The Replacement Watcher
To all my adoring fans: Yes, I'm still struggling with The Claws That Catch.
Unfortunately, it's much harder to write when you're unemployed. Meantime, here's my contribution to the September "To Boldly Go" challenge. The idea popped into my head, and I had to write it. How can it be that nobody thought of this before?Standard Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
is the creation of Joss Whedon and is owned by Fox Television. The crossover, revealed below, belongs to The Chertok Company and was first broadcast on CBS-TV.Author's Note:
For purposes of this fic, I'm assuming that the canon Merrick was the one from the TV show, played by Richard Riehle, rather than the Donald Sutherland one. However, I'm not considering the "Origin" graphic novel to be canon, and am thus not bound to any of its events.
The Replacement Watcher
For most, it was a perfectly ordinary day. For some, nothing would ever be the same.
Buffy Summers was about to be released from a mental hospital after two weeks of observation. She'd learned not to talk about vampires, even to her parents, but that hadn't stopped them from divorcing.
Elsewhere in Los Angeles, the police had closed their investigation into the violent death of a retired newspaper editor. The reading of his will had been scheduled, and in a few weeks his friends, family and colleagues would all be attending. So, too, would a member of the obscure, quasi-Masonic private club to which the deceased had belonged for some decades.
In London, a young assistant curator named Rupert Giles (himself a member of that same club) was tendering his resignation from the British Museum. He explained that he would be moving to Southern California soon, though he didn't yet know precisely where.
And late that night, a very small, silvery, streamlined shape slipped into Earth's atmosphere, undetected by radar or spy satellites. Seemingly ignoring such mundane things as gravity, inertia, and atmospheric friction, it followed a wide arc over Canada and the Midwest before angling gently and silently into the hills north of LA.
For some, nothing would ever be the same…
Some months later, Quentin Travers sat at his desk, sipping a glass of after-dinner port and reading the latest reports from Addis Ababa. He paused to scrawl a quick note regarding his recommended response; when his secretary arrived in the morning, she'd type it into a memo and send it on its way.
It was just past 8:30 when the phone on his desk rang. With an irritated sigh, he set down his glass and picked up the handset.
"Beg pardon, Mister Travers, but there's an urgent call from Rupert Giles in Sunnydale. He says something's gone wrong."
Travers immediately set aside the reports. In Southern California, it would be -- he quickly ran the calculation -- half-past noon. If Giles was calling that early --
"Put him through," he said.
"Very good, Sir," said Withers. There was a click on the line, followed by the faint background static that always accompanied an overseas call.
"What's happened?" Travers demanded.
"The position's been filled," said the voice of Rupert Giles.
"The -- say again?"
"I took my CV to Sunnydale High School this morning; said I'd heard they had a vacancy. They, ah, thanked me for coming, but said they'd already hired someone."
Travers sat back in his chair.
"I see," he said. "That's…unfortunate."
"I-I didn't want to pry too deeply, you understand, or they'd…suspect something. But I did manage to find out that he came looking to see if they needed an assistant librarian. Normally they'd have turned him away, but…"
"But," Travers finished for him, "with their old librarian having just come into money and resigned…"
"Just so," Giles agreed. "In fact…he turned up not three hours after she handed in her notice."
Travers sat up straighter. "That's asking rather a lot of coincidence," he said.
"Indeed. The only other thing I've managed to learn so far is the fellow's name."
Travers listened carefully. His expression never changed, but he went completely still.
"I see," he finally said.
For a long moment, neither of them spoke a word. Finally, Giles broke the silence.
"I-I take it there's some significance to that name."
"Oh, yes," Travers said sourly. "It means we needn't lay this at the door of coincidence."
"I see," replied Giles, who didn't.
"Anton Merrick was not his real name," Travers explained. "He was recruited from outside the Council families in 1969. Since his previous identity gave him rather a useful cover, we gave him a new one to use in the field."
"Ah…and his real name?"
