Disclaimer: I do not own Buffy or Stargate.
It wasn’t fair. She had to be cheating. He didn’t know how she could be cheating. But he knew that she was. Because the laws of probability stated that if they played a game ten times, especially if the game required no real skills, then he would beat her at least once. That, and saying that she was cheating was the only manly way he could admit to having lost at Go Fish over ten times in a row. To a drugged up kid no less.
“Xander!” Came a loud exclamation from the doorway that caused Xander to wince, and Zabby to giggle “Honey, how come you didn’t say hello on your way up?”
“Hello Martina.” Xander put on his best smile, and tried not to show how much the Head Nurse intimidated him. “I was just in a hurry to see Zabby here.” He patted the injured Slayer on the shoulder, careful to avoid the cast that covered most of the girl’s arm.
Nurse Corbin gave him a look that clearly said she didn’t quite believe him. Xander squirmed under her gaze, and then did a mental cheer as she turned her attention to Zabby, instead of calling him on it. He knew that the nurse could be trusted, but she always made him feel as if though he were a four year old, who had gotten caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Which was not how a trained, qualified, and mature Watcher with a charge of his own, was supposed to feel. But he also knew that this was the only hospital in New York where at least some of the staff knew about the supernatural, and the welfare and safety of his slayer was a lot more important than the minor irritation of feeling like a misbehaving child.
He stood aside as Martina Corbin studied the chart, took Zabby’s temperature, and checked over the many machines that were currently hooked up to his Slayer. Everything must have been in order because the nurse smiled at the girl and left the room, to continue making her rounds. Xander breathed a quite sight of relief. Even now a week later he kept expecting someone to tell him that their earlier prognosis was false, and Zabby wasn’t going to recover from her injuries.
If she hadn’t had Slayer Reflexes or Slayer Healing, she would have died in that alley. Xander shivered, remembering all the blood. And the bones that had broken through the skin. And the terrible feeling of helplessness, the knowledge that one of the most important people in his life was dying and he couldn’t do a damn thing about it.
A year and a half ago, when Giles informed him, that the last unidentified Real Slayer was living in Paris, he had no idea just how important the kid would become to him. Zabby had been so mature, so put together, that her neighbors in Paris had assumed that she was in her twenties. And yet at the same time she had been so broken and hurt. Giles had even wanted to assign a different watcher to Zabby. Apparently he didn’t think that someone as screwed up as a one eyed carpenter who was still mourning Anya’s death could look after someone as screwed up as Elizabeth. Of course the former librarian hadn’t been quite so blunt and had even used very polite words like ‘better suited’ and ‘more experienced’. At that point Zabby had not very politely told the Head Watcher where he could stick his ‘better suited’.
“Xander. Stop worrying. Or remembering. Remembering is bad.” Zabby told him as soon as Nurse Corbin closed the door.
“You had The Face.”At Xander’s blank look she elaborated “You know the ‘Oh no, I nearly lost my Slayer’ Face. After all, I’m fine. The damsel in distress was saved. The mean, though deviously creative Vamp was killed. Now all that’s left is the party.”
“Which we will do as soon as Warden Corbin and her doctor minions let you go.” Xander promised her. “Though I am not really sure about the whole ‘I’m fine’ assessment. Have you looked in a mirror recently?”
“Slayer healing, remember?” Zabby shot back with a smile. “Doctor Sherman assures me that at the rate I’m improving; I’ll be as good as new in three or four weeks.”
“Right. So ten fingers?” he asked, beginning the series of ritual questions that he asked every time she got hurt. Zabby grinned, held up her hands, and wiggled her fingers. All ten of them. “Good. Ten toes?” She nodded and he could see movement underneath her blanket that indicated that she was wiggling her toes. “Check. And one brain?”
Zabby looked thoughtful for a second before answering: “Well, minus a few brain cells.”
“Good thing you weren’t using them anyway.” Xander joked. Zabby swatted at his arm, and he quickly moved away, playfully sticking his hands up in a universal ‘don’t hit me’ gesture.
