AN: *blinks* Twenty-nine? How did that happen? Anyway, because I lied to so many of you
(in the process of lying to myself) about when this was going to be posted I am listing
the three reasons it took so long, in case any of you are interested. If you're not, feel
free to skip to the story at this point. :)
1.) I was unhappy with the chapter and sat glaring at it for a long period of time. I
tried editing it. I hate editing more. I glared a lot.
2.) Classes started up again. 'Nuff said.
3.) World of Warcraft has managed to suck both creative brain power and free time from
my head. It shall therefore be known as 'That Dumb Game'.
Further updates will appear in a more timely manner. No, I'm not promising. I've learned
Thank you all for your continued support and patience with my spaciness. Also, please
point out any glaring mistakes. I have the feeling there might be some dumb ones I keep
reading over. :)
************************** Trick or Treat: Chapter Twenty-Nine ***********************
“Ow!” Riley Finn said as he stepped back half a pace and rubbed his arm. “Watch the
supernatural strength there, Buff.” It was surprisingly good to see her. She looked
more grown up than he had remembered, hair longer, face tired. But still Buffy Summers.
Still one of the two women he had ever loved in his life.
He would never love her again, not like he had, but there was a sort of comfort in having
someone like her know everything about him, the good and bad, and still wanting to be a
part, no matter how insignificant, of his life. They were still working on the friends
thing but Riley was good with that.
Graham swallowed a laugh, despite the gravity of the situation and Riley glared at him.
“Excuse me,” snapped a voice that Riley would bet money on being Colonel Jack O’Neill’s,
“but will someone please tell me WHAT IN THE HELL IS GOING ON?” Oh yeah, definitely Jack
O’Neill. “And let us out of this damn closet, I’m getting claustrophobic.”
Buffy shot Riley an impish smile that lightened her exhausted features before whirling in
the small space to face the four military members dressed in civilian clothes. Riley
looked over and nodded an appropriately somber greeting at Xander who, dressed in clearly
dirty BDUs and sporting a slight beard was definitely doing worse for wear. It made Riley
wonder who had been hurt to have inspired such obvious grief. Who had died.
The older man mouthed, “Dawn?” in silent question, afraid suddenly, despite Buffy’s smile,
that the bubbly young woman was dead due to his wife’s actions.
Xander flashed him a weak, reassuring smile that was strictly Xander, and mouthed back,
It was enough that Riley managed to relax and take in Buffy’s berating of O’Neill. The
blonde had backed the good Colonel into a corner, with mop buckets hitting him in the
head, and had her right index finger out to poke him soundly in the chest every time she
made a particularly strongly felt point, most of which revolved around the stupidity of
kidnapping a civilian, all with various detractorary comments aimed at the Colonel’s level
of personal hygiene.
The rest of the Colonel’s team wasn’t looking particularly concerned for their superior’s
dignity, or increasing lack thereof, but Riley felt their questioning eyes on him. After
letting Buffy let off a little more steam he locked glances with Xander and nodded.
The younger man stepped forward to stop the small blonde, with a surety that was purely
Xander and Buffy. Not too many people could handle the strongest Slayer in the world when
she was pissed off. Xander was one of the very, very few. He placed a calming hand on
one slender, tensed shoulder. “Buff, that’s enough.” Buffy stayed locked toe to toe with
Jack O’Neill for another moment before snorting and backing off in a well designed huff
that made it very clear that the only reason that the good Colonel had gotten off easy was
because of Xander’s generosity.
An ill disguised snort of laughter had Riley glancing back at Graham who merely shrugged
apologetically but who remained smugly amused. Riley resisted the urge to smack HIM.
Sometimes it really sucked having friends who knew you so well.
He blinked and tried not to panic as Buffy, in a fit of insight, whirled on him again,
stubborn chin stuck out as the feared index finger raised and took aim at his own black
clad chest. “And what, pray tell, are YOU two doing here? Care to tell me who exactly I
should be threatening?”
Xander rolled his single eye. “Buffy,” came the stern warning.
She shot her dark haired friend an exasperated glance over her shoulder before smoothly
amending her statement, “Who Xander should be threatening?”
