Author's Note: I own none of the fandoms in here, including Buffy and Stargate. I will list them all at the end, to avoid spoilers, but they belong to various production companies. And not me.
This is what I call a 'Timeline? What timeline?' story. Various shows have blithly been pushed earlier or later so I can pick the characters I want. Smile and nod if you know what I've messed up, and I'll have the full list at the end of the fic.Standing Tall
“What's going on, Chris?"
Chris shrugged without looking up from the notebook he was scribbling in. "I don't know. No one's said anything yet."
"But you always know!"
"You're whining, Andrew."
Andrew scowled, dropping into a seat beside him. "I am not."
"Only dogs can hear you. But it'll probably make training your devil dogs easier, so..."
,” Andrew reminded him. “I trained evil flying monkeys to attack the school play. But that was in my evil past and now I’m good."
"Uh-huh. What makes you think I'd know anything anyway?"
"Because you always know everything. I think you use your powers for evil."
"Let's hope not." Chris flipped his notebook closed, sitting back. “Halliwell magic doesn’t much like being used for evil.”
Andrew winced at his tone, glancing around. "Everyone's here, though. Well, except Xanthe."
"Xanthe's never here. You'd think a Seer would know when we're having meetings in time to get here."
"Seriously," Andrew insisted. "Xander and Dawn, Willow and you, Kennedy and Rona, me...this is the whole Circle."
"Buffy isn’t here," Chris pointed out.
"She’s in Spain."
"Neither is Giles."
"On his way. I passed him in the hall."
"Never comes anyway, that's why Kennedy and Rona are here."
"Huh. Maybe it is the full Circle. That's unusual."
"She didn't come. The message didn't say to bring her, so she’s still at home. Probably sleeping, it’s supposed to be her day off."
He started to stand, but Xander caught his eye. "Don't bother – you don't need her. This isn't a full Circle meeting."
"It looks pretty full."
"There'll be a full Circle meeting later. We just didn't want to drop this on you with no warning."
"Uh-oh," Andrew breathed. “That sounds ominous.”
Giles came in, closing the door behind him and glancing around distractedly. "Is everyone here?"
"Xanthe," Andrew said, half-raising his hand.
"I've spoken to Xanthe. Xander?"
"Yeah. Heads are here."
"So I see. Very well." Giles passed the files he was holding to Dawn. "We have been contacted by the US government. Specifically, the Air Force base in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado Springs. They have been searching for people with a particular genetic trait, and they believe they've found it in the Council."
"What trait?" Chris demanded.
"They call it ATA," Dawn explained. “It's something in the genes. They say it’s complicated, but it's important to them, and it's very rare. Something like one in ten thousand or less."
"Who has it?" Andrew asked.
"And the winner is." Xander raised a hand. "They want me to go to their base for further tests."
"We are opposed," Giles said, raising his voice over the sudden noise. "Andrew, please stop yelling. No one is going to experiment on his brain, I assure you."
"Right. I like my brain," Xander agreed. "Now, if they wanted to experiment on my spleen..."
"Not funny," Dawn warned him. "Where are you going?"
"Initially to Cheyenne Mountain,” Giles told her. “Another base was mentioned, if the tests go well, but I don't believe they said where it was. They referred to it only as the Project."
"They're not going to disappear him, are they?" Andrew was tugging on Giles’ sleeve. Chris reached over to catch his shoulder, jerking him back into his seat.
"That is why we're here." Giles paused until the room quieted down. "I've spoken to Buffy, and our current plan is to form a team with Xander as its head. This team would accompany him wherever he goes. The military have been informed that those are our terms."
"Form a new team?" Rona asked.
"That's the idea. Xander has agreed -"
"In theory," Xander said firmly.
"In theory," Giles agreed. "Kennedy, we would need two Slayers."
"My girls are busy," Kennedy said with a frown. "Rona?"
"Ok. I’ve been thinking about this since you told me earlier and I have an idea. Emily Lightman."
"Emily's still in training," Dawn pointed out.
"Technically, yes. She could have graduated three months ago, but it was the middle of her senior year in high school. I didn't pass her because she would have had to leave the training house."
"Emily might be a good idea," Kennedy mused. "She's smart and she reads people well."
“That’s what I was thinking. She’s fast, too. And she’s so small, people underestimate her.”
“You’ll need a senior Slayer as well,” Dawn said thoughtfully. "Don't we have a Slayer from Colorado Springs?"
