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Watching and Waiting

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Summary: Buffy's imminent death ("The Gift") leads her _other_ Watcher to reflect on their relationship.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Highlander > Xander-CenteredWyseQuackFR1314,910162,29813 Dec 0313 Dec 03Yes
Watching and Waiting




Title: Watching and Waiting

A Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Highlander the Series crossover



Summary: Buffy's imminent death ("The Gift") leads her other Watcher to reflect on their relationship.



Disclaimer: I don't own the characters or concepts behind either Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Highlander. The people and companies that do have names like Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Gregory Widen, Peter S. Davis, William Panzer, Filmline International and Rysher, among others. I mean no disrespect, and I'm not gaining any financial benefit from this. I'm just having some fun with their toys.

Spoilers: So many for both series (BtVS through the end of Season Five; all of Highlander) I'm not going to bother trying to specify them. Except for "The Gift" (BtVS Season Five Finale) most of them are mild.

Acknowledgments: Thanks to Katie C, Katharyn Rosser, and Wicked Raygun for beta-reading this for me the first time around. And to Saturn Girl for being understanding.



Author: WyseQuack (WyseQuack@shaw.ca)

Written: July/August 2001 Revised April 2003

Rating: PG-13 for mildly offensive language

Timeframe: This story takes place shortly - very shortly - prior to the conclusion of the BtVS episode "The Gift."



So now I'll know.

It's taken over four years for me to find out for certain. Which, looking back on just how crazy those four years were, amazes me.

Almost as much as the fact I've managed to keep my own little secret this long - and counting. Not that there haven't been a couple of close calls. Keeping that damned tattoo hidden gets awkward at times. Long sleeved shirts aren't always the most comfortable choice for California heat.

No, that's not the only method I use, but it's the simplest. And the shirts get a lot more comfortable when I ask myself whether Buffy will be wanting an explanation before or after she pounds me into jelly when she finds out about my skin graffiti. A vampire slayer who lives on a Hellmouth gets paranoid about things like tattoos for some reason. And secrets. If paranoid is the right word. It implies the fear is unreasonable. Fear is never unreasonable in this town.

So, why was a Watcher assigned to Buffy Summers in the first place? What? No, I'm not talking about Giles. That's the problem with these secret organizations - any bunch of johnnny-come-latelys can come along and start using the same name, causing no end of confusion, and there's not a whole lot you can do about it. Okay, it is a bit of a backhanded compliment to us - we apparently know what we're doing in the secrecy department. I still wish Giles' group had been a little more creative in their choice of name.

Yes, we had the name first. We go back well beyond the origin of the English language. I've never heard Giles mention exactly when his Council was first formed, but it's just so English - the country - that it has to post-date the Norman Conquest.

Yes, I know a little more about history than I admitted to on my high school history tests. When you're the child of a Watcher (either kind, I imagine) you can't help but pick up a little history. You think twice, at least I did, about drawing possibly unwelcome attention to yourself by advertising the fact. If I started to do well in one subject, my teachers - and parents - might start expecting me to do well in others - maybe even all of them.

What? Oh, my mother. Quite a few Lavelles have been Watchers over the past few generations. Because of that secrecy thing, we're pretty selective about how we recruit. Which is why a lot of our recruiting goes on inside our own families.

Where was I? Oh, yeah, about to explain how Buffy wound up with a Watcher.

It's pretty simple really. Back when she was at Hemery, not too long before she torched the gym, one of our guys saw her chop off a man's head with a butcher knife - after which the man turned to dust. Since our guy had been following Mr. Dustpile-to-be because he was a dead ringer for someone who was supposed to be twenty years dead, he came to all the wrong conclusions.

If you haven't figured it out for yourself, I'll spell it out: He thought he'd seen the end of a duel between two Immortals. Then, after it ended, the loser's Quickening ignited the body, turning it to ashes almost right away. Or so our guy convinced himself.

It was an easy mistake to make. He'd never seen a real Quickening - a lot of Watchers never do - and decided the tales about that had been exaggerated. Look, a lot of us wonder why these lightshows don't seem to attract more attention than they do. Among those of us who've never seen one it's a rather common belief that Quickenings are not as big a deal as advertised. I thought so myself.

Then Buffy hit town, and I learned just how much I didn't know about my own hometown. It became a lot easier to accept things like the entire population of Paris being so distracted by the blackout that nobody asked any questions about a freak lightning storm centered on the Eiffel Tower.

