Sorry this took so long to get posted. But the Friday before I was originally going to post, I was visiting a friend and was caught in a housefire, everyone was fine, but they lost everything they owned and their cats. Then things just got crazy hectic after that.
But here we are. At the end of this particular tale. Please, don’t ask for more, it’s not going to happen. I’m moving on to other stories that are clamoring for attention. Title:
Here’s Where I Stand By:
I own none of the familiar people and places. They all belong to their respective creators and production companies. Distribution:
My site – Worlds of Possibilities, ff.net, and TtH. Spoilers:
Anything through Chosen for Buffy is fair game, none for Magnificent Seven. Setting:
Three years after Chosen. Set in the ATF AU of Mag7. Summary:
Vin learns an even more shocking truth about Buffy. A/N:
Thanks to MOG for creating such a wonderful universe to play in. A/N2:
This is the end of this series. Don’t beg for more, cause there won’t be. A/N3:
This is a sequel to my fic ‘Caught In the Crossfire’. Here’s Where I Stand
Vin stared blankly at the baseball game on the television, an open but full beer bottle held loosely in his hand. He had hardly said two words since arriving at Chris’ ranch over an hour before.
Chris and Buck exchanged a knowing glance over his head. Buck made a gesture that Chris should say something to their friend. Chris gave him back a wry look that clearly said he wasn’t the one to handle this. He was never one to pry into anyone’s life unless it interfered with the job, and so far, Vin had no problems at work.
Buck rolled his eyes and turned his attention to Vin. “Whooee! It’s some game, huh,” he said, slapping Vin on the shoulder.
“Yeah,” Vin said, stirring enough to take a sip of his warm beer.
A quick look at the score showed the Pirates down by eight points in the fourth inning. It wasn’t hard to see Vin’s mind was somewhere else. “Wanna tell us what happened?” Buck softly asked.
“Tween you and Buffy,” Buck said. The rest of the team quietly let Buck handle things.
“What makes you think something happened?” Vin said sourly, taking a bigger swallow of his beer.
“It doesn’t take a genius to see that something’s been on your mind ever since you went to Cleveland a month ago. You’re quieter than usual and you’re moping again.”
“Buck, anyone ever tell ya that ya talk too much,” Vin said dryly, causing Chris to chuckle.
“Damn it, Vin. We’re just worried about ya. You haven’t mentioned Buffy all month and she’s comin’ to town permanently in a few days. What’s goin’ on?”
“We broke up,” Vin said simply, his eyes glued to the GEICO commercial as if it was the most interesting thing in the world.
“What? When?” JD asked in surprise.
“You mean Dawn didn’t say anything to you?” Buck questioned the youngest member of the team.
“She mentioned some sort of upheaval and that she was busy. I haven’t talked to her in a few weeks. I just figured they were busy packing,” JD replied with a shrug.
was Buffy’s ex showing up. One she thought was dead,” Vin said, picking at the label on his beer bottle. He so
did not want to have this discussion now.
“So she left you to go back to him?” Buck asked, trying to see if he had his facts right.
“Actually, I left her,” Vin said, standing to take his beer back to the kitchen.
“So she could go back to him,” Buck concluded.
“No, ‘cause she’s crazy. Literally. Like she should be locked away crazy,” he said, leaving the room.
A stunned silence fell over the rest of the team. Even Ezra who had had his doubts about her was honestly shocked. Buffy had seemed so normal to them.
Without a word, they stood and followed Vin into the kitchen. He was standing with his hands braced against the counter, looking out the window.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” Vin said tersely. His body filled with tension.
“My friend, you can’t just drop a bomb like that on us and expect us not to be curious,” Ezra chided him softly.
Vin spun around and glared at him. “What do want ta hear, Ez? That you were right. She really is a fraud. That she’s some sort of lunatic who believes in monsters? And not only that, but she’s gotta whole organization believing her.”
“I never said she was a fraud, just that there wasn’t something right about her records or the Council’s. I was only worried about you,” Ezra said softly. He dropped his gaze in defeat.
“Yeah, well she believes she’s some sort of demon fighter and that the company is her guide or something,” Vin growled in frustration. “Have you ever heard of such nonsense? She even claimed that she’s died twice. The second time she was dead for months.”
