Everything either belongs to Joss or it should, no infringement is intended and no profit is to be made. When you get right down to it I’m not really worth suing anyway unless you want a share of an underpaid civil servants wages and it just wouldn’t be worth the hassle trust me.Crawford Street Mansion – Sunnydale – April 2003
Xander looked at the thing, and as much to his surprise as that of anyone else he found he really could
strip an M16A2 in 57 seconds as he began to disassemble the weapon, laying the parts out in front of him professionally like he’d been doing it every day for years. ‘Now I’m wondering if MRE’s taste as bad as I think they do’ he said absent-mindedly as he began to clean and oil the weapon which was laid out on a sheet on the ground with Xander sat beside it.
‘If you’re wondering about things you should be asking how Illyria knew we should get you an M16' Wesley noted. 'All the other rifles are G36K’s, which are better incidentally, but you wouldn’t already know how to look after them’ he noted. ‘I had to read the manual and I’m nowhere close to as proficient at maintaining the weapon as you are with that one’ he admitted.
‘Cordy knew, maybe she told Fred?’ Xander suggested, still working away methodically.
‘Nope’ Cordelia denied, stepping around him to get to the coffee machine. Fred also shook her head in the negative.
Xander checked the barrel, looking down it for signs of dirt. ‘Well maybe I told her?’ he considered. ‘She seemed to know who we all were without needing introductions’ he said. ‘For all I know we were drinking buddies, me with the beer, her with the battery acid on the rocks.’
Wesley frowned. ‘We really don’t know how she got here, or what she was doing between the time she said I died, which was in 2004, and the time she arrived back here which we do know was after the middle of 2005 because of the information on the DVD’ he said. ‘For that matter we’re only assuming
she came from 2005 because of the data, it could have been any
time after June that year.’
‘We should sit her down and ask her’ Cordelia decided. ‘I don’t like being kept in the dark’ she said.
Wesley sighed. ‘The problem is that anything she tells us will alter this timeline just a little bit more, and the more it changes the less she knows what’s going to happen’ he responded. ‘As things develop they’ll soon be so far removed from the original she might as well tell us everything but her argument for keeping information back does hold some water at present.’
‘Ripples on the pond’ Fred told them. ‘It’s like chaos theory. Every slight change starts to interfere with all the other changes and everything goes completely out of whack, even events that are seemingly unconnected with whatever we’re doing here in Sunnydale’ she told them. ‘Look at it this way’ she said. ‘That rifle in Xander's hands might have been otherwise sold to a gang and used to kill someone, but because we bought it instead that person will now live. They
will then make changes to the timeline themselves through their own actions which will affect events that none of us would have ever
been personally involved with.’
Xander grimaced. ‘Too much deep thinking’ he said eventually.
‘Bar later?’ Wesley suggested, Xanders comment earlier and beer had struck a chord. ‘Deep drinking instead?’
‘See now there’s philosophy you can get your head around’ Xander replied, putting the rifle back together. He finished, pulled back the cocking lever and pulled the trigger with a satisfying click on the empty chamber. ‘Man and machine-gun in perfect harmony’ he declared. ‘Keep the Euro-Trash’ he said pointing to a nearby G36K, ‘I’ll stick to good old reliable American engineering’ he told the watcher.
Wesley smirked. ‘Heckler and Koch have one of those “Euro-Trash” rifles that has fired 25,000 rounds without jamming once and has never been cleaned’ he told him. ‘Try that
with the Yankee Crap there’ he said grinning, pointing at Xanders M16A2.
Xander patted his rifle. ‘Don’t listen baby’ he told it. ‘Daddy still loves you.’Sunnydale Airport – Sunnydale – April 2003
Buffy checked the electronic boards. ‘Why are flights always late arriving?’ she asked. ‘I could have been training, or catching up on my sleep, or spending money at the Mall like everyone else’ she complained.
‘You wanted to come’ Willow replied placidly, leaning back as best she could in the uncomfortable airport chairs. ‘Anyhow it’s only a few minutes later than expected, you’re just not a patient person’ she told her freind.
Buffy thought about arguing with that but patient people didn’t want to start pacing around the airport lounge like she wanted to do so she let the matter drop. ‘I thought it would be nice for the potential Giles is bringing along if I was to meet them at the airport personally’ she said. ‘They’re bound to be nervous’ she reasoned.