He knew of course that Zabby would never hurt him, even by accident. Even thought she had been activated by Willow’s spell two years ago and was one of the seven Real Slayers, she still wasn’t comfortable about her power. She had a deep seated hatred of the Watcher’s Council. Xander suspected that she had spent some time in the custody of Travers and his merry gang of British morons, but had not been able to confirm his suspicion. All of the Slayer’s and Potential’s records had been destroyed in the explosion, and Zabby had not been very forthcoming with any information about her past. But from what she had let slip, her biggest fear in her childhood had been that she would be activated, and would therefore be unable to escape the attention of the Council. So when she woke up one morning with Slayer Strength, she had that very day started exercises to help her control her movements and strength, so that not even the most experienced Watcher’s would be able to see the Slayer hidden underneath the carefully constructed façade of a normal human girl.
Not even Buffy who was the oldest living, and most experienced Slayer in ten thousand years, displayed the kind of control that Zabby had mastered, mostly on her own before she met Xander. Her distrust of the power within her had caused her to lock it up as far as possible. She had never incidentally broken an alarm clock, or hugged someone till their ribs creaked. She was uncomfortable with providing any demonstration of her power, even if it was something as harmless as unscrewing an extra tight lid.
This was especially obvious in her fighting style. She preferred to take out the baddies from a distance, with a crossbow, or by throwing her stake. In a hand to hand fight she used to duck away from the attacks on her, without ever really hitting back, and without even trying to block the blow unless absolutely necessary. This way she bided her time until her opponent made a mistake and she could deliver a single killing blow. It was a risky way to fight but Zabby’s distrust of anything Council related was too overwhelming. And in her mind the Slayer and the Council had been indistinguishable.
Xander suspected that someone Up There, had a really cruel sense of humor. After all how else could you explain that a girl, who hated the Slayer and the Council as much as Zabby did, would end up becoming one of the seven Real Slayers?
Willow had been the one to coin the term ‘Real Slayer’ to distinguish Slayers like Buffy, Faith, Izabella, and Zabby, from the hundreds of Slayers who had been activated by Willow’s spell, but had subsequently been deactivated by the PTB’s. At first, in LA, less than a day after Sunnydale collapsed they had been completely baffled when the mini-Slayers suddenly lost their powers. Almost immediately they had started researching the possible causes, trying to figure out if something had external had caused them to lose their powers, or if Willow’s spell had somehow gone wrong. They hadn’t gotten very far, when a Demon with Bronx accent, whom Buffy had identified as Whistler, had shown up.
Whistler had told them that Willow’s spell had worked exactly as it was intended to. It had activated all of the Slayers that were needed to maintain the balance. Apparently while Buffy’s resurrection had tipped the scales toward the side of good, and allowed the First to get a foothold in the world, the following destruction unleashed by it, had given the other side too much of an advantage. That was why the Powers had allowed Willow to activate Hundreds of Potentials to defeat the First. But now that the First had was not longer a problem, the unnecessary Slayers had to be deactivated, so that the balance would be restored and something like the First could not settle into their world again.
So they had assumed that things would go back to the way they were before, with the only two Chosen Ones being Buffy and Faith, who had been activated the old fashioned way. Giles had managed to gain control of what was left of the Council, and at Buffy’s insistence had dedicated most Council funds and efforts to helping the former Slayers resettle and live normal lives. They had set up offices all over the world, and hired shrinks to make the transition smoother, especially for the girls who had been raised and trained by the Council, and had very little interaction with the ‘normal’ world.
Then about two months after the collapse of the Hellmouth, Riley Finn had approached them with the news that his team had met a new Slayer in Brazil. Since neither Buffy nor Faith had died recently, no matter how temporary, Giles had assumed that either the new ‘Slayer’ was a hoax or she was a sign of an upcoming apocalypse that had caused the Power’s to reactivate some Slayers. When Willow and Giles travelled down to Brazil and met the Slayer, Izabella, they had been shocked to find that she had become a Slayer right before the collapse of Sunny-D, and had never been deactivated. After weeks of research into the situation, a young, geeky, Watcher, who had survived the explosion that killed most of his colleagues, had proposed a theory by which they still operated today. He had brought to their attention the fact that Whistler had said that unnecessary Slayers had been deactivated. Then he cited an old text that said that the job of the Slayer was not to eliminate all demons, but to protect humans from the demons. Then he pointed out that there were many more people now, then there were ten thousand years ago, when the Slayer line had first been created. So it made sense that more Slayers would be needed to protect more people. He concluded that The Power’s had most likely used Willow’s spell to activate the right number of Slayers needed.
