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.
Spoiler: Spn all of season 3, btvs 7
She hadn't had the greatest expectations coming in, after all there was only so much a name like Potato Creek South Dakota could inspire. But the reality facing her was just sad. There was no other word for it, besides perhaps rank. Buffy stepped out of the passenger door of Giles's rental car and was hit with a wall of heavy country scents; dust, hay, and cow dung. She wrinkled her nose and looked around the deserted copse.
A large rundown barn stood before them, creaking on rotted timbers. Old barrels, bits of rope and long deserted wagon wheels were strewn about like the aftermath of an indian raid. She squinted up at the barn and saw several long claw marks scratched into the walls and roof, to long and deep for just an animal. So maybe not an indian raid then, werewolves, demons maybe. Over the door to the barn several ancient greek symbols for protection hung in welded iron.
“Nice place,” she groused, looking over the hood of the car at her once-upon-a-time Watcher. Giles pulled himself out of the driver's seat and stood, adjusting his trench coat and a leather case with pamphlets Andrew had drawn up. Buffy thought they looked more like old hollywood posters then information leaflets. That didn't really give the impression of professionalism she'd hoped for, but it kept the dweeb busy. Giles raised his head and looked over at their destination.
“Well, I understand there is some history to this place, though none of our contacts would say what exactly, and they believe it to be defensible I imagine or they wouldn't have chosen it.” He adjusted his glasses, eyeing the decaying barn up and down along with the rows of wild hedges and thorns dotting clearing. There were shadows behind the first rank of trees that might have been cars disguised with shrubbery, or might just have been bushes.
“I still think we should have just met in town. You know rent a nice dining hall, order some soufflé, and avoid all the mud,” Buffy complained as she stepped carefully around a suspicious looking patch of mud, her italian pumps crunching on the drive.
“We're fortunate that they agreed to meet us at all Buffy, and it is mostly do to Xander's efforts. These people are intrinsically paranoid, if it takes having an initial meeting in this...” Giles struggled for a polite word to describe the decrepit looking barn, “place, then that is that.”
“I get it Giles,” Buffy nodded. “Keeping the enemy on your own turf, hey if it was me I'd do the same. I'm just saying it would be nice to have a little less out-doorsy campfire-ness and more of the nice hotel room service.”
“I wasn't aware our bed and breakfast had room service.”
“I can dream.”
“Buffy,” Giles stopped her with hand on her shoulder. “I know your feelings on this matter are conflicted. I have no love of Hunters myself. But we agreed that past mistakes wouldn't be repeated. We cannot turn a blind eye as the old Council did and simply allow them to run amuck any longer. We need to keep them under control, so we need the hunters on our side.”
Buffy nodded but didn't unstiffen her posture. She was tense and would stay tense. Rebuilding the Council from the ground up was a laborious process, but they were coming across more ties and allies as they dug through all the buried information that was secreted away. Contacts were popping up all over the world. Things that could have helped if she'd had them in the past.
She just disliked the idea that Hunters were going to be one of them. She recognized the work they did, sure, a few ghost dispellings here and there, and they cleaned up the back roads round the country that her Slayers were to busy to get too. The urban hot spots and cities were more a Slayer's territory than boony little towns. In her experience evil didn't really congregate in places called Potato Creek. So she'd give the Hunters their due, but she didn't have to like them. Buffy still remembered the Hunter that had come to Sunnydale in her junior year looking for a werewolf skin. He'd walked into her town with a swagger, a gun, and a necklace teeth and come after her friends; come after Oz.
She'd had Giles and Dawn brief her on everything they could find on the Hunter community, which wasn't much. They were as elusive as the spirits they hunted, gruff and unfriendly to outsiders. It had taken Xander a year to work his way far enough into a their confidence to even set up this meeting. From what little they did know about the Hunters that surfaced under the Councils eye, psychotic was the best description that came to mind.
Most Hunters were mad for some kind of revenge. They had police records, and like modern day pirates moved from town to town looking for the hunt and the kill, addicted to the violence of the job. Little better then vampires themselves. Those who weren't doing it for revenge were in it for the money. Pawning off cursed items: witches bags and werewolf skins. She'd seen her share dark and evil things, but hunters gave her the creeps.
“It's your show Giles, I'm just here to look pretty, and hopefully talk pretty,” Buffy shrugged, noncommittal and stomped down on her welling dislike. She was here for a job and for Giles, and if she got her way, to show these hunters a thing or two about what fighting evil really meant. She didn't want any more Cain's walking around looking for poor kids like Oz.
