Title: Don't Tread on Me
Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer belongs to Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy productions. Supernatural belongs to Eric Kripke and Warner Brothers... I think.
Spoilers: Spn through season 3, btvs 7
“Well that went crappy,” Buffy sighed and scuffed her heels in the dirt. Giles murmured under his breath and continued to frown beside her. The two of them sat in the now empty barn on bales of hay, little straws jabbing into their pants. The afternoon had grown late and the sun was casting long shadows across the dusty floor.
After Bobby Singer had spoken up the whole meeting had been done for.
Giles wasn't naïve. He could sympathize with the Hunter's anger. He knew all about the Council's policy's, their medieval methods of control and archaic practices. He'd done his best to protect his own Slayer from that. Buffy had never realized how lucky she was to born a continent away and Giles hoped she never found out. Their interference on her birthday had been bad enough.
He had tried to explain, after Bobby's speech, that things would change at the council. That the old practices were dead. That they weren't simply rebuilding but trying to reform it. That neither he nor any watcher would dream of kidnapping a Slayer from her home, and compromises could be made for training if their daughters were Slayer's.
They hadn't wanted to listen. The whole debate had quickly degenerated into hurled insults, accusations and name calling. Buffy had responded in kind, just shy of calling them mindless yokels and Giles himself had nearly told a tattooed biker he was a 'gormless prat.' It reminded him of some age old feud, with hurts and betrayals going to deep on either side to be considered rationally. The Council and the Hunters as Capulets and Montagues. Lord, it gave him a headache.
It was far worse then their worst predictions, and all because they didn't know any damn better. They didn't know anything about these people, what they fought and how they lived, even after Xander's remarkable success. Apparently that had been the equivalent of a 'hello nice to meet you'. Not the historical and psychological profile they'd hoped to acquire. The implication of so much twisted history between the Hunting community and the council left Giles disturbed.
The Council's sparse records left them with tremendous gaps in their knowledge of the community. What they didn't know about Hunters could probably fill a library. They were hard enough to find much less talk to. They had become so good being invisible, working undetected, and staying off the grid that they might as well have not existed at all. What Bobby's speech had told him, was that their information barely scratched the surface of the Hunters history. Giles wondered, had they known more about the men and women they'd come to convince, if would it have made a difference.
“Giles?” Buffy suddenly prodded him, and drew him out of his brooding. He looked up and for a moment she resembled the teenager she'd once been, who came to him for advice, and weapons, lolly-pops and hall passes.
“I didn't... This wasn't my fault was it?” She asked out of the blue. Giles shook his head and rushed to reassure her.
“No, no of course not,” he said. He didn't know if it was or wasn't really. A lot of the Hunter's initial belligerence could have come from her, but Giles didn't blame her. She'd done exactly what she always did with new Slayers. That was what she knew.
“There is no way of knowing if it could have gone better Buffy. We know so little about these people. The last official contact I can find between the Watchers and Hunters was over a hundred years ago.”
“But all that stuff they were yelling about, that couldn't have been a hundred years ago.”
“Could there have been unofficial contact?” She mused. Giles nodded and dug into his coat pocket for a handkerchief.
“More than likely I think. But if so, it was illegal or... shady, and they didn't keep any records. Anyone who could tell us is now...”
“Dead,” Buffy finished.
“Yes,” Giles said, sadly.
“Giles what that guy said, about that old war and Watchers kidnapping Slayers, did they really?”
“Its quite possible. The Council always considered the Slayers and Potentials their... property, no matter what the country. As for the war,” Giles continued, “according to the diaries that I remember, after a truce was signed with the French the Council approached the English colonies offering to set up another headquarters here in America, to protect the local settlements. They were rudely refused and told in so many words to 'piss off'. I'm sure there's much more to the story, but that's all I know.”
Giles paused and looked out open barn doors. A few Hunters were still there sharing a smoke, water and conversation under the eves before they too scattered to the winds. They were, Giles thought, an intriguing people. A culture of gypsies that had survived the centuries and still thrived in the modern world. He would have loved to learn more about them, if things had been different.
“I guess it's over,” Buffy sighed. It was probably true and Giles couldn't hide his disappointment at that.
Not far away, down in the dell below the barn the trees were rustling gently, greeting each Hunter that came stalking beneath them. Bobby marched through the tall grass at the edge of the vale, while the boys John had left him in everything but name followed behind like a pair of defiant pups.