"Cassie Frasier," Rona agreed. "She's inactive - college. I've already talked to her; she was willing to come, but her guardians refused."
"College and still living with her guardians?" Chris said in surprise.
"Her mother worked for the Project. So does the current guardian. Cassie doesn't need permission, not the way Emily does, but they won't pass her through.”
“Am I the only one who thinks that's a really bad sign?" Andrew asked. "If someone on the Project doesn't want their kid involved..."
"It's not the most hopeful sign," Xander admitted. "But this is a volunteer mission. Cassie hasn't volunteered, that's fine, and no one will hold it against her."
"She's asked to be left out of the mission completely," Rona added. "No planning, no information sessions."
"And we are all going to respect that," Xander said firmly.
"You still need a senior Slayer," Willow pointed out. "Emily's sweet but she's never led a mission."
"Vida Rocca," Kennedy said suddenly.
Willow frowned. "Vida's a witch."
"A found witch, yeah, but she's also a Slayer, a pretty good one. She's used to working in a team, and nothing she saw in training or in the field ever phased her.”
"Where is she?" Xander asked.
"She's inactive. Not on my roster."
“Somewhere in California,” Rona offered. “I’ll track her down when we’re done.”
“How’s her magic?” Chris asked Willow.
“Good. She channels through a wand, but she thinks on her feet. Strong affinity for wind.”
“She’ll be there as a Slayer, not a witch,” Kennedy reminded him.
“Can’t hurt to know what she can do.”
“Speaking of witches,” Giles said before Kennedy could answer, “any names coming to mind, Chris?”
“You?” Andrew said in surprise.
Chris shrugged. “Wyatt can handle San Francisco. There’s enough cousins to help him if he needs it. And having a quick way out at short notice might help. Beside, not to brag, but there aren’t any witches stronger than me.”
“Chris, I’m trying to say this as nicely as I can,” Xander said carefully. “You’re not – the teamiest of team players.”
Chris laughed softly. “I’ll play nice with the other boys and girls, don’t worry.”
“And your second?” Giles asked.
“I’ll play nice with them, too.”
“Good to know, but not precisely what I meant. Who do you think will be your second?”
“I’m not sure yet. I’ll have to talk to Parrish.”
“Very well. Please do so before the full Circle meets tonight.”
“Is that all?” Andrew asked. “Two witches and two Slayers?”
Giles looked at Xander, who shook his head. “Don’t look at me. You know how I feel about this.”
“She’s powerful, and if Xanthe is right –“
“Good, she and Emily can keep each other company,” Kennedy said loudly. “Who are we talking about?”
Giles looked at Xander, who held his gaze without answering. Sighing, he said, “Ariel DuBois.”
“Psychic,” Willow said softly.
“She talks to dead people.”
“So do you,” Xander pointed out. “Granted you usually kill yours, where Ariel’s more with the solving of crimes, but...”
“Who’s Ariel?” Chris asked.
“She’s one of Xanthe’s inherited psychics,” Willow told him. “She, her sisters, her mother and her uncle, all have some degree of ability.”
“Blonde,” Andrew added.
“Oh, yeah, I know her. Is she underage?”
“She’s seventeen. Xanthe seemed confident she would agree, but whether that’s something she’s Seen or not...”
“She’s not a Seer, not really,” Kennedy said.
“She has visions,” Andrew protested.
“She has dreams
“She works full time for the Council?” Chris asked quickly. “She’d be able to come, I mean?”
“She’s in her gap year,” Andrew told him. “Giles, what about some of my group?”
“I don’t believe it would be wise. Your group have certainly proven themselves, but they do tend to be rather – alarming, to the uninformed. We don’t wish to provoke anything.”
“They can’t help it,” he muttered.
“Yes, granted. We shall hold them in reserve. I’m told the Air Force will also be assigning us two military liaisons. They’ll ensure we –“
“Don’t start any major international incidents?” Xander suggested brightly.
“Something along those lines, yes. Now everyone please make whatever arrangements you need to before the Circle meets tonight.”
Chris leaned over his notebook, flipping to a new page and scribbling quickly. The others headed out, talking quietly. When he looked up, only Giles and Andrew were still in the room, Andrew lurking by the door and Giles gathering his files together.
“Giles.” He ripped out the sheet, passing it over. “Parrish is going to need someone as her second if I’m going to be on Xander’s team. Those are my suggestions. Let her pick someone from them.”
Giles scanned the sheet, frowning. “There are no Halliwells on this list.”
