Ghosts of the Past
AN: You know all the jokes being made about tying me to my computer
chair? I've been doing it all by myself. Bask in the current
creativity streak. Bask.
And, Holy Hannah, I'm on the Top Fic page. How did that happen?
Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Really, I don't. And I'm not
just talking about Buffy and Stargate.
************** Trick-Or-Treat: Chapter Nine *****************
Xander paced up and down the length of his room, the peanut butter
and jelly sandwich- with applesauce- he had had for dinner rolling
uneasily in his stomach. He was wigging again- not apocalypse
wigging, but definitely past, 'hey I forgot to wash clean underwear'
wigging. It didn't help that all the little cameras mounted near the
ceiling were recording his every move. Xander was still seriously
having issues with the whole secret military base thing.
What if they had poisoned his applesauce? What if he died a slow
and agonizing death from special military poison? He should have
made Major Carter test his food before she left!
Xander could already see his tombstone: Alexander Harris. He
watched the world saved a lot. Died from apples.
He sighed deeply and threw himself down on the small, very
uncomfortable bed, and stared at the ceiling. He shifted and winced
as various strains, scrapes, and light bruises protested as he
absently scratched at the dry skin around his eye patch. He finally
managed to convince his stressed out body that maybe now was a good
time for sleep. Before all the experiments and deadly danger truly
Sam rubbed blurring eyes and growled at the uncooperative computer
screen in front of her. A quick glance at her watch showed that she
had been working for nearly six straight hours and that it was now
dawn. Oh well, who said the human body needed sleep? Jack certainly
seemed to think he and his entire team could save the world like
Energizer bunnies, even if Sam's body seemed to think otherwise.
Stupid fuzzy words.
She was close, SO damn close to cracking this and...
She blinked, once, twice, three times a charm. Because Alexander
Lavelle Harris's record was suddenly flickering there in front of her
bloodshot eyes. Sam let out a whoop of excitement and fumbled for
her office phone, fingers dialing Jack's home number.
"The world had better be ending," came the groggy greeting from the
Oh yeah, Colonel Jack O'Neill got to go home and take a nap but did
his 2IC? Some days Sam really wished she was as good at playing dumb
as her Commander so that once in awhile she could plead ignorance and
skip the 'technobabble' part of their work that Jack loved to hate so
much. Her plants probably missed her.
"I got his record, sir."
There was muttered cursing in the background and she could picture
Colonel O'Neill fighting with his sheets so that he could sit upright.
"Well, come on Carter, what are we dealing with?"
She grinned into the receiver, savoring her Commander's reaction. "I
don't know sir, all the information is blacked out. Even with our
security clearance, Xander's actual information is on an approved
need to know basis."
Sam had it timed to the second when some not so muttered cursing
exploded explicitly over the line. The only semi-intelligible
sentence that came out of the entire slew was a rather heartfelt,
"Fucking know-it-all Maybourne!"
"I assume you'll be in shortly?" Sam asked sweetly as she thought
longingly of coffee.
And she almost, ALMOST had it timed to the second when Colonel Jack
O'Neill hung up on her.
Dawn adjusted the weight of the duffel bag she had slung over one
shoulder and took off her sunglasses, sticking them in her hair on
top of her head. She smiled fondly at the slightly rundown looking
house she stood in front of and studied it for a minute, loathe to
go in and face reality.
The Booty House was definitely her favorite of all the residences her
friends and family called home. Faith lacked many of Xander's
maternal leanings so, while the Big House was usually livable, it
too lacked some of the quaint absentminded hominess that marked the
Booty House. Willow's school, joking called the White Fortress, was
the most impressive of all the houses, the largest and best kept, and
Buffy's house, though nice, always had a slightly empty feel to it,
mostly because of the Slayer and Giles's frequent absences, despite
the fact that Andrew usually lived in it.
The Booty House was located just outside Cleveland's inner city, in
an older suburb. It was two-stories and all wood, with a large front
porch. The house was once painted white but the paint was peeling in
places and had been repainted in other spots, in shades of white that
didn't quite match, so the entire effect was something of a patchwork
The front yard was newly mowed, though the grass itself was sparse
and scraggly in places. Xander, for all his carpentry, wasn't much
of a landscaper. The girls had brightened things up by putting large,
vividly decorated, flowerpots on the front porch. Whether or not any
living flowers occupied said pots was somewhat hit and miss, but
there had been definite effort, and several of those silly yard flags
hung off of various parts of the house itself- a bumble bee,
butterfly, and very random leprechaun flag to be exact.
