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 One:
June 26, 2006
“Are you sure you want to do this?”
25-year-old Buffy Summers gave her best friend Willow Rosenberg an exasperated look before shaking her head and letting a small smile form on her lips.
“Positive,” she said, leaning over Willow’s left shoulder to get a closer look at the computer screen. “There’s too much information about me out there. I just want it to reflect… normal-ness.”
The red-headed former witch leaned her head back to rest on Buffy’s shoulder, cheek to cheek with the Slayer, and let out a gusty sigh. “I’m not just referring to changing your background, which is actually a good idea and something we should have thought of a long time ago, but… everything. Retiring, moving away on your own, not having such an active part in the day to day decisions that some people may have come to rely on you for. And-”
“Will. Breathe,” Buffy instructed, letting out a small laugh and bringing her arms up to encompass Willow in a hug. “I’m not moving that far away, and I’m not going to be alone. Dawn will be there. And I need this, Dawn and I both need this.”
“I get it, really I do Buffy. It’s just… I’m going to miss you,” she admitted, turning her head when Buffy let her go and crouched down next to her.
Smiling sadly, Buffy tucked a lock of hair behind Willow’s ear and nodded. “I’ll miss you too. But it’s been three years since Sunnydale… I’ve stayed this long, helped rebuild the Watcher’s Council, did my world traveling. I’ve trained the Slayer’s, worked with Xander on his whole ‘military’ crusade, made nice with Faith, and worked with Giles to clean up the messes the Council left us.” She paused and stood up, turning her back to Willow to gaze out the window.
Fingers brushed aside the curtain, allowing her to have a better view of the front yard of the Cleveland Slayer House where her younger sister Dawn was laying out in the sun with a few of the younger Slayers. “It’s time we got a little normalcy in our lives. Dawn needs to go to school, needs a stable place to call home, and I just… I need a break.”
Willow left her spot in front of the computer to stand behind Buffy, arms around her friends waist to give her a soft squeeze. “Ok, operation ‘Clean Buffy’s background’ is underway,” she said before returning to her spot in front of the laptop.
Buffy clapped her hands in excitement. “Thank you Willow, you’re the bestest best friend ever! I can’t wait for you to see the place that I got in New Haven, you are going to love it. It’s close to the college for Dawnie, but it’s nestled in this great spot to give lots of privacy. And it’s not that far away from here, you can come visit whenever you want.”
Shaking her head in amusement, Willow used her non-magical hacking powers to pull up any information about Buffy Summers and set about building her and Dawn a new life.
September 8th, 2007
Sighing heavily, Ricardo Carlos Manoso, also known as “Ranger”, entered his 7th floor apartment housed in the building owned by his company RangeMan. He unbuckled his utility belt that held a gun and a cell phone and dropped it on his couch, making his way to his shower. Ranger had money, and he usually didn’t have a problem with spending that money on luxuries, but he still appreciated the value a hot shower and shower gel could hold.
Tossing his black shirt to the side, he noticed the blinking light on his answering machine and paused, debating on listening to his messages or saving them for later. Responsibility won out over his need for a shower, and Ranger hit the ‘play’ button as he headed towards the fridge, expecting to hear Stephanie’s voice asking for his help in bailing her out of her latest catastrophe. The voice he heard stopped him cold.
“Shit,” he said roughly, pressing rewind so he wouldn’t miss anything. He hit the volume level up as high as it would go and hit replay.
” The message began, filling the apartment with a crisp English accent. “This is Rupert Giles. I’m calling for Carlos Manoso on an urgent matter. Please return my call as soon as possible.”
Ranger grabbed the pen and paper that lay on the side table next to the phone and scribbled down the number to someone he hadn’t expected to hear from in a very long time. Forgetting his shower, he grabbed a Corona from his fridge and strode to his office, cell phone in hand.
He quickly dialed the number, barely registering that it was after midnight. As the phone rang, he took a drink of his beer and tried to think of a reason as to why Rupert was calling him after so many years. The phone rang six times, and Ranger was about to give up when it was answered with a fumbling noise and a soft curse.
“Hello?” A voice asked, and Ranger determined that the American accent definitely didn’t belong to Rupert.