“It’s not nonsense,” Josiah said firmly, causing all of them to look at him in disbelief.
“Care to elaborate?” Chris asked, his voice low and calm.
“Vampires, demons, they’re real,” Josiah said with a shrug, “as is the girl who fights them. I’m surprised you didn’t believe her, Vin, what with your Native American background and all.”
“Have you ever seen one?” Nathan asked.
“Got attacked by a vampire during my travels as a young man. This little girl came in and saved my ass. I’ve never seen anyone who moved or fought like her before or since. I did some research and came across the legend of the Slayer.”
“That’s what she called herself,” Vin said, his blue eyes wide.
It was Josiah’s turn to be surprised. “Then she must be good at what she does. According to the legend most of them don’t make it to eighteen, let alone past that.”
“Wait a minute, how do they become a slayer and why would they be so young?” Chris asked.
“When one dies, the next is called,” Vin said, his eyes growing distant as he remembered Buffy’s words to him that night.
“Vin, if she truly is the slayer, you’ll have to be able to accept that part of her,” Josiah said gravely. “To try and deny it is to deny who she is. If you really care for her, it shouldn’t matter, but if you can’t handle it, perhaps it is
better that you broke it off when you did.” Then the older man left the kitchen and the others, except for Chris and Vin, followed.
“You alright, cowboy?” Chris asked, once they were alone.
“Honestly, I don’t know. I feel like my whole world has been turned upside down,” Vin admitted.
“Yeah, a woman will do that to a man,” Chris said with a slight grin. “C’mon, let’s finish watching the game. Let this new information stew for a while.”
Buffy and Dawn stood in the baggage claim area and waited for their luggage. The annoying children in the row behind them had made the entire flight miserable. Not that Buffy wasn’t miserable before, but now she was doubly miserable.
Dawn had wisely kept her mouth shut about Vin’s disappearance that night after Spike’s miraculous return and Buffy’s somber mood ever since. She knew that there was nothing she could say to make things better, so she did the only thing she could. She made sure she was there when Buffy needed her and tried not to cause any problems or grief. So far, she had succeeded.
She hated that Vin had done this to her sister. Not that she could entirely blame him. Their world was even hard for them to believe on some days, but he could have at least given Buffy a chance to prove it. Instead he declared her crazy and walked out. Leaving her to pick up the Buffy shaped pieces and try to put them back together, only she worried that it may not be possible this time around.
The closer they got to moving day, the quieter and more apathetic Buffy got. The life that Vin had brought to her eyes was gone and left them dull and pained. If she were a worse person, she would have found a way to hex him.
“May I offer you ladies some assistance?” A tall man with grey hair asked.
Buffy blinked up at him in surprise. The first real emotion she had displayed in weeks. “Josiah? What are you doing here?”
“Helping out a friend.”
“If Vin wants me to not stay he…”
Josiah held up a hand to quiet her. “I’m here to help you.”
Buffy’s eyes dropped in embarrassment. “I thought that Vin would have told you why we broke up.”
“He did, and I believe you,” he said, his voice firm and kind.
Both women looked up at him in surprise. “You do?” Buffy choked out.
“I do, and I would love to tell you the story, but I don’t think this is the place,” he said, indicating the bustling airport.
“Right,” Dawn readily agreed.
“My car is waiting outside. Is there anything I can carry?” Josiah asked with a toothy grin.
“You can carry Dawn’s bags, she over packed,” Buffy replied, the hint of a true smile peeking around the corners of her mouth.
“Me?” Dawn scoffed, thrilled at Buffy’s meager expression. “I limited myself to four pairs of shoes. You packed like you didn’t believe the rest of our stuff was going to arrive for a month.”
“But my bags have wheels, yours don’t,” Buffy reminded her.
“Good point,” Dawn said with a nod. She turned to Josiah. “You can carry my bags. I’m Dawn, by the way,” she said, holding her hand out.
He shook her hand with a firm grip. “Josiah Sanchez, at your service.”
“The profiler,” she said with a grin. “Cool.”