Anyhow, after our man in L.A. witnessed the Quickening-that-wasn't he tailed Buffy home. No, she never saw him. We're good at what we do, and part of that is not being caught doing it. So, we learned where she lived, which let us figure out her name. I'll admit we were a little surprised when we found out she really was a high school student. It's not an environment many Immortals care for - even the ones physically young enough to pass for it.

So, we were in the process of putting someone in place when Buff's marshmallow-toasty approach to vampire extermination got her expelled from Hemery. The Summers' women said goodbye to L.A. and hello to Sunnydale, which just happened to be the hometown of one Karen Harris, nee Lavelle, semi-retired Watcher, and her not-so-little-boy Xander, Watcher-in-Waiting.

I'd always intended to go to the Watcher Academy after high school, which was one more reason I never worried about my grades. Oh, the Academy prefers people with good grades, but like I mentioned, ancestry counts for a lot.

Plans changed in a hurry when we found out Buffy was coming here. We Watchers are a pretty capable bunch, but we're not above taking advantage of opportunities that get dropped in our laps. So I got tagged as Buffy's Watcher.

It's rare for someone without Academy training to get an active assignment, but it's not unheard of, especially in circumstances like mine. It's generally much less awkward for us if the Watcher is close to the Immortal's apparent age. Combined with the fact my mom, who did have Academy training even if she hadn't been in the field for over a decade, would be handy for back-up and advice, that made me the obvious choice. So, I got my tattoo, and put on the payroll, just before Buffy arrived.

I wasn't the youngest Watcher in history; I wasn't even the youngest Watcher on active assignment. I was one of the youngest, which gave me a little bit to brag about, and I was being paid basically to get to know a pretty girl. Life was great.

Then, I met Buffy, and she left her stake behind the first time we talked. I would have understood if she'd been carrying a sword or even a nice sharp knife, but a stake?! Color me confused.

Next came that oh-so-strange conversation I overheard in the library that now seems oh-so-normal. At the time, I was wondering whether I'd been made, though I couldn't see how, and Buffy and Giles were setting me up somehow. I finally decided it was most likely some kind of initiation prank. When Willow wandered off from the Bronze that night and Buffy started asking about it I figured Will was in on it, too. She was the one who'd pointed me at the library, after all.

I've lost sleep wondering if things might have turned out better if I hadn't been so closed-minded. If Jesse would still have been a vampire the next day, and a pile of dust the next night. I've never reached a clear answer.

I followed Buffy out of school the day of the Harvest as much to prove to myself I was up to being a Watcher as to help Jesse. Not that I didn't want to rescue him, but I knew Buffy would be able to manage just as well without my "help." It was starting to sink in with me that we had no real reason to believe Buffy was Immortal, but nobody had told me to stop watching her. Besides, Immortal or not, I thought her activities might be of interest to the higher-ups.

After we, or rather after Buffy, averted the Harvest, with a little bit of help from the rest of us, I went home and told my parents the whole story. Hey, I already knew they had more reason than most to be receptive to 'weird'.

They took it pretty well, all in all. Mom wondered if Buffy might be an Immortal whose Slayer abilities were related to a strong Quickening. There are reports in the Chronicles of Immortals with rapid healing, or exceptional speed, strength or stamina. Not that it's universal; there are disfigured Immortals around. Xavier St. Cloud had an artificial hand, Kalas had a badly scarred throat, to name two, not that either one of them is around any longer.

I didn't think so myself, and after I subtly pumped Giles and learned of the typical Slayer's abbreviated life expectancy, Mom came around to my way of thinking.

I wrote up my first report and sent it in, worrying that it would result in my assignment being the briefest in Watcher history. Not only did it raise serious doubts about whether my subject really was an Immortal, there was the whole believability thing. There are some weird things in some of the Chronicles, but I'm pretty sure I'm the title holder in the category of 'Strangest Initial Report.'

Maybe the fact it was so unbelievable worked in my favor in a strange way. If you don't believe the vampire part, you don't believe that's why you can, on occasion, catch Buffy chopping heads off. That means no reason to believe Buffy wasn't Immortal, and therefore no reason to tell me not to Watch her. Well, except for the fact I was clearly on some kind of hallucinogen.

Without waiting for them to ask me, I took a blood test, and had the results included with my first report. I felt obligated to do everything I could to convince whoever wound up reading it that my report really was true. It might save lives.

The guy in L.A. was lucky. He mistook a vampire for an Immortal. You think he was the first one to do that? Me neither. The lucky part was he survived the experience. A lot of others didn't, I'm thinking. If one person somewhere up the line read my report and took the warning to heart, I decided it would be worth a little bit of embarrassment.