Willow’s specially modified tracking spells had then revealed that apart from the three already known Slayers, there were four others scattered across the Globe. And just like that the Watcher’s Council had a new purpose and Giles and his newly recruited (or particularly death resistant) Watchers, had set off to find and train the new Slayers. With Buffy’s and Faith’s help the New Watchers Council had tossed out the rules by which they had operated for hundreds of years, and instead developed a much more modern and humane method of training Slayers, that focused as much on the girls as it did on their duty as Slayers.
Xander in the meantime had been in the midst of one of the greatest self pity fests of all time. Looking back on that period in his life caused him to cringe nowadays, but back then he had felt like his whole life was effectively over. While his friends were keeping themselves busy saving the world, rebuilding the Watcher’s Council, and recruiting and training the Real Slayers, Xander had locked himself away from the world, mourning Anya’s death. His friends had tried to keep him busy, insisting that he come to Watcher meetings, and handing him out assignments, that would take up time, but would be very hard to screw up.
That was really why he had gotten the assignment to track down the seventh and most illusive Slayer. The Slayer tracking Spell, while very accurate could not be maintained for any extended period of time since it drew so much power from the witch performing the spell. And since this particular Slayer seemed to move around so much, they had been unable to find her. So when Willow had preformed the spell again and pinpointed her location on Rue de St. Michael in Paris, Giles had sent Xander out to look for her. Nobody, including Xander himself, had really been expecting Xander to succeed where dozens of Watchers, Buffy, and Faith had all failed.
Apparently that was what had helped Xander the most, since Zabby had been keeping an eye out for Watchers that were looking for her, ever since her activation. He had looked, in Zabby’s words very ‘un-Watcherly’ and the first time they had met, Xander hadn’t realized that Zabby was the Slayer, and she hadn’t realized that he worked for the Council. Their first conversation had been not as Watcher and Slayer, but as two Americans living in France. They talked about Donuts.
“What are you thinking about?” Zabby asked.
“Huh?” was Xander’s ever eloquent answer.
“You were smiling. What were you thinking about?”
Xander straightened his back and regally declared: “I was contemplating the most essential food group in the world. Anything else would be beneath me attention.”
“Ah. Donuts, Twinkies and Ho-Ho’s then.” Zabby concluded with a grin.
“You are learning fast, my young Padawan.” Xander told her in his best Obi-Wan Kanobi voice.
“Soon the student shall surpass the master.” His Slayer answered haughtily back. “Though, that was completely unfair.”
“You know, talking about tasty food which you will be able to eat as soon as you leave. While I’m stuck in this hell for at least another weak, with only bland hospital food to look forward to. I mean, did you know that they don’t even have Jell-O here?”
“No Jell-O?” he exclaimed in mock outrage.
“No Jell-O!” Zabby confirmed. “For desert they serve this thing, which they claim is a brownie. But depending on who’s working in the kitchen, this ‘brownie’ is either a brown, soggy, unsweetened, and uncooked piece of dough, or brow, hard, and unsweetened piece of masonry. “
“Oh you poor thing.” Xander patted her hand in joking sympathy. “Well tomorrow, I’ll be sure to try and sneak something edible past the Wardens out there.” He waved a hand in the general direction of the Nurse’s station. “After all how is the Zabster supposed to get better without proper desert?”
“Don’t call me that!” She glared at him, though the effect was ruined by her smile. “I have a perfectly good name, and would appreciate if you used it instead of this Zabby/Zabster nonsense” The last was pronounced with a pretentious British accent.
