The One Who Sees and the Three Who Guide
Disclaimer: As with the first chapter
"Arien, drop lower on that foot sweep. Clarisse, better on those reverse punches but watch your shoulder, you keep dropping it even more than I used to. Wendy, excellent form, now start working on your speed!" barked Buffy.
Eight Slayers in Training paid close attention to Buffy as they ran though their katas. Four others paid some attention to her, but would frequently glance at Xander, or more appropriately his eyepatch. The reason for it had become the subject of much debate among the younger girls. Not so much why he only had one eye, that story was well known, but why he wore an eyepatch instead of getting a glass eye.
"Freeze!" Buffy watched as all of the SIT's suddenly halt in mid-motion. Most kept their balance, but one or two fell flat on their faces. "Julie, you were overextended, that's why you're on your butt. But Nancy and Haley, you two better stop staring at my fiance in the middle of forms."
As the two mini-slayers blushed, there came a knock on the workout room's doorway. Buffy and Xander turned, and their faces lit up. Standing there was a woman who appeared to be in her mid-thirties, with dark auburn hair and warm brown eyes. Standing only a couple of inches taller than buffy, she carried an almost palpable sense of hope and joy into the hearts of the Slayers in Training as they looked at her, and they couldn't explain why. "Excuse me," she began, betraying a hint of an Irish accent, "is there time for a visit from an old friend?"
"Monica!" said both Buffy and Xander, the latter putting down the tools he was using to fix a broken pommel horse. They strode over and pulled her into a three-way hug. "How's one of my three favorite angels?" asked the carpenter, as Buffy giggled a little.
"Angels?" whispered Wendy to Clarisse. "You don't think..."
Clarisse, who had a slightly more developed sensory ability than most of the other girls, shrugged and whispered back. "Whatever she is, she isn't human. And my Spidey Sense is doing happy cartwheels, so I an't ruling it out."
"I didn't know you swung that way," chirped Melody, the youngest SIT at the tender age of fourteen. "YEOWP!" she cried as several elbows found their way to her ribcage.
Meanwhile, Monica was beaming at Buffy and Xander, and glanced around at the SIT's. "I'm doing wonderful, Alexander. Tess is talking with Willow right now, so I decided to come visit with you."
Xander looked slightly nervous. "And... and Andrew? By the way, when are you going to call me simply Xander?"
Monica grinned impishly. "When you stop calling Rupert 'G-Man'. As for Andrew, he's on another assignment."
Buffy noticed her fiance visibly relax, and glanced over the 'Baby Slayers'. He was fiercely protective of all of them, and he knew that if any of them died he would be a wreck for quite some time. "Is your visit a friendly one, or..." she glanced up, "business related?"
Monica sighed. "Both, actually.We hadn't seen any of you for a few months, and Tess had a message to pass on to Willow. A good one, though, don't worry about that." She smiled, as a comfortable warmth filled the room. "I understand you met Ann Driscoll recently?"
Buffy nodded. "She's an amazing woman. Still blames herself for Kong's death, though."
"She shouldn't, you know," came a voice from around the corner. Seconds later a rather heavyset African American walked through the doorway to stand next to Monica, her iron grey hair a testament to age that was illusory, for Angels can appear however they wish. "It was the panic and fear of the man on the street that killed the poor thing, not her."
Another round of hugs later as Buffy and Xander greeted Tess, the older angel, and Xander spoke up. "Tell you guys what. Let's go and have this reunion in the office." He turned back to the SIT's. "You get a break. Training's done for the day."
Ignoring their cheers, the four walked down the hall, and stepped in to a well appointed room, with a large desk, and numerous comfortable chairs and couches. "So why isn't Wills joining us?" asked Xander.
Tess smiled at him. "She needs some time to herself after what she's learned. She's probably crying happy tears of joy right now." As the one-eyed carpenter moved to leave the room, she put a hand on his arm. "Let it be for now, she's fine. Have a seat, I'll let you know when you two should go to her."
"While you're here," said Buffy, "can I have a favor from the two of you?"
"Well, that depends," said Monica. "What would it be?"