My report raised some eyebrows when it arrived, but the fact the details I gave about vampires matched those in certain little known Chronicles made them stop and think. I'm not saying they believed me so much as that they weren't willing to accuse me outright of lying, but that was enough that they didn't fire me.

I took pity on them and started being selective about just what I reported. Oh, the reports I sent in were true, just not complete. At my mom's suggestion, I have complete reports I've arranged to be sent to Regional Headquarters in the event of my death, but I'm not about to send them in before that. If I do some pencil pusher will waste my time asking me if everything I'd reported had really happened. I figured I'd spare myself the grief.

Buffy dealt with the Master's flunkies for the rest of the year, not to mention rescuing my ass from Mantis Lady and reversing the hyena possession and other fun stuff like that. I Watched, helped her out when I could, and managed not to make too big a nuisance of myself at the other times.

Then came the night Buffy went to face the Master. And lost.

I got Angel's sorry ass out of self-pity mode long enough for him to show me the way to the Master's lair, where we found her. I did the CPR, but I didn't have a lot of hope it was actually going to work. I still don't think it did. I think Buffy came back on her own. I just don't know.

But I would think it would explain why Buffy came back from two minutes of being dead stronger than before. OK, prophecy explained, big weight off shoulders, but there's no way she would have realized that part so fast. And it makes no sense for that to be part of the Slayer package.

One girl dies, the next is called. That's how it works. No mention of "but if she doesn't stay dead . . . ".

Not that I don't see a huge flaw in the actual system. If one Slayer dies before she's finished heading off an apocalypse du jour, and the next one is called on the other side of the world, how's she supposed to get to where she needs to be in time?

The point is, while I couldn't be certain about it, it looked to me like Buffy was once again the probable Immortal she was supposed to have been when I first met her. The Slayer thing was now in addition to that rather than instead of it.

Not that I considered trying to explain this to Buffy. She's not normally the kill-the-messenger type - she's never done anything permanent to Giles, after all - but she has her limits and I was a little worried this would push her past them. I'd pretty much be saying 'Guess what, Buff? Not only do you get to spend your nights battling vampires, you get to spend your days fighting sword-wielding maniacs who want to chop your head off. For eternity. Or until somebody in one of the two parades after your head finally gets lucky.' I could make a pretty good guess how she'd take that. I also like my internal organs where they are. I kept quiet.

Nothing much really changed, except I really started hoping Giles and Buffy were paying enough attention to swords in her weapons training. We dealt with the usual monsters, vamps and tourist demons. It's all a little blurry now, except for what my mom said after Kendra showed up and I told her about the sudden duplication of slayers: "Trust my son and his friends to take 'There can be only one', and turn it upside down, inside out, and backwards."

Then Angel reverted to type. That was a fun-filled time in our lives. Everybody else worried about Angel killing us all slowly and maybe even turning Buffy before she could bring herself to stop him. I worried about a Dark-Quickened Buffy joining Angel's team and there being nobody around with a snowball's chance in the Hellmouth of stopping either one of them.

You don't know what a Dark Quickened Immortal is? Think of someone with the charming homicidal personality of your typical vampire, the same life expectancy, a big, sharp sword and no problems with daylight or lack of an invite. They also tend to ignore the fact they're supposed to restrain themselves on holy ground. They don't eat blood, but I still don't want to share a table with one.

Around that time, I had this one nightmare with a Pinky and the Brain theme. Buffy and Angel were speaking all the Brain lines in chorus and Spike and Dru were speaking all the Pinky lines, also in chorus. It put me off cartoons for over a month.

Finally, the showdown came between Buffy and Angel. My first, and maybe only chance to see a real live we-mean-business swordfight, and I'm too busy med-evacing Giles to appreciate it. Talk about irony. Not that I really needed to see it to know which way I was going to be writing it up. After all, if Buffy had lost, the end-of-the-world thing would have made writing up the report rather pointless.

Afterwards, Buff did her Have Stake, Will Travel disappearing act and we managed as best we could without her. I reported what I knew, which wasn't much, I admit, and waited for her to come back or be spotted, whichever came first.

Eventually, she did come back and everything was right with the world. Then Faith showed up and my Evil Slayer nightmare wound up coming true.

We could have handled the start of that whole mess better, I'll admit. She didn't want to go to jail for killing the deputy mayor. The cops didn't really have any solid evidence on her, but we all acted like her arrest and conviction was all but certain. I, at least, should have known better; I've got some special insight on just how frequently people kill each other without serving jail terms. If we'd sat down to think it through we might have been able to help Faith slide through the cracks. Considering the allowances we made for Angel, who'd done far worse, it doesn't seem like such a stretch.

