"That's your plan, then? Revolution? Anarchy? And your hidden 'diplomats' emerge from the shadows to take over?" Simon sneered. "No matter how many agents, how many Companions, you have, you won't be able to just waltz in and take over - will you just kill everyone?"
Xander laughed, causing everyone to jump.
"Something funny?" Mal demanded.
Xander just shook his head, so Rae responded. "Secrecy, and loyalty, are key. So we don't have hordes of assassins ready to descend, whatever Doctor Tam may think. Nor is every Companion a member of our order. And we can't afford to let people know about our purpose, either - a coup, bloodless or not, is simply impossible."
"So what are you planning?" Wash asked. "And who exactly are you
"Just a historian." At Mal's growl, she smirked and continued. "On Earth-that-Was, the anomalies were monitored by a group called the Watchers' Council. Most Watchers hunted obscure texts, artifacts, anything to increase their knowledge and power. The rest worked in the field, advising teams of trained fighters or counseling the Slayer."
"The Slayer?" Zoe broke in, eyebrow striving for her hairline.
Rae blanched and Buffy sighed and raised her hand. "That'd be me."
Dawn gripped her thighs and Spike clenched his fingers around Xander's shoulder, but they didn't speak.
"You?" Jayne looked her over. "They call a bitty thing like you the Slayer?"
Dawn groaned and sank back into her seat.
"Bitty? Boyo, I could juggle your oversized, hairy ass - "
Mal cut her off before she could continue. "bi zui
!" He looked around. "Explanations were happenin', I think.
Xander shook off Spike's legs and stood, unbuttoning his shirt. To the shock of everyone, especially those who hadn't been in the infirmary when he woke, his stomach was flat and seamless, only white streaks in his tan marking the new skin.
"I think you all can agree that I'd be classed as an anomaly?" He asked.
River slapped at Simon's fingers, twitching to examine Xander again, and nodded. Everyone else followed suit.
"I was born normal, and stayed that way for almost thirty years. Lost my eye and, as you can see, it didn't grow back. Now I heal in minutes or hours what should take days or weeks, and my body rejects any form of optical transplant - even mechanical. I can, however, grow back a severed hand. An experience that puts the 'un' in 'fun', let me tell you."
Simon stared at him and shook his head.
"Those energies we were talking about earlier? I - we - had a friend, a best friend, who could manipulate some of them. She was indisputably the most powerful human on the planet. But there was a … catastrophe. Hundreds of our charges were in danger, and after them, the rest of humanity. She combined our energies, if you will, sort of sharing her power between us. Physically, however, she was just a woman, and someone killed her."
"Leaving you with the energy," Wash guessed.
Xander nodded and leaned into Spike, even as he drew Dawn into his side. Buffy curled up and tucked herself against them.
"Now I don't know how to manipulate the energy the way Willow could; my body's not designed to. So it mostly goes towards keeping me alive and unchanged, following the physical template that was established when Willow died. We honestly - obviously - don't know if I can be killed."
"Oh, shit." In the silence that followed, Jayne's statement dropped like lead.
"Jayne?" Kaylee turned to him, eyes glazed with information overload.
He was shaking his head, mouth moving. Mal walked to him and grabbed his shoulder, and he jerked. "You're from gorram Earth-that-Was!"
Mal and Zoe laughed, but Simon was watching River, who was totally serious. Wash looked like he wasn't sure what to think.
"A man who can't die, the Slayer - who worked with that Watchers' Council, and him
." He pointed at Spike. "Their friend what died - he said she was the strongest person 'on the planet', which don't mean so much nowadays. But on Earth…" He trailed off, and Zoe and Mal stared at each other.
"Is it true?" Simon asked River, voice weak.
She nodded and looked at Buffy.
"It's true. On Earth-that-Was, about six hundred years ago, I was called as a Slayer. There was always one, a young girl, imbued with energy that made her stronger, faster, and a better fighter than any ten men. When one died, usually after a year or so, the energy moved to the next one. So I was a Slayer, and I moved to a small town that hid the Hellmouth - an energy nexus that called to anomalies, that created them. I met Xander there, and Willow, and Spike. Giles was my Watcher, the only one of us to die of old age. Dawn is my sister, and she manipulates a different kind of energy. When she saw that we wouldn't age, she kept herself young. She heals like anyone else, but when she dies, those energies maintain sentience and she can rebuild herself. Though we didn't know that at the time."
"Took me over a year to come back, the first time." Dawn's face was empty, voice heavy. "I've gotten better, since."
"Oh, god," Simon murmured, but it was compassion in his voice rather than shock.
"Buffy and I both died," Spike interjected, nodding to the Slayer and drawing attention from her sister. "A long time ago. But we were… brought back, I guess. In different ways. Something like what happened to Xan happened to Buffy, a piece of Willow's power keeping her going."
"And you?" Mal asked, as if unsure he wanted to know.
"He's a corpse." Jayne's voice was flat. "A dead man - no pulse, no need to breathe. He lives on blood."
"What," Simon scoffed. "He's a vampire?"
"Vampire with a soul," Buffy responded. "The only one left."
"Oh, come on now. Vampires? Next it'll be witches and werewolves and zombies!" Mal sneered.
"Wake up!" Dawn suddenly shouted. "Manipulating energies to bring people back from the dead, a girl chosen to fight monsters, and you saw Xander's stomach! This is magic, Captain. The dirty secret of Earth-that-Was."