“Your cousins are the strongest born witches in the world, surely they –“
“My cousins are magical royalty,” Chris said evenly. “We run the Magic School and the Elders listen to us. When the Council approached us no one even asked any other witches. It was just us. We’re protectors, not dictators. It’s time the rest of the population got a say.”
Giles studied him for a moment before nodding. “Very well. I will discuss the matter with Parrish.”
“I’d better talk to her first.” Chris glanced at his watch. “She’s probably not even on the base yet. What time is it in San Francisco?”
“It’s not lunch time yet,” Andrew offered.
“Right. She won’t be here yet. I’ll go track her down.”
Full Circle didn’t happen very often. Mostly, the various departments of the new Watchers’ Council ran semi-independently, and the heads of several of the new departments had nothing to do with any of the others. In theory, of course, Buffy knew everything any department was doing. In practise, she killed things and the others ran the Council for her.
Giles generally tried to be the first to a full Circle meeting. It usually didn’t work, because there was always something else he needed to hear or sign off on or make a judgement about. No matter how early he left his office for the meeting room – they had a meeting room now, that was still strange to him after years of the library or Magic Box or Buffy’s living room – he was almost always held up along the way.
Today, though, only the Halliwell cousins were there ahead of him, arguing fiercely over Chris’s notebook. Giles cleared his throat, but their only reaction was to start arguing softly over the notebook instead.
Until the reformation of the Council, Giles had had almost no interaction with the Halliwells. He was aware of them, of course, as all Watchers were; as the premier Wiccans in the world, the Council had occasionally deigned to work with them. That tradition had died with Patty Halliwell, though, as her mother had refused to work with them at any time. By the time Patty’s daughters had come into their power, the Council had already been crumbling. One of Giles’ first acts had been to get back in touch with them, and they had agreed to send two of their own to help them deal with born witches. Chris was, as Xander had put it, not the teamiest of team players, but he was loyal and dedicated, and with his cousin Parrish to help him he ably represented the born witches who worked with the Council.
“Problem?” Giles asked, when the two continued to argue in whispers.
“No,” Chris said quickly.
“Just discussing Chris’s second on your new team,” Parrish added.
“Seems to be quite a vehement discussion. Who are your candidates?”
“Still working it out,” Chris said, glaring at his cousin.
“Because Chris refuses to listen to my suggestion.”
“I’m not –!”
“What is your suggestion?” Giles asked.
Parrish lifted her chin, watching him challengingly. “I’ll go.”
Giles glanced at Chris, who lifted his hands helplessly. “I see. Remind me, Parrish, you are how old?”
“Eighteen.” Catching Chris’s look, she added quickly, “Halliwell magic is strongest when used with Halliwell magic. That’s why our parents were so successful. There’s no other witch who could help Chris as much as I can. And there’s the other thing.”
“She’s good at calming people down, it’s her magical heritage. Parr...”
“I’m coming,” Parrish said firmly.
Andrew appeared before anyone could answer, hesitating. “Whoa. What’s up with the vibes in here?”
“Nothing,” Chris said, shoving away from the table to lean against the back wall.
“Uh-huh.” Andrew skulked in, settling in his seat and reaching for Chris’ notebook. Parrish slid it across to him, watching Chris, who didn’t react.
“Urgh. I can never read your spells.” Andrew flipped the notebook closed, passing it back to Parrish.
“You’re not supposed to be able to. Those are Halliwell spells,” Chris reminded him.
“They’ll be useful for the team, though,” Parrish said.
“Oh, you’re on the team? Awesome! The Halliwell cousins, fighting injustice with our two beautiful Slayers and our pretty Seer...and Xander...”
“Hey,” Xander protested from the door. Giles glanced up, registering the blonde girl at his side. It took a moment – too many people in the Council, and isn’t
that the oddest thing you’ve thought in a while?
– for him to recognise Ariel DuBois.
“Come in,” he said. “Andrew, do stop.”
“...bringing justice to...”
“Andrew,” Xander said, ushering Ariel in. “Giles, where is everyone? We can’t be that early.”
Giles blinked. “I expected everyone to be here.”
“I’ll go look for them,” Andrew offered.
“They’re coming,” Ariel said quietly. “Rona’s late, but the others are coming.”
“Thank you,” Giles said automatically.
“That’s so cool,” Andrew whispered.
Ariel grinned, easing into a seat. “I was making it up.”
“Except about Rona. She really is going to be late.”
Andrew narrowed his eyes. “Did she tell you that? Is that how you know?”
“No, that one I really...” she gestured vaguely.
