For the Weary Souls
: Ranger gets called in after Buffy is kidnapped by a group of mercenaries determined to bring down the IWC. A/N
: Set a few years after the end of “Chosen”. Disregarding the comics, same premise though. After the fall of Sunnydale, they rebuild the Watcher’s Council and start training the mini-Slayer’s. One change. The spell to activate the Slayer’s drained Willow of her power. This is set between books 6 and 7 in the Plum series. Disclaimer
: I don’t own anything. Buffy goes to Joss, and Ranger goes to Janet. Chapter Two:
July 10th, 2006
New Haven, CT
Buffy stood in front of her new house, hands on her hips as she supervised the activity going on around her. Xander Harris, second best friend, strode by her with a heavy box held awkwardly in his arms. She shot him a sunny grin, getting a disgruntled look in return. Laughing softly, she raced ahead of him to push the door back open. She stared at him expectantly, waiting for the grateful look and giggling when he sent her a mock-glare.
“It’s perfect!” Willow gushed as Buffy left her front porch to rejoin her on her front lawn. The red-headed woman slung her arm around Buffy’s shoulders to give her a half hug. Smiling at her friend, Buffy returned the hug before nudging her back to give Giles more room as he and Dawn tried to maneuver the couch up the little path that led to their front door.
Both were sporting the same disgruntled looks when Faith strode out of the house and jumped the porch railing, jelly donut in hand. Buffy’s sister Slayer sauntered over to the two friends who were staring up at the house with happy smiles. “Yo, B. I checked out your bathroom. Wicked cool bathtub you got up in there. It’s got those cool jet streams that you can turn on high and give yourself a happy feeling,” Faith announced, biting into her donut.
Buffy snorted out a laugh when she heard Giles fumble with the couch at the door, almost dropping his side.
“Geez, Faith! Save the dirty comments for when Giles isn’t holding something heavy and potentially squish-worth,” Dawn grumbled, shooting the other Slayer a glare. Faith responded with a raised brow and small smile, and offered Buffy the other half of her donut.
Buffy gratefully took the offered sugary goodness, realizing she hadn’t eaten yet in all the excitement of moving. It had been an almost 10 hour drive from Cleveland to New Haven, and she had been too busy driving behind the behemoth of a moving truck to stop for food. They had decided to forgo hiring someone to do the moving for her and Dawn, instead choosing to spend the time as a family, knowing that they wouldn’t be seeing each other as often.
The group had arrived in New Haven at around 4:00 PM, and had been unloading for a couple of hours so far. Buffy wasn’t looking forward to the unpacking portion; she had acquired a lot more stuff than she had realized.
But it was all worth it, she thought, gazing up at her new home.
It was a two story Victorian looking house, with big windows and an attic. And she loved it. The living room was huge, perfect for her large overstuffed couches and TV. It had 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms, large closets, and a to-die-for kitchen that she knew was hardly going to get used. While she had every intention to finally learn how to cook, she knew it was a long way off before she would be fully utilizing what the kitchen had to offer.
Her room was large and sunny, big windows facing the large backyard. The closet… she couldn’t get over the walk in closet with its own mirror. Everything about the place was perfect, and thankfully Dawn loved it as much as she did.
“What I don’t get,” Xander said, breaking Buffy out of her thoughts. “Is how the two super chicks with the super powers get to sit around eating the jelly donuts while us mere humans have to carry all the heavy stuff.”
Buffy glanced down at said jelly donut, noticing that a glob of raspberry filling was precariously hanging out of the end. She quickly brought it up to her mouth and licked it off before shooting Xander a grin. “It’s
because we’re super chicks with super powers that we can get away with it,” she replied before finishing her half of the donut.
Her friend just rolled his eyes before reaching a hand up to tousle Dawn’s hair. Her little sister jabbed her elbow into his side and Xander winced. “Well, look at Dawnie. She’s making with the heavy lifting and sweaty brow having. We’re taking a donut break.” He grabbed her arm and began pulling her inside the house.
Wiping her sticky hands on her jeans, Buffy motioned Faith to come help her grab the rest of the stuff. “We better hurry and look busy before he realizes that we ate all the donuts,” Faith whispered, grabbing a heavy box that was probably filled with weapons.
The blond Slayers eyes widened and she shot a look towards the house when she heard Xander’s shocked “Hey!” through the open door, before dissolving into giggles and grabbing the last box.
She was going to miss having them around, but man was she looking forward to finally having a chance to be out on her own.
