And a Bottle of Rum
AN: Over 100,000 hits? *babbles incoherently* 100,000?! *stutters and points at number*
I have nothing to say. I am wordless. I'm sending appreciative vibes out there though.
Wordless appreciative vibes.
Am answering reviews from the last Chapter now by the way.
****************** Trick or Treat: Chapter Thirty- Two *******************
Jack O’Neill was relieved to find his team not only in one piece, but relatively happy
despite having spent the better part of the night locked in a closet. Well, Carter was
looking a little worn around the edges, but she’d pull through. It’s not like he had
been worried about any of Xander’s people doing anything to his people. The peoples
were getting along very well despite the circumstances. Daniel was looking downright
cheerful in fact. Jack just, well, he didn’t like Buffy Summers.
It didn’t help when he’d just been told she could break him in two by blinking.
It wasn’t that he had an issue with strong women because, hello, Carter, but still.
Carter couldn’t break him in two. Not without a REALLY good reason. Although, judging
from the hard glare Buffy gave him when she slipped into the hospital room a couple of
minutes after him she felt exactly the same way.
Minus the knowledge that he could break her in half. Because he couldn’t, not even
with a good reason, a REALLY good reason, which wasn’t fair at all. His manhood wasn’t
threatened. No, not at all.
He ignored the blonde woman, Slayer, with a force of will, and turned his attention to
the other girls who filled the hospital room to and past its capacity. It was easier to
see, now that Xander had opened his eyes to it, the hidden menace, the power in the girls’
movements. Maybe he should have been disturbed by the implications in all that he’d been
told. By the fact that the equivalent of an army was sprawled out on the linoleum floor,
their faces covered with half dried tears.
Somehow though, Jack just couldn’t get past how mind boggling it was that these girls
were an army. That they stood up to the kind of creatures that gave Xander so many
scars even the unflappable Janet had been disturbed. It seemed wrong that they’d spend
their days washing blood out of cashmere sweaters and miniskirts, interspersing their
gossiping about boys with battle tactics.
That Ashley’s death was an aberration only because it was suffered at human hands.
He knew if his team had been with him they would have questioned Xander, doubted the
young man’s outlandish tale, despite all that they’d seen and been through. But Jack
knew it wouldn’t take Teal’c long to admit the truth as well. That Buffy Summers and
all the youngsters moved like hunters on the prowl. That there was a promise of
violence and strength in their silences, and their loud laughter.
Jack had been pinned to the floor of the SGC by Xander with a fork, and had seen the
shaggy haired youth kill a Vampire with a clipboard. You didn’t doubt another warrior’s
battles. It belittled their survival and if it was one thing Jack knew, aside from being
a smartass, it was surviving. Helping his team survive.
He recognized, with an inner clarity he rarely allowed himself, that his grudging
respect for Xander, fierce protective instinct for children, and own personal vendetta
against Kinsey, were perhaps clouding his judgment. But Jack also recognized that a
large part of his continuing survival came from his innate belief in his instincts and
his instincts told him that his trust in Xander wouldn’t be in vain.
Buffy walked over to Agent Finn and Graham and held a softly whispered conference.
Both men looked grim when she was done talking. Probably not anything new for her, but
still. Jack watched with a frown that was mirrored by his team as Finn captured his
daughter in gentle arms and spoke sternly with her. Watched as Finn raised a trembling
hand to brush the soft hair away from the girl’s face and kiss her brow. She clung to
him when he rose until Buffy gathered the child in her own arms.
Something told him he and his were being left out…
Jack moved and caught up with the close-mouthed agents at the door of the hospital room,
where Xander held it open to allow their passing. With Xander quietly holding his gaze,
his one eye absolute in the power and authority he was commanding, Jack let Finn and Graham
slip by him. Xander Harris and Jack O’Neill faced each other, each on one side of a
He would have been annoyed by how damned dramatic everything had become if he could rid
himself of the feeling of walking on a tightrope. Career soldier or not, Jack had never
had great balance.
He leaned against the doorframe and crossed his arms casually across his chest. Just
cause Xander was back in leader mode didn’t mean Jack’s wasn’t about to wring every
possible detail out of the boy. Man. Whatever. “Whatcha up to Xander?”
There was a stillness, a sense of purpose, that clung to the shaggy haired man. A cold
demeanor that told Jack that the barely glimpsed warrior had returned. Gone was the
laughter, the warmth, the air of camaraderie. Replaced was a man who had processed the
rawness of his grief, and had turned his actions to rage, revenge.