Buffy grabbed a large gym bag off the conveyor belt as it rode by and hefted the strap onto her shoulder. She relinquished the handle of her own suitcase to Dawn and then pointed out Dawn’s bags to Josiah. He let out a small grunt as he picked them up.
The slayer gave her sister a look that clearly said I told you so. Then they followed Josiah out of the airport and to his SUV. The vehicle was loaded up in silence and it wasn’t until they were on the road before anyone spoke.
Dawn leaned forward from her spot in the backseat so her head was between Josiah’s and Buffy’s. “So how do you know about the Slayer?”
“When I graduated from college I wandered the country and the world for two years, just to see it. This thing jumped me one night and this young woman swooped in and killed him. Once she made sure I was fine, she turned to leave, but I asked a question. She answered and disappeared into the night.”
“I’m assuming it was something along the lines of ‘What the hell was that?’” Dawn asked with a grin.
“It was,” Josiah replied, grinning back. He pulled to a stop at a red light. “I did some research here and there and learned of the legend. About the girl who protected us all on her own. It’s what prompted me to become a cop. I wanted to give my generation’s slayer one less bad guy to worry about.”
“Where did you meet her?” Dawn asked since Buffy had seemed to lose the ability to talk.
“New York City, 1977,” he answered.
Dawn exchanged a look with her sister. “Nikki Wood.”
“You knew of her?” Josiah asked with interest.
“She’s one of the few who managed to make it past eighteen, even managed to have something of a normal life. Her son is also on the Board,” Dawn explained with a sad smile.
“What happened to her?” Josiah asked, dreading the answer. On an intellectual level he knew she had to have died at some point since Buffy had been Called, but a small part of him still pictured her as a guardian angel of the Earth.
“A vampire had a good day,” Buffy said, watching the scenery pass by them without really seeing it.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” he said, clearly meaning it. He waited to see if they had any more questions.
“Are you sure you know where you’re going?” Dawn asked, giving Buffy a moment to collect herself. Spike was the indirect cause of Buffy’s heartbreak and having the reminder of one of the slayers he had killed had to have been a jolt.
“Yes,” Josiah said with a deep chuckle. “Vin gave me the address, along with directions.”
Dawn visibly winced at the mention of Vin and sent a worried look over to her sister. Thankfully she didn’t seem to have heard.
The rest of the drive was done in silence. Dawn watched the houses fly by with interest. She wasn’t going to be spending all that much time in Denver since she was still in college, but she loved going to new places. The fact that JD lived here as well didn’t hurt.
Josiah guided his old Suburban into a driveway and Dawn frowned at the motorcycle parked in front of the two-car garage. Surely it didn’t belong to the neighbors.
“I’m afraid I’m not your only visitor today,” Josiah said, pointing to the porch.
Dawn squealed in delight as she recognized the young man leaning against a post. She quickly unbuckled and nearly flew out of the vehicle. “JD!”
JD met her halfway and caught her in his arms.
“He wanted to come with me to the airport, but it took him longer than expected to get Team Five’s electronic expert up to speed,” Josiah apologized.
“You alone were more than I expected,” Buffy admitted softly. “I was sure all of you would think I was crazy.”
“Just give Vin some time. He may come around yet. It was just a shock to him the way it came out.”
“It wasn’t exactly what I had planned either,” Buffy said, exhaling wistfully.
“You never know, the boy may come to his senses yet. JD adjusted quickly enough.”
“He’s had a month,” Buffy said dryly.
“Actually, we only got Vin to talk to us four days ago,” JD said, joining them. “Personally I think it’s cool that you’re some sort of superhero.”
“And we thank you for sacrificing so much to keep our world safe,” Josiah said, tipping an imaginary hat.
Buffy flushed and averted her eyes. “You’re welcome.” She was unaccustomed to getting any sort of thanks for doing her duty.
“Well, let’s get started on those boxes you have in there, shall we?” Josiah suggested, sensing Buffy’s pleased, but obviously embarrassed, reaction.
“So what will you really be doing in Denver?” JD asked as they entered the house.
“Running a training facility for older slayers and new watchers. Not all of the slayers that were activated are young. We’ve got a few hundred that are older than twenty. They’re too old for the school we run, so instead we offer training seminars so they can learn how to deal with their new powers,” Buffy explained.
