The Higher Realms
Cordelia huffed as for the sixth or seventh time someone interrupted to ask something or other.
“... Why did you do this anyway?”
She turned and raised an eyebrow at one of the ‘Observers’, beings that often looked at different universes, realities, and timelines.
“I’m curious, and, honestly... you’re coming across rather vindictive.”
She blinked. “I am?”
“You know, dumping all that crap on Willow?”
With a chuckle, Cordelia answered, “Yeah, but I only enjoy it because the willow of my home reality at this point was really asking for it. There’s actually a point to it here though.”
He gave her a steady look.
Huffing she sighed and patted a seat across from her with her feet, and the observer sat.
“My point.... Willow did mature. After years of an antagonistic front from me and undercurrent from her, we finally did become friends. But... even then she wasn’t all that mature. Only after... certain tragedies...” She sighed. “This time, I don’t want her to have to go through that
stuff. And Janus did caution me about balance. In... In the original reality, those guys did die in the same friendly fire incident. It’s just that the change here to make her somehow responsible for it in order for her to learn certain lessons, balances out not learning it from... others... dying.”
“... So... people who’d die anyway, are... used.”
“... There are days I really don’t like big picture deals.” Cordelia replied with a wince. “But I may as well have given those guy’s deaths purpose.”
“Harsh way to do it though.”
“And the alternative is either she never does learn those lessons, or destroys the world. Remember, part of the change in this reality is that they have to start acknowledging that what they see all the time is horrifying
. The Military call it combat trauma, and try not to let their soldiers be in front line roles continuously for too long. They’ve got no choice about that. On the long term, hiding it is very bad, and you need look no further than Buffy, especially after she died and Willow brought her back. Xander was strong enough to come through it all, but not unscathed, and none of them were able to pass a psychological profile. Here, their core is relatively the same.”
Cordy just grinned. “Well, not really. The details of the possession are the same. Certain details in his family history are. I mean, Angelus didn’t leave him alone just because they were in public. And aren’t you curious as to why Xander seemed to be a demon magnet...?”
“You just changed the who, not the what’s...?”
She nodded. “Xander was, and is strong enough to get through. But while they’d be better off in the long term for actually admitting and getting counselling for it, in the short-term, they’d be worse. Willow’s empathy while at times a good point, would also be a weakness. In fact, it was. Her empathy meant she couldn’t see what Xander could, that a relationship between Buffy and Angel could never work. She was so focused on how tortured Angel was from ‘Angelus’ memories, and how alone Buffy felt and all that angst of ‘probably dying young’, and no chance for a normal boyfriend. Xander’s empathy was all over the place but when it came to Angel, his inability to be empathic about it was a strength... as much as it is a weakness at others.”
“Xander isn’t perfect, but you seem to be trying to make it otherwise...”
“He’ll make mistakes. What and When, I have no control over. Nor even if he learns from those mistakes. And anyway, some Observers think that the original Sam Carter walked on water.” She looked up, “No offence.” She looked back. “Sam wasn’t perfect, although, she was damn close. She made mistakes. Even if you lot didn’t see them.”
“... Back to willow.”
“... You’re concerned that I changed more than just when she’d mature.”
“She’s still the little mousy Willow. But underneath that mask she wears like her own skin, is a daredevil. She likes taking risks. Not the pointless kind, no, but even so. And usually, her point is the search of knowledge. Or to help. Or something along those lines.”
“Actually, I was concerned you were going to take the ‘manipulative willow’ route.”
Cordelia blinked. “... Willow. Manipulative? Have you MET the girl?”
“... well, no, but... that’s the route most modified copies of the original universe go.”
“She’s no saint, and her abidance of rules entirely depends on whether or not she’s curious and thinks breaking them is justified, but this aint no bashing universe like... like all those idiots make. Her ‘resolve face’ is not her being manipulative. It’s just her being very very stubborn.”
“Fine. Willow’s not being bashed because of pettiness. What about the Jenny and Giles thing? Where’s the reversal coming from?”
“She’s biased because of the Watchers’ Council lack of decent PR.” Cordelia deadpanned.
“It goes to the watchers council. They’re not all bad. They’re just in a bad position where their combat people aren’t really suited to combat, and they actually have to do all of that stuff we know them for, aka train potentials and guide slayers. There are the assholes who are such for different reasons, like Travers and Wes, and there’s the good ones like Merrick and Giles. There’s also the complete and utter pricks that should be staked.” She paused, and suddenly was drinking from a milkshake.
“And...” The Observer asked, wondering why she was thirsty when, well. Hello, it’s the Higher Realms.
“Most people, when they hear the company line and don’t realise that they have no choice in slayers being, you know... older?”
“... Ah, the ‘you make young girls fight your battles’ argument.”
“Exactly. The Council doesn’t exactly have good PR. Not in the original, and definitely not in this one. Their reputation is worse since in this one, the slayers have to be called.”
“Why that change? To make them out as bigger assholes?”
Cordelia shrugged. “... The, um... Authority who ‘chooses’ the slayer... kinda...”
“... Kinda what?”
Cordelia blushed. “I might have... kinda... punched her. A little bit.”
“You changed the entire dynamic of how slayers... happen... because you punched the being in charge of the process in every other Slayer reality?”
“She wouldn’t agree to let me switch... um.” Cordelia stopped.
“... right. She wouldn’t go with your plan so you punched her, and because of that, you got your way. Somehow, I don’t think that’s how it’s supposed to work. And, you’re a PTB now. You’re supposed to be above this.”
“... yeah yeah, I already get that stuff from the stuffy lot back inside.”
The Observer just pinched the bridge of his nose in mock-headache.
“So because the others know the council actually call them... and, uh... the part where they don’t have willow’s sheer well of power to call more than one... they have the PR of when one dies the next is called anyway. So they still have the reputation of constantly sending one girl on suicide missions. And worse because they’re not just charged with guiding the slayer, but actually calling the slayer to boot.”