Riley felt his jaw clench at the question as he closed his eyes tightly, and hated how
much even thinking the words he had to say would hurt. God damnit, why Sam? WHY? A
small hand gently touched his corded arm. “Ri, what’s going on?” Buffy asked softly.
“Why are you here?”
He took a deep breath and felt Graham’s presence behind him, solidly comforting,
uncomplicated in a way that things between he and the other Scoobies never could be
again. Despite his and Xander’s mostly unspoken friendship, despite Dawn’s bright calls,
and Buffy’s very real concern, his abandonment from so many years ago had tainted any
relationship he managed to have with Buffy and those who loved her.
It made him wonder, at times, just how much his leaving had actually hurt her. How much
his pain had blinded him to hers.
He opened his eyes and let his gaze meet Xander’s again, temporarily ignoring Buffy.
And as the younger man’s mouth tightened, the distance between them grew as Xander
realized that Riley knew, KNEW some of what had transpired. Knew why his girls lay
injured or dying. Knew more than Xander probably did since he’d been locked up in a
goddamn government facility for two weeks with Riley’s blessing to Dawn. “Ashley’s dead,”
Xander replied stiffly, voice clipped, cold, in a way that Riley had rarely heard.
Especially not directed at him.
He felt his stomach drop with the simple words, felt grief fill the back of his throat
with unshed tears, both for the young, bright girl who had died so needlessly, and for
what had remained in his heart for his marriage. For his daughter’s mother.
“I’m so sorry Xander.”
But platitudes wouldn’t bring a dead child back to life.
Buffy silently moved out of Xander’s way as he approached Riley, stood before the soldier
and met his eyes with his own single, shadowed one. Xander’s cheeks were sunken and
sallow from lack of sleep, stubble showing even more darkly against the pale skin of his
face and throat. “Tell me how you’re involved in this and we’ll see if I’ll still accept
“Sir…” Jack O’Neill moved past the protesting form of his woman teammate and stood next
“Yes, Finn, how are you involved?”
Riley’s throat tried to close but he choked the words out anyway, quickly, before he lost
his nerve. “Sam… it was Sam’s fault. Oh god…”
Jack blinked, stared at the obviously distraught man in front of him, and craned his head
back to look at his befuddled second-in-command. Daniel was whispering fiercely to her
and she was waving thin hands in obvious protestation. “I didn’t do anything!” she hissed
finally, and elbowed Daniel roughly.
He chanced a glance for the man at his side. Xander was a bag full of tricks, and right
now he was playing an adult. A warrior. A fucking scary mother hen.
“Not that Sam,” Xander replied quietly to Jack’s unasked question. The one eyed carpenter
and Vampire expert turned his attention back to Finn. “Tell me now, all of it. Tell me
why Ashley is dead.”
And Finn did.
Jack O’Neill felt a brief flash of pity for the soldier who had come to confess his wife’s
sins, the soldier with the bright voiced little girl who answered his home’s military
phone. But the pity was tempered by the memory of Xander’s wild, raw grief. Jack often
thought that he must have looked like that when Charlie died. He remembered being
restrained by the paramedics, by the orderlies at the hospital, by the doctors when they
came to explain how his only son couldn’t be saved from a bullet, how Jack O’Neill hadn’t
been smart enough, strong enough, to protect his child, his boy. He shook the shadow of
memories off reluctantly, and turned his attention back to the situation at hand.
When Riley finished speaking the small slip of a blonde, Buffy, god no wonder she’d almost
been arrested, moved forward and enveloped the distraught man in a brief, simple hug, as
his similarly black clad comrade placed a comforting hand on Finn’s shoulder. Xander made
no move to go forward though, but stood still, barely breathing. Only Jack was close
enough to tell that every muscle in the younger man’s body was coiled, tense, ready to
“So,” he finally spoke, voice low but even, “Jack called you inquiring about my
capabilities and nifty blacked out military file and you called Dawn. After reviewing
Jack’s edited records you gave Dawn your opinion to hold down the fort and stay calm while
I played plastic soldiers with the Air Force.
“Sam disagreed with you withholding information from your superiors about my history with
the Initiative and the possibility of a leak and called this information in without your
knowledge to the NID, another secret government organization. You were on the phone with
Dawn when the attack went down, forced a confession out of an upset Sam, and packed up
yourself and Graham to get here asap. Is this correct?”