Xander's dilapidated truck sat in the driveway, kept company by a
rack of bikes that came in every color of pink and purple possible.
And one orange scooter.
One of the second story windows opened and Janey leaned out of it.
"Morgan," the young Slayer shouted, "Dawn's here!" Janey waved
enthusiastically but Dawn could see, even from the distance, the
shadows that clung to the girl's eyes.
Shadows that were there because Xander was missing- kidnapped by the
U.S. military. Dawn sighed and walked up the cracked walkway to the
front door. Reality had intruded once again.
Morgan met her at the front door. The girl had grown at least
another two inches since Dawn had left for college a few months ago.
She was one of Dawn's favorite mini-Slayers because she reminded
Dawn, inanely enough, of Tara. Not for any particular reason. They
looked nothing alike, Morgan being made of all angles- elbows, knees,
long limbs jointed together. Her hair was a dull, dark brown with
skin that easily tanned. Morgan was loud too, abrasive at times,
always outspoken and opinionated- a sharp contrast to Tara's fixed
shyness and gentle stuttering.
But sometimes, when she tilted her head a certain way, or smiled
with an excited light in her large eyes, Dawn was reminded of Tara's
compassion and empathy. Whenever Morgan invoked the Goddess, Dawn
thought of her deceased friend's affinity for all things earthen and
wholesome. There was hint of Tara's ethereal grace in the young
Slayer that made Dawn warm to her.
Tara's was the one death the Scoobies had never really healed from.
Jesse's death, Jenny's death, Buffy's death, even her Mother's death
and Spike's death were spoken of. Sometimes with the solemnity they
should be granted, sometimes with the fond laughter that made all
their lives bearable. Only Tara was forgotten, a sad reminder of
Willow's darkest days.
Dawn knew the slight was unintentional. Tara had been deeply loved,
a fiercely protected part of the Scooby circle, but sharing her
memory was blaspheme among them all and Dawn compensated for that by
bonding with Morgan. Dawn knew that Xander saw, in a way that only
he could, what Dawn saw in the young Slayer, and he always made sure
that Morgan was given off time from patrolling and training when Dawn
was going to spend extra time at the Booty House. Not necessarily so
that the two girls could spend more time together as friends, but so
that Dawn could properly grieve and celebrate the woman they all
missed but never spoke of.
The former Key to the Universe hugged the girl tightly in greeting
before pulling back and frowning when she found the same shadows
lining Morgan's eyes as well. "He'll be back soon. You know he
A humorless smile touched the younger girl's lips. "So everyone
keeps telling us. But what... what if he doesn't come back? What...
Then Dawn would call Buffy and Willow and the hundreds and thousands
of allies they had made over the decade and open a can of whoop ass.
She was perfectly willing to be patient and level-headed as long as
her Xander friend was returned to his happy, if dangerous existence,
in one piece. Or as much in one piece as he had been in when he was
taken. If 'what if' happened, then Dawn would cheerfully stand
beside Buffy and Willow and help to destroy the world.
Love made you do the wacky sometimes.
Dawn touched Morgan's cheek and gave her a soft, genuine smile. "No
'what ifs', not yet anyway," she said firmly. "Let me drop off my
stuff in my room and we can meet with Lindsay and pool resources.
I feel a research marathon coming on. Make sure Kiley is in on our
Morgan nodded jerkily and Dawn sighed as she entered the house.
Three weeks had never seemed like such a very long time.
"Agent Finn, phone."
Riley looked up at his superior, a mar frowning handsome features.
He started to question, to ask, but his military training was too
ingrained, too second natured anymore. It overcame his curiosity
and he took the small phone from Colonel Jones with a respectful
nod. Tried not to be worried about the tension that was tightening
creases around his Colonel's war weary eyes.