“New powers?” JD asked.
“More strength, faster healing, speed, and heightened senses. You wouldn’t believe how easy it is to break an alarm clock,” Buffy said with a rueful smile.
“And the watchers?”
“Most of the old ones died with either their potentials or during the explosion of the Council House. So we have to train new ones – in fighting, research and magic.”
“You’re gonna be busy,” JD said in awe.
“I’ll just be doing the fighting part. We have others covering the other areas, thank goodness. I’m not big on the book stuff.”
“I think you sell yourself short. Anyone who can set up a facility like that isn’t exactly dumb,” Josiah admonished her.
“Give it up, Josiah. We’ve been trying to tell her that for years,” Dawn teased, earning a glare from her sister. To which she promptly responded by sticking out her tongue.
“Where would you like to start?” Josiah asked, looking at all of the boxes.
“How about the kitchen?” Buffy asked, slightly overwhelmed by how much she was going to have to unpack.
A month later a timid knock at the door interrupted Buffy’s first class at the new facility. The door opened and a young woman poked her head in.
“I’m sorry, Ms. Summers, but there’s an ATF agent here to see you,” Jenna, one of the slayers there for the week, said.
“Did he say who he was?”
“No, just that it was important that he saw you,” she replied.
Buffy frowned. It had to be some sort of official business. Any members of Team 7 would have given Jenna their name. “Tell him I’ll be right there,” Buffy said, before turning back to her class. “I’m sorry. This should only take a few minutes. Just relax and I’ll be back as soon as possible.”
She quickly left the classroom and made her way to the front desk. Since she and Dawn had arrived in Denver, one by one the rest of Team 7, minus Vin, had come over to the house to see her.
Nathan had seemed a bit hesitant around her but was friendly enough. He had brought his wife Raine with him and had stayed for a few hours. Buck was his usual jovial self. It seemed nothing could deter him for long once he had deemed someone a good person. He had stayed for dinner and made her promise to stop by The Saloon one day. Inez had been worried about her.
Ezra’s visit had been short. He had spent most of his time apologizing for snooping into her background. Buffy forgave him since he was only worried about Vin. His last girlfriend had still been married and had messed with Vin’s head. Ezra had had his suspicions but had done nothing; he just didn’t want to repeat his mistake from before.
Chris had only stopped by several days before. He was as quiet as usual, but she could detect a sympathetic gleam in his eye. Not once did he bring up Vin or her declaration that vampires were real. He didn’t treat her any differently than before, which made her grateful.
Josiah came by at least once a week for dinner and his calm and understanding presence had helped her heal a little. JD was over nearly every other day. Buffy had the sneaky suspicion that they had moved past the ‘just friends’ stage, but Dawn was keeping quiet about it in fear of upsetting Buffy. While it did depress her some, she was glad that Dawn was happy and that she didn’t have to hide anything from her boyfriend. He and Dawn were getting along great.
Her heart nearly stopped beating as she recognized the tall, lithe form in the lobby. She was not prepared for this. Nowhere near prepared. His back was to her and she could easily slip out the way she came and he would never know the difference.
However, Jenna saw her and called out. Vin turned and could clearly see her frozen in the hallway. He gave her an unsure wave and smile.
“Hey,” he said softly.
“I’m busy,” she said flatly, turning to leave.
“Wait,” he said, taking several steps towards her. She paused but didn’t turn back around. “I just want to talk.”
“I really am busy. I’m in the middle of a class,” she said, her shoulders rigid with tension.
“I know, J’siah told me,” he admitted.
“Then why?” She began in exasperation as she turned back to him.
“He thought it would help if I listened in.”
Buffy studied him carefully. He seemed genuine and she knew he had a hard time lying to people, which is why he rarely went undercover. If he was here it meant he was trying to come to grips and understand what she had told him months ago.
“Fine, let’s go,” she said, her tone softening some. As long as he was trying, she’d meet him halfway.
“Thanks,” he said, his long legs quickly allowing him to catch up to her. “Which class is first?” He asked, following her through the corridor.