“Suuureee…” He drawled out. They had been having the same mock argument for over fifteen months now. “Elizabeth. Not a boring name at all. Really suits you.” He said with as much sarcasm as he could muster.
It had all started when the day her new ID’s had arrived. For first couple of weeks of training, Xander had walked around on eggshells around his Slayer, afraid that at any moment now her dislike of the Council would overcome the fragile friendship that the two of them ha d formed. When Giles had suggested that the two of them relocate to North America because there was already a Slayer stationed in Rome, and Paris wasn’t exactly a Supernatural Hot Spot, Xander had been nervous that she would see the suggestion as too much interference in her life. To his surprise Zabby had really latched on to the idea. Months later, he realized that she had been so eager to move because Giles had let slip that the New Council didn’t have anyone working on the North American East Coast, and she had merely wanted to put as much distance between herself and any Council representatives as possible. Fortunately for him, she hadn’t included Xander under the Council Representative umbrella.
Formally setting up office in New York had of course presented numerous problems, not the least of which was figuring out a cover story, that would explain to curious neighbors why Xander, a single adult male, was living with a fourteen year old girl who was not related to him. When he mentioned that problem to Zabby, she had surprised Xander once again, by informing him that as long as he didn’t mind, she could probably get an ID that named her as Xander’s younger sister. They did after all have similar coloring, and no one in Xander’s family was alive to contradict the story.
Giles had, however, been reluctant to let them use a fake ID that came from Zabby’s sources. The Head Watcher had instead called in a number of favors, and got the U.S. Government to issue a Birth Certificate, and Passport, and Social Security Number to one Elizabeth Jane Harris, born on April 20th in Sunnydale Memorial Hospital to Jessica and Anthony Harris. Apparently the title of Head Watcher carried a lot of clout, even with the U.S. government.
The day the envelope had arrived bearing IDs in the name of Elizabeth Harris, Xander had jokingly suggested that now all that was needed to really make her a part of the family, was a funky nickname. After all Xander was a form of Alexander, and the rest of his Scooby family had names like Buffy, Willow, Dawn, and Rupert, so it would positively obscene if a boring ‘Elizabeth’ joined the family. They had spent the rest of the night coming up with Scoobified forms of her name. When Xander had come up with Zabby, his Slayer had laughed and said that she would answer to ‘Zabby’ only when Hell froze over.
So of course after that Xander had refused to call her anything but Zabby, and the nickname had stuck. And since even the Slayer in question had started introducing herself as “Zabby Harris” and not as “Elizabeth”, Lucifer was probably in great need of a figure skating instructors.
“Elizabeth suits me much more than Zabby does.” Zabby continued arguing. She wasn’t serious and they both knew it, but this argument had become a ‘family’ tradition in the last year, and some traditions were just not meant to be broken. “Zabby sounds like a dog’s name. Or maybe a snake’s name.”
“You’ve made my point for me! Zabby does suit you perfectly.”
And after that, as it always did at this point, the argument disintegrated when Zabby threw whatever she could reach at Xander’s head. Today that happened to be a pillow, which Xander caught, and promptly threw back at her, carefully aiming at her lower torso, so that none of the wires that were hooked up to her would be disturbed.
She caught the pillow harmlessly, and then pretended to be outraged: “Honestly! Hitting a poor injured girl! Even Vampires have better manners than that!”
“No they don’t. Especially not the ones who drive Psychedelic vans.” Xander joked, but the moment the words had left his mouth he regretted them. How could he be so stupid and insensitive?
“Xander” Zabby’s tone was no longer joking. She was now sitting up, looking eons older than her sixteen years. “It okay to talk about it”
“Yeah, he nearly killed you and I’m making bad jokes about.”
