Colorado Springs Airport...
Jack stood, fidgeting impatiently, next to the rest of his team as he waited for the slayers to arrive. Support had managed to fulfill all of the requirements that the Council of Slayers and Watchers had specified. They'd found two large homes, each with seven bedrooms, located next to each other, within a gated community. The gated community was a short drive from the Cheyenne Mountain Complex, lying halfway between it and the city of Colorado Springs. Many of the higher-ranked officers, as well as some of the more highly paid civilian consultants lived there. Jack had been through both houses, just out of curiosity, before coming out for the meet and greet.
Jack jiggled the keys in his pocket. He'd been surprised to see both houses already furnished. Nicely furnished, too. Actually, much more so than his own house. At least each of the slayers were making more than three times Jack's own pay, even with hazardous duty thrown in. I'm not bitter, he thought. Oh, no.
Spotting the plane, Jack stifled a sigh of relief. Finally. The jet was a smaller one, some type of Gulfstream, capable of holding perhaps twenty people. Some of whom were already debarking. Jack nudged Daniel. “Are any of them over twenty-one for God's sake?”
Daniel gave Jack a sidelong glance, then looked back over the girls milling around. Jack was right. None of the girls were over twenty-one, except Ms. Summers. Who upon spotting them, gave them a wave. Then Jack spotted a girl who couldn't be a day over thirteen. “Err, Jack? See that girl over there?”
“Which one...” Then Jack saw her. The girl was bouncing around Buffy Summers, looking all too much like a certain cartoon dog sidekick bouncing around her bulldog leader. Not an image he'd share with either of them as long as he wanted to keep his limbs intact. The girl was about twelve or thirteen. She was slim and wiry with a cap of short red hair. She was also walking up towards them at Buffy's side.
“Buffy, that was fun. When are we going to fly again? Are we going to get to fly a jet now that we're with the Air Force? Cause that would be sooo chill. Will I have my own bedroom? Are you...”
Buffy smiled internally at the dumbfounded looks on the faces of the members of their welcoming committee. Those wouldn't be there long, she thought. Eve was still chattering a mile a minute. Buffy had kept the girl occupied with video games during the flight. Dawn's video games, for which Dawn might forgive her sometime next year. Buffy had even made Eve apologize for breaking Dawn's Gameboy. That might cut off three or four months. “One sec, Eve. Hola, Colonel Jack and company. How goes it?”
Jack frowned. He'd finally gotten a good look at the girl, Eve's, face. She had a black eye, now fading into a variety of yellows and greens. Additionally, she had what looked like a set of handprints on her neck. “Fine. Who's your friend?”
“Jack, this is Eve.”
So this was the infamous Jack O'Neill, Eve thought. He doesn't look mean at all. Cherie had told Eve that all of their visitors were evil. Eve thought Cherie was a bit prejudiced having been kidnapped and all. She also knew that Cherie couldn't understand why Eve didn't mistrust the military as much she did. The men who had come through the windows of her house that night hadn't seemed like the soldiers in the movies Eve and her dad used to watch on Saturday afternoons. They'd been more like foreign spies or something.
Thinking about her dad made her sad. Eve missed her parents, but at least she had Buffy. Things were only going to get better now that Buffy was letting Eve live with her, something she'd been slowly moving towards for some time now. That she'd finally gotten it made her ecstatic. Conscious of the gaze of the tall, gray-haired colonel on her, Eve grinned. She stuck out her hand. “Hiya, there, Jack. I can call you Jack, can't I? Or should I call you Colonel? Or Colonel Jack? Or...”
Jack solemnly shook the girl's hand. “Jack's fine, Eve. It's nice to meet you. That's a pretty good shiner you got there. Walk into a door?”
Eve laughed. Blithely she announced, “Nah, Buffy bounced me around some when I was being a pain in the ass.”
Buffy watched as the faces of the people across from her went through a variety of expressions. Shock, disbelief, and anger all quickly followed one another. Jack seemed to be the angriest. Well, she'd rather expected it. With a quietly furious expression on his face, Jack asked, “Did you hit this girl, Ms. Summers? Or is she just kidding around?”