“And that results in Jenny’s negative reaction to Giles.”
“Well, think about it. She’s a Kalderash, and she’d take a pretty dim view. Without most of that bias, of course she fell in love with Giles. She’s just got a lot more bias to get passed in this one, because even with that change, Giles is still Giles.”
“But she doesn’t have a crush on him yet?”
“Attraction, but no crush.” Cordelia agreed. “Attraction she keeps denying she has so there’s the UST factor building up even more than it did originally, because while he was always bumbling when trying to talk to her and she was amused about it, she actually acknowledged and was trying to get a relationship going somehow, versus, here, she’s actively denying her own feelings.”
“So... when she does realise he’s a good guy...?”
“... Not up to me what happens then. Or when.” Cordelia shrugged. “could turn into a full relationship, a fling, or just a very good friendship. Or it might not happen at all. Because when you get right down to it, I’m still on the same level as Leo, I can’t influence people or the timelines the way the other PTB’s can.”
“Most of its Janus doing on your behalf.” The Observer added. “Which one is he, anyway? There’s a dozen three-dozen Janus’s kicking around here.”
Cordelia huffed. “Well, the Janus of my original reality liked the chaos it would bring, but he kinda can’t do this stuff as that’s all ‘planning’ and ‘order’, and he’s, well... you know. Chaos and spontaneity. However, My Janus owed me a lot and even though he’s from the same pantheon, he’s just a different reality version of that pantheon. Where He’s all, change and doorways and stuff.”
“... So which one is Xander and Dawn avatars of?”
“Uh... Xander’s of the chaos-Janus, Dawn’s of the doorway-Janus, but since this dawn isn’t the key, that connection isn’t as big as it already is.”
The observer felt that he had to point out, “Uh... he copied the original and fused it with another copied universe, and then changed things in certain ways. She didn’t even exist at this point in the timeline in the original. Her connection is pretty damn strong, I’d say.”
She nodded. “Yeah. But, here’s the thing. It’s a lot stronger with all of those different Dawns that are the Key Embodied in all those different offshoot timelines, since that Key part connects each key version of her to all of creation. Speaking of...”
The Observer watched as a version of Dawn appeared with some familiar faces, and started to talk with the returned-Leo. “She’s got access to here?”
Cordelia shrugged. “She finds it boring. They won’t let her into the Library.” She turned and suddenly she was holding a sheet of glass, in which she could see events in her ‘pet project’ universe.
“You didn’t answer my question. Why? Why do this in the first place?”
She sighed. “Apparently, my critique of my fellow PTB’s ways was most troublesome, so they dared me to try it myself.” She smirked. “They didn’t expect me to actually do it, or get someone to do it for me. I think it’s going well.”
“... Not everything to plan though.” The Observer inserted.
“No,” With a frown, she continued, “But I don’t think any of the PTB’s plans ever were done completely. Acathla was in the plans, but not Angelus is just one example. And when they realised that they could get their champion back and sort of accomplish this plans anyway, they took it. But... well, they needed to make a point to Angel about letting his... uh... smaller brain do his thinking, hence the century or so in hell.”
She pointed to herself. “I’m not supposed to be a PTB. I wasn’t even supposed to be one for long. Most of the other variations of myself descended within the first month. The rest, a year. I’m the only version left from one of the Original Universe’ timeline branches. The only reason we all ever ascended in the first place was because of the various versions of Jasmine including possession of my body. Once that occurred, well, I was connected to the higher realm. So like I said, I’m not supposed to be a PTB. If I was, then they’d have had plans to prepare me properly. I don’t know why, but the Boss told me it’s not yet time for me to descend.” She sighed. “And I doubt that the time will come in the next millennia. I’ve already spent too many centuries with that pain in the ass setting it up.”
Xander pulled up outside of his house, and with a short look at his clothes, decided to go ahead with his thoughts.
Five minutes later, he sat back in the driving seat, having changed his clothes to something a lot more presentable, and took off for the airport.
Finding the roads clear, he could even open up to the speed limit, reminding himself that he had a V8 under the hood, even though it was paired with an automatic gearbox, which both he and Giles found to be a tragedy.
As he approached the airport, he saw that, contrary to what he’d expected, the C-130 hadn’t landed, though it was visible in the distance. Nearing private entrance to the airport, he slowed to a stop with his window down, and in his most confident, flashed a badge he’d had as a kid and said, “Lieutenant Harris, USAF.”
A quick check and he was waved through, after confirming of course, who he was to pick up.
He rolled to a stop at the plane parking spot he’d been sent to, and stood among the airport personnel who held the plane chokes, ready to make ‘safe’ a big rumbling plane with spinning propellers. Sometimes, a Scooby perspective made even a ‘safe’ job seem crazy. But For Xander, he blamed too many Indiana Jones marathons.
Watching the plane taxi around the Airport, lumbering closer until it spun slowly around and stopped, he wondered at how long it had been since he’d been in an airplane, and if he’d ever get in one again.
In fact, he belatedly realised, as the engines shut down and the rear loading ramp started to drop down, the last time he’d been near a plane had been the USAF plane that Jacob had somehow gotten his family to use for the move from the east coast.
He watched as the crew quickly secured the plane, chokes against the wheels and so on, and an old looking guy step down the ramp, in Flight crew gear.
Having gotten the names earlier, he spoke clearly. “Colonel O’Neill?”
Jack gave him a once over and nodded. Xander quickly saluted, “I’ll be your driver today, sir.”
“Lieutenant, we don’t need one.” Jack spoke to him as he returned the salute. “A civilian will be here any minute.”
Xander didn’t smile. He just kept his response hidden. Inside, he was guffawing at a colonel thinking that he was military, a lieutenant and on top of that not Harris. “I’m sure he will be sir.”
Jack nodded as he saw to unsecuring some vehicle inside, and Xander watched with an eyebrow as a dark-skinned guy then guided the Colonel, inside the car, out of the plane.
