Author: norgco <norgco[at]>

Summary: Cleveland, and a lot of things need fixing beyond the hot water system.

Rating: Pg

Disclaimer: Joss owns all of it.

Feedback: Please.

Faith looked at her pardon again, before locking it in her safety deposit box. It was real; every so often she came in here to check that it was not a dream. She was officially forgiven for her crimes, even the 'escape from lawful custody' last year. It seemed the demon-hunting end of the Federal Government had kept track of 'The Sunnydale Group' and noticed that the escaped felon had run to help save LA, and then The World.

Rather than say, rob a bank and move to Pago Pago on the proceeds.

"So, still not tired of knowing you're a free woman?"

"Never." The Boston slayer looked around as they walked out of the bank, just enjoying the day. Dawn was friendlier now, even Buffy was better. Of course the fact that part of the price of her freedom was getting everyone 'counselling' helped. The blonde slayer's anti-psychotic medication was strong but paid for by the feds, and other than that and the fact that the council was paying them now not a lot had changed for the individual slayer as a direct result of direct US Gov. involvement. It was radically different at the level of international relations and security, but the slayers never saw that directly.


"Kinda wicked to be the girl the cops call when they're in trouble though." Faith responded as they walked past a parked police car and got a friendly nod when recognised. Looking at what they were eating she spoke up to the closest of them. "Brady, you keep eating those and I'll have to take you jogging with us every day."

Cleveland was a Hellmouth, like Sunnydale, but not one run by a would be demon for a century, so the cops actually noticed and tried to fight 'things that go bump in the night'. After a few tense run-ins the two groups had learned to co-operate - a high level meeting with 'advisors' from the Department of Homeland Security had helped - making the slayers a supernatural SWAT team of sorts.

It was a beautiful day, to the dark slayer at least. If others found it hot and humid she didn't really notice, she was just appreciating being alive and free. And having friends to be alive and free with, always a plus.

Slayer HQ, Cleveland, same day after lunch.

"Xander I need to say something important to you." The fear in her tone was obvious, and a fearful Buffy was not something many people had encountered recently. They were in the canteen area, the x-man talking to some of the slayers who had arrived since setting up here. He turned to face her, concern on his face, and motioned her to an empty chair. "Private, it won't take long but it's private."

An interesting piece of trivia she had picked up in a management class was that at Disneyworld the staff members with the greatest visitor contact, the ones guests actually TALKED to, asked questions of, were the cleaners, the 'janitorial personnel'. They were the ones people went to for help with lost children, directions to the toilets etc. The actors in the Goofy costumes were 'important', but like the higher ups hereabout no one just 'talked' to them. Xander, as Mr. Fixit and Ordinary Joe, was the one people came to at SlayCo. as it was sometimes called.

"Yeah Buff, what is it?" They were in an unused room he often held private talks in, and he was as friendly in tone as he ever was with her. Which was a little cool, these days.

"I need you to accept my apology." She said finally.

"For what?" He asked.

"I think you know!" Was the blonde's response.

"Don't go all X-Files dialog on me Buffster."

"What?" And a simple apology was becoming headache material already.

"As in, 'the conspirators are highly placed individuals with a secret plan' says the informant. 'Really, who are they and what is the plan' Mulder responds, 'I think you know' the informant counters, and that's it, that's the total explanation. I really grew to hate that."

There was silence for a few seconds while the elder slayer contemplated her potential migraine. And wondered where the male in front of her had gotten the time to keep up with the show in question.

"I'm sorry for being a self centred bitch for the last eight years." She explained. "I've been looking back at my life and I see someone I don't recognize doing things I can't comprehend, I mean what was I thinking when I decided that I should force Spike to live with you only AFTER finding out he was in the middle of a killing spree controlled by the First?"

The shrink dealing with her had prescribed some quite powerful drugs, and had her examining her life. He had also adopted part of AA's 12-step plan, particularly the bit about apologising to all the people you have hurt. Hence the current conversation, the first of several if it went well.

"Actually Xander I think the phrase 'Quiet Horror' describes my feelings here. I wouldn't have lived past my SECOND DAY in Sunnydale if you had listened to me and Giles and stayed out of slaying and all I did was insult you. When everyone welcomed Faith at first I acted like a spoiled brat and drove her away from us. Dawn could have been an axe murderer for all I noticed, I insulted that poor SIT after my brilliantly inspirational leadership drove her to suicide and … anyway Xander, thank you for staying with me over the years."

She was looking down at her hands with tears in her eyes as she finished the speech. Then she stepped up to him and gave him one of her rib cracking 'oops, forgot about slayer strength' hugs and started crying. Saying it to Dr Helgengruber was so much easier, but here and now she had to face the possibility he had been lost to her and she hadn't noticed it, again, that he would reject her.

"Xander, thank you for just being Xander."

"Well I could have tried being Patricia but I don't think it would have worked very well."

An abandoned quarry a few days later.