“I'm sure it will be fine,” Giles assured her. “I'm hoping your presence as the oldest Slayer will be appreciated, a gesture of respect if you will with a meeting of equals.”
“Head honcho, to head honcho. I get it. Do you think anybody's here yet?” Buffy asked, scanning the empty yard around the barn. Giles looked up from where he was still rifling through his briefcase.
“Yes, I imagine they all are. They may even be watching us so we should be careful on our approach. Paranoid remember?”
“Right. So shall we go do the meet and greet?”
Giles got himself together and they started up the worn track toward the barn, Buffy muttering about how she'd need a pair of new boots if they were going to keep trekking through the country. Giles reached the building first and heaved the door open with a loud creak.
The barn was cool and dank inside, with the soft smell of old wood and some balls of regurgitated mice bones. There were stacks of boards, rusted chains, and hay strewn about. A busted up wagon leaned against a broken horse stall and everywhere there were moving shadows of people, waiting for them. They sat or stood on anything that would hold weight, surrounding the doors.
There were maybe twenty Hunters total, and every one of them had taken grunge fashion way to much to heart in Buffy's mind. They were blue collar workers, with ripped jeans, leather and plaid, and a couple of army fatigues thrown in the mix. They were rough and weathered with farmers tans and busted knuckles. They couldn't have been more different from her type of people than if they'd been Fyral demons.
Something odd about the crowd caught her attention and it took Buffy a moment to figure it out, looking from each worn, wrinkled face to the next. Nearly every Hunter present was forty or older. That was odd for Buffy, she couldn't remember ever seeing so many older fighters together before. Her Slayers were all teens or younger. Her friends and allies were either as young as herself or too old to tell the difference, like Spike. Giles had always been something of an exception in her mind. Most people who took up this calling didn't live long enough to get gray hair. She wondered where the younger hunters were, if they even had them. After a quick search she finally spotted a pair of young guys on top of the horse stall, but that was it. Being faced with so many adults was a little unsettling. She'd been prepared to argue their case to young men and women, her peers. She wasn't sure how to approach all these old glowering eyes.
Just let Giles start things off, she told herself, then this will be no biggy. Besides she'd dealt with adults before, all through high school. Hell she'd faced off with Snyder. She could deal with some Tobacco chewing bumpkins with... was that a shot gun?!
Buffy glanced over at Giles as they came to a halt in the middle of the barn, suddenly wishing they'd brought weapons of their own. Some weak rays of sunlight filtering through the beams overhead and lit the pair of them up like they were on stage while the hunters around them shifted in the dark, wary and watchful.
Giles glanced at Buffy then cleared his throat and thanked god he hadn't worn a suit. He had the feeling that if these people were to respect anything, it would certainly not be tweed.
“Hello. I'd like to thank you all for coming today. My name is Rupert Giles and this is Buffy Summers, we are representing the Watcher's Council. Before we begin, is there is a Mrs Harvelle present.”
Silence reigned for about a minute and then there was a shuffle of feet and an older man and woman came forward into the sun. The woman was tough with smile lines around her eyes, and a no-nonsense attitude reflected in clothes that were cheap and sturdy.
The man next to her stood with his thumbs in his jeans. He was older, with a scruffy beard, chubby face and a base-ball cap. A silver whiskey flask was hooked to his belt under a thin camping vest. He was laid back with a suspicious squint to his eyes, like a grandfather with a shotgun waiting for some traveling salesman to try and feed him line.
“I'm Ellen Harvelle,” the woman announced in a confidant drawl. “This is Bobby,” she nodded to her companion and Giles noted the lack of a surname in that introduction. “Not that we don't appreciate you showin' your face,” Ellen continued, “but that Harris boy of yours said he was gonna introduce this new Council policy your peddling. Where is he?”
“Xander was just sent to set up this meeting, He's on another assignment right now.” Buffy said briskly. Whispers and discontented rumbles echoed around the crowd like a disturbed herd of cattle, and Ellen turned to look at her sharply. Buffy had the feeling she'd suddenly spoken out of turn at the dinner table or something.
“Well that's a shame,” Ellen said. Her voice carried through the barn like the crack of whip and the grumbling crowd silenced. Buffy glanced around with raised eyebrow, appreciating this woman, who could slap down a rowdy group of men with one word, a bit more. She wondered if Ellen might have ever been a potential Slayer in her day.