And then, two figures, one vaguely familiar-looking and one very much familiar came out, the latter holding some paperwork.
“Didn’t you hear me Lieutenant?” Jack asked as he noticed Xander was there.
“Indeed I did, sir.” He spoke clearly, and when Sam shot her head to his direction, wide-eyed, he almost grinned, and walked over to Sam.
Jack was obviously putting two and two together.
“Hey Sam.” He greeted with a smile.
“Xander!” She cheered as she pulled him into a hug... then pulled back and looked at his clothes. “Where did you get these?”
Xander just grinned. “Granddad gave me them for my fifteenth birthday.”
Her eyes widened. “Okay... But, why? I mean...”
“When he asked me what I wanted, I figured I could get both a Halloween costume out of it, and something of my families’ that could make me feel proud to be a carter.” He shrugged. “So I asked him if he had any spare uniforms that don’t fit or something.”
“And the Lieutenant bar?” She asked.
Jack groaned. “So you’re not a Lieutenant of the Air Force sent to be a local guide?”
Sam chuckled. “Sir, first, you knew Xander was going to pick us up. Second, you know that we don’t have a base here.”
Xander took a second to register that, while the others started to do stuff inside the plane, and Sam could see him thinking over it.
“There’s an army base nearby.”
She shook her head.
“... Uh... which branch then?”
“Sorry, I, uh... can’t tell you that.”
He sighed. “Classified, got it.”
She smiled. “Not so much, as that I’m not supposed to know myself.”
He nodded, and looked as they started to carry things out to his car. Then he looked at the massive SUV that barely fit through the rear of the Hercules.
“You don’t pack light, do you? What did you bring, everything including the kitchen sink?”
She laughed, but it was hollow. “We, were told to pack heavy.”
That sobered him, and he nodded. “So, who’s going in which?”
“Jack and... Murray... will go in the SUV. Daniel and I will ride with you.” She looked at the car, and frowned, “I thought your dad drove something bigger. We’ll barely fit in there, and I doubt it’s got the grunt.”
“ah... It’s got a V8.” He informed, “But you’re right. It’s in the shop, and this is a friends’ rental.”
“Who’s your friend?” She asked as they started to actually help pack the car, and Xander wondered about the tall dark skinned guy’s hat that he did not look comfortable wearing.
“Rupert Giles, he’s the school librarian.” He said as he picked up a very heavy bag from a pile in the Hercules. He put it back down and opened it in curiosity, only to catch a glimpse of something unsettling before Sam shut it. Eyeing the air crew just outside who weren’t paying them attention, she shook her head. He got it.
“So... you took your friends car?”
“He lent it to me, he knows I’m a good driver, unlike Buffy.” He grinned as he picked up the bag, and picked up another just as heavy, and started to carry them in balance.
He missed the look on Sam’s face, and they continued talking, with Sam wanting to not talk about that stuff just yet.
“You know, it’s been ages since I’ve been on a plane. With Mom’s... condition, she doesn’t get out much, and Dad’s not exactly been able to afford holidays.” He winced at some thoughts. “Mind If I stick around a bit before we go?”
She couldn’t help the grin. “Hey, when we’re done here, maybe I can stick around a few days to teach you a bit? Maybe take her up?”
Xander had to point out, “You mean, joy ride in a Herc? Wouldn’t they charge you the fuel?”
She shrugged, and with a massive grin, whispered into his ear, “The idiots who put a so-called ‘army’ base here are being charged for it with clever book-keeping. In an hour there won’t be any record of this plane’s occupants, and the only records left will indicate that the Air Force Air Mobility Command was tasked with transporting ‘classified items’ to their base.”
He filed that away as he simplified, “Idiots being shouldered the bill. Got you. Enjoy it while we can.”
She led him into the cockpit, and he found that while talking, Jack had been back in the cockpit.
“So. This is your nephew.”
“Ah!” Jack said, finger held up, “That’s, ‘Jack’ from now on. We’re not on the clock, here Carter.”
“... Sam.” She corrected in turn.
Xander had to ask, “So... Colonel. How on earth did you mistake me for military?”
Sam laughed as Jack looked away. “Well, you are a Carter. In uniform.” Jack got out.
Sam nodded with a smile. “It’s in our DNA.”
“Ah. And, you’re both pilots then?”
Jack nodded. “Never did it main track, but I got certified when I was between missions and assignments.”
Xander nodded as Sam guided him into the Captain’s seat.
“Ever thought about joining up?” Jack asked. “You’ve already got the family connections for an Academy position.”
“Nah, I wouldn’t pass the academics.” Xander replied, and sighed. “And I... have other plans.”
They were silent for a minute, before Jack decided, “... We could help with that.”
He turned around as far as the chair would let him, and stared.
Jack’s face was open, yet closed. He could see sincerity, but also anger at something. A little hint of pride too.
“... I don’t think we should talk about that.” Xander finally said into the uncomfortable silence.”
“Not here, no.” Sam corrected him, and he winced at the implications. “We will, Xander, whether you like it or not.”
“And just what can you do? It’s not like the military could ever acknowledge that all that stuff exists.”
Jack just raised an eyebrow, and asked Sam, “He really doesn’t know about...?”
“No sir.” Sam answered, and tapped Xander and made a ‘lets go’ hand motion. “Come on, I’ll brief you when we get to your house.”
She nodded, and he dutifully followed her out of the cockpit and out of the plane, to the car. He met the last two members of the team.
“Right. Xander, these are my team-mates, Doctor Daniel Jackson...” Xander frowned at the familiar name, but couldn’t lock it down, until she said, “He’s an archaeologist, and most of those tend to know about, that stuff, already.” She hedged, now he was looking for it he could tell. Then of course, the connection he’d made then popped up.
“Oh, you’re a former watcher, huh?” Xander asked, since it was clear at the moment of realisation, the others would know.
That he winced and nodded did not bode well, however.