“First of all, it wasn’t that bad of joke. It was almost funny. Second if you think about it, you’ll realize that it is kind of hilarious. This is exactly the kind of story that years from now my kids are going to ask you about. I can hear it now: ‘Uncle Xander, Uncle Xander tells about the time you saved Mommy form a sixties Vampire who tried to run her over with a Van from Scooby Doo!’ “She mimicked her future kids speaking in very high pitched tones. “And then you are going to say ‘Well kids, one dark, cloudy night, your mother and I were coming back from patrol, when she heard a scream in a very dark and a very creepy alley. This was back when your mother couldn’t spot a trap, even when if it was marked by a big flashing neon sing that said TRAP, so she rushed right into the alley, only to find a woman with a broken leg lying on the ground. Suddenly she heard an engine start and saw a big Van coming toward her. And back then your mother was very lazy, and didn’t train enough, so she couldn’t move fast enough to get both herself and the woman out of the way. In fact she was almost too slow to push the poor woman out of the Van’s path. Now even back then I was much smarter and much more experienced that your mother, so I didn’t rush in like a half cooked headless chicken, and instead quietly waited until the Vamp got out of the Van to finish off your mother and then staked him. And that is how I saved both your mother’s life and the life of the woman who had been used as bait.”’ Zabby finished off ‘Xander’s story’ with a cough, because ‘Xander’s unnaturally deep voice’ had made her throat scratchy.
“I think the story will be told a little differently. First of all it would be: ‘And your mother, knowing that she could not save both of them, heroically, used the few seconds before impact to push the innocent civilian out of the way.” And then it would be “And when your Uncle Xander saw the Vamp get out of the Van, his self preservation kicked in, and your Coward of an Uncle stabbed the Vamp in the Back, before the Sucker had a chance to realize that there was someone in the alley who was still unhurt.’”
“Well, whichever version you tell, the end result is that you saved my life.” Zabby concluded with a grin. “So stop berating yourself. Don’t argue with me” she added when she saw Xander opening his mouth to say something. “You are not going to win. So don’t be a sore loser and gracefully change the topic.”
“Well, how are the GI Joe’s fitting in?”
“They’re not. It’s kind of funny seeing these big guys, who spent the last couple of months working in Jungles, and mostly uninhabited areas, trying to be subtle and invisible in NY. They stick out like sore thumbs, so they have only killed off the very, very, very stupid demons. You know, the ones that are too dumb too see the Flashing Neon sign that the military guys carry around.”
“Yeah. It says DEMON HUNTERS on it.” Xander joked. Then more seriously he added “But their presence is keeping most of the Bad Guys in line. Everyone knows they’re there, and nobody wants to be nominated for the Darwin Awards.”
As far as Xander was concerned one of the best changes that Giles had brought about since he took over the Watcher’s Council was the fact that he managed to cooperate with the various military units, whose job was to fight the Supernatural. It turned out that many countries had what Riley described as HST (Hostile Sub Terrestrials) teams. The Initiative was simply an example of what happened when the wrong people took over those operations. At first Giles had tried to shut down these teams, but after realizing that no government wanted to rely solely on the Watchers Council for protection, Giles had suggested a compromise.
Military personnel, who were assigned to a Demon Hunting team, would receive Council training, and when necessary, backup from the Slayers. In return Giles got a say on who was permitted on these teams, and he was kept in the loop on all of their operations.
For the most part, the arrangement worked wonderfully, especially in America, where Riley Finn had taken over as the head of the HST Unit. So when Zabby had been injured, Riley had promptly sent in a small team of his men to NY, to avoid the bloodshed that usually followed when the local Demon population heard that the Slayer was incapacitated. It also left Xander with more time to spend at the hospital with his Slayer.
Zabby yawned and Xander discreetly checked the time. It was seven in the afternoon, but he wasn’t really surprised to see that she was already tired. Slayer’s seemed to have an innate fear of Hospitals. Unlike normal humans, fear made Slayers even more hyperactive that they would normally be. Usually such a response helped keep the girls alive, but in Zabby’s case, moving around would only delay her recovery. She had broken her legs, multiple ribs, and her left arm, not to mention the massive internal injuries that she had suffered. Of course, her Slayer Healing meant that she would only be confined to bed for a few weeks instead of many months, but that was still a few weeks too many for a hyperactive Slayer.