Travers told him.
"Now I do see," Giles replied. "Have we any idea who our interloper might be?"
"None," Travers replied. "But he's managed to block our access to the Slayer, and the name he's using means he wants us to know it was deliberate. Worse, he has the access he's denied us. She'll be starting school there in less than a week."
The head Watcher sighed and thought furiously.
"All right," he said. "We can't pull the same trick to create another vacancy at the school; someone's bound to wonder. So try to find what work you can. The town library, the historical society, hell, become a shopkeeper if you must. We'll continue the stipend, but you need some local employment to launder it."
"And try to find some way to approach the Slayer without creating any undue suspicion. When she's alone for preference."
"Easier said," Giles replied. "If I'm not working at the school…"
"Unfortunately true. Do the best you can; we're going to see what we can do about the situation from our end. We'll be in touch."
After they said their goodbyes, Travers switched to the internal line and called Withers.
"Bring me all your files on Buffy Summers," he said. "And Merrick's master files as well. Everything we have on him. Facts, rumors, conjecture…everything."
"Yes, Sir. Should I bring it round first thing tomorrow?"
"No, bring it round right bloody now. And…" He hated to spoil the aftertaste of good port, he really did. But needs must when the devil drives.
"Bring a pot of coffee," he said. "It's going to be a long night."
"So, um, I'll see you at gym," said Cordelia, "and you can tell me absolutely everything there is to know about you."
"Great!" Buffy replied, waving. To herself, she added, "Oh, that sounds like fun."
She pushed open the library doors and stepped inside. There didn’t seem to be anyone around, but as she approached the tables in the reading area, she saw that one of the chairs had a rust-colored corduroy jacket hung across the back.
"Hello?" she called out. "Anybody here?"
"Be right there!" called a man's voice from the stacks. She looked up and saw him standing next to a book cart. He wore khaki slacks and a green, short-sleeved shirt with an open collar. He had a small handful of books that he was shelving.
"Anybody's here," Buffy smiled to herself.
He placed the last book and turned to leave the stacks, coming out onto the mezzanine. Judging by the lines in his face and his receding hairline, he was in his late forties or early fifties, although there was no gray in his short, red-blonde hair. His eyes were open and alert, and his slightly pointed nose and tapering chin gave his features a vaguely elfin appearance.
"Hmf," he said. He favored her with a vaguely irritated smile, then turned and came down the stairs.
"Well, let's have a look at you," he added, walking up to her. His eyes narrowed, and he peered at her thoughtfully.
"I'm the librarian -- obviously. And you're the new student I was told about -- Buffy Summers." He nodded thoughtfully. "You'll do," he added, his smile becoming more genuine.
"Good call," she said. "Guess I'm the only kid here you haven't seen before."
"Eh? Oh, no no no," the librarian said, stepping back a bit. "No, I'm new here myself; I hardly know anyone yet."
"Then how did you know…" she began.
The librarian's smile brightened.
"Oh, that's easy," he said. "I have psychic powers."
A mischievous grin broke out on his face, and he winked. Nonplussed, Buffy stood where she was, still facing the mezzanine, as he stepped around her and headed for the checkout counter.
"So, books," he said as he passed through his office and emerged behind the counter.
"Um, yeah," the blonde said, turning to face him. She fished the list out of her bag and approached the counter. "First of all, I need Perspectives on 20th Century --"
But the librarian cut her off with a raised finger. "I know what you're after," he said, and bent to reach for something under the counter.
It was a stack of textbooks, perhaps eight in all, held together with a rubber bungee strap, and it made a heavy thump when he dropped it to the countertop. Buffy blinked, checked her list, and examined the titles.
"That's…exactly what I'm looking for," she said. "How did you--?"
"I…have…psychic…powers," he said with exaggerated patience.
"Okay, okay," Buffy sighed, "so the office gave you a list or something, you don't have to be sarcastic. Just gimme the books and I'll go."
The librarian's face grew serious.