“That Xander's a nice boy, got a good head on his shoulders and made quite a few friends round here, which ain't easy,” Ellen continued.
Buffy glanced over at Giles who was nodding at the older Hunters. She wasn't much of a subtext girl outside her own disastrous romances but she could see some heavy negotiation going on in eyebrow quirks. Giles was right, they were totally paranoid.
“Xander should be back soon, hopefully he can join us for any more meetings,” Giles soothed. Bobby smirked and took a long swig from the flask at his belt.
“So,” Ellen drawled “You want to tell us what this is all about? Harris said there were some big changes we needed to hear about, so here we are.”
“Yes well, down to business then,” Giles started. “Is everyone here? all the Hunters?”
“Hell no,” Ellen replied with a smirk. “Word travels fast with Hunters but they make up their own damn minds about what they hear. Most are out working a job, or just decided not to come. 'Sides,” Ellen waved around at the surrounding Hunters, “you think we'd let our kids walk into something like this?” The Hunters nodded and mumbled agreement at that.
“Something like what?” Giles asked and looked carefully at the two suspicious Hunters. Bobby looked quick as flick over to the right and back. Curious, Giles risked a look over there himself. There were a pair of young men, the only Hunters present below thirty five, sitting side by side on the railing of a horse stall. The taller one slouched over his knees, big and muscular. The light plaid shirt barely softened his look, while floppy brown hair fell in the way of his stare; silent, intense, and disturbing.
The one next to him wore a leather jacket with a gold charm around his neck, and fiddled with a large knife while he eyed Buffy and Giles up and down. Unlike his partner he didn't stare, but catalogued and assessed, actively looking for something beyond the ordinary. Whatever he saw seemed to satisfy him because he met Bobby's look with a nod and flipped his knife back into its sheath. Giles could have sworn a collective sigh went through the crowd right then.
Bobby nodded back and turned again to their visitors. Giles quietly filed the incident away in his mind for later. It might just be a case of good instincts, but if the Hunters had started dabbling in any magic it could make things that much more volatile for an alliance. Although it would surprise him. Hunters were notorious for their hatred of witches with their black and white moral views.
“Never mind what,” Bobby growled snapping Giles back to the present. “Just say your piece and then we'll be on our separate ways,” Bobby huffed.
“Well that's sort of what this meeting is about,” Buffy said, crossing her arms.“Separate ways aren't gonna work anymore.” The tension from before returned full force when she spoke, and some of the gathered Hunters glared out past the dust moats. It was like she was a child speaking out of turn, or they simply didn't want to hear from her. Well, she shrugged to herself, they would have to get over it, because like it or not, she was as close to a boss as they were going to get. Giles was her adviser, but he hadn't lead an army. Her watcher stood back and gave his slayer the floor, while she looked around at all the farmer Bill's and pitch fork fighters.
“The Watcher's Council has been aware of you for a long time. We know what you do, and what you don't do. You've all been fighting ghosts and little hobgoblins on the highways, occasionally some creatures in little towns, maybe some of you have even seen a demon.”
Angry whispers flew up around her when that word left her mouth and tension round the barn grew stiff and thick. Buffy smiled. Maybe this wouldn't be so different from speaking to her girls after all. She certainly had their attention now.
“You've been doing this for years, decades even, but things have changed and its time you knew what's really going on out there. There are places, and things in the world worse than any urban legend or walking spirit.”
She began to explain to the crowd of Hunters what she had so many times to each new Slayer. She told them about the vampires and demons she had faced, and about the origins of evil, just as Giles had told her back in Sunnydale. This wasn't playing hopscotch with a few ghosts anymore. She wasn't even sure how many of these hunters had seen a real vampire, but she couldn't afford to have any clueless allies. She remembered the Initiative and Riley who had proudly announced he had caught a total of four monsters. That wouldn't happen anymore, no more amateurs. If these Hunters were gonna be in the game they needed to wise up. It was time to let these people know what was really going on, hell was real, it had mouths and gateways to earth, and saving the world was top priority.
“Now we have a lot more Slayer's to fight this,” she continued. “Every girl who could be a Slayer, is one. We've started a school to train them once we find them, but we're tight on staff and stretched thin. Just before Sunnydale fell the Watcher's headquarters were bombed. Most of them were killed and now we barely have enough trainers to go around.”
Mutters broke out through the gathering and scattered wide, some angry, some snickering.