“It’s a Watcher training class, to help prepare them for an active slayer. Most of the ones in this class are former Watchers who’ve joined the New Council,” she explained. She watched him out of the corner of her eye to see his reaction, but he merely nodded.
Not sure what to make of it, she lead him into the classroom. It was nothing more than a large open room with mats on the floor at one end and chairs at the other. There were ten people seated looking curiously at them as they entered.
“This is Vin Tanner. He’s going to sit in with you today,” Buffy said, pointing at an empty chair.
Buffy ran a hand through her loose blonde hair. “So, what you need to know about your slayer that they didn’t tell you in Old Council. Take everything they told you and throw it out the window.”
“Excuse me?” An older man with a British accent asked in surprise.
“You were taught to stand apart from your slayer, to not get involved, and to make the slayer stand on her own,” Buffy stated matter of factly.
Vin was shocked at what she had said. From what little he had gleamed from what she had told him, her Watcher and friends always stood next to her. Had that not been the same for the slayers before her?
“If you’re good, you can’t not
get attached. If you’re good, you will form a unique bond with your slayer. She needs attachments, something to hold her here, to give her a reason to keep fighting.”
She took time to look each one of them in the eye as she continued. “Every slayer carries a death wish. The moment she decides she has done enough, that it is no longer worth it, that she is tired of the fighting, the violence, and the death. That is the real moment she is defeated. With her heart no longer in the fight, some nasty is going to find himself having a real good day.”
The class sat in stunned silence. The fact that he knew that she had died twice made her speech penetrate deep into Vin’s heart. With those simply spoken words it had transformed her in his eyes. His world expanded as he finally got what Josiah had been trying to tell him.
different. She did
view the world differently than most. But that didn’t mean she was crazy. Her world was filled with darkness but she always seemed to fill those around her with love and laughter. Just the little moments he had shared with her, the ones he had witnessed her share with others ran through his head. Her joy after the fear of the Top Thrill Dragster, her teasing Buck about Inez, the way her eyes lit up when she saw him, her laughter as she chased Dawn around the kitchen, how she seemed to live each day as a gift.
He blinked; because for her they were.
And she wanted to share her life with him. She had deemed him worthy. Well, at least, she had. Who knows if she still cared for him anymore.
Not that he would blame her. After his actions that night and his silence since then he was surprised that she had even allowed this. He could only hope it was a good sign.
With new eyes and ears he soaked in the rest of Buffy’s lecture. Before he knew it, she was sending them off to Dawn’s Research In Real Life class. He stayed seated and watched her as the others exited.
Buffy warily looked at him. “I have another class in five minutes so still no time to talk.”
“Can I stay for it, too?”
“Don’t you have to work?” She asked wearily. This was all so sudden and she knew she wouldn’t be able to handle it if he rejected her again.
“Chris gave me the day off.”
Her eyes widened. “Really?” He nodded. “Well, the next group is a set of older slayers who had no clue that they were even potentials.”
“I thought you said that they were all taken from their families as kids and raised by the Council,” Vin said, referring to one of the things from the last class.
“Not all. I knew nothing until I was Called. These girls weren’t on the Council’s radar either,” she said with a shrug.
“If you don’t mind me askin’, but when were you Called?” He asked.
“Fifteen,” she said flatly.
Mentally he did some figuring. It meant she had been doing this for over ten years. It was staggering.
“I need to move the chairs back and lay out more mats,” she said, walking away from him.
Vin jumped to his feet and helped her set up the room. They had just finished when twenty girls entered the room. He took his place back in the corner of the room and again let Buffy expose him to more of her world.
Buffy removed her shoes and pulled her hair up into a ponytail, making her look younger than her twenty-five years. She patiently waited until the women followed suit.
“I know most of you are only able to be here for a week, so we’re going to concentrate on control and how to handle your hunting instinct,” Buffy said, standing before them with her hands on her hips.
One woman in the back asked, “Hunting instinct?”
“I’m sure you’ve felt it: the need to go out at night, an urge to wander into the dark, a compulsion to seek something that’s hiding.”
Vin could see several of them nodding their heads reluctantly in agreement.
“It’s part and parcel of being the Slayer, to make sure that you are fulfilling your duties. But there are so many of us that it’s not necessary for you to fight. You can live a relatively normal life. You just need to learn control,” Buffy explained.