"Miss Summers," he said gently, "are psychic powers really harder to believe in than vampires?"
Buffy froze, staring at the man in shock. They stood there, staring at each other across the counter, for a long moment.
"Merrick was a friend of mine," the librarian told her. He dug into a trouser pocket. "You might recognize this."
He held out a small rosary set, the cross and beads carved from white alabaster, for her to see.
"That…" Buffy whispered, "that was his…"
"He left it to me in his will," the librarian said gently. "I was…a long way from here. But I felt it when he died. The moment it happened, I knew it."
"Oh," Buffy said quietly.
"He knew about my powers," he told her. "He carried this for thirty years, just so I could pick up his last thoughts from it. And his very last thought of all was a message. Please, take care of her.
That's why I'm here."
He put the rosary back in his pocket.
"Okay," Buffy sighed, "I can sorta tell where this is going, and I realize I'm the Slayer and you're a Watcher, but --"
"Who, me?" he snorted. "Hardly."
Buffy blinked in surprise.
"…Maybe I don't know where this is going," she admitted. "You're…not a Watcher?"
The librarian shook his head.
"As far as I've been able to tell," he told her, "that whole group is a bunch of hidebound reactionaries who only know one way to do things. Merrick was an exception, and at the end there, he'd decided he didn't trust them to have your best interests at heart, and he knew for sure their attitude toward the Slayer would never fly with you."
Buffy got a faraway look. "'You do everything wrong,'" she quoted wistfully.
"By their lights, yes you do. They think the Slayer belongs
to them, like they own
you. They've already tried once to get their hooks in you."
"This library. If I hadn't swooped in and grabbed the vacancy, they'd have set one of their own into this job."
"…Oh," Buffy said. "Thank, I guess."
"My pleasure," the librarian grinned. "But on a more serious note, they won't stop trying to approach you. And, whether you or anyone likes it or not, you're still the Slayer; that's going to have consequences that you'll have to deal with. I'll help if I can, but…"
Buffy nodded sadly. "I've gotta go soon," she said, "but I guess we can talk later." She picked up the stack of books and held it by the strap, but didn't turn to go immediately.
"Something else?" he asked her.
"Well…when you say Merrick's name, I can sort of hear quotation marks around it," the Slayer told him in an inquiring tone.
"It wasn't his real name," he said. "It was a cover name the Watchers gave him."
"Huh," Buffy said. "So what was his real name?"
"Tim," the librarian said with a nostalgic smile. "Tim O'Hara."
"Huh," the blonde repeated. "Well, later then."
With a smile and a nod, she was gone.
After drawing a deep, satisfied breath, the librarian came out from behind the counter, crossed the library and made his way back to the book cart. He glanced over the books on the cart before walking past it and looking through the stacks.
When he found the appropriate section of shelving, he turned and pointed his finger at the cart. Using the gesture as a focus, he willed it into motion, and it immediately rolled toward him like an obedient dog brought to heel. As soon as it reached him, he willed it to stop and dropped his hand.
He had just finished shelving this section when he stiffened in shock. He whirled around to face one of the library walls. To face, as it happened, in the direction of the school gym, and more specifically the girls' locker room.
He raised his hands and pressed his fingertips to his temples. Resting his thumbs on his cheekbones, he concentrated, tuning in the thoughts he was picking up, the sudden panic and girls screaming…
"Great galloping galaxies," he muttered. "It's started already."
He stood still and extended a pair of metallic antennae from the top of his head. A moment later, he vanished from sight. A few seconds after that, the library door seemed to open and close on its own.
As I'm sure you all know by now, this is a crossover with My Favorite Martian
, the TV version not the movie.
So…I have no intention of dropping the Dragonfly Effect series, but I also kinda want to continue this. Should I? Please weigh in.
As always, reviews and commentary are welcome, even unfavorable ones (so long as they are polite and respectful of what I was trying to do here, even if you think I failed to do it).