Kennedy and Willow arrived in, Dawn on their heels. “Rona’s going to be late,” Kennedy said, rounding the table to her seat. “Something about the training house.”
“Xanthe will not be here, but Ariel DuBois is attending in her place. Ariel, do you know everyone?” Giles gestured vaguely around the table.
“Yes, I know who everyone is,” she said, glancing once around the group.
“You know what this is about?” Xander asked.
“Yes, Xanthe told me.”
“And you agree?”
He studied her for a moment before nodding. “It’s a volunteer mission. You can back out any time you like.”
“I know. Thank you.”
Giles nodded briskly. “Good, everyone understands and no one’s feeling put upon. On to other matters. Kennedy, have our Slayers given us an answer?”
The liaisons arrived four days later. Both Vida and Emily had agreed to join the team, though both Xander and Giles had had to reassure Emily’s father that she’d be safe and able to leave at any time. The two had trained together once or twice to get used to each other’s styles, and Xander had arranged a couple of team nights – one evening of bowling, where Vida and Emily decimated the others and Ariel won all the bets, and one movie night, which degenerated into MSTing after a while, mostly led by Chris. The group was still a little uncertain, but they were starting to come together.
On the fourth day Dawn was called down to the lobby to find Graham Millar outside, along with an unfamiliar woman in Air Force fatigues. Xander gathered the team together and met them in the conference room, along with Giles, Dawn and Andrew.
“I see you’ve expanded,” Graham said, looking around.
“Turns out the Council owned a few banks,” Xander told him. “That money was supposed to be going to help the Slayers, and now it is. Wanna meet my team?”
“Yeah. First, though, let me introduce Lieutenant Taylor Earhadt. She was recruited to the Programme a couple of years ago and will be serving as your second liaison. Taylor’s going to be teaching you specifically about the Programme. I’m general military.”
“Hi, Taylor.” Xander shook her hand, pausing to add questioningly, “Lieutenant Earhadt?”
“Taylor, then.” He waved them both to sit. “How much does she know, Graham?”
“Broad strokes. She doesn’t know who any of you are.”
“Saving the best for last,” Chris noted. Graham nodded, smiling faintly.
“Right.” Xander turned to Taylor. “If I start going too fast, stop me. I’m not really used to doing this any more.”
“I think I can keep up.” She folded her arms, leaning back in her seat.
Distantly, Xander realised that she hadn’t reacted to his eye patch at all. He wondered if she’d been warned, or if she’d seen injuries like his before.
“Alright. My name is Xander Harris and I am apparently the guy your Programme wants. I’m also the head of both this team and the Watchers segment of the Council. You know who the Watchers...?”
“Back up for the Slayer, but I was told they were pretty ineffectual. No insult intended.”
“No insult taken. They used to be pretty bad, but we’ve completely revamped since then. Including dividing out the responsibilities. Watchers are sort of the brain to the Slayer’s brawn, although Watchers are required to have a certain level of self defence and Slayers are encouraged to learn as much as possible. Watchers specialise in demon species, mostly, how to identify and kill the different species, how to recognise different rituals and how to safely stop them, demon languages. Some Watchers specialise in prophecies, and Giles heads them up. Dawn is his second. Neither of them are on the team.”
“With you so far,” Taylor said when he paused.
“Good. The only other person in here not on the team is Andrew. He’s my second in the Watchers and he also deals with the friendlier demon species, several of whom help us out from time to time.” Glancing around the table, he continued, “The two Slayers on the team are Vida Rocca, senior Slayer, and Emily Lightman.”
“Junior Slayer, I presume,” Taylor drawled.
“In terms of experience, yes. Emily’s very skilled at reading people, though, she’ll be in the front of the team.”
Vida had been eyeing Taylor since she’d sat down and now she announced, “I was part of the Ranger programme in Briarwood.”
“Oh? I was in Turtle Cove.”
“That was a few years before me, I think. Yellow?”
“Mmm.” Taylor studied her. “Pink?” she said doubtfully.
“Yeah.” Vida fingered the pink ribbon sewn onto her sleeve. “Our Yellow was a guy.”
“I’ve never met a male Yellow. I hear they’re more excitable than we are.”
“You could say that,” Vida agreed. Glancing up, she caught Xander’s look and smiled innocently. “Fire ahead, boss.”
“Sure? You’re definitely done? Don’t want to rush you or anything.”
“No, we’re good. We can catch up later. Go on.”