That meant whatever it was, it didn't have to do with their fight,
their war against the supernatural. Was it his family, left long
ago in cornfields and relegated to carefully planned Christmas
visits? Would his Mother be the person speaking from the other
end of the line, disappointment in her son's absence coloring every
word? Or was it Buffy Summers, ex-lover and uneasy ally? Would her
honeyed voice pour over the phone reminding him of hot nights spent
wrapped in her pale limbs and equally hot nights where he drowned his
misery in the pain of illicit fangs that destroyed whatever love
they had still shared?
He was wary as he answered then, prepared for anything, like the good
soldier he was. "Agent Finn."
But the voice that crackled to life from the other end was a
stranger's, and Riley felt the tension tightening his shoulders
dissipate slowly. "Agent Finn, pleasure to meet you. My name is
Colonel Jack O'Neill, Air Force." The name, like the voice, was
new. "I was given your name and number by a... contact of mine."
The Colonel paused on the other line and Riley carefully, neutrally,
replied, "Yes, sir."
There was a sigh, and then, "Forgive me for my bluntness but I'm not
big on politics so I'm just going to flat out ask you what I want to
know." A smile curved at Riley's lips despite himself. There was a
certain appeal to bluntness. "Alexander Harris, I want to know about
He swallowed and cursed as his hand tightened on the phone he held,
knuckles white with sudden strain. Xander? Why would...? How
did...? Questions roared at him, blocking out everything but a
deceptively calm panic. Riley's lips moved automatically as he
replied mechanically, "I'm sorry but that information is classified,
His Commander's pale eyes met his and Riley looked away. Dimly heard
the curt order for Graham to come. Some things were left unsaid in
their unit. The atrocities of Sunnydale were well known, but never
spoken of. Memories and ghosts were handled by Riley and Graham.
Only they had that right.
Colonel O'Neill's voice was not amused. "I can assure you, AGENT
Finn, that I have the highest clearance possible in the U.S.
Government." Scary thing was, Riley believed him. Didn't mean the
angry Colonel would get his answers though, not from him. Riley
recognized the code he was curtly given, knew that O'Neill wasn't
lying about how high up he was on the chain of command, but the
Initiative wasn't part of the chain of command.
The Initiative, like the demons and darkness it had fought and
ultimately created, was the ultimate product of politics and power
struggles. Of sidestepping the traditional hierarchy. And, if
Xander wasn't involved Riley would have simply hung up and ignored
subsequent calls from a certain Colonel Jack O'Neill, U.S. Air Force.
Equal rank or not, no one messed with Colonel Jones and his men. Not
even snide politicians with a penchant for faked zealotry.
Kinsey was such a bastard.
But Riley wasn't about to hang up, not with someone on the phone
demanding answers about Xander. Xander of all people! Not that he
didn't respect the shaggy haired kid with his wry wit and unwavering
loyalty. There were few people outside of his team that Riley would
trust to watch his back and, after Buffy, Xander was at the top of
that very short list.
But Riley had seen the files the government kept on the Initiative.
He knew how large his file was, and Graham's. Knew that Buffy,
Willow, and even Spike's folder was larger. Xander was a footnote to
everyone who hadn't been saved by him. Most days Riley thought that
was kinda unfair.
Most days Jack O'Neill wasn't calling to ask questions about Riley's
favorite unsung hero.
So he took a deep breath, and ignored half a lifetime of military
training. "Fine, if we're being blunt here, sir, your clearance
doesn't mean shit to me." There was simmering silence from half a
world a way. "If you want answers, I'll need access to your
personnel files. I don't care about the classified crap, I want to
read about you."
"Why?" came the curt demand.
He took a deep breath and released it slowly before replying softly,
"Because I need to know if I can trust you with my friend."
The second silence was filled with something akin to respect. "How
do you want me to send them to you?"
Riley grimaced and looked around the Brazilian jungle they were
currently hunting Jorva demons in. Oh yeah, let him just plug his
laptop into that night tree over there. Frustrated, he rattled off
his home address. "It may take a few days for me to read through
them. Call me then."
There was a gruff snort from Colonel O'Neill. "I know how a Special
Ops mission works, Agent Finn. I may be old but I'm not THAT old.
I'll be expecting your answers ASAP though, understood?"
Riley met Graham's worried eyes but gave his curt answer anyway,