September 9th, 2007
Opening her eyes for what felt like the first time in days, Buffy Summers squinted past the pain in her head, trying to make sense of what was going on with her. She swallowed, her throat feeling like it was on fire, and decided not to attempt talking just yet. Taking stock of her current position, Buffy put her hands on the stone floor, sucking in a breath at its coldness. She tried pushing herself up into a standing position and realized she couldn’t as her muscles screamed in protest.
Her body felt weak, weaker than she had felt in over ten years. There was a pounding in her head and her stomach felt nauseous, and as she tried again to push herself up off the floor, her stomach rebelled and she bent over, dry heaving. Despite the situation, she was thankful there was nothing in her stomach for her to throw up. Buffy wasn’t quite up to dealing with the smell, certain she probably wasn’t getting out of her current predicament anytime soon.
She rested her hot forehead against the cool ground, taking shallow breaths before attempting to stand again. After what felt like forever, she finally forced her body into cooperating and standing on wobbly legs. That’s when she felt the small circle of metal that encased one ankle, and Buffy tried to shake off whatever was attached to her leg.
Whatever it was made of, it was strong. Too strong. Either it was some enchanted metal, or her Slayer powers were failing her. She couldn’t break it, no matter how much she strained against it. By the time she finally resigned herself to the fact that her strength was anything but up to par, she was sweating from the exertion and trembling. Buffy decided the best course of action at the moment was to sit back down and regroup, allow her body some rest and rebuild her strength.
Sitting back down, she leaned against the cool stone wall and tried to access her memories, see if there was any indication as to where she was and what she was doing there. And who the hell was responsible for her situation.
The last concrete memory she had was of being at home, in her kitchen. She had been getting ready to prepare dinner, a simple meal for her and Dawn. Buffy had glanced out her open kitchen window above her sink… and that’s when she noticed the dark clothed figure in her backyard. She remembered frowning, but not feeling any certain amount of alarm. Whoever it was, he was human because her Slayer senses were definitely not acting up.
Buffy didn’t usually feel any threat from humans, but she sure was kicking herself now. She recalled seeing him raise his hand, something shiny pointing at her. And she had been an idiot, staring at him in confusion, the fact that he had a gun pointed at her not kicking in until it was too late. She had heard the sound of something whistling through the air as it passed through her window, felt the impact as it hit her shoulder, and frowned at the lack of pain that she associated with being shot with a bullet.
Glancing down at her shoulder, her frown deepened when she noticed the needle sticking out in the place where the bullet should have been.
Buffy had looked up angrily, ready to beat the ass of whoever had shot a lame dart at her, when she had felt the wooziness set in. Her vision blurred, and the plate that she held in her hand had smashed to the ground. Still, even though she felt weaker by the moment, she had given the men who invaded her home after the dart was fired a good fight. Her cross necklace had been torn off her throat during the struggle, and she remembered ramming the man who had torn it off her in the gut with her knee. He had made a satisfying grunt of pain before falling to the ground, only to be replaced by another man in a ski mask.
And then here she was, waking up in a dark room that smelled damp and felt cold, chained to the wall like an animal. Her Slayer strength seemed to be gone, and she felt like she hadn’t eaten in days. And she was pretty sure her hair was greasy and tangled.
“Well shoot,” she murmured past her dry throat.
New Haven, CT
Tank cut the engine when they pulled up to the address Rupert Giles had given them, and he cast a look over at Ranger. Glancing up at his friend and employee, Ranger gave his head a little shake, indicating they were to stay in the car for a minute.
After Rupert had given him the address that he wanted to meet him at, Ranger had realized that it was only a few hours away, not requiring him to take a plane after all. That suited his purposes perfectly. He would rather be able to bring his own reinforced vehicles and weapons, instead of relying on one of his many contacts in the area to provide what he needed. He was also able to better equip the men that he had brought with him.
When he had gotten off the call with Rupert, he had set to packing some clothes for a few weeks, then placed a call to Tank and told him to be ready to roll early morning. Tank hadn’t asked any questions, just agreed to meet him in the control room at 8am. He had placed several similar calls, rounding up a few more of his men. When they had gathered in the morning, he explained the situation to the few he wanted to bring with him. That had included Tank, Zero, Hal, Ricardo, Ian and Manuel.
He had met with Silvio and asked him to find any information on Buffy Summer that he could, and to report to him within the hour.
When Silvio approached him in his office with a slim file folder, he had gestured him into one of the meeting rooms, calling on his chosen men to follow.
“I asked Silvio to find any information on Buffy Summers,” Ranger explained, choosing a seat and allowing Silvio the floor.