“Bobby?” Dean called, stomping through the dirt in his heavy biker boots to catch up with the old man. You'd never think Bobby was, what, sixty? Guy moved like hamster when he was pissed.
“Not a word, from either of you two blockheads,” Bobby growled over his shoulder. He was worried. It was easier to turn it in to anger and keep going, but the truth was, it was fear gnawing deep at his gut. Fear for the boys, for the future. Things were a mess already. Demons were walking the earth, old ones. A god-damned feudal war was going on between them, fighting each other and fighting Hunters, and while every petty beelzebub was vying for power human beings were getting caught in the crossfire. Now the Council was moving in? Hell, they might as well castrate themselves.
“You two were supposed to lay low and stay quiet,” Bobby growled. “How many times have I told you these folks are bad news, always have been,” he rumbled. It might have been alright if they'd remained unnoticed, but Dean just had to put his foot in it. John's boys might as well have wanted posters with their names on them given how many demons were after them. Now the Watchers Council was gonna be poking their nose in too. Since that little display in the barn it was only a matter of time before they came looking. Hell, he'd be burning his house off the map with every bit of magic he knew if he hadn't done it already.
“I shoulda sent you two off with Jo. It'd be a helluva lot safer. The only reason I let you come at all...”
“You needed me here and you know it,” Dean cut him off. “By the way, their both clean in case you didn't catch that.”
Bobby spun around and Dean faced him open arms, Sam standing solid behind his back like a specter. It was true. They'd needed the boys, well, needed Dean, but taking one without the other was like trying to separate H2o. Hell the only reason he'd come himself was because Dean was there. There was no way a possessing demon could sneak past him unnoticed.
Dean had spent three months in Hell. That was human time, who knew how long it had been for Dean. He wouldn't say, but he was still feeling the aftereffects months later. The hallucinations he'd gotten from the hellhounds, and then from hell itself kept him attuned to local demons like a god-damned radar. He saw their true faces, no matter who they possessed. It made him damn useful to have around, but it wore on the soul. Bobby was hoping it was just a symptom that would fade, but he didn't know. No one had ever come back from hell, not that Bobby knew of, not ever. He didn't know how it had happened either, just that Sam had something to do with it. From the dark and trodden look in that kids eyes Bobby wasn't sure he wanted to know either.
Whatever had happened, they should have kept the whole thing to themselves. Hell Dean had only let two people know about Sam and his psychic thing, the whole community found out anyway. They should know better, the both of them. They didn't have to advertise to the god-damned Watchers. Bobby hadn't been so close to decking one of the boys since Dean had gone to the crossroads. That damn family never learned to just let it lie. This wasn't even life or death, just a couple of insults that should have fallen off them like water off a duck. He could hardly believe Sam had joined in. He used to be able to count on Sam to have some sense, but he was becoming even more reckless than his brother.
“Oh I caught your heads up Dean, and so did they, real subtle there.”
“Come on Bobby, gimme a break,” Dean groaned throwing his head back in exasperation.
“I should break your backside for opening your mouth. Nodding like blooming elephant wasn't bad enough.” Bobby stomped forward, pointing a finger at Dean's chest. Their voices started to rise over the country dell as two Winchesters and Singer went at it.
“We only said what every Hunter in there was thinking. They were about riot,” Sam argued behind them and Dean picked up his line like the two were a comedy damn act.
“Someone would have called them on that arrogant crap they were dishing out,” he finished.
“Your damn right they would have,” Bobby yelled, losing his grip on his patience, “but it shouldn't have been you!”
“We're not ten Bobby,” Sam argued, spreading his hands as if to emphasis his six foot four height. “You can't send us packing like kids, and working a job instead isn't any safer.”
“The hell it isn't,” Bobby hissed, stepping forward and getting in their faces. “This ain't vengeful spirit dangerous. This is government dangerous.” The two brothers shifted their feet and looked at each other, nervous now. Bobby looked back and forth. “Do I have you attention now? Imagine the god-damned FBI with psychics, seers, magic and inhumanly strong fighters to work for them.”
“Eeugh. Super villain Henrickson,” Dean made a gagging face.
“Damn right,” Bobby nodded. “Do you have any idea what that Council would do if they found out about the two of you. They're the damned supernatural Inquisition. If they decide something or someone is too dangerous or dark they take them out. Try, convict and execute. They'd take Sam in an instant and you wouldn't be far behind Dean. Hell I'd be cooling my heels in a cell for half the books I've got on demon lore, and there's no other body big enough the gainsay them if they catch you. So Hunters don't get caught. You two are all I got left for family, and I'll be damned if I'm gonna lose you. Especially not to some damn Watcher.”