Perhaps the murder of a U.S. Senator.
But deserving or not, there were reasons why Jack hadn’t sliced, diced, and buried Kinsey
years ago himself. He might have, after that incident so long ago with Hammond’s
granddaughters. Might have a dozen times since, when Kinsey’s bigoted posturing had
threatened Jack’s friends, family, and the fate of the world he had spilled so much
damned blood to protect. Jack was old enough to know he didn’t give a rat’s ass for
authority. But he knew exactly how far he could push before he was sliced, diced, and
Xander was about to hack his way into a viper’s den, and bring his girls with him.
“Harris,” he said, voice softer, though thick with warning.
Xander was beyond reason though, in a way that Jack understood all too well. The
younger man shook his head slightly, and the smile that curved his lips was regretful,
sad, in a way that didn’t touch his eye. “Gotta make things right, Jack. You
And Jack did. The knowledge stuck in the back of his throat, and made him furious. He
stood, straightened, and stepped closer to Xander, close enough to smell the sweat and
dirt that clung to him. To see the redness ringing his single bared eye. “Yeah Xander,
I understand. But what do you think those girls are going to do with you gone? What
are they going to say when Kinsey’s goons get you in the back with a sharpshooter and
have to bury you next to that little girl of yours? What are they going to do when
they’re free game for all of Kinsey’s fucking colleagues?”
“They’re Slayers Jack. They can take care of themselves, as long as they know someone
cares. Think about it. They have a crap shoot, you’ve said so yourself. Short, messy
lives. Some will make it long enough to retire maybe. Make babies. Most won’t. But
as much as the Powers have screwed with them, they’re supposed to get a fair shake on the
rest of life. Ever seen an ugly Slayer?” Okay, rhetorical question, he was guessing.
As if sensing his thoughts Xander continued, voice lower but no less fierce, “I haven’t,
and I’ve seen ever one ever Called in the last decade. For the most part I help keep
things fair. I love those girls like the couple dozen super strong little sisters I
never had. I make them laugh, and kick any teenage boy’s ass for looking at them
Humm... Powers? Xande barreled on.
“I give them a place to call home for a couple of years, and the space to figure things
out. And they need it. God help them, they need me. They need to know that they’re
normal. That someone normal thinks that too.” Xander glanced to the ceiling, and his
face darkened, but he plowed on, the words coming like a steam train that had been
trekking along for most of his life. “It may not seem like much of a purpose, but I
can sleep at night with blood on my hands because my existence has made theirs easier.”
Xander’s hands clenched at his side and relaxed with a force of will. His next words
were spoken slowly, clearly, in a precise way that told Jack more than the rest of the
impromptu speech combined.
“I will not let them live knowing that Ashley’s killer walks free when I could have
brought him down. Nothing will hurt those girls more. Not my death, not fighting
whatever dregs of the U.S. government my actions stir up.”
Jack swallowed and wet his lips. “I’m coming with you.”
Xander shook his head. “No Jack, you’re not.”
Jack instinctively lunged forward, but small strong arms held him back as Xander quietly
closed the hospital room door in his face. Jack tried to turn and twist but the arms
holding him pinned him completely. Even without looking he knew it was Buffy Summers.
His team were standing up, alarmed by the events of the past few minutes and he waved
them off. Buffy’s hold on him relaxed, but Jack knew he couldn’t break away if he tried.
“He shouldn’t be doing that alone.”
The blonde woman’s voice was thick as she answered, “He’s not.” She released him.
Jack turned slowly and assessed the younger woman. She stood unflinchingly before him
and he wondered suddenly, if she had been there the night that Xander had lost his eye.
Glumly recognized that she COULD break him in half by blinking.
Even more glumly recognized that Xander was wrong. That his death would be enough to
break half of the people in this room, Buffy Summers included. Power was funny like
that. Too much messed with your head, but if you walked around never knowing how much
power you held over others…
He didn’t know what possessed him to reach out and awkwardly pat the oldest living
Slayer’s slender shoulder. “He’ll be back. He has to. He owes me the answer to
Buffy Summer’s lips quirked in a smile that made her look younger, youthful even. There
were still shadows on her face, but the line of tension in her body had eased. “Oh that!
It’s in the left front pocket of his pants.”
Jack snapped his fingers in mock frustration. “Drat and darno.”
She grinned impishly in an impudent way that reminded him way too much of himself. “Ten
bucks if you feel him up for it when he gets back.”