Instead, in well-meaning ignorance we started treating Faith like a criminal without even realizing we were doing it. Then we were taken by surprise when she really started acting like one. Who'd a thunk it? That idiot Wesley didn't help, throwing a torch on the gasoline leak we'd created, but if I'm honest, I have to admit we started that leak all by ourselves. For a bunch of people who save the world on what seems like a monthly basis, we can be really stupid.

I'm sorry the deputy mayor got himself killed, but Faith shouldn't have had to pay the whole price for it. No, she's not blameless, but let's look at the whole picture: The man wandered right into the middle of a battleground, and got caught in the cross-fire. I have a bit of a reputation for bone-headedness, but even I wouldn't have been that dumb.

The first thing they teach you at Watcher Academy is when you see two Immortals with their swords out do NOT get between them. It's nothing to do with the non-interference rule; it's plain common sense. Actually it's not something they teach you; If you haven't figured out for yourself that being between two drawn swords isn't a good place to be by the time you to get the Academy, you get a note in your file that means you will never ever get a field assignment.

Whether or not we accidentally shoved her down the path that led to the dark side, Faith walked to the end of it all by herself. Mayor Wilkins was there to greet her and give her her black hat and a hearty welcome, but she was the one who went to him. It worked out well enough for us in the end, since she turned out to be the Mayor's Achilles heel, but I don't want to forget that Faith was our friend once. When you forget your mistakes, you end up repeating them. Mom once said that was the most important thing anyone ever taught her.

I nearly spilled my guts about everything - Immortals and Watchers alike - when we realized just how old Mayor Wilkins really was. Then I started wondering why one of the Immortals we track would want such a highly visible position as Mayor, even if it was of a fairly small town. I held my tongue with the Scooby Gang, but I sent an alert up to Regional HQ, along with a request for any information they might have on him. I won't be surprised if I find out I have a reputation up there and probably a nickname along the lines of 'Chicken Little.'

They were glad to get a reasonably specific request from me for once. The collection of Chronicles is huge - we've been around for a while - and not terribly well cross-referenced. It can take a long time to get a response to a question like 'How many Chronicles contain a mention of vampires?'

I've sent in a few like that over the years. I've yet to get a response quickly enough to be useful. One of my mom's old bosses, a guy named Dawson, sent me copies of the Chronicles on one Duncan MacLeod in response to one of my requests. He included a note about certain entries he thought would be of special interest to me. That's where I found out about Dark Quickenings. And that demons actually make occasional appearances somewhere other than Sunnydale. Not that I was entirely clear on how MacLeod managed to defeat that Ahriman demon. I'm just glad he did.

The MacLeod Chronicles were a lot more readable than the stuff in Giles' collection. Even if they were nearly as weird in places. That guy has a real talent for finding trouble. Or maybe for having it find him. I know some people like that myself. Hell, I used to be somebody like that.

My girlfriend is over eleven centuries old, even if she doesn't carry a sword. Well, not often. On my bad days, I can almost see us being used as the basis for a romance novel, a la "Blade of the Macleods". Yes, I've read it. Most Watchers have. Yes, even the guys, though we don't always admit it. Not my flavor, but I borrowed my mom's copy for Anya to read and she loved it. I never owned a copy myself. I said that I had read it, not that I'd bought it.

Yes, Anya knows everything. About my being a Watcher, I mean. When two people spend as much time naked together as Ahn and I do, tattoos do not stay secret. She recognized it right off. I repeat, she is over eleven hundred years old. She's had dealings with a few Immortals - and Watchers - along the way.

No, I haven't told the Watchers all about my girlfriend. Not even my mother. I may have mentioned a couple of incidents with a demon name of Anyanka, but I haven't mentioned any connection between said demon and a strange and wonderful girl named Anya Jenkins. Nor am I going to. Not even posthumously this time.

When Ahn told us about Ascencions and how much stopping full-fledged demons took, I started thinking about how to lure some other Immortal to Sunnydale, and how to talk Buffy into taking his or her head on holy ground. I'll admit, Giles' approach really was a lot simpler.

Especially since we don't have one single report of any Immortal (excepting Buffy - if she is) setting foot in Sunnydale since the town was founded. For what is arguably a race of people determined to exterminate itself, they're unusually sensible about some things. If I could be tortured to death ad infinitum, I'd think about giving the Hellmouth a wide berth, too.

Crap. That was Latin. I'm using Latin in my head. Correctly - I think. I have got to stop spending so much time around Giles.