Willow smiled. ‘Look there he is’ she declared, spotting Giles with a young girl in tow. He had picked her up back in England of all places after the Coven in Devon had detected yet another another undiscovered potential back in the mother-country.
‘Hey Giles welcome back’ Buffy called to him, running over and offering to help with his luggage. ‘You must be Natasha’ she said to the Girl offering her hand. ‘I’m Buffy’ she greeted the potential warmly.
The girl smiled back and shook the proffered hand. ‘Nice to meet you’ she replied in a variety of English accent Buffy didn’t recognise, they had so many and they were so different. Having lived across the pond for a little while Willow recognised it from British TV as being from Liverpool, an accent known as “Scouse” for some reason she couldn’t quite figure out.
‘This is Willow my best friend’ Buffy introduced the other girl. ‘We’ll take you home and you can fight the jetlag there’ she told the potential.
‘We’ll have to wait for the others’ the Girl replied. ‘They were in a different line at passport control’ she told Buffy.
‘Others?’ Buffy asked Giles who nodded.
‘You found some more potentials?’ Willow asked him.
Giles shook his head as four newcomers arrived and greeted Giles with a nod. They definitely weren’t all potentials because the eldest was a boy in his late teens and of the three girls two looked like they weren’t even into theirs. ‘They aren’t potentials’ Giles told Buffy. ‘Well not potential slayers
anyhow’ he continued. ‘This is Stephen’ he said indicating the boy, ‘the older girl is Emily and her sisters Jessica and Deborah’ he continued. The two younger sisters were apparently identical twins but wore their hair very differently probably to have some identity of their own Willow suspected.
‘Who are they?’ Buffy wanted to know.
‘Are you really the slayer?’ the older girl Emily asked. ‘Mr Giles said you’d help us look after the girls’ she told Buffy. She had a protective arm around each of her younger siblings and the boy was watching over them too. They looked very scared.
Giles looked at Buffy. ‘They’re watchers’ he told her.Summers Residence – Sunnydale – April 2003
Natasha was off being introduced to the other potentials but the four junior watchers were sat on Buffy’s couch, the two younger girls sat between the teenagers. The boy, who could have been seventeen or eighteen he was certainly tall enough, wore a stoic mask but his eyes were everywhere.
‘Baby watchers?’ Dawn asked curiously. Once again she found herself handing out drinks, sometimes she wondered if her contribution to the war-effort was going to mainly consist of beverage distribution.
‘From the Academy’ Giles explained. ‘The former Academy I should say because it was wiped out the same day as the Council’ he explained. ‘The First didn’t just want to wipe out the slayer Line it wanted to get rid of the next generation of watchers too. I thought they were all gone’ he told them.
‘Thanks for coming along to check’ Stephen said coldly. ‘We’ve been on the run for weeks’ he told the group, more than a touch bitter about being forgotten about judging from his tone of voice.
‘I’m sorry Stephen but if I’d known I would have helped sooner’ Giles apologised. ‘We wouldn’t have left you to fend for yourselves’ he told him earnestly. ‘You weren’t abandoned, we didn’t know you were out there’ he said.
Stephen looked either unconvinced or unimpressed but didn’t comment further.
‘What happened?’ Faith asked. She didn’t really know much about the Academy except that they trained watchers there and it was sort of like a boarding school. She didn’t know they started so young though she pondered, looking at the two little girls who were maybe all of eleven.
‘Harbingers attacked the Academy and killed everyone’ Stephen replied evenly. ‘We got away, end of story.’
Emily shook her head, there was a lot more to tell than that. ‘Stephen saved us’ she told them. ‘When they came and started killing the staff and students I took my sisters and we hid but they found us’ she said. They were going to kill us too but Stephen killed them instead.’
‘How?’ Buffy asked.
Stephen reached down and pulled something from his luggage. It was a very long sports bag which he opened to pull out a long-sword in its scabbard. ‘Same way you would’ he replied. ‘A few of us from the Sixth Form and the Masters tried to hold them off but we were overwhelmed’ he said. ‘I ran into the girls on my way to meet up with some of the others making a stand in the main hall and they came with me.’
‘They were already all dead by the time we arrived’ Emily continued the story, ‘and the Harbingers were everywhere, so we ran for the woods outside of the Academy and kept running. We tried to contact the Council but they were already gone’ she said, starting to tear up but holding them back so as to not set off her little sisters.
‘What about your parents?’ Willow asked.