“And... this is ... Murray.”
Up close, his curiosity about the hat drove his eyes to look at it, and noticed two things. The hat was thin enough he could make out a shape, and he recognised said shape. And he noticed a third. Instincts were telling him something was off.
“Guys, this is my nephew, Xander.”
Daniel nodded, and held out a hand. On a hunch, Xander grabbed it and spoke about something he’d read about the guy in the watcher diaries, “So you’re the one with that mad theory about the pyramids, right?”
Daniel winced but nodded.
“And Sam, you’re an astrophysicist.”
She frowned, and nodded, wondering what he was getting at.
“And... Murray.” He mocked, knowing it was a fake name, “You’re wearing a brand on your head in the shape of an Egyptian god, particularly the brand tied to the variation of said god known as ‘Apophis’. Said god whom was not a God, nor was he a human impersonating one. But an Extra-terrestrial possession demon, inhabiting a human body and enslaving people. His race were known as Goa’uld.” Seeing their lack of ‘is he crazy’ and more ‘oh my god he knows’, Xander pressed on. “And the Goa’uld were known to have warrior slaves, called the ‘Jaffa’, bred to serve.” Xander looked at the guy’s stomach. “And my instincts are telling me that the ‘infant Goa’uld in the stomach’ part is true.”
Daniel had to ask, “I know that none of that is in the Watchers’ archives.... so how do you know all that?”
Xander just shrugged. “Giles wasn’t one for restricting his book collection to the ‘approved list’, and I read a lot about possession. Including different types of possession demon.”
Sam sighed. “Damn it. Damn it damn it.”
“So Sam, what do you do at that mountain of yours?” Xander asked with a grin.
“Give it up kid. She’ll ask you about what you’ve been up to anyway.” Jack inserted as he approached, and clearly knew what had happened even if he hadn’t heard all of it.
Sam looked at Xander, and saw that he was grinning, but wincing too.
“Let’s just go.” She sighed, and promptly got into the front passenger seat of Giles’ rental.
The Observer pondered, “How did he learn that lot anyway?”
Janus, the god of Change and Doorways, and of whom Dawn Summers’ had been the avatar of, shrugged. “Sometimes when mixing histories, alterations to what had been recorded in regards to each are altered. Records of Glory being erased from one half of the equation, are balanced by the records of the Goa’uld being written in her place. Records that are hotly contested due to the sheer religious nature of many peoples, and refusing to believe that their gods were in fact con-men. And because the Watchers’ archives include information on the actual Egyptian gods, they were reluctant to ever accept what they saw as contradictory records showing them as not powerful and without abilities that had already been proven and could be repeatedly proven that they had.”
“Wait wait wait. They could prove gods exists?”
“... through magic, calling on the gods. Did you not watch the show? Many such universes’ gods are allowed to show themselves to their worshippers, if only because of how those universes’ laws of physics work. The actual lower level deities thrive on the energy of simple belief in their existence. Some of us however, thrive on other things, like change or chaos. Or order.”
“Besides. Even if Xander didn’t know, he’d know something was up with Teal’c.”
“See what?” Cordelia asked as she arrived, and huffed at the presence of the observer. “You again?”
“Yes yes me again. I want to know why some things are the way they are, and that it’s just not ‘lets make it this way for fun’.”
Janus stage-whispered to Cordelia, “Just no pleasing some people.”
“Hey, I’m enjoying it, but these... ‘holes’ are hampering it a bit.”
Cordelia just nodded, and then smiled at the bit her universe had advanced to.
Xander pulled up outside of the Harris’ residence, and waited in the car while Sam went to greet her sister.
“Aren’t you going to go in?”
Xander turned to look at Daniel, who was rather uncomfortable, among the things that had been packed in tight. “Yeah, sure,” he started off mockingly, “just walk in while two women who haven’t seen each other in years are-“
“Oh god. You’re right. Stay here.” Daniel whimpered.
“Huh. Story there.”
“What the Fuck?”
“Language.” Cordelia admonished.
“No, but seriously?”
Janus sighed. “It’s Daniel just being overdramatic, and not being serious.”
“... but’... Daniel...”
“Has always had a sense of humour. It just... takes certain personalities to get it out there.”
Daniel grinned after a moment, and got out. “Chicken.”
Xander stayed rooted to the driver’s seat, turning red. He got too much girl talk as it was from Buffy and Willow, he didn’t want it at home.
Jack pulled up in the SUV behind, and the two occupants got out and were about to make their way in, when Xander called from the car, “I wouldn’t if I were you.”
“Oh?” Jack asked.
“Girl talk.” He said simply.
Oddly, it was Teal’c who then made the retreat, calmly getting back into the SUV to wait.
Jack looked at Teal’c, then to Xander. “Really?”
“Yeah. Do you really want to go in there in the middle of them catching up?”
A flicker of... something... passed on the colonel’s face, then he shrugged, and walked back to the SUV.
And then Daniel came walking out, with a handprint on his face from being slapped.
He calmly got into the front passenger side of the rental.
Xander was quiet, not making much sound.
“Alright, already. You told me so.” Daniel huffed.
“It’s like two Jacks...” Daniel whispered with a shudder.
“feel better?” Sam asked, as Jessica just grinned are her younger sister, then winced from the pain.
“Come on, let’s get some ice.” Sam said when she noted the bruising already forming on Jessica’s hand. “That’s... it didn’t use to get like that.”
Jessica just nodded. “It’s gotten worse over the years. Almost to the point of waking up with bruises whenever I laid on my side, now.”
“Damn. And no wonder you hit Daniel so hard, but you know he’s not responsible for this?”
Jessica just sighed as her sister started to treat her injury, and winced in pain as Sam started to manipulate the hand, looking for broken bones.
Sam was horrified at how bad her sister had gotten.
She remembered when she was five and ten, and how things like this hadn’t had this effect.
“Jessica...” She hesitated, “The... I’m sure that... there’s advances and...”
