A/N: So sorry for the delay on this chapter... only 1 more to go!!! Anyway, long story short: had to have surgery, thus was feeling too crappy to finish this chapter. So much for the deadline *sigh*. Also, this diverges from the SG1 timeline (becomes AU) before the season 7 finale of stargate, as in the attack never happened and Hammond is still CO. Just to clear that up. Anyway, hope you enjoy.
"Last call for boarding... Continental flight CO807, non-stop service from Hopkins International to Colorado Springs... repeat... last call for boarding."
Xander and Dawn were running to make it to the gate. As should have been expected, there was a little hold up in security. Willow had placed a number of 'notice me not' spells on their assorted weapons, but since it had been a while since Xander had traveled via commercial airlines, he forgot that his eye patch made him look very much the dubious character, much to his dismay. He shouldn't have let it get to him, but he was still a little offended when the security guard singled him out and proceeded to search through his backpack and jacket pockets. 'Notice me not' spells notwithstanding, he was glad that they made the decision to stash most of their weaponry in Dawn's carryon. Over the past four years, she had honed the 'sweet and innocent' persona to perfection. Not a single security guard looked at her at all suspiciously.
Nevertheless, they were late to the gate and running. It also was becoming very apparent to them that their gate was as far from the security check as possible to be, and that they would very likely miss the one and only non stop flight into Colorado Springs that day, and they didn't have Willow with them to 'arrange' for another flight. Just as Xander was about to throw in the towel, he noticed that Dawn had stopped running, looking quickly from her ticket to the gate in front of her. She flashed him a bright smile as she ran to hand her ticket to the bored looking Continental employee who was in the process of closing the door to the gate.
Several minutes later, they were settled in on what had to be the smallest plane that Continental owned. The pilot himself gave the 'what to do in an emergency' speech, and there were exactly three seats per row - two together on the right, and a lone one to the left. Their seats were in the rear of the plane by the lavatory, and together on the right side of the plane. Xander let Dawn have the window seat. It really wasn't much of a choice for him; one look out the window and at the propellers that appeared to power this bucket, and he decided he didn't really want to see what was going on.
After about an hour in the air (and after the plane finally stopped hitting every possible air pocket), he relaxed enough to really get a good look at his traveling companion. It was strange dealing with 'Dawn, the adult'. She had changed perhaps more than any of the other Scoobies. When they all went their separate ways, she was still very much a teenager - a bit self centered, hyper and melodramatic. Now, she was confident, quiet and calm. If it wasn't for the slightly haunted look in her eyes that all the scoobies shared, he would have had serious doubts about her being the same person.
"So Dawn... how was Venice?" he asked eventually, mostly to break the uncomfortable silence that had settled between them.
"Oh... Oh! It was okay, I guess. It's funny, you know... I don't really miss it much. I mean, there was school, and the clubs, but really nothing exciting. Not like this..."
"This is exciting?"
"Sure! I mean, for me it is... before... well, you know, I never really was included in anything and by the time I was, we all kinda went our own ways. It's nice to be able to contribute now, and be an equal part of the group. I mean, even if Buffy doesn't see it that way..."
"She's your sister. And she's, you know, Buffy. She's always going to be protective of you. It's in her nature." Xander said. Dawn looked at him for a moment, a little sad, and then turned back toward the window.
"I guess... I dunno. After this, I think I'm going to get out on my own, you know, get my own place. Buffy needs to start seeing me as an adult, and it isn't going to happen as long as I'm living with her, and she gets to oversee each and every decision I make. I mean, you should have seen what she put some of my dates through."
An image of Buffy, sitting on a couch with her scythe across her lap, interrogating a nervous young man came unbidden to Xander's mind, and he tried hard not to snicker.
"So... I take it then you haven't had any serious relationships in the past few years?" he asked, mentally clearing his head.
"Nope. Not a one. Andrew had tons of girls, believe it or not, and Buffy had the Immortal, but me? A few casual dates. I was too busy with school anyway." she said, quickly.
Xander could tell that she wasn't really comfortable with the subject, so he decided not to press the issue. He could understand; the subject of romance wasn't one he was all that comfortable with himself. There had been no one after Anya... no one he had met could have held a candle to her... and he had been such a fool. No. He didn't want to think about it... Instead, he thought he'd try to bring the conversation back to safe ground by asking about Buffy's beau, who no one seemed to know much about.
"This Immortal guy... doesn't he even have a name? I mean, all I know is that he's a) apparently Immortal and b) isn't a vamp. That's not a lot of info to go by. Is she serious about him?"
Dawn looked at him, puzzled.