“Where’s Haley?” Buffy demanded in the silence left by Xander’s accounting.
“Buffy,” Xander snapped.
She glared at him but didn’t back down until the other Agent John Doe, presumably the
Graham, answered, “He brought her with us. We dropped her off at the nurse’s station
before we came up.” The smile that lit the unidentified man’s face made him seem younger,
less grim, “Amazing what the nurses will agree to around here when they know you’re
involved with Xander Harris and company.”
Jack resisted the urge to snort, barely. Oh yeah, he and his team knew. Locked them in a
frickin’ broom closet, THAT harridan.
The comment coaxed a brief smile to Xander’s lips though. “We keep their emergency room
flow to a manageable rate. Does wonders for overworked nurses’ dispositions.”
“Everything you said is correct,” Riley replied finally, confirming Xander’s little
brusque recounting of events.
Jack blinked as the one eyed man spun and faced him. “All right, Jack, how in the hell
did you not know about the Initiative, but still knew to call Riley? Better yet, how’d
you get the phone number of his active, but top secret, unit? You guys at Gate Control
are good, but I’ve seen you in action, and you aren’t that good.”
Daniel held his breath as he noticed the exact moment that good ol’ Jack tried not to
panic. “Come on Jack,” he murmured to himself, “just tell the truth. Tell the truth so
the nice woman named Buffy doesn’t rip your spine out. Tell the truth so Xander agrees
to come back and explain the whole living undead thing to them better. Tell the truth so
that we can get out of this damn closet…”
He hadn’t always been claustrophobic but the sarcophagus addiction had made him leery of
small, enclosed spaces. Especially when he was sharing it with SEVEN other people.
Sam raised golden brows and leaned towards him. “He’s gotta consider secrecy some Daniel,
he can’t just go around blurting out top state secrets, even in situations as weird as
these. I mean, Maybourne, that’s a big deal, and Kinsey…”
“A man named Harry Maybourne called and told me. Gave me Finn’s name and number, said to
call him if I wanted the real deal with Xander Harris.”
Despite his continued discomfort, Daniel resisted the urge to laugh at Sam’s dumbfounded
face, just barely. Did laugh as Sam’s jaw dropped to the ground as their good ol’
“leader” proceeded to spill the beans not only about Harry Maybourne’s not so illustrious
past and why the numero uno traitor to the United States had decided to get involved in
this little affair, but exactly who Kinsey was and every single one of the run-ins they
had with him and his little group of rogues.
“But,” Jack finished with, “I still don’t get why he sent men into your house. The
bastard is smart enough to know we still had you and that you wouldn’t have been there.”
Good Jack. It was nice to know that Jack listened to his team occasionally, despite usual
opinion to the contrary, because he had just voiced the question that had been plaguing
them all since they first got locked in here and Sam brought it up. Why had Kinsey
attacked mere children? The man didn’t have any moral scruples to make that kind of
despicable behavior seem out of the ordinary and while it infuriated Xander and, from
their leader’s sudden spouting of top secret information, Jack, it just DIDN’T make
Daniel liked it when things made sense. They did so often for him it was difficult when
they didn’t. But it looked like, despite everything Jack had given him, Xander, who was
quite clearly in charge of the situation, wasn’t quite ready to share again.
Riley Finn, the man who had started the round of confessions, reached over and touched
Xander’s still shoulder. “Kinsey was involved in the Initiative. Not directly, but one
of the higher ups. He was one of the only ones not to go down for it.”
The younger man ignored Jack’s question, Riley’s observation, and turned to Buffy, who
went from sulking to conciliatory in the blink of an eye. Daniel smiled softly at the
blonde woman despite himself. He knew what it was to have friends who cared that much
about you, thanks to the SGC. It was probably one of the only reasons why he had stayed,
after Shau’ri. You didn’t find people you’d die for very often. You found people who
would die for you even less often.
“Buff, I need to go think. Why don’t you take Riley and Graham to pick up Haley and drop
them off with the girls.” Xander glanced at Jack and team before sighing. “Go ahead and
let them out of the closet too.” Daniel snickered at Jack’s offended look, and Xander
managed a slight smile in his direction as well. “Just make sure they’re watched, but
something tells me they won’t try to go anywhere.”