Silvio cleared his throat and opened the file, passing around similar files to each of the mean. The folders included a picture from her drivers license, taken four years prior. The picture showed a pretty young woman with blonde hair and green eyes, a soft smile on her lips.
Ranger had stared at the picture for a few moments, tracing her face, looking for any resemblances in her facial expressions that he could remember from his sister. He did a mental calculation, realizing that she had been in the monster hunting business for six years at the time the photo was taken. He didn’t know how long she had been a Slayer, guessing she must not have been called when the photo was taken. Ranger knew the statistics, knew they didn’t usually last more than a year. He wondered how she had gotten involved before being called.
He was pulled out of his mental process when Silvio began speaking.
“I didn’t really find much, which is surprising, given that she was involved with a pretty high-profile organization. Miss Summers was born in Los Angeles on January 20th, 1981. Moved to Sunnydale when she was 16. Mentions of a fire at her high school in LA, doesn’t really give any clear indication if she was involved or not. Any record she might have had when she was a minor has been sealed, and try as I might I can’t get into it. Um… She was mentioned several times in newspapers I found from the Sunnydale Times
, usually in relation to a death.” Silvio flipped the page, and the group followed suit. The next few pages were copies of the newspaper articles.
Ranger read through them quickly, giving a silent whistle. Summers seemed to be in the ‘wrong place at the wrong time’ quite a lot.
“Graduated when she was 18, and during the graduation ceremony the school happened to blow up inexplicably. Supposedly a gas leak,” Silvio continued, ignoring the grin that formed on Hal’s face. “Let’s see. Went to UC Sunnydale for a year but dropped out when she was 19. Seems her mother was ill, and she left to take care of her and her younger sister. Mother died when she was 20, leaving Summers as sole guardian of her sister. There are some gaps for a few months during the summer of 2001, no mention of anything having to do with her. Became a school counselor at the newly rebuilt Sunnydale High until the whole city collapsed into a sinkhole in 2003.”
Ranger’s brows rose. Exploded high school and then a city collapsing into a sinkhole? Destruction seemed to follow the girl.
“Helped form the IWC in 2003, was an active board member until last year when she retired,” Silvio finished, closing the folder and sitting down.
“What is the IWC?” Tank asked, folder open to Buffy’s picture.
“Stands for International Watcher’s Council,” Silvio replied, shrugging his shoulders. “It’s a big organization, but for some reason I can’t seem to find much information on it. As far as I can tell, they come from old money. They have several schools around the world, mostly for the ‘gifted’, and are based in Cleveland.”
“And this girl, the one we are supposed to find, she helped form this organization?” Ian asked, tapping on his folder.
Silvio nodded his confirmation. “There was a previous organization that went by the name of ‘Watcher’s Council’, but as far as I can tell it wasn’t really much of anything. There was an explosion in 2003 that wiped out the entire building and most of its staff, and the assets were then claimed by Rupert Giles.”
Ranger felt a feeling of shock come over him, but didn’t let it show on his face. This was the first he had heard of the Council being blown up, and he couldn’t help the slight satisfaction he felt.
“Ready to go boss?” Tank asked, and Ranger shook himself out of his thoughts. He nodded confirmation, and both men stepped out of the SUV’s they were in, his other men following suit. Ranger took in the house in front of him, his eyes tracing the Victorian style and large windows.
It was a pretty house with a nice front yard, flowers planted along the front porch. A porch swing sat against the front of the house to the left of the door, and there was a Scooby-Doo shaped coffee mug on the porch railing. The mailbox in the front proclaimed that the ‘Summers Family’ lived there. The little walkway that led to the front steps was swept clean and had lanterns placed at intervals along the side. It was homey, Ranger decided before making his way to the front door. He saw the curtain twitch in the front window and knew they were being watched. His suspicions were confirmed when the door opened before he had a chance to knock, and he was confronted with a young woman with long brown hair.
She was wearing jeans and dirty sneakers, and her shirt looked like it had seen better days. The gray shirt had dirt smudges and a tear in the shoulder, and it was baggy on her lean frame. Her eyes were too big for her face, and they sported dark circles. Despite that, she was still pretty. Ranger read the look on her face, slightly surprised at the open hostility.
“Who are you?” She demanded, staying out of reach and taking in the men that flanked him.
Ranger gave her a ghost of a smile. “My name is Ranger. I’m looking for Rupert Giles,” he answered, guessing her to be the younger Summers sister. A look of relief replaced the distrustful one she was sporting, and she stepped back in invitation.