She hit him jokingly on the arm. Hard enough to leave a bruise. “You’re on, soldier
Faith found her in a tree. Emily was on one of the lower branches, but was still a
good twenty feet up. One denim clad leg swung, untied shoe laces flapping in the
breeze. Her other leg was drawn up so that her chin rested on that knee, though her
hand held a bottle of cheap rum she had snatched from the grocery store the night
Old habits died hard, especially in the face of death.
All of the girls were inside or out about the city so the backyard was silent for once,
though the screams from inside could still be heard, muffled, but heard. Funny how it’d
taken Xander’s kidnapping and Ashley’s death for her to discover her introspective side.
Halfway into November and it was already bitterly cold. Emily was wearing short sleeves.
Years in Cleveland and she still hadn’t managed to put together a winter wardrobe. Xander
had bought her a coat her first winter. God knew why she wasn’t wearing it cause she was
freezing, even with the rum.
The bottle was about halfway gone, but she’d been nursing it most of the night. It was
well past dawn now and with her Slayer metabolism she barely felt the lingering buzz,
though her stomach rolled in practiced protest at the excess of alcohol.
She watched silently as the dark haired Slayer slipped from the house. Watched as the
older woman’s keen gaze took in the yard before zeroing in on her with the instincts of
a bloodhound. A really scary bloodhound. On steroids.
“You done roosting yet?”
Emily’s eyes narrowed. “Why? What’s it to you?” Okay, so maybe the alcohol had affected
more than she’d thought cause she ended up sounding belligerent instead of merely tired.
Or world weary, which she'd been shooting for.
Faith balled her fists loosely and rested them on her trim hips as she glared up
impatiently at her younger charge. “Come on down Emily. You need to get cleaned up.”
“I’m fine up here. I don’t have any chores or rounds. Leave me alone.”
Faith snorted. “Not damn likely. If Xander finds out I’ve let you drink half a bottle
of rum which you STOLE,” the older woman’s brows rose in a silent challenge that Emily
ignored, “and he’ll kick BOTH of our asses. Try anyway. And we’d both have to let him,
which would be as humiliating as hell.”
Emily’s head raised slowly, hopefully. “Xander?”
Faith’s tone was brisk and commanding, but her eyes were warm with affection. “Get your
ass out of that tree.”
Emily was hitting the ground before she had completed the sentence. She held out the
bottle sheepishly as the liquid sloshed inside of it. “Rum?”
Faith resisted the urge to fidget as the girls’ excited exclamations told her that Xander
and guests had arrived. Her skin felt too tight, too small to contain everything tangled
up inside. Emotions were a bitch like that. In a way things had been easier when
everything could be black and white, evil vs. good. Even when you were evil, you knew
what side you were on. Knew who and what you were supposed to believe in.
Now, now there was the rage that came so rarely these days. The blinding fury that
lingered at the thought of Ashley Ward lying in a puddle of her own blood, brought down
by bullets, MEN. The profound relief that the X-Man was about to walk through the front
door of the Big House with a pulse. The lingering fear of inadequacy that he’d smell
the alcohol on Emily’s breath, even though Faith had made the girl brush at least three
times and gargle with something they had hoped was mouthwash.
It had been under the sink, and blue.
Honestly, Xander rarely visited the Big House. It was more a favor to Faith than anything
else. The girls worshipped him. It was a hell of a lot easier to keep order with the
teenagers without Xander there to laugh and ruffle their hair and make her look like a
fool. She shifted, discomforted with how well Xander probably knew her. Well enough to
know to back off. Well enough to know how often she felt threatened by him and
accommodate her because of that knowledge.
Smart bastard. Damnit.
And then he was opening the front door and it was enough to avoid the girls who were
literally throwing themselves at him in welcome. Despite the situation Faith managed a
tight smile at the sight of Xander, sagging under the weight of nearly two dozen bodies,
all clinging to him so that all she could see was his shaggy head and the rueful smile
curling at his lips.
His one eye met hers and she could see the same anger inside of him, burning, but there
was restraint there too, for now. “Hey Faith.” Not exactly a declaration of friendship,
but a measure of welcome, of trust that had been hard earned. It was enough.
She licked her lips and nodded nonchalantly. “Harris.”
“How goes it?”
A rueful smile tugged at her face. “Five by five.”
She tried to keep her jaw from dropping as Riley Finn and some other military dude
strolled through after Xander. “You know,” Riley remarked lightly, though his gaze was
wary as he side stepped the puppy pile on the floor. “I’ve never really understood that
His buddy laughed and Faith’s annoyance flared.