"Weird... you know, I never really questioned it, or him. But now that you mention it... yeah... there's an awful lot about him that even I don't know. You know, when we get back, remind me to talk to Willow about him. It's hard to explain, but... everything is kinda fuzzy regarding him, and now that he's not around, it seems kinda suspicious to me that I accepted him the way that I did... no questions asked. Buffy, too, now that you mention it. I mean, she put anyone I even considered dating through the ringer, but she accepted him unconditionally from like, day one."
"That doesn't sound like the Buffster I know," Xander said, now deeply suspicious of Buffy's so called boyfriend. He made a mental note to bring it up with her when they returned.
At that moment, the plane hit another air bubble, causing Xander to lurch forward and hit his head against the chair in front of him. As he rubbed his head, he shot a dark look toward Dawn who didn't manage to repress her giggle.
"Well, it looks like we're losing altitude... probably going to land in about 20 minutes or so... want to go over the plan?" she said, grinning.
"Sounds good... but, I gotta say, if Red's got us booked on one of these things for the return trip, she and I are going to have a couple of words..."
Dawn laughed, and pulled what looked like a small marble from her pocket.
"Nope... this little puppy is our ticket home."
Xander looked at the marble skeptically.
Dawn just smiled and winked, as she re-pocketed the marble, leaving Xander to wonder whether a return trip on Continentals finest wouldn't be the better option.
Colonel Jack O'Neill (with two ll's, thank you very much), was most definitely not having a good day. In his estimation, a good day involved a beer or two, a lake stocked with fish, another beer, or three, and pizza. Perhaps Teal'c would be there, and if he was really lucky, Carter too, decked out in that half shirt she wore the one time when...
Anyway, today was most definitely not a good day. It started out with a routine trip to Chulak, in a failed attempt to convince some of Teal'c's old brethren to join their fight against Anubis. The damned Jaffa were just too stubborn, and refused to work with them so long as they continued their shaky alliance with the Tok'ra. And Jack didn't even want to get started on that one.
The Tok'ra themselves had not been very forthcoming with information lately, and what little trust there was between SGC and the Tok'ra was strained almost to it's breaking point.
Their other allies - the Asgard - were at the moment unreachable, and therefore unavailable to assist when Anubis finally launches his attack against Earth, which, according to the small amount of intelligence they did have, would be very, very soon.
All of these things were weighing heavily on his mind. So, in his estimation, he was having a bad day. And having to deal with the situation General Hammond had just presented to him was really the icing on the cake.
"And you say they took out how many men before you apprehended them?" he said, exasperated, as he looked through the glass at the two kids currently occupying interrogation room B10 on level 17.
General Hammond looked a bit frustrated.
"Look, I don't know how they did it. The boy seems to have some military training, yet when I had Major Carter search the database for any information on either of the names they gave me, they both came up as civilians. Yet, here's the thing, both of them had files on them that even I don't have a high enough security clearance to access."
"Do you think that they might be NID, sir?"
Jack turned to see Daniel entering the room followed by the rest of SG1. Frowning, he turned his attention back to the two kids in the interrogation room.
The girl looked, for want of a better word, bored. She was in the process of removing a layer of nail polish with her teeth. The boy was leaning back in a chair with his boots propped up on the table, and was amusing himself by repeatedly pulling on his eye patch until it was out about 2 inches from his face, and then letting it go with a snap.
"I do not believe that they have the correct disposition, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said, one eyebrow raised.
"Why the hell would these kids have files on them anyway? They look..."
"Harmless?" Daniel supplied.
"Well, I was thinking more along the lines of pathetic, but harmless works," O'Neill said, not removing his gaze from the two.
"Looks can be deceiving, O'Neill." Teal'c interjected, pointedly looking at Cassandra as he said it.
Jack turned his head to regard the youngest member of his team, and noticed that she was as white as a ghost as she stared at the two kids who were now mugging faces in front of the one way observation glass. The girl was also playing with what looked like a large, softly glowing marble.
"Is that a weapon of some sort?" Jack asked, his thoughts immediately drifting toward the concussion grenades the Goa'uld have.
"No, it's not a weapon, and... they're not a threat," Cassie said, so softly that he almost didn't hear her.
"I'm sorry, sir. I know them. I mean, I don't know them per say, but I know of them. They're -- I see their faces sometimes, in my dreams."
"And you were going to say something about this, when?"
"Jack, let's not take this out on Cassandra," Daniel interjected, always the peacekeeper. "She knows what you think of her 'dreams', and it took courage for her to admit what she just did."
"Look, Gentlemen, Ladies... perhaps we should go and talk with our new... friends, find out what they know and what they want. Then, we will decide what to do with them," General Hammond said, looking pointedly at Jack.
Resigned, he opened the door to the interrogation room, and took a seat across from the kid with the eye patch. General Hammond and the rest of SG1 also followed suit, taking seats around the table.
Cassandra was the last to enter the room, and when she did, the softly glowing marble the girl had been playing with lit up like a light bulb.
The boy and girl shared a relieved look, and left their seats to walk toward Cassie.
