity pull the soda into the glass any faster."

I dashed into the kitchen, got the glasses out of the cabinet and the soda out of the fridge. I tipped the two-liter bottle into the glass and stared in confusion when the soda didn't pour. Smacking myself in the forehead, I shook my head and chuckled. 'Okay, let's try this again,' I thought. 'This time, the cap comes off the bottle first.' The doorbell rang just as I filled Tara's cup.