While Buffy spoke Giles watched the Hunters, taking mental notes on the expressions and personalities in the crowd. Trying to judge which way the mob might run. There was more independence than he'd thought. He'd been hoping that if they could convince Harvelle and perhaps this man Bobby the rest would follow their lead, but the Hunters didn't seem to look on either them as a leader, and that could be a problem.
He looked over at them again. That man Bobby had to be Robert Singer, Giles would bet his best copy of the Vampyre Vulgate on it. He was supposedly an expert on ancient demon lore and brilliant man. Rumors about him had slunk around the Watchers headquarters but not many of his co-workers believed he actually existed. Giles had always suspected. Quentin Travers had always gotten a certain look when someone mentioned Bobby Singer, like the dirty laundry was being aired. Giles had occasionally mentioned the name in his more rebellious moments just to see Quentin's eye twitch. Now he stood before the man, real, breathing, and decidedly more gone to seed then any legends liked to portray.
Singer listened with intent and unflappable aplomb as the speech flowed from Buffy's mouth. He didn't take his eyes off either of them except to check back at the stable and the two young Hunters periodically. Giles looked over again, wondering if they were family.
When he met Bobby's gaze again the man was still smiling through his beard, but his eyes had gone cold. Saying that 'hands off' didn't cover it with those boys, Giles would lose a hand before he got close enough to lay one on them. He knew the look, he'd seen it in the mirror and he'd used it with Snyder, and the Mayor.
“Look I understand you're all independent,” Buffy continued, and Giles tuned back in as she started winding down. “But we all need to pull together now. This is our chance to finally work together and beat the evil in this world, and I say, if your willing, that we take it.”
There was silence in the barn as her words sunk in, and Hunters began nodding or shaking their heads as they willed. Murmurs got louder and grew into arguments as they discussed it among themselves. Finally Ellen, who had been following the loudest comments shrugged and said,
“It sounds more like you wants us working under you than with you.”
“No. No of course not.” Giles insisted. “But the Council is a very old and ancient organization. They have been fighting the forces of darkness for millennia and have the resources and the experience. Together we believe we could save a great many lives.”
“But you'll still be charge of that, and us.” Ellen said “I can't speak for anyone but myself, but I doubt most Hunters would be willing to go along with your council. It goes against a Hunters grain to follow anyone like that.”
“That's exactly the point,” Buffy argued back a little heat rising in her tone. She tossed her hair an regarded the circle of old hunters. “You people have no structure, no leadership, you even admitted most of you aren't here. You are never gonna win a big fight if you can't unite together. Frankly right now you're a liability to the people who are fighting. We're trying to save the world, every day, and if we can't tell ally from enemy we might as well accept defeat now. You need a leader and you need to fall in line.”
“Buffy,” Giles warned, as the grumbling in the crowd grew more tense and aggravated, but Ellen waved him off.
“Let her say it how she sees it Watcher.” She turned to Buffy. “I'm sorry hon but you can't expect that here. I understand the tough spot your in, your ranks are thin. But people round here fight for family, and we've got our own problems...” Ellen began, but Buffy cut her off.
“There are bigger things at stake here then family.” She insisted. The rumble of discontent grew louder and boiled over in crowd, but she spun and glared at them, speaking louder. “And bigger then your problems. We're running a war here. An apocalypse isn't just a word, its real, its happens, and we fight them off. Saving the world comes at price, and its about time you stood up with us took some, instead of playing hero around the campfire. I have seen and done things you couldn't imagine. I have sacrificed school, my friends, my family, my whole life for this calling. I have died to save you people and your families.”
Silence filled the barn as her last statement rang through the crowd, like a slap in the face. The Hunters stilled and stared back at her, tense with horror and anger. The only sound was the creaking barn timbers. Giles went to pinch the bridge of his nose. Buffy had just broken the crowd, but whether it was out of their own belligerence, or out of their willingness to listen he couldn't tell. He should really get her some books on public speaking.
Then into the silence came the sharp sound of clapping. Buffy spun around, along with the eyes of crowd and looked into the dark corner of the horse stall. Sitting on the stall was the young man in ripped jeans and leather who'd given Bobby the nod. He brought his hands together in a slow mockery of applause.
“Well color me impressed,” he called, his voice low, rough and full of command, enough to grab every Hunter's attention, even Buffy's. “Someone get this lady a gold ticket to the 'I've Been Dead' club,” he joked. Harsh snickers trickled through the assembly. Buffy opened her mouth, not sure for a moment whether to gasp in shock or hurl back an insult. But Bobby beat her to the quick,
“Dean,” he swore under his breath, starting forward across the barn.