Fidgeting with the seam on the side of her jeans, Buffy hesitated. Finally, she said, "I don't want too see any of the Girls in the position Xander was in last year. They know the darkness is out there, they've seen it. But they may not realize that the opposite is true, and that we're not alone."
"I see. You want us to talk to your 'Baby Slayers', is that it?" asked Tess.
Xander nodded. "And maybe do the whole glowy bit, and remind 'em that no matter what religion they are, God loves 'em just the same. Jewish, Islam, Wiccan, Scientologist, what have you."
Tess and Monica glanced at each other, and closed their eyes for a moment. They opened moments later and both smiled. "He says 'Of course', honey-child. Just like we knew He would."
"Well, I had ta ask, yannow?" shrugged the one-eyed carpenter with relief.
"TESS! MONICA!" cried a voice just around the corner, and a dark-haired blur rushed over to embrace the two angels. The blur quickly resolved itself into Dawn, home from her Sophomore College classes. "Missed you guys!"
"And we missed you, Dawnie." smiled Monica.
The five discussed old times, and Xander drifted back to when he first met the heavenly trio... and discovered why he really is 'The One Who Sees'.
The whiskey burned as he slammed it back, but he didn't care. It was almost the only thing he felt anymore, at least since Africa. Looking at his empty glass, he motioned for the bartender. "More," he simply said, not trusting himself to articulate anything more complicated than that.
"Sorry, pal," said the bartender, a rather tall and slender man with a kind face and sandy hair. "I'm afraid you're a bit too far gone. I'll call you a cab," he suggested.
"No. No cab. It would take me home. Don' wanna go home," grumbled Xander.
"And what's there?" prompted the bartender, in the way those of his profession were wont to do.
Xander shuddered. "Mem'ries. Darkness. No hope." His eyes glazed over for a moment, as he relived every moment of horror in his life, from staking Jesse to the unnatural events of Africa.
"No hope? That's a bad place..." prompted the bartender.
"Xand'r. Call me Xand'r. Like best sister frien' Willow. An' you?" he slurred.
"Call me Andrew."
"Well, Andy, I'm gonna go walk fer a while." He slapped a hundred dollar bill on the table; the New Watchers were every bit as well funded as the old Council, but instead of hoarding it they paid their employees well - especially Slayers, who got huge hazard pay bonuses every night they patrolled.
"Don't you think you need a little help?" asked Andrew.
"No one can help me," growled Xander, and the sheer hopelessness of his voice caused two nearby bar patrons to slam their own drinks back. He stalked towards the door with more coordination than a man as drunk as he was normally has, and threw the door open, marched through it, and was outside on the snowy streets.
Cleveland may have been a Hellmouth, but it was quiet and would be for at least a hundred years more. New York City, on the other hand, was nearly as bad as Los Angeles was before the battle with the Circle of Thorns, the one only Gunn and Illyria survived (if you can call it that). And so after the fiasco in Africa, he found himself being persuaded by Buffy and Willow to move to New York with them, as a trainer, handyman, and part-time babysitter for the SIT's.
A scuffle caught his attention, and even in his dark, drunken state, he couldn't stand by. Human muggers or vampiric attack, he didn't care, but no innocent was going to be hurt if he could do anything about it. He stumbled off in that direction as fast as he could.
Sure enough, it was a simple mugging. Three men were holding up two women, and it looked like things weren't going to plan. The muggers were jumpy, and one of the women, a heavyset older women, was trying to calmly convince them that they didn't want to do this. Knowing a cue when he heard one, Xander stepped in to the alley. "She's right, you know. You don't want to do this." He put one hand behind his back as if he had a weapon hidden there.
"Shut up, cyclops!" shouted the largest of the muggers, frustration evident in his voice. He drew a rather large automatic pistol, one his mind recognized as a .45 Colt ACP, and pointed it at Xander. "Over there with the ladies, and move it!"
Xander slowly raised his hands, and felt the alcohol in his system burn away from the adrenaline. His eyes turned cold, but he slowly started to move down the alley anyway at the mugger's insistance. "Don't get yer panties in a knot," he grumbled.