Of course, we're assuming the reason we haven't seen them is they haven't been here. It's possible we just missed them - I can't prove that my next door neighbor isn't Methos - but it's not likely.

Another plus about making use of Giles' demolition expertise was I didn't have to break that pesky no-interference rule. Oh, I'll admit I've probably bent it into nice and twisty pretzel shapes, but what it basically means is 'Don't try to influence the outcome of a confrontation between Immortals'. Or arrange one in the first place, which is what I was thinking about.

When I first heard Mom refer to that Dawson guy as Captain Kirk, I'd thought it was an old boss/employee thing. Then, I read the MacLeod Chronicles he'd left with us. It quickly became pretty clear afterwards that Dawson ignored the no interference rule whenever he felt like it. Something which nearly got him killed on at least one occasion. My mom made sure I noticed that part.

Everything considered, If I'd ever had any reason to believe any Immortal was heading our way, I still would have told Buffy what I knew, what I suspected and to brush up on her swordplay, rules be damned. I'll admit I'm just as glad it never happened.

So, after we blew up Mayor McSnake and the school buiIding, I celebrated my release from high school by taking a cross-country road trip. Or so I let everyone back home think. Actually, I spent that summer going through accelerated training at the Watcher Academy. It was a small class, for people like me who'd gotten thrown in the deep end and given field assignments early for various reasons. The Instructors didn't waste any time; they wanted us to get back to our assignments and have those people back under our eyes. Only now, they would be properly trained eyes.

I actually enjoyed most of it. It was fascinating meeting other Watchers in the flesh and learning about their assignments. A couple of them had stories damn near as strange as some of mine. I found the self-defence course kind of amusing. I'd been tangling with vampires and other horrors for over two and a half years by that point, and now somebody decides I need to learn how to defend myself? It was intense, but rewarding. The Academy as a whole, I mean, not just the self-defence class. But by the time it was over I was ready to collapse, and I wasn't the only one.

I finished near the bottom of the class, but this time it was because the class was full of really sharp people rather than a lack of interest and effort on my part. I still passed with room to spare.

So I went back to Sunnydale and watching Buffy while I tried to figure out how to manage in the real world. Watchers have other jobs for a reason besides a public cover; nobody does this for the money. Maybe I should have worried more about my high school grades.

On top of finding work and getting to know Ahn better there was the usual Sunnydale stuff - Buffy's roommate Kathy was a demon, Riley was Secret Soldier, Buffy's new hero Professor Walsh was really Doctor Frankenstein, and Dawn turns out to be the Key. This town is brutal on secret identities.

It's hard to believe Dawn hasn't been around all along. I know - now - that my first few years' worth of memories of her were planted, but they're so convincing. One more thing I don't want to try to explain to my bosses - and I'm not talking construction.

I've sent in a few requests the past few months for any information we've got about Glory or the Key. Not that I even had a name the first time. All I got back was 'Can you be more specific?'.

You know that TV show with the sister witches? The one where they have a magic book which always tells them everything they need to know about this week's bad guy? I hate them. I really hate them. Almost as much as our research guys hate me.

Since we were turning up a big, fat zero on our own, we were desperate enough to go the Council. Who insisted on doing their review before they'd share the what. I wasn't sure I could slide my little secret by them. Luckily, Buffy brought them around to our way of thinking before it really got put to the test. And we finally found out what we were dealing with.

Which isn't the same as knowing how to stop her. But we managed to do that, too. Permanently, thanks to Giles. Yes, I saw. And the man made me feel so slimy, when I tried to bring it up. Not that I needed much help.

I guess he was just trying to spare us dealing with life's ugly necessities. It's a little late for that, buddy. But I appreciate the thought.

So now it's come down to this. I suppose it could have turned out worse - even a lot worse. But it could have turned out better, too.

Buffy's going to hit the ground sooner or later, even if I do seem to be perceiving everything in super-slow motion right now, and when she does - CPR isn't going to be an issue this time. She's going to come back on her own. Or she won't come back at all.

If she comes back, she's going to have a lot of questions, and I'm going to have the horrible privilege of giving her the answers. That's not going to be fun; I remember how Buffy and Giles treated Ms. Calendar when her little secret came out. But considering the alternative, I'll be happy to do it.

Temporary or not - especially not - I don't want to watch my friend die. Again.

But I have to.

I'm a Watcher.

It's what we do.

THE END



Author's Afterword: Please don't bother asking me 'Was she or wasn't she?' I don't know myself. In some stories, like the classic 'The Lady or the Tiger', asking the question is more important than finding the answer. Your author is firmly of the opinion that this is one of those stories.

The End

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