He was glad she knew not to issue a verbal invitation.
“Giles!” She yelled up the stairs before turning back to Ranger and his men. “Are you here to help find Buffy?”
Ranger didn’t get the chance to answer before Rupert appeared at the top of the stairs, making his way down. The other man appeared much older than when he had last seen him 12 years ago. He contributed part of the startling difference in appearance to the fact that he had a worried look that seemed to be permanently etched on his face.
Rupert held his hand out to Ranger when he got to the bottom of the stairs. “So good to see you Carlos,” he said, shaking his hand. Ranger introduced the rest of his men, and was gratified when Rupert shook all their hands before turning to the girl.
“Dawn,” he said gently, getting her attention. “Why don’t you go rouse the rest?” Dawn nodded before hurrying up the stairs. “Please, right this way,” Rupert gestured towards the living room, and they all sank into the overstuffed couches. Ranger stayed on his feet, choosing to canvass the room. Rupert disappeared into the kitchen, saying he was going to get the some coffee.
Ranger headed to the bookcase by the window first, spotting some pictures. He took in the books stacked haphazardly, reading some of the titles. Most of them were about demons and the supernatural, but he picked out a few classics and some mysteries as well. Next he devoted his attention to the numerous pictures. The first one was of Buffy, Dawn and what he presumed to be their mother. Buffy looked about 18, and he placed Dawn at about 13 or 14. The second was of just Buffy and Dawn, and it was more recent. He could see the house in the background.
It was the first picture he saw of Buffy that wasn’t 4 years old. There was a definite difference in the girl he saw in the license photo and the one he saw in this one. Her hair was a lighter blonde now, and she looked relaxed. Her arms were around her sister, their cheeks pressed together and large smiles on their faces. The third picture was of Buffy and a dark haired woman. He felt a small smile form on his face as he noticed the half eaten jelly donut in Buffy’s hand, one end of the donut had a glob of filling that looked like it was about to drop. It reminded him of Stephanie and her infatuation with donuts. In the picture, Buffy was grinning at something out of the shot, one hand on her hip. He could see Rupert in the background, glasses in hand. Dawn was standing beside a dark haired man with an eye-patch, both with disgruntled looks on their faces.
His perusal of the pictures was interrupted when Dawn returned with two other people, a male he recognized from a photo, and a red-headed female. Both looked tired, dark circles smudged under their eyes. Still, they both managed to form smiles on their lips when Dawn introduced them.
“Ranger,” Dawn said, pointing him out. “Ranger’s men.” Her arm gesture indicated the rest of his men. “And this is Xander and Willow.”
Willow gave a nervous wave, and Xander nodded his head. The red-head looked like she had just rolled out of bed and thrown on the first thing she found. Her skirt was long and purple, but she was wearing an oversized sweatshirt with a picture of Scooby-Doo. Her shoulder length red hair looked natural, but lay limp on her head with one side flatter than the other. Xander had unruly dark hair and an eye-patch. His one good eye took in the men sitting in the living room, and Ranger had the feeling that despite his apparent disability, there wasn’t much Xander missed. He was wearing jeans and a dark shirt with heavy work boots.
There was an awkward silence that was broken when Rupert returned with a tray of coffee mugs. He set the tray on the coffee table and gestured to the men to help themselves before taking a seat in the arm chair. Xander, Willow and Dawn dragged a couple of chairs from the dining room table and sat down close to Giles. Willow was still nervous looking, running her fingers through her hair and shooting glances at Tank.
Ranger cleared his throat, capturing the groups attention. “Maybe we should start from the beginning,” he said softly, looking at Dawn. She nodded her head impatiently, quickly standing up.
“In the kitchen,” she explained when Xander shot her a curious look. He nodded and gestured for Ranger to follow her, obviously deciding to not accompany the younger girl. Dawn shifted from foot to foot impatiently. Ranger stood to follow, Tank standing with him. The rest of the men stayed in the room, knowing that Ranger and Tank would gather the necessary information.
The group of three entered the large kitchen through a swinging door. There was a large island counter with three stools, the pots and pans hanging from the ceiling rack above the island. Above the sink was a small window framed by gauzy curtains, facing the backyard. By the door leading into the backyard was a large fridge with various items held up by magnets.
“This is where my sister was taken,” Dawn stated matter-of-factly, leaning against the counter. Tank stood next to her, and Ranger was struck by the startling difference between the two. Dawn was tall and slim with porcelain skin and an expressive face, while Tank was dark skinned and big with a closed off face that rivaled even Ranger’s.