Emily sniffed. ‘They both worked at the Council Offices in London’ she replied. ‘They’re gone’ she explained stroking her closest sisters hair.
Giles sighed. ‘Watchers tend to be dynastic’ he explained. ‘My father was a watcher as were both of Wesley’s parents I believe. Some of the families go back centuries’ he said.
Willow looked at the two little girls feeling awful for them. They were so young. ‘What about your family?’ she asked Stephen.
‘My mother passed away a few years ago’ Stephen replied. ‘As for my father he was at the Council Offices when they blew up too’ he explained. ‘You knew him by the way’ he told Buffy. ‘Although he told me you didn’t exactly see eye to eye’ he added.
Buffy looked confused.
‘Stephen’s surname is Travers’ Giles told her. ‘He’s Quentin Travers son’ he explained. Buffy and the Head of the Council certainly hadn’t
seen eye-to-eye and he wondered how his son and the slayer would get on because of that.
Surprised by the revelation Buffy looked at the teenager who met her gaze. ‘Sorry about your father’ she told him. ‘He was right about us not seeing things the same way but I still knew he was on the right side and doing what he thought
was best’ she went on. ‘The same goes for your parents’ she told the girls, ‘I may not have always liked the methods the Council used but I grieve for the loss of anyone that puts themselves between the human race and the darkness’ she said. ‘You should be proud of them and honour them as we all should’ the slayer added with a serious expression.
‘I’m not looking for sympathy’ Stephen Travers responded. ‘I want the girls safe and beyond that I’m here to help’ he declared. ‘I’m a watcher, like my father and his father and grandfather before him’ he continued. ‘You’ve got potentials and I can help train and advise them’ he stated with conviction and more than a little passion to his voice.
Buffy smiled. ‘Thanks for the offer but I think we’ve got that handled’ she replied. She couldn't imagine a rookie watcher being that much help.
Stephen glared at the slayer. ‘Don’t even think
to dismiss me’ he snarled. ‘I’ve been getting ready for this my whole life’ he told her. ‘I’m as good with a sword as anyone who ever went to the Academy, I know demonology and about the magicks and you’ll go a long way to find anyone as motivated’ he claimed with some justification on all counts.
Faith frowned. ‘You just want revenge I can see it in your eyes’ she told the boy.
‘Is that a moral indictment from Faith Lehane?’ Stephen replied wryly. ‘How ironic’ he continued with a sneer. ‘Yes of course I know all about you’ he said in response to Faith’s resultant shift in expression. ‘I was in the final year of the Academy, we get told about all the dirty little secrets of the trade before we get sent out into the world’ he told her.
Giles raised his hand to warn Stephen off from the course he was on. As a senior watcher he had authority here in Stephen’s eyes and the teenager clammed up and backed off immediately. He still regarded the slayers as little more than tools though, they were short-lived cannon-fodder in the fight against evil and certainly not to be entrusted with the authority that Buffy had apparently been given.
Wesley arrived, he’d just driven over from the Mansion. ‘I got the message’ he told Giles and looked at the four new arrivals. ‘Thought you were all dead’ he said simply. ‘Probably should have checked’ he admitted.
‘There’s a lot of that going around’ Stephen replied sardonically. ‘You’d be Wesley Wyndham-Pryce I believe?’ he checked.
Stephen turned to the girls. ‘He was a watcher but got himself fired because that one turned traitor’ he told them, indicating Faith. ‘Don’t trust either of them’ he advised the three sisters who nodded their acceptance of his suggestion. They clearly regarded him as their leader which was understandable in the circumstances.
‘So I’m guessing the Academy isn’t a charm school’ Willow observed.
Wesley momentarily considered giving the little twerp a slap round the head, or perhaps asking Faith to do so, but thought better of it and instead turned to Giles. ‘What are we going to do with them?’ he asked.
‘They’re still under threat from The First so we’re obliged to protect them as we would the potentials’ Giles replied. ‘You’ve got more room at the mansion’ he noted, ‘can you take them?’ he asked.
Wesley shrugged. ‘That would be Angel’s call’ he replied, ‘but I’d doubt he’d say no’ he told Giles.
‘Angel?’ Stephen repeated. ‘You mean Angelus?’ he continued. ‘Oh I’m sure we’d be perfectly safe with him
’ the teenager said scornfully.
‘Your call junior’ Buffy responded, annoyed by his attitude, ‘but seeing as how we’ve got Spike, AKA “William the Bloody” staying here unless you want to go back home to Merry Olde England you’ll be sharing your home with a vampire for a while either way’ she told him.