“But will that need always be there?” Another woman asked in concern.
“Always,” Buffy said sadly. “And while you can’t ignore it, you can convert it to something else.”
“Like what?” The same woman asked.
“Workout after the sun goes down. If you’re lucky enough to have another slayer nearby you could spar couple times a week. And control will always help.”
Vin stared at Buffy in surprise. He had always noticed the burst of energy she’d have in the evening, but he always thought she was just a night owl. The longest length of time they had ever spent together was four days and he wondered if she had ever hunted during that time. To be able to control such urges meant she was strong. Stronger than she had ever let on.
He watched as Buffy taught them a meditative kata. He couldn’t believe how quickly the women learned it. In just forty minutes they had learned the fifteen-minute kata well enough that Buffy was able to walk through them and correct their form without her leading them.
However, none of them performed the moves with the grace and fluidity that Buffy did. He wondered if it was an experience thing or something that was just Buffy.
By the time the class was over the women appeared to be calmer and more centered. Buffy promised to talk to them again in the afternoon session.
“That was amazin’,” Vin said, when they found themselves alone again.
She merely nodded and sat in a chair a few feet away from him. “I’m on break until after two,” she said.
“Could we talk now?” He asked hopefully.
“Sure, shoot,” she said with a tired shrug.
“I’m sorry,” he said, his Texan accent thickening with emotion. “I should’ve never told ya that you were crazy. It was all so sudden and outta left field that I didn’t know what to make of it.”
“And now?” She asked, her hazel eyes studying him carefully.
“After listening to what J’siah had to say, what JD has told me, hearing what you talked about today, and knowing you like I do, or at least, I thought I did, I know I was wrong,” he said, looking her straight in the eye as if willing her to believe him.
“I do what?” He asked.
“Know me. You just didn’t know about my job. But you knew the important things,” she said firmly.
“A’right, and now that I know that, I understand your motivations a bit better. And I’ve only come ta one conclusion.”
Buffy chewed on her lower lip as she waited for his declaration. This was it. The point of no return. This was either the definite end or a new beginning.
Vin got out of his chair and walked over to her. He took one of her small hands into his larger ones and crouched down in front of her. “Buffy, I was a fool. A fool for not believin’ in ya, for walkin’ out, and mostly for not callin’.
“These past two months have been hell without ya. I miss ya. And if you could find some way to forgive me, I’d like another chance,” he finished, his blue eyes bright with unshed tears.
Buffy let out a small sniffle and her voice quavered slightly as she spoke. “Are you sure about this? Cause living with me now that I live in the same city can get dangerous for you. Once the demons and vampires learn about us you’ll become a target, just like Dawn.”
“Just answer me this, were ya ever gonna tell me?” Vin gently asked.
She nodded. “I had planned to after I got the facility running. I would have been able to show you proof. Until then, you were safe.”
“Then yes, this is what I want.”
“And you know I can’t change this. It’s part of who I am. I’m stronger and faster than you.”
“Heck, that’ll just make things interestin’,” he said with a smile. “It’s just another part of you. I love you.”
The tears slipped down Buffy’s cheeks as her heart flooded with emotion. She had never thought she’d ever hear those words from him again.
“Aww, now I didn’t mean to make ya cry,” he said, wiping away her tears with his thumb.
She brought up her free hand to cup his jaw. Her thumb ran lightly over the seemingly ever present stubble there. “I love you, too,” she said through her tears.
The blonde leaned forward and placed a chaste kiss on his lips. As she pulled away, Vin followed her and pressed his lips against her with more urgency. Buffy parted her lips as her blood turned to fire, heating from the inside.
It had been so long that she had forgotten that just one touch from him could awaken her senses like no other. He shifted till he was between her legs and pressed against her. His hand grasped at the thin t-shirt she was wearing in effort to not rip it from her petite frame. As much as he wanted to, now was not the time or place to ravish her.
With regret he broke the kiss. “We should save this until later,” he said a little breathlessly.
“Promise?” She purred.
“I’m not walking away from you again,” he swore, leaning in to kiss her again to seal it.