So Doctor Sherman had prescribed sedatives to insure that Zabby stayed still. Slayer Metabolism, however, also meant that a normal dose of sedatives simply wouldn’t do the trick. The doctor had prescribed twice the dose that it would take to keep a normal human unconscious. And while that dose had only made Zabby tire out more easily than usual, instead of knocking her out as it was supposed to, Sherman had been uncomfortable with prescribing a bigger dose for fear of harmful side effects.
“Do you have to go home, and help out the commando guys?” Zabby asked quietly. Xander silently berated himself. Of course she had seen him checking his watch.
“Nah. I got all the time in the world to spend with you. Well at least till Corbin kicks me out.” At her disbelieving look he elaborated “First of all, they’ve been here a week. They don’t need me to hold their hands, and show them the main Demon Attractions in the City. Second, if something does come up they have my cell phone number. And third, it’s August. There is still over an hour left before sunset. And they definitely don’t need me while they’re cleaning out their weapons and talking about proper chain of command, or whatever it is military guys talk about in their spare time.”
Zabby smiled gratefully. He knew that she hated being in the hospital alone, but would never actually ask him to stay. She seemed to think she would be too much of a burden. One day, Xander really hoped to break her of that misconception. One day he would make her see, that being in need of a friend did not make her a burden, just like he had made her see that the Slayer really was independent from the Council, and that the New Watchers Council was different from the Old Watchers Council. Well, to be perfectly honest they were still working on the second one. She had developed friendships with her Sister Slayers, and got along wonderfully with Willow, and most of the witches that the Council hired. But Giles and the more traditional Watchers (the tea drinking, tweed dressing, research doing type) made her nervous, so Xander tried to keep meetings between her and the Brits to a minimum.
“I just realized I never told you about this one car that was parked on our street the other day.” Xander started telling her. Conversation about cars always put Zabby to sleep even when she didn’t have huge amounts of sedatives floating around in her system. He continued telling her about cylinder engines and horsepower, while she occasionally made noises like ‘hmmm’ and ‘really?’ to show that she was still listening. Eventually the responses got farther and farther apart, until he was fairly sure that she was soundly asleep. He continued his monologue for another ten minutes just to be on the safe side.
Then he pulled her blankets up around her, and tucked her in. It was times like these, when Zabby looked so small, and pale, and vulnerable, that Xander really understood why Buffy acted the way she did when Dawn was in trouble. Zabby and he weren’t related by blood of course, but Xander knew that your Family didn’t require shared genes. Zabby was his baby sister in every way that counted. She could annoy the hell out of him sometimes, but he knew that just like Buffy, he could easily give up his life to keep his ‘sister’ safe.
Out of the corner of his eye he saw one of the nurses enter the room, probably to tell him that visiting hours were over, and it was time to go home. Xander nodded to her to show that he understood, then brushed a quick kiss on Zabby’s forehead, whispered ‘Good Night’, and started gathering up his things. He was halfway to the door, when a bright light filled the room.
Xander felt like he had been blinded by the flash, though his vision returned to normal a few seconds after the light faded. He spun around looking for the source, but the sight that met his eyes made his heart freeze.
The bed, which his Slayer had occupied just moments ago, was empty. Well, there was a blanket, some wires and needles that had been connected to her, and a pillow, but nothing else.
Zabby Harris was missing.
A.N. Thank you to all of the wonderful people who reviewed the last chapter. I was overwhelmed by the number of responses that I got (I have never had that many reviews for a single chapter before), and the feedback really helped me write this chapter.
However, about half the people who reviewed thought that this was a story about Buffy’s real Father, and that I would be really deviating from cannon. It wasn’t until I started getting feedback that I remembered that Buffy is a derivative of Elizabeth, so I’m really sorry for the confusion that the name caused.
And last, though not least, please keep the reviews coming. I especially want to hear people’s opinion’s on Zabby, since writing OCs makes me nervous. I have this phobia that my original character will become a Mary Sue, so I usually avoid writing OCs into main character roles (unless it’s a villain). Reviews would especially help, since the next chapter is shaping up to be even more Zabby oriented, and with each paragraph I write, I get more and more nervous.