Jack watched the face of the woman across from him as she reacted to his statement. Or didn't react. There was none of the denial or anger from having been accused of child abuse. Instead she quietly stated, “Yes, I did. Eve was being difficult and needed to be shown her place. Which I did. It only took hitting her forty or fifty times.”
Jack saw red. He was glad he wasn't armed, because if he was, Jack might have shot Buffy. Change that to definitely if he had a zat. Jack started to speak, then stopped. He managed to gain control of himself sufficiently to notice the expression in Buffy's eyes. The calm, calculating expression. She was playing him, Jack thought angrily. Now why would she do that? With iron control, Jack stated, “Ms. Summers, you did this deliberately. Led Eve over here. Made sure we saw her black eye. Why?”
Sam watched as the woman across from her thoughtfully considered Jack's question. The meet and greet, which she'd expected to be mostly boring, had rapidly become a major confrontation. Sam thought that Jack had an excellent point. Buffy had engineered this confrontation deliberately. Sam was also interested in finding out the reason. Sam paid attention as Buffy began to speak.
“I'm impressed, Jack. I expected you to blow. Kudos for self-control.”
“Flattery would have been more effective before you pissed all over my Post Toasties. Why?”
Eve watched the confrontation between the two adults. Her innocent answer had caused all kinds of problems. Eve's stomach squirmed with worry. Then she felt Buffy's slow, reassuring squeeze of her shoulder and relaxed. Buffy would fix things. That's what she did.
“I had two reasons, Jack. First, I needed to see how you were going to react to seeing one of these girls injured. Eve, being the youngest, was the logical choice to test you. You don't seem too chauvinistic, but my experience with the military in this area hasn't been too good. If you'd completely blown your top, we would've gotten back on the plane and left.”
Jack seethed. Buffy seemed to be as cold and manipulative as Anise, his least favorite Tok'ra. “What was your other reason?”
“Slayers aren't little girls, Jack. Eve, if I gave you the hand signal to attack, how long would it take you to put down SG-1?”
Eve tilted her head, consideringly. The only really tough one was the big guy with the gold tattoo. The others would go down like tenpins. “The drivers too, Buffy?”
“Just the four in front of us.”
Jack was trying to figure out where this was going. His initial anger had cooled, leaving him feeling grumpy. “Okay, so Eve here could put us down in ten. Big freakin' deal. What's your point?”
“My point is that these girls are predators. Any of them could put your entire group down in seconds. Eve was being nice by the way. I think she wouldn't need close to that long. She's one of the most dangerous slayers around. I've seen how discipline works in the military. We don't work that way. Eve begged me to allow her to accompany me. We've become very close since I killed the people who murdered her parents. However, she is one of the most, if not the most, stubborn slayers around. She won't listen to the group leaders. Why is that, Eve?” Buffy addressed her question to her charge, looking down at her. Big green eyes met Buffy's gaze.
Eve blurted out, “I'm better than them.”
“Really? How's that?”
“I'm a better slayer than any of them. Why should I listen to them? What are they gonna do, hit me? Big whoop.”
Buffy looked at each of the other group in turn. She could see the dawning comprehension in the face of Daniel Jackson. Teal'c she couldn't really read. Jack and Major Carter, Buffy didn't think were getting it. “Eve, will you obey the other slayers now?”
Eve shrugged. “Sure.”
“Because you said so.” At Buffy's glance, Eve giggled. “Okay, cause you said it was the only way I could come along. I'm sorry I was so stubborn, Buffy. But I didn't quit.”
Buffy laid her arm across the younger girl's shoulders, giving them a squeeze. “I know you didn't. Why don't you go get your duffel and bring it over to the SUV's?” Eve scampered off. Buffy waited a moment, then continued, “Jack, Eve is a typical slayer. More stubborn than most, but still typical. She showed up when we were leaving and just announced she was coming with me. If I had said no, she would have come anyway, most likely by hitchhiking. If I had just let Eve come, she would have made the other slayers' lives miserable. Eve chafes at her position in the pecking order. She has no fear of anybody. I had to establish her position in the...”