Willow Rosenburg fired off what Andrew always called her 'force lightning', blowing up a car, a small shack and several dummies in SWAT flack vests. The class of rookie cops watching sat in stunned silence at the firepower display, the first of what it was hoped would be a standard opening to advanced training. The red head in her frilliest 'sweet miss innocent' outfit walked back to the VIP stand giving a shy wave to the audience while the lecture began.

"There are more things in heaven and earth Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophies, wrote Shakespeare, and as you will find out in this part of your training the appropriate response to that quote is FUCKIN A BUBBA!" The lecturer, a retired Sergeant with abundant experience of the stranger side of night shift looked at the group in front of him, seeming to catch each in turn by staring directly into their eyes, and continued. "Miss Rosenburg is a witch, and will be teaching you some basic detection spells so that you know you are dealing with a vampire or demon BEFORE it tries to make dinner out of you."

Anything advanced was out of the question in the time available, but simple magic was a teachable skill that some people were inherently better at than others, like the 100-yard dash. Willow was in the Olympic Gold Medallist class of natural talent, some were at the opposite end of the spectrum, but anyone could learn if they tried.

"The two ladies sitting with her are Vampire Slayers…" The speech went on, briefly punctuated by a few idiots who took up the 'does anyone think they can take the slayer?' challenge. Seeing Vi deal so easily with two men over a foot taller than she kept scepticism to a minimum.

'I got away with murder.' Willow thought to herself for the however many thousandth time as the lecture rolled on. It had been playing on her mind since that day on the cliff when she tried to end the world. 'I got away with murder and nearly exterminated the human race.'

"There is another quote from a famous egghead, 'the universe in not only stranger than we know, it is stranger than we can know' and he was right to some extent." Sergeant Hernandez continued. "I mention it because as street cops there will probably never be a time when you are not operating in the dark about your potential demonic enemies and you will have to adjust to that or you will be KILLED by it. There will be times when all you can do is run away and call for backup, remember that if all you can do is not become the next fatality it beats the alternative."

'I murdered a man in a very painful way, then tried to murder all my friends and then I tried to destroy all life as we know it.' The red headed witch continued in her head. 'And now here I am not punished, not even regarded with any great fear or hatred by the people who know, helping the Cleveland Police Department. How can I be forgiven if I never atone or even admit wrongdoing?'

"Never put yourself in a position where you have no line of retreat, because some of the things out there are ridiculously hard to kill." The Sergeant continued.

'Like me.' Was the Wicca's thought. 'They couldn't kill me, Xander had to talk me down because no one could kill me, maybe my time in hell will be less because I stopped, I didn't actually kill the world.'

"You will be taught to be a trained observer as part of your normal police training, and I must emphasise the importance of this in anti-demon work." There was a pause before the speech continued. "These bastards routinely can only be killed by some special weapon applied a special way and so the exact type of demon must be known. The Judge required an anti-tank missile, while the Mayor of Sunnydale turned into a 60 foot long THING that needed to be lured into a building full of explosives."


Both events had, it developed, been recorded, The Judge by the mall security cameras, the Mayor by various proud parents. A DVD showing both had been delivered by anonymous suits from Homeland Security, and would be shown later as part of the 'try to go Rambo on these things and you will die' lecture. Pounding that into the heads of the sort of teenager who signed up after seeing one too many Steven Segal movies was always a headache.

'Angel has his Shanshu prophecy, but he has eternity to use to atone.' The lesbian witch thought to herself. 'I only have a human lifetime. Will it be enough?'

Slayer HQ, Cleveland, Xander's office.

"Can we come in?" It was a group of the slayers, he knew them all from the battle with the First, and they looked nervous. Determined but nervous.

"Well you can't go out, given that you're already outside, so I guess you have to come in."

"Xander, Faith needs you to forgive her."

"Ah girls, what brings this up?"

"The need for sleep." Rona said. "She wakes us up every night with these nightmares, and screaming about 'no, Xander, I didn't mean it, forgive me, oh god no' after the first six months it kinda drags."

"Could be one reason Woods left, 'cause she still did it with him there and that's gotta be hard on a guys ego, yah know." Piped in one of the others.

"What do you think I should do?"

"Say you forgive her." Said Rona again.

"Set up a couple session with the shrink." Said Vi.

"Tie her up and spank her ass with a stiff hair brush." Said Kennedy, offering one of hers to him for the purpose.

"Rona, good first move, Vi, I don't know if the good Doctor will be up for that but I can ask. Ken, are you channelling Anya now or is this why Wills likes you so much?" He could talk about the former demon without pain now, he even smiled at his old friends lover while saying it. "I didn't know it was this bad, in Sunnydale…"

"In Sunnydale you weren't actually sleeping in the house and we were all so tired and scared it just kind of added to the ambiance of the place." Vi responded.

"Ah yes, being woken up by screaming in the early morning, that good old Sunnydale vibe." A pause, while he considered how to air his concerns for his red headed friend to the woman she loved without seeming to intrude on their private life.. " Ok, and Ken, can I talk with you privately for a minute…"

The End