“How do you know?” Ranger asked, not doubtfully but to get a better understanding of what went down.
Dawn reached for the island and picked a necklace up, the silver cross swinging from the end of the chain. “She never takes this off. And I mean never
, like not even when she takes a shower. It’s like, her security blanket. The one time she took it off and I tried to borrow it, she blew a gasket and I swear she was tempted to actually kill me.” She dropped the chain into Ranger’s outstretched hand and he examined the end.
“It’s broken,” he stated, holding up the clasp. Dawn gave him a duh
look, and Ranger just stared back, expressionless. He held the necklace out to Tank, and his friend placed it in a plastic baggy. His eyes never left Dawn’s, knowing that she was holding something back. Sure enough, she let out a gusty sigh and opened a drawer. She tossed him something, and Ranger reflexively grabbed it out of mid-air and looked at what was held in his hand. A dart, like the kind they shoot at large animals. Possibly an elephant dart. Tank raised an eyebrow and looked at him curiously.
“Why wasn’t this mentioned?” Ranger asked, feeling a bit of disbelief.
Dawn glanced over at Tank and ran her fingers through her hair. “We found it yesterday and sent a sample of the left over liquid to our lab in Cleveland, and we got the results back today. The reason we didn’t say anything was because we weren’t sure if your team was… knowledgeable
about certain things
.” She raised her eyes meaningfully, giving a sideways look at Tank, and Ranger understood what she meant.
Whatever was in the dart wasn’t normal animal tranquilizer.
Tank maintained a straight face, but Ranger could tell he was slightly offended at the younger girl questioning his intelligence. He had hoped to hold off on explaining to his team about the supernatural aspect to this case, but Ranger knew the time was coming for him to come clean. He had no doubt that his team would believe him, he had just wanted to hold off on the questions, not wanting to waste any time.
Ranger nodded to Dawn, showing his understanding. “If we could have a moment?” He asked her, and Dawn rolled her eyes and left the kitchen. “I’ll explain later,” Ranger said to Tank, getting a nod in return. He and Tank began searching the kitchen, hoping to see if something was overlooked. Tank found a shard of a broken plate under the counter overhang on the ground, and Ranger placed it on the counter.
He went to the fridge and looked at what Buffy and Dawn found significant enough to hold onto. There were a couple of pictures, each one featuring the same group of people which included Dawn, Xander, Willow and Giles. His eyes settled on one picture, the only picture he had seen so far with just Buffy in it. It was a shot from the waist up, and she was standing in front of what looked like an old stone wall. Buffy’s hair was slightly curled, half loosely pulled back and the rest falling across bare shoulders. She was wearing a gray spaghetti strap tank and Ranger could see her silver cross around her neck. Her arms were crossed at her waist, almost as if she were feeling insecure about the picture. Despite that, there was an infectious grin on her pretty face, and Ranger felt his lips curl in response.
Tank cleared his throat after the silence from his boss became too long. Ranger gave him a reassuring nod, but he pocketed the picture when Tank looked away.
The rest of the items on the fridge weren’t nearly as interesting, mostly take-out menus and a few recipes. He found a grocery list and a sticky note attached. The note was written in a feminine script. Quickly reading it, he let out a soft chuckle and handed it to Tank. Dawn,
the note began. If you eat the rest of my Choco Flakes one more time, I will have no problem taking you over my knee and spanking you like a child. Also, don’t think I didn’t notice my red sweater go missing young lady! If anything happens to it, I’m going to bypass the spanking and go straight to strangling! Have a good day at school, love ya!
And scribbled under the note was a message from Dawn. Chill Buffy! One bowl of those Choco Flakes is like a thousand calories, I was just trying to save you from getting fat. Also, that shade of red makes you look really orange, who told you it was a good idea? It looks much better on me, so you’re lucky I saved you from a fashion disaster. What would you do without me?
PS you need to get laid. You’re turning into the Grinch who stole happiness and fun.
Tank shook his head in amusement and posted the sticky note back where Ranger found it. “I didn’t find anything else,” he said, and Ranger nodded his head.
“Let’s go back to the living room and get more information from Rupert. Afterwards, we can do a sweep of the surrounding area, maybe check with the neighbors to see if they saw anything.”
Ranger gave one last look around the kitchen after Tank left, eyes lingering on the fridge before turning to exit the room. Unbidden, his hand found the picture in his pocket. He was having trouble getting her face out of his head, not only because she was a small connection to his sister, but also because there was something about this girl that tugged at his interest.
He hoped she was safe, for her sake as well as her family’s.