Daniel interrupted, speaking in a fast, excited tone, “You're describing a kind of social dominant order, almost like a wolf pack. Once the wolves know where they stand in the social order, they get along fine. But when new wolves enter the pack, there's always a great deal of social unrest and fighting, before each knows their new positions. That's fascinating. Can you....”
“Girls aren't wolves, Daniel. Don't try to tell me you're buying into this crap?” Jack felt a moment of doubt at seeing Daniel's certainty. But teenage girls aren't wolves, he thought.
“No they aren't, Jack. They're far worse than wolves. Cause they're also teenage girls, so you get the worst of both worlds. As I was saying, I had to set certain conditions for Eve to come with us. Obey the other slayers and attend school were two of the most important. The physical discipline was necessary to ensure she'd actually do it. Which brings me to the finish of my second point. Sorry, I was so roundabout. Vi, Molly, and myself are going to have to keep 'discipline in the ranks' as you would call it. Sometimes it won't be pretty, like when Vi had to put the smack down on Autumn for trying to bogart Beth's boyfriend. You aren't going to like it when it happens. I need your assurance that you won't interfere.” Buffy met Jack's gaze. She could see he was finally starting to understand her points. Buffy doubted that he necessarily believed her, but at least the seed was planted and he seemed willing to listen.
Sam watched Jack's internal struggle. Buffy couldn't have picked a sorer topic if she'd tried. Especially after the death of Jack's son. Sam suspected that nearly every button Jack possessed had just been pushed in the past few minutes. Sam was quite upset herself. More at the way that Buffy had gone about creating this confrontation, than the subject itself. Okay, she thought, I'm lying to myself now. Sam was equally upset at the idea of a young girl around Cassie's age getting beat up as she was by Buffy's manipulation. Logically, Sam could see Daniel's analogy to a wolf pack. Still, it was very upsetting. The way Buffy had gone about sharing the information could definitely have been better.
Jack knew he had to come up with an answer. He would have loved to blissfully answer yes, but Jack wasn't sure he could stay out of a disciplinary matter if it resulted in a young girl getting the crap beaten out of her. He continued to meet Buffy's cold, hard gaze. She really does have some serious issues with the military, he thought. I should have listened to Captain Finn. Finn had told Jack that he should expect constant challenges from Buffy, until she felt he could be trusted. Which would probably take years, he thought morosely. Well, let's see if the other part of Finn's advice works.
Conscious that they'd picked up an audience as all of the slayers gathered around them, Jack's voice possessed a steely undertone as he said, “Summers, the next time you feel you need to make a point, I would appreciate if you would just talk to me, rather than parading a young girl's black eye in front of me. Trust goes both ways.” Jack could see the faint uncertainty in Buffy's eyes. She glanced around at her people, than back at Jack. If he had less experience with command, Jack might have thought her worried about what her people were thinking about her. Instead, the look Jack saw, was that of a leader concerned for the welfare of her troops, not herself. With a flash of insight, Jack realized that everything she'd done was because Buffy was worried about the slayers under command. Worried enough to make a scene. Worried enough to do anything she could think of to protect them from the bad guys. In this case, him and his. Continuing with a great deal less bite in his tone, Jack said, “You discipline your own people. However you need to. If it's something 'weird' let us know. Just so we don't 'freak.' How's that sound?”
Buffy knew she'd pushed enough. She'd made her point. Jack had
reacted far better than she'd expected. Buffy actually felt faintly ashamed that she'd deliberately picked out something that she knew would be a sore point with him. She'd read the biography that Willow had managed to whip up. She knew about his son. And she'd deliberately used it to push his buttons. And instead of reacting like like an ass or a bully, Jack had actually kept his cool and been quite reasonable. Not what she'd expected. Well, Buffy thought, it's time to accept the olive branch. “That sounds fine, Jack. I think we can live with that.” Deliberately changing the subject, Buffy continued, “So where are we staying? Were you able to find us places already, or are you putting us up in a hotel?”
Jack snorted. “No hotel, Summers. I think you're going to like your new digs. Definitely better than my place.” Gesturing at the five waiting SUV's, Jack waved the girls forward. “Pick a vehicle, ladies. Toss your stuff in the back and pile in.”