Silence descended on the dell for moment, broken by the rising sound of crickets in the evening. The Winchesters each had a head turned to the side in perfect unison. They looked at each other, than back at Bobby, and Dean frowned and asked,
“Does have anything to do with McKinley's disappearance?”
Bobby sighed and readjusted his cap, he'd been playing with that a lot lately Dean noticed. He wasn't used to Bobby being so nervous, normally he was their rock. He was the guy they called up on a hunt when they were stumped, and would sedately calm them down and tell them what morons they were. They were used to Bobby knocking them for stupid pranks and antics, the Trickster came to mind as Dean glance back at his little brother. But Bobby always had a little laugh under his gruff insults before. Now it was different. All Dean could hear was fear, and that made him angry. Bobby Singer had faced down a sea of demons, and gone up against Lilith for them. He didn't want Bobby to be afraid of something so... human.
“Bill's daughter got called as one of these new Slayers,” Bobby admitted. “ I don't know how they found her, but someone came looking and they booked out of Jersey as soon as they could, afraid they'd take her. Hell the girl was only thirteen.”
Bobby looked up at them both, his eyes weary and sad.
“Your dad didn't learn to travel round just because of the work, or to keep the police off his tail, he didn't want the council to find you either.”
A cold breeze came drifting through the vale, rattling the trees and sending chills down their spines. All three men huddled deeper in their coats and wondered in the privacy of their minds if it was a sign. Bobby shrugged his shoulder and waved them under the trees where the sleek outline of the Impala waited.
“Come on, lets get our asses home.”
Ellen shook hands with the last Hunters leaving the barn, reminded them to be careful, and blessed their roads with a whispered prayer to old Sarn Elen. Her family hadn't been Welsh since her great grandfather's day, but hell, she figured every little bit helped.
The sun was running low on the horizon, shadows long and sharp on the ground. Soon it would be getting dark and she'd have to light the candles round the barn to keep up the protections if anyone was still here. She heaved a sigh and rested her hands on her hips, looking out over the dry, yellow country before turning round and going back to check the place.
The barn was full of shadows and the sweet hay smell. There weren't any Hunters still lurking about, but sitting by the old rusted wagon on a bale of hay were their two visitors, lingering with hung heads. The Watcher and his Slayer sat together with shoulders slumped in the dying sunlight. They were such a comically dejected sight that Ellen nearly laughed. The poor Slayer looked like her girl Jo when she had been stuck hauling beer back at the roadhouse. Such a long faced pout on that girl.
The Watcher was sitting with his knees on his elbows, methodically wiping his glasses as if they were a pair of meditation balls. His long hansom faced stared out at nothing, lost in thought, and Ellen figured he probably didn't have any idea he was still cleaning his lenses.
Ellen shook her head, exasperated at herself at being such a gull for dejected souls. Probably why she opened the old Roadhouse in the first place. She walked slowly up to the pair, softening the sound of her steps on the spread hay. Then propped her foot up on a broken barrel and rested her own elbows on her knee while she leaned forward and regarded them both.
“You two look as happy as dead pigs in the sunshine,” she announced.
The Watcher jumped in his seat and dropped his glasses as he spun around. Ellen chuckled gently at the man. His Slayer though, she just looked up once and glared, not surprised at all. Probably heard her approach from the door. Ellen remembered Bobby saying something about a Slayer having improved senses, like a vampire. She shuddered inwardly at the idea. It sounded like messing around with nature to her, not something that should be tampered with. Still, she'd felt the same way about Sam at first. She figured, if she could give a psychic a chance, she could afford a Slayer the same courtesy.
The Watcher rose from his seat to address her, picking up his glasses first.
“Oh, ah, Mrs. Harvelle, we didn't know you were still here.”
“It's no trouble Watcher,” she said, offering the poor man a smile. “I gotta make sure everyones out of here by sundown, or else light the candles.”
“Oh...” Giles paused and looked around the barn, noticing for the first time the torch brackets placed in the barn's four corners. Above them he could just pick out the outlines of symbols drawn in chalk.
“Extraordinary,” he mumbled, looking about. That was complicated magic of some sort, not amateur stuff. Anya would have been impressed. He'd have to bring Willow here someday.
“Why sundown?” Buffy asked, suspicious. “What is it with this place?”
Ellen chuckled and shook her head.