“And what? That the drug can be pulled from my system?” She smiled sadly. “It’s been too long, Sam. My bones are that weak, that I doubt I’d survive with my strength restored.”
Sam understood it in principle. Bones are sometimes stronger than muscle. But Jessica’s natural strength of bone and natural strength of muscle pushed that delicate balance. But with bones weakened over time because of the drugs, and the muscles not as badly affected because she tried to stay strong somehow, without the drug, while the bones would take time to get stronger, if they even did, the muscles would be restored to her full natural functionality in a short space of time... and so she’d be worse off. To avoid breaking bones with the strength of her muscles, she’s be far, far more restricted in movement.
Breathing movements would also have to be very controlled, the controlling muscle in the diaphragm could rupture it, or if not, pull too much air in too quickly, essentially damaging lungs from the speed... and with breathing movements, there comes movement of the rib cage, and what effect that would have. Or even, the fact that the heart is a muscle. What would happen there.
In short, it was far too late for Jessica to be ‘cured’. The cure essentially being more deadly than her actual present condition.
She hugged her older sister loosely, as much as she wanted to tighten the hold she couldn’t.
A knock on the door interrupted them, and Jessica went to the door, and saw that the older guy in a USAF Flight suit, this Colonel O’Neill from the name badge and rank on his collar, was stood nervously, while shooting looks of betrayal and the guys in the two cars.
“Uh... not to be interrupt what is sure to be a touching moment, but...”
“Oh, yes. Of course.” She stood back, and waved him in. Jack turned and made the ‘come hither’ finger motion in turn before striding into the house.
Jessica was amused as Xander gave clear sighs of relief as he passed through the door, and Daniel avoided her gaze. Teal’c was the one to notice as he stepped through the doorway, “Are you injured, Mrs Harris?”
“Uh... just hurt my hand is all... Mr?”
“... Murray.” He spoke hesitantly as he followed Jessica into the living room, and saw that Sam had taken a seat on the couch, and Xander was obviously following orders, sitting down with a roll of the eyes before being enveloped in a one-arm hug from his favourite (only, but still, favourite) aunt.
Jack sighed. “We may as well tell you his real name, since Mini-me over there knows about him.” Jack said indicating Xander with his thumb. “His name is Teal’c.”
Jessica bowed slightly as she felt that was appropriate, one of the few indicators of instincts she’d never fully inherited.
“So... I got questions.” Xander started.
“And so do we, Xander.” Sam finished for him.
“Can I go first?”
“We’re here because of you.”
“But I didn’t ask you to come, and honestly, I thought last night was a hallucination or something. And if you ask stuff and I have no idea why, then how do I know which parts I can or can’t say that’s relevant?”
Jack smirked. “He’s got a point.”
Chuckling, Jessica nodded, “He’s got you there Sam.”
“... You didn’t tell him anything.” Sam said flatly, making Jessica frown in turn at the implied statement.
“I... never knew much about that. You know why.”
“Um, can we get on with it?” Daniel asked quietly, rubbing at his face where the red mark had faded.
“Fine. I know how he knows,” Xander pointed to Daniel, “And given granddad’s stories, I know how you know,” he nodded to Sam then his mom, and finally he pointed to Jack, “but what about you?”
“Not going to ask about T?” Jack tried to divert.
“He’s an alien. Either they exist out there and so he knows how they are out there but not here if they’re different, or they don’t and so he doesn’t. Come on, spill.”
“Fine. In the seventies and a bit into the eighties, I ran a few missions with a group called the STRF. Supernatural Threat Response Force.”
Xander mulled that over, “So these, STRF guys, how come I’ve never heard of them?”
Sam was the one to respond, “The group was originally called the Allied Supernatural Threat Response Force. They were created during World War 2 to combat the vampires and demons who used the war either as a cover or as a distraction to sow chaos, destruction and so on. America, France, Russia, England, and a few other countries, they brought together some of their better trained military personnel with knowledge of the supernatural, in particular, those with the knowledge and ability to combat supernatural threats.”
Jack inserted, “Think Nick Fury, Captain America, howling commandoes and so on fighting Hydra.”
Sam had to ask, “Who?”
Jessica groaned, while Xander smiled. “Marvel fan, huh?”
“You betcha. And Carter... they’re comic characters and groups. Similar circumstances.”
Sam rolled her eyes, but continued. “After the war, the governments of the various countries involved decided not to dismantle the teams, as there were still threats from the more violent of demons and vampires. Dad transferred from the Air Force into the ASThReF in 48. While he was undergoing the Demonic Threat Identification and Takedown training, which took 2 years, Russian personnel in the group formerly gained American or British citizenship and remained in the ASThReF while the Russian Government formerly pulled out. Some years later, and France pulled their support of the group because they wouldn’t do anything about... um... something.”
Xander narrowed his eyes. They weren’t going to tell him that part yet, he could tell.
“The British government felt that the threat had dropped to low levels and that the group were no longer required, and so pulled their support of the group as well. Unfortunately, later that year, a Major in the US Army was turned by a vampire while on a trip to Cleveland. His body was shipped back to his base in Wisconsin where, it, awoke. On an Army base.”
Xander looked around, and spoke out, “You’re talking about a Deckard Situation, aren’t you?”
Sam winced but nodded. “Actually, ‘The’ Deckard Situation. Major John Deckard.”
“Okay, I read about that, but what’s that got to do with this... Asref or STRF or whatever they’re called?”
Daniel spoke up. “There are two records of the incident, both conflicting. The Watchers, I assume you’ve read?” Xander nodded. “They say that the Slayer, Sarah Price, and her Watcher were pretty much alone for the most part, and only toward the end did some locally-stationed soldiers that survived manage to organise and ‘assist’?”
Xander looked to Sam, and said, “Those ‘locals’ weren’t. They were this... task force?”
Sam nodded. “Initially, the two groups were not working together. But after the Major in charge of the task force was killed, one of the soldiers took command and contacted the Watcher and Slayer, seeking to work together. The Slayer could not take out Deckard because of his turned-soldier horde, but so long as their ‘master’ was around, that horde were too much for the either soldiers or the slayer to handle. However, with the soldiers focused on the horde, the slayer had the opportunity to find a way passed, and dusted the master vampire. With the loss of their... boss... the ranks started to break up, and with a slayer on their side, the horde were quickly dealt with.”
“Wait... the watchers records say that she died in the attempt to dust Deckard.”
Sam nodded. “While she was willing to work with the teams, her watcher was not, too stuck on the watcher’s company line about working alone. When she refused to work with him alone, and actually succeeded with the team, she showed that the slayer was better off not working alone. But for whatever reasons the Watchers don’t like that. He knew and... among other reasons, told her to stay with the soldiers, he’d tell them she died in the fight.”
Xander frowned. He’d hit that wall before with Giles, but Giles was more understanding.
But then that other bit cropped up. “Wait, he told them she died? But what about the next slayer? They’d have known from the next not being called...”
Daniel winced. “Actually, that stuff is an outright lie.”
Sam nodded. “One Sarah’s watcher didn’t even know, until he realised that they’d accepted his lie far, far too easily... and that when the next Slayer was called, he was still secretly in touch with Sarah?”
Xander shot up. “You mean... you...” He spun around, looking at them.
“You all knew about this?” He asked loudly.
His mom, when he looked at her, nodded slowly.
“... That soldier that took command...” Sam started, seeing Jessica really didn’t want to say it. “He was Staff Sergeant Jacob Carter.”
Xander was silent for all of thirty seconds. “Grandma’s name was Sarah.”
“... Grandma was a slayer.”
“... You’re... and Mum’s...”
Sam nodded again.
“... I’m the grandson of a slayer?”
“But... wouldn’t her kids have inherited or something?”
Jessica nodded, “I did. We, well, we all did.”
“But mom, your condition...”
Daniel inserted, “That will be because of a permanent version of the drug that they use on a Slayer’s 18th birthday.”
Jessica looked to Sam, who nodded and started to explain, “Before I was born, Jessica, your mom, was displaying some alarming increases in strength as she grew up. Mom and dad wanted her home schooled, but by then Mark had been born, and was only two, and right handful. She did a full year of public schooling without any problems. Any noticeable increase in her strength she explained as being from martial arts lessons taught by one of the fathers of other air force kids, which for those kids was true enough anyway.
“The next school year... I was born, and all seemed to be fine, until around March, and the school had a daytrip.”
Jessica continued. “I don’t really remember it that well. I don’t even remember what the trip was for, but there was a, car accident, and one of the kids in my class was injured and trapped. The Fire-fighters couldn’t get near us because of the fires around us...
“I... I knew I had to do something, and she was... so loud...”
Sam took over as Jessica stopped, obviously in thought about that day, even though she clearly wasn’t traumatised by it. She was actually sad for something. “Jessica just went to the car, and... picked it up. The kids called her Supergirl because of it.”
“You... picked up... a car.”
Jack had to comment. “Wait, supergirl as in, Superman, Clark Kent as a kid picking up Jonathan and Martha’s car?”
Jessica giggled hearing that. “Yes. And when they saw that it wasn’t just a freak occurrence, that I was strong, very strong... the bullies who targeted me because of how I was, well... lets just say they stopped, afraid I had the other abilities.”
Xander was staring at his mom. “But, why are you...”
Sam continued. “That got her front page in the news, Xander. And although the STRF managed to tone down the article a lot, their interference in the story caught the attention of the Watchers Council, who believed incorrectly that their, coincidentally very recent, last ritual to call a slayer had not gone correctly. While they later recognised that their ritual had not gone wrong, by then they had identified Jessica as a Slayer, and attempted to take her.”
Xander was still staring.
Jessica smiled a little, “Dad was not happy with them for that. And the STRF had been keeping watch. Always had been, since Mom’s a Slayer and I’d since inherited her strength.”
Daniel spoke up this time. “I... had heard whispers of this, when I was in training. They’d sent a wet-works team to capture Jessica after the field watcher’s failed.”
Sam nodded. “They attacked our house, with orders to capture or ‘permanently subdue’ Jessica if neither could be accomplished. Most of the wet-works on the team would have protested the kill order, but thought that to use a drug that would strip someone of mystical slayer enhancement, turning them back into a normal person, would be the best option. But they had no such restraint about the parents who, in their eyes, had done this to a kid. Ironic, really. They thought we were the bad guys because they were told she’d been made into a slayer on purpose, when their bosses do that all the time and she was born that way. Nothing mystical about her own strength at all.”
“Wait... Nothing mystical?” Xander asked.
Daniel spoke up again. “The Slayer enhancement package is mystical, but over time, it has an effect on the slayer’s genetics. A slayer empowered at 15, who has a child at 17, for instance... that child would likely not inherit any of the major changes.”
Jessica nodded. “Mom was 14 when she was called, but she was 29 when I was born. Just about 15 years of mystical enhancement altering her genetics... It’s not mystical enhancement, the bits we inherited. It’s our genetics. I’m strong, Mark and idiot, Sam smart and so on.”
Xander filed that part about Uncle Mark away, and spoke, “So when they used this, drug, designed to deal with mystical enhancement?”
Jessica winced. “It didn’t take effect at first. Blood tests and everything came up clear everything said that whatever they injected me with was harmless. But then when Sam was three, and I was holding her...”
Sam winced in memory. “She dropped me. Not on the head, but... she dropped me. My ‘supergirl’ older sister...”
Xander paled. “And, you’ve been getting worse over the years...”
Jack had to comment, “So this anti-super-serum...” he got glared at again.
Xander spoke up, “It wasn’t just, wham, there you go, now you have a set percentage of your total strength, it’s slowly, cumulative over time, like the, slayer package changes to genetics.”
Sam smiled. “And you think you’re stupid?”
Xander blushed, but diverted. “So, this, STRF. Are you part of it then?”
“Not anymore.” Jack commented, for himself.
“Never was. Astrophysics is my, ah... first love.” Sam replied in turn.
“No.” Daniel replied.
Teal’c just looked at him, and though his expression was unreadable, Xander got the implied message.
Jessica remembered his comment. “So, you’re an alien?”
Teal’c just raised an eyebrow.
Jack grumbled. At Xander’s looks at him and his team. “Yes, we... deal with ET’s. But I can’t tell you anything beyond that kid. And you only know that because you damn well know about the Goa’uld already.”
Sam smiled, then got serious. “Our turn. We’ve done our homework, Xander. You’ve already given up that you know Giles is a Watcher. And looking at your friends records... Buffy’s a slayer, isn’t she?”
He sighed and nodded. “Let me guess, that whole ‘gym’ thing?”
Jack snorted. “Actually, it was the part of her file that said she dusted Lothos, her age, and sightings of being around a watcher previously.”
“So you know about the Harvest thing?”
“You said you’d done your homework.”
“... Uh... Xander...” Jessica hesitantly spoke up.
He looked at her, flatly.
“The Watchers didn’t stop looking for me to make sure that the drug worked and that I didn’t... redevelop my strength. They took their time but they knew within a few years after that incident that I was born to a slayer, and inherited it. They wanted to capture me all the more, and, after I met your father, and got pregnant with you, I realised that if they found out I’d had a kid too, they might try to go for you. I had to disappear. And as it turned out, there was an information black out that meant they wouldn’t find me here.”
Sam coughed. “It’s... not as good as it used to be. Since your school started putting records online, and ah... an STRF source here in the town, we’ve learned a lot. But even so, there are holes in our intelligence.”
“Basically, kid, we don’t know what you’ve been doing, aside from hanging out with a watcher and slayer, and what little you got out on the phone last night.” Jack shared.
Scratching the back of his neck, Xander knew that it would be a full disclosure.
He didn’t want to do it. Not here. And Not in front of his mom, considering some of the contents.
Most of the contents.
“Fine, I’ll tell you, just... at my own pace, please? And... Just Sam.” He looked at her, and while she nodded, Jack grumbled. “Not here.” Xander added. “Besides, don’t you need a place to set up and... huh. What’s your plan?”
Jack winced. “Plan? What plan? Plans are for the crazy-prepared. Everyone else, plans tend to go out the window faster than Superman can change clothes.”
Xander snorted at that, while everyone else wondered about the comic fixation. “So, you heard about vampires here, and came running before you even knew what you were going to do here?”
Sam shook her head. “The plan is, see what’s going on, and see if there’s anything we can do to help.”
Silently, Xander pondered that, and everything else. Then he asked, “A STRF team would be nice.”
Jessica winced, along with Sam. “Actually, based on an STRF officer currently undercover’s detailed report, they won’t go anywhere near this town, and have made sure that no federal officer nor military personnel would either. Only idiots or those with family would ignore that.”
“Does that make those three idiots?” Xander asked with a grin, looking at Jack, Daniel and Teal’c.
“Nope. Carter’s part of our family, so you’re family too.” Jack said simply.
Xander lost his grin, and nodded. “Right. Blood’s blood but not all bonds of family are made from the stuff.”
“will you be staying for a drink, or are you fella’s going to be setting up camp now?” Jessica asked, glad they’d gotten the brief-Xander part done, and as much as the Xander-briefing-them part that they could.
“Ah, Actually-“ Jack started
“We should get going.” Sam interrupted. “Uh...”
“I’ll tell him, don’t worry.” Jessica replied to her unspoken statement. “Go on, I’m sure you don’t want to leave your... luggage outside for too long.”
Jack blinked, and rushed out the house.
The rest followed, and sighed when they found the two cars untouched.
Buffy frowned as the scoobs gathered for a meeting, but were missing one.
Giles spoke up, “I presume he’s with his aunt and friends helping them settle in.”
The gathered feminine duo looked at him with a frown. “Huh?” Buffy started, while Willow commented, “But... Xander’s only got the one uncle...”
Giles shrugged. “I don’t know what I could tell you, willow, but I do know he wasn’t lying to me. Although, in my experience, when someone uses familial terms, it does not necessarily require said person to be related by blood.” He smiled a little, “why, my Niece, Lara, isn’t even my niece.”
“You’ve got a niece?” Buffy asked.
“Named Lara?” Willow asked, narrow-eyed. “Is her last name Croft?”
Giles chuckled. “... Close, Willow. She isn’t Lara Croft. But she is.”
“Hold on hold on, this is supposed to only be one crossover.”
Cordelia and Janus looked at each other, and were amused.
“Not me, did you-“
“No, I thought that was you-“
“Oh, well, I suppose this is-“
“What the blazes is going on?!” The Observer cried out.
Cordelia sighed, and answered, “Well, apparently reality has a sense of humour, as neither of us planned this... but I think it has to do with how Lara exists in both original realities.”
“... There was no Lara Croft in yours.”
“... Not named Lara Croft, no. But the ‘Niece’ of Giles was a famous archaeologist, a Lady named Lara, who tended to get into trouble with supernatural artefacts and temples and stuff.”
Janus continued, “While in the stargate ‘verse, she was the game character you yourself are familiar with.”
“It’s just that, where the game character was a result of basic original game development in that universe... during the merging it turns out that this version of Giles niece is the inspiration for the game series here.” Cordelia smiled. “All a coincidence. Happy one, but still.”
“Something’s changed.” Buffy spoke up.
“I don’t know. Weird dream last night, didn’t think it was a slayer one, until about an hour ago, after classes ended.” Buffy explained.
“and, and what happened in your dream? Or, earlier?”
“Well, the dream... I’m talking to Cordelia about something, to do with Graduation. We’re older and stuff. But then Willow and Xander come by, and they’re... different. A Lot different.”
“How different?” Willow asked.
“well, you wills, were less.... booky... less enthusiastic about college than we would think you’d be.” Willow frowned, even though she knew that her enthusiasm for school would translate to enthusiasm for college. “If anything, Cordelia and I were more enthusiastic about that before we got talking about graduation.”
“What about Xander?” Giles asked, knowing that it was probably connected to his disappearance, although how to his aunt, he didn’t know.
“Well, he was... Buff.”
“He was you?” Willow asked shocked, to which Buffy giggled.
“N... No... but... muscly, you know, buff.” Then she calmed, and frowned a little, “And openly wearing hunting gear, although not gear I’ve seen before, except for one, a nail gun, but massive.”
“A Nail gun?” Giles asked, worried at what Buffy meant.
“Yeah, like the guns in the guy’s workshop class, shoots nails into two things to keep them together.”
“Ah, yes. A ‘Nail’ gun.” He clearly felt embarrassed over his thoughts, but Willow and Buffy dismissed it.
“It was big though, and the holder didn’t show nails in it, but stakes.”
“... Ah, yes, a Stake Gun. Those, I am familiar with.” Giles commented. “Upsized Nail guns, modified to fire stakes instead, but terribly difficult to aim without practise, and next to impossible to use on fast-moving targets. And that’s not accounting for Vampire’s speed either. Although, I do wonder if perhaps a Slayer’s enhancements in areas of perception and mobility control wouldn’t allow them to compensate...”
“Why don’t you have one?” Willow asked the therefore obvious question.
Giles blushed. “As you may have noticed, the council does not exactly purchase from any modern equipment store. The Crossbow is perhaps the newest invention they use.”
“What do you think it means then, that Xander’s carrying one?”
Giles mused on that, “Perhaps it means he will be more active for the fight later on? And the equipment, would mean he would have access to such?”
“But... Xander... Fighting... bad...” Willow started to hyperventilate.
“Easy, wills. Breathe.” Buffy gently hugged her friend.
Xander was quiet, as he stared at the floor between himself and Sam.
“This... possession. It’s the reason you learned so much about the subject then?”
“And you only had yesterday to do this research?”
He frowned. Saying that, it made it sound like he’d shoved himself into the library all day.
“Xander... that just goes with my point that I was going to make later...” Sam bit her lip, his gaze, in surprise at her words, going up to her face and finding that she wasn’t judging him or his actions from that day. “You’re... you are incredibly smart. I’ve seen your records that were put onto the schools’ database. You’re in all of the same classes as your friend, Willow, and while not at the top of the class, or the middle, you’re also not at the bottom, yet you don’t put more than a token effort into it. If you did, you’d be right up there. The only barrier that I see to you getting entry into the Air Force Academy, is that lack of effort, although from what I’ve learned, I’m not surprised that you didn’t see the point, which is the only reason I’m not reaming you for not putting that effort in.”
He saw the smile on her face, the humour even as there was a hint of admonishment in her eyes.
“You’ve probably wondered what Mark and I inherited from grandma... and what you might have.” She finally said.
He was glad that she was avoiding the current issue of what all he’d told her about the last two months, taking hours if only because of the more traumatic parts. He nodded, and kept silent. He’d done enough talking.
“Well, Mark didn’t get much, except her, ahm... readiness to judge and stubbornness in changing his mind.” She winced, and added, “Part of why we haven’t talked to him for more than a minute at a time since, grandma died.”
So, that explains it.
“I got her intelligence, minus the stubborn streak. And since I wasn’t wired by mystical or training for it to be focused on just fighting and demonology,” She smirked, “I could put it to use with science, engineering, and a few other things, although that’s not to say I didn’t neglect the combat aspects. But the fact remains, we all inherited the genetics that could make us slayers. Just different parts of it are active.”
“And me?” He asked, wondering what her thoughts on that were.
“I’d say, intelligence.” She smirked a little, “Nothing against your dad or his family, or my dad, but aside from grandma, Jessica or myself, our family isn’t known for the intelligence. Granddad attests my intelligence as not from him, to his discomfort. And if that Possession is any teller, you’ve got at least eh strength.”
“But... I’m not normally that strong. That spirit...”
She shook her head. “Possession like that? What kind of possession, to your research, would result in that kind of strength increase?”
He was silent.
“The reason why you can’t access that strength normally, well...” She looked away for a moment, “has to do with that you mom had just over a full dose of that drug in her system, and it only seemed to drop in approximate dosage once.”
“... You have about a half-dose of the drug in your system, Xander.” She finally told him.
He was silent, in shock.
“I read your medical files when I was on the way here. The fact that you have what is supposedly just below-average human strength? And that’s with a half dose suppressing your muscles’ strength? If you hadn’t inherited your mom’s strength, you’d be a complete cripple, unable to move. A full dose is designed to reduce a mystically enhanced person’s strength by a factor of at least
twenty to bring them down to normal human levels. A half dose would be around ten times. And it works by limiting the brain’s signals to your muscles. And Xander... Your mom’s supposed to be as strong as a slayer. And while she hadn’t had this stuff since she was born, it took time to reduce her strength, and if anything, you being born slowed her degeneration a lot. But she’s still a lot less than even a quarter the strength of a human, because the drug is far, far more effective against natural strength, than mystically-enhanced ones which, being mystically charged, is always trying to overcome the drug. Her body wasn’t.”
“Then how come I’m not getting weaker?”
“Probably because you were
born with this drug in your system. Your body had to adapt around that while it was still forming. And one last thing. You... heal... quicker than average. Nothing on the realm of superhero ‘you can see it happening’ type of healing speed, but faster than it’s supposed to be. You’re... more resilient. I’d say that that part of the slayer package is active for you. It takes more to break your bones, type of thing. I’d say it’s why you haven’t needed a hospital visit even though you fight vampires nearly every night.”