Dawn had looked around at the welcoming committee and suppressed a flicker of disappointment that Riley hadn't come along as well. She'd seen the confrontation brewing. Dawn hadn't liked the plan Buffy had discussed with her on the plane, but she understood why Buffy felt she had to make her point early. Slayers were independent. Slayers disciplined their own. Without interference. Ol' Colonel Jack seemed to have reacted in a reasonable manner to Dawn. She just hoped Buffy had gotten her need for confrontation out of her system. Dawn tossed her four bags into the back of the nearest SUV, after making sure it wasn't the one Eve was riding in. She was still a bit grumpy about her Gameboy. Eve had promised to replace it, but in the meantime, no Mario for Dawn. If she did, Dawn might forgive Buffy a whole month earlier.
Buffy grabbed a ride in the first vehicle. She tossed her four bags into the back. Buffy would be glad when the rest of her stuff arrived. They'd made the decision to ship about eighty percent of their possessions, rather than try to bring everything on the plane. So Vi had limited everyone to four suitcases, the largest of which contained their slaying gear. Everyone had brought the limit. Well, except Eve, who'd only arrived with one duffel. So in three or four days, there was going to be a huge moving van coming, as well as a car carrier. Buffy missed her shiny, black Corvette. She watched Vi and Molly toss their bags next to hers. Buffy climbed into the seat next to the driver, who very carefully did not notice the flash of tanned thigh exposed by her short skirt. Vi and Molly got in the back. Eve slid in next to Vi, who promptly picked her up and set her in the middle, ignoring her offended “Hey!” Buffy gave the young driver her 500-watt-smile, watching his eyes widen appreciatively, before saying, “Ready when you are, corporal.”
“Err, that's sergeant, ma'am.”
“Oops, sorry, sergeant.
” Buffy relaxed as with minimal jostling, they got underway.
Jack got into the second vehicle with the rest of SG-1. His was the only vehicle without a driver. Well, actually his vehicle had originally been in the front, but Jack had sent the second vehicle's driver along to the first when Buffy had commandeered that truck. “Well, folks, what do you think of our new guest? Carter?”
“Sir, I'm just not sure about this entire situation. It sounded good on paper, having what amounts to super-powered help, but that scene back there was not conducive to an effective working relationship. Don't get me wrong, I'm still intensely curious about their abilities, but I'm just not sure we'll be able to work together.” Sam did hope she would be able to run some tests on one of the slayers, just to definitively rule out any scientific reason behind their abilities.
“On the contrary, major, it was very helpful. We knew that Buffy was mistrustful of us. She just let me know how much. I might have wished she'd gone about making her point a different way, but I'll survive. By the way, don't count on getting any guinea pigs in the near future. Finn said Buffy dislikes hospitals more than she does folks like us. Any thoughts on that whole 'dominance' thing she was talking about, Daniel?”
“Buffy definitely believes what she said, Jack.” Daniel paused a second, then continued, “I found her viewpoint fascinating. No human society has ever functioned the way she's describing. If the slayer aspect has that much control over them, we may need to be exceptionally careful in what missions we assign. I would hate for them to cut off the head of a Tok'ra, for example, because they were...”
Jack snarked, “Being themselves? Come on, Danny-boy, we're not assigning them to any diplomatic missions. More as assault teams, would be my guess. Teal'c, we haven't heard the Jaffa point-of-view yet. What do you think?”
Impassively, Teal'c stated, “Colonel O'Neill, Buffy Summers showed herself to be a concerned and effective leader today. She used a weakness against you. That you did not succumb showed your strength. It will, I believe, forge the first links of the chain of trust we must have to work together. I was also most impressed by the young warrior. She showed true understanding and acceptance of the role of pain in the disciplinary process. I believe Master Bra'tac would be quite pleased.”
Jack remembered the iron-hard old Jaffa warrior. He rather suspected that Bra'tac would love
the slayers. All of them. Too bad the decision had been made to keep their existence a secret from all of Earth's off-world allies, at least for the present. It had been decided that there was too much of a chance of exposing their existence to a spy, thus blunting their effectiveness. Unfortunately, if there were repercussions from the policy, the SGC would have to deal with the fall out. Jack would worry about that when it happened. Right now, he was more worried that the girls would like their new homes. Cleveland, Ohio...