A quick glance with his remaining eye told Xander that while the other two muggers were armed, it was with knives, and there was at least seven to ten feet between them and the women. Instantly the remnants of the Soldier Guy in his brain sized up the situation, and right as he was even with the gunman, his back nearly scraping the alley wall, he exploded into action. He may have not been a Slayer, but over a decade of fighting the inhuman made fighting normal humans a piece of cake by comparison.
He darted in, and grabbed the slide of the pistol, shoving it back then closing his hand around the barrel. This prevented the action from working, and as the gunman squeezed the trigger in vain with all his might, Xander lashed out with his other fist, taking the man in the corner of the jaw with a thunderous backhand. The cracking sound he heard was the man's jaw dislocating, and he dropped like a sack of potatoes. Almost instinctively, the former Zeppo's thumb caught the slide release, and he slippped the top half of the weapon off and rendering it useless as the other two darted in.
The first knife-wielder fared no better than his friend, and was unconscious in a heap in moments. The last mugger, however, seemed to be quite a proficient knife fighter, holding the blade along his forearm and lashing out with great accuracy. Xander bobbed and weaved, but couldn't seem to get inside the man's guard. He glanced at the two women, who stayed right where they were, and yelled. "Well, get out of here! Get back to safety!"
This proved a nearly fatal distraction, as the last mugger darted in with a slash to his blind side. The carpenter leaned away at the last moment, but the blade caught him with a slice across his temple, leaving a shallow cut that bled profusely and cutting off his eyepatch. Ignoring the pain, he stepped further in, and head-butted the man, breaking his nose. The mugger, stunned by the pain, dropped his knife, and Xander grabbed the man's head, and yanked down, driving his knee into the bloody remains of the man's nose, removing him from the fight.
Still riding the adrenaline buzz, the carpenter glanced at the three men, and determined they were all down for the count. He then glanced over at the women. "I thought I told you to get to... safety?"
With his right eye, Xander simply saw the two women, looking at him with concern etched for the world to see on their faces, the older one fishing in her purse for a handkerchief and reaching up to dab away the blood. "Don't you worry about us, young man," she said, "you need to get this cut looked at."
It was with what he saw, sort of, with where his left eye used to be that caused him to flop backwards on his butt in shock. Instead of two ordinary women, he saw a pair of ineffable beings, older than time and filled with love, a heavenly glow surrounding them and lifting his shattered soul. "Wha... what are you?" he stammered.
The two glanced at each other, the younger woman quite surprised, and then that heavenly glow filled his normal vision as well. "We're angels, young man. And we're here to remind you that you're not alone," said the older woman.
The night found Xander, Buffy, and Dawn escorting a trio of SIT's on their first patrol - a simple tour of Central Park. The criminal element tended to leave such a large groupp alone, but the demonic had no care for number, and twice so far they had been attacked. The first time was by a pair of Fyarls, but the silvered daggers the SIT's had been given made short work of them, and the second by a small group of quickly-dusted vamps.
"So, why was Willow all 'happy-tears' girl tonight?" asked Dawn as she glanced on their 'six' just in case.
"She got some good news," said Xander, a grin plastered on his face. "Seems that Tara was given another chance."
The Key's eyes flew open wide. "She'll be back?"
"Yeah," said Buffy. "I didn't get all the details, but it has something to do with every witch needing a guide."
"No wonder she was on cloud nine," grinned Dawn. "Anyone else know yet?"
"Giles, of course," noted Xander. "I could almost hear him polishing his glasses when we called. Oh, and I sorta quietly let Oz know. And I think I heard an eyebrow raise."
"Number 26. The one that says 'This is incredibly interesting and very good news, leaving me speechless not because I'm a quiet person but because my brain cells are spinning in place'. Of course, it could have been number fourteen, too."
"The one that says 'And this is a surprise how?' " chirped Buffy.
"Nah, that's number seventeen. Fourteen is 'That's very good news and further reinforces the worldview I've developed since studying at a Tibetan monastary'."
More chatter filled the night, and everyone agreed that it had been a very good day.
A/N: A bit of a plot bunny, yes, but it WILL factor into future chapters. :D