Strength In Numbers
Ch. 21 – Preparations
Summary: What happens when a group of people are cornered and think they have no allies? What if they do have allies that they just don’t know about?
Pairings: Dawn/Alec, Faith/Biggs, Dean/Buffy, Sam/Cassie
Disclaimer: I definitely don’t own any of these characters. Dark Angel characters belong to James Cameron. BtVS characters belong to Joss Whedon. SPN characters belong to Eric Kripke.
Thank you to my two lovely betas, MaraLiz & Rorylondra, for your invaluable assistance – and arguing with me over sentence structure when necessary…
When Max finally laid her head down on her pillow, she actually felt physically drained. It was a rare experience in her life, but she and the other Transgenics and Transhumans were training with the Slayers in preparation for the attack they were planning at the end of the week. Unlike training in Manticore, or the training they had set up in Terminal City, here in Cleveland, they had to defend against physical and magical attacks simultaneously and one Witch/Watcher was prone to picking up Transgenics and crashing them into things, just to show them that he, the mortal man, was not to be disregarded as a threat. While she could smell the Slayers and single them out as more than human, her Transgenic nose did not have the ability to sniff out the magic coming from one of the several Watchers who were in the training session and she reluctantly gave the order to subdue all of them to protect her squadron. It was a difficult lesson to learn, but she understood the need. What they were learning in training had a very real world application. The Familiars might have cannon fodder: Regular humans doing their dirty work and the bullets from their guns would be just as deadly. They couldn’t afford to stop to check to see which of the enemy was a Familiar and which ones weren’t. This was what Max was still contemplating when Logan came into the room. He didn’t use his mechanical legs as often these days, so instead of the typical ‘whirring’ noise, she heard the wheels of his wheelchair sliding along the hardwood floor.
Her eyes followed him as he wheeled around to his side of the bed and locked his wheelchair into place. She smiled in appreciation of the arm muscles he had developed over the last few weeks as he pulled himself onto the bed. A week ago, she had asked him why he no longer favored his mechanical legs over the chair and Logan had simply offered her his hand and when she took it, he pulled her over and tugged her onto his lap so her legs dangled off to one side. He kissed her gently, tangling his hands into her hair and smiled, explaining to her that he no longer felt a need to fight for a place in her life; he no longer felt the need to try to keep up with her physically because The Council had opened up numerous possibilities for him to pursue that made use of his own considerable skills and he was now fully entrenched in their IT department. Apparently, being appreciated for his computer prowess had gone a long way to allowing him to accept his physical limitations. Max never saw his disability as anything more than a fact of life, and now that he was more comfortable in his own skin, she found him infinitely more desirable. She reminded herself to thank Willow once again for her spell as Logan leaned over and kissed her. Just as he began to deepen the kiss, though, Max’s muscles lodged their protest and a whimper escaped her lips.
A disappointed mewl was next as Logan pulled away. He examined the skin showing around her tank top and she knew exactly what he saw: Even with her Transgenic healing, she was mottled with bruises.
Logan frowned and commented, “You know, if you can’t actually move at the end of the week, you won’t be able to lead anyone into battle.”
“And, it has been pointed out to me that if I get dead two minutes into the attack because of a lack of training, that isn’t going to help anyone either,” Max shot back.
“Still, it’s not like you will be the only one there, Max,” he told her.
She was touched by his worry for her, but there really wasn’t anything that she could say to him to make him understand that she was finally beginning to embrace the soldier in her and that meant she, as the C.O. of her unit, had a higher degree of responsibility to herself, to her unit, and to their army as a whole. It took a long time for her to stop rebelling against order and discipline simply because she fought against all things she considered to be too close to Manticore pedagogy, but once she did, she found that she was proud of the army she was now a part of. The Slayer/Watcher Alliance fought for a cause she could support—they protected everyone who needed protection—and Max supposed that it helped that this was an army that she chose
to join and she was not forcibly conscripted into their service.
Keeping the words Transgenic and Transhuman out of the name for the organization was strictly a practical one. Apparently, the government was aware of the Slayer/Watcher Alliance’s existence, and they were willing to look the other way so long as it was convenient for all parties. Buffy had even contacted them about the fact that the Manticore alums were now a part of the Alliance, but they all felt it would be in everyone’s best interest if they didn’t antagonize the various military corps by advertising their participation. In reality, Buffy’s ‘contact’ with the government involved informing said government that the Transgenics and Transhumans were under her
protection and if the government thought they could just exterminate them, Buffy would pack up everyone and leave the entire country to rot. Max had been surprised at how quickly the government capitulated at the threat of being left exposed to the world’s supernatural dangers, but it had certainly increased her respect of Buffy tenfold, so much so that she was willing to consider the woman her C.O., especially after she even managed to get real, legal
paperwork on each and every one of them. Max Guevera was really her name now—legally.