“Well that would be telling,” she said, “and there ain't nothing Hunters love so much as their secrets.”
“Yeah, we got that,” the Slayer grumbled standing up and crossing her arms.
“I expect that's one thing we have in common then,” Ellen drawled. The Slayer shrugged. She looked like she wanted to pursue it but an intent cough from her Watcher closed her mouth. She looked back and forth between Ellen and Giles, who was shifting nervously on his feet, and announced,
“I'll go wait by the car.” She threw a suggestive little smirk at her Watcher over her shoulder as she left.
“Yes thank you Buffy,” Giles said with an wince. Ellen raised her brows,
“Oh she's got spunk,” she said.
“You have no idea,” the Watcher mumbled, putting his glasses back on. They stood together for a moment, Ellen waiting and Giles awkwardly sticking his hands in his pockets while each one wondered what the other had going through their mind. Finally Giles cleared his throat and said,
“Um, I wanted to thank you for helping Xander before I left, I know it was mostly your word that put all this together.”
“I just lent hand, that boy seemed pretty earnest when he came by.”
“He's worked very hard for this. I just wish it could have gone better.”
“You trying to sell me another line about your Council here,” Ellen asked, amused.
“Guilty I'm afraid,” He admitted with a self-deprecating little smile. “I must sound like traveling salesman to you.”
Ellen laughed outright at that. Hell she'd heard stories of the Watchers like every other Hunter. Even met a few herself, scary, stuffed up sons of bitches that they were. But she'd give it to this man, he was trying hard, even with his tail between his legs. If this was the man Xander Harris had learned from she could see where he got some of those fine, earnest traits of his. She was half convinced to give him a hand.
“You want some advice Watcher?” She asked
“Giles please,” he insisted and Ellen nodded.
“Giles then. When the Watchers came round last time they were, frankly a bunch of arrogant asses hungry for power. Thought we were grunt labor. If you want to talk to any Hunters, you've gotta prove your different.”
“We knew we'd be up against their old reputation. I'd simply hoped some Buffy's history might prove the difference,” he said. He leaned back against the wagon with a sigh and regarded the fiery woman next to him. Of course it was difficult to judge her character, he barely knew her, but unlike the others she seemed willing to listen.
“You may not believe this but I do understand your reservations,” he offered softly, hoping that perhaps with just this one woman, he could make a connection. “I understand why your people have struggled to keep autonomy. It wasn't long ago that we, Buffy and I, were in your position. The old Council was... well they liked everyone under their thumb, the Slayer especially. Buffy called them 'evil and scary' if I recall correctly.”
Ellen smiled and nodded, a laugh hiding in the back of her throat.
“Sounds about right,” she said. “We did hear about you, Harris told some stories round the bar about the Slayer 'firing' the old codgers. That got a few folk to show up here. But when she started her speech making that girl sounded just like 'em. That isn't gonna buy friends no matter who you are. Especially the ones in Bobby's court.”
“Bobby? Ah yes I meant to ask, that man from before is that Robert Singer?” Giles inquired and Ellen nodded. “Do you know him well? He was something of a legend among the old Watchers, a bad legend if you will.”
Ellen chuckled and stepped off the hay bale, coming to stand beside him and lean an arm against the wagon.
“Yeah I know Bobby. He loves his whiskey and his dogs. He's a good man but he's dead set against the your Council, and its not just old history for Bobby, its personal.”
“Really. How so?”
“Don't know for sure,” Ellen shrugged, “but I know he got burned by them sometime in the past.”
“I see, and those two young men who were with him, do you know them?”
Ellen tensed up next to him, her smile dropping and her open posture closing up quick as a rattler bite.
“The Winchesters? Sure,” she said, cold as a north breeze. “Tough as nails and twice as sharp, the both of 'em. Why you asking?” She demanded, her voice taking on the sharp form of a threat.
“Ah...” Giles paused taking a mental step back, at the suddenly closed off bearing and the distinctly displeased mother bear vibe coming her. He thought of all reasons he had catalogued before, the allusion to a resurrection, very dangerous, the mention of demons from elder lore. He frowned, remembering some of the impressions he'd gotten from the three men back in the meeting. Odd little things which were adding up to an unhappy bigger picture.
Ellen could see the thoughts whirling through his head, and waited for some question about the Hunter's doings. Sam and Dean had practically let the whole cat out of the bag before, and every Hunter knew the Council man caught it.