“Yes, I’m calling for Rupert Giles,” Ranger replied, checking the number he dialed to what he had written down on the notepad.
“Who is this?” The man demanded, and Ranger heard a commotion in the background as several voices began speaking at once. Before he got a chance to reply, he heard Rupert’s voice carry above the rest and demand silence. There was a brief quiet and Ranger heard the phone exchange hands.
“Yes, hello?” Rupert asked, and Ranger went still for a moment. He fought the urge to hang up and forget that he was even considering hearing what the other man had to say.
An intake in breath and more silence. “Just a moment,” Rupert said, and Ranger could tell he was moving, probably to a quieter location. A few moments passed, and by the time Rupert came back on the phone, Ranger was half way done with his Corona. He had a feeling he was going to be needing another by the time the phone call was over with. “Thank you for calling me back promptly, I hope I didn’t disturb your sleep,” Rupert said when he came back on the line.
“Not at all,” was all he said in reply.
“Well…” there was a pause, and then Rupert cleared his throat. “I guess you’re wondering why I called you?” It was more of a statement than a question. Ranger didn’t respond, just sat back in his chair. Sighing, Rupert continued. “I need your help.”
Raising a brow, Ranger put a still booted foot up on his desk. “I guessed that,” he said, taking another sip from his beer. “My question is… why do you think I’m going to help?” It was said bluntly, and there was another sigh on the line.
“I know that our last meeting wasn’t… under the best of circumstances. Something that I do regret. However, I hope that you are able to put any grudges or hostile feelings aside long enough for me to explain my situation.”
Ranger closed his eyes and leaned his head back in a silent debate. He shook his head in dark amusement, knowing that he was a glutton for punishment and couldn’t walk away until he heard what Rupert had to say. “Go on,” he said, putting his foot back on the floor and grabbing the pen in case he needed to take notes.
“Thank you,” Rupert said on a breath of relief. “One of my… associates, is missing.”
Brows furrowing, Ranger set the pen down and leaned back, feeling a loss of interest. “Don’t you have associates that go missing frequently? I’m sure you’ve come to expect it… given your line of work and what they do.”
“Normally, I would say you are right, and that it is most likely an unfortunate result of their circumstances. This… this is different.”
“She was retired. Living in Connecticut with her sister. We kept in regular contact and she’s suddenly… disappeared,” Rupert explained, sounding hesitant.
“Retired?” Ranger asked in confusion. “It was my understanding that your ‘associates’ don’t retire,” he stated bitterly.
“Things have changed. Things have changed a lot since Maricela-”
“Don’t you say her name,” Ranger cut him off angrily, standing up to pace. Some of his hard earned control began to chip away. “Nobody at your Council deserves to say her name, you lost that right when her Watcher got her killed.”
“Carlos, I am deeply sorry for what happened to your sister, but I assure you… the way things were when she was the Slayer, it’s not like that anymore. Things are different now, the Council isn’t run by the same power-hungry group as before. And the person that was instrumental in that change has disappeared.” Rupert replied, and he could hear the frustration in the older mans clipped tone. “I need your help. Normally, I wouldn’t think to call you, especially given the circumstances of our last meeting. However, this is beyond our capabilities, as vast as they are.”
Ranger stopped pacing and leaned his head against the wall. “I need to call you back,” he said before closing his cell phone. Even though it had been 12 years since his sister had died doing her ‘duty’, it was still a fresh memory in his mind. He had been 20 years old, home from college, high off his new life and new opportunities.
His 16-year-old sister had been different than when he had last seen her. He remember Maricela being full of life, carefree despite the neighborhood they lived in and the childhood she had endured. When he came back that summer, gone was the happy girl. In her place was someone harder, with a glint in her eyes that spoke of things she had seen and demons she couldn’t get rid of.
That’s when he had learned that those demons had been more realistic as opposed to figurative. He had followed her one night, saw her kill a vampire, and found out there were darker things on the street than drug dealers and gang members. He had been Carlos back then, and Carlos has hated what his sister had been dragged into. Still, he knew enough about duty and responsibility to know that she was in too deep to go back. So he had helped her fight as best as he could, tried to protect her.