She was so deeply involved in her musings that she didn’t see Logan trying to get her attention until he snapped his fingers in front of her face. Lightning fast, she reached out and grabbed his hand. She ignored his earlier statement that kick-started her reverie and smiled at him playfully and asked, “Are you snapping your fingers at me,
“No, I would never do that,” he replied, his face a picture of innocence.Well, it would have been if he didn’t have three days worth of stubble along his chin,
she thought as she rolled her eyes. She shook her head at him and winced again as she stretched. She caught sight of Logan’s face and knew that he wasn’t going to let this go easily, but she still had one or two tricks up her lack of sleeve and she gave him a pleading look, pouting at him. “Can we talk about this later, like after I’ve slept some?” she asked sweetly. “Even my shark DNA is tired.”
As expected, Logan caved and opened his arms for her to burrow into. This was another new occurrence that Max was grateful for. While they were in Cleveland, she could actually relax and fall asleep secure in Logan’s arms because of the protection spells that Willow had cast long ago. When she was on the road, she was certain that her soldier training would kick in again and she wouldn’t be able to sleep tangled up with anyone, but while she knew without a doubt that she and everyone else in the school was protected, she could now luxuriate in the feel of Logan’s arms wrapped around her as she slept.
Said boyfriend pressed a kiss to her head and whispered, “You’re thinking too loud. You’re supposed to be sleeping.”
Max giggled, “Yes, sir.”
Dawn’s POVThis is awesome! How can Buffy stand to walk anywhere when she can do things like this?,
Dawn wondered as she flipped through the air and vaulted over Alec’s head to land on a small ledge about halfway up the wall of the gym. She felt exhilarated and couldn’t help but plant an enthusiastic kiss on her mate’s mouth as he landed gracefully on the ledge next to her.
“Yeah,” he smiled at her when she broke their kiss. Somehow, he must have known exactly how she felt because he asked, “You know what’s even better?”
“What?” she asked, brimming with excitement.
Without warning, Alec’s hand lashed out and he pushed her off of the ledge, catching her foot at the same time. Instinctively, she curled into herself and knew exactly when she could extend her legs again to land on the mats in a fighting stance.
Alec landed next to her and replied with delight, “Landing on your feet.”
Dawn threw her head back and laughed and almost missed it when Alec’s foot came flying t her face. Right, we’re supposed to be sparring, not playing,
she reminded herself. She wasn’t sure if she would be ready for the mission at the end of the week, but she had adamant that they not coddle her. She guessed she couldn’t complain when they actually listened to what she was saying.
Now that her seizures were under control and she stopped breaking doorknobs, they were starting to focus on her fighting skills. Originally, Alec had been playing referee for her and another Transgenic, but that had only lasted until the first time the large Transgenic male had taken her down and, as a result, wound up in the infirmary, courtesy of her mate. After that, she was only able to spar with select individuals, mostly Alec, Dean, Max and Sam. Buffy would have been another choice as well, but unfortunately, her sister had difficulty getting past the ‘need to protect her kid sister’ thing and actually throw a real punch at her.
Dawn ducked Alec’s military-grade boot and launched into a counterattack. Of course, by the time she swept around, he had already danced out of her reach, but Dawn guessed that almost twenty years of military training would give him an advantage when it came to hand-to-hand combat. She knew she had a lot to learn if she was going to be able to hold her own among her new cohorts, so she continued her training, pushing herself far beyond what Alec expected of her. She knew Alec would wait as long as necessary for her to be battle-ready, but she didn’t want him to be out of the game for too long.
Her senses were continuously on overdrive, but she had learned to live with it, even though she could no longer enjoy her favorite shampoo because she could now smell layers of scents that she never knew were there. Unfortunately, they were not pleasant layers to her extra-sensitive nose and she had to spend four hours in a beauty supply store smelling various shampoos and conditioners and lotions until she found ones that both she and Alec liked.
One thing she did have to admit was that the sex had gone from excellent to phenomenal; apparently Alec had been holding back. She smiled as she thought of the tiles they had cracked in the shower the other day and, this time, Alec was able to catch her with a boot to the mid-section. She flew back and landed on her back, the wind knocked out of her. Alec’s tall frame loomed over her, and she could see that he was torn between snapping at his soldier for not paying attention and checking on his mate to make sure she wasn’t injured.