Honestly the Big House hadn’t been Xander’s first choice, but they needed supplies. It
was good to see the girls, better perhaps for them. Emily had clung to him with a quiet
desperation that had made his heart feel like lead. Until he’d asked her why she smelled
like alcohol and she had burst into laughter that was still rare enough that he treasured
every second of open, unguarded emotion.
Faith had been good for her, alcohol or not.
Faith though, was a bundle of nervous energy. She wanted nothing to do with Riley or
Graham, wanted them out of her house. It made sense, in retrospect. Despite a cleared
record thanks to the evilness that was Angel’s pet law firm, Faith could walk down Main
Street without having to worry about getting dragged back to jail. She still avoided cops
and the other authorities with a force bordering on obsession though.
It probably hadn’t been the best idea to bring two essentially government agents into her
livingroom, but the Booty House was still a crime scene, and Xander needed weapons and some
other things he couldn’t just walk into a store and buy. While she wanted nothing to do with
Riley and company, she DID want in on the little mission they were about to embark upon.
Faith’s anger over Ashley’s death was nearly as strong as Xander’s own. Perhaps stronger
because Faith didn’t know the girl well enough to mourn her as the bright eyed, preciously
obnoxious child that she was. Faith’s rage wasn’t tempered by Xander’s weary grief, and
her anger, in large part, was driven by the fear that one of her girls might be next.
Of all the old gang, Buffy handled death the best. Maybe it came from having been brought
back twice, literally from the freaking grave, but Heaven had touched her in less
obvious ways none the less. Had left an imprint on her not even living could erase. Once
she shed her tears, she had an attitude of quiet acceptance that Xander doubted he would
ever masterhimself. Wasn’t quite sure he wanted to.
It was enough to know that she had been happy on the other side.
Faith, as she so often was, was Buffy’s opposite. Perhaps it was the fact that she’d
never really discovered life until these last few years. Perhaps it was because Faith
loved her girls like she’d never let herself love anything else. Tough love, granted,
but everything about the brunette Slayer was tough as nails. As much as a death hurt
Xander, left him grieving, Faith faced death with a despairing denial that left her
feeling helpless, cornered.
And a cornered Faith always turned into one PISSED off Slayer.
“They’re human Faith, the men who gunned her down, the one who ordered it!”
The brunette’s Slayer’s twisted cruelly as she taunted him, “When has that ever
She looked wild and hungry as she paced the weapons room while Xander tried to pack a bag,
a predator in ways she hadn’t been since they were all just screwed up kids trying to
survive on the Mouth of Hell. Riley and Graham were upstairs, keeping the hordes of
teenagers occupied. But hunter or not he wouldn’t back down to her. Xander wasn’t
afraid of the predators any longer. He was one. And the cruelty, like the strength,
was so often a show with Faith. Especially when it came to things like this.
“It started mattering the second you let them slap handcuffs on you and throw you in
He ducked the fist directed at his face, rolled under the momentum of her body, and caught
her in a bear hug. He had subdued hysterical superstrong teenagers enough to have picked
up a few moves over the years. She writhed underneath him like a livewire, taunt and
ready to explode, but she wasn’t kicking his ass yet. Instead she glared at him fiercely,
dark eyes inches from his own. “I’m helping X, and that’s the way it is.”
He tightened his arms around her and hoped she wouldn’t break anything too vital when she
broke away. “They’re human and you’re not coming and that’s the way it is.” He let his
voice, his eyes, his face grow cold, just like Faith had taught him. “Do YOU understand?”
Seconds ticked by before she spat in his face suddenly and yanked herself out of the
illusionary restraint of his arms. He noticed she was careful not to break anything
though. “Fuck you Harris. FUCK YOU!”
He wiped spit from his face as he stood there before the only living Slayer to have ever
taken a human life and found the pleasure in it. In glorifying in that power. Hell if
he’d put her through the guilt of doing it again. “Been there, done that, gave away the
t-shirt, or don’t you remember?”
She stared at him wildly for a heartbeat, posed between fury and hysteria. Faith gave
in to the latter as she threw her head back and laughed, and laughed. Xander stared back
quizzically. In over the decade he’d known her, Faith had laughed, truly laughed with
that awful, raw sound only a handful of times. It was the first time he’d ever coaxed
the sound from her throat.
“You better make em’ bleed Xan. Make em’ bleed like Ashley did.”
His returning smile was a little less human, a little less HIM as the anger he’d been
holding in check roared to the surface to greet hers. “Oh I don’t think that’s going
to be a problem.”
AN2: Why yes, Xander does seem OC. Yes, I did it on purpose.