Xander made a face at her and turned back to Taylor. “Chris and Parrish Halliwell are our witches. Ariel is our Seer –“
“Seer?” Graham repeated.
“Psychic. Ariel sees things. Our head Seer told us to bring her along.”
“I used to work with a psychic,” Taylor said thoughtfully. “Well, sort of.”
“Good. So you’ll understand that if Ariel says stop, we stop, if she says we don’t trust someone, we don’t trust him.”
Taylor raised an eyebrow. “Mine wasn’t quite that specific – yes, Xander, I understand. Ariel’s your showstopper.”
“Good. Graham, you’ve worked with witches before, right?”
“With shamans,” he said doubtfully.
“Closer to Ariel’s area of expertise,” Chris said when Xander looked at him. “Shaman are mystical conduits to the dead. In theory. Some healing spells, that kind of thing, but not much offensive power.”
“Ok. Well, it’ll be nice for Graham to be on your team, then.” Glancing at Graham, he confided, “Other witches measure themselves on the Halliwell scale.”
“Is that right,” Graham said blandly.
Xander nodded, sitting down. “I think we’re ready for your part now.”
Graham nodded, shoving back his seat and standing to find a file folder in his bag. “I need you to sign NDAs first – don’t look at me like that, Xander, they’re important.”
“Your Programme came after me, not the other way around,” Xander reminded him.
“Yeah, I know, and now they want you to sign your NDA so they can tell you why they want you.” He waited until Xander scrawled a name across the form; picking it back up, he sighed. “They want you to sign with your name, not Hooby McDoofenmeyer.”
Xander shrugged innocently. “Can’t blame a guy for trying.”
Taylor passed him a fresh form, collecting the others while he signed. “Emily and Ariel, you need a parent’s signature...”
“Pass them here,” Xander told her. “I’m in parent locos for them while they’re working for the Council.”
“You’re in loco parentis,” Dawn corrected him.
“Well that just sounds crazy.” He signed Emily’s form with a flourish and slid them across to Taylor. “Ok, we are all agog. What’s the big secret?”
“Aliens,” Graham told him, sitting back and folding his arms.
“Pffh. We had aliens years ago.”
alien,” Giles murmured.
“He ate crazy people,” Xander confided to Taylor.
“Ours don’t do that,” Taylor said easily. “They’re more likely to take you over and control your body. Or else suck all the life out of you with their hand. It depends which group you meet.”
“Andrew, you are not allowed to speak for the next ten minutes,” Xander said.
“Oh, but –“
“No. Talking. Andrew.”
"Big sci fi fan," Dawn explained to Graham.
He nodded, sitting forward and shuffling through his files. "There's a lot of background, which you'll be given when you reach Project Headquarters, but the basics are; we can travel to different planets. We have working spaceships, and we're at war. Is he alright?"
Giles followed his gaze to Andrew, who had clapped both hands across his mouth and was bouncing excitedly. "Andrew, do try and contain yourself. Please continue, Graham."
Graham eyed him, but continued. "Here in the Milky Way we're fighting the Ori-"
"Religious fanatics with the power to back it up," Taylor said.
"Self-replicating Meccano spiders with bad tempers."
"And the remains of the Goa'uld."
"Body stealing snakes with a god complex."
"Over in the Pegasus galaxy, they're fighting the Wraith-"
"Bug people who suck life."
"And some Replicators."
"Self replicating Meccano people with bad tempers."
"What about the ATA thing?" Emily asked.
"It's a genetic sequence. There was a race we call the Ancients who lived both here and in Pegasus. Most of them are gone, although one or two have shown up. A lot of their technology is genetically keyed and the ATA is what lets us make it work. Not many people have it naturally. It can be artificially induced, but it doesn't always work very well."
"Oh, me!" Andrew burst out. "I'll try it!"
"I don't think it'll give you superpowers of any description," Xander told him.
"Depends on your definition," Graham said. "In Atlantis, our base in Pegasus, things like lights and some of the doors are ATA keyed. You get a strong enough expression of the gene, there's a lot you can do without ever leaving your chair."
"Uh huh. And just how strong am I?" Xander asked.
"It's hard to test cold, but it's looking pretty good. There's a lot of Ancient tech being funnelled back to us and we don't have the ATA users to test them properly. That's what you'd be doing, at least initially."
"Turning things on and off, basically," Taylor added.
"Huh. Tell me more. What's the Project's real name?"
"It's called Stargate Command." Graham smiled, real enthusiasm lighting up his eyes. "Let me tell you about the Stargate."