With a determined grunt, Dawn made the decision for him as she flipped up to her feet, using a move she had seen Buffy do countless times. She had always been envious of her sister’s abilities and now that she had her own, she knew that they came with responsibility. She met Alec’s eyes and nodded to him. She ordered, “Again.”
Dean’s POVThese fuckers are going down,
Dean thought as he threw another weapon onto the growing pile in front of him. It had become his mantra as he methodically cleaned and inspected each weapon to make sure they were only distributing the best of the best to their troops.
Dean knew that he would be with Buffy’s team during the battle. He had no problem with following her command; she was well proven to be an excellent general. There had been some objections to them being on the same team since they were married, but Dean had flat-out refused to join another team. He sure as hell wasn’t about to join Max’s team; Alec may have forgiven her, but Dean still held a grudge for her months of shitty attitude toward his youngest brother and he wouldn’t follow a leader he couldn’t respect. The other leaders were ones who seemed to think that he needed protection because he was an ‘Ordinary,’ whatever the fuck that meant. There were very few things in Dean’s life that he would classify as ‘ordinary.’
“Sir?...I mean, Daddy?” a young voice asked from a short distance away and the ‘Daddy’ was said hesitantly, like he wasn’t sure he was right in addressing Dean in such a manner. He easily referred to Buffy as ‘Mommy’ now, but he was still stumbling a little over calling Dean ‘Daddy.’
Dean looked over to where Thomas was sitting. He had every crayon from a box of 64 crayons out on the table and a train car next to the empty box. He had already drawn pictures for all of his aunts and uncles on Buffy’s side of the family and now he was working on a picture for Sam. Of course, where a typical five-year-old would be drawing barely discernible blobs, his
son could draw an exact replica of the Key of Solomon—from memory.
He put down the sword he was about to clean and walked over to the table, crouching down next to the young boy. “What is it, Thomas?”
The little boy looked thoughtful for a moment and then asked, “Are you and Mommy going to die?”
“Not today,” Dean told him gently. He didn’t want to lie to Thomas, but he also didn’t think it would be a good idea to scare the crap out of him either. He ran a hand through his son’s sandy blond hair and asked, “Where’s this coming from?”
Thomas’ eyes dropped to his hands and his face turned red in a look that Dean had quickly come to know as his ‘guilty’ face. He lifted the boy’s chin to look him in the eye and Thomas sighed.
“I heard you and Mommy talking last night,” he admitted.
Dean tried to recall the conversation he and Buffy had the night before and realized what had Thomas so worried. They had been discussing a contingency plan for making sure Thomas would be well looked after if something happened to them. Well, ‘discussing’ might have been the wrong word; ‘arguing’ was probably a better fit. Buffy wanted Willow to have custody of Thomas in the event of their premature deaths because she had spent more time with him. Dean thought Sam should get him because he didn’t have the same amount of responsibilities as Willow and could devote more time to actually raising his son. He imagined what it must have sounded like to little ears and he ran a comforting hand down the boy’s hair and back.
“You know, you were supposed to be sleeping then,” Dean told him, but he couldn’t put much force behind it in light of what he knew was floating around in his son’s mind. “There’s a reason why Mommy and I save grown-up conversations for after you go to bed.”
Thomas scrunched up his face and replied, “Yeah, but that’s why I have to stay up to hear them.”
It was so matter-of-fact that Dean had to stifle a chuckle and he found it difficult to argue the point. He supposed that since Thomas spent so much of his young life being told what was going to happen to him that he was scared that he would lose the only real home and the only actual parents he had ever known. He couldn’t blame the kid for a little eavesdropping; he would have done the same thing.
“Okay, good point,” Dean conceded. “But, your mom and I aren’t planning on dying anytime soon. It’s true that we have dangerous jobs and we have to make sure that if something did happen to us, there will be someone to take care of you and tell you every day how much we love you. That’s what parents do. But, it doesn’t mean we are going to die. In fact, I happen to know that we are going to do everything
we possibly can to stay alive and to come back and take care of you.”
He watched as Thomas processed what he said and although some of the darkest storm clouds lifted, his son was still not what he would classify as a ‘happy camper.’ He exercised every bit of patience in waiting for the boy to speak again. When he finally did, Dean knew he was going to have to make a decision about his future rather quickly.