The two little girls started to panic. Buffy cringing and realising what she’d said. ‘It’s okay’ she said in her gentlest caring voice. ‘They’re not bad anymore they’ve both been given souls and they fight for us now’ she told them soothingly. ‘They won’t hurt you honestly’ she added with as much sincerity in her voice as she could manage.
Wesley and Giles watched the girls and remembered their own strange childhoods. The constant fear resulting from being told point-blank by your parents that there really were
monsters, and that they always had to be on their guard. Being given protective charms by well-meaning relatives and having a wooden stake under your pillow from the time you could fit one in your hand. Hearing tales of watchers and slayers fighting demons around the campfire on school camping trips and of course the intense pride of attending and eventually graduating the academy.
‘And just how many times has Angel’s soul gone AWOL to date?’ Stephen asked rhetorically. ‘Tell him if he so much as looks at Jess, Deborah or Emily funny I’ll stake him’ he stated flatly.
Faith laughed. ‘I’m sure he’ll lay awake during the day worrying about that’ she joked.
‘I hope not because I’m not stupid enough to try and stake him at night’ the teenager replied. ‘Choose the ground, choose the time…’
‘…and before you strike choose the best weapon for the job’ both Giles and Wesley intoned together. It was a piece of advice drummed into watchers from an early age, their enemy was usually stronger, faster and more durable. If you were going to win you did so with careful planning and intellect, it was the slayers job to deal with situations when brute force was required.
Stephen smiled then his face switched to an expression of shock. Before anyone could see why he was on his feet, he had stepped in front of the three girls and he’d drawn his sword in a smooth, well-practiced and practically fluid motion, holding it defensively in a classic fencing pose as he’d been taught. Swordplay was a major part of Watcher training and he had tried to live up to the family tradition of being highly skilled with a long-blade, he certainly held the thing properly and his stance was top-notch Giles noted, being a pretty decent swordsman himself.
‘Who are they?’ Illyria asked curiously, indicating the new arrivals. She was wearing her default armoured appearance having reverted to it as soon as she entered the house returning from work at the High-School.
‘Get a grip D’Artagnan’ Faith told the teenage watcher. ‘She’s friendly’ she told him. ‘Hang-on, you don’t know these four?’ she asked Illyria in confusion. ‘I thought you knew everything
?’ she said.
‘I am not omniscient’ Illyria replied. ‘I only know what occurred in the original timeline and they
did not appear’ she explained. ‘Once again who are they?’ she asked, annoyed at having to repeat herself to lower life forms.
‘Survivors of the Watchers Academy’ Giles explained.
Illyria looked at them. ‘There were no survivors’ she stated. ‘They were all killed at the time of the original attack as far as I knew. If any survived they must have been hunted down later’ she said.
hunted down’ Emily replied, looking nervously at the demon. ‘They caught up to us a fortnight ago but Stephen fought them off again’ she said.
The boy kept his eyes on Illyria and wasn’t about to put away his sword though he was now holding it in a more relaxed manner. ‘Emily got one of them’ he said. ‘It turned his back on her and she opened up its throat with one of their own knives’ he told them, clearly proud of the girl.
‘I had to look after my sisters’ Emily said quietly. She didn’t seem quite as proud of what she’d done as Stephen was.
Wesley looked thoughtful. ‘I think I might have the answer’ he spoke up. ‘We were talking back at the mansion about how seemingly unrelated events might be caused by changes to the timeline and I think this would be one of them’ he theorised. ‘If the Bringers caught up with them once, perhaps they did so again in the original timeline but with more success’ he suggested.
‘But why not this time around?’ Buffy asked.
Giles smiled gently. ‘Because we’ve killed so many Bringers those that are left have likely been pulled off the unimportant jobs, like hunting wayward trainee watchers for instance, and been redeployed to do more important things like fight us instead’ he said, turning to the four newcomers. ‘May I formally introduce Illyria’ he announced grandly, indicating the Old One, ‘God-King of the Primordium, Shaper of Things and the person that has quite likely inadvertently saved your lives’ he told the young watcher trainees.
Illyria looked at them with deeper scrutiny. ‘Are they any use at all?’ she asked. ‘If not how are we going to dispose of them?’ she queried unemotionally.
‘Okay, so me saying she’s “friendly” might have been overstating the case’ Faith admitted, with several others nodding their agreement.