“Not without some answers,” Jack replied smartly, sounding annoyed.
Xander turned to the older man and nodded slightly in weary acknowledgement. The anger
was gone again, replaced by a resignation, a resolve that Daniel knew all too well. It
was the emotion that fueled you when you were afraid of believing in anything else at the
moment. The anger would come back, he knew that too, but not right now, not yet. “I
know, Jack,” Xander replied softly, “but I need to think.”
It was Jack’s turn to nod, and step away. Xander turned and walked, leaving them to Buffy
Summers’ tender mercies.
Xander didn’t look at the older man as Giles came to stand by his side. They were in the
back gardens of the hospital, which he had carried an unconscious Willow through what
seemed like lifetimes ago. In Ashley’s case, it was a lifetime ago. It had been a few
hours since Xander had fled to be alone with his thoughts, to process all that Riley and
Jack O’Neill had told him.
It was nice to know, in a twisted kind of way, how Kinsey must have found out about the
girls. If he had been in on the Initiative, he had to have known about Buffy. Know about
Buffy and he could have easily had access to all the new files they knew the government
had been keeping on them. The higher ups had to have noticed when there suddenly became
dozens of super strong teenage girls fighting the forces of darkness. Hell, Riley and his
team hadn’t had to do any work in urban areas for nearly a year thanks to the key
placement of Slayers around the world.
Add in Sam calling him in as a possible link to the SGC, which was gunning for Kinsey
anyway, and Xander could understand especially what must have been going on in the man’s
warped mind. Grab all the power he could before it was up for grabs. Before the SGC
started to mine the same information.
God, the girls must have looked like presents all neatly wrapped and ready to be opened.
He wondered vaguely how far Kinsey would have gone, if he’d have gone after Willow next.
Xander smiled grimly and didn’t bother to suppress the regret that he hadn’t and been torn
apart in the process. Willow wasn’t very forgiving of people who wanted to dissect her
friends, especially people who had a hand in trying to do it before.
They stood in silence for a few minutes more before he finally asked, “Buffy filled you
in?” Giles inclined his head, and Xander soldiered on. “Kinsey, he’ll keep coming after
the girls until he captures them or kills them, won’t he?”
The Watcher sighed and Xander, who had been resisting the urge to glance the older man’s
way, looked over and was surprised suddenly by how aged Giles looked. By the creases on
his face, and the weariness that was slowly stooping his shoulders. When had that
happened and why hadn’t Xander noticed? Between what apocalypses had all their father
figure’s hair turned to silver, some even to white?
When had Giles grown old?
“Yes,” Giles finally replied, “he’ll keep coming, and coming, until there’s nothing left
to protect against. Until the Slayers have nothing left to tempt him with.”
“Until the Slayers are no more,” Xander finished softly, lips twisted in bitter
recognition of facts that could not change.
Slayers were kept from killing humans for a reason. It changed them too
much. Made them less than who they were meant to be. Xander and
Giles of all people didn't idolize the girls. But they were dedicated to
making their lives easier, not harder. Blue blood, green blood, even ashes
were easy enough to wash off. Red blood tended to leave stains on the
Giles slowly removed his glasses and cleaned them methodically, the motion familiar and
comforting to both of the men. His conversational tone, when he spoke, surprised the
shaggy haired young man. “I killed Ben.”
Xander swallowed, suddenly dry mouthed at that simple revelation.
“I would have killed Faith once upon a time if it had been necessary,” Giles continued
blandly, “though I’m glad now that it was not. I would have ENJOYED killing Travers.”
Xander smiled crookedly because not even an ANGEL would have begrudged the Watcher that,
and he understood what Giles didn’t say in his confessions. That he killed because THEY
couldn’t, because Buffy and all the other girls were created to fight for humanity, not
against it. Giles committed murder to protect his charges.
So that he wouldn’t have to watch Buffy die a third time.
Would Xander do any less? Could Xander do any less? Both men knew the answer.
Giles’s hand gripped his shoulder hard in the only offer of comfort he had to give.