“But, I also heard Mommy say that you and Uncle Sammy and probably Uncle Alec and Aunt Dawn are going to be leaving again after Aunt Dawn gets used to being Transgenic,” Thomas accused.
“That’s something we haven’t really decided yet, but we have time to talk about it,” Dean told him. “Sometimes my job takes me away from where I want to be, but I’m going to try to travel less because I want to be with you and your mom. There is nowhere else I would rather be.”
“Mommy says you’re a soldier and sometimes you have to go away to fight, but it doesn’t mean that you don’t love us,” Thomas said.
Dean could hear the sadness in his voice and he wished he had all the right words to make Thomas’ world safe and warm and loved, but that just wasn’t the world they lived in. He knew Thomas understood what it meant to be a soldier; he had been taught about duty, honor and discipline since birth, maybe even before that. He also knew that Buffy was adamant that their son was going to be loved as a little boy first and Dean agreed with that. John Winchester had been a drill sergeant sometimes, but he did what he had to and both Sam and Dean were alive and kicking because of it, but Dean had a couple of things going for him that John didn’t. First, he was surrounded by people who all believed in the supernatural and were fighting the same battles, so he didn’t have to look over his shoulder to make sure no one thought he was crazy. He also wouldn’t have child services dogging him for leaving his son alone in a motel room because his son wouldn’t need to be left alone. Between their extended family and the rest of the school, Dean was hard-pressed to think of a time when they would have to leave Thomas completely alone in the world. Dean also now had a brother who knew what Thomas would be going through as he grew up; Uncle Alec would be a great resource for all things Manticore that could screw with his kid’s head down the line. And, John had never quite been the same after he lost Mary. Now they knew that it had been his mother’s choice to turn her back on hunting and that had contributed to her death. Dean knew he was lucky enough to have a wife who not only understood his need to fight against supernatural baddies, but was also ready, willing and able to stand beside him.
For now, he focused on the little boy in front of him. He picked him up and sat down in the chair Thomas had been sitting in, plopping the boy in his lap and running a hand through his growing hair. He waited until Thomas looked at him to speak, “You know what we do is important, right? That we protect people who can’t protect themselves?”
“Yes, sir,” Thomas replied quietly.
“And, you know that we do that because we have special skills that they don’t have?” he continued.
Thomas nodded and Dean could have sworn he had a little bit of puppy in his cocktail because not even Joshua could have turned such sad eyes onto him with more impact.
“Then, you also know that you have special skills, too,” Dean told him.
“But, Mommy says I’m too young to fight with you,” Thomas argued, scrunching his face up in a pout.
“You won’t always be,” Dean told him. “Fighting is more than just in our blood, Thomas. It’s something too deeply ingrained in who we are—both me and your mom—that it isn’t possible that it will skip over you. Right now, you’re still little and now is the time for you to learn what you’ll need to know when you are out there with us. And, you will
be out there with us one day.”
“Really?” Thomas asked skeptically.
Finally, Dean knew exactly what to say, “Of course, Thomas. It’s the Winchester family business and you are definitely a Winchester now. When you’re old enough, I’ll teach you myself.”
Thomas examined him for a long moment. Dean figured he was trying to determine his veracity. Hell, for all he knew, Manticore had made his series walking lie detectors. Thomas was apparently satisfied with what he found because he smiled at him. It was a cross between an innocent childhood grin and the satisfied smile he himself knew he might wear after a successful hunt. Yep, definitely a Winchester,
he told himself, winking at his son.
The boy jumped off of his lap and, faster than Dean’s eyes could follow, loaded all of the crayons back into the box, matching each one with its correct home in the color rainbow. He stuffed the box into his bag and gathered up his drawings and slung the bag across his shoulders with the smallest of efforts before jumping back up into Dean’s lap and giving him a tight hug and telling him, “Thanks, Daddy!”
Dean hugged him back, but Thomas wriggled loose and was halfway out the door in barely two seconds. He called after him, “Hey, where’re you going?”
“I have to go tell Mommy you said I could be a hunter when I grow up,” Thomas called over his shoulder and blurred away before Dean even finished hearing the last of his sentence.
He shook his head and went back to his pile of weapons with a grin on his face. He had one halfway lifted to inspect when the reality of what Thomas had just said to him sank in. Thomas was going to tell Buffy that he
said her son
could be a hunter.
The sword clattered to the ground as he swore to himself, Oh, shit!
TBCP.S. Thank you to banner for the new Rec!