The young man 'Dean' Giles guessed he was, jumped down from his perch to stand on a hay bale below, where he could look them all in the eye.
“I get it,” he drawled, leaning back against the stall with and arm resting by his partners leg. “I mean dying doesn't happen to just anybody. That makes you special.” He pointed at Buffy sarcasm dripping from his voice like bacon grease. “The rest of us, we're just a bunch dumb ass redneck pee-shooters. We don't know anything about hell, or demons, and none of us are as special as you, but, hey, lets take a poll just for the fun. Anybody here who's been dead before raise your hand,” he called out to the rest of crowd around the barn. Dean's taller companion hissed down from his seat on the stall above,
“Dude shut up.”
“God-damn it Dean,” Bobby growled, looking like he was going to take the back of his hand to the boy's head.
“Come on don't be shy just cause she's a Slayer,” Dean encouraged with a rakish smile. “How many people here have been dead at least once? Come on Sammy get your hand up,” he ordered the young man sitting above him.
Several hands raised cautiously among the crowd, including Dean's, and after a hesitant moment Sam's. Bobby had stopped his charge when the hands started raising and now rubbed his face, pulling his cap off in exasperation. Giles looked around the barn and started counting. five hands raised, including the two young men, six if he counted Buffy and her stubbornly crossed arms. Five out of twenty death experiences, good lord.
“Now. How many have been dead twice?” Dean asked, grinning like the wolf. Every hand in the barn lowered except for Dean's. Then Buffy's hand slowly raised and the two stared each other down. Giles winced contemplating that sad and horrific fact and all its possibilities. Death was transient when you worked with supernatural. Half the creatures they fought were undead, and there were always stories of some champion cheating death. But Buffy wasn't referring to a bit of quick CPR now, and neither it appeared was this boy Dean. That had to be looked into. True resurrection was rare and extremely dangerous.
Then Dean, shit eating grin plastered on, called out again just for fun,
“Anybody been dead three times?” no one kept a hand up then “No?” Dean asked. “Looks like its just me and you and me toots,” he turned back to the Slayer with a leer. “We'll have to arm wrestle for that place in the Guinness book.”
That last statement got Bobby moving again, and he charged across the barn shouting like a pissed off bull.
“Dean! shut it.”
“Awe come one Bobby,” Dean called back, with his first real emotion breaking past that fake, eat me, grin of his. He was angry, furious in fact and his anger reflected that of the hunter's gathered around the barn.
“We don't have to listen to this crap. We've all lost someone to this job. Everybody's sacrificed something, its part and parcel of the gig. You deal with it and move on, you don't see any of us pulling it out for browny points.”
Before anyone could reply he turned back to look straight at Buffy.
“I mean hey I get it. Having that crap destiny speech about being the one gal chosen to fight evil shoved down your throat every day? That can really screw with someone's head. My sympathies. But princess we ain't your fucking toy soldiers, and we're not civilians. Well I guess technically yeah, but whatever. You've got no idea what we do or don't deal with, or what's brewing under your own damn doorstep.”
Dean was growing more and more heated as he spoke, and other hunters were nodding vigorously in agreement as he went. He opened his mouth to throw out another opinion on where the Slayer and her Watcher could shove it, when Sam hopped off the stall and stood beside him on the bale of hay.
“What Dean's saying is that we know what we're doing,” Sam said taking up his brother's argument. “We're not amateurs. You balk at any of us seeing a demon before, but have you? have you ever seen a real demon? Not the kind that run around L.A. I mean a real, pure, untainted by humanity, straight from hell, incorporeal demon?”
“Boys!” Bobby's voice snapped across the barn, causing every mouth to clamp shut and mice to scurry into hiding. “That's enough,” he growled, then stepped in front of the two young men, who slouched back against the stall with hung heads. Bobby turned to face the Council's representatives.
“You've said your piece, now you hear ours. Once not long after the French and Indian War, the Council came to settlers with a lot of fancy words about what they knew and we didn't. But they'd been fighting evil things a continent away and didn't know half of what went on in America, so we Hunters took things into our own hands. They kept coming after that and we kept saying no. The Hunters who were stupid enough to fall in line with the Council lost all they had, books and protective talismans. When one of their Slayer's was born to a Hunter, they came and took her. Stole our children from their beds. We never saw or heard of them again, and the parents could only guess how and when they died. Hunters have damn good reasons not to trust you folk, and we've got long memories. ”