“They were... intriguing,” the Watcher finally said. Ellen looked at him for moment, waiting for the other shoe to drop, but it didn't come. That was all he'd say, and finally she felt a warm relief that he wasn't going to push it. She was ready to trust him a bit more then the others, but not with family secrets, not yet. Even if she was, they weren't her secrets to tell.
“Intriguing huh? That's one way to look at 'em I guess. There's only two ways to go with a Winchester, either you love 'em, or you hate 'em. Whichever way you lean, Watcher, you'll half have the hunters buying you drinks and other half trying to knife you in your sleep because of it.”
“They sound... controversial.”
“You've no idea,” Ellen repeated his earlier words with a smirk. She considered him for awhile. It'd all come out eventually of course. That display of Dean's had gotten the crowd talking before they threw fists, but hell it was a good as a billboard saying 'we've got an apocalypse here'. The Watcher wasn't pushing now, and she was grateful, but he would eventually. She knew a smart man when she met one, and this one was waiting for the opportunity to sink his teeth into a mystery. Question was, could she risk trusting him with it or not. There wasn't a lot of room for stringent rules and black and white morality in hunting. Folks like Gordon Walker who felt that way got themselves in trouble, cause no hunter was squeaky clean.
“you know what, here.” Ellen grabbed a pen and a match pack from her shirt pocket, coming to a quick decision, and started writing on the back. “This is Bobby's place. You can find him there most of the year and I know the boys are staying with him right now.”
“What, I ah, thank you, Mrs Harvelle. This is quite... unexpected.”
“Well Harris vouched for you on his soul, Watcher or no Watcher.”
“Don't be honored just yet. Bobby might shoot you before you get past the porch, and if you breath a letter of that address to anyone else, even your Slayer, or make a move on any one of them I will put you down like dog,” she said, deadly serious and looking him straight in the eye so he knew it.
“May I ask,” Giles began gently, “why are you're telling me at all?”
“Because you seem like a good man,” she answered. “Because if you can convince Bobby your gold, you can convince anyone. Because I'm a woman and a mother, and unlike some around here I know enough to ask for help when I damn well need it. I'm hoping you can help them a little. In bad times you need all the friends you can get.”
“Very true,” Giles whispered, and wondered about that little statement. Yet another mention of bad times, and trouble. He was getting more and more sense that there was more going on then standard hunting.
“Good luck, and you watch yourself up there,” Ellen called as he shook her hand and walked away.
He left the barn and wandered back down to his car, parked on the little dirt drive next to a wild hedge. Buffy was by the car facing waiting for him. She looked like he'd seen her on patrol a hundred times, just waiting her opportunity to spring into action at the slightest sound of something wrong. He probably wouldn't have even gotten a whole scream out before she came running in to his aid.
“You get anything?” She asked crisply, all business when he reached the car.
“Yes, surprisingly,” he answered, digging the key out his pocket. He looked down at the little matchbook in his hand. “An address.”
“Great lets go,” Buffy declared throwing open the passenger door.
“No Buffy” Giles said immediately.
“What?” she asked, disbelief turning her mouth into an open fly trap. Giles watched her bounce on a the balls of her feet, ready for another fight, and knew that this was exactly why she shouldn't come, not yet. Buffy and her habit of looking for threats in every corner had just made an already belligerent crowd of Hunters, more hostile. They were clearly up against something, the mentions of elder demons giving Giles some spine chilling suppositions. Whatever it was it had them running scared. If they had perceived Buffy and himself as another threat, they would disappear so quickly it might take decades to find them all again. Good lord he should have seen it before. From Xander's stories they were acting like soldiers in the trenches, and despite this Ellen Harvelle had offered him her trust.
“Buffy, I think it would best if I did this alone.”
“Oh, no way, Giles, I do not trust these people,” Buffy argued. Giles grabbed his glasses off his face, blinking down at her in frustration and very near his last straw.
“That is precisely the point. We don't trust them and they don't trust us, hence our current impasse. Buffy this information was given to me confidence, I cannot take anyone with me or it will blow our only chance to ally with these people.”
“But, but there could be... I don't, evil there.” Buffy insisted, unhappy with the whole idea. “What if you get knocked on the head again?”
“I don't think that will be an issue,” Giles muttered, deciding not to mention Ellen's warning about getting shot. He wished he had lead vest. “When we get back I want you to call Willow, and get her and Xander up here. I don't know how long I'll be gone so...” he continued, stuffing the matchbook into his coat pocket.
“It's okay Giles, I'll take care of it.” Buffy said and got in the car beside him, eyeing his pocket as she sat.