Willow slowly moved off of Xander, the sensation of him sliding out of her making her moan softly. She snuggled up against his sweaty body, enjoying the after-glow. Her contented sigh echoed through the room.
“So, are you permanently back to stick now that you've had a taste of 'Xander loving'?”
“Eww. 'Xander loving?' Why would that make me give up girls?” Willow teased as she lay with her head on Xander's shoulder, snuggled against his side.
“I'll have you know, woman, that I'm a legend...”
“In your own mind. I get it.” Willow grinned at Xander's affronted expression. She was actually lying like a dog. Whatever else you could say about Anya, she was one amazing teacher. The boy who had sloppily French-kissed her while clumsily fondling her tits back in twelfth grade was not the same one who had just given her four orgasms. The last one of which had made her legs stop working. The boy now had mad skills.
“Sure, sure. Keep telling me that. You lips may say one thing, but your... other lips say another thing. Ouch.” Xander grabbed Willow's hand to keep her from pinching him again.
“Pig.” Willow said affectionately.
“So, did I manage to distract you?” Xander stroked Willow's damp locks with his right hand as his held her close with left arm. The feeling of her snuggled against him was wonderful.
“Yes, until you brought it back up.” Willow poked Xander in the ribs with her free hand.
“Hey! I'm sorry, Willow. Me and my big mouth.”
Willow stopped poking and went back to snuggling. “It's okay, sweetiekins.”
“I just wish you hadn't promised Buffy, that's all.” Xander could feel Willow tense against him, then relax. He knew she didn't want to discuss this, but he felt like he had ask until he understood.
“Xander, we've gone over this. I had to do it.”
“I don't agree. You didn't have to. You chose to.” Xander cursed himself for being stubborn. What he really wanted to do more than anything else was to make love to Willow again. Open mouth and insert foot, he thought.
“Xander, after all of the things I've done to Buffy, I owe her. Big time.” Willow wished Xander could understand. She'd hurt Buffy too much not to do what she asked. Besides it wasn't as if she had promised Buffy to sacrifice her first-born child.
“Willow, where do you get that? It's a two way street from where I sit.” Xander stroked Willow's hip as he thought about how to communicate his vague suspicions about Buffy. Absolute power. It kept going back to that. Every time. Could you trust anyone with that much power? Even if she was your best friend who had died twice to save the world?
“I'm the one who ensouled the man she loved just in time for her to send him to hell. I'm the one who failed her against Glory, forcing her to sacrifice herself. I'm the one who pulled her out of Heaven and back to Earth. I'm the one who nearly killed her again when I went all black and veiny. I'm the one who didn't see the problems with the slayer empowerment spell. I'm... mmmph.” Willow lost all thought as she was being thoroughly kissed. Involuntarily she curled her toes against the bed as the kiss continued to deepen.
Xander stopped kissing Willow after a moment. “You done things. We all have. We've all made mistakes. Buffy as much as the rest of us. We got through it together.”
“This is together. You and me. We were just all about the together.”
Xander smiled and kissed Willow's temple. “That's not exactly what I'm talking about. Now stop trying to distract me. I just wish I knew why she wanted that.”
Willow rubbed her hand slowly across Xander's stomach. The soft hairs of his abdomen slid through her fingers. She could feel Xander's breath catch before he firmly grabbed her hand and took it in his. So much for distracting him, she thought. “She wouldn't say.”
“You should have asked.”
“I did ask. She just said 'I need you to trust me, Willow.' What was I supposed to do? Not trust her?”
“I don't know. You absolutely certain you don't have any idea what she's going to use it for?
“Xander, I promise I don't know why Buffy made me swear an oath by the Earth Mother to cast one spell for her, no questions asked, at a time of her choice. She only said it wouldn't be dangerous.”
Xander's only reply was a groan as Willow slid a smooth thigh across his groin. Okay, he thought, here goes round three...