Okay, people, as part of my self-imposed Christmas Challenge Fic-A-Thon, I'm going to try and post a fic every day from now until Christmas. Some will be additional chapters of existing stories, and some will be new short stories.
Fic #1 in the Christmas Challenge Fic-A-Thon.
Bada Bing! Strip Club
"Xander?!" Buffy gasped upon seeing her friend – someone she'd believed had died five months earlier. As her mind snapped back into focus, and a variety of possible explanations for Xander's unexpected appearance flitted through her mind none of them good. Buffy's goggle-eyed expression of surprise then immediately altered to a narrow-eyed one of suspicion, simultaneously with her posture shifting from one of an innocuous, expectant young mother to that of a predator ready to react in any number of lethal, and most likely quite painful, ways.
"Relax, Buffy. Everything's of the good here," the long-missing and presumed dead Scooby said as he held up both hands in a gesture of peace. As well as showing off the crucifix that hung around his neck.
"Or, at least, not of the tremendously and apocalyptically bad," the dark-haired young man standing in front of her added with a negligent shrug.
"Either way, I'm hoping you're willing to at least sit down and let me explain exactly what happened to me, and why I didn't get back in touch with the Council after I got kidnapped," Xander said as he stared down into a pair of suspicious and semi-hostile eyes.
A long, anxiety-filled moment passed while Buffy evaluated the man in front of her (the half-dozen men surrounding her offered little actual threat, and both of them knew that), before the petite, ostensibly pregnant mother-to-be relaxed slightly and the oppressive atmosphere of impending violence which had been gathering around them evaporated into the surrounding ether of lust and greed that permeated the strip club.
"Okay, Xand," the currently auburn-haired young woman nodded, "let's talk."
Fifty-seven minutes later, after Buffy had taken a quick shower and changed her clothes, the pair were seated across from each other at a kitchen table in one half of a large duplex not too far from the strip club, with three plates piled high with barbecued ribs, two large bowls filled with french fries and cole slaw and a large pitcher of iced tea situated between them.
"…so just as I stick my K-bar in the Jantu's eye, something hits me in the back of the head and it's lights out for yours truly," Xander was telling an intently listening Buffy, as she devoured her third helping of ribs.
"When I woke up, I found myself in your basic, garden variety, white-walled prison cell, but without the usual standard issue, dumbass guard to annoy and hopefully outwit," he said, describing his accommodations. "In fact, as far as I could tell, there weren't any guards around at all. And whoever it was that kidnapped me left me alone for at least the next eight or ten hours before they even showed up to gloat.
"To make a long story a lot shorter, it turns out that I'd been kidnapped by minions of a renegade faction of a government oversight agency called the NID; a group that I suspect, after meeting several of their upper echelon personnel, were almost certainly involved in helping good ol' Maggie W develop her not-so-brainy-child, when we were back in good old Sunny-Hell," Xander said, his words conveying far more information than would be expected just from their content. "From what I overheard a couple of them saying when they thought I couldn't hear them, they were apparently intending to have their scientists clone me, so they could have their own personal spy inside the Council," he said.
"Fortunately for me, though, when they were reviewing and evaluating what they referred to as 'some anomalous results' on my DNA scan – I think they were talking about some leftover stuff from the swim team incident," Xander advised, offering his opinion on what he believed the Dr. Frankenstein wannabes had been referring to, "one of the members of the group ran a chromosome check on me and realized that the results showed I was related to a government bigwig he knew. It turns out my real father's a senator, if you can believe that!
"Anyway, this guy contacted the senator and told him what he'd found out, and once the senator learned what was going on, and was told who I was – that I was a member of the Council, I mean, and not just that I was his son – he got involved big time, and the people who kidnapped me got what was coming to them.
"So, you were originally kidnapped so this clone of yours could spy on the Council?" Buffy asked, frowning as she considered the information she'd just heard. "But why would these people want to do something like that?
"And who exactly is your father, the senator?" she followed her initial questions up with another, equally important one.
"You'll be meeting my father in a little while, Buff," her best friend answered her last question first. "He's on his way here to meet with us, right now.
"And as far as why they'd want to do something like that, this particular faction – and I've been shown enough information that I can believe that that's definitely what they are, Buff, a splinter group who've been pursuing their own agenda," Xander assured the exiled Slayer, "these guys weren't exactly sure what it is the Council is, or what it does, or exactly how much power it has available to it – so they figured that they needed to slip one of their own people inside, so they can get as much info on us as they can, and *then* they could figure out how to best take control of the organization."
"That's crazy, Xander. Come on," Buffy declared, the frown on her face growing even larger. "There's no way someone from the outside could take over the Council – not with all the safeguards we've got in place! They'd be identified as soon as they made the first wrong move."
"Yeah, you're right as far as that goes, Buffy," Xander agreed with a reluctant nod of his head.
"The bad guys wouldn't have had a chance in hell of getting away with that kind of takeover move – IF they were only trying to do it from the outside," Harris qualified his previous words. "But just how hard do you think it would be if they had someone helping them to do it from the inside? Someone fairly high up in the Council, who was considered completely trustworthy?
"Like, say, a member of the Scooby Gang?"
Buffy absentmindedly sipped at her cup of double strength moccaccino as she considered everything she and Xander had discussed as they ate, and released a small sigh as she reluctantly acknowledged to herself the possible truth of his suggestion that a member of the Council's governing board could be working to betray everything they'd been working for, for their own personal gain.
It was a repulsive and extremely disturbing idea, but it was something that she was now far too – would the best description be experienced, tired, cynical or jaded, Buffy momentarily wondered to herself? – to even consider disregarding the possibility of something like that occurring.
And the worst aspect of that idea was that it so readily explained a great many things which had been puzzling the Alpha Slayer over the course of the past year: such as Xander's team being ambushed and slaughtered immediately after the successful completion of their raid on the Gwer'le'ptim nest, as well as his subsequent disappearance.
Or the startling and almost-unbelievable failure, several months later, of a ritual which Willow had successfully performed a dozen times earlier – a failure which had resulted in the witch's unmistakably painful and agonizing death.
Or the car accident less than two weeks after Willow's death, which had been blamed on Faith's excessive drinking and which had ended up with Faith's dying, too, and Robin becoming a comatose vegetable.
And, last, but certainly not least (in Buffy's opinion, anyway), her own denunciation and expulsion from the Council for what any reasonable person would call the most spurious of reasons.
Taken individually, each of those events could be considered just an instance of extremely bad luck which befell the individual involved. But if you viewed all of them as a possible series of incidents arranged by a party or parties hostile to the stated purposes of the Watchers Council, then things took on a whole new appearance – one which argued for the existence of a mole situated inside the governing board.
The only problem with that theory, though, was that the current board members consisted of the remaining Scoobies: Giles, Andrew and Dawn.
And the last surviving Called Sunnydale Slayer didn't want to even begin considering the possibility that one of them was a traitor.
Fortunately for her sanity, Xander chose that particular moment to interrupt.
"Hey, Buff," Xander was practically beaming as he led a distinguished-looking, grey-haired man into the den where she was currently trying to relax.
"I'd like to introduce you to my recently-discovered father – Senator Alan Armstrong."