It hadn’t been enough. He had been too slow one night, and he couldn’t do anything but watch her get run through with a sword. The surprise and pain on her face when her eyes had met his had never left Ranger’s mind. And he will never forget meeting her Watcher when they came to get her body. He had raged against the man, had fought the urge to kill him for what he had done to his sister. Ranger had taken one look at the older man in his stodgy suit and soft body and wanted to bring him down for involving his baby sister in a losing battle.
Shaking his head of thoughts, Ranger downed the rest of his beer and went to grab another from the fridge, thinking about Rupert’s words. Wondering how things were different for the current Slayer, and who this woman was who had changed things. He hoped that he wasn’t going to get involved too much with the Council because he knew he might not be able to control his actions if he had to see one more little girl risk her life for her ‘destiny’, while a bunch of old men played at being powerful.
“Only one way to find out,” he murmured, glancing at his phone. He hit redial and waited as the other line rang and Rupert answered. Not giving him a chance to speak, Ranger cut in. “Just tell me the facts and what you need me to do.”
There was a sigh of relief. “Her name is Buffy Summers. She is 26-years-old, lives in New Haven. Her younger sister Dawn came home from school three days ago to find Buffy missing.”
“Any sign of foul play?”
“Not in an obvious manner, but we have detected what seems to be a short struggle. Her necklace… she never takes it off. It was found on the kitchen floor,” Rupert replied.
“How do you know she didn’t just take it off, skip town for a break?”
There was a sound of frustration. “Buffy isn’t like that. She and Dawn moved to New Haven a year ago so Dawn could go to school, at Yale. She retired last year, but we keep in contact. Call once a week. Email. Regular visits.”
“And the last time you heard from her?”
“A week ago yesterday. I called her. Everything seemed fine, no pressing matters. She… she was getting bored with retirement, she said. Was thinking about finding a job. Even with that, Buffy sounded happy, normal.”
Ranger was taking notes on his pad of paper, underlining the name “Buffy Summers” at the top of the page. “Kind of young to be retiring,” he said, more as a simple observation than out of curiosity.
“Buffy has been in the… business, for ten years when she retired. She was instrumental in the turn around of the International Watcher’s Council. An invaluable asset. And more than that… she was, is, like a daughter to me,” there was a tinge of desperation in Rupert’s voice that Ranger could identify with.
“Any idea who might have taken her? And why? And have you tried finding her through, you know, magical means?” Ranger was uncomfortable talking about the supernatural. He acknowledged it’s existence, but he tried to steer clear.
“We have some ideas who might have her, but there are too many who would want to take her to really pinpoint any one person or organization. The reason… is kind of complicated. Over the last 4 years, we’ve expanded quite a bit. As I said, things are different than they were even 5 years ago.” Rupert paused as if he were weighing his answer. “We have made some enemies, human ones as well as supernatural. As for why they would grab Buffy, that is a bit more complicated and something that can not be explained over the phone.” He let Ranger think about that for a moment before continuing. “We’ve tried scrying spells, location spells, everything
we could think of, and we aren’t picking anything up.”
“I hate to say it, Rupert… but if they can’t find her with a location spell, there might not be anything for them to find,” Ranger said, kind of gently. He may not believe in what the Watcher’s Council stood for, but he knew losing a loved one was difficult.
Rupert’s voice was hard when he replied. “No. We would still be able to pick up a magical essence from her. It’s like… she’s no where. Whoever took her, they more than likely have some magical means to cover her trace. Also, some way to hold her. They have some way of keeping her constantly drugged. If Buffy were at her full strength… the chances of a normal kidnapper being able to hold her are slim.”
Ranger got a bad feeling when he heard that. “What do you mean, if she was at her full strength?” He asked, voice cold.
There was a silence, and Rupert sucked in a breath. “Didn’t I tell you? Buffy is my Slayer.”
The pen dropped from Ranger’s hands and hit the table with a soft clatter. He closed his eyes in resignation. “Give me your address. I’ll take a flight out tomorrow.”
Sorry so much dialogue, just wanted to get a few things squared away before we get to the good stuff!
Please, let me know what you think.