"Finally!" The girl said. "I told you we'd find her if we were just patient, there aren't that many people in this mountain. Escape he says. Smash the glass, and take out the big guy first, he says. I am so glad we went with the 'wait and see' plan."
"Woah... back up there... who are you and what do you want? And what's that... glowing thing?" Jack said, completely and utterly confused.
"Look, Military guy; no offense, but we don't have time, and we can't trust you, sorry. You're the slayer, right?" the boy said, placing his hand softly on Cassandra's shoulder.
'Slayer??? What the heck is a slayer???' Jack thought to himself, puzzled. He looked at the other members of his team and noticed that they were equally puzzled, except for Daniel.
His eyes were narrowed in thought and his hand was softly stroking his chin. Jack made a mental note to question him about it later.
"I am," Cassandra answered.
"We need your help," the girl added.
"I know. I will help. I will help her," Cassandra added, seemingly unsurprised by the request.
"Huh? Now wait a minute, back up, and EXPLAIN WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON???" Jack demanded, almost shouting. Too much was going unsaid between his young officer and these two strange kids, and he didn't like it one bit.
"Sorry pops, but we have to get back before the snaky thing that thinks it's a god kills my sister," said the girl with a wink, and she placed her hand on Cassie's other shoulder.
It took him a moment to process what she said, and taking in the stunned reactions of his team, she did say what he thought she said. But before he could formulate a way to confront her about what she knew, how the hell did she know it, and ask who should be court marshaled for the obvious breach in National Security, the marble the girl was holding flashed so brilliantly he had to close his eyes.
When he opened them again, they were... gone. He looked around at the rest of his team and his commanding officer, all of whom wore similar expressions of bafflement upon their faces.
"I really should have gone with 'fishing' today..." he mumbled, half under his breath as he buried his face in his hands.
Har-mau waited impatiently for the demon to return with his order. For as much as he hated this awful city, he did have a number of useful contacts who liked to reside near the hellmouth. Luther was just one of them. He had met the watcher-turned-vampire years ago, in London, just after he had been turned. He had, in fact, helped the fledgling avoid detection by his old charge, by using him as a test subject for the charm he had obtained which would hide one's true nature from detection. He then brought the fledgling to Cleveland, where Luther had set up an underground shop of sorts, selling dark magic and charms to the demon community. Therefore, Luther owed him one, and Har-mau was here to collect.
Har-mau's association with 'her', and his interactions with 'her' mind had taught him much. The information that was of most use, however, and the information he had to get back to the System Lords was that the slayers were not infallible. There was, in fact, a compound that would render them as weak as a normal human. The Cruciamentum compound; the formula of which was a closely guarded secret known only by members of the Watcher's council. How ironic that the organization formed to protect and train the slayers would be responsible for their eventual and complete destruction.
Luther returned from his stock room with a small vial, which the skinny, balding vampire nervously handed to Har-mau. Har-mau frowned.
"That's it? This is all you were able to make? I need more... much more," he said, his voice that of the Goa'uld within.
"Sir.. I'm sorry sir, but the compound is... most difficult to reproduce. The ingredients are very rare. That is all I can make."
Har-mau's eyes flashed gold, and for a moment he considered destroying the vile creature before him. How dare he mock him with this. Yet, Luther may prove to be useful again in the future. Frowning, he raised his hand and shot a blast of energy from the device in his palm toward the pathetic vampire in front of him, which had the result of tossing the vampire up against the wall and knocking him out.
Still frowning, he pulled a small syringe from his pocket and filled it halfway; hopefully leaving enough of the compound in the vial to analyze it later. If not, well, Luther was still... undead as it were. And the Goa'uld had their ways of extracting information.
He pocketed the syringe and the vial and left Luther's seedy shop, walking back out of the alleyway toward the more populated part of the city. Almost immediately, he was attacked by a couple of vamps who made the mistake of considering him easy prey. He toyed with them for a moment, but quickly grew tired of the sport. It wasn't the same without 'her'.
With a sigh, he killed the pair using a stake given to him by 'her' as a present a year or so ago. It was a hard piece of wood, extremely sharp, with the words 'The Hoover' carved into the handle. He smiled, remembering the moment when she gave it to him, two years earlier. Ah, yes, they had had such fun together, exterminating the vampires of Venice. He had indeed enjoyed accompanying her on her hunts; she was a graceful and determined warrior. So full of life and energy. Indeed, some of their most energetic... encounters... usually followed right after her patrols.
After a moments reflection, he returned the stake to it's pocket on the inside of his coat. No time to get sentimental and soft, he thought, as he patted the pocket which contained the syringe and the vial, in order to remind himself of his mission. Determined, he continued his walk, only half noticing that the vampires lurking in the dark shadows of